Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dealing with Failure

We've been talking about how a husband must love his wife as Christ loves the church. One of the ways that Christ loves is with a purifying love. Ephesians 5:25-26 says that Christ , "loved the church and gave Himself for her that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word." But husbands, what if your wife fails? what if, in spite of your best effort, your wife falls into sin. What are you to do?

Obviously, she will. Wives are in fact human beings just like you, and they will inevitably fail in small ways or in big ways. So how does a husband deal with this? The answer is, he must forgive. I refer to this verse all the time. 1st John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sons, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." God forgives, and God's forgiveness is cleansing. It erases the sin in a person's life as if it had never been there.

And forgiveness is required of us as believers. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Because Jesus forgives us, He can demand that we forgive one another. So certainly, we should be eager to forgive our wives, the one woman we have chosen out of all the women in the world to love.

But not only does Jesus forgive our sins, He forgets. No longer will He hold our sin against us. In Jeremiah 31:34, God says, "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." That's what Christ does - He forgives, and He forgives, and He forgives some more. True Love cleanses by forgiveness, and by forgetting. True love won't hold on to wrongs to be used as weapons later. True love forgives as many times as necessary. And it forgets. How many couples, each time they get into a disagreement, trot out twenty years of wrongs to be rehearsed over and over again, adding new layers of bitterness each succeeding week, month, and year? Is that helpful to a marriage? Of course not!

Jesus forgave you a lifetime of sins. To constantly bring up the other's faults isn't love; it isn't forgiveness - it's revenge. But we are under an obligation to forgive no matter what. And once it is forgiven, we forget it. We never hold that sin against our wife again. NOT EVER! Do you hear me?

Remember that when God forgives, Scripture teaches us that He buries those sins in the depth of the deepest sea. He puts our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. He places our sins in the middle of His back between His shoulder blades. Ever tried to look there or even scratch there? When God forgives, it is as if we had never sinned. He won't even mention any of our sins on the day of the final judgement, not if we are true believers. What is in the past stays in the past. Is that the way it is in your home, husband?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Who is Responsible?

God not only tells husbands to be the Spiritual leaders of their home, He holds them responsible. Last time we looked at the fall of man, and we saw that it was to Eve that Satan came. Satan tempted Eve, and Eve succombed to that temptation - all with Adam standing by and watching. She was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit, while Adam followed her lead. The Bible tells us that Eve was deceived, but Adam wasn't. Adam knowingly followed Eve into this first sin. But surprisingly, God doesn't hold Eve responsible, He holds Adam responsible. Yes, she ate first, but God had placed Adam in charge. The buck stops with him. He is held responsible for the fall.

1st Corinthians 15:21-22 shows this, "For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." It is in Adam we die, not Eve. Even though Eve sinned first, God doesn't hold her responsible for the fall - God holds Adam responsible. God had made Adam the head of his home.

Likewise, God holds husbands responsible for their homes as the head of the family. He holds the husband accountable for his wife's spiritual life and spiritual well being. Husbands, whether you act like the head of your home or not, God will hold you accountable. You, not your wife, will one day have to stand before God and give an account for the spiritual health of your family. What takes place in your home is your responsibility.

But since Adam, men have typically done the same thing that Adam did. they have relinquished the spiritual leadership of their homes to their wives. Husbands have failed to fight for the spiritual purity of their families. If you are a husband, don't let that be said of you. Take your rightful place as the head of your home and lead your family spiritually.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Failing to Fight For Eve

God calls on husbands to be the spiritual leader of their homes. Husbands more often become passive and leave the responsibility to their wives. But the sad fact is, that's nothing new. Remember the fall? who did Satan tempt? He tempted Eve. He approached the woman. Genesis chapter 3, which records the fall, is a battle scene. The enemy is on the prowl in Paradise like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and he spots his prey. He has carefully chosen the woman. He will devour Eve.

The scene really began in Genesis 2:16-17. It says,
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, '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.'"
WHO did God command? The man! God warned Adam. don't you find it amazing that we never see that God warned Eve? Why? God didn't feel that he needed to since Adam was to be the spiritual head of the home. It seems that God trusted Adam to take care of that details. God trusted Adam to be able to handle the situation - to instruct his wife and guard and protect her. That is what God had created Adam for, to be the spiritual leader. So what happened? Adam failed in his task. He failed to protect his wife. He failed as the spiritual leader of his home.

Look at the actual fall in Genesis 3:1-6:
"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 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 of 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 will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise,
she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate
Where is Adam while the serpent is tempting Eve? Adam is with her. That is what the Scripture says. The Hebrew literally means, right there at her elbow. Adam wasn't off naming the elephants that day or cavorting with the dinosaurs. He wasn't out picking pomegranates for dinner. He was right there beside her listening and watching the conversation. Yet, what did he do to stop this from happening? NOTHING! Absolutely nothing! He does nothing to stop this tragedy. He has no alibi. He stood by passively.

