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Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss biblical marriage, Jim and Janet’s forty-year marriage, the true value of authenticity, the culture’s twisting of it, and how godly marriage can be a light in our dark culture, which has lost its way in reference to sex and marriage.
Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss marriage and the cultural breakdown around the institution of marriage. To begin, they discuss some observations about the culture made by New York Times columnist David Brooks, whose pieces on culture are insightful and clear.
They take a break from that discussion to talk about Jim and Janet’s forty-one years of marriage. Jim reflects on the beginning of their relationship, their early years, and how Janet’s partnership in ministry has impacted the kingdom.
In this, they unpack the new wave of valuing authenticity, the positives, and negatives of what this term can mean in modern culture. On the face of it, authenticity, genuineness, is a Christlike characteristic. Mark shares how authenticity continues to be one of the core values at Crosspoint Church, where he previously pastored. The focus on authenticity seems to be a reaction to the career-driven approach to life by the previous generation.
At the same time, this good value is conflated to finding that authenticity in oneself, in pride in who you are. It becomes personal, identity-driven, and about finding “your truth.” It has even become militant and adversarial. This could easily be driving a great deal of animosity over politics. They discuss how biblical authenticity and cultural authenticity differ.
In marriage, it becomes critical to get your core identity from Christ, not your spouse. We must pursue Christ first and foremost; that way we don’t become unhealthily co-dependent on our spouse. While we welcome and celebrate support, and that’s a huge part of marriage, neither spouse should need the other. Contrary to the selfish view of the culture, that relationships are contracts that we get what we need out of them, marriage should be covenantal.
The effects of this cultural shift are evident: fewer couples are marrying, and so fewer are divorcing, dating is decreasing, and pornography is on the rise. The most important place for our trust in Christ. As Jim once heard from his youth pastor, you must find “your worth not in who you are, but in whose you are.” Then, authentic community is needed, which can only be found in a local body of believers. We’re often missing that in our culture today as well.
Jim and Mark then unpack two foundational passages on marriage in Genesis 1 and Ephesians 5 and what it means for our lives and marriages. Marriage is about service, not selfishness, and this acts as a window into the church and Christ’s love. Not only does this witness to your spouse, but to your family, friends, and culture as well. Jim uses the example of Martin Luther and his wife and how their marriage exemplified Luther’s teaching that clergy can live godly lives while married.
Godly marriages will act as a light in this dark culture and a window into the revelation of the love of Christ.
Resources and further reading:
- The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis
- “America is falling apart,” and The Second Mountain – David Brooks
- I and Thou – Martin Buber
- Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance– Bob Buford
- “No, I’m not over January 6th”– Russell Moore
About the hosts
Jim Denison, PhD, is the CEO of Denison Ministries and the author of The Daily Article. He received his PhD in philosophy and Master’s in Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Mark Turman is the Executive Director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.
Transcribed by Otter.ai
Mark Turman 00:00
Welcome to another episode of the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman here with Dr. Jim Denison, the founder of Denison Forum. Jim, how are you? Today?
Jim Denison 00:08
I am. Well, Mark, how are you sir,
Mark Turman 00:09
doing great looking forward to our conversation today. And just want to say a word of thanks to our new audience for listening. We are now five or six episodes into the Denison Forum Podcast. And we want to continue conversations today just want to thank people for tuning in. And being a part of this, we’re hearing some good things already just a month or so in. And you can help us if you would rate the podcast that’ll help people to find it, and hopefully benefit from it as you are. And so we’re just excited to get to continue this opportunity and look forward to things coming up in the future as well. And thank you for joining us today. Today. Jim, I wanted to just talk a little bit about love and marriage kind of build on some conversations that we’ve had before. I’ll tell you what kind of sparked my thinking for this topic. One is, is I’m doing premarital counseling with two young couples who will get married this June. And I’m a little bit stressed because it’s the first time in my ministry where I have to do or get to do two weddings two days apart. And I only have one shirt, so I had to figure out how to get that shirt laundered within that 48 hour window. But we’ve had some wonderful conversations among these two young couples I’ve known. I’ve known the groom’s almost their whole lives. And so we’re having fun talking about what Christian marriage is all about. And that’s something we want to delve into today. The other thing that prompted prompted my attention, I know that you’re a fan of David Brooks, New York Times columnist, tell us a little bit more about who David Brooks is just for context.
Jim Denison 01:48
Absolutely. So So yeah, David Brooks is who I want to be when I grew up. Okay, start with that, let’s say that been writing for the New York Times for a number of years published a number of best selling books as well heard him speak several times gotten to meet him a couple times been just so impressed with him. But he’s really one of those few people out there. I think that understands not only where we are, why we are in his columns that I read without fail in his books. And the speaking I’ve heard him too, he’s really an analytical personality, he’s really able to understand this moment, I think to interpret it more effectively and be able to speak forward on the consequence of that. He also tends to be a more conservative voice, which in the New York Times world is kind of a good, I think corrective and unusual. And Ross Douthat, I think are and Bret Stevens to some degree, or maybe more of the conservative views inside their, their universe, which is helpful on some level. But he’s also I think, able to bring an intellectual mind to the pursuit of faith. He has his own faith story, as he’s come from kind of a nominal Judaism to kind of he’s not very public about it, but it kind of a confessional Christian commitment, I
Mark Turman 02:49
appreciate you saying that it was wondering what his faith standpoint might look like.
