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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Abstain From Sexual Immorality - Part Two

Note: This is part two. The previous article contains part one.

We stopped abruptly last time, almost in mid-sentence. I simply had way too much material to cover it all in one sermon. So this is really part two of last week’s sermon, which means all the things we said last time lead up to what I am going to say today. But since a lot of you weren’t here last week because of the snow storm, I need to bring you up to speed. So a little review is in order.

1st Thessalonians 4 ends with perhaps the greatest passage on the Rapture in all the Bible starting at verse 13 and on. But in light of that great truth, that Jesus could come at any moment to catch us away to meet Him in the air, how then should we live? The answer is: We should strive to be holy, to be useful for God’s service. And that’s how we came to verse 3. 1st Thessalonians 4:3 said: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.”

To be sanctified is to be set apart for God’s service like the furniture and utensils in the temple were set apart for God’s service. The word for sanctify, “hagios,” is the same root word that gives us holy. This is all review, by the way.

But what will hinder your being set apart for God’s service? How about being contaminated, defiled, in other words, getting yourself dirty. And nothing gets us dirtier than illicit sex.

This is made so clear in 1st Corinthians 6:15-20:
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Thus, since Paul wants us to be usable, the command to “abstain from sexual immorality.” As we said last time, “abstain” means, “Don’t do it!” It involves total abstinence. We spent a lot of time last time proving from scriptures that you not only can control your fleshly desires, but you must. And a lot of the process is simply recognizing that you can.

This was important for the Thessalonians to know in their sex-saturated society, and for us to know too in ours. The root of Christianity is Judaism and the moral law of God, but the root of Gentile Christianity has always been paganism and immorality. We were saved, unlike the Jews, out of a pagan, immoral society. That’s all many of us ever knew before we came to Christ. So the Thessalonians, and many of us for that matter, need to be re-grounded.

I believe that’s the emphasis of this next verse, 1st Thessalonians 4:5, which says, “Not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

The re-grounding is always away from the “passion of lust.” The King James translates that phrase as the “lust of concupiscence.” Isn’t that a fantastic phrase? It’s got a nice ring to it. Too bad we don’t know what it means. Actually, we do. It refers to out of control cravings - those uncontrollable desires for what is illegitimate or immoral that control so many of our lives.

But the point is, don’t be like “the Gentiles who do not know God.” Obviously, that means the unsaved ones who haven’t met Him yet. They really don’t have a boss over their lives. God certainly isn’t. Jesus isn’t their Lord.

But you know God, and you know His commands. Or, you sure ought to. You know the Ten Commandments, right? Commandment #7 is what? “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Pretty clear, isn’t it? It fits right in with 1st Thessalonians 4:3, “Abstain from sexual immorality.” We know that any sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage is taboo for a believer.

Now why is this so important? Because of what sexual immorality does. It defrauds our brother. 1st Thessalonians 4:6 says, “That no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.” Don’t defraud your brother.

What does it mean to defraud? It means to steal someone’s property by deceit or trickery. It is to swindle, cheat, rob, or embezzle. And who are you not to defraud? Your “brother in this matter” – your fellow believer. This is even worse now that you are saved.

But what property is this talking about? Certainly not swindling them out of their life savings since the context is sex, so it must mean something besides money. Here is the answer (think critically, now): Leviticus 18:8 says, “The nakedness of your father’s wife you shall not uncover; it is your father’s nakedness.” The property is a wife’s nakedness, and the owner is the husband. No, this isn’t slavery or bondage, but it does speak to the exclusive right of a husband to his wife’s body. The man owns the nakedness of his wife. Isn’t that what the verse says?

Here’s more confirmation: Leviticus 18:16 says, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.” Why aren’t you supposed to “uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife?” Because it belongs to your brother. Again, the husband owns his wife’s nakedness.

Do you follow this? According to God, the husband owns the rights to his wife’s body, to her nakedness. No one else has a right to her body, not even to gaze their eyes on it, just him.

This is reinforced by the passage we read last time:
1st Corinthians 7:3-4
3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 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.
There is an ownership here – titled property. The husband has exclusive ownership rights to his wife’s sexuality, and the wife has the same rights to his sexuality.

And for virgins (Someone’s future wife, if not yours), it is the Father’s duty to protect her modesty. Every Christian husband and every father wants to present his bride or daughter to God as pure and spotless. Ephesians 5:27 talks about Jesus wanting a pure, spotless bride - it says: “That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

Now, every husband should want that same thing in his bride. Few men dream of marrying a promiscuous girl well experienced with lots of men. It used to be fashionable to want to marry a virgin. Even now, in our day of free-sex, I’ve counselled a lot of young men who are torn up inside because the young lady he fell in love with was quite used sexually. The thought of her having slept with someone else fueled his jealousy. Well, the Father is responsible to keep his daughter pure until he can walk her down the aisle and present her spotless to her bridegroom.

So you young men, listen to me. Don’t fight him against that. Don’t defile a young woman and steal her virginity. Not even if she’s willing.

Paul tells us that until she becomes your wife, you are to treat her as a sister. 1st Timothy 5:1-2, in a verse that tells us how to treat people, says: “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.”

Until she becomes your wife, you treat her like a sister, do you hear? Sure, you can be friends and have fun together, but who ever heard of getting romantic with a sister? Can you imagine making out with your sister? YUCK! Or holding hands? You’d almost rather kiss a dog. You wouldn’t do that with a sister, so you shouldn’t do that with some other girl you are interested in.

