One of the best ways to cherish your spouse with words is by affirming the gospel — the essential message of Christianity — and regularly planting its truth in your lover’s heart and mind. Sometimes we have to remind our spouses of the gospel—total and complete acceptance before God because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross — because some of them brush the teeth of their own worst enemy every day. They are so hard on themselves that they’ve essentially become an enemy to their own happiness. With earnest hearts, the standard they’ve set for themselves and their refusal to embrace grace are such that no one criticizes them more than they do.
We need to be a dissenting, steady, and persistent voice counterbalancing all the negative, guilt-ridden stuff with God’s forgiveness, pardon, affirmation, acceptance, and lavishly undeserved love.
If you grew up thinking of God as a harsh taskmaster; if you’re not familiar with what “speaking the gospel” to your spouse means, consider the following biblical examples.
Consider, for instance, how God viewed Rahab. She was a prostitute and a liar, and her own countrymen could have called her a traitor. Why, for instance, do you think she was so quickly able to hide Israel’s spies from her own people? A prostitute back then had to be very adept at hiding men when their wives or male relatives came looking for them. It’s not a coincidence that she immediately knew where two men could quickly and effectively hide. She had experience in the worst sort of way, yet God used that experience in the best kind of way — accomplishing his plan for the Israelites. And so God commends Rahab as a “woman of faith” who gave a hospitable welcome to Israel’s spies (Hebrews 11:31). She is commended for hiding two men, not condemned for sleeping with hundreds.
Also consider Noah. He once drank so much he passed out and then cursed one of his sons out of his own embarrassment. Yet God declared him to be an “heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
And what about Sarah? Sarah laughed — she laughed — at the angel of God who told her she would conceive a child in her old age. Did God remember her laugh? On the contrary,
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. — Hebrews 11:11
Sarah considered him faithful? Funny, I don’t remember reading that it went down like that.
But God does.
We could also remember Job, who, let’s be honest (just read his own words), murmured against God, cursed the day he was born, certainly complained, and seemed very impatient in the face of his maladies, yet how does God’s Word describe him?
You have heard of Job’s perseverance. — James 5:11
The perseverance of Job. That’s how God remembers him.
If you’re in Christ and if your spouse is in Christ, God doesn’t see your worst or even pettiest sins. He sees Christ in you. Consequently, He sees the faith you’ve exercised. He sees the good works you’ve done. He sees the glory He put in you by His Holy Spirit.
I want you and your spouse to walk in the joy of forgiveness and grace, your rightful excitement that, as a child of God forgiven by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, everything bad you’ve done is forgotten — gone! — and everything good is celebrated and remembered.
Satan doesn’t just tempt your spouse; he tries to discourage your spouse, and the gospel is the best remedy to build up your spouse in the face of his or her daily battle with sin. Speak words of God’s acceptance and affirmation to each other. On a date night, read Romans 3:21-26 together, talking about how this truth impacts your marriage and parenting:
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — He did it to demonstrate His righteousness in the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
On another night, read all of Romans 5 — too long to copy here—a great thing to do on a date. And always be ready to speak Romans 8:1-4 whenever you hear your spouse launch into self-despising talk.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
On vacation, take out your Bible and discuss Ephesians 1:3-8, Ephesians1:13-14:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us…
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of His glory.
These truths never get old. We need to be reminded of them every day. The best gift we can give our spouses and children is the assurance of the gospel.
Please don’t pass over that last sentence: more precious than a pure gold necklace, more lovely than diamond earrings, more beautiful than two dozen roses, and more refreshing to a man than an ice-cold tea or beer (whatever his preference) on a hot summer day is to proclaim the truth, glory, and pardon of God’s gospel message to your spouse.
Here’s a side benefit: a joyful person walking in grace and hope can cherish much more than one who is tangled up in the guilt that Christ died to remove. Our guilt serves no one. In Christ, our self-condemnation offends God; it doesn’t please Him. To walk in condemnation is to call God a liar and Christ’s work insufficient. One of the worst sins you can commit as a Christian is to define yourself by your sin. In the same way, one of the worst sins you can commit against your spouse is to always define them by their sin. Biblical marriage is about defining each other as Christ defines us — saved sons and daughters who are growing more magnificent every day as they are eventually made perfect by Christ Himself at the end.
When our guilt has been duly dealt with, definitively and powerfully, and when our acceptance has been declared by an authority that far exceeds our own, then finally we can embrace something far superior to “you’re special.” We can embrace “you’re forgiven, adopted, and secure. You’re cherished by the God of the universe — the King of kings and the Lord of lords.”
Remind your spouse of this precious truth. In the dark days and cold nights, don’t let them forget the spiritual riches they enjoy. These are the most precious words you could ever utter.
Watch the Cherish video
- To have a cherishing marriage, we need to be intentional about the way we speak to each other — not just the content, but the tone as well.
- To cherish our spouses with words requires maintaining our curiosity. We should ask them for more information, not ignore what they’re saying or try to cut them off.
- When we correct our spouses, we need to find a way to still cherish them in the midst of the correction. We may have to ask them how best to do this.
- Cherishing words are specific, deliberate, and soft.
- One of the best ways to verbally cherish our spouses is to speak the gospel to them, regularly reminding them of God’s acceptance and affirmation.
Excerpted with permission from Cherish by Gary Thomas, copyright Gary Thomas.
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Find a few creative ways to remind your spouse, “Hey, God is crazy about you. And you know, don’t you, that your heavenly Father delights in you?” On a future date night or morning together, read Romans 3:21–26; on another night, read all of Romans 5. Then consider using Romans 8:1–4 and Ephesians 1:3–14. Try to intentionally use Scripture to fuel your conversations. Think of three specific things you cherish about your spouse. Tell them what they are! If you’re in a group setting, let others hear you speak of how excellent and wonderful your spouse truly is. Come share your thoughts on our blog. We’d love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily