Category Archives: Serving

Expressing Gospel Love in Marriage

God’s love toward us is expressed in His grace that saves, sanctifies, and provides security to us. In part, marriage is an extension of God’s grace toward another sinner, an imperfect human being created in His image and hopefully, saved by His grace. Mark Driscoll, in his own rugged-style, preached a sermon on biblical manhood in reference to marriage and dating. Here’s a brief overview that’s worth reading: How to Honor Your Wife. This particular quote from Driscoll’s article stood out to me: “Gentlemen, it is a terrifying thing for a woman to trust a sinful man.”  What a reminder for the need of God’s grace in our relationships since everyone involved is a sinner. Paul David Tripp in his book What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage provides a similar, though not as raw, encouragement to live out the gospel in human relationships.  Here’s a helpful list that captures the essence of biblical love as expressed in the context of marriage: What is Biblical Love? These two “articles” are worth reading for any who are married, hope to be married, or simply desire to reflect God’s grace in their various relationships.


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What is Love?

A few days ago, Justin Taylor posted this section from Paul Tripp’s book on marriage.  Whether you’re married or not, it seems worth meditating upon.

From chapter 12 of Paul David Tripp’s What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010).

1. What is love?

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.

2. What does love look like in marriage?

  1. Love is being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of your husband or wife without impatience or anger.
  2. Love is actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward your spouse, while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
  3. Love is the daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
  4. Love is being lovingly honest and humbly approachable in times of misunderstanding, and being more committed to unity and love than you are to winning, accusing, or being right.
  5. Love is a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
  6. Love means being willing, when confronted by your spouse, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
  7. Love is a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to your husband or wife is increasingly selfless, mature, and patient.
  8. Love is being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wronged but to look for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
  9. Love is being a good student of your spouse, looking for his physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support him as he carries it, or encourage him along the way.
  10. Love means being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine, and understand the problems that you face as a couple, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response.
  11. Love is always being willing to ask for forgiveness and always being committed to grant forgiveness when it is requested.
  12. Love is recognizing the high value of trust in a marriage and being faithful to your promises and true to your word.
  13. Love is speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack your spouse’s character or assault his or her intelligence.
  14. Love is being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate, or deceive in any way in order to co-opt your spouse into giving you what you want or doing something your way.
  15. Love is being unwilling to ask your spouse to be the source of your identity, meaning and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while refusing to be the source of his or hers.
  16. Love is the willingness to have less free time, less sleep, and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be and to do as a husband or a wife.
  17. Love is a commitment to say no to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding, and active love in your marriage.
  18. Love is staying faithful to your commitment to treat your spouse with appreciation, respect, and grace, even in moments when he or she doesn’t seem to deserve it or is unwilling to reciprocate.
  19. Love is the willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of your marriage without asking anything in return or using your sacrifices to place your spouse in your debt.
  20. Love is being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm your marriage, hurt your husband or wife, or weaken the bond of trust between you.
  21. Love is refusing to be self-focused or demanding but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support, and encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
  22. Love is daily admitting to yourself, your spouse, and God that you are not able to love this way without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing, and delivering grace.
  23. Love is a specific commitment of the heart to a specific person that causes you to give yourself to a specific lifestyle of care that requires you to be willing to make sacrifices that have that person’s good in view.

3. What should this description of love do to us?

This realization should give you pause and then spur you to action: it is impossible for any of us to love as has been described. The bar is simply too high. The requirements are simply too great. None of us has what it takes to reach this standard. This description of love in action has left me humbled and grieved. It has faced me once again with my tendency to name as love things that are not love. It has forced me to admit how self-focused and self-absorbed I actually am. It has reminded me that when it comes to love, I am not an expert. No, I am poor, weak, and needy.

Jesus died not only so that we would have forgiveness for not loving as we should, but also so that we would have the desire, wisdom, and power to love as we should.

Jesus suffered in love so that in your struggle to love you would never, ever be alone. As you give yourself to love, he showers you with his love, so that you would never be without what you need to love.

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Integrity of Heart

“A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.”  Charles Spurgeon

Ezra 7:10 “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

“As water tastes of the soil it runs through, so does the soul taste of the authors that a man reads.” John Trapp

Psalm 78:72 “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.”

