RPMs: RECOGNIZING POTENTIAL MATES
May 15-16, 2004
[During this message series, Ed is on stage with a 2004 Ferrari Spider 355 convertible sports car to illustrate the point that we look at dating and mate selection much the same as we view buying a new car.]
This is a Ferrari—the dream car of most human beings. “If I could only have a Ferrari,” you might say. Ferraris are special cars. They kick out some serious RPMs, and we’re beginning a brand new series today called “RPMs: Recognizing Potential Mates.” It’s a series on dating. Now, when I said that, some of the parents here might go, “Wow, dating? I could skip the next several weeks. Dating…I’ve already done that.”
Moms and Dads, this series might be more for you than it is for the single adults or the students in the house, because one of the biggest responsibilities that we have before us as parents is to teach and train our kids how to make the right call. We have to monitor their relationships, we have to show them discernment, and we have to help guide them along as they discover the great relational track that God has in store for every life. If you are a student or are single, the implications are obvious. The second most important decision you will ever make is who you will marry, and it doesn’t take a relational rocket scientist to figure out that we’re messing up on this one.
The United States of America leads the world in the divorce rate. Of the 10 marriages that will occur tomorrow in our country, 5 will end up in divorce. Of the other 5 that survive, half of them will report little or no intimacy whatsoever. The average marriage these days lasts 9.8 years. And sadly, the kids are caught in the crossfire. Sixty percent of children born this year will spend the majority of their childhood in a single parent home. So obviously we’re not getting this dating thing right.
You see, we need to do the work on this side of the wedding runner, not on the other side of the wedding runner. It’s what we don’t do before we say, “I do,” that gives our “I do’s” some great octane and allows us to hit on all cylinders. God wants our relationship to run like a Ferrari. God wants us to really discover His awesome agenda, the track that he’s applied and has supplied for every life here.
Well, right now I’m going to do something that’s kind of negative. I want to expose some defective dating decisions that a lot of people are making. And the reason I can make that broad brush statement is because, due to the stats, due to the research, we’re not getting this thing right. A lot of people in this house are doing some defective dating, we’re making dumb decisions when it comes to this whole dating dynamic. And to illustrate, let’s relate these decisions to this beautiful car [referring to the Ferrari].
DEFECTIVE DATERS FAIL TO LOOK BEHIND THE WHEEL
The first dumb decision that defective daters make has to do with the car keys, it has to do with driving, and it has to do with who is behind the wheel of the person’s life that we’re dating. Dumb daters don’t even check that out. Dumb daters don’t open the door and see who’s driving the car of the person they’re dating. Can you believe that? It’s the second most important decision out there, and yet, dumb daters just skip over that part. The bible says it this way in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
If you apply this teaching, and if you are a single adult or a student, suddenly two thirds of the potential candidates for you to date have been wiped out. They are off the track, and that’s pretty heavy. God says in his Word, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” Hook up, date, only people who know Christ personally. “Man,” you might be saying, “That’s pretty heavy! Is God being capricious or cruel? Is God being discriminatory?” If you’re an attorney, would you try to sue God for a spiritual apartheid here? Is that the deal?
No, God’s not being capricious or cruel. God is being strategic in loving because God wants the best for every single person here. You might be fresh out of a divorce—maybe the ink is still wet on those papers and you’re saying to yourself, “This next time, man, I’m going to do it right. This next time I’m really going to meet the right one.” Well, if you want to do it right, you cannot overlook this important question.
This is the most important question you’ve got to ask the person you’re dating, “Who is driving your life?” That is the question we have to ask, “Who is driving your life?” because the driver controls the deal.
We can’t be unequally yoked. Now, I’m an egg whites guy (yolks aren’t good for you). But the bible is not talking about eggs, the bible is talking about this. [Ed brings a yoke on stage to show what this verse means, literally.] This is a yoke. Back in biblical times farmers would hook up animals of equal strength and power to plow their fields. For example, they might take an ox and put him on one side and another ox of equal strength on the other side. This afforded the farmer the opportunity to plow straight lines.
A farmer who’s an intelligent guy would not consider putting a reindeer on one side of the yoke and a buffalo on the other. I mean that would be wheels off! Could you imagine what those roads would be like? It would be horrible, and that’s the picture that God is giving us. God is saying, “I love you too much and you matter too much to me. Life is too short to hook up with the wrong person. Don’t be unequally yoked, because you’re signing up for second best; you’re signing up for something that will never, ever hit on all cylinders.” That’s why God said it.
“Well Ed,” you might say, “I’m not sure if this guy I’m dating is a believer or not. I’m not really sure that this girl I’m going out with is a Christ-follower or not. How do I know?” That’s a great question that you’ve got to ask.
TRUE CHRIST-FOLLOWERS HAVE A STORY
And parents, challenge your students when they date to ask this question, go for the ask, and just simply say, “Tell me your story. Who is driving your life?” At this point Christ-followers will stand up and say, “You know, Jesus Christ is driving my life. Before I met Christ I was hydroplaning, I was bouncing off of this guard rail and that guard rail. Now I’ve met Jesus Christ, and I gave him the keys to my life, and he’s sitting behind the wheel. And, man, my life is cruising. Here is what Jesus is doing for me…”
When they have a story, when you hear a story that’s good, that probably means the person is a Christ-follower. What if I handed the keys to this Ferrari to my friend sitting here in the front row, Ray? What if I said, “Ray here is the keys to the Ferrari, man. It’s yours.” Ray would go, “Man, I always liked you, but now I love you! Now my wife Julie and I, we can just take this car and drive it around on the weekends! This guy gave me a Ferrari! He’s the best Pastor ever!”
That’s what he would say. He would tell his friends at work and his friends at the health club, “This guy gave me a Ferrari! I was thinking of not even showing up for church, but I went and look what happened!” Now Ray’s here all the time.
That would be quite a story wouldn’t it? As Christ-followers, we must have a story and we must ask for the story and listen to the story from those we date. Now, when you ask this person to give you the story, if they say stuff like, “I’ve always been a Christian, you know. I’m a very spiritual person.” [Ed makes a buzzer sound] “I was confirmed when I was 12.” [buzzer sound] “I go to Fellowship Church.” [buzzer sound]
All that stuff is fine, but they’ve got to give a story of before they met Christ, how they were driving their own life and how it wasn’t working; then how they transferred the keys to Jesus and now, by his grace, he’s running their life, he’s driving it now. They have to be able to say, “Here’s what he’s done in my life.” You’ve got to have a story, but there is something else.
TRUE CHRIST-FOLLOWERS EXHIBIT FRUIT
We’ve got to look for the fruits in the person’s life. I challenge you to ask in the first several dates. It’s that important because you can easily fall in love with a non-believer. You’ve got to look for some fruit. “Fruit,” you’re saying, “What do you mean fruit?”
Well, that’s what Jesus said, “Show me (not the money) the fruit.” I believe it’s John 15:8 Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Yeah it’s great to have a story, but show me the fruit. “What’s the fruit?” you might be saying. Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Here’s something I ran across maybe about four or five years ago concerning the fruit of the Spirit that you need to think about after you’ve gone through the ask, after you’ve heard the story, and while you are looking for the fruit. Here is the fruit. I want to put it where we can all understand it. Are you ready? Love—is he or she a loving person? Does he or she sacrificially love me? Joy—does this person have the exuberant Spirit that lives in the life of a man or woman of faith? Peace—does this person have peace with God through Christ. Is this person anxious and worried all the time? Does she or he have a calming nature? Patience—is this person able to delay gratification, are they disciplined the way they handle finances and time? Is this persona patient with you or demanding? Kindness—is this person truly kind? Whatever you do, pick someone who is kind. Goodness—is this person basically good? Does he or she have strong morals to stand up for what is right? Faithfulness—this is the mark of a true believer, someone who is always there, consistent and honest. Is the one you’re with faithful or flaky? Is this person sensitive to your needs and feelings or cold and macho? Self control—does this person control his or her speech? Does this person control the sex drive? Or is this person always wanting to go off road and jump in the back seat? It got kind of quiet in here.
TRUE CHRIST-FOLLOWERS ARE INVOLVED IN CHURCH
You’ve got to look for the fruit and you’ve got to hear the story. There’s something else…the church factor. What if I told you this; what if I said, “I love Ferraris, but I don’t like driving fast. I don’t like Ferrari dealerships. I don’t like car shows. I don’t like Road & Track magazine. I don’t really like the Italian design cars. But I love Ferraris!” You’d say, “Ed, you’ve got a problem. It doesn’t make sense, there’s a disconnect somewhere.”
What if I said, “I love fashion, I love color, I love clothes. But don’t get me near the Galleria or North Park Mall! Don’t even get me close to Grapevine Mills or the West Village. No, I don’t like those places. But I love clothes!” That doesn’t make sense, there’s a disconnect there. Something is not working. For someone that you’re dating to sit there and tell you, “Yeah, baby, I’ve got fruit, but church? You know, I go to a bunch of different churches. I church hop and shop…what’s hot and what’s not. I just kind of float around because I’m not really involved or connected to a local church.” Warning, warning, alien approaching! If someone is a true Christ-follower, they are going to be into that entity which is the most near and dear to the heart of Jesus—the local church.
What did Christ call the church? He called it his bride. So when someone is a true Christ-follower, they are going to give their time in church, they’re going to give their money in church, they’re going to give their involvement, they are going to orbit their lives around the local church. And single adults, I beg you, find a church home and join it. Don’t church hop and shop—Christian bar-hopping, a bunch of singles going from this church to that church and that church to this church.
My brother probably speaks to more single adults than anybody I know, and here is one of the sad things that Ben says about single adults. He says he sees them float around for a while until they finally meet someone in a specific church. But once they hook up with someone and get married—boom!—they are into another church. Hello? The church is something we can’t just skim over.
By now you might be saying, “Okay Ed, well, unequally yoked. I understand this deal, and I kind of see a little bit about what you’re saying. But I’m a ‘why’ person,” you might be saying. “Why would God say something like that? Why would God tell me that I should only hook up, that I should only be yoked together with another believer? Why would God say that? Why? Two-thirds of the people being erased from the potential scene of me dating, boom!? Two-thirds of the people erased from God’s track? Why would God do that?”
GOD WANTS US TO HIT ON ALL CYLINDERS
That’s a good question, and let me answer that question. The reason that God insists on spiritual compatibility, the reason he insists on his Son driving the car of the person you date and ultimately marry, is because God wants us to discover the great destination that he has for all of our lives. He wants us to discover the track he has designed for us. And he has designed an awesome track; after all, he thought it up. Relationships were his invention. He created communication. He created desire for the opposite sex. He created intimacy and all that stuff. And God knows the greatness that will occur in all of our lives when we hook up with other Christ-followers.
Can you imagine being hooked up with someone and not being able to share that which is the most near and dear to you with that person? Our relationship with Christ is the deepest thing in our lives, and I’ve talked to too many people who say, “You know what, I hooked up with the wrong person and I can’t even share with this person, my spouse, that which is the most near and dear to my heart.” A relationship will never hit on all cylinders until you’ve got that dynamic down.