Jim Denison 02:53
And again, he doesn’t say much about this on a public level. But it seems from those that know him well, that he’s come to that place where perhaps in a Catholic sort of a context, although I don’t know that he would call himself a Catholic, I think he’s certainly come closer to a Christian worldview than would have necessarily been in the case in the past. And that’s fun to watch to see him move in that direction as well. But he’s been thought of as kind of a secular CS Lewis in the sense of somebody that really understands where we are and why we’re here, and how we can learn from where we are to where we need to go. So he’s been a very important voice in my life. And I think in our culture as well.
Mark Turman 03:25
And one we would obviously recommend for others to pay attention to absolutely don’t agree with
Jim Denison 03:29
everything, of course, right, of course, politically in another ways, but certainly someone we should pay attention to. Well, and
Mark Turman 03:34
probably a your recommendation a few years ago, I can’t remember but right before the pandemic I had planned to read. One of his what he described in a seminar I was in with him as perhaps his most important or one of his most important books called the second Mountain, which is really, from my perspective of pursuit of what significance instead of success is all about, and others have written on that topic. I remember Bob Buford from my hometown wrote a book about this. But he spends an entire section talking about marriage, and not looking at him as a particular Christian writer in that sense. It was amazing to me some of the things that he shared in that section of the book, he quotes CS Lewis and others, like John Gottman, who writes and speaks on marriage issues a lot. He quoted a lot of people that I’ve read in this space, and I thought he did an excellent job talking about what the nature of marriage commitment is all about. That comes out of some of his personal pain. But that was helpful and kind of prompted me. I also as we look ahead, this podcast will release about February the ninth so as we get right up to Valentine’s Day, which I also want to ask a question is Valentine’s a big deal at your house and I’m giving you a Heads up, that you can start preparing now. Is that a big deal at your house?
Jim Denison 05:04
First of all, thank you for the wisdom here. Thank you for the preparation. It’s always good to know that before time, right? Always good to be aware of this before it happens. Don’t
Mark Turman 05:11
want to be the last guy at the card shop.
Jim Denison 05:13
No, that’s not a good thing, you know. And of course, you can be there an hour before closes and still not be the last guy at the card shot. Now, if you were the wife, on the other hand, at least in my experience, she’ll be there two weeks before Valentine’s Day and have all this setup. I once was in a worship service, where the pastor realized is just few minutes before he got speaking, that it was Mother’s Day. And so in his mind, he created a whole new sermon on the across take of mother and it was painful. It was beyond painful as it just dawned on him. It was Mother’s Day. And he probably ought to say something about that. We don’t want to be in that place with Valentine’s Day do right. We don’t want to go there. So to answer your personal question, thank you for that. I try to make a big thing of this always take Janet out. She doesn’t like to be around huge crowds. So we try not to go out on the day. Specifically, we go the day before the day after there’s a restaurant here in Dallas, we go to every year, for Valentine’s Day, they have a Valentine’s Day menu, we always order the same thing every year even trying to get the same table. If we could do it that way. Janet loves flowers. And so I’m always doing that she tries to stay away from sugar. So that hurts my ability to know what to do in the context of all of that. But it’s more I think for her just to know that she is cherished, which we can talk about is the thing that I most of all need to give her. That’s the greatest gift I think I can give her is for her to know that I cherish her that I love her with an agave you come first love in any way I can find to say that every day of the year, Valentine’s Day just being one example is I think the thing God wants me to do. Yeah, well,
Mark Turman 06:38
that’s great. Tell us on a personal note how long you and Janet have been married? And let me ask you to ad lib add to that a little bit. Where did you meet? And then how long were your parents married?
Jim Denison 06:52
Thank you for that. That’s very common question. We’ve been married 41 years to answer your question. We got married on June 7 1980. I don’t know if Janet looks at that as a day of rejoicing or not. When our anniversary comes around. People congratulate me and give her condolences, right. You know, and understandably so I’m sure I’ve been told I’ll kick my coverage. And I have no defense for that at all. In fact, the pastor search committee, the last church we pastored in our first conversation with him 10 minutes in one of the search committee members said well, we find our pastor’s wife now we just need to find our pastor. And I laughed and they weren’t laughing. Right? We’re absolutely they were absolutely serious. And they’re right about that. I had her speak for me one Sunday morning, they sold more copies of that sermon tape than any in the history of the church. So then I asked her to speak up women’s Bible study on Thursday. The next week when I got up the men booed and hissed. They shouted, we want Janet so I know what it is to be, you know, to over Mary. I understand how that works. So back in 1977, some of our listeners don’t know there was a 1977 but dinosaurs roaming the earth and all of that. I’m sitting in sophomore English at Houston Baptist University. And this person walks in smiling. I’ve never seen anyone smiling walking into sophomore English and I said I need to check this out. There just been transferred from California. She grew up in Southern California. Father worked for IBM as it stands for I’ve been moved, transferred all over, right got moved to Houston. Janet attends Houston Baptist University walks into this sophomore English class winds up going to my church, my home church, where I was a youth minister at this time, took a long time to get a five minute window of opportunity between boyfriends to be able to ask her out finally got to do that went to Smokey and the Bandit. Oh, first date you set the bar high terrible romantic here. And then after that, I took her out for ice cream and demonstrated my ability to tie the stem of the cherry in a knot in my mouth. And as I like to tell that she proposed that very moment. I just remember it that way. But I’m certain that had something to do with it. Months later, she finally took leave of her senses and agreed to marry me in December of 79. We were married in June of 1980. My parents have to do the math. Are they married in? Let’s see 57 Dad died in 79. So what would that be?