But, why does Paul say in 1st Corinthians 7:1, “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman?” Because girls are stimulated by touch. Keep your hands off her. Just like she shouldn’t be arousing you by her immodesty, you shouldn’t be arousing her with your touch. Hands off! Until she is legally yours, keep your hands off. Her body is not your property, and may never legally be. Don’t defraud a brother by stealing it.

“Oh, sweetie,” guys say, “I love you; and if you really loved me, you’d let me. Besides, we’ll get married someday.” That’s most always deceit, girls, and he is out to defraud you and your future husband. Don’t fall for his lie. There should be no deceit in a relationship.

Here is a conversation Jonathon Lindvalle had with his son. His son was heading out on a date that night, and his dad was having a talk with him before he left.
“So, son,” asked Dad, “is this a nice girl you are going out with tonight?”

“Oh, yeah,” said the son, “She’s real nice.”

“Good,” said the Dad. “So are you going to marry her?”

“Marry her?” said the son, aghast. “No, I’m not going to marry her. We’re just going out on a date.”

“Well,” said the Dad, “Do you think someone will marry her?”

“Well sure,” said the son, “She’s a nice girl. Someone is sure to marry her.”

“So,” said Dad, “You Are going out with some else’s future wife.” And the son starts to get a funny look on his face. “Well, what about you?” asked the Dad, “Are you going to get married someday?”

“Well, yeah. I think so.” Responded the son.

“Good,” said the Dad. “Then somewhere out there is the girl you will marry. Do you suppose she could be out on a date tonight with someone else?”

Shock came into the son’s eyes as that realization dawned on him. “Yeah, I suppose so. Yeah, she might be out with someone else.”

“So,” asked the Dad, “How far would you want her date to go with your future wife tonight? That’s how far you should go with your date who will someday be someone else’s wife.” That kind of puts things into perspective, now doesn’t it?

You have no business stealing what really belongs to someone else, and that includes a husband’s future wife. How dare you steal the virginity of his wife? And if she is someone else’s wife, or going to be, how dare you try to allure her? You can’t love him or her if you defraud them in that way. This affair you might want to be having isn’t love, but a great crime. “Abstain from sexual immorality.”

Now, this verse can even have application to modesty. Did you ever wonder why God would command women to dress modestly? He does, you know. 1st Timothy 2:9-10 says:
9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.

Remember, her nakedness doesn’t belong to the world, and it doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to her husband, and him alone. She shouldn’t be showing it off to every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Now, certainly women have discovered the effect that wearing immodest clothes has on a man. A man is sexually stimulated through his eyes, remember? That is one of the reasons women dress that way. They like the attention of having guys do a double take when they walk by with their blouse cut down way too low or their skirt cut way too high. But they have no right to give away their nakedness (even partial nakedness) because it belongs to her husband. And the man has no right to steal a look, not even if it’s freely offered. Why fathers let their daughters out of the house wearing the little things they do sometimes is a mystery. If we are to “abstain from sexual immorality,” we need to keep from advertising the wares that aren’t for sale. Cover up girls, and stop causing men to lust.

Yes, we talked about it last time, men are required to control themselves. Yes, it is his fault for looking and lusting. 1st Thessalonians 4:4-5 told us, “that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust.” But why make it so hard on him by showing off your stuff, girls?

Now let me say something: The Lord is even more concerned about a woman’s purity than you are, and He always gets even in the end. So if you want to mess around and spoil a woman’s purity, watch out. Don’t worry about a jealous spouse, worry about the Lord’s wrath. You’ve been warned. 1st Thessalonians 4:6 declares, “The Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.” Paul told them that.

Yes, the Scripture assures us in Romans 8:1 that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” God does forgive and cleanse our record, but He doesn’t take away the consequences of sin.

That’s why it tells us in Galatians 6:7-8
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
So watch out. If you want to sow seeds of sexual perversion, you’ll reap the loss of a God blessed relationship with your spouse. Weeds always have a way of choking out the good crop. God does not wink at sin.

David, in Psalm 32, tells us about life with a guilty conscience, and you are guilty if you engage in sexual immorality.
Psalm 32:3-4 says:
3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
Why not keep your conscience clear? “Abstain from sexual immorality” Don’t bear that awful weight of guilt.

But a husband’s jealousy is nothing to be sneezed at. Jealousy is a normal thing.
Proverbs 6:25-35 says this:
23 For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
24 To keep you from the evil woman,
From the flattering tongue of a seductress.
25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart,
Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.
26 For by means of a harlot
A man is reduced to a crust of bread;
And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.
27 Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?
28 Can one walk on hot coals,
And his feet not be seared?
32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding;
He who does so destroys his own soul.
33 Wounds and dishonor he will get,
And his reproach will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy is a husband’s fury;
Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
35 He will accept no recompense,
Nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.
There are real world consequences, my friend. The husband will accept no recompense. But even worse is the fact that verse 32 says, “He who does so destroys his own soul.” So don’t do it! You must “abstain from sexual immorality.”

So with all that said, listen to the conclusion of the matter.
1st Thessalonians 4:7-8
7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

The “uncleanness” here is sexual uncleanness (context, remember?). In whatever form it takes, from immodesty to watching pornography to homosexuality to adultery, it is all outside the bounds that God has set, and it all needs to be repented of. Because, ultimately, this sin isn’t so much against your partner or his or her spouse (I mean, they may even be willing participants), but your sin is against God. “He who rejects this does not reject man, but God.” God wants our lives to be characterized by holiness. Sexual sin has no place in that.

But here is one final word of encouragement. Verse 8 says: “God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” We don’t have to live this life alone, fighting against our sinful lusts, we have a powerful ally that dwells within us. And 1st John 4:4 says: “Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world.” The Holy Spirit can give us victory over sexual sin, if we ask for His help.