GOD WANTS US TO READ THE SAME OWNER’S MANUAL
Another reason that God insists on spiritual compatibility is because he wants us to read off of the same owner’s manual as our spouse when trouble-shooting arises. Marriage is not easy, and I laugh when guys tell me, “You know, I just don’t want a high-maintenance woman. Man, that last woman was high-maintenance, high-maintenance, high-maintenance.” Guys, listen to me. Relationships are high-maintenance. They really are. Now there is an extreme, and you know what I’m talking about. But relationships, marriage is high maintenance. It takes work. When you’ve got a self-centered sinner like myself hooked up with another self-centered sinner like my wife, Lisa, you’re going to have some difficulty, you’re going to have some arguments, and you’re going to have some strong opinions. And that’s just the way it is. Opinions about do we do this with our career or not, opinions about finances, opinions about just opinions! And you’ve got some difficult stuff going on.
What if Lisa was driving this Ferrari, and she read the Ferrari’s owners manual? And let’s say I was driving a Ford F250, and I was reading the Ford F250’s owners manual. We’d be in serious trouble there. I’m reading one owners manual and she’s reading another owners manual! There is a disconnect, there is no commonality. That’s why the Bible is our owner’s manual.
GOD WANTS US TO FOLLOW THE SAME PARENT MAP
There is another reason why God insists on spiritual compatibility—kids. God wants us to follow the same parent map.
I love children. I was talking to a couple a while back and they were saying, “We’re kind of having some marriage problems so we’re going to have a child because that will bring us closer together.” No, no it will not! Don’t have kids if you think that. I love children, but it’s difficult to rear children. You have all these questions about discipline and about what’s right and what’s wrong, and they will test you and try to play one parent against the other. You know what I’m talking about, parents. If we’re following the same parent map, we’re presenting a unified front to our kids, and they’re seeing the right stuff. Your children will end up marrying someone like you mom, or like you dad, and that’s the way it is.
From the moment they’re born, we’re modeling all the stuff. They’re watching us. They’re seeing how we treat one another. They’re seeing this whole romance thing. They’re watching, they’re checking you out, they’re checking me out; and that’s why, as parents, we have to have this stuff down.
Don’t you see the genius of God? Don’t you see why God is being so strategic and loving when he’s telling us to only hook up with believers? Don’t make this fatal mistake, don’t make this dumb decision, don’t hook up with someone who is not a believer.
THE SHOWROOM MENTALITY
So go for the ask and look behind the wheel. Defective daters, though, they don’t look behind the wheel. They just date and ultimately hook up with the wrong mate. But there is another dumb decision that defective daters make. Defective daters make the showroom floor mistake—you know what that is don’t you, the showroom floor mentality?
Talk to anyone in the car business, and they’ll tell you how they can work people when they come into the dealership because they present the cars in very sleek and seductive and cool ways with the lights and the shine. And people who get into the car-buying mood are carried away by this, and we look at it and we go, “Whoa, look at this car, man this car is awesome! Ferrari, wow! Look at the tires. Man, this car will go fast and the sound system…! Let me get into it. How do I look honey? Do I look cool? Oh man, this car! Oh yeah, this is me, man. Yeah! Okay, where do I sign? I’m going to buy this thing. I’ll be driving this thing and people will be looking at me. It will be a sight!”
Have you ever bought a car like that? I don’t mean a Ferrari, but have you ever done the showroom floor mentality thing and just walked in, looked around and all of a sudden you bought a car? Now surely that would not happen in the dating realm! Not here in Dallas/Fort Worth! Surely there is no one here who would focus on a few features of the car and miss the totality of the car. Surely that wouldn’t happen. That wouldn’t happen, would it? No, no, surely not, surely not.
About a month ago, a generous friend of mine was going out of the country and he dropped off his Ferrari for me to drive around for several days. It was a brand spankin’ new Ferrari. This Ferrari here [Ed is sarcastically referring to the car on stage] is old. It has like 8,000 miles on it. His was brand new. I don’t know that much about cars, but it had this like clear glass thing, and you could see the engine in it and all that. When he dropped the keys off, I was like, “Man this is pretty cool! I’m driving a Ferrari, wow!” I got in it and was taking some of the passengers around for rides. “Ferrari!” people were coming up, “Wow, look at that car!” I took it home, and the kids wanted me to take them to school every day in it. People were saying, “Is that Ed in the Ferrari?” “Yes, it’s me in a Ferrari, yeah. What’s up? Wow!” It’s amazing when you drive a car like that, it’s like, “Man, this is incredible.”