We don't know why, but Adam did nothing to fight for his wife's purity. He did nothing. And most of us men are a chip off the old block. We sit back and watch as our wives or our children drift off into sin, and we do nothing to stop it. Why would a man do that? Why would he let his kids run wild with the wrong crowd? Why would he let them date the wrong people - be taught the wrong things? Why? Yet, most men do. they sit in their lazy-boy recliner watching TV while their family goes to hell without ever lifting a finger to stop it.

What should Adam have done? Everything possible to have stopped this. He should have pleaded with his wife. he should have reasoned and cajoled her. He should have grabbed her arm and tried to drag her away, or grabbed her hand to keep it from putting the fruit to her mouth. He should have stopped her at whatever cost to him. And if he couldn't convince her to stop, he should have tried to chase the serpent away. He should have wrestled with him, thrown apples at him, hit him with a stick - something to get him away from his wife. He should have fought valiantly for her, but he did nothing! In the moment of crisis, he backed down. He gave up his rightful place as priest of his family, and he relinquished that role to his wife.

Men, have you done that? Have you left your family adrift spiritually? Have you left them unprotected to wander into sin without a fight? Have you abandoned the role to you wife to bring anything spiritual into your family? So many men do, refusing to fight for their wife and children. They refuse to take a stand to protect the purity of their families then wonder why their family is in such a wreck. But loving someone means wanting to purify them.

Now you don't have to be the brightest or most knowledgeable or anything else to be the spiritual leader in your home. You just have to set the direction and stick with it. You must establish the priorities of your home. You have to fight to protect the purity of it. You must be the one to say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," Then stick with it. You must insist, "We will do right! "We will not compromise" Husband, will you fight for your family?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Male Spiritual Leadership

Christ's love is a purifying love. So should the husband's love be for his wife. But how does Christ purify us - His bride, the church? How does Christ do that? Isaiah 1:18 shows God saying,
"'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'"
Christ purifies His bride by taking away her sin.

How specifically did Jesus do that? How did He provide cleansing for His bride? 1st John 1:7 tells us, "And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." Jesus did it by dying on the cross of Calvary - shedding His blood for the remission of our sin. He became our sacrifice. John the Baptist called Him that in John 1:29, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Jesus was our sacrificial lamb. Do you see this? Jesus became our sacrificial lamb. He was our High Priest who sacrificed Himself for us on the cross of Calvary.

This points us to the husbands role as the priest of his home, or should we call it the spiritual leader of his home. The husband is not only to be the provider and protector of his home, but the priest to his family. Certainly, we don;'t have to offer an animal sacrifice anymore. Christ offered Himself once for all as that final and perfect sacrifice. But this does involve sacrifice. This requires that we give of ourselves to both lead our family to Christ and to protect our family from the negative influences of this world. This is our job as husbands.

Unfortunately, this is the area that the typical husbands fails in so badly. They work hard to provide for their families, but they never protect or lead them spiritually. Way too many husbands are passive when it comes to spiritual things in the home. they defer to their wives the leadership in this area. If she doesn't lead spiritually, it doesn't get done.

On the face of it, this might seem logical. wives generally are more spiritually sensitive than their husbands, we all know that. So why shouldn't they lead? Wives are generally more sensitive in most things, aren't they? So doesn't it make sense to let her do this for us? The answer is, "No!" Because God didn't design the home that way.

Obviously, God made the woman more sensitive. Most often the woman is easier to reach with the Gospel than a man. That's why so many churches are female dominated in our country. That's why we see so many women and so few men in most churches. And most of the time she sees the the need for spiritual leadership within the home first, and she is eager to provide it.

Men are more analytical. The man doesn't usually react to emotional appeals as well. He has to be intellectually convinced. He's from Missouri, the show me state. Which is precisely why God gave men the responsibility to be the priest in their home. It's because, since the wife is more easily moved spiritually, she is also more easily deceived. she needs that balance of her analytical, show-me husband. You can see this in 1st timothy 2:14, "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression."

Here's what typically happens in the home. The man doesn't feel capable of leading spiritually compared to his spiritually sensitive wife, so he becomes passive. This same hard charging business man who is incredibly competitive at sports, becomes passive in the home when it comes to spiritual things. He backs away leaving it up to the wife to lead the home spiritually. He doesn't teach his family about God. He doesn't lead them to love and serve God by his example. He doesn't protect his family from the evil influences of the world. But he must! That is the way God designed it. Men, God will hold you accountable.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Keeping Your Wife Out of the Mud

If Christ's love is a purifying love, and if a husband is to love just as Christ loved the church; a husband's love must also be a purifying love. A man should be willing to do whatever he can to prevent his wife from being contaminated by sin. A man should never lead her there. Can you imagine Christ eve doing that? "Come, take my hand, and I will lead you through the mud." How ridiculous. Christ would never do that. Why would a husband? He never would if he was loving his wife as Christ loved the church.