Immorality should be totally inconsistent with a believer’s sanctification. We were called to be holy, righteous, spotless because we are set apart for God’s glory. Don’t defile yourself.

Now last time, we spent a lot of time talking about the Bible’s remedy for sexual sin. We said God’s solution was to get married. 1st Corinthians 7:2 says: “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.”

And then 1st Corinthians 7:8-9 adds, “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

We also spent a lot of time talking about the problem when a man marries and still burns since his wife has a perpetual headache every night. The answer to that, I believe, is found in the next verse, 1st Thessalonians 4:9, which says, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”

If we are to be concerned about showing kindness and affection to others in the church, we certainly should we willing to show even more affection and kindness to our spouse, this one person out of all the billions in the world we’ve chosen to shower love upon. So why would we deprive each other? And, as I said last time, why should we go looking somewhere else when we can have the very best right in our own homes?

Now, I need to explain that. Some of you may question the validity of that statement thinking how can you say drab routine sex with your aging spouse who may be overweight, wrinkled, bald, have varicose veins, etc., can be better than exciting sex with a younger, newer partner. There are a number of reasons, and I want to elaborate a couple.

Think about Christmas presents. What has more meaning? When someone goes out and buys you something off the rack, or when they take time to hand make you something special? Even if the hand-made present may not be perfect (Like your toddler son’s attempt at finger painting), why would you treasure the hand-made present more? Isn’t it because of all the love that was stitched in, or added in however it was made? The present that was bought simply isn’t as personal – it doesn’t come with as much love. Intimacy with a loving, dedicated spouse has to be better because of that especially when your spouse is more concerned for your pleasure than his or her own. Your new partner may be better looking, but can they give you as much love?

Let’s face it, sex isn’t that complicated. The dumb animals figure it out by instinct, and most people can too. And sure, you can go buy a copy of the Kama Sutra, and try out all fifty gazillion sexual positions that take a gymnast or a contortionist to get into, but it won’t improve on the intimacy of two people in love and committed to a lifelong union. There is security, acceptance, and a comfortableness in that.

So, if you want to improve your sex life, here are the greatest tips from Pastor Dan, the sex therapist. Ask your spouse what would please him or her, then do it. And if they know you love them, and know they can trust you, they’ll probably tell you.

But no intimacy can be better than the relaxed, comfortable intimacy of two people in a marriage who truly love each other, and trust each other, and when they both are most concerned with pleasing the other. There’s no guilt in what you do fearing that it is outside the bounds God set up. There is no embarrassment because you have a big belly, or stretch marks, or varicose veins. There is no fear that you have to perform up to expectations, or that you will be rejected because your performance doesn’t measure up. You can freely give who you are to your spouse knowing you will be accepted and appreciated. Simply doing things God’s way makes all the difference. Besides, no super model or movie star hunk is going to give a second look to any of us anyway.

Listen to me, applying these next verses is God’s way:
Philippians 2:3-4
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
That is the answer right there. Obeying that will solve so many of your problems.

Now, as we close, some of you may have the need to do some repenting. Take time right now to confess your sins to God and seek His forgiveness. You also might need to ask His help so that you can make some new commitments to keep your life pure and holy. That’s where we started this two week series. Now it is time you work on it.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Abstain from Sexual Immorality

As we work our way through chapter 4 of 1st Thessalonians, we are going to find that verse 13 begins a discussion of the Rapture. It contains one of the most important passages in all of Scripture on the topic. It teaches us about the imminent return of Christ for His bride – the church. This first part of chapter 4, however, teaches us how to live in light of that truth. If Christ could come for us at any moment, how should we than live?

We saw the answer last time as we looked at 1st John 3:2-3:
2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
If we knew Christ was coming at any moment, we would want to live pure and holy lives. But what does that mean? To live a pure and holy life? That’s what this portion is all about.

Interestingly, though, it begins with “finally.” Oh, is the letter to the Thessalonians finished? Not hardly! There are still two chapters left – Chapters 4 & 5. Sounds like a modern preacher who says, “In conclusion,” but then keeps talking for fifteen minutes. You wonder what, if anything, he concluded. Obviously Paul isn’t ending, he’s just switching gears.

As was Paul’s custom, Paul would spend the first half of an epistle teaching doctrine, and he would spend the second half of the epistle on practical stuff – how to live it out. So, here he is going to explain how to live in light of Christ’s imminent return.

So let’s look at it - 1st Thessalonians 4:1 –
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God.
Paul says, “We urge and exhort?” This is important stuff he wants them not only to get, but to do! And this isn’t just something Paul thinks. He’s saying it in the name of “the Lord Jesus.” Paul writes with the full authority of Jesus Christ behind him. This isn’t stuff he made up out of the fancy of his imagination. He is speaking/writing for Christ by revelation. And what he is trying to teach us is from verse 1, “How you ought to walk and to please God.”

Our walk is our lifestyle. It is feet on the ground, here and now daily activity. It starts with a step of faith, and leads to a walk of faith. To Paul, Christianity was always a blend of belief and behavior. Proper belief always leads to proper behavior, and our proper behavior (our right “walk”) pleases God. Back in 1st Thessalonians 2:4, we learned Paul lived his life “not as pleasing men, but God.” That’s the way to live- as God pleasers. That’s how we will “abound more and more.” Jesus told us in John 14:15 - “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” That’s how we please God and show Him we love Him.

So it all boils down to obeying the commandments. 1st Thessalonians 4:2 agrees, “For you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” This isn’t something they were ignorant of. Paul tells them, “for you know what commandments we gave you.” They don’t have to wonder how to live.

