At first, I recognized the title. Then, I recognized the cover. Finally, I realized Brett and I had purchased this book on our Kindle a few years ago, and there it has remained, held hostage by the loss of the Kindle’s power cord. Personally, I don’t enjoy reading eBooks—power cord or no, I wouldn’t have read it. If only I would have been humble enough to understand that there wasn’t another book (besides the Bible, of course) that I should have been reading at the time. I could have been preparing for a challenging season of marriage, but instead I didn’t open its pages—too blinded by pride to recognize marriage as the front lines of the war waging within my heart.
The book’s foundation builds upon the declaration of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15:
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”–and I am the worst of them all. (NLV)
At first glance, one may not draw the line between marital contention and this verse, but Dave Harvey unfolds a compelling and convicting case for our main relationship problem: seeing the other person as “the worst of them all”. As Jerry Bridges reviewed, Harvey “skillfully exposes the real root of most marriage problems—each spouse is still a sinner.” Isn’t that a twist in how most of us handle our marriage relationships? Few of us would confess the biggest problem in our marriage is ourselves.
I’ll admit there were a number of times that the storytelling in this composition so convicted my heart, I actually cried. Though some marriage books I’ve read have been difficult to follow at times, this offering is very easily understood and husbands and wives would profit tremendousuly from reading it together. The book also offers a separate study guide, a video series, as well as an audio book (Audio CDs | Audio Book).
The biggest surprise for me in this book had to do with its conclusion: “When Sinners Say Goodbye”. I won’t give away much more about that chapter, other than the topic is an often overlooked aspect of the marriage relationship. This chapter addresses the wisdom that comes from preparing for the day when either husband or wife returns home to Christ.
I could say much more about this book, but instead I’d like to offer you a few of my favorite quotes, as well as some links to audio messages on the book by the author himself:
“When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.
“Without the gospel of our crucified and risen Savior our marriages slide toward the superficial. We begin to make limp justifications for our sinful behavior, and our marriage conflicts end, at best, in uneasy, partial, negotiated settlements.”
“So here is my conclusion: I am a better husband and father, and a happier man, when I recognize myself as the worst of sinners. That status just seems more obvious to me with the passing of each week. But then again, you’re the worst of sinners too. So is your spouse. At least it’s not lonely here at the bottom.”
“Our real opponent is not on the opposite side of the bed, but within our hearts.”
“Wisdom for our marriages then, is not found in ‘how to’ books, or in formulas for success. It is found in putting our beliefs into gear and heading down the road of wisdom with God behind the wheel.”
“Scripture does not give me permission to make the sins of my spouse my first priority.”
“Mercy sweetens marriage. Where it is absent, two people flog one another over everything from failure to fix the faucet to phone bills. But where it is present, marriage grows sweeter and more delightful, even in the face of challenges, setbacks, and the persistent effects of our remaining sin.”
“Honesty forces us to deal with the familiar indwelling sin of our lives in a straightforward way. And the destination is always the same—the foot of the cross where our sin has been atoned for and where Christ, our wisdom, is ready to help in time of need.”
“Please understand this: No matter how intense your battle with sin may rage, you fight as a forgiven sinner. You fight on the side of God, and God always wins in the end!”
Here are some extremely helpful and encouraging audio sermons from the author of this book, Dave Harvey, courtesy of the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD):
- When Sinners Say “I Do”: Sin (click here for audio)
- When Sinners Say “I Do”: Mercy (click here for audio)
About the Author: Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey is responsible for church care, church planting, and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has served as a member of the Sovereign Grace Ministries leadership team since 1995.
Dave has been in pastoral ministry at Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA) since 1986, was ordained in 1988, and served as senior pastor from 1990 to 2008. He has served on the board of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation since 2006. Dave received a Master of Arts in Missiology from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1989, worked toward a Master of Divinity from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1993 to 1995, and in 2001 became a graduate in Westminster’s D.Min. program. The subject of his doctoral thesis was the identification and equipping of church planters.
Dave is the author of Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry (Crossway, 2012), Rescuing Ambition (Crossway, 2010), and When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage (Shepherd, 2007). He contributed a chapter to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, 2008) and wrote a chapter for d, a book from Sovereign Grace’s Pursuit of Godliness series. He continues to work on other writing projects.
Dave lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Kimm. They have four children and, despite his many protests, one stray cat.