Nor would true love ever compromise her sexual purity before marriage. That defiles rather than purifies. Fornication is sin, and sin defiles. The old line that guys trot out to use on girls that, "If you loved me, you'd let me," doesn't prove love. It proves lust. The real truth is, as the girl should respond back, "If you loved me, you wouldn't ask." That's because true love is selfless, not selfish. True love looks out for the best for the other, not what is best and most pleasurable for me. It would never compromise the purity of the one it loved.

Nor will true love ever betray a trust. It won't flirt with the secretary at work. It won't look at Internet porn. It won't have an affair (That's a sanitized name for adultery). It would never make the wife feel rejected or not good enough to satisfy you by turning your attentions somewhere else. That tempts her to retaliate with an affair of her own, or to gain her validation as a desirable woman form some other man. She needs that reassurance that she is desirable and attractive - that she is someone worth your affection and desire. If she doesn't feel it from you, she will look elsewhere - and that is defiling. You must fight against any defiling of your wife's purity. It is your responsibility, men.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Christ's Love is a Purifying love

When we talk about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church, we understand that there are lots of aspects to Christ's love. What we want to look at today is that Christ's love is purifying. The church is the bride of Christ, and so Christ wants a pure church. He wants His bride to be without spot or blemish. Ephesians 5:26-26 says,
"That he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she be holy and without blemish."
That's Christ's desire for us - for you and me as part of the church. He wants His bride to be "holy and without blemish."

Now certainly most Christian men want to marry a virgin who is morally pure, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that desire. It should be every young person's goal to stand at the altar and present themselves to their spouse morally pure. It's a parents responsibility to get them there that way.

But that is not what this is talking about. It isn't for the simple reason that. . .well, who does Christ bring into His church? Who becomes His bride? The answer is, sinners like you and me. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." All is a pretty inclusive word. That means that the bride of Christ is made up of fallen, sinful human beings like you and me.

This isn't talking about Christ looking all around until He finds a pure person to bring into His church. This is talking about Christ saving sinners by grace then working to purify and sanctify them. At our salvation, He begins the process of cleaning us up. He sanctifies His fallen bride. So whether or not you marry a virgin, and there is a 100% guarantee that you will be marrying a sinner, this passage still talks to you as a husband.

Your responsibility is to take the wife that you have, whether she came pure to you or not, and sanctify her and purify her just as Christ does the church. To sanctify means to set something totally apart unto God. Jesus sets us apart for himself - for His total, exclusive possession. We are His bride. And that acts to cleanse us.

Men, is it your desire that your wife be pure and holy? Do you want her to be unblemished morally? Do you want her to be a woman who pleases God? Then it is your duty to sanctify her. Take her to yourself. There is to be an exclusivity in marriage that offers protection. You guard her purity because she alone is your wife and you are devoted totally to her. Love can not bear to see a loved one corrupted by sin. It should pain our hearts to see our wives smeared with the dirt of the world. We should be willing to do anything to prevent that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Give 100%? I Object!

I have repeatedly urged you to give 100% to your spouse. I have tried to make a Scriptural case for this mandate. I have pointed to Jesus Christ as our example. I have described this as the agape love of God. Yet, all the time, we hear objections. "Not, me," people say. "I've tried it with my wife, and she doesn't reciprocate. She's proved she's not worthy of my service." Well, it is true that this doesn't always work. I've admitted that already. And none of us are worthy.

But don't think that argument will get very far with God. Do you think Jesus thought His disciples were worthy when He washed their dirty, smelly feet on the night before He went out to die for them? He knew Judas would betray Him. He knew Peter would deny Him three times. He knew the rest would scatter like frightened rabbits when He was arrested. But He did it anyway.

Besides, we've already covered this. The truth is, our service really isn't to our spouse, but to God. Our service is to the Lord. 1st John 3:16-17 says,
"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?"
What a good question. How? Jesus showed us the way. He died for us. He commanded us to love one another. So He can certainly question our love for Him if we refuse to obey Him by loving our spouse.

Do you see this? This isn't about our love for our spouse. This is all about our love for God. You serve others (your spouse) as a way to serve God. And that doesn't matter whether your spouse is worthy of your service or not, does it? Because God is always worthy of your service. God is always worthy of your total devotion, so you can always serve God by serving your spouse. The more difficult your spouse is, the more special your service to God. So whether your spouse reciprocates or not, you can still have that inner satisfaction of knowing that you are truly serving God. You can still have that sense of fulfillment.

