Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Submission Can Change Your Husband

A wife's submission to her husband can create some wonderful changes in her marriage. She may not like submitting to a man who is insensitive; but if she can, it might bring about the changes she desires. It says this in 1st Peter 3:1-2:
"Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear."
This is, of course, talking about an unsaved husband who comes to Christ for salvation because of his wife's quiet, godly example. He comes to Christ because he can see Jesus reflected in her. she is accurately portraying what a Christian should be.

But if that works to get an unsaved husband saved, you just might win over your insensitive husband to be the kind of husband he needs to be in the same manner. It may never happen, but it might. And how much easier is it to win him over with proper Biblical submission than with constant argument or nagging? Let love conquer evil. Let responsibility shame irresponsibility. Let grace, not hostility, win him over.

After all, how did Christ win you? 1st Peter 3:8-9 says:
"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."
That blessing will certainly be a closer relationship with God, not to mention reward in heaven. But it just also might be a changed husband. Linda Dillow has commented on just that:
"I cannot promise you that if you respond with a blessing when you are hurt or
wounded, your husband will change. I cannot promise you a life of happiness and personal fulfillment, but I can promise you that you are living according to your purpose and calling as a Christian; you are obeying the will of God and there is peace in obedience. The first reason you are to respond this way is not so that you can secure a hoped-for change in your mate, but because it is God's desire that you make that kind of response."
Isn't that a great reason to be obedient? As Gary and Betsy Ricucci write, "A magnificent marriage begins not with knowing one another but with knowing God." Are you drawing closer to God. Your marriage to a difficult mate might be a tool in the process.

Let me tell you what won't work. One of the biggest complaints that wives have is that their husband won't take any responsibility. He is supposed to be the head of the home, but he isn't. He goes off playing instead of taking his responsibilities like a kid who never grew up. So what does a typical good wife do? She takes over. He doesn't pay the bills, so she gets a job and pays them. Now he doesn't need to worry about that, so his money can go to buy his toys. He doesn't discipline the kids, so she takes over. Soon, he doesn't have to worry about anything. What has this good, God fearing woman done? she has allowed her husband to continue in his irresponsibility. She has let him get away with it.

Now the husband and wife are supposed to be a team, both pulling together. And there is nothing wrong with a wife taking over a lot of the household duties. But your husband will never become the leader in the home that way. Nor will it work to belittle him every time he fails. How much better to step back and say, "You are the head of our home. What is your decision? We will abide by that." Let hem make the decisions and face the consequences for them. Again, you have to decide where the line is to be drawn, and you can't sit there and let the kids starve, but you need to let him take responsibility for his family. You can help him become the husband God has called him to be.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Submission is Not Absolute

Over the past couple of weeks we have been talking about submission from Ephesians 5:22. If you add in the parallel passage from Colossians 3;18, "Wives, submit to your own husband, as is fitting in the Lord," we see that God considers submission an appropriate thing. That is what fitting means. Submission is the right thing for a wife to do. For her to submit to her husband is a beautiful thing - a thing that pleases God.

Also, this is an unqualified command. This command is made to every wife regardless of her spacial standing, education, I.Q., or spiritual maturity. It doesn't say submit to your husband unless you happen to be smarter, better educated, etc. - and if you are, then it is OK to usurp his God-given authority. It doesn't say that.

This command is to every wife. Later in Ephesians it will also command the wife to respect her husband. That is why young girls really ought to be careful in who they pick. I've seen way too many young girls let their mothering instinct kick in, and they pick some maggoty, drug riddled loser to marry because they think they can reform him. Then they wonder why they can't stand to live with him. Why can't he hold a job? Why can't he stay out of jail? Or whatever. If she wants to reform him, she should become a social worker, not marry him. Or they pick some carefree guy who makes them laugh all the time and have fun. Then they wonder why he can't ever stop joking and talk with them or take life's responsibilities seriously. They need to pick carefully, because God expects you to live and submit to that man you have chosen. He is to be the leader of your home. Young women can't pick their spouse for all the wrong reasons then not like who they have picked and use that as an excuse not to submit.

It says in Ephesians 5:24 that the wives are to submit "in everything." This means in every area of life. Now there is a caveat to this. As with many commands of Scripture, they are not absolute. They are not required in every situation. For instance, the command, "Thou shalt not kill," doesn't apply in times of war. God sent Israel to war many times in the Old Testament. Also capital punishment was required buy God - the execution of a convicted criminal. Lying is another of the Ten Commandments. But Rahab was commended by God for hiding the spies and lying about whether they were there. There are legitimate exceptions.