Well, just to be boldly honest with you, after about three days of driving the car, the shine kind of wore off, the newness kind of wore off. The car is an awesome car, but a Ferrari is not practical for me. I mean, I like to fish, I’ve got four kids, and four dogs the size of buffalo. This car is not me. It’s great and all that, but it’s not practical.
Could it be that we need to date someone long enough for the shine to wear off? Could it be when we focus on a few features before we buy the car, that we should drive it long enough to just realize how practical or impractical it is? Could it be that we could take a lesson from that story I just told you?
You hear what the Bible says about love? The Bible says two things about love. The Bible identifies two kinds of love. There’s Eros love—that’s the romantic love, the hot love, the passionate love. [Ed sings] “Love is in that air…(kissing sounds)” That’s Eros stuff. Chick flick stuff. It’s when you say, “When our eyes lock we just….” Eros love. And the Bible talks about that love. We’re made that way, we have that desire.
There is also agape love. Agape is commitment love, it’s covenant love, it’s other centered love, and it’s sacrificial love. We must date a person long enough for the Eros to wear off, to subside, so we see if there’s agape or not. Eros will last six, maybe nine, months of that stuff, you know? But after about six or nine months, it’s like, “Whoa!” Is there agape there or is it all Eros?
And here is the problem. We meet someone, sparks fly, fireworks and all that stuff. We’re not in love, we’re in lust. [Ed makes kissing sounds] But we say, “Oh, baby I’m so in love with you, I just want to be with you 24/7.” And then we come back from the honeymoon; six months go buy…nine months go by…and we say, “What did I do?”
It’s got to be agape love. When you have your relationship built on agape love…. Yes, Eros love will ebb and flow—that’s part of it. But the stuff that carries you through is that steel, cold commitment. It’s that sacrifice; it’s that other centered stuff, and that’s why we’ve got to date long enough to see. That’s why we’ve got to drive the car long enough to understand it and to let the newness wear off and see if it’s real or not.
CHECK THE BAGGAGE
Well, there’s another thing—and this is a real dumb thing—that defective daters do. I hate to be negative, but I’ve got to tell you this. Defective daters forget to do something. You won’t believe this when I show it to you. It will be so obvious, so simple, you’ll be like, “I can’t believe I’ve not done this.”
Defective daters don’t look for the junk in the trunk. [Ed goes to the Ferrari to pop the trunk] Now, just wait a second…. This is the trunk of the Ferrari up here, and if you look carefully, there’s some serious, serious, baggage. [Ed pulls out several pieces of luggage from the trunk of the car.] Defective daters don’t pop the trunk; they don’t look for the junk, the baggage, in the trunk. The bottom line is: all of us have some serious baggage. We all have baggage. I’ve got it and you’ve got it. And we’ve got it in varying degrees. Baggage. Can you believe people who are getting ready to walk down the wedding runner have never popped the trunk and looked at the baggage?
Here is the bad news about baggage. Most people don’t examine it and look at it until after the “I do’s,” until after Eros has kind of subsided. Then they say, “Oh no, I didn’t know that bag was here! And look at this shoulder bag. And there’s baggage everywhere!”
Check the baggage before the wedding runner, while you’re dating. That’s why you’re dating! This issue is so important that I’m going to spend an entire session on it next weekend. So here’s your challenge: invite some friends for this teaching. It could be a family member, another husband and wife couple, some more parents, your friends, whoever. Drag them here because we’re going to talk about baggage, because forgetting to check the baggage is another dumb, “What was I thinking,” defective decision that daters make.
So remember, when it comes to dating, God wants all of us, every single one of us, to hit on the ultimate RPMs.
Let’s pray together.