A person does not have to be married for long to realize that marriage is a lot more difficult than it may seem. Certainly it is a lot more difficult than God intended for it to be. With the fall into sin came the rise of the self, with the loss of perfection came the dominance of sin. Even the best marriages are now tainted by sin, by selfishness, by a distinct lack of love. Every marriage represents the joining of two sinners. Though they love each other, they fight constantly to love each other as much as they know they should.
While the shelves at bookstores, both Christian and mainstream, are groaning under the weight of books dealing with marriage, few of these books offer assistance with the root of all of the problems we encounter in our relationships. Few of them get to the heart of the matter, looking deep into the human heart and prescribing the biblical cure. Into this void steps Dave Harvey with his book When Sinners Say "I Do,", a book that is justly garnering much positive attention. C.J. Mahaney says it "provides clarity in conflict, hope in despair, and points the way to a joy-filled, God glorifying marriage." Jerry Bridges says it "will be helpful for any married couple whether they've been married five weeks or fifty years." And Randy Alcorn calls it "a wonderful book" that is "honest, refreshing, practical, and above all biblical." What has inspired these glowing endorsements is the book's focus on the harsh reality of sin and the beautiful reality of grace.
When Sinners Say "I Do" is a book that focuses a lot of attention on sin. In fact, the first half of the book focuses predominantly on this topic. This may seem unnecessary to some and even depressing to others, but to ignore sin is to ignore one of the greatest human realities. "My friends," writes Harvey, "when sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet." And so he writes about sin and grace in order to promote enjoyable, God-glorifying marriages. This is not a how-to book or a step-by-step to a happy marriage. It does not offer ancient secrets or knowledge that has until now been hidden. Rather, it simply offers the Bible's realistic take on the reality of human sin and the power of the gospel to build and sustain healthy, happy, marriages that honor and glorify God.
I can't say it better than Paul David Tripp. In the book's foreword he writes, "This book grasps at the core drama of every married couple. This drama is no respecter of race, ethnic origin, location, or period of history. It is the one thing that explains the doom and hope of every human relationship. It is the theme that is on every page of this book in some way. What is this drama? It is the drama of sin and grace." Harvey deals frankly, honestly and unrelentingly with sin and on the basis of that foundation allows grace to shine in all its beauty. Though every marriage for all time will be the union of two sinners, God is good to grant grace that we can have relationships that are strong, vibrant and that bring glory to God.
Piercing in its description of sin and unrelenting in pursuing sin to the deepest recesses of our hearts (and thus, of our relationships), When Sinners Say "I Do" is a most welcome contribution in a busy marketplace. I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to any couple and, indeed, to any single person as well. It is one of the best books on marriage and relationships that I have had the privilege of reading. We all need to see our sinner as bitter so that grace can be sweet. This book's biblical focus will bring both sin and the Savior into clear focus, helping us to build strong relationships centered upon Christ for His glory.
on July 5, 2007
As Dave writes: "If you are married, or soon to be married, you are discovering that your marriage is not a romance novel. Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin."
Sin, sin, sin. Does this sound like it would be a dreary book? Well, the good news is that it is not! Dave brings a humorous and light touch to a heavy subject, creating a winsome and appealing approach to an important topic. Dave spends the first four chapters addressing the doctrine of sin and why we need to have a healthy suspicion of our own hearts and motives before seeking to address the hearts and motives of others. But some of the greatest "gold," in my opinion, is found in chapters five and six, when Dave addresses mercy and forgiveness. The last two chapters will be a surprise to most people. The second to last is titled "Concerning Sex." But it's not a chapter that unmarried people have to skip. It simply addresses how sex in marriage should be a grand adventure, and then examines the selfish, sinful reasons that hinder the joy of married sex. The final chapter is poignantly sweet. It is titled "When Sinners Say Goodbye," and it is subtitled "Time, Aging, and Our Glorious Hope." Referring to the truth of our daily outward decline but inward spiritual renewal (2 Corinthians 4:16), Dave writes:
"A maturing marriage is one that sees all the way to the finish line and beyond. As married Christians, God bestows upon us the extraordinary honor of nurturing and celebrating the inner renewal while also caring for the outer decay. It's an adventure in irony, made possible by the gospel, the only real treasure in our brittle jars of clay. Not every married Christian sees this clearly. But joy awaits those who do."
on April 8, 2011
As a licensed counselor, I have read more than my share of books on managing emotions and relationships. Unfortunately they are all the same. Sure they each have a slightly different take. Some even include their own unique Venn diagrams of emotional issues and how they relate to physical boundaries. Even the Christian books simply take what everyone else has already done and add a dash of Scripture, especially the latter part of Ephesians for flavor.