Likewise, the wife is to submit to her husband "as unto the Lord," but not against the Lord. The Lord is the Big Boss. If your husband wants you to rob a bank, you aren't required to because God already told you not to steal. And he's the Big boss. Nor does a wife have to involve herself in wife swapping if her husbands wants her to, God has already given a command against adultery, and her first submission is to God. Then her submission is unto her husband "as unto the Lord." But not in place of the Lord. Not in spite of the lord.

Nor does this mean that a wife has to put up with physical abuse or tolerate it toward her children. She has an obligation to protect them. If her husband is physically or sexually abusing her children, she needs to call the authorities and have him thrown in jail. Her highest responsibility is to the protection of her children.

She should use her head, of course. There is a distinct difference between a firm disciplinarian who may spank Biblically and a husband who abuses. A sting on the bottom might be exactly what that child needs at the moment, and it isn't abuse. Most people know the difference. But physical or sexual abuse is never acceptable. Get help quick in that situation. No wife should ever sit idly by as her children are hurt - NEVER! So learn the proper balance.

Submission is a general rule for wives. they are required to submit to their husbands. But the submission is always first to the lord.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Submitting to an Insensitive Clod - Part Two

The sad fact is that many wives are married to men who are insensitive clods. For them to obey the command to submit to their husbands seems to be totally unfair and onerous. Why would God ask them - no, command them - to submit to someone like that? What possible reason could God have? How can a wife ever be happy in a situation like that?

Let me offer you a different perspective. Maybe the primary purpose of your marriage isn't to make you happy, but to make you holy. have you considered that just maybe God intended your marriage to be about remaking you; that maybe this is about making you more holy? That would be a higher priority to God, wouldn't it? In Romans 8:29 we read, "For whom He foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son."

God wants to make us more like Jesus. Maybe God is working to transform that wife into the image of Jesus Christ who humbled Himself even to the point of death, even the death on the cross. Maybe this is more about changing her than her spouse. Francis DeSales wrote way back in the 1600s, "The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other. It is a perpetual exercise in mortification. From this thyme plant, in spite of the bitter nature of its juice, you may be able to draw and make the honey of a holy life."

Did you hear that? marriage is a "perpetual exercise in mortification." That means we must continually put to death our old selfish natures if we want our marriages to work. We must daily be crucified with Christ. As Galatians 5:24 says, "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Our selfish natures must be daily crucified. Our selfish natures must daily be put to death. No longer our flesh, but Christ must rule in our lives. As Paul said of himself in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."

The marriage relationship allows us daily opportunities to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Christ. Jesus told us to do just that in Matthew 16:24-26, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'" Getting your own way isn't going to count for much with God, is it?

Your marriage might be the place where you have to deny yourself daily and bear your cross. But it can make you a better disciple of Jesus if you do. Being married to someone, living with them day in and day out; that more than anything will reveal what is inside of us. That will show us more of our own selfish nature than anything else. It will be like a giant spotlight revealing our ugly side that needs to be conformed to the will of God.

As Katherine Anne Porter writes, "[Marriage] is the merciless revealer, the great white searchlight turned on the darkest places of human nature." Marriage will allow the wife who is submissive to God to truly make the changes in her life that will most glorify God; because the command to submit isn't primarily directed at the wife to submit to her husband, but for her to submit to God. Ephesians 5:22 says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Submission first is to the Lord.

The issue is truly the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Is He really Lord of your life? Will you really do what He asks? Or will you do only what you feel will make your life easier and more pleasant? This shows what kind of a disciple you are, because in submitting to your husband, you are submitting to Christ.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Time to Work it Through, Not Bail Out

What is a wife to do if she is married to an insensitive clod? Must she submit to a man like that? The people of the world would tell you that if your old man doesn't toe the line, you have no obligation to be a good wife to him. Stand up for your rights, they would say, and battle him tooth and nail. And if he doesn't straighten up, dump him! Get rid of him! Get the big 'D."

