A Confident Marriage

May 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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Confidence is not arrogance. One of the Bible words for confidence is “boldness.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:13 (emphasis added)

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

Acts 4:29 (emphasis added)

It’s not that the Apostles asked God to make them unafraid. It’s that they asked Him to make them irascible – able to face the fearful situation. What is the sine qua non for courage? It’s fear. God has not given us a “spirit of fear,” but that does not mean that God will keep us out of fearful circumstances. He has given us the ability to be confident in knowing that in Him we can overcome fear.

Are you courageous, constant, and confident enough to minister while being married? To stand at the gate that Satan is battering and to protect your marriage while still showing the love of Christ to a voraciously evil world?

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

Job 31:1

In a world filled with illicit sexual imagery, it doesn’t take courage to look. It takes courage to look away.

Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.

Isaiah 3:16-17

The immodesty we see in society is not only Satan’s assault on godliness – it may also be part of God’s judgment for our pride. It takes courage not only to keep from looking, but to keep from imitating.

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

That is the zenith of irascibility! Jesus is not promoting self-mutilation. He’s teaching about just how dangerous adultery is, for He turns immediately to the topic of marriage and divorce (Matthew 5:31).

Being married – and especially being a married Christian – in 21st Century America requires irascibility in the form of courage, endurance, and confidence in order to combat the pervasiveness of overt sexuality. Earlier I compared this irascibility to a more masculine attitude toward combat, but this “masculinity” is not based on a “tough-guy” caricature of manhood. It comes from a fear of God.

And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Genesis 39:7-9 (emphasis added)

Joseph didn’t want to betray his earthly master, but, more than that, he was downright determined not to sin against his God! Fear and courage are not mutually exclusive. The first must be present for the latter to exist. The fear of the Lord provokes the greatest courage of all. If Satan knocks that wall down, I could lose my wife, my home, my kids, my job, my reputation. That frightens me. But what frightens me more is sinning against the God Who loved me and redeemed me and made me His Own.

A Courageous Marriage

April 12, 2013 at 9:42 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, John | 6 Comments
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Satan would like to accuse and intimidate you into being so scared of “worldly” influences destroying your marriage that you don’t venture out into the arena of the world in order to minister in the love of Christ at all. But God says differently.

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

John 17:14-15 (emphasis added)

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

John 18:36 (emphasis added)

It’s not that disciples of Jesus don’t fight. It’s that we fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons, rather than carnal battles with carnal weapons (II Corinthians 10:3-4). When we view our marriages through the Gospel, it is unthinkable that we won’t be proclaiming the Gospel through our marriages in the world. We do this right in the teeth of Satan. Our response to the direct barrage of Satan is an irascible counterattack. Here are two of the irascible appetites which God has given us to combat the accusations and intimidations of Satan as he attacks our marriages:

Courage

Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day. For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God. Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:

Joshua 23:6-12 (emphasis added)

It’s going to take courage to protect our marriages in a society which hates our marriages.

Endurance

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

II Thessalonians 1:4 (emphasis added)

Are you looking for a quick fix? That’s not usually God’s way. God’s way is having courage to face the persecutions and tribulations – and the attacks of Satan – and to endure. Don’t quit. God is preparing a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory for your marriage (II Corinthians 4:17), so that, when it gets hard, that is the time when somebody sees what the Gospel really means to you in your marriage.

A Marriage of Flesh and Bones

November 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 11 Comments
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For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

Ephesians 5:30

Because marriage is a God-ordained institution, when you got married, you and your spouse became one flesh. In a physical body, “flesh” is the source of strength. If your spouse is weak, you must be his or her strength. You became “one set of bones.” Bones provide structure.

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/coupleartillustrationskeletonholdinghandsskeletons-f42680f4abdc39fdc01a0cc75dc2e653_h.jpg?w=300

If your spouse is not holding up his or her part of the structure of married life, you must hold up your spouse’s part for him or her. Christ will empower you to do it. A body is flesh and bones, but neither flesh nor bones work without blood. In marriage, love is the blood of the body. It circulates and carries nourishment. It circulates and removes impurities. If your spouse is not pumping love into the marriage, you must pump enough love for both of you.