Mark Turman 09:00
32 years I get something too early in the morning for
Jim Denison 09:03
Yeah, yeah, no, I’m sorry, I’d only be 22 years married. I’m 57. Dad died in 79. So 22 years, would still be married today. If they were both alive. They had a wonderful love for each other and model that for me in some wonderful ways as well. But yeah, so that’s our story and a background.
Mark Turman 09:16
I bring that up because, as you mentioned before, so much of your ministry and in way of thinking grows out of your relationship with your dad and with your mom, and how his faith experience coming out of his time and in the military service during World War Two. And obviously that reflects our has its expression within marriage and within family life. I’ve been married 35 years this year. So I’m a little bit behind you and my parents were married 44 years before my dad’s sudden death at 62. And so I think we every generation builds upon that and there’s something of a compounding effect. And part of the reason I wanted to bring this talk Pick up in the context of Denison for him is because of how important love and marriage and family are to human thriving, and how we’re seeing so many redefinitions of what marriage is what love is what, what the culture is saying about pathways to human flourishing, human thriving. So just wanted to unpack that with you a little bit. And perhaps, if nothing else, we’ve served this morning as a public service announcement to all those guys to get ready, you still have some time to make a plan. And we hope that we’re useful in that way. But we’ve talked a lot I’ve heard you speak a lot about how today the ultimate value is the pursuit of personal authenticity? Can you kind of unpack that terminology for us a little bit?
Jim Denison 10:49
Absolutely. That’s in the Fourth Chapter, the tsunami book where I first became acquainted with this idea of a rising radical secular ideology that centers on personal authenticity as a path to flourishing. So what’s meant by that? Obviously, authenticity is a good word. It’s a good thing, right? We all ought be authentic. If you’re asking what’s the opposite of that? What’s the alternative would be to be in authentic? And that’s the last thing any of us should aspire to be or should even be willing to be obviously. So by a dictionary definition, you would think, well, of course, personal authenticity is valuable. And authenticity ought to be the path to flourishing. You don’t want to kind of flourishing based on being inauthentic, right? Correct. And there’s a lot of that out there a lot of manipulative flourishing, you could call it a lot of manipulative financial successes, vocational successes, relational successes, based on playing games based on being manipulative, we don’t want that
Mark Turman 11:40
right. And even even at the church that I pastored, up until recent months we had, being authentic or being genuine is one of our core values that we wanted to be relational, we wanted to be gracefully, personal with people, but we wanted to be real, we wanted to be authentic in all of our relationships. So we affirm that as a good thing, on the face of it,
Jim Denison 12:01
absolutely. And especially as you’re reaching the younger generation, everything that we read tells us the transparency, authenticity is especially valued by them, I think, in large part because they’ve seen the other side of it, they’ve seen perhaps in my generation, they’ve seen this kind of role playing sort of a manipulative kind of success at all costs, kind of climb the ladder, and you’re stepping on rungs. And that’s okay sort of approach to life. And, and they’re choosing against that, and I’m glad they are good for them. We certainly want as believers to be focusing on authenticity, as central to what it is to be following Jesus, that’s who Jesus was, couldn’t have been. Maybe you could argue the most authentic person in human history, right to be exactly who he was, at every moment, never speaking a false word, never sending a false signal, never being anything other than who we absolutely was, in every moment, that ought to be our aspirational goal. Well, that, however, is not what authenticity is being framed to mean, in the literature I’m seeing and what the larger culture means by authenticity. What they mean is various ways of saying this, you want to be in touch with who you believe yourself to be primarily in the context of sexual orientation, gender identity, and the context of who you believe your personal self to be, relative to how the culture is trying to frame you. In other words, if you believe yourself to be same sex attracted, come out of the closet, proclaim that to the world, own it, be proud about that, right. Be proud about your transgenderism, be proud of that your child or your parent, be proud about who you are, even if the world disagrees. And the more the world disagrees, the proud of you should be some of this goes back to intersectionality, relative to critical theory as well, that the more you’re on minority, the more you need to push back against the majority, the more you need to stake the claim to your own personal identity or a personal authenticity, your truth, as Oprah and others would say, tell your truth, seize on your truth to claim and proclaim Your truth to the culture. And that’s what being authentic is not just being transparent and real, but being very forceful, and very initiatory. About what makes you unique, and if that’s something the culture disagrees with, and be even more that
Mark Turman 14:08
way. Well, yeah, and that last part is really intriguing from the standpoint of almost trying to construct a personal identity that has a warrior mindset to it. That that is militant is, that’s one of the ways you know, you’re on your right track, is that you’re facing opposition, and that you you should celebrate that and let that become somewhat futile, to the the pursuit of your authenticity, which will cause people obviously to live kind of on the edge of anger.