So when a friend told me that she had read a fantastic book on marriage, I have to admit I had a generous level of skepticism. I trust her judgment so thought to myself, "What's the harm?" Perceiving my reservation, she sat me down and read a few pages from the first chapter. My curiosity sparked, I graciously borrowed her copy.
MARRIAGE: POWERED BY THE GOSPEL
In his book When Sinners Say "I Do": Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, Dave Harvey essentially redefines marriage for Christians. It has often been said that there is so much planning that goes into the wedding itself, that new couples often forget about everything after the honeymoon. Even the most diligent of Christian couples who want to follow every piece of advice do their premarital counseling, get to know each others' parents, and may even ask their blessing.
Captivated by the vision they are starring at, it is easy for the bride and groom to completely miss when the minister says, "What God had joined together, let no man separate."
Wait, what God had joined together? Did they not decide to get married?
The Bible is very clear, that the sanctity of marriage is the way that marriage draws us to Him. It is no accident that marriage is what Scripture uses as an image of Christ's relationship with the Church. Ephesians 5 lays it out clearly that as Christ gave his life for the Church, husbands should love their wives with a self-sacrificing love. As the Church submits to the authority of Christ, so women are called to submit to the authority of their husbands. The Bible is obviously not politically correct in this position, but there is a beauty of the partnership.
A POWERFUL REALITY
But let's not stop there. In a bold and challenging sweep of language and biblical reference, Dave Harvey takes this image even further. He acknowledges something that we too often forget in marriage: both of us are sinners in need of grace. Sharing their first dance as a married couple, what wife wants to gaze into the eyes of this man of hers and think that he will never complete her like Renee Zellweger apparently does for Tom Cruise? Carrying her over the threshold, what man wants to really think that this woman is a wretched sinner?
Yet it is this very truth that, when neglected, can cause irreparable damage. The truth is that neither person can be everything to the other. Neither the bride nor the groom will ever be perfect. If it is God who has indeed joined these two people together, it is God and God alone who will be able to keep them together. It is the ugliness of their sin, that when acknowledged, can open the doors and windows to the awesome power of the Gospel that has already redeemed each individually, but which now has the power to sanctify the marriage itself.
Embracing one another as sinners means that we can lovingly lavish grace and mercy on one another. Taking hold of our own depravity means that we can see the our spouse as someone in need of the Gospel, someone to whom we have the honor and privilege of preaching the good news. We have the pleasure of pointing our loved one to the One who does complete us. It is here that the imputed love of God becomes the love we share for our spouse that "no man [can] separate."
on August 14, 2007
Harvey calls his book, "Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage," and that's exactly what his book is for, whether you're a newlywed or have been a couple for years, Harvey's book is applicable to all. Harvey includes not only biblical quotes, but also Shakespeare, and other theologian's quotations. Filled with snippets of Harvey's own life and marriage, he also quotes other couple's marriages and how we are all sinners and how that sin can get in the way of treating our spouse in a respectful, loving fashion as God would have wanted us to do.
Mercy is a real aspect of Jesus and as He stated, "When you can extend mercy to the spiteful, violent, selfish and wicked, you can extend it to those who annoy, ignore, or disappoint you." This is a book that is not only applicable to married couples, but to all of our relationships, to our families and friends and how we interact with them. Are we going to show mercy to someone that has upset us? And is that person really upsetting us, or are we letting that person control our feelings because in our hearts we are sinners first and foremost.
When you realize that you're a sinner you can be a better spouse, parent, friend, and a happier person. Anything that we do that isn't filled with sin is the grace of God at work. As Harvey says, "God wants Christians to delight in marriage. And He has made provision in the gospel to do so. But we can't truly understand the gospel, or even the basic problems of every marriage, until we come to terms with the undeniable reality of sin. Men and women (and me!) find real hope and help when we realize that God uses marriage to reveal the heart and change the soul. This discovery process is an adventure that lasts until death do us part." Real Christian advice that can have a grave difference in your life.
Armchair Interviews says: A real wake-up call that can change your life put in easy to understand language.
Dave Harvey begins the book by making sure that you understand the doctrine of sin...the root of which is that you recognize that you are a sinner. Recognizing that both members of any marriage are sinners, have always been sinners, and forever will be sinners is a key place to start. Far too often we recognize that proposition (both spouses are sinners) to be a true theoretically true statement, but practically we act as if the other is the greater sinner. Harvey flips this on its head: I must go into marriage (indeed, into all relationships, recognizing that I am the worst sinner that I know).
Then, after recognizing sin, we can see the solution to sin: The gospel of the free grace of God, a gospel that saves from sin, but also a gospel that provides the power for ongoing forgiveness of sin and power over sin.