You can also look for your reciprocity from God. He is the one who will reward you. You are His servant, and He will reward you for doing what He asks. Don't look for your affirmation from your spouse, look for it from God. Gary Thomas writes, "To become a servant . . means you are free from the petty demands and grievances that ruin so many lives and turn so many hearts into bitter cauldrons of disappointment, self-absorption, and self pity." To serve God in this way is freeing. Husbands, obey God's command to love your wife as Christ loved the church sacrificially even to the point of death, and then let God take care of the details.

But if you love your wife enough to die for her, shouldn't you love her enough to live for her? Living for her is less a sacrifice than dying for her. Putting aside your own likes and desires is small compared to hanging on a cross.

I saw a cartoon once. It showed a man sitting behind his paper, and his wife was sitting across the room with her hands folded looking wistfully at him. "Do you love me?" She asks. He puts down his paper and says, "Of course I love you. I'm your husband. It's my duty." That's not very funny or very romantic, but he's right, you know. God commands us as husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church. That's duty.

So many people mistake romance for love. They marry because they fall in love. Then when the romance fades, they fall back out of love. But the Bible doesn't tell us to marry the one you love. It commands us to love the one you marry. Not to love is SIN! Tim Stafford writes,
"Nowhere does the Bible say that love is the basis of marriage; marriage is the basis for love. Paul's command is, 'Husbands, love your wives,' rather than, 'men, marry your lovers.' Marriage is a covenant that is to be filled with love, as a cup is filled with wine. But of the two, the cup is necessary before the wine is poured in."
Your marriage is the cup that you need to fill with love. But if you fill that cup with your sacrificial love, men, don't be surprised if your wife reciprocates. Your love should draw her to you like a magnet.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Taking the Risk of Submission

Give yourself away totally to your mate, that's what the Bible demands. 50%won't do. It must be 100% - without reservation, without holding anything back. That's the message I have been preaching.

That's risky, some would say. Yes, it is. C.S.Lewis writes, "Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal." He is right. To love is to risk. If you give your heart to your spouse, you may get it back shredded and in pieces. You might well dedicate your life to serving your spouse and never get anything back in return. There may never be any reciprocity. None-the-less, you will be pleasing God. You will be acting in obedience to God, and there is blessing and reward in that.

But if you never try, you will never know how your spouse might respond. By not choosing to serve, you may be choosing to live in a relationship characterized by continually keeping score and continually fighting, rather than one characterized by bliss. But do you see? When each spouse takes responsibility for the other - the wife assuming responsibility for her husband, and the husband assuming responsibility for the wife - marriage will be mutually fulfilling.

Unfortunately, that is 180 degrees different from the way that most marriages operate. Most people get married to someone because of what they think the other will bring them. In other words, they get married for what they can get. Isn't that true? Most men marry a woman because she looks good, she's fun to be with, she's someone he can be proud to be seen with, or she arouses his passion. Most women have similar lists of reasons for why they got married to their husbands. But this isn't about what we can get. It is about what we can give. Men, your home isn't your castle where you can live like a tyrant. Your home is your ministry, your first ministry, where you learn to serve. And you learn to serve God by serving your wife.

The early church father Ambrose wrote this,
"How great, then, is the constraint in marriage, which subjects even the stronger to the other; for by mutual constraint each is bound to serve. Nor if one wishes to refrain can he withdraw his neck from the yoke, for he is subject to the [desires] of the other . . . You see how plainly the servitude of marriage is defined."
That is what it means, husbands, to love your wife as Christ loved the church. It means to sacrifice for her - to serve her. We are called by God to this sacrifice, and sacrifice by definition costs something. C.J. Mahaney pleads with us, "Gentlemen, what are we doing each day for our wives that involves sacrifice? What are we doing each day for your wife that is costing you something?" Well, how do you answer that? Can you make a list? Go ahead, make a list mentally right now. What are you coming up with? Are you doing anything that is sacrificial for the benefit of your wife? Is the point made?

Kevin Lehman points out that he has yet to meet a man who after a long day of work thinks to himself, "What I really need right now is a long, forty-five-minute talk with my wife." That's what makes it a sacrifice - doing what you don't feel like doing. This is but one example. It takes sacrifice to give your wife what she needs. But that's what makes it so special to her. Gary Thomas writes, "Marriage creates a situation in which our desires to be served and coddled can be replaced with a more noble desire to serve others - even to sacrifice for others." When both the husband and the wife have this attitude, the result is beautiful. both will have their needs met. Each will be served by the other. Are you ready to give it a try?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Where the Buck Stops in Marriage

In talking about the marriage relationship, it is always helpful to remember that the husband is to model Christ's love for the church while the wife models the church's submission to Christ. But who acted first? Christ did. Just as the man takes the lead in pursuing and proposing to his bride, Christ acted first to save sinners and bring them into His church as his bride. Luke 19:10 says, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost." While we were yet sinners Christ pursued us. He loved us before we even thought of loving Him. 1st john 4:19 tells us, "We love Him because He first loved us." That's the pattern Jesus set with His own bride, the church. It is still the pattern that we as husbands are to model.