Jim Denison 14:41
Right? Very much an adversarial context, right, which is why we live today. Anyway, as we’ve seen this partisan divisions are deeper than they’ve ever been more and more of us as angelical Christians are seeing a rising tide of animosity to Biblical faith and we feel ourselves in an adversarial setting in that setting as well. And so there is a culture warrior sort mindset that I think is out there. That certainly is a way to get clicks, that’s a way to sell books is to convince people to have an enemy they can’t defeat, but I’ll defeat them if you’ll buy my book, right? If you’ll vote for me if you’ll give me money or whatever. So that certainly is fueling a lot of what the culture is doing these days. So something the other day as well, Mark, I used it even in a recent daily article, Russell more pointed me to this, that there’s a phenomenon psychologists have discovered, where if I am publicly stating an opinion about something, I now feel an intrinsic, psychological need to defend that opinion, to double down on that opinion, and to be adversarial against anyone I perceived to be adversarial against me simply
Mark Turman 15:36
simply because you’ve gone public with it. I tried to hurt you ride on this recently. And just just simply because you’ve gone widely public in the sense that social media enables us to go public, that’s the
Jim Denison 15:48
point. There was a day when I couldn’t make my position public unless I could get on television and get on radio or get someone to publish a book, or I could only make it public to my family and a few friends. That’s right, exactly. And that’s why family arguments can be so difficult. Nowadays, anybody with a cell phone has access to the world. And so two things are happening. First of all, we’re declaring opinions in ways we never got to before. And second, we are on significant levels, curating our news feeds for those who agree with our opinions, right? So the divisions are getting deeper, the relationships are getting more strained. I saw the other day that animosity toward those of a different political party has risen 800% In the last 20 years. Well, I one measurement. And so we’re at this place where I’m doubling down on my personal authenticity, I’m doubling down on who I am. And the more you disagree, the more urgent it is that I do this. And the bottom line distinguishing characteristic in a secular context is I get to make that decision. I get to decide who I am based on my truth. The Christian move is God, who have you made me to be God? Who do you believe me to be? God? What is my identity in Christ? How have you gifted me? How have you blessed me? How have you prepared me? How have you educated me? Have you equipped me? What is my kingdom assignment? Who am I in Christ is the biblical move? Who am I, as I see myself as the secular move, and those two ways of understanding authenticity are very much in conflict today.
Mark Turman 17:12
So this whole conversation about personal authenticity really relates into this larger word of identity? Yes, this huge, huge category, concept and conversation, even just listening to you talk right now that when we, even when we see certain manifestations like deep, deep partisan divide in our political context, a lot of that may be rooted in and growing out of this sense of identity and or personal authenticity, and we don’t even know it, and certainly is something that Christians could have become victims to an unbiblical definition of authenticity, and identity, it’s perhaps the most important thing that that Jesus offers us and that scripture defines for us is what does it mean to have an identity formed through your relationship with God through your relationship with Christ starting off in this big theological category that we talked about the image of God. And if you would chase that out a little bit for us, for me, just the fun, the starting place is what we see in the earliest pages of scripture relative to man being made in the image of God. And we’ll bring that around in a minute to this issue of love and marriage. But, but start with that foundational chi
Jim Denison 18:37
really does start there doesn’t you go back to Genesis, one that were created in His image and his likeness, we didn’t create ourselves, we can’t create ourselves. Only God can create excellent yellow out of nothing. We were created by God for a purpose. God knew us before he made us. God loved us before he made us. God has a purpose. For us, that is the best purpose for us. He has a plan for me that unique to me as a purpose for you, unique to you. And the degree to which you align yourself with His purpose for you is the path to flourishing. That’s the path to your best. We see that in Genesis one, we see that all across the New Testament, you get to Paul, and his self identification of a man in Christ. I remember James Stewart’s wonderful theological biography of Paul some years ago titled A man in Christ, the idea that my identity is found in Jesus, I am who I am, because
Mark Turman 19:22
Jesus loves me. And Paul, Paul loves this phrase in him.