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:16

-Adam gave part of himself (his rib) to get a bride; Christ gave ALL of Himself.
-God opened Adam’s side; sinful men pierced Christ’s side.

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Ephesians 5:18

We do not use the Holy Spirit. He uses us. We submit to the will of the Holy Spirit when we read and hear and obey the Word of God. Faking it will not work.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

Romans 12:9

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

I Peter 1:22

If you don’t feel loving toward your spouse, use the love you feel toward Christ as your motivation. Perform acts of grace and mercy on your spouse, regardless of whether he or she appreciates it or responds, because that is evidence of genuine love for Christ.

A Designer Marriage

October 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 14 Comments
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So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

Ephesians 5:28

If men are supposed to love themselves, why the need for wives? Why not cut out the middle man? Because it is not good for men to be alone. It is not good in general for people to be alone, and it is not good specifically for the man.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

A “help meet” is what we would call a “helper who is a perfect fit” or “a helper who is perfectly suited.” If you are a wife, you were designed by God specifically to help your husband, and you are the perfect one for that job. Wives meet the emotional needs of their husbands. We were made in the image of God, and we do have emotions that survived the fall in the Garden of Eden.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:27-28

Marriage meets society’s need for structure and stability and the proper training of children.

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. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

I Corinthians 7:1-3

Marriage also meets the physical needs of husbands and wives, but marriage especially meets the spiritual needs of husbands and wives. God designed wives to submit to husbands. He designed husbands to lead wives. He designed wives to give holy counsel and companionship to husbands. He designed husbands to sanctify wives with the Word of God. Just because one spouse is failing to fulfill these God-ordained responsibilities, the other spouse is not excused from fulfilling his or hers.

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

Ephesians 5:29

The natural inclination of men apart from God is to nourish, to feed, our own flesh. What we are called to do, though, is to feed our wives spiritually and to feed the marriage relationship. We are also called to “cherish” it – to treat it well. As husbands, we must treat our wives and our marriages as valuable. We must protect our wives and protect the marriage. What a tragedy if I protect my marriage from everyone but me. Christ nourishes the Church in these same ways.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17

Now, if you are reading this and you are a wife, I am aware that your husband may not be doing any of these things. (Most aren’t!) But in a previous lesson we discussed the importance of creating in the home a climate where he could start doing these things. You must humbly express the need to be fed and cherished, and to be ministered to spiritually. Trust the Lord to miraculously change your husband’s heart and create in him a desire to do these kinds of things. Also, remember that, if you love Jesus, you must love those that Jesus loves. The best way to make sure that you are obeying Christ is to love your spouse. A marriage where one spouse is obedient, even if the other is not, still honors Christ.

Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 1

April 1, 2011 at 8:28 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical Marriage | 46 Comments
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When the Bible uses the word “love” for the way spouses are supposed to treat each other, it is a translation of the Greek word agape (pronounced uh-GOP-ay). There are different Greek words which can be translated as “love,” but agape is the one we call “Christian love.”

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:24-32, emphasis added

A “mystery” in the Bible is not something we’re never supposed to think about it, and it’s not something to be solved.

mystery machine

It’s something that God has withheld the fuller revelation of, but is about to be revealed by Him. In Ephesians 5:32 God uses the Apostle Paul to reveal a mystery concerning marriage. Marriage had been around since the time of Adam and Eve, but the full revelation of what it meant had not been revealed until Ephesians 5:24-32. The revelation is that God always intended marriage to be a picture of Christ and His relationship to and with the Church. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, not only in the salvation of individuals (in that He pursues and “takes” a bride), but in that He loves His bride. Christians are supposed to love their spouses the same way that Christ loves His bride, the Church. Therefore, we need to know what kind of “love” is the love of Christ. Obviously, His type of love will be the best type of love. The Greek word for love resulting from relationships, especially familial relationships, such as parent-child and brother-sister is phileo. The Greek word for the type of “love” that is tied to physical passion is eros.