But isn't there a moral in that? Husbands, if you are the head of the home, and you are the one God has placed in authority, there is responsibility in that. You will also be the one God holds responsible. So you need to act like Christ first, whether or not your wife has submitted to you. You need to one who starts this. You can't wait for your wife to act the way she is supposed to - not if you are the leader in the relationship. She was designed to respond to you, remember? Not the other way around. And if you aren't being obedient to God in this, why on earth would you expect her to be? You have to take the lead.

But if you do love your wife the way Christ did, most wives will respond. They will return your love. They will serve you in return. It's in their created nature. What wife wouldn't respond to love and service? What wife wouldn't respond to a husband like that - a husband who loved her sacrificially? This is the one woman you have chosen out of all the women in the world to be yours, whom you have promised to love, honor, and cherish. Why wouldn't she respond to you if you actually did that?

But the key is this. You, husband, must give yourself away first to meet the needs of your spouse. That's what makes this work. You have made a covenant with your wife. You are no longer your own. You have given yourself away to her. And you must act first.

I want you to look at 1st Corinthians 7:3-5. It is a passage that speaks primarily about our sexual relationship with our wife, but it does make the point about giving ourselves away. It says,
"Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. and likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
Do you see this? We don't own ourselves. We have given ourselves away. Even our affection is the property of our spouse.

But instead of that being an enslaving concept, it should be a freeing concept, as each gives himself or herself away to the other with total abandon. The whole concept, even in regard to our sexual relations with out spouse, is all about giving instead of getting. Each is concerned with giving the other affection and plasure, not worrying about your own need; only wanting to satisfy the need of the other. But the husband must act first. He is the one who is responsible.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Taking Down the Battle Lines of Marriage

100%, that's what is required, not 50%. We said it takes 100% commitment to make a marriage work. Marriage works best when each spouse gives all of themselves to the other; they give their lives to serve and sacrifice for the other. What doesn't work is keeping score to see that they have maintained their 50% share.

Think about it. Aren't most fights really about control? We fight over who controls the money. we fight over whose pet project the money gets spent on. We fight over whose time is more valuable. Why do we always feel the need to fight for our rights? Dan Allendar and Tremper Longman write:
"The typical fight over who ought to pick up the kids usually is about whose time is more valuable, who works the hardest, and who is least appreciated. It is not wrong to alternate chores or divvy up responsibilities, but the hurtful interactions usually reflect drawing battle lines over more petty matters."
Those fights happen because we feel we have to keep score.

Why do we do that? Why can't we obey the command of God to submit? Why can't we obey the command to give ourselves away to our spouse? Philippians 2:23-4, a section of Scripture I refer to over and over, says,
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."
Why are we so quick to fight for our own rights, while God tells us, no, commands us, to look out for the rights of others? Why - especially with this one special person, our spouse, that we have chosen out of all the people in the world to covenantally commit our lives to serving - why would we feel the need to keep score? God says give your life away. Give it to your spouse. Give it without reservation. Yes, you might be hurt and hurt badly. Yes, there is a risk in this that your spouse may not reciprocate. But that's the only way you will ever achieve true joy in your marriage.

Jesus, of course, set the example. In Romans 5:8 it says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus willingly died for us - for you, for me - even while we were still still sinners; still His enemies. Christ died for us before we could even partially reciprocate. Yet, for us, He gave His all.

But because of that, He can demand our all. Look at what Jesus said 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 own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'"
If we want to be Christ's disciples, He requires our total commitment. Following Jesus requires our all. It requires denying ourselves. following Jesus requires we give Him our very lives. So if God asks a wife to submit to her husband, or if God asks a husband to sacrificially love his wife, that should be a simple matter. It should be a way we can serve God.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Giving it Up to Gain it All

Field Marshal Montgomery, one of the heroes of WWII, told his young troops, "Gentlemen, don't even think of marriage until you've mastered the art of warfare." Now that sounds funny, but it is really tragic because it is way too true. Way too many couples have made marriage a war with a continual battle over who is in charge or who is getting the most until one of the parties gives up and files for divorce. But that's not necessary. Neither fighting nor divorce are necessary because there is an answer. The answer is found in the pages of Scripture.

As most of you know who have been reading this blog for awhile, I have made a pretty outrageous guarantee. I've stated that if both the husband and the wife will obey the commands of Ephesians 5; that is that the wife is to "submit to [her] own husband, as to the Lord;" and the husband is to "love [his wife] just as Christ also loved the church;" - that if both of them did that, there would never be trouble within their relationship. The problem only comes when one or the other violates these commands. Trouble comes when one or the other says, "No way! I won't submit. I have my rights," Then the fight is on.

