Lesson Two
The Participant’s Character

It is one thing to understand the concepts of a successful marriage, but it is quite another matter to put these principles into practice. The success or failure of the marriage union depends largely upon the character of those united.

Everyone has a basic set of values or beliefs. In essence there are only two systems to choose from – the biblical or the worldly. The basic difference between these two systems is that the biblical standard seeks to please God while the worldly seeks to please self. The worldly standard is feeling-oriented, but the biblical standard is guided by absolute principles – those principles found in God’s Word.

A Christian with strong character acts consistently upon biblical principle; however, a Christian with weak character wavers between a biblical and worldly standard. The Bible calls this “lukewarm.” Are you “lukewarm”? Is God pleased with a “lukewarm” Christian? “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Some unsaved people act upon a worldly, self-centered plane all the time, while others of weaker character are more feeling-oriented and vacillate between “moral” and selfish behavior, depending on their mood.

God’s Word tells us that “light and darkness” are incompatible. Therefore, the union of the saved and the unsaved will not work. A man unable to control his temper, who beats his wife and neglects his children, probably not only has weak character but also needs to be saved.  So also a woman who is rebellious, stubborn, and deceitful (one who uses various psychological methods to gain selfish ends) needs salvation. Until both husband and wife take this initial step of salvation, a good marriage will be very difficult – if not impossible. “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

A Christian needs to be cautioned against union with the unsaved, but he also needs to make certain that once he has accepted Christ he and his spouse grow toward spiritual maturity, for a person of weak character will also be a vacillating marriage partner.

Ephesians 5:15-20 mentions four steps toward developing a strong Christian character: (1) Walking, (2) Redeeming, (3) Filling, and (4) Praising.

Step 1: Walking Circumspectly. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). Both mental attitude and desires change after a person is saved. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). He becomes aware of the fallacies of the world’s system, such as more government control and less individual responsibility. One by one our Christian freedoms are being taken away and replaced with a worldly system. We can not pray in school, we can not display the Ten Commandments in any governmental or school building, we can not attack the sin of alternative life styles, we can not use Ohio’s motto “With God all things are possible.” It is clear, the “one-world” government is working on no freedom of religion for the followers of Christ, and no freedom for individuals to bear arms, and soon, no freedom to correct your children and all of this in the name of someone’s “rights.” All of this will be clear to those who can discern between the biblical and worldly systems. But rejoice; God is still on His throne and He is in control.

Thus, once a person is saved, not only his perspective but his actions change. He begins to act upon biblical principles. He no longer seeks to gratify self, but seeks rather to please God. His love for God motivates him to love others and to seek their welfare above his own. Thus, “walking circumspectly” and obeying God’s Word enables a Christian to be a loving, wise marriage partner.

Step 2: Redeeming the Time. It is also imperative that a Christian be “redeeming the time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). Redeeming the time involves using the Scripture to evaluate surroundings and to properly order priorities. Prayer, Bible reading, and daily obedience to the Bible will increase a Christian’s ability to fulfill his responsibility to redeem the time. But he also needs to get his priorities in line with God’s Word, for a balanced Christian life is one with four priorities: God, spouse, children, and ministry. Christ should be first on any Christian’s list of priorities. “And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). Obedience to Him is the first responsibility. The next major concern is the marriage partner. Every marriage should be a picture of Christ and His bride [the Church]. “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:24-25). Since this symbolic thread is woven throughout the Old and New Testaments, it is obvious that Christ holds marriage in high esteem. If  Christians give Christ the preeminence, then this analogy will follow in their lives.

One of the most precious gifts of marriage is children, the Christian’s third priority. If parents fail to govern them properly, these children will mar the parent’s testimony. The unsaved will not listen to their “formula” for successful living if their children reject their message.

The final major responsibility is a Christian’s God-given ministry. If the first three priorities are well taken care of, God can then bless the fourth. Redeeming the time necessitates that certain duties take precedence over others. Over commitment is the weakness of many zealous Christian workers. They let the good become the enemy of the best. Some may know God has called them to a particular ministry in a church, but they let five other jobs in the church take up all their time. Their real ministry suffers and does not grow. The five other jobs get a “lick and a promise,” and the family gets little or no attention. A Christian’s looking to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s leadership will establish the priorities that insure a balanced Christian life.

Step Three: The filling of the Holy Spirit. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:17, 18). Drinking wine changes a person’s behavior temporarily. God, however, wants a positive, permanent change, and He has provided the prescription for it: the filling of the Holy Spirit. Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit can direct our lives.

Much is being said about the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Despite this fact, however, few Christians understand the principle. They realize that the Spirit comes into their lives when they are saved “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9), but they do not know how to be filled. Scripture gives two simple steps to follow. First, confess all known sin; then yield completely to the Holy Spirit.

