Imagination in Marriage

February 22, 2013 at 10:11 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians, II Corinthians | 7 Comments
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Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

Previously, I have shown that Satan attacks the fortified walls of marriages with craftiness and deceit. We are to be ready for various types of attacks by:

1. Not being ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Facing up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realizing that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.
4. Preparing to recognize infiltrating spies, in which Satan utilizes worldly lies masquerading as common wisdom.
5. Preparing to recognize attacks in the form of burrowing under the protective wall around your marriage, in which Satan seeks to utilize our God-given sensual appetites to his own nefarious advantage.

Now, we will see that we must also:

6. Prepare to recognize attacks coming over the top of the walls.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

II Corinthians 10:3

The Bible does not say that Christians do not wage warfare. Just because our warfare is spiritual and not physical, it does not mean that our warfare is any “less real.”

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

II Corinthians 10:4-5 (emphasis added)

If I cast something “down,” that implies that, before I get to it, it is something “higher” than me. When I think about my marriage, I need to be careful to identify things that might be sitting in a “high place” in my mind where they should not be. “Imagination,” in the sense we normally use that word, is not a bad thing. In previous lessons I have advocated using our creativity and imaginative thinking in making the romantic aspects of our marriage enjoyable. But “imaginations” as used in these verses are a reference to human speculations that cause us to wonder about or doubt things on our own that might already be resolved, revealed, or even restricted in Scripture. Those “bad,” speculative imaginations can easily include things like sexual thoughts – thoughts that seem to be so sudden and secretive that they come to us unbidden.

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

II Corinthians 10:6

Impure thoughts should make us downright angry and vengeful – if our minds are captivated by obedience to Christ. This is the “hard work” of spiritual warfare, and Satan does not believe that you are going to put up a good fight when it comes to how we think about sex in marriage. Therefore, he is very bold. He is trying to send these “exalted thoughts” right up and over your battlements. Next time I will identify three assailants that he will send to try to scale the fortifying walls of your marriage at the area we call “sexual fidelity.”

How Whack-A-Mole Can Help Your Marriage

February 6, 2013 at 11:19 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Galatians | 8 Comments
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Last time, I discussed Satan’s infiltration strategy as he attacks our marriages. The devil comes up to the wall of your marriage as a tempter at the “sexual relations” section of the wall, but all his spies that tried to sneak through were summarily executed. So now he tries to burrow under – and he messes with your thought life. He borrows a shovel and some trenching tools from the worldly media and popular culture, and (because he doesn’t have the power to “create” new physical sensations the way God does) he appeals to the concupiscible appetite which is already in us. He’s not stupid, either. He knows that our concupiscible appetites, while given to us by God, have also been warped and bent by our sin nature. So he tries to get under the wall by making you think that the appetite itself is the thing to be served (worshiped), instead of the Giver of the appetite. He whispers in your (or your spouse’s) ear, and he says, “This feels good, so it is powerful – and it must be satiated more than your spouse wants to satiate it.” Then he whispers, “There are other ways out there to satiate it… There are things to look at and there are people willing to help…and God knows that you are not stronger than your concupiscible appetites, so God will understand – it’s not a big deal…” And he tempts and tempts and tempts! Remember, Satan is the master liar and tempter. He knows how to make sin sound and look very seductive.

So, will you look the other way when the tempter pops his head up through a hole in the ground on your side of the wall? Or will you remember that “your” side of the wall is really “God’s” side of the wall and that your marriage belongs to Him and not to you? My children used to like to buy those little coin-shaped tokens and play an arcade game called “Whack-A-Mole.”

https://i0.wp.com/timscogitorium.com/tinblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Whac-a-Mole-by-Robert-Dobalina-on-Flickr.jpg

Whenever a plastic mole popped his head out of a hole, they would smash it back down with a big toy mallet, and at the same time another mole would pop right up out of another hole. I’m not trying to be silly because we’re talking about a serious matter, but that is a picture of what we, as Christian spouses, are going to have to do in the area of glorifying God with our concupiscible appetites. We are going to have to watch for the devil to pop his head up in our thought lives, and then beat him back into the ground. The difference is, we have the authority in Christ Jesus to not only resist Satan (James 4:7) and to hammer him back down, but to pour cement in the hole so he can’t keep coming back – at least through that same tunnel.