When I told someone that, they responded, "Wait a minute. What's the deal? You've told the wives they have to submit to their husbands, and you've told the husbands that they have to submit to their wives. How can that ever work? How can that ever equal 50:50:? You make it sound like we are both supposed to give 100%." And then, it was as if the light went on. "Oh, that's it! Yes! That's it! We are both supposed to give 100%, right?" Right! Without keeping score!

Whoever thought up this 50:50 concept anyway? You never read that in the pages of Scripture. I think that's a lie that Satan has duped us with, and we've bought it hook, line, and sinker - with disastrous consequences. Because of buying into that lie, we've been keeping score and fighting over every perceived inequality.

Both the husband and the wife must give 100%. There isn't any keeping score in their relationship. Both give themselves over completely to the other. Both become completely responsible for the needs and the well being of the other. The result is that each of them have their own needs met, and the marriage becomes the beautiful and mutually fulfilling relationship that God intended.

With a 50:50 relationship, there is continual keeping score. "You did the dishes tonight and I took out the trash, that makes us even on that. But I watched the kids for twenty minutes more than you did today, so you owe me for that. And you didn't have time for me tonight because you went out bowling with the boys, so don't even think you're going to get cuddly with me tonight." Ah 50:50 - that's a sure way to get into a fight. But that's the way most people want to run their marriage.

But if you each give 100% what happens? No longer do you have to worry about your own needs and wants being met. You only worry about meeting the needs of your spouse. But since your spouse doesn't have to worry about their own needs (since you are covering that), they can worry about meeting your needs. This is mutually freeing and mutually fulfilling. No longer do you need to fight. Now you can live as God intended within your marriage.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What Went Wrong? What Can Go Right?

We've been stressing the command to the husband that he is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. We've also been stressing that this love is an unconditional, sacrificial love even to the point of death, and yes, even to a critical and unworthy wife.

But why is she like that? Let's think about this critically. God said at creation that it was not good for the man to be alone, didn't He? Hmmm. Also, Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord." God intended marriage to be good, right? That's the way it was at creation. That was also the way it was supposed to be at the time of Solomon when he wrote this Proverb. It is still true today - it is a good thing to have a wife. That is God's intention, that marriage be good and a means of blessing. You must have thought so too when you got married, or you wouldn't have done it. Your wife is a good thing by which God intends to bless you.

If she isn't any more, what went wrong? This was the woman you chose from among all the women of the world, whom you loved enough to commit your life to till death do you part even after having gotten to know her intimately. What has changed? How has she changed? What went wrong? If this woman was the was the woman you felt God had just for you as your life mate; why is she no longer? Hmmm. Did you ever think that maybe the problem isn't with her, but with you?

Listen to me and listen to me close, husbands. God put you in charge. God made you the head of your home. You are the one God created for leadership. Your wife was created to be your helpmeet, your completer, you complement. By God's design, she responds to you. She is designed to follow your leadership.

If there is a problem in your home, God is going to hold you responsible, because he assigned you the headship in your home. If you aren't being the head of the home you need to be, is it any wonder she would nag and criticize? If you aren't loving her the way you ought, is it any wonder if she is unloving to you? If you aren't caring for her needs and demonstrating sacrificial leadership to her, why would you expect her to meet your needs or submit to your non-existent leadership? What kind of example are you giving her to follow? If your home is not the home you want it to be, are you leading it in the direction it should go?

More and more we are finding in our day an absence of leadership in the home on the part of husbands; and we are finding wives who crave that leadership, but can't find it - who cry out for it, but can't find it. Steve Farrar, years ago in his book Point Man wrote,
"After years of research and study, it is my conclusion that effective male leadership is going the way of the dinosaur. Some people are worried about the extinction of whales, condors, snail darters, and baby seals. Those are legitimate concerns. But let me shoot straight with you. I'm a lot more worried about the exteinction of the men who know how to lead a family. And the effective male leader who knows how to lead his family is already on the endangered species list."
Dr. James Dobson said the same thing back in 1980:
"The western world stands at a great crossroads in its history. It is my opinion that our very survival as a people will depend upon the presence or the absence of male leadership in millions of homes. I believe with everything within me that husbands hold the keys to the preservation of the family."
Men, that's what wives want - they want you to lead. You must be that leader. You must provide that sacrificial leadership in your home. You MUST! Then see how your wife responds and blossoms. Then see what kind of marriage yours can be again. But husbands, God has placed that responsibly squarely upon you. You must assume it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Loving an Unworthy Woman

A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. That has been our topic. But what kind of love is it? How does Christ love? Christ loves with the agape love of God. Agape love is a sacrificial love that is willing to give and give without ever expecting anything in return.