But do we? Can any of us honestly say we are ignorant of God’s commands? Yet, do we always obey? The truth is, we all know much more of the Bible than we actually live which is why we need to be exhorted to obey the commands. It is because we don’t usually.

Well, at this point, the logical question would be: What commands is Paul talking about? Paul is going to focus on two in this passage. These may have been the two he especially thought the Thessalonians needed reminding about. They involve sexual purity and brotherly love. We are concentrating today on the first – sexual purity, and we see that in the next verse: 1st Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.”

Have you ever wondered what the will of God is for your life? Well, let me tell you, most of the time you don’t have to wonder. It is all spelled out in the Bible. God’s will for you is “your sanctification.”

What is sanctification? It comes from the Greek word, “hagios,” from which we also get holy. Holy means to be set apart unto God for His use. It means to be set apart from sin unto holiness. It was used of the utensils and furniture that were set apart for use in the temple. They dedicated them to God for His use alone. You’d never grab a spoon from the temple and use it to shovel manure, or grab a stool from the temple to use in milking a cow. You would never defile those instruments dedicated to God. We could never imagine doing anything so heinous. Nor, should we ever defile ourselves, not once you have been set apart for God’s service, because sanctification is all about becoming useful for God. And God won’t use defiled vessels. Sexual sin defiles us – PERIOD! That’s why Paul says we “should abstain from sexual immorality.”

“Abstain” means, “Don’t do it!” It’s total abstinence from “sexual immorality.” That phrase, “sexual immorality,” is translated from only one Greek word – “porneia.” It is a general catch-all term for all kinds of sexual sin, and it means anything outside the bounds of marriage.

John MacArthur writes: “Any sexual activity that deviates from the monogamous relationship between a husband and a wife is immoral by God’s standard.” MacArthur is so right.

The King James translates it as “fornication.” We usually look at fornication as sex between unmarried people, but “porneia” can include adultery, homosexuality, pornography, bestiality, and so forth and so on.

This kind of sin was rampant in the Greco-Roman world that reveled in debauchery where the temple of Aphrodite featured ritual prostitution and where wives were for procreation and mistresses were for recreation. And, of course, the Caesars had a fondness for young boys as their playmates.

But, we as Christians are to be set-apart from all that. We are to have a different lifestyle, a different walk, one that pleases God. So we can’t be involved in sexual sin and be used of God as His vessel. It is a disqualification. Verse 3 is quite clear:
God’s will for you is that you “abstain from sexual immorality.”

But how do you do that? I mean sexual temptation is nearly as rampant in our day as it was in Paul’s. You can’t watch TV, go to the beach, or even walk through the check-out lane at the grocery store without being bombarded with sexual images. And we haven’t even mentioned the internet. And casual sex, even between strangers, is considered normal in our society.

So what is the answer? 1st Thessalonians 4:4 says “that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.” What must you do to protect your “sanctification and honor?” You must learn to “possess [your] own vessel.”

OK, what is my vessel? It is your body, your flesh, specifically the desires of your flesh. 2nd Timothy 2:21 shows us this, and the next verse shows us how it ties in:
21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
If we want to be “a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work,” we must “flee youthful lusts.” You will never be useful to the Master if you are defiled. You wouldn’t want to eat off a dirty dish either.

Look at 1st Corinthians 6:18-20 which continues the thought:
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Scripture does call sexual sin different, worse than other kinds of sin.

The “vessel” Paul talks about in 1st Thessalonians 4:4 is your own body, that husk that houses you, that temporary tent you live in on earth. You need to learn to control your own fleshly desires – those bodily urges that are so powerful. The lusts of the flesh Scripture calls them. You are not at the mercy of your lusts, do you hear me? Repeat: You are not at the mercy of your lusts. No one that commits adultery can ever claim, “I couldn’t help myself.” That’s a bunch of hogwash. Scripture says you can, and you must. There is no excuse. You must exhibit self-control. You must be the master of your body and its desires. You must if you expect to please God.

Romans 6:12-13 address this quite convincingly:
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members (your body parts) as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Don’t do it! Don’t let your body sin! That’s the message of Scripture. You’re supposed to have control over your body. There is no excuse allowed. The devil didn’t make you do it. You weren’t tricked into it. You wanted to do it, and you wouldn’t say, “No!” God doesn’t accept excuses, and neither will your spouse. Oh, God forgives, and your spouse might, but your lack of self-control can destroy so very much that can never be rebuilt – your trust, your happy home, or two, your health, and your reputation. So don’t do it! And, listen to me, that includes with your eyes, men.

You know what Jesus said in Mathew 5:27-28:
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
That kind of describes what happens when someone looks at pornography, doesn’t it? Or lets their eyes linger too long at a woman walking by. You are already guilty in their heart because of the desire spawned there.

And Jesus talks about just how serious that is in the next verse of the Sermon on the Mount, Mathew 5:29:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

You’re better off plucking out your eye, Jesus says, than to use your eye to sin by ogling women for your illicit sexual enjoyment. So don’t do it. For men, who are stimulated through their eyes, looking leads to lust and lust to sexual sin. That’s why we try to train our boys to avert their eyes when around immodest women, or look away from inappropriate scenes.

How much better to do what Job did in Job 31:1?
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” He made a covenant not to lust with his eyes. Or, Psalm 101:3, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” You’ve got to set up some boundaries, some barriers you will not cross.