The bulk of the bulk is really just a primer on how to apply the gospel to various aspects of marriage. The book is far less a book on sin in marriage than it is on the grace of the gospel applied to marriage.
For this reason, ever since I first recommended this book, it is the first recommendation that I give to anybody looking for "marriage help". It is the first book I give to couples before they are married who are looking for a book to read together to prepare them for marriage. It would be the first book I give to a couple in a super healthy marriage. And it would be a book I would recommend to a single without even a potential mate who is trying to think rightly about dating and marriage.
Until we see the ravaging effects of sin on marriage - until I see the ravaging affects of MY sin on MY marriage - I won't recognize God's grace as the solution; I will be tempted to settle for the cheap fixes peddled in most other marriage books out there. My greatest problem isn't compatibility, lack of intimacy, or dulled romance; it is sin. And the solution is therefore first and foremost the gospel. Read this book to see how that fleshes itself out.
When you've finished this book, then I recommend you move onto the other best books on marriage I've read:
1. Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace
2. Feminine Appeal For women; Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know For men.
on September 30, 2008
and I can't be more thankful for the way the Lord used Dave Harvey to pen such bold truth.
Harvey has brilliantly published a book on biblical theology and the Cross-centered Gospel under the guise of marriage. He basically follows the example of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33. The majority of people read that passage and think it's about marriage first and foremost, but when one takes a step back and they read it Theo/Christocentrically, they'll find that the passage is actually more about Christ and the Gospel than it is about marriage! Marriage is simply one manner in which Believers are called to "be imitators of God" (Eph. 5:1) and live by the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
So that when the Ephesians passage is written with Christ front and center, and all together glorious, then our marriages take the humble backseat to the blazing center of God's glory as displayed in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Thereafter, Paul teaches us that honoring our parents, parenting our children, and our lives in the workplace need to be theologically contextualized and lived out practically to the reflection of Christ, by the power of the Spirit, and to the glory and honor of God!
I appreciate Harvey continually placing before the reader that we need to think theologically about our marriages. And when we do, the Most High and transcendent God consumes our man-centered ideas of the "wife needing love" and the "husband needing respect..." Harvey moves us from thinking needs-centered to Gospel-centered.
I'm especially thankful to Tedd Tripp who, while at a conference back in the summer of 2007 in Modesto, CA handed me a free copy of "When Sinners Say I Do."
on December 11, 2014
If it's possible to hate something in a good way, then I really hated Dave Harvey's book When Sinners Say `I Do'. What Harvey discusses provides a very helpful mix of challenges and reminders that I need as a Christian husband. While practical tips, to-do lists, and not-do-lists are helpful for Christian marriages, Harvey goes right for the jugular (as far as identifying the root problem for all marriage issues) in every chapter. Sin profoundly impacts marriage in many unfortunate ways, and Harvey covers what truly seems to be all areas of importance. Yet instead of focusing on the discouraging inevitability that every spouse will sin, he teaches how the gospel will change everything for God's glory, and each spouse's good.
You also know you've come to a great book about marriage when you encounter a comment such as, and I quote...
"If I could choose my own superpower, it would be the ability to suck back stupid statements the instant they escape my lips."
This isn't even the tip of the iceberg of challenges that married Christians deal with, but that statement in Chapter 7 struck a big chord with me. Who wouldn't love a superpower to prevent sin?
Harvey starts on a serious note though, calling attention to two provocative truths. The first is that what married Christians believe about God will determine the quality of their marriage. The other is that God has already given us the perfect "operating manual" for marriage, yet it's a shame how it (the Bible) often takes a back seat favor of self-help books and a myriad of other tools. That isn't to say our brothers and sisters can't be extremely helpful, but our first inclination should always be to draw from marriage's divine Inventor.
So, two Bs are the keys: belief and the Bible. Got that?
Harvey wastes no time pointing out another crucial lesson. Ready?
We each individually must identify ourselves as the worst possible sinner in the world.
If that truth offends you or goes in one ear and out the other, then you're failing to grasp the craftiness of sin...and how it allures, but ultimately betrays.
Instead of leaving us with such discouraging truth however, When Sinners Say `I Do' is full of difficult-to-practice, but necessary-to-learn encouragements. Every Christian spouse must, on an individual basis, be suspicious of themselves before ever being so of their spouses...or other Christians for the matter. It's always important to be reminded to do things, and have attitudes, that we don't naturally practice and have. Harvey also reminds us that marriage will never fulfill our needs or desires. Only God can do that, period. Instead, just as God shows us grace in everything, we are to do the same for the man or woman with whom we've exchanged vows.
And...when our spouses inevitably sin, in general or against us, mercy is always the answer, never judgment. Is that your typical response? It isn't mine!