Notice that this isn't a mushy, romantic love. There isn't anything wrong with that kind of love. Romance is wonderful, it is just inadequate. It doesn't sustain us through the tough times. So agape love isn't about feelings, it is about commitment. It is a decision of the will. It is acting in a loving way no matter how we feel at the time. And it keeps on loving long after the feelings disappear. Agape love is a commitment of the will.

People can fall in and out of love as often as they change their underwear. Just a watch a teenager and you can see this. This week they are madly in love, but this weeks true love is replaced by another next week. But commitment doesn't change. If love is simply an emotion, it won't last through the tough times; but you are required to love through those tough times because you have made a commitment, and because God commands it.

I hear husbands all the time say to me, "I just don't love my wife anymore. I used to, but I don't now. I need out." When people say that to me, I have adopted the response of John MacArthur, who tells them, "Then get down on your knees and pray and repent of this awful sin." Yes, God requires husbands to love their wives, so to not love your wife is a sin. If you don't love your wife, you are violating God's command to you.

"But, how can I love a woman like that?" you might say. "You don't know my wife." Maybe I don't, but I know you, and I know you are a sinner. Scripture tells me that. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." That includes you, doesn't it, husband? And I also know what it says in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We deserved nothing from God except to burn in hell for all eternity because of our sins. Yet, God sent His Son to earth to die for us - not because you deserved it, but in spite of your unworthiness.

So don't ever tell me your wife doesn't deserve your love. I'll agree with you. She probably doesn't. But that has nothing to do with it. You are to love her in the same way that Jesus loved you, when you didn't deserve it. This command to love your wife has nothing to do with whether or not your wife is worthy of your love, or even if she is lovable. This has everything to do with the command and example of Jesus Christ. We are to love unconditionally as Christ loved the church. there are no ifs, ands, or buts in that - just unconditional, sacrificial love. By loving your wife as Christ loved the church, you are becoming more like Christ.

But nobody believes there is nothing worthy of love in your wife. Nobody! When you courted her and stood at the altar and pledged your life and undying love for her, you didn't believe it either. Then, you believed this woman you were marrying was the most desirable woman on the planet, the one God had made just perfect for you. She is still that same woman. She is still the same even if she has gained weight since having kids, even if she is too tired to have sex with you every night. Life makes romance hard, remember? But none of that matters. She is still the one God has for you. Not even if she becomes a perpetual nag and criticizes you relentlessly, and you can't stand living with her anymore; none of that matters. She is still the one God has for you. The command still stands. Ephesians 5:25 still says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her." It wasn't easy for Christ to love the church. It may not be easy for you to love your wife, but you must. God demands that you love your wife sacrificially. Anything less is sin.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Husband's Sacrificial Love

Speaking to husbands, we left off last time saying that true Biblical leadership is servant leadership. For the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church is to call on the husband to love his wife enough to die for her. Wow! Is that serious or what? But husbands can't bail out if that sounds too tough. We covered that before; marriage is intended to be until death do you part. That's the commitment that you made before God and to your wife on the day of your wedding. There is no going back on your word - no exit for a too tough marriage - just because you want out. This is the one woman - the only woman - you can legally live with and sleep with. You had better learn to make it work. But how?

Ephesians 5:25 tells you how, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." We are to love just as Christ, and He loved with a sacrificial love. That's the kind of love that is required of us. It is the agape love of God - an unconditional love that gives and gives without expecting anything in return. This is a love that will go any distance, make any sacrifice, even to the point of dying for the one we love. And that means we keep on loving whether or not the one we love ever responds or ever returns our love. That is the love of Christ.

But if you love your wife enough to die for her, you will certainly love her enough to live for her. You will want the very best for her. By saying that, I'm not talking about diamonds and mink coats or about driving around in a Mercedes Benz or living in a mansion. Who ever said that those were the best anyway?

What this is talking about can best be illustrated by the command in Philippians 2:3-4:
"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 is how agape love loves. That is the love of God. That is the love that is required from all of us to one another within the church. How much more is it required towards that one woman we have chosen from all the women in the world to love, marry, and live with. Certainly you will want to provide your home with that same atmosphere of love.

If you do, your wife will live within an environment in which she can grow and blossom - she can grow in her spiritual maturity to become the woman God wants her to be and the woman you will want to live with. At times this kind of love must say "No!" when what she wants isn't best. It might mean guiding you and her into some new priorities. But your number one priority after God is her. Her needs are paramount. Replacing the broken washing machine will become a higher priority to you then getting your new boat, for instance, because you love her sacrificially. Do you love your wife like that? Do you love her as Christ loved the church?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Leadership Like Jesus

As we talk about the role of the husband, we have to talk about his God-given position as head of the home. When we looked at the wife's submission, we saw that one of the reasons for her submission, as found in Ephesians 5:23, was this: "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church." Who said? God said, right there in His Word, the Bible. The wife, we learned, was to voluntarily submit to the headship of her husband, just as the church submits to the headship of Christ. As John MacArthur writes,
"God designed someone to be in charge and someone to help; someone to be in authority and someone to be submissive; someone to be the leader and someone to be the follower; someone to take care of the provisions and someone to be provided for. The man had the role of leadership, and the woman had the role of follower. The man protected, provided, preserved, and cared for the woman. She was a fitting, or suitable, helper for him."