But agape is sometimes translated as “love” and sometimes as “charity” because it is more than just a feeling. It is an active love. It is love in motion. It is true love because it operates in truth and not just in feelings.

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love [agape] of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love [agape] toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:5-8, parenthetical agapes and emphasis added

For God so loved [agape] the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16, parenthetical agape and emphasis added

Agape love is the love of God when He gave His most valuable Gift: His Son.

Beloved, let us love [agape] one another: for love [agape] is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love [agape]. In this was manifested the love [agape] of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

I John 4:7-9, parenthetical agapes added

In Part 2 I’ll show some very practical applications of the mystery of true marital love.

The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 2

March 4, 2011 at 11:04 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 22 Comments
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Last time we looked at the first two of four Bible principles to help us understand what God wants to do in our marriages. Think about some of the things that you have been told to do in order to make your marriage “happier.” Chances are, the things that are coming into your mind are things that focus ultimately on changing your spouse instead of changing you. How different are God’s ways from our ways!

Principle Number 1: Satisfaction in Marriage

Is being unhappy in your marriage a sign that your marriage is not “working?” No! Not when we use God’s definition of “working.” If your marriage is “unhappy,” but God is using it to conform you to the image of His dear Son, then you can find satisfaction in your marriage.

Principle Number 2: Separation in Marriage.

If you are married to someone right now, make a list of people with whom it’s okay for you to be physically intimate in a romantic or sexual way… That list should be very short. It should have one name only on it, and that name should be the name of your current spouse. That is “separation” from the affections of others.

Obviously, the principle of “separation” applies when it comes to sexual intimacy, but also, when it comes to where our devotion and affections lie, our spouse must hold a place of separation that is higher than our parents, our friends, even our children.

Then, there is the “separation” from worldly wisdom about your marriage. Let’s be honest: Who knows more about marriage?
God or Dr. Phil?
God or a psychiatrist?
God or that sweet little elderly couple that’s been married for 60 years?
God or a marriage counselor?

God invented marriage and He commanded its rules and consequences. We would have to agree that God wins out every time in a test of Who knows more about what your marriage is supposed to be!

Now I want to move on to the third and fourth principles:

Principle Number 3: Sanctification in Marriage

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I Corinthians 10:13

Not only is your spouse ordained to be your spouse by God, but your spouse was specifically chosen for your sanctification. That does not mean that your spouse was chosen by God for your immediate, temporal happiness! Your spouse was chosen for your “ultimate” (the “ultimate” may be far off) joy, and for God’s glory. This concept of how God works has become almost alien to us in our modern society. Maybe this illustration that I’ve borrowed from a Puritan preacher named Chadwick will help to make it more clear.

One Saturday afternoon Mr. Chadwick was in his study, trying to decide what to preach in church the next morning. He could not seem to find any inspiration, so after much prayer and study he went for a walk. As he walked down a country lane, he saw a little shop, and out front were two men. One man was an awful looking oaf. He was huge, with big muscles and an evil scowl. He was pounding a giant hammer down onto a piece of metal which was lying on top of an anvil, and sparks flew with every grunting blow. Beside the monstrous oaf was a fastidious little man in fancy clothes. He wore spectacles, he had not broken a sweat, and he was simply pointing imperiously at the anvil as the larger man did all the work. This scene did not sit well with Preacher Chadwick, who, being a Puritan, prized the ethic of hard work and despised laziness. Mr. Chadwick went up to them, and said with disdain to the smaller man, “Well sir, I’m not even sure why you’re here! He’s doing all the work, and you don’t seem to be doing anything!” The fastidious little man smiled, and calmly explained, “No, sir, you don’t understand. I’m the blacksmith here, and this man is just a mean-spirited oaf. He thinks he’s destroying something. I am simply pointing out to him where to strike. Without me, he would make a mess of the job, but with my control and direction, the end product is going to be something beautiful.” Mr. Chadwick immediately knew what he would preach about the next morning!