Jim Denison 19:26
That’s right, constantly saying in him, I’ll tell you mark, the best piece of advice, single piece of advice I’ve ever received came from my youth minister, when I was in high school, who said, always remember the source of your personal worth. My personal worth is not found in who I am, but in whose I am. It’s not found in my own attributes, my own capacities, those could change tomorrow. It’s not found in my performance or possessions. Those could change tomorrow. It’s found on the fact I am loved unconditionally. And this is another change that I’ve come to in recent years that I would have said differently was a day when I would have said God loves me passionately for who I am. That’s not true. God To me passionately because God is love. He can’t help it. It’s his nature, its intrinsic nature, God is love. So God must love me unconditionally, no matter what I did yesterday, no matter what I will do tomorrow. And when I find my source of personal worth, in that love that a god that unconditional love, then I can project that into the world with a fearless need not to be affirmed by anybody else, because I’m already affirmed by him
Mark Turman 20:26
totally secure. That’s, you know, having a sense of security versus insecurity as human beings, and finding your security in that when I was a young Christian, 1718 years old, kind of late in the game. As a teenager, I got to get in on what summer camp was all about in a church context. And one of the early Bible teachers that I met in that was an Atlanta Bible teacher by the name of Dan de Haan. He was at one time the chaplain for the Atlanta Falcons. He had the privilege of discipling, a quarterback back in the 70s named Steve BARTKOWSKI. I can remember Dan Kahan saying to us in our summer camp, worship services, if I can get you to see and understand who you are in Christ, everything else will take care of itself. That may have been an overstatement. But he was he was trying to say, as if you could understand and grasp more and more of this identity that you have in Christ as a redeemed adopted child of God, then it will provide all of the inspiration and motivation that you’re going to need if you keep coming back to that well. And yes, you’ll need some guidance. And Paul gives plenty of guidance in his letters about specific behaviors. Most of his letters have a very practical expression of this relative to including things like marriage and family and work life. There is a practical section to almost all of his letters. But so many of what Paul is inspired to write in the Bible, have this foundational concept of identity, and a redeemed identity in Christ. And that’s what de Haan was trying to get us to understand even as teenagers, that foundational principle, it
Jim Denison 22:18
is a foundational principle, and it’s foundational to marriage as well. Again, back to my high school youth ministry, who drew two kinds of relationships, the one that we’ve come later to understand as codependent is a pyramid where I’m leaning on you, you’re leaning on me. And in that kind of context, if I fall, you fall, right, if you fall, I fall were dependent on each other. It’s almost an idolatrous relationship, as opposed to parallel lines, where the closer I grow to God, and the closer you grow to the Lord, the closer we grow to each other, but it’s in Christ, I can be so much better a husband to Janet, if I understand my identity in Christ. So I’m not coming to her from a position of need, I don’t need her affirmation, I welcome it, I celebrate it, but I don’t come needing it. I don’t need to be needed. And so many husbands do. I don’t need to be liked and loved and affirmed. So many husbands do and come to the marriage out of a need for that I come because those needs are already met in Christ. Now that’s on a perfect day, obviously, right. But the more I’m in Christ and see myself that way, the more I’m free to love her whether I think she’s loving me today or not, the more I’m free to serve her whether she thinks she should serve me or is serving me or not. In fact, the less she is, the more she deserves and needs me to give to her what God has given to me, right, and we find that identity, the stronger our marriages.
Mark Turman 23:31
And if you don’t do that you can easily make the mistake of if you don’t have that identity growing in Christ, as I’ve said to these young couples, and having counseling, the absolute best gift you can give each other is to be the healthiest, strongest, most mature disciple you can be. That’s right, that’s building that identity. And if you don’t do that you can be tempted in the direction to make your spouse or your future spouse, your idol and not even realize that
Jim Denison 24:00
you’ve done it. It’s inevitably what’s going to happen. And if we don’t do what we’re saying now, and you start
Mark Turman 24:05
to try to extract out of that relationship, things that can only actually happen in your relationship with God and with Christ.
Jim Denison 24:14
That’s right we’re putting the wrong gas in the engine and wondering why the car doesn’t run. Right? You know, how many times in your years as pastor and me as a pastor, I’ve heard people say, she just not meeting my needs anymore. She just not giving me what I need. He’s just not giving me what I need. Well, that started from a fundamentally false place, right, that started from a relationship that exists as you as a means to my end, remember Martin Buber talking about the I it and the i thou relationship? I that was how I should relate to people I it is how I should relate to objects. Also my car if it’s not meeting my needs as a car anymore, if it’s breaking down all the time, not doing what I want, but I can’t sell my wife because she’s breaking down because she’s not giving me what I want. That’s tonight it relationship. Well, she’s an object of my subject where she’s a means to my end. That is tragically what To find so much of marriage, in our culture, and the day that the other person doesn’t meet my needs, whether they’re sexual or relational, or whatever they are, we feel the absolute freedom to sell that car and go buy another one. That’s how our transactional culture operates. And we’re seeing all of the cataclysmic results of that in marriages and families and all the devastation destruction that comes on the other side of that, our pastor gave me some advice. Before Jen and I got married, that is very consistent with this, he said to me, the best way to love your kids is to love your wife. And the best way to love your wife is to love Jesus. And I really believe that’s true.