That was all part of God's plan at creation. The husband was to be the provider, protector, sustainer, and the authority within the home. This didn't happen at the curse, but was built into the framework of creation, even the framework of our very natures as man and woman. To go back to this model for marriage isn't to live under the curse, but it is to return to Eden and to the plan of God.

But we also learned that the husband is to lead in the home in the same way that Christ leads in the church. So the question than is, what does it mean to lead? How does a man Scripturally lead his family? Is he to demand submission and obedience, with a club if necessary? Is he to constantly give orders and force subjection like a dictator? Is he supposed to act like a master to a slave or a boss to an employee? No! No! No! That is the curse, remember?

Then how? How is a man to be the head of his home? As Christ is head of the church. But that begs the question, what kind of leadership did Christ model? How does He function as head of the church? We find the answer in Matthew 20:25-28. In this discourse, the mother of James and John comes to Jesus and asks if her two boys can have top billing in Jesus' kingdom. The others are all jealous and angry wanting that top billing for themselves, so Jesus has to set them straight about the meaning of true Christian leadership. This is what He says in Matthew 20:25-28,
"But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.'"
The way of the world is the way of the curse, and unfortunately too many homes are lead by husbands that "Lord it over them." But it is not supposed to be that way. Jesus set the example of servant leadership. How far did he take this servanthood? He took it to the point of death, even the death on the cross. Jesus died for the church. That's what Christian leadership is all about.

Jesus taught that Christian leadership is servant leadership. It's submissive. Really? Can that be right? That doesn't sound like the leadership model I read in the secular books. But that is the model Scripture gives us, and the model husbands are to follow. Ephesians 5:21 taught, "Submitting to one another in the fear of God." Each of us are supposed to submit one to another within the church. We are to act toward each other like Jesus did in Philippians 2:5-8,
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance as a
man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross
That is the kind of leadership a man is required to provide for his wife. He must become her servant, and yes, even be willing to die for her.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Husbands - Learning to Listen to God's Word

Every coin has two sides. Every argument has two perspectives. Every marriage has two partners - a husband and a wife. And Scripture has much to say about both. So far, we've talked predominately about the wife. Now it's time to look at the husband. But I'm reluctant to talk about the husband perhaps because, if anything, the Scriptural mandate for the husband is harder than for the wife. The husband has the responsibility to lead in the home. God has made him the head.

But that's not the real reason I'm reluctant. I'm reluctant because this speaks directly to me in my own role as a husband. As I study the Scriptural pattern, I can see how far short of that pattern I fall. I have a lot of work to do, and change isn't easy. Change does not come without struggle. I can be tempted to dismiss these truths as for a different time and place. But this is as relevant as it gets. It's as relevant as my morning coffee with my wife all the way to when I crawl in bed with her at night. This speaks to every husband about his most intimate relationship. So I, like every husband, need to be open to the teaching of the Word of God. 1st Corinthians 2:14 teaches,
"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritiually discerned."
We listen with our natural ears, and we think with our fleshly minds which are more concerned with our own ease and pleasure than in obeying God. We need the Spirit of God to convince us of the truth of his Word.

Where do we begin this discussion of the husband? With a little review. What we have learned most from our study so far is that God intended marriage to be a blessing - a beautiful thing. At creation, God saw that the one lack in His beautiful creation was that the man was alone. To fix it, God did surgery on Adam and created Eve. He intended theirs to be a mutually fulfilling relationship in which the man functioned as the head and the woman was his complement and completer. Together they would exercise dominion over this earth as co regents. That was God's original intention.

The fall and the curse changed all that. Following the fall, child birth would be difficult and painful. And marriages would be disrupted. Eve stepped out from under Adam's authority to eat the forbidden fruit, and the curse chiseled that rebellion in stone. Now the woman would try to dominate her husband and usurp his headship and the man would rule with despotic tyranny. That is the curse.

But God's intention is still that marriage should be a blessed union, and our hearts desire to return to that place. So Ephesians 5 gives us the instructions for how to do just that - to return to Eden in our homes. A godly couple who both follow the pattern set in Ephesians 5 will fulfill God's plan for the home. Over the next few days we will look at the responsibility of the husband to obey Ephesians 5:25, to love his wife as Christ loved the church.