How are we going to do this? We are going to do it Biblically – with the weapon that God has given us to control the concupiscible appetite. It’s called “temperance.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Galatians 5:22-24 (emphasis added)

Temperance is a Godly virtue, it is a Christian virtue, and it is a Gospel virtue. It is the virtue of controlling, mastering, and channeling the sensual appetites. Can it be done? Yes! By walking in the Spirit; by asking God to help you do it; by surrendering to Christ and accessing His power; by preaching the Gospel to our libidos. Now, those are principles that apply even if you are on your own when it comes to understanding the truth about Christian marriage. You can have victory in Christ even if your spouse is not on your side. I will say, though, that it is much less difficult when your spouse is on the same page. In a case where both spouses have bought into the truth of Christ-centered marriage, the concupiscible appetite is channeled, by and with the help of your loving and submissive spouse, into the God-ordained and Gospel-enabled arena in which it is to be freely satisfied. Because God made it that way, this is where it is to be freely satisfied and where it is best satisfied.

A Concupiscible Marriage

January 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

In the continuing study of Satan’s attack on marriage, we have imagined our marriages as an enclosed area (Song of Solomon 4:12), surrounded by a perimeter or wall of fortification. Our duty is to protect the entire perimeter from the devil’s attacks, but we want to concentrate our protective resources where the attack is going to be most focused. We have established that his attack is going to be most concentrated in the area of sexual relations. Here are the four principles we have highlighted so far:

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.
4. Prepare to recognize an infiltrating spy.

Now, we will see that we must also:

5. Prepare to recognize attacks in the form of burrowing under the wall and popping up in the midst of your marriage.

Satan, in addition to trying to sneak his spies right through the wall protecting your marriage, will also send tunnelers to burrow under the wall. He does this when he attacks our thought life. I’m borrowing some of the ideas in this lesson from Thomas Aquinas, but only insofar as they line up with the Bible. We are fallen sinners, but Christians are redeemed fallen sinners. That means we have access to the grace of the Gospel. We are not “Gnostics.” We do not believe that only spiritual, non-physical things can be “good.” We believe that our souls have been redeemed and that our bodies have been redeemed (Romans 8:23), in the sense that they will one day be resurrected in a glorified form. The physical pleasures of the body – when viewed through Gospel redemption – are to be enjoyed in their set limits. But that’s only half the truth. The fuller-orbed reality is that, when true Christians enjoy these physical pleasures in their “set limits,” we actually have more freedom to enjoy them with more enjoyment. Do you see the tension? We think of “limits” as restricting freedom. But in God’s Gospel, His limitations actually “free” us up to be what He intended us to really be when He created us.

Now, here’s where Aquinas comes in, because he helps us to see the difference between our “concupiscible” appetites and our “irascible” appetites. For now, let’s leave aside the “irascible” (hopefully I’ll get to those in another session), and focus on the “concupiscible.”

Concupiscible appetites are mainly physical appetites which are very strong because of the physical pleasure they induce and (possibly) because of their ties to our vitality. Eating, drinking, and sex are things that almost all people have an appetite for, and they are all accompanied by sensations of strong physical pleasure. They also happen to be tied to the continuance of life (our “survival”).

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Colossians 3:5 (emphasis added)

The concupiscible appetite is not inherently evil, but it can become tainted by evil. It is not inherently evil because it was put in you by God. Adam and Eve needed to eat and drink before they sinned, and they were made in such a way that they would enjoy these things. Adam and Eve had a desire to procreate and to be sexual before they sinned, and they were made by God to enjoy the physical acts and sensations which lead to procreation. In the next lesson, I will identify a counter strategy to deal with Satan’s manipulation of our concupiscible appetites.

Marital Espionage

January 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 6 Comments
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In a previous lesson I listed the first three fortifications that Christian married couples should build up at the key point of Satan’s attack against marriages: physical intimacy. These three fortifications had to do with recognizing the attack, not underestimating the attack, taking the attack seriously.