Sometimes the only solution is to flee:
1st Corinthians 6:15-18
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? (That’s sexual sin) Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (The solution?)
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Do you see how important this is? Sexual sin is not a light matter. Don’t ever flirt around the edges, or see how far you can go without crossing the line. You will lose that battle with temptation. You must “flee” – get those feet a running. Turn off the TV, make sure there are filters on the internet, avert your eyes. We should strive to be utterly separate from immorality. This is the way we please God. Is it easy? NO! A thousand times NO! But is it necessary? Yes! A thousand times YES! And this is a battle you can win.

You just have to consider yourself dead to these sins. Paul told the Colossian church:
Colossians 3:3-5
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
But now here is a different track. Actually, God gave a great answer to the question, how can a man “abstain from sexual immorality?” The answer is: Get married!
1st Corinthians 7:1-2
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
(Why? Because women are stimulated by touch, men by sight. And Paul urged singleness b3ecauaswe of the rampant persecution in his day. You didn’t need to be tied down with worry about a family.)
2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
There is the answer.

Now look down at 1st Corinthians 7:9
“But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Look at what this says: Marriage is a legitimate outlet for sexual passion. If you have sexual desires, that’s OK. That’s the way God wired us, as sexual beings. And God gave us a legitimate way to satisfy those sexual desires – within marriage - a fully God-ordained, God-blessed outlet.

Maybe it’s time to pause and set something straight right now. The issue we are talking about isn’t sex, but illicit sex, illegal sex. Sex is God’s invention, right? Part of His creation? And He meant it for good. Therefore sex is a good thing, a precious thing. God designed it as a pleasurable way to procreate the race and a powerful means of bonding married couples together. God intended sex to be a blessed and holy experience - inside marriage. Outside marriage, sex is prohibited; but inside marriage, sex is holy.

Why? Not because sex is so bad, but because it is so good and so powerful. Something that powerful needs to be contained, controlled. It is like a nuclear reaction. When controlled it can light up a city, but uncontrolled it can totally level a city with a massive boom. So sex is good, but it needs to be protected, guarded, so it remains untarnished. We do a great disservice to our daughters when we tell them, “Sex is evil, dirty, and disgusting, and you need to save it for your husband.” No! We should tell them, “Sex is so wonderful and such a precious treasure, it must be protected for your husband.”

Sex is God’s blessing on us. Gary Thomas said in Sacred Marriage, “The reason it feels good is because God designed it so.” And one part of the God designed female anatomy, the clitoris, has no other function than sexual pleasure. So don’t ever think God is a prude, since He created it. So, Yes, God endorses marital physical love.

Betsy Ricucci writes:
“Within the context of covenant love and mutual service, no amount of passion is excessive. Scripture says our sexual intimacy should be exhilarating (She than refers to Proverbs 5:19 – which we’ll read in a moment). . . Believe it or not, we glorify God by cultivating a sexual desire for our husbands by welcoming their sexual desire for us.”
Yes, marital sex is God honoring. Hebrews 13:4 teaches: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

Outside marriage? No! It is sin! Inside marriage? Yes! It is blessed! And we have complete freedom to enjoy our spouse’s bodies. Lots of Christians even pray together while making love, and about their love making because they want God to be a part of it. And why shouldn’t He be? So this passage is entirely aimed at illicit sex. In many ways the Bible is a very sexual book, and it is a passionate cheerleader of a fulfilling sex life in marriage.

For instance: Proverbs 5:18-20
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
And always be enraptured with her love.
20 For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman,
And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?
The N.A.S. translates the end of verse 19 this way: “Be exhilarated always with her love.” How is that for a Scriptural command? Why should any man want an affair if he had a loving, willing wife? He can “rejoice (Find great joy) with the wife of [his] youth.” Yes, even when they are old. Why should he ever want to go elsewhere when he can have the best right in his own home?

This is a very sexual passage. But, this isn’t talking about having a breast fetish, since it is set against the taboo of being “embraced in the arms of a seductress.” This is talking about enjoying those intimate times with your spouse, about “rejoicing” in them. This is a God ordained guard against sexual unfaithfulness, a hedge against sexual immorality.

But, what if a married man has those God given urges, but nearly every night, the wife puts up a “No Trespassing” sign? She leaves him a frustrated bundle of sexual energy ready to explode, and leaves him tremendously susceptible to an affair or the temptation of pornography. What can he do when the God ordained solution is deprived of him? And since she’s the only legitimate outlet for his sexual energy, this is a total shutdown. It leaves a Christian man no recourse.

The whole world, it seems to him, is offering him sexual temptation. Titillating images are everywhere, on TV, magazines, internet, and yes, even the grocery checkout, but the one and only legitimate outlet for his desire is denied him.

Yet, so many wives use the withholding of sex as a weapon to punish their husband, or to manipulate him. “I have what you want, and you’re not going to get it. So there!” They either offer sex as a reward for proper behavior, withhold it as punishment for bad behavior, or use it as a tool to manipulate their husband into getting what they want. And it is definitely a great tool in a tyrant’s arsenal. But I wonder how many wives really understand the damage they are doing to their relationships, or if they care?

Jill Renich writes:
“A wife may demonstrate her love in immutable other ways, but it is often negated by her rejection or lack of enjoyment of sex. You may be a great housekeeper, a gourmet cook, a wonderful mother to your husband’s children, but if you turn him down consistently in the bedroom, oftentimes those things will be negated. To a man, sex is the most meaningful declaration of love and self-worth.”
If you shut down your husband in bed, it crushes his sex worth. Why would a wife want to do that to her husband when the benefits to her man are so great both to his emotional and physical health?

