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When Sinners Say "I Do": Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage Paperback – June 25, 2007
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From the Publisher
About the author
Dave Harvey serves as the Pastor of Preaching at Four Oaks Community Church in Tallahassee, FL and is also the Founder of AmICalled.com. He serves as the Chairman of the board of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, as well as the Chairman of the Board of the Sojourn Network. Dave has written a number of books, including Am I Called, Rescuing Ambition, and When Sinners Say “I Do.” Dave lives in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife, Kimm. They have four grown children.
When Sinners Say "I Do"
Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage
Marriage is the union of two people who arrive at the altar toting some surprisingly large luggage. Often it gets opened right there on the honeymoon; sometimes it waits for the week after. The Bible calls it sin. Understanding its influence can make all the difference for a man and a woman who are building a life together.
Dave’s writing embraces the reader with humor and honesty as he speaks about sin and the power of the gospel to overcome it.
To say “I am a sinner” is to stare boldly at a fundamental reality that many people don’t even want to glance at. But when we acknowledge that painful reality, several great things become clear. The greatest benefit of acknowledging our sinfulness is that it makes Christ and his work precious to us. As Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32, "Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Only sinners need a Savior.
That’s the beginning that leads us to grace. This is not a depressing thought. It recognizes that to get to the heart of marriage, we must deal with the heart of sin. A great pastor once said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” He was getting at a profound truth of the gospel. Until we understand the problem, we will not be able to delight in the solution. Grace is truly amazing because of what we’re saved from. There lies hope for sinners who say “I do.”
Published by Shepherd Press
Shepherd Press is committed to providing God’s people with solid biblical books and materials. The resources we publish have two qualities that make them unique and spiritually satisfying. First, they focus on heart issues rather than performance issues. We all know that it is possible to master some Christian performance skills without experiencing internal change. We long for authentic change that works from the inside out. Our resources focus on the “abundance of the heart," not just performance.
Second, our resources maintain the centrality of the gospel. The riches of the gospel go deeper than the wonderful assurance of forgiven sins and eternal life. The message of the gospel also includes radical, internal transformation and empowerment to live in the ways God calls us to live.
At Shepherd Press we look for materials that serve both of these ends—they help us identify the idols of the heart that pollute our service to Christ and keep us from obeying God. They also encourage us that we can “do all things through Christ who gives [us] strength.” They remind us that the gospel is for Christians as we daily repent and cast ourselves on the abundant grace of Jesus Christ.
- Gospel Driven
- Heart Focused
- Life Changing
Dave Harvey not only offers a biblical diagnosis of marital strife, but prescribes the cure as well - the gospel. When Sinners Say "I Do" provides clarity in conflict, hope in despair, and points the way to a joy-filled, God glorifying marriage. --C.J. Mahaney
From the Inside Flap
Dave's writing embraces the reader with humor and honesty as he speaks about sin and the power of the gospel to overcome it. He opens the delightful truth of God's word and encourages the reader to see more clearly the glorious picture of what God does when sinners say "I do."
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Practically, this would often mean forbearance (88). Mercy covers sin. “I need to look for how she’s battling it, try to encourage rather than critique. . . What a privilege to represent the love of our Savior in forbearing the sins of my spouse.” (89-90). “Forgiveness is costly, and sometimes it costs more than we think we can give” (106). However, “We all need someone to stand between us and the just wrath of God.” (104). As one whose burdensome debts have been forgiven, it is not within our privilege to exact from our debtors, our spouses. The gospel of grace “encompasses her sin as well as” mine (109). This is the only way forward when sinners say “I do.” (113).
This soteriological wisdom of a God who deals with us by grace cannot be taken casually, for in it exists the means of reconciliation for spouses experiencing marital troubles (63, 120-32). One can hardly do better here than quote Harvey at length: “. . . sanctifying grace teaches us how to replace the passions of this world with godliness. As a result we grow in charitable thoughts, patience with our spouse, self-control instead of angry words, love, joy peace. . . and actions that look increasingly like the character of Christ and combine to” make a beautiful marriage (142). This is gospel pure and simple.
Harvey’s wisdom is also demonstrated by carefully placing the chapter on sex (ch. 9, pp. 151-68) after the chapter on grace (ch. 8, pp. 135-50). Harvey presents 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 and takes on surprisingly difficult topics, including “Sloth,” “Bitterness,” etc., as they all relate to marital sex. Lastly, chapter ten (pp. 169-83), “When Sinners Say Goodbye,” far from being about divorce, is about caring for the aging spouse, even suffering their death. It’s endearing, charming, wise and practical, as much of the book has been.
I see no reason to fault the author for his work. I found the overall portrait, as my survey reveals, extremely compelling. The focus on gospel-like sacrifice, Harvey’s ability to inspire charity in the reader for their spouse, and his pithy, biblical wisdom mixed with occasional wit leave the reader feeling somewhat disheartened upon completion, as though the last page of a marvelous novel was just turned.
Path: Harvey leads the reader through the bad news and the good news of the Gospel and our marriages. He sets a firm foundation in reality when he explains that we are our own worst enemy because of sin. He then shows how that looks in our everyday conflicts at home. The transforming power of the Gospel then is explained as he practically works out what a believer in Christ can choose to do, and is commanded to do, in the marriage relationship.
The pattern of sin - grace - application is how the author moves through the whole book. He walks through arguments, forgiveness, confrontation, sex, and dying.
Sources: The author references teachers such as C. J. Mahaney, John Piper, J. I. Packer, as well as Puritans such as Watson, Owen, and Henry.
Agreement: I appreciated that this book took the time to explain the real problem - sin, rather than merely the symptoms - conflict. The author doesn’t promise “A New Husband by Friday” or that you will know “His needs and her needs.” Rather, he points the reader to Jesus Christ.
His practical illustrations were helpful.
The book is easy to read.
Disagreement: One way I think he could have made the book stronger is to include questions for discussion at the end of each chapter.
Personal App: Am I willing to deal with the biggest problem in my marriage, me?
Favorite Quote: “When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet” (Kindle Locations 106-107).
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.