But God says, if you are my child, you ought to act differently from the world. You ought to obey my commands. In the book of Leviticus 18:1-5, it says:
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: I am the Lord your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall; not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.'"
Don't live like the Egyptians or the Canaanites. In other words, don't live like the world. Don't do what they do. Instead, follow the commands of God. That's pretty clear. The Lord wants you to do things His way, and His ways are different from the ways of the unsaved pagans.

Or in the New Testament, it says this same thing. Ephesians 4:17 teaches, "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind." Translation? You are a Christian, so act like it. Don't live like the World lives. There is nothing but futility if you live that way. It shouldn't matter if the whole world walks to a different drummer, you should obey God. You should listen to His drumbeat.

The simple truth is, for a Christian, divorce in those situations isn't an option. Way back in the book of Malachi, we can read this truth. Malachi 2:16 says, "For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." Divorce is a violent thing. It tears apart hearts and homes. It destroys the lives of children. And God hates it.

Jesus went all the way back to creation to make that point in Matthew 19:4-6, "And He answered and said to them, 'Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." It is a violent thing to tear apart a family. And God hates it!

Certainly there are exceptions to the No Divorce rule. In Matthew 19, Jesus even gave the one of continuing sexual sin on the part of a spouse. But God's intention for marriage is that it last till death do you part. There is no exception for your husband being an insensitive clod. As a Christian you must preserve your marriage and learn to make it work. Your choice than is this: Do you make the best of it, doing your best to please God and obey Him? Or do you follow the world and trash your relationship with your husband? But to trash your relationship isn't going to please God. The choice is yours.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Submitting to an Insensitive Clod

It is easy to paint a rosy picture when talking about submission. We can do that by pointing out that perfect husband who actually lives out the command of Ephesians 5:25 to love his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church. That kind of husband would be easy for a wife to submit to. He would want to serve his wife. He would voluntarily help with the dishes and volunteer to rub her feet when they hurt. He would be attentive to meet her needs. Ah, if every wife had that kind of a husband, life would be great. Marriage would be beautiful.

Unfortunately, not every woman is married to a man like that. Instead, some women are married to a selfish pig of a husband - to an insensitive clod who couldn't see a dirty dish if it was set on the table in front of him. He wouldn't care if his wife's feet hurt just as long as she was well enough to meet his needs. He might not even notice if his wife were dying on the couch as long as she didn't interfere with his view of the TV. That kind of a man is hard to submit to - incredibly hard. Nobody denies that. And lots of women are married to men like that.

But quite frankly, even the best of husbands are at times insensitive. Even the best of husbands will hurt their wives at times. Even the best of husbands will get too tired to notice their wife has a need. Some good husbands have bad days and get so frazzled that the last thing they want to do is have meaningful conversation or spell their wife in watching the kids. All they may have energy for is crashing on the couch and vegging.

A wife in that situation may be tempted to retaliate - to get back at him for being so insensitive. She will be tempted to treat him as bad as she feels he has treated her - to disrespect him and ignore his needs - or tell him off in no uncertain words.

But that's counterproductive, isn't it? Doesn't that just compound the problem? When someone sins against you, when has it ever helped to add a second sin to the mix? In Gary Thomas' book, Sacred Influence, he writes,
"Fighting your husband's irresponsibility with irresponsibility of your own is like pouring gasoline on a fire; it just makes things that much more explosive, that much worse."
He's right! It does! Because now there are two of you acting irresponsibly and violating God's command, not just one.

Yes, that kind of a man is hard to submit to, no doubt about it. That kind of a man can make marriage seem more like a ball and chain than the joy it was intended to be. And that kind of man is, unfortunately, all too common. So what is a Christian wife to do? How can she submit to someone who only wants to walk all over her? If that's the kind of husband she has, how?

Here's the bad news. Even in this, she really ought to obey God. Whether it is difficult or easy, she really ought to obey God.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Submission is Mutual

We ended last time by looking at the context of the command to the wife in Ephesians 5:22 to submit to her husband. We saw that the command was in the context of having a husband who obeyed the command to him in Ephesians 5:25 to love his wife as Christ loved the church. That shouldn't be surprising. Submission to one another is a Biblical mandate. Just prior to this section dealing with the husband and the wife, there is the general command of Ephesians 5:21, which says, "submitting to one another in the fear of God." Within the body of Christ, we are all supposed to submit to one another - me to you, you to me, each of us to each other.