Gary Thomas writes in Sacred Marriage:
“A man who is passionate about his wife can be passionate about justice, God’s kingdom, about his own children, about the environment. On the flip side, if he is facing serious sexual problems in his marriage, a feeling of frustration and a certain despondency is liable to settle like a cloud over his work, his faith, and his fellowship. He is likely to become selfishly preoccupied and self-absorbed.”
Do you see? It has far reaching consequences within him. Many wives don’t have a clue what they are doing with their nightly headaches and their cold shoulders. And when you throw in the positive effects of oxytocin – called the bonding hormone – that is released during sex that makes a man feel so contentedly in love and bonded to his wife, it sounds like a win-win to both of them.

I remember hearing about a young wife telling an older widow how she shuts down her husband regularly as punishment, and the older widow responded, “Honey, why would you do that? It makes him so happy and it takes so little time.” She is right

But this is also Scriptural:
1st Corinthians 7:3-5
3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 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. 5 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.
This isn’t a legalistic thing. No man should ever demand anything from his wife, or she from him. But this a mutual giving of themselves to each other. We offer our selves, and our bodies, to our spouse as a gift of love. It’s not about taking, but about giving. Otto Piper said that marriage should be “a reciprocal willingness of two persons to assume responsibility for each other.”

He is absolutely right. All of marriage is based on the giving of agape love, he sacrificial love that gives, not takes. In marriage, we are to give our bodies, with no reservations, to the other to enjoy. This is a mutual serving, a mutual giving, that lines up perfectly with Philippians 2:3-4:
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Marriage is a gift of yourself to your spouse. The husband must be most concerned, not about getting his own relief, but about giving his wife pleasure; and she should be most concerned about pleasing her husband. This is Biblical.

In spite of their stuffy reputation, the Puritans got this. The Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter wrote that a husband and wife should “take delight” in the love and company and conversation of each other. Then he added: “Keep your conjugal love in a constant heat and vigor.” In other words, keep your sex hot and steamy. Does that sound Puritanical?

Here is another example: The Anglican Prayer Book had as part of the wedding rites this phrase for the bride to repeat to her groom: “With my body, I thee worship.” She would worship her husband by presenting her body to him with no reservations. Now, no selfish-pig of a husband should demand anything from his wife, but she was to present this sacrifice of love to him - her body as his own precious possession.

Working together, you can “abstain from sexual immorality.”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Putting Up Road Blocks to Our Prayers

We have been talking about intimacy in marriage, particularly how to get it and keep it. We have been using 1st Peter 3:7 as our guide. That portion on intimacy concludes with these words, “As being heirs together of the grace of life.” This brings out the biggest hindrance to intimacy.

Who do you marry? The answer is: you marry a sinner. Hopefully, a sinner saved by grace, but you still marry a sinner. Hey, there’s nobody else to marry. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sinners are all we get to pick from.

But in those heady days of romance, we often forget that fact. But as things settle down, and as we try to make a life together, that fact always rears its ugly head. Things start to go wrong between us, and we wonder why. The answer is: things went wrong back in the Garden of Eden, and we are still paying the price. The price is that we all inherited a sinful nature. So you married a sinner. Recognize that fact and accept it, because your spouse did too.

Since you two sinners are now together bound by your marriage covenant, it is guaranteed that hurts, wrongs, and frustrations will come. You will say mean and hurtful things to each other. You will neglect and misunderstand each other. You must learn to apologize and forgive. What you need to learn is grace – grace to overlook the hurts and continue loving.

Sue Teasdale writes in her poem, Appraisal,

“Never think she loves him wholly,
Never believe her love is blind,
All his faults are locked securely
In a closet of her mind;
All his indecisions folded
Like old flags that time has faded,
Limp and streaked with rain,
And his cautiousness like garments
Frayed and thin, with many a stain –
Let them be, oh let them be.
There is treasure to outweigh them."
That is what grace does. It is not blind to faults, but it lets them be. Grace is the only way to survive. Like God who knows our faults intimately, we must love anyway. And we must constantly forgive. Forgiveness is the surest route to intimacy.

Why is forgiveness necessary? The last part of 1st Peter 3:7 says, “That your prayers may not be hindered.” Why should we dwell with, understand, and honor our wives? Because our prayer life depends on it. When we don’t, our prayers are hindered. As Steve Chapman wrote, “If you leave a hurt in the heart of your woman, God will not hear your prayer.”

The term,” hindered,” was a military term. It was used of an army putting road blocks in the way of an advancing enemy. They would cut down trees across the road or roll rocks into it. They would destroy bridges, or dig ditches across the road. They would do whatever they could to stop the advancing troops. In the same way, ignoring those areas in our marriage that hinder intimacy puts a roadblock between you and God. Why? Because to not treat your wife right is a sin, and sin breaks fellowship. God said in Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”

Maybe that is why so many of us have prayer lives that are anemic. When our prayer are powerless, seemingly unanswered and bouncing off the ceiling, we tend to give up praying. But that isn’t the answer. Jeremiah 10:25 says, “Pour out Thy fury. . . upon the households that call not upon Thy name.” God will judge a prayer-less home. To stop praying only compounds the sin. How much better to deal with the problem? The problem may well be with your relationship with your wife. Maybe we all need to get our act together and get our marriages right.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Giving Honor to Your Wife

As we’ve talked about developing intimacy within our marriage, we’ve talked about 1st Peter 3:7. Part of that verses tells us, “Giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel.” What does honor mean? It means to elevate her, to put her on a pedestal, to admire her, love her, and respect her. Intimacy can only occur in an atmosphere or an environment where the wife is honored.