Mark Turman 25:34
And I think that’s absolutely foundational. And you’ll, if you read David Brooks, his book in this area, this second mountain book, he actually talks exactly about this and quotes, Buber as well, and helps to start wrapping your brain around the difference of the biblical concept of covenant marriage, as opposed to the cultural identity of contractual marriage that we see in let me bring this around a little bit to our early discussion about authenticity and identity. It may possibly be the case probably is the case, in my opinion, that the younger generation millennials and others, that that hold this idea of authenticity. So high, is impart driven, because they are the children of widespread divorce. And what they, perhaps a contrast, or the thing that they’re reacting to, as individuals and as a generation is, we’ve seen hypocrisy on a massive scale, starting with many of our own parents, and the reality of no fault divorce. And this more contractual, A is we’re going to do marriage as long as it’s mutually beneficial. But if one of us decides it’s no longer mutually beneficial, we’re just going to exit and start over. And they’re, as a generation reacting to that, in this pursuit of authenticity, and we’re seeing
Jim Denison 27:04
it across the board. We’re seeing why as you look at younger generations, relative to other surveys, statistics, they’re dating less, they’re dating later, there are a few fewer divorces, because there are fewer marriages, they’re just less trust inside all of this. And another piece to add to this, unfortunately, and tragically, if I am the child of a broken society that says, Look, marriage is contractual, and you don’t want that. And dating relationships are obviously contractual, then I’m going to handle my own needs myself. And that’s where pornography becomes credit. Tragically, a role plays a role in this the degree to which people don’t feel they need their sexual needs to be met by anybody else. That’s the degree to which alternative lifestyles come to play here as well, that sort of read of what you’re seeing brokenness on an tragically unprecedented level in our culture. And it all goes back to the idea that I am who I say I am, rather than who God says I am. There’s a piece of shorthand inside all of that, that I think I should mention quickly. Psychologists taught me this years ago, I’m not who I think I am. I’m not who you think I am. I’m who I think you think I am.
Mark Turman 28:09
Just yet to think about that statement carefully to grasp it, right? It’s a
Jim Denison 28:13
pathway to all sorts of challenges, right? All sorts of problems, right? But at the end of the day, we’re walking around in that world, constantly trying to be who I think you think I am, and who I wish I was wearing these masks, John Powell had this marvelous book, Why am I afraid to tell you who I really am? The answer is because I’m afraid you won’t like me very much. So we use those masks as metaphor. So I’ve got these masks in my closet. I’ve got a Sunday mask, I’ve got a Monday mask, I’ve got a mark mask, as opposed to a Janet mask, right, as opposed to my children’s mask and my grandkids mess. And they get really adept at swapping these masks out. When we take people to Greece and Turkey, we always obviously go back to the ancient theatres there, the Greek theatres there, and it’s at that point that we explained that an actor who wore two masks was known as a Hippocrates or a hypocrite, by definitions what the Greek word means. Women weren’t allowed to be actors. In ancient Greek dramas, typically, men played the women’s roles as well. And the way they did that is just to put on different masks. And that was how the different roles were played. And it’s out of that. The Jesus is speaking of hypocrisy, because in his culture, we believe that he was very much active at a town called Sephora is not far from Nazareth, where he grew up massive theater, we always go there to this theater and Zephyrus. And you would have been sitting there in that theater as an adolescent, watching the hypocrites on the stage change their mass changing their masks. Well, that’s what our culture affirms. Because in our culture, you are what we say you are. And so its performance, its possessions, its perfectionism, it’s always being what the culture wants me to be equal success. Well, at the end of the day, you run out of masks, and at the end of the day, isn’t there’s something inside us that wants to be known for who we really are? Not just who we say we are, or who the culture thinks we are or wants us to be? You will find that in Jesus and nowhere else.
Mark Turman 29:57
Right. And I think that’s where so much of this comes around this fundamental understanding of, of receiving your identity, not from your own thoughts or from the thoughts of others, but from your relationship with God, which is, first and foremost, rooted in a, an understanding of Scripture, Scripture reveals what, what we know about God and what God says about us, starting with this image of God Foundation, and then moving into the biblical account. So important in that sense to be a person who consumed scripture. I was in worship this past Sunday and heard a great pastor in my area, saying, you know, fundamentally this is whatever it is that you consume will ultimately consume you well said, and certainly has a lot of application for things like social media, the more that you consume screen time on social media, at some point, you probably won’t even realize it that it has consumed you. But the principle works in the positive as well, especially when it relates to being in connection with God consistently daily in prayer, understanding that when you become a Christian, you have the very spirit of Jesus living in you, and teaching you coaching you walking beside you, being in the scripture, and knowing trusting that the Holy Spirit can teach you grow you and form your identity, just in that private time with him. But also being in a community of faith. Where we It does matter to us that we have significant relationships and that we’re, we’re receiving feedback and clarification from other Christians who are also not trying to form their identity apart from God, but with God, but but the community of faith is a part of this understanding and growth of, of, of a God formed or a cruciform identity as well, right.
Jim Denison 32:03
And that’s where community becomes so critical to the conversation. That’s another missing piece. And authenticity as a pastor flourishing is the communal accountability, relationship, organization support that we get in the church uniquely, again, in the church, people are substituting for that in social media. But in social media, they tend to project who they wish themselves to be. They project a false name, even sometimes almost
Mark Turman 32:24
like we’re creating digital churches, so to speak in a secular context. Exactly.