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.

Here is the fourth fortification:

4. Prepare to recognize an infiltrating spy.

Satan sends “infiltrators” which are “copies:” perversions of what God intended. Sexual relations must not be separated from Scripture. The command to be “frequent” must be taken seriously. The “desire” part of it must not be disregarded or discounted. Satan has made a number of fakes – and they are good fakes because he works in enough “partial truths” to make them look like real truth. When we recognize these infiltrators trying to sneak through the wall of sexual relations in marriage, we can confront them, confine them, and kill them with Scriptural ammunition.

Fake: Different sex drives can be an excuse for infrequency.

Confrontation with Truth: In mutual service, frequent for one has to be frequent for both.

Ammunition: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” (I Thesalonians 4:3-4, emphasis added)

Both spouses are to cooperate in the frequency.

Fake: You have to wait for the “right time.” In other words, the mood has to be just right.

Confrontation with Truth: The right time must be made. “Moods” are feelings which often need to be brought into subjection to Christ’s commands.

Ammunition: “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” (I Thessalonians 4:4, emphasis added)

“To possess” is a present tense verb. It indicates that this is an ongoing thing. The devil’s lie is that routine is always boring. God’s truth is that He has granted you imagination and the ability to plan, and that routine in and of itself can be a form of obedience which is not boring.

These are just some of the ways that Satan tries to “slip by” our defenses or impersonate a friendly ally. They are espionage techniques that he uses, but with diligent vigilance (I Thessalonians 5:5-6) and with the supernatural wisdom of God’s Spirit empowering us (James 1:5), we can spot and summarily execute these spies on the spot.

Having a F.I.N.E. Marriage

November 5, 2012 at 11:14 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 11 Comments
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In a previous lesson I looked at some verses from I Corinthians 7, as they relate to remaining single or getting married.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

I Corinthians 7:1-2

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

I Corinthians 7:32-37

Let me sum up the “practical application” of these verses: The temptation of fornication in the form of premarital sex can be remedied by marriage. There is no other legitimate outlet for taking care of those desires.

That is a lesson that we parents must hammer into the souls of our children – even though they may be living in the midst of a generation where they will be the only ones who believe or practice it. We must also hammer into our own souls that physical intimacy in marriage is not a block to fornication or adultery – but that it is a safeguard.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:3-5

For maximum effectiveness, marital intimacy must be F.I.N.E.

F.requent: “Due benevolence” means what is “owed.” You owe it to your spouse to satisfy him or her sexually within Scriptural limits. Failure to do so is fraud – unless it is mutually consensual – and then it must be for spiritual reasons and only for a short time.

I.nviting: Because my body belongs to God, I must keep it healthy. Because – on a secondary level – my body belongs to my spouse, I ought to try to keep it attractive.

N.atural: “Render unto” means it is done willingly – which also means it should not be contrary to emotions. Our emotions must be brought into conformity with truth. God says physical intimacy in marriage is “good,” so we need to believe it is good. If we believe it is good, we will start to feel like it is good.

E.xciting: Although “due benevolence” is a duty, it is not merely a duty.

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

I Corinthians 7:9 (emphasis added)

It is “better” to marry than to “burn” when you are engaged to be married. But, once married, it is great to burn. “Burn” means passion and excitement: Song of Solomon-type, exuberant, looking-forward-to-it-almost-all-day-every-day-type passion. I highly recommend a recent movie called Fireproof, which is about “fireproofing” your marriage against divorce. The fires of marital discord are horrible and should be guarded against. “Controlled burning,” though, is something completely different. It is a passionate, mutual burning that is the result of a Scripturally-prescribed fire that you know is going to be quenched within the God-ordained bounds of marriage. This is embarrassing to talk about, but that type of “quenching,” and the physical pleasure attendant to it, is one of God’s greatest temporal gifts to His children. But there has to be fire for there to be quenching. “Better to marry than to burn” doesn’t mean the burning stops after the honeymoon. It means that God has now authorized the burning because there is a safe, God-ordained way to start and stop the fires of passion, and that way is physical intimacy in marriage.


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