Why should the husband honor his wife? Because she is the “weaker vessel.” Weaker in what way? People don’t seem to know or understand. Is she morally weaker? Spiritually weaker? Intellectually weaker? No! Of course not! She is physically weaker. Her body is not built with as much strength. Nearly any husband can whip his wife in an arm wrestling contest and pump more iron. Men are generally bigger and bulkier. This doesn’t mean that a man’s wife isn’t physically strong in some ways. There probably isn’t a man alive who could endure the pain of childbirth, but women can. That’s great strength. But men are generally physically stronger than their wives, so that lends itself to assuming some roles for the husband. This is why Scripture assigns the roles of provider and protector to the husband.

By calling the wife a “vessel,” Peter used a Greek word for a vase, or “vahse” if it is really expensive. A vase is a lovely receptacle to keep precious things in – like a bouquet of beautiful roses. When you move, you pack your vases carefully and mark them “Fragile – handle with care,” because they are breakable. A fine china vase isn’t as strong as a sledge hammer, but it is usually a lot more valuable.

The Greek word for vessel also gives us the word, “vest.” A vest is an outer garment covering the body, hence the word speaks of our bodies. Peter is calling on us men to give honor to our wives because they have weaker bodies. To give her honor means to assign her honor. It means to grant it to her because she is not as strong as we are and can’t demand it. We willingly treat her like a precious treasure.

This involves chivalry. What ever happened to chivalry nowadays – a chivalry that was once so common? Men used to open doors for women, and give up their seats for them. And chivalry involves treating her with respect. If any of you men ever make derogatory remarks about your wife in public, calling her “the old ball and chain,” or “the old lady,” somebody ought to hit you up alongside the head with a baseball bat to knock some sense in you. I wouldn’t do it, but that’s what you would deserve. We are called on by God to honor our wives, not belittle them.

But not only does honor involve chivalry, it also involves care and support. The husband is to be the protector and provider. But isn’t that why we are called husbands? The word, “husband,” in the verb form means to keep carefully. A husbandman would tend the crops. John 15:1 quotes Jesus as saying, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman.” The husbandman nurtured and cared for the precious vines so they could thrive. The husband must do that for his bride. He must care for and tend to her needs.

Ray Ortland wrote:

“’To husband’ means to watch her as you would a flowering plant. It means to stake that plant so she is supported and can thrive beautifully. That’s what being a husband means.”
The husband is to honor his wife in this way.

Matthew Henry wrote this concerning our wives,

“Giving due respect to her, and maintaining her authority, protecting her person, supporting her credit, delighting in her conversation, affording her a handsome maintenance, and placing due trust and confidence in her.”
The wife is to be granted an honored position. The husband must elevate her to that position by figuratively putting her on a pedestal where he can admire and respect her. When she abandons that place of honor, she doesn’t go up, but down. Intimacy within a marriage depends upon this kind of honor bestowed upon the wife.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Intimacy in the Bed Room

We ended last time talking about 1st Peter 3:7, which says, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding.” It is our wives we are to dwell with. And we talked about making a study of our wives.

But the King James Version brings out another connotation. The King James translates this as dwell with them “according to knowledge.” This makes us think sexual. Genesis 4:1 stated, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived.” When this verse says “Adam knew Eve,” it didn’t mean he knew her name or her shoe size. That’s not the way babies are conceived. Intimacy in marriage also involves sexual intimacy.

Aha, some of you are getting ideas. Victoria Secrets lingerie, soft music, candlelight and roses. Get the manuals that instruct you the various positions that take an acrobat or yoga instructor to get into. Well, that isn’t the way it works in most homes.

Most married couples, after a few years, have acquired a kid or two. They have put on the pounds, and suffer from varicose veins. By the time the kids are in bed, both are too tired to perform at the pinnacle of excitement. Romance maybe happens on Valentine’s Day or your anniversary, but it’s not part of the regular routine. Yet, normal married couples actually have a more satisfying sex life than those trying to emulate the movies. Why? It is because intimacy comes from knowledge, not mystery.

Proverbs 5, set in the midst of many warnings not to play with fire by dabbling in sex outside of marriage, tells us to be satisfied with our wives. Writing of the wife, Proverbs 5:18-19 say:

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breast satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love.”
Even an older woman (still the “wife of your youth”), can compete quite successfully on those terms. As the New International Version says, he is “captivated by her love.” Wives don’t need to dress like prostitutes or act like actresses in X-rated movies. They only need to respond to one another in love, freely giving themselves to one another.

Only within the bounds of true marital love can two people relax and be comfortable with one another, to be un-inhibited in their love-making as Adam and Eve were in Genesis 2:25, which says, “And they were both naked. . . and were not ashamed.” That kind of total intimacy is possible, proper, and God’s intention within a marriage; but it can only grow out of love.

But it takes love PLUS time. Are you taking the time to understand your wife?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Time and Consideration - Key Ingredients to Intimacy

Do you know what the key ingredient is to an intimate marriage? That key ingredient is time. Unfortunately, that is the one thing we are least willing to invest. A recent survey revealed that the average husband and wife spend an average of thirty seven minutes per week in actual communication, meaning real conversation. That wouldn’t sound like much for a single day, let alone a week. For a man, a grunt from behind a newspaper takes less than a second. That doesn’t add up very fast, nor does it do much to increase intimacy. Nor does time spent in front of the TV mesmerized by the flashing lights count as quality time.

Is it any wonder so many marriages fall apart when the kids leave home? The couple find themselves married to a total stranger. They wake up alone one morning in a quiet and an empty house as a couple of old people, and they look across the bed at the other, and they want to ask, “Who are you? I don’t know you.” It is amazing that two people can live together for years, decades even, without ever really knowing each other. Yet it is probably the most common scenario – two people sharing a name and a home, but little else. What a shame.