Jim Denison 32:28
So because we’re trying to meet the same needs. Remember the movie, the TV show? Cheers, where everybody knows your name, right? Well, they may know your name. But that’s probably all they know about you, except what you wanted them to know about you. Right? Well, here we are with a God that knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows everything I’ve ever done everything. I mean, he knows everything I’m going to do, that I can’t imagine I’m going to do sitting here today and loves me anyway, loves you that same way. So let’s have community with each other centered in our mutual love of God, and let’s share that love with each other. That’s why Jesus founded the church. That’s why it is the last hope of earth, of humanity is God through the church. That’s why the Church is the Body of Christ, not a seminary, not a college, not a business. It is the church, the Body of Christ. We’re missing that in a culture that so emphasizes personal authenticity, that it makes that a means to the end of defining success for marriages, for families, and for external relationships and communities. And we ought not be surprised at the breakdown we’re seeing as a result.
Mark Turman 33:27
And so you know, part of what we would recommend, we would say, you know, it’s so vital for anybody coming in contact with our ministry, we want them to be in a local body of believers, we want you to find a biblically teaching biblically anchored church, we want you to develop meaningful relationships, authentic relationships, and and then use that not only as a place for worship, and for fellowship, but also as a platform for service for discovering other parts of your identity, such as your spiritual gifts, and using those within the context of that local body, but also as a springboard into your community and other places of influence. Because as you mentioned a minute ago, there is a missional responsibility and an invitation from God that your identity, as he’s formed you to be, is for a bigger purpose than just your own sense of meaning and satisfaction in life. You’re here for a missional reason, which is to bring glory to God to reflect the very presence of God into a dark world that needs that. That’s where our, our mission as an organization is, so focus as is the mission of the local church as well.
Jim Denison 34:43
So that’s why in so many ways, we’re an extension of the local church identity ministries. We exist to do things that pastors simply don’t have the time or the bandwidth necessarily to do or Bible teachers, whoever is there, but at the end of the day, we don’t try to build communities. We don’t host local Bible studies. We don’t host worship services where We’re not a church. In that sense. We’re a resource to the church. And if those hearing this conversation right now, well hear this as an encouragement to take your next step, if you were more engaged with a local body of believers, what would that look like? If you were more engaged, finding your identity in Christ by meeting with him in his word every single day, by starting the day, by getting plugged into him by being filled with the Spirit by being submitted to him in personal worship and Bible study, if you were more like Jesus, by being close to Jesus, what would that look like? The best gift you could give your spouse of Valentine’s Day is to be more like Jesus on Valentine’s day than you are today. And that’s a commitment, the Lord will help you honor if you’re willing to bring it to him today. Yeah, let’s
Mark Turman 35:41
bring that back around to this conversation about loving marriage. This amazing, two amazing passages about marriage, obviously, Genesis to where God creates marriage and this foundational statement, for this purpose of marriage, a man will leave his father and mother cleave or be joined glued to his wife, and the two will become one flesh that not for every person, not for every Christian, but for many, there will be a calling into marriage, which is what I think the Apostle Paul is inspired to write about to the Corinthians that God can call some of us into a life of meaningful, full and rich, single celibacy. And that’s what Paul apparently was, that’s what Jesus was. And that that is the calling of some, but there are also others who are called into this relationship of marriage and, and for a Christian, to understand that calling, you would be disobedient if you didn’t marry this person that God has led you to. Because there is something that God wants to accomplish. And then the Bible takes that further in Ephesians, five, where it talks about this wonderful, mutually submissive relationship of covenant marriage, that is described there in Ephesians, five, but then there’s this interesting statement, where he says, But I’m talking about Christ in the church. And what he is saying is, is that there is a transcendent purpose to Christian marriage that is not simply to make each other happy or to keep each other company run with that a little bit about the the witness responsibility and opportunity of Christian marriage that needs to be reclaimed by Christians in a big way in our culture. Now, that’s
Jim Denison 37:32
a great point, I use that passage, whenever I do a wedding, whenever I perform a wedding, I was read from Ephesians. And I talked about the two roles, that the one role is for the husband to love his wife, the agave, the word of God paid beans to put her first, she deserves to know she comes before your career. She comes before your friendship, she comes before any other relationship under God. On the end, she deserves to be cherished in that way, then when the text says that the wife has to support her husband to respect her husband, what that means is not that she’s the inferior to the superior at all, it actually Hupa tassel in the Greek is the decision of a superior to help it inferior, if you want to go back to the etymology of the word. But what we’re saying here is that the husband needs the respect of his wife, he needs that from her before he needs it from anybody else in his life, right. And it’s in that covenant of her affirming and encouraging him and him cherishing her, that we’re demonstrating to the culture, our relationship with Jesus, that we are here to serve our Lord, because He loves us that unconditionally, that powerfully if you want to see God at work in the world, look at a loving family, look at a marriage as God intended. That’s our witness, our first witness to the culture. What right do I have to offer you something I don’t have? Right? What right do I have to lead you or I’m not willing to go. That’s why the Bible so often says of Christian leaders, how urgent it is that their own marriages be strong and healthy and godly, because that’s my first witness to the world is the degree to which a Janet and I love each other in the way God calls all of us to love each other. So see your marriage as your first missionary opportunity. And understand you’re sending signals, whether you know it or not, you’re planting trees, you may never sit under starting with your own children and grandchildren, and others are watching you don’t know we’re watching. And if you love each other out of your identity in Christ, not because I need from you but because I love you and want to serve you as I’ve been served, pay forward, what’s been paid to me, you’ll make a difference in this culture that you can’t imagine today.