The first step is easily understood, but the second one is often confusing. “Yielding” is not a one-time dedication at a special revival or campfire meeting. It is a daily submission to the will of God. Real surrender means, “I am going to yield my will and body each moment to Christ; it will not be my desires today but God’s.” “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) and “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

We must to be alive to Christ and dead to self every day. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:11-13).

Step 4: Praising God. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19,20). Verses 19 and 20 are natural outgrowths of the previous steps. Once the mind and heart have been transformed to the image of Christ by the filling of the Spirit, praise is a natural, spontaneous reaction. 

The steps toward building a strong, Christian character are simple to follow and essential for success. Once these principles are put into practice, marriage problems as well as life’s other problems will fall into their proper perspective. Two people who have yielded their soul, mind, and heart to God can have a truly joy-filled Christian marriage.

A CASE STUDY:
A Christian Counselor said a mother called him to help her 26-year-old son and daughter-in-law whose marriage was breaking up. Both the husband wife were eager for help and came from a town 20 miles away to see him the next day. The husband had hair down to his shoulders, and his wife’s dress revealed more than it covered. They had been married seven years, had two children, a new home, and a good income, but they were not happy.

The husband admitted, “We have everything that anyone could want, and we have tried everything that could give us happiness, including regular use of drugs, but we just aren’t happy. We have searched for happiness, but even though we now have everything we’re ever dreamed about, we are still frustrated.” He did find a certain amount of enjoyment in hunting, but as he said, “That doesn’t increase the bond in our marriage, and even though I enjoy it, I still feel that it’s useless.” His wife was becoming very fearful, nervous, and continually dissatisfied.

They had both come from a religious background but had generally rejected their heritage in their quest for fun and excitement. The counselor talked with them about the problem of sin and selfishness in their lives and showed them from the Scripture how they could receive Christ as their personal Saviour to gain complete forgiveness and satisfy the terrible longing of their souls. They both accepted Christ that day, and many changes began to take place in their lives almost immediately, including a new-found unity in their marriage.

The counselor visited them once a week to help them grow in their new faith. A two-pack-a-day cigarette habit concerned both of them for about three months until they gained victory over it. They also decided to attend a weekend couples’ retreat. This altered their lives, for it was at the camp that they dedicated themselves to full-time Christian service. Deciding to live a crucified life, they sold their home, and went to a Bible College, where he entered as a ministerial student.

Salvation and the filling of the Holy Spirit drastically changed these two young people’s lives. It has brought them love and unity in their marriage and given them a purpose for living and a sense of fulfillment. In their case these two steps provided the keys to the abundant life. They now feel led to the mission field and are following God’s direction for their lives.

The key that made this marriage turn around and work was that both parties were willing to be open to counseling. Both wanted things to work out. Both had an open heart to God’s Word. Both believed God’s Word. Both became obedient to God’s leading. Both are now serving Him. It takes both parties to save a marriage. One can not change the other, but God can change both. God is in the picture at the wedding and God must be in the picture to save the marriage. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Fill In the Blank or Answer the Question:

1.     Lesson Two is titled “The Participant’s ___________________ .”

2.     The success or failure of the marriage union depends largely upon the ____________________ of those united.

3.     Name the only two sets of values of beliefs man has a choice to live by:

A.   The ____________________

B.    The ____________________

4. The biblical standard seeks to please _____________ .

5. The worldly standard seeks to please _____________ .

6. The worldly standard is ________________________ .

7. The biblical standard is _______________________________________ .

8. Where are these absolute principles found? _______________________ .

9. Is it good to be “lukewarm” in the eyes of God? ___________ .

10. What does “lukewarm” mean? _________________________ .

11. Are “light and darkness” compatible? ________________ .

12. Name the four steps toward developing a strong Christian character:

          Step 1. ___________________________________________

          Step 2. ___________________________________________

          Step 3. ___________________________________________

          Step 4. ___________________________________________

13. Once a person is saved his _____________________ change.

14. What does the word “circumspectly” mean? _____________________ .

15. What three things will increase a Christian’s ability to redeem the time?

1.     His time in ____________________ .

2.     His time in ____________________ .

3.     His ____________ obedience to the Bible.

16. Give, in order, the four priorities needed for a balanced Christian life.

1.     ___________________________ .

2.     ___________________________ .

3.     ___________________________ .

4.     ___________________________ .

17. What does the word “preeminence” mean? _____________________ .

18. The Scripture gives two simple steps to follow to be Spirit filled:

1.     ______________________ all known sin.

2.     ______________________ to the Holy Spirit.

19. A Christian should be _________ to Christ and __________ to sin.

20. Two people who have ______________ their _________ , _________ , and ____________ to God can have a truly ________________ Christian marriage. It takes _________ and ________ to ________ a broken marriage.

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