Warren Wiersbe says,

“In my marital counselling, I often gave the couple a pad of paper and asked them to write down the three things each one thinks the other enjoys doing the most. Usually the wife made her list immediately. The man would sit and ponder. And usually the wife was right, and the husband was wrong.”

Those husbands totally missed the idea of 1st Peter 3:7, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding.”

Quoting Chuck Swindall:

“Many a wife is lonely for her husband to sense and minister to her inner spirit. To give her his attention and personal presence. She waits to be noticed, to be appreciated, to be given time to share, and in return hear her husband respond with the newspaper laid aside, with the television off, with the whole evening available. Men, maybe it will help to motivate you if you face the fact that a continually absent husband is a major cause for illicit affairs among wives. And often with men who will simply give them time and attention. Wake up, husbands!”

Let me repeat his last words, WAKE UP, HUSBANDS! Your wives need you. Give them the time.

James Henry Jowett, in defining the phrase, “dwell according to knowledge,” writes this:

“We may grasp its content by proclaiming its opposite. ‘Dwell with your wives according to ignorance. Just walk in blindness. Don’t look beyond your own desires. Let your vision be entirely introspective and microscopic. Never exercise your eyes in clear and comprehensive outlook. Dwell in ignorance.’”
Does that describe your marriage? How sad. That attitude has killed too many marriages.

Another slant to that phrase is given by the New International Version. It translates the phrase, “Be considerate as you live with your wives.” In other words, be sensitive to her deepest physical and emotional needs. Isn’t that good advice? Consideration, courtesy – these are the oils to lubricate a relationship. But why is it so hard to do at home?

In an old “Life Magazine” article, it reported:

“The business man gives service with a smile: he is deferential to his boss, his customers and usually even to his underlings. Women are polite to their neighbors and to door-to-door salesmen. Hardly a voice is raised in anger except behind the closed doors of the home. As the outside world becomes more and more constrained, more and more people seem to feel the home is the last remaining place where they can quit kidding and be their own ornery selves. The bride and the groom who have been standing so patiently in the reception line, smiling sweetly at people they hardly know (and some people they know and don’t like), can seem ornery indeed to each other when they get home and let their hair down.”

This is backwards. Of course we need to be kind and considerate out in the workforce and marketplaces of life. Consideration is necessary in every social encounter. But isn’t the home the most important place to exercise consideration? We must learn to be considerate at home if we want to develop intimacy within our homes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Intimacy in Marriage - Dwelling Together With Understanding

If we are expected to have an intimate relationship with our spouse, does Scripture give us help? Of course! And to answer that, I want to look at just one verse – 1st Peter 3:7 – which states:
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them (our wives) with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Wait a minute! Why is this addressed to just husbands? Isn’t marriage a joint venture? Yes! Is it solely the husband’s responsibility? No! But wives just seem to do this intimacy stuff more naturally than us guys. God wired them that way, while something must have short-circuited in us guys. But more than that, it is primarily the husband’s responsibility since God left us on charge.

As in so many areas in the home, the husband must be the thermostat setting the emotional and spiritual temperature. The wife is the thermometer letting the husbands know what the temperature is. Men, have you ever noticed things getting a little chilly in your relationship with your wife? That’s your wife acting as the thermometer letting you know the intimacy has cooled down. It’s time to turn up the heat. So both the thermostat and thermometer are necessary.

What are the husbands to do? From 1st Peter 3:7, they are to “dwell with them with understanding.” Dwell with them? Doesn’t that mean” Live with them? That’s easy. We already do. We get our mail in the same mail box, and we eat at the same table. We even share the same bedroom. How’s that for intimacy?

Ah, but the term means more – oh, so much more. In its Greek usage, it means to be completely at home. In other words, home is priority number one.

What is most important to you, husbands? Is it your career? Is it your bank account? Some of you who are Christians will say that God is your highest priority, but then what? If it is not your wife and your family, you have the wrong priority.

How many Christians are there, Mission Boards even, that get it wrong. They so often think families are expendable. Send the kids away to boarding school so they don’t interfere with your work. That’s wrong!

Howard Hendricks used to do something in his classes at Dallas Seminary. He would say, “Gentlemen, your family is not vital to your ministry.” Then he would pause for a few moments before he ended, “Your family is your ministry.”

That is illustrated in the qualifications for elders/pastors in 1st Timothy 3:4-5, when it declares an elder is:

“one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).”

Rule? I like the New International Version translation better, which substitutes the word “manage.” To “rule” the home in Scripture means to lead it. Men are to lead their homes, not to Lord it over their families. We are not to be despots. But it does show where the responsibility lies – it lies with the husband.

But this is intimately related to the next phrase from 1st Peter 3:7, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them (our wives) with understanding.” Or, as the King James Version puts it, “according to knowledge.” Men, this is the truth – the success of your dwelling with your wife will be in direct proportion to your knowledge (your understanding) of your wife. And I don’t mean to be insulting, but let’s face it, most of us men are blockheads when it comes to understanding our wives.

Do you know your wife? Do you know her fears, cares, dreams, and expectations? Can you read her moods? Do you know her inside and out? Are you a student of your wife? Do you study her to know her better? That’s what we men must do, we must make a study of our wives in order to live with them with understanding.

Men, marriage is too rewarding to let it be static. You will eventually fail if you simply float down stream. Marriages must grow. And yours can, yours will, if you do the hard work. The first years might seem wonderful, but as a decade goes by, love only grows, until as elderly people married for fifty years, it only keeps getting better. You can be closer, more intimate, and more in love on your fiftieth anniversary than you were on your first. That is, if you continually work at it.