And we are told how to do this. Philippians 2:3-4, part of a longer passage dealing with Christ humbling Himself and coming to earth to die on the cross for us, teaches us how this submitting should be done. Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." That's how it is supposed to work within the church - the body of Christ, the Family of God. Then Paul shows us who did it first. In Philippians 2:5 it says, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Jesus gave us the example of submission. He submitted to His Father, even to the point of death. He died on the cross for us who are so unworthy.

In that way, husbands are as obligated to submit to their wives as to any one else, but even more so. They must be willing to die for their wives, as Christ was willing to die for the church. Now certainly, if we are supposed to submit to one another this way in the Body of Christ, how much more so should we be willing to submit to our husband or wife - the one person in all the world we have chosen to live with for life? How much more ready should we be to esteem them better than ourselves and to put their needs ahead of our own?

So think about the context of the command for the wife to submit to her husband. Who is her husband? If he is the man of God he should be, he will be living out the command to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He will be considering his wife as better than himself. He will look out for her interests more than his own. He would willing die for her if it were necessary. Nothing is more submissive than that. He will be a good person to live with, and an easy man to submit to.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Unclouding the Concept of Submission

Most people have a cloudy concept of submission, especially within marriage. That's why it is so rarely practiced within the home, and perhaps why it is so disliked by wives. When a wife hears or reads Ephesians 5:22, which says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as unto the Lord," they instinctively react with self preservation, fearing that they will be dominated by an overbearing husband. From our previous discussion, we learned that this is part of the curse. It was not God's original intention for the home. And our purpose is not to live in and perpetuate the curse, but to roll back the curse in our homes.

But if people have the wrong concept of submission, what is wrong with what they have been taught? And what is the correct Biblical teaching? The word for submit as found in Ephesians 5:22 is hupotasso. It is a compound of two Greek words - hupo, which means under, and tasso, which means to order. Thus the word simply means to place in an orderly fashion. That sounds like a great concept for marriages doesn't it - to have things nice and orderly?

But the problem comes when the original Greek usage is brought incorrectly into consideration. Hupotasso was first a military term meaning to rank or line up under. The corporal would line up under the sergeant, and the private would line up under the corporal. But, just because that's how it works in the military doesn't make it a very attractive definition for the home. Who wants a marriage patterned after the military?

No wonder wives rebel if all they are ever taught is that their husband is the drill instructor while she is the buck private who has to jump at his every command. If not, she gets yelled at, screamed at, intimidated, threatened, and have to do push ups. Who wants a relationship like that? That any woman would willing get married if that was what marriage was like is truly amazing. But it isn't - at least, it's not supposed to be.

May I remind you, that wasn't God's original intention for marriage. That kind of relationship (a drill instructor husband with a dominated, groveling wife) arose because of the curse. It is exactly what Ephesians 5 is trying to correct. Submission like that isn't going back to Eden, but it is perpetuating the status quo of the curse. Yet, that's exactly how I have heard Ephesians 5;22 taught. BUT THAT'S JUST PLAIN WRONG!

No! God calls wives to submit, not to a drill instructor sergeant, but to a loving husband obeying the command of Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." This husband will love his wife so much, he would die for her. If he loved her that much, he would willing serve her in life. The wife's submission is not to men in general, but to her own husband - the one man she has chosen from all the men in the world to love and serve, and who has chosen her as the one woman in all the world he will love and serve with his very life. Submission, therefore, has to be understood in the the context of this passage, in the context of mutual sacrificial love. For the wife to voluntarily respond to and submit to him isn't slavery, buy a joy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Resistence to Submission

Whenever I preach on Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord," I approach the task with both reluctance and excitement. My reluctance comes because I know that calling on wives to submit to their husbands isn't a popular topic. Lots of wives truly hate this verse. Submission goes against the grain of our fallen human natures. No one in the flesh wants to submit. As one woman said, "If you were married to the jerk I'm married to, you wouldn't submit either." She's probably right. Who in the flesh would want to?

Granted, it is not easy to submit. Were it not for our faith in Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit dwelling within us, it would be next to impossible. But with the power of the Spirit, all things are possible. We can live out the verses of Ephesians 5 within our homes by the power of the Spirit, and we can reclaim Eden. So knowing the way many women feel about this verse, there is some reluctance to approach the subject and teach it.