Mark Turman 39:24
And I just as I think about that passage and what you said I keep going back to a wedding that I attended more than two decades ago, the wedding was being officiated by my friend Matthew McKellar, who is, has been a pastor and now teaches preaching at Southwestern seminary. First time I ever heard someone say this, referring to Christian marriage, referring to this passage that if a Christian man and Christian woman will love each other in the ways that you’ve been describing, that they are actually building a window of revelation that they get to look through and see more and more Have the glory and goodness of God revealed to them in Christ. But then others who intersect with their relationship be that children or grandchildren or friends, or even strangers, they actually are forming a window of revelation that people can look to, and look through to see how much God loves each of us. And that has so powerfully impacted me that day that Matthew said that, that I’ve, I don’t think I’ve ever done a wedding since then that didn’t include that idea of, you know, we have all these wonderful shows, we have stories and even television shows about bride zyliss. And all of that. And, you know, as a married couple, rightly, in some sense, says, Hey, this is our day, this is this day ought to be all about us. In some sense, that’s true, and that’s okay. But in a Christian context, it’s really about something much more. It’s about the opportunity of not only knowing God better through a marriage relationship, but revealing God to each other and to the world. And, and seeing that it’s not simply about companionship, companionship is great. But it is about an eternal and transcendent purpose of the glory of God. Absolutely. As
Jim Denison 41:14
I know, we’ll be out of time shortly here, but I’m thinking about Martin Luther, and his marriage to Catherine Bombora. Katie, as he called her, he understood at that early stage in what we call the Protestant Reformation, that he was, in some sense, sending a signal of what marriage would look like for Christian leaders, right? Once you’re in a world that says celibacy is not the expected or demanded role that a Christian leader is to play as had been the case previous to this. And so he and Katie were very thoughtful about how they would model what a Christian marriage would look like, going forward, how they would honor each other, how they would serve each other how they would speak well of each other in public, then the play came to Wittenberg. And they made the decision as a couple to stay, to minister to those in need, not just Katie, but Martin as well. When they started building theological education in this reformation, they started bringing people into their home. And Katie was not just the person that served the meal, not just the person that took care of room and board, she was a speaker into the conversation, she and he worked together, the leaders of this movement. And from then till now, that’s been, I think, a model that the world will most be surprised by, and most transformed by the good news of the bad news is that as broken as our culture is relationally, as broken as our culture is, and its understanding of sexual ethics, and what authenticity ought to be, the darker the room, the more obvious the light, the more powerful the light. Right now, you and I are having this conversation here in my study, there are two large windows here, I’m looking outside at trees and at parking lots in a clear blue sky. So if I right now turn on my cell phone and turn on the flashlight part of the cell phone, it may not be detectable to you at all, I might have to shine it in your eyes for you to see it. But if it were nighttime, and I could reach over and turn off those lights, and then turn on that exact same flashlight, from that exact same cell phone, your eyes would be drawn instantly to it, you couldn’t help it, right. That’s just how it works. Now if we’ll be the light of the world, we will be a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. So take from this encouragement. The more you find your identity in Christ, the more you get with Him and His word and pray, and thank him for loving you accept his love for you see yourself as he loves you. And then pay forward that love to your spouse, you’ll be making a transformational difference in the culture. God guarantees it. God uses you in that way. You’ll be that window of Revelation, as Matthew said, that God will use for eternal significance and what a privilege that is.
Mark Turman 43:37
And that’s a great, great word for us to end on. That’s the mission that we want to help people to live out as we seek to, to spark a movement of culture changing Christians. That’s what we want to be about. Through the Denison forum. We hope today’s conversation has been helpful and useful to you in that as you think about things like your relationships, your relationship with God, your relationship with your spouse, if God’s called you in the marriage, or if he does that in the future. I remember Jim, reading a little bit about how Catherine was careful to wait on Martin Luther. In that season of time, that catalytic time, he was recommending that all of his priest friends get married, but he was holding out. And she finally waited him out and said, You know what you need to put your money where your mouth is and, and live this out with me the way you’re recommending to others. So we we hope that it’s a great, great celebration, whatever your context is on Valentine’s Day that you feel the love of God and the love of others and that you show it as well. Thanks for joining us for this episode of The Dennis Moore Denson Forum Podcast. Again, we hope that you’ll like and rate this podcast recommended to others. And if you have topics that you’d like to recommend, you can send those to us as well through the podcast and if you’re interested in more we would rate recommend to you our most recent book written by Dr. Jim, the coming tsunami, why Christians are labeled intolerant, irrelevant, oppressive and dangerous and how we can turn the tide you can find that resource at Denison forum.org Or at the website the coming tsunami.org Thank you for listening