“As the heart is, so shall the service be.”  Jeremiah Burroughs

Acts 17:25 “God is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

“The keener the memory of our awful rescue, the more naturally we pity those in a similar plight.  The more deeply we feel how undeserved and free was the grace that plucked us from the flames, the freer will be our benevolence to sinners.” John Piper

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Servant Leadership

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In the context of this verse, James and John came to Jesus with the request that they be given places of honor in His eternal kingdom.  Jesus responds to them by describing that the Son of Man came to serve rather than be served, and that they should do likewise.  From Jesus’ example, I’ve drawn six applications for the manner in which we are to serve.

Servant Leadership is Purposeful: The Son of Man had a specific purpose for which He came.  He was not confused or ambiguous as to His role or responsibility.  He knew exactly what He was doing and why He was doing it.  He had a clear, measured purpose.  When we choose to serve, we ought to have a clear, measurable purpose.  We should know what we are and are not called to accomplish with the limited resources that we have.

Servant Leadership is Outward Focused: Although Jesus was the second person of the Trinity, the Almighty Creator, and the only One worthy of our worship (Col. 1:15-20), He did not come to be served.  He came to serve.  His focus was to meet the greatest human need–deliverance from sin.  In that very pursuit, He often met the physical and emotional needs of those He came to serve.  While in the course of His life and ministry He met many needs, His ultimate focus was reconciling sinners to God so that they might once again become sons and daughters.  The life that He lived in the flesh, He lived for us. The Spirit He gave, He gave to us.  Therefore, our service ought to be an expression of our gratitude toward God and our love for others.  Service should not be self-motivated, but glorifying to God and edifying to our fellow man.

Servant Leadership is Sacrificial: Not only was Jesus focused on serving others, but He was willing to pay the tremendous price of that spiritual service (Phil. 2:1-11).  He knew that His purpose was a costly one, but He joyfully sacrificed His own divine rights, privileges, and preferences (Heb. 12:1-3) in order to serve those who had rejected Him.  When we embraced our sin, we rejected the One for which our lives were made.  Jesus’ servant leadership was characterized by self-denial of the most painful kind.  While we may not have to give up our lives to serve another, we often have to give up our time, energy, preferences, comfort, convenience, and on occasion, our priorities to serve the physical and spiritual needs of others.

Servant Leadership is Clothed in Humility: Jesus was the High King of Heaven.  He could have asserted His authority on the Cross and call ten thousand angels to save Him.  Yet, He endured the shame of the Cross in order to serve our greatest need.  He did that with humility and love.  The heart of a servant leader is marked by gospel humility.  It recognizes its humble state before a holy God, and seeks to glorify Him while serving others.  Such humility does not mean thinking less of ourselves, but thinking more honestly about ourselves.  It requires looking more intently at Christ than at ourselves.  Then we will be weaned of our selfish pride, our fear of man, in order to honor God by thinking rightly of Him, of others, and lastly, of ourselves.  We ought to consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:1-11).

Servant Leadership is a Lifestyle:  The entire life of Jesus was marked by service.  He came into this world in the lowest of natures for the very God of the Universe, and yet He did that in order to serve as our sympathetic High Priest. He experienced the growth and maturity that comes with being a human being as He grew in knowledge and stature.  He took on flesh completely and did it without sin.  When He obeyed in the wilderness and later in Gethsemane, He did so for God’s glory and for our good.  His service was not a one-time act, but a lifestyle of giving of Himself.  Through His service, He accomplished for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves.  He served us on the Cross so that we might serve others with our lives.  He loved us to the point of death so that we might love others with our lives.  Our service to others ought to be a lifestyle of giving so that we might be poured out for the sake of the gospel in the moments, as well as the years.  There is no greater purpose than to spend and be spent for the One who was slain for us.

Servant Leadership is Gospel-centered: The heart of Jesus’ service was the gospel (Mark 1:15).  He came to proclaim and fulfill the good news of God’s grace.  He came to endure the Cross and put an end to sin and death.  He came not to be served, but to give up His life to save sinners.  The very heart of His ministry was redemption.  Therefore, He preached the kingdom of God and mankind’s need to respond by faith and repentance.  Without embracing the truths of the gospel as centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ, mankind would be left with its greatest need eternally lacking.  As we seek to serve others, we must do it with a heart for sharing the gospel.  The good news of God’s love as found in Christ must accompany the work of our hands.  If people are not called to repent from their sin and place their trust in Jesus Christ, then we have failed to serve their greatest need.  We are helping no one if our lips and our lives do not proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet. 2; Rev. 19:11-16).

May God give us the heart of Christ that we might serve a world in need with the grace and love of the gospel…

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