But there is excitement too. There is excitement because I know that if the husband and the wife truly both follow these principles, there will never be a problem within their marriage - at least not in their relationship to one another. If the wife truly submits to her husband's leadership, and if the husband truly loves his wife with the sacrificial love of Christ required by Ephesians 5:25, their home will reclaim the essence of Eden. Theirs will become again the marriage that God intended. GUARANTEED!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rolling Back The Curse

At the fall of Adam, God cursed this world. Part of that curse was directed at the family. The wife would try to usurp her husbands authority as head of the home, while the husband would rule his wife with heavy handed tyranny. That was the message we looked at in Genesis 3:16. Since leaving the Garden of Eden, people have had a longing to return - to go back to that time of perfect peace and tranquility, to go back to when life was as it should be within the home - to go back before the fall. But how do we get there? Ah, that is the question.

The answer given by Scripture is found in Ephesians 5. To the wife, Paul wrote in Ephesians 5;22, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." She is no longer to subvert her husband's authority, but to submit to it. She will respond willingly to her husband. If she does, that part of the curse will be rolled back.

To the husband, Paul wrote this in Ephesians 5;25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." If the husband is obedient, no longer will he rule like a despot in his home. He will again provide loving sacrificial servant leadership. And that part of the curse will be roiled back.

We can't go back to live in the Garden of Eden again, but in our homes at least we can live as if we did. We can live within our marriages once again as God intended. We can live in peace and harmony within our homes, following the leadership patterns God has built into us at creation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Submission is Not a Sign of Second Class

The fall and the curse made the home a battleground. But, Jesus Christ reverses the curse in our homes if we are willing to follow His commands. And the command to the wife was this: Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." But isn't that too much to ask? Doesn't that command to submit make her a second class citizen in her own home? Not at all. Not in God's plan. Today, we will look at the equality within creation of the man and the woman. Next time, we will look at the command to all of us to be submissive to one another, and following that, at the command to the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church.

We have made the point before that the family was deliberately modeled after the Trinity in that there is voluntary submission between equals. 1st Corinthians 11:3 stated, "I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." Because Jesus submits to the Father doesn't mean He is less in essence or worth. He is still fully God. Likewise, a wife voluntarily submitting to her husband's leadership doesn't make her in any way inferior.

Even creation itself teaches us that. If we read through the Genesis account of creation, we see that creation is progressive. Each new stage of creation is better than the one before. At first, as it says in Genesis 1:2, the world was "without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep." God started with nothing, with emptiness. Then God began to create the raw materials and began to arrange them progressively into things of beauty. Like an artist progressively adding the layers of paint to a canvas, God progressively added to his creation. Quoting John Eldridege from his book, Wild at Heart:
"Light and dark, land and sea, earth and sky. With a word, the whole floral kingdom adorns the earth. Sun, moon and stars fill the sky. Surely and certainly His work expresses greater detail and definition. Next came fish and fowl, porpoises and red tail hawks. The wild animals are next, all of those amazing creatures. A trout is a wonderful creature, but a horse is truly magnificent. Can you hear the crescendo starting to swell, like a great symphony building and surging higher and higher? Then comes Adam, the triumph of God's handiwork. It is not to any member of the animal kingdom that God says, 'You are my very image, the icon of my likeness.' And yet, there is one more finishing touch. There is Eve."
Yes, there is Eve, the pinnacle of God's creation. As one woman pointed out, "Of course, God created Adam first. Every artist makes a rough draft before starting on the masterpiece." Eve was truly God's masterpiece. Any young man courting the girl of his dreams would agree.

So yes, God created us equal. but God also created us different, with different roles and for different purposes. Therefore, we are intended to function differently within the home. In Genesis 62:11-12 it says, "One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard; that You, O God, are strong, and that You, O lord, are loving. N.I.V." God is strong and God is loving.

God has two sides to His character, two aspects. He is strong. He can create with a word. He controls the wind and the waves. God is a fierce warrior, defending and protecting Israel. This is what it says in Isaiah 63:1-4 about Christ at his Second Coming:
"Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this one who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? - 'I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save' - Why is your apparel red, and your garments like one who treads the wine press? - 'I have trodden the wine press alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in my anger, and trampled them in my fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained My robes.'"
Yes, God is a mighty warrior! God is strong! And the man was created to reflect that.

But God is also loving. He is gentle and tender, like a mother hen caring for her chicks. Looking over Jerusalem, Jesus said this in Matthew 23:37, "O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." Yes, God is tender, loving, and merciful, as Jesus was to the Samaritan woman at the well or to the woman caught in adultery. The woman was created to reflect that tender and nurturing side of God.