This story is a picture of God and the devil. The devil may be pounding away at your marriage even as you read this. No doubt, he thinks he is destroying you, and your spouse, and your children, and your whole family. What he does not realize is that he is being used by God to make you into exactly what God wants you to be. One day, when you stand before God justified and sanctified and looking much more like Jesus Christ than you ever thought you could, with your children gleaming like jewels in the crown of Christ our King, I think the devil will be furious at how often he thought he was performing pure evil, when, in reality, God was allowing him to work out God’s perfect will all along!

The things about your spouse that seem like his or her faults – the very things about him or her that drive you absolutely crazy – are the very things designed by God to teach you to grow in Christ-likeness. And if your spouse has certain strengths, then these strengths are the very things which God knows must be present if you are not to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear.

Remember that your marriage isn’t just for you – and it isn’t just for your spouse – it’s for God to use in making you more holy, which is the definition of sanctification.

Principle Number 4: Sacrifice in Marriage

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Ephesians 5:24-25

Spouses are supposed to love each other the way that Christ loved the Church. In other words, the way that He loved all the people who would one day trust Him for eternal salvation. I can not think of a single thing that Jesus should have done for the people that would one day go to Heaven, but that He failed to do. Many spouses are willing to envision a scenario in which they would dramatically die for their spouse. But few are willing to go through the mundane, day-to-day, detail-oriented task of living for their spouse. Christ did both. He lived and died for His bride, the Church. Christ gave Himself for the Church.

In giving yourself for your spouse, the primary emphasis is not on dying literally, but on sacrificial giving. Be a “living sacrifice,” says Romans 12:2. Think of some of the most serious issues that cause problems in a marriage.

Adultery? Adultery is terrible and hurtful. The pain and destruction that it causes must not be minimized. However, we have all committed spiritual adultery (unfaithfulness) against Christ, and yet He loved us anyway.

Cruelty? Mental cruelty toward your spouse is a grievous sin! It can be a form of torture. However, no one has ever been as cruel toward anyone as the people that Jesus came to save were toward Him. Yet He loved us anyway.

Physical violence? I think a man who physically abuses His wife should be whipped and then shot and then put under the jail. But no spouse has ever endured a beating like the beating that Jesus willingly took from the people that He came to save. And yet He loved us anyway.

Lack of affection? I wonder if there is anyone in the world as lonely or heartbroken as the spouse who can not get affection from his or her spouse. But Jesus was forsaken by His family, His friends, His relatives, His disciples – by everyone He cared about – and yet He loved us anyway.

Finances? How many people have I counseled with who have had their credit completely ruined by their spouse? Their savings gambled away, their children’s education spent on beer or toys or drugs or pornography. But how much of the resources that God has entrusted to us have been spent on vain and frivolous and even sinful things rather than invested in His Kingdom? And yet Jesus loved us anyway.

Christ never ever has and never ever will divorce His bride, the Church – no matter what! Has your spouse done worse to you than you’ve done to Christ? The Cross of Calvary says no – not even close.

Some people tell me, “You just don’t know what my spouse is like! I can’t love him or her, because he or she is just unlovable!” That describes Jesus’s ministry to a tee. He came to love the unlovable. I want everyone to have a happy marriage, but I’m simple and sentimental. God wants everyone to have a marriage that makes them more like Jesus. Jesus loved the unlovable. If God has chosen your marriage and your spouse to be the vehicle to teach you how to love the unlovable, then I’m sorry. I genuinely am. But, on another level, I’m also excited and glorifying God for your sake! He works in the lives of those He loves and He will one day repay every hurt with joy unspeakable!


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