Married Life

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 

Ephesians 6:31-32

I’ve had friends fall away from their relationship with Christ just as I’ve had friends get a divorce. The similarities in these two scenarios are striking.

When we get married we happily choose our spouse. What we may not realize is that we will have to continue to choose them. It’s easy enough to choose them when we are in that honeymoon phase and we see them at their best. But what happens when you’re a decade or more into marriage? What happens when they are not at their best and you are not at yours?

The challenge of marriage is not what you will do when everyone is 100%. The challenge is to still choose your spouse when they are running on fumes after sleepless nights with kids, job changes, hospital visits, unpaid bills, credit card debt, misunderstandings, arguments, and life transitions. The challenge is to still choose them after you see all their failures, weaknesses, and shortcomings. It’s much harder to choose them when they change on you and it feels like you’re married to someone completely different. This person standing in front of you isn’t who you signed up for, after all.

In the midst of this, the enemy will often provide you an “out.” The way out of the marriage can come in a variety of forms. It can come as a secret escapism that you hide from your spouse. It can come as the numbing distance of living parallel lives. It can come as an addiction that you try to keep private. It can come in the form of an affair. It can come as a strong desire to throw in the towel and get a divorce. Choosing your spouse will feel like fighting a force that is pulling you apart because that is exactly what is happening. The enemy is intentional.

My point in highlighting this reality of marriage is not to give marriage counseling. My point is that this is the same pattern that applies to our relationship with Jesus. Our intimacy and connection with Him will often go through a similar cycle. We willingly choose Jesus at the beginning of our faith journey, but we will have to continue to choose Him if we want to stay connected to Him. It is a relationship that must be cultivated and cared for.

A decade or two into your relationship with Jesus you will have to decide to choose Him again. Only this time you will not be naive about the obstacles you will face. You will have to choose Jesus not as He invites you to drop your nets and follow Him (Matthew 4:19-20), but you’ll have to choose Him as He invites you to take up your cross and go with Him to Golgotha.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 

Luke 9:23-24

The disciples faced a moment of decision like this with Jesus. They were all so excited to follow Him and witness all the healings and miracles that Jesus performed. They were excited to leave behind their old life and join the Messiah on His quest toward Jerusalem. But then Jesus decided to prune the crowds with a hard teaching, and most of them turned away.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

…From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:60, 66-69

Each of us who follow Jesus will face this same question. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” In this moment, we’ll have to deny ourselves, lay down our “right” to understand, give up our plans, and choose Jesus all over again, knowing that we’re not headed to the palace but to the cross.

Will we say “Yes” to Jesus again?

Re-baptism

Do you know that feeling of being in love?

You think about the person all the time. At the store you think about fun gifts you could buy for them. At the stop light your mind drifts to them, wondering what they are doing. Regular daydreams featuring that person cloud your mind throughout the day. Just thinking about the person makes you smile, and sometimes it makes you tear up. You go through your day in awe of their love for you and intoxicated by your love for them. It’s a beautiful thing, but it usually doesn’t last very long.

Do you know that feeling of loving someone sacrificially for a long time?

This feeling is different than being in love. There is a grit and a strength to this kind of love that doesn’t disappear when hard times come. This kind of love has seen it all and comes back for more. This love isn’t easily offended or deflated. It sees past the surface of things and into the heart of a person. This is a love that is willing to do the hard thing, the messy thing, the painful thing. This love is deep and lasting. This is the love that grows in a marriage that has stood the test of time.

Now imagine if you were able to combine these two loves. Imagine if you could experience the depth of sacrificial love with the fire of being in love. That is the best way I know how to describe what it felt like for me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:4-5

I had been a Christian for 26 years. I had been in full-time pastoral ministry for 10 years. I had a good relationship with the Lord. I loved God and served Him as faithfully as I knew how. But getting baptized/filled with the Spirit was life-changing. I found myself radically and totally in love with Jesus like never before. It wasn’t the kind of “in love” feeling that was fleeting. It was a deep and lasting love. And I’ve been in love ever since. It has now been over four years and the intoxicating love of God just seems to increase.

I find my mind drifting to Him when I sit at stop lights. Sometimes I just pray prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. Other times, His love is so tangible that it brings tears to my eyes. Even after all those years as a Christian and all those years in ministry, I never knew this kind of closeness and connection to the Father was possible. I never knew you could actually be in love with God and have that intimacy last forever. This is not a youth group camp spiritual high. I know what that is like. This isn’t that. This is like being married to someone for 30 years and falling deeper in love with them than the day you married them.

Use whatever label you want. Some Christian traditions call it being baptized in the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5; 11:15-16). Others call it being filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4; 4:31; Ephesians 5:18). Still others use those terms interchangeably. For them, baptism in the Spirit is the first of many fillings of the Spirit that happen sometime after receiving the Spirit at salvation. The debate about what to call it comes down to an argument about whether there is an experience of the Spirit that happens after salvation–after we’ve received the Spirit.

I used to think the answer to that question was “No.” I used to think we received the Spirit at salvation and that was it. But I was wrong. There is more! I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. You can call it whatever you want, whatever fits with your theological tradition. But make no mistake, there is an additional encounter of the Spirit after salvation that is life-changing.

People have asked me if I think I got more of the Spirit in this experience. I tell them that I didn’t get more of the Spirit but that the Spirit got more of me. And because He got access to more of me–more pieces of my life in total surrender to Him–I got greater access to Him. I didn’t get more of Him as if He is some spiritual liquid. No, I got all of Him when He came into my life at salvation. But I now experience more of Him. Just as we experience more of a person when we go from friendship to marriage–more connection, more physical intimacy, more closeness–so too we experience more of the Holy Spirit after being baptized/filled with the Spirit.

Baptism in the Spirit is available for every Christian, and every Christian, if they knew how amazing it really is, would want it with all their heart. It’s not something you earn. It’s something you receive, like salvation, with a heart that is postured to receive it.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled“(Matthew 5:6). Hunger matters. If you want more of what I described here, then ask Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit. Or, if that language is difficult for you, ask Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit. There is more! There is always more of our infinite God to experience in our lives.

Father, You are so good and so gracious. You pursued me–a skeptic with a scientific and theological mind. You broke down the walls of doubt that I had put up around my understanding of You. Holy Spirit, You flooded my heart, my mind, and my body with Your Presence. Holy Spirit, even after all of my sin, even after all of my rejection of You, even after I mocked those who believed in Your gifts and manifestations, You still pursued me. You still came after me. You still came flooding in, upending my life. And I am so grateful.

Jesus, I ask in Your name that You would do the same for those reading this who hunger for more. I ask You to flood their lives, baptize them in the Spirit, fill them with your Holy Spirit. Break down the walls that are keeping them from experiencing more of Your Spirit in their lives. Holy Spirit, come! Have Your way! We give You our “Yes,” our unconditional “Yes!” More Lord!