To rightly show forth God's image, it takes both the man and the woman - the man to be strong and the woman to be tender. Now certainly every good man will have a tender side, and every good woman will have strength. But a man can't only be tender and be all that a man should be. Nor can a woman be only strong. These differences are built into us at creation. The husband is designed specifically by God to be strong so he can protect his family, even if it cost his life, and to work to support his family, providing food, clothes, and shelter for them. And the man is to be strong as the spiritual leader within the home. The woman was designed by God to embody the beauty, the mystery, and the tenderness of God. The woman was designed to show the nurturing side of God by bearing and suckling her babies, and to lovingly respond to her husband. And as such, she gives the man someone to protect, defend, and to lead. she becomes the one for the man to give his life in service to.

It is within this relationship that God asks the wife to submit - the two equals each fulfilling their role within the home and each serving the other.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Havoc on the Home

As we've been discussing, Satan burned with jealousy toward man. As an observer to the creation of this world, Satan had seen God's plan to create man in His Own image, and that image would be reflected by a man and a woman joined in marriage. Satan had watched as God lovingly crafted Adam from the dust of the ground, then Eve from a piece of his side. He had watched as God brought this first couple together and joined them as one flesh. He saw that God intended for this union to be good - for it to be beneficial for the man and the woman. And Satan determined to destroy that union.

His chance came soon. God had told Adam, in Genesis 2:16-17, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." This was Satan's opportunity. Adam had been warned. He knew the consequences. We assume this warning was known by Eve too. But it was to Eve, Satan came in the form of a serpent. Genesis 3:1-5 says,
"Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?' ' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' ' Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes shall be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' "
Satan directly questioned God's goodness. He made it seem like God was stingy and didn't want them to be like Him. Satan was saying, "God just doesn't want you to know the things He knows." Eve believed him and ate. She was deceived and believed the lie. Ah, and as they say, "The rest is history." She gave some to Adam, and he ate. Adam fell, and the whole earth came under the curse. Even the home was cursed.

But why did the serpent come to Eve and not Adam? From Genesis 2:18, we learned that she was to be Adam's helpmeet. Adam was to take the leaderhip in his home. Not that this has anything to do with their equality within the marriage, but for order's sake, there must be organization. Within the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is equality. Yet the Son submits willingly to the Father. This is illustrated in 1st Corinthians 11:3, "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." Even in equality, an ordering is required. That ordering was in place before the fall.

So when the serpent went to Eve to tempt her, she took the leadership from Adam and ate. Adam, who was with her, took the position of following her lead with disastrous consequences. This is a complete reversal in the roles. Eve stepped out from under the umbrella of her husband's protection, and usurped his leadership in the process. Adam gave up his leadership to become the follower, the responder. The curse merely made this reversal in roles normal.

We can especially see this in the curse on Eve. It is set in almost a courtroom scene as God passes judgment. In Genesis 3:16, "To the woman [God] said: 'I will multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'" God cursed Eve based upon her main created roles - that of being a mother and a wife. Birth was not meant to be such a difficult and grueling ordeal, but because of the curse, giving birth became filled with pain; and marriage was never intended to be a battleground, but now marriage can be so difficult.

But what exactly does the second part of the curse mean when it says, "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you?" Is the woman's desire a sexual desire for her husband, as some claim? That would not be a curse. Nor is it her desire to have a husband. And for the part about her husband ruling over her, no normal human being enjoys being in the submissive role. That's why history is filled with women's liberation movements.

To find out what the curse on Eve means, we need to look specifically at the word, desire. This is not a word for sexual or psychological desire. Instead, it comes from a root that means to compel or seek control. That gives this curse an entirely different meaning. The same word is used in Genesis 4 when God talks to Cain. Both Cain and Abel had brought sacrifices to God. Abel's was accepted, while Cain's was rejected by God. And Cain got angry. God says to Cain in Genesis 4:7, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you shall rule over it." Sin wanted to control Cain - that was its desire. Sin wanted to master him, and he wasn't to let it. Likewise, from that time on, because of this curse, the wife's desire would be to rule over her husband, and he would instead crush her rebellion with an iron fist and rule over her with tyrannical force. Neither of these were part of God's original plan, but the battle of the sexes was now on.