The chapter entitled "Forgiveness, Full and Free" tugged at my heartstrings and tear ducts thanks to the true story that Harvey shares about a wife who married a pastor that openly admitted that he didn't actually love her, but believed marriage would boost his career! This got my blood boiling, and I quickly experienced rebuke when Harvey tactfully taught that even in such a situation, which spanned over four decades (good grief!), forgiveness is still the only biblical option. And according to Harvey, that's exactly what the wife chose, which again rebukes me to the ends of the earth. I'm confident I would be at a total loss after forty minutes (maybe even seconds?) if ever told anything similar by my wife, let alone 40 years! Clearly I don't know what God's grace is capable of!
The chapter labeled "The Surgeon, The Scalpel, And The Spouse In Sin" spoke to me the most, because it is at least my most significant temptation to try to be my wife's Holy Spirit. Harvey uses each page to teach the better, biblical approach to addressing sin in the life of one's spouse, which is where you encounter the "superpower" comment I pointed out earlier. I know I'll battle this desire my whole life. Regardless, my sole job is to point my Christine to Christ all day, every day. Marriage isn't about competing for "gotcha" moments, or apologies...not even attempting to persuade from one's own wisdom, but simply to serve as a minister of reconciliation. You can stamp a giant "FAIL" on my forehead in this area!
In all I've said so far, don't forget that at the center of When Sinners Say `I Do' is grace, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as God is relentless with it in His dealings with us, we must again be the same as we interact with our spouses. The challenge lies in the fact that it can take a really, really...REALLY long time for someone to change! Yet if we truly believe Who God is and what He says, we'll trust Him fully and ultimately to do exactly what He intends in the life and heart of our spouses. We will only get in the way of that. It's all about the gospel...meditating upon it, resting in it, etc.
At this point, it actually surprised me that a chapter is devoted to marital intimacy. After all, why would a book that highlights sin's impact on marriage and what to do about it (or really, what not to do!) discuss sex? The reason is that the marriage bed can and should be a wonderful aid for a Christian couple in their individual and collective battle against sin. And since sex is designed to be wholly given, never taken, it provides a beautiful picture of...yes, you guessed it, the gospel! Cherish this truth in your heart and marriage.
I have great respect for Dave Harvey provocatively titling this book. No Christian enjoys acknowledging their sinfulness, yet it's so necessary, especially if marriage is to bear fruit and glorify God. I'm thankful that the material drives this home from cover to cover. Just remember that the Word of God is your go-to resource. When Sinners Say `I Do' comes second. And of course, praise God for His abundant grace and everlasting mercy, demonstrated perfectly and clearly at Calvary. The message is simple. When sinners say "I do", they would do well to remember always what Jesus has done, and do accordingly.
on April 24, 2013
I chose to rate this book as a 5 out of five, because I instant felt the impact in my marriage. My attitude toward working to combat sin in my marriage became a positive adventure knowing I was battling FROM victory. The day I came home and exclaimed, "Honey, I am the biggest sinner in the world and I am all yours," gave me a sense of expressing my true self, the flawed beautiful creature that God made.
Although, I don't embrace the chapters on sex and pinpointing your spouse's sin as readily, the remainder of the books is beautiful. I felt so moved by reading and working through the book with a counselor that I really began examining my role in church, as this book was so rich and fulfilling.
There are many beautiful references to teaching of the Charles Spurgeon and others I remember listening to with my father when I was a wee lad. The portion related to the fruits of the spirit were so touching.
I recommend this book to all that are willing to lay aside prejudice and have a new experience.
I do lots of pre-marital counseling and often times I find that the couples are so infatuated with the thoughts of love, marriage, family, etc., so much so that they don't stop to count the cost of what getting married really means.
We do our best to help them look at reality. So, when I found this book I was drawn to it because of the title. I was not disappointed. Dave Harvey does a great job in helping the engaged couple take a good hard look at the fact that they are both sinners and they both have faults that they will bring into the marriage.
Some great discussion starters are contained withint the pages, things like, "When Desires Clash", or "So How Did This Fight Get Started?" I now ask every couple to read this book so that we have a good base to start our discussions from.
I believe that this book is also good for any couples that have been married a few years and are struggling with communication and loving correction. This book offers good reminders and always does a great job of making you look at yourself first and then at your spouse in regards to problems.
All conflict can bring Glory to God, especially in our married lives, as long as we are all willing to admit, "I am a sinner!".
I know that you will enjoy every page of this book.
on December 2, 2013
Point: The Gospel tells us that we are sinners and therefore will have marriage conflict. The Gospel also tells us that Jesus paid for that sin and we can have growth.
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.