Before the curse, Adam and Eve lived together as co-regents over this world, equal in every regard. The principles of leadership and submission, although present from creation, were so natural they were not even visible. The relationship was beautiful, natural, and God ordained. Since the curse, the husband tends to rule like a despot, while the wife tends to want to undermine that rule. And homes have become a battleground.

The curse hit us at the heart of our human relationships. But it is still not good that the man should be alone. Man still desperately needs that helpmeet. He longs for that companionship that God instilled in him. He vainly marries in hope of happiness. But the curse makes that relationship almost impossible to build on our own.

The answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus erases the curse by His grace. When we know Him, love Him, and allow His Spirit to fill us; we will again obey God's mandate for our marriages. That mandate is found in Ephesians 5. To the wife God said, Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." No longer will she usurp her husbands authority, but she will again be his helpmeet, voluntarily submitting to her husband's leadership. And the curse is rolled back. To the husband, God said, Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her." No longer would he rule like a tyrant or be a dictator within his home. But again he will be the servant leader to his wife, sacrificing himself continually for his wife's well being. And the curse is rolled back.

When we obey these commands and follow God's ordained plan, we are back by God's grace to the Garden of Eden. The curse can be erased, at least within our homes, if only we will be obedient.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Satan's Jealousy - the Cause of His Attack

Last time, we looked at one of the reasons Satan attacks the family so much. It is because the family is the basic building block of society. If the family can be destroyed, all of society will crumble with it. Today, we will look at another reason for Satan's attack. It is his intense jealousy. Satan, before his fall, held an elevated position in creation as the top angel in heaven guarding God's glory. At the fall, because of his rebellion, Satan lost that spot and forfeited his relationship with God. When he saw the creation of man as the pinnacle of God's creation holding a special spot in God's heart, he was jealous. He wanted to destroy, not only our intimate relationship with God, but our marriages, our most intimate human relationship.

Since Satan was there when God created mankind, Satan knew what God said about that part of creation. The first thing Satan probably heard was this: Genesis 11:26-28,

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the seas, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.'" NKJV.

Satan saw God's desire was to create man in His own image, both the the man and the woman, each complementing the other to form the complete image of God. They were to bear the very image of God in their persons. All Satan ever did was reflect the glory of God, and so he burned with jealousy.

Plus, he had heard that man was to have dominion. That was exactly what Satan had wanted, remember? That was the reason for his fall. In Isaiah 14:13, we read of Satan, pre-fall as Lucifer, saying, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." The stars of God are the other angels. Satan wanted to be the ruler - king of creation. Now he has heard that man is to be given dominion over this earth, a position Satan coveted greatly. His jealousy burned hot.

What else did Satan see and hear? He heard God planning in Genesis 2:18, "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'" Satan heard God say that the marriage relationship was a good thing for man. It was a benefit to have a helpmeet. The woman would be man's complement, his completer, his crown of glory, his companion and partner. Marriage was a good thing for man. So Satan determined to break up this most intimate of human relationships. Or at least he would attempt to get couples to be so distant within their relationships they might as well be alone.

Then Satan watched as God carried out the remedy to the "not good" thing that man was alone. In Genesis 2:21-22, Satan saw God work: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man." God lovingly crafted Eve specifically to be Adam's complement, his completer and helpmeet. Eve was exactly what Adam needed. And Adam's response showed this. In Genesis 2:23, Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man." Adam was ecstatic - he was overjoyed. "This is perfect," he thought, "This is so wonderful." And Satan burned with jealousy.

Then Satan heard God's commentary on their relationship in Genesis 2:24-25, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked , the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." That was marriage as it was intended. The two became one flesh. This is on a much deeper level than simply the joining of their bodies, or sharing the same address, table, or bed. In marriage, there is a oneness in our names, in the children we produce together, and the history we build together. We rejoice together in good times and we sorrow together in the bad. We go through life together as family. We knit our hearts together as one. that was God's intention. And Satan burned with jealousy.

And they were both naked. That means so much more than that they didn't have any clothes on. There was nothing held back between them. There was a total transparency. They had no secret, no hidden agendas, no masks. There was no duplicity in the marriage, no deceit - just beautiful oneness, completely without embarrassment. Satan, having lost his own relationship with God because of his ambition, deceit and duplicity, hated the peace and contentment that existed between this first couple. He determined to destroy it. And he had a plan. That plan was accomplished at the fall. It will be the topic of my next post.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why Marriage Is Under Such Intense Attack

That marriage is under intense attack isn't in question. But why is marriage under attack? Why does Satan hurl so much of his energy toward destroying our marriages? That is a question I want to think about. There are a couple of reasons -the first we'll look at today, the second on a following day. But the first reason is that marriage is the foundation of society. If marriage crumbles, all of society does too.

Long before there were governments, schools, hospitals or churches, there was a family. God established the family as the first and most basic of all human institutions. God first established a home with a loving husband and a loving wife, and later with children running around in the yard long before He established any other human institution.

On the sixth day of creation, we see this conversation in heaven as the Triune God talks with Himself in Genesis 1:26-28,

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the seas, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" NKJV
To fulfill that plan, God acted to create the man from the dust of the ground and breathe life into him. Then from the man, He formed the woman, and presented her to the man. God's inspired commentary on the first marriage is found in Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." That was the creation of the first marriage - the first of all human institutions. All other institutions grew out of marriage.

What grew out of marriage? First, from the authority of the father developed the patriarchal system of government with an aging father/grandfather ruling over his extended family, and then his tribe. This developed into other forms of government - into monarchies with the city kings of ancient times ruling over their city and surrounding territory, to kings over countries, and eventually to democracies. Second, from the parental responsibility to raise and educate their children developed the formal systems of education we see today, and schools, colleges, and universities developed over time. Third, from the nurturing responsibility of parents developed those institutions designed to care for those who did not have families, and we see the development of hospitals and orphanages and retirement homes. Fourth, from the responsibility of parents to train their children about God developed the system of synagogues in Judaism, and churches, Sunday Schools, and Vacation Bible Schools in Christianity.

You can not think of any social institution or cultural organization that did not grow out of the family - that did not grow out of the home - IT IS THAT BASIC AND IMPORTANT! So if marriage fails, so do all the institutions built upon it. If marriage fails, so does every other social institution. Can you see how important the home and marriage are? They are the cultural building blocks of society.

As a result, marriage has always been under attack from the enemy - by Satan the adversary, the Devil, the destroyer and the enemy of our faith and well being - and by the world system he controls. Satan does everything he can to demean the marriage and the family, because if he destroys our homes, he has effectively destroyed our society. That is one reason why we must defend and protect our marriages.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Marriage is the Critical Foundation of Society

A coupe of weeks ago, a number of people from our church attended the Stand For Marriage Rally in Augusta, Maine. It was really a great rally, and it pumped up the audience to stand for marriage and become politically active. But the main speaker, Tony Perkins from the Family Research council in Washington, D.C., quite frankly got a little personal. He gave an excellent presentation. But going beyond the need to speak up for traditional marriage, he pointed out the need for us Christians to actually live out what we claim to believe. That's a common scriptural principle. First Thessalonians 2:12 is just one place Scripture commands us to, "walk worthy of God." And he pointed out a scandalous statistic - that the divorce rate for evangelical Christians is almost identical for that of the general population. That should be a surprising statistic, but it is shocking in its implication.

The truth is, many in the church don't have a lot to be proud of when it comes to making our marriages work. And if we can't do it within the church, what do we have to offer the world? But if the marriages of Christians are in as bad a shape as the marriages of the world, one of the problems must be the pulpits of America. Either the preachers aren't preaching what the Bible has to say about marriage, or the people aren't listening and obeying. God has a lot to say about how marriage is to be conducted.

I, for one, have been convicted of my need to preach again on marriage. I have preached on the topic many times in the past, but not in my current church. I don't know whether the people in my church have rock solid marriages, or if they are hanging on to their relationships by the skin of their teeth. But I do know that the Bible has the answers for them. If both the husband and the wife would faithfully follow the principles laid down in Scripture, their marriages would be strengthened and preserved. Their marriage would be indestructable. Their marriage can become one the world can emulate with confidence. It can be one of those that will last a lifetime. The Word of God is that powerful if it is believed and obeyed.

Because I believe the Bible is the answer for troubled marriages, I am going to preach a series of messages from the book of Ephesians from chapters five and six to my congregation. This portion of Scripture provides the most complete and definitive passages on the relationship between a husband and a wife in all of Scripture. Since I will be preaching on marriage over the next few weeks, I thought it would also make a good topic for here. If you follow these posts, I trust you will benefit by the study. May God bless and strengthen your marriage.