Blog

Complementarianism Versus Egalitarianism

What is complementarianism? Egalitarianism? Is one biblical? Unbiblical? Read on!

God created Eve because He wanted Adam to have “a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). The Hebrew word for “comparable” is neged. Other translations say:

  • NASB & NIV—“suitable for him”
  • ESV—“fit for him”
  • HCSB—“his complement”

The literal translation actually means “opposite or contrasting.” Men and women were designed to fit in all ways. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. When a husband and wife become one flesh at their wedding, they perfectly complement each other. Together, they become something stronger and more magnificent than they could be alone. The strengths of each compensate for the weaknesses of the other:

  • When a husband thinks about his wife, he should see her as God’s suitable companion for him.
  • When a wife thinks about her husband, she should see herself as God’s perfect fit for him.

We should give thanks to God for His wonderful design and do everything we can to fulfill the roles He has given us as husband and wife. One of the best ways to do this is by embracing the different roles and responsibilities He gave men and women.

What is egalitarianism?

Egalitarianism is the rejection of the different roles and responsibilities. Egalitarians believe God does not have separate and distinct plans for men and women. They see them interchangeably. Homosexual marriage, transgenderism, and bisexuality are simply extreme forms of egalitarianism.

The Scripture most cited by egalitarians is Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Using the verse to support egalitarianism takes it out of context because it deals with salvation. Everyone, whether Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, or female is saved by grace through faith apart from the law and works (Galatians 3:1–25). If Paul were saying men and women are identical in terms of responsibilities, he would be contradicting numerous Scriptures he wrote outlining the differences between the genders. Continue reading “Complementarianism Versus Egalitarianism”

Eve created from Adam: 4 fascinating points

We are so familiar with the creation of Eve that it’s easy to miss the importance of some details. If we approach the account as though it’s our first time reading it, a number of significant points arise…

1. Eve wasn’t created “out of the ground”

One recurring theme has been God’s creation of living things from ordinary dirt:

  • Genesis 2:7—And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
  • Genesis 2:9—And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow.
  • Genesis 2:19—Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air.

With this repetition, we would expect to read: “The Lord God formed woman of the dust of the ground, and breathed into her nostrils the breath of life; and woman became a living being.” Instead, Genesis 2:21–23 says:

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

In being fashioned from Adam, Eve has the unique distinction of being the only part of creation not created out of the ground. Since Adam was created in the image and likeness of God, Eve was just as wonderfully created in the image and likeness of God. Also, while God created woman from man, He brought forth every other human being since Eve from woman. 1 Corinthians 11:8–9, 11–12 records:

For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man . . . Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman.

2. Eve was created from Adam’s own DNA

Continue reading “Eve created from Adam: 4 fascinating points”

Don’t confuse discipline and trials

A woman wrote me about a miscarriage she experienced. She asked if she was being punished. It was heartbreaking. Miscarriages are painful enough without having to wonder if God is upset with you.

We experience trials because we live in a fallen world

Trials take place as long as we’re on this side of heaven, but they’re not our fault. Why does God allow them? He uses them to:

  • Mature us: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4; see also Romans 5:3–5).
  • Strengthen our faith: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6–7).

As I look back at trials I’ve experienced, they were painful, but I’m thankful for them. God used them for my benefit.

We experience discipline because we sinned

Hebrews 12:5­–6 records:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

God punishes us when we sin. He wants to produce fruit and righteousness in our lives. While this doesn’t feel good, we should embrace the chastening, understanding God is doing something worthwhile. The author of Hebrews goes on to say in verses 11–13: Continue reading “Don’t confuse discipline and trials”

4 ways God established a husband’s headship at creation

Twice the apostle Paul stated the headship of a husband:

  • 1 Corinthians 11:3—But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
  • Ephesians 5:23—For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

Although these verses are found in the New Testament, a husband’s headship didn’t have its beginning under the New Covenant. Neither does male headship have its beginning in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant. It doesn’t even have its beginning at the fall.

Male headship began at creation itself

Understanding this is important, because if we think headship began after the fall, then it becomes part of sin’s curse. If we see headship beginning at creation, we understand it is part of God’s natural, healthy, divine plan for husbands and wives.

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and the rest of Genesis 1 gives an overview of all six days of creation. God created man and woman on the sixth day. Then, in Genesis 2:7–25, God zooms in on the creation of Adam and Eve since mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. It is in this account that God established man’s headship.

1. God established Adam’s headship by creating him first

Continue reading “4 ways God established a husband’s headship at creation”

Handling Marriage Problems

Our marriage “problems” are only symptoms of the actual problem in our relationships with Christ. In my own marriage, for instance, the “problem” looked like I did not have enough time for my wife and children, but that was only a symptom. The problem was that I would not obey the Holy Spirit’s conviction to put my family ahead of the church, make my wife a priority, spend more time with my children, etc. Plus, I was being consumed with anxiety, versus trusting Christ like I should have. In other words, the marriage problems I was experiencing were directly connected to my relationship with Christ.

A couple’s marriage problems can only be fixed by focusing on their relationships with the Lord

This is why any biblical marriage counseling must address the husband and wife’s relationship with Christ. Couples I counsel are often confused when they share marriage problems they are experiencing and I respond by asking:

  • “What does your time in God’s Word look like?”
  • “How is your prayer life?”
  • “Tell me about your involvement in the church?”

A wife will say, “I just told you my husband yells at me. Why are you talking about his time in the Word?” Because the hope is that as a husband reads God’s Word he will become convicted of his sin and repent. He will become a more patient and loving leader. I do not have the power to change a husband’s heart (and apparently neither does a wife or there would be no need for counseling). A husband can only become a new man through a relationship with Christ.

Likewise, a husband will respond, “I just told you how my wife humiliates me in front of our friends. Why would you mention joining a small group?” Because other believers can provide accountability, vulnerability, and transparency. You can learn from others and be challenged by their examples. When you are not involved in the body of Christ, you will not receive the encouragement and exhortation God wants you to have. You will feel alone, as though you are the only couple having these problems. You will not have anyone in your life through whom God can regularly speak to you. We are made to have fellowship with other believers, and when we do not have it, that lack manifests itself in other areas, including our marriages.

Two situations I have witnessed a number of times…

A husband and wife are having marriage problems. They submit to Christ, and soon their marriage problems improve. Why? Did their difficulties simply disappear? No, those difficulties had been symptoms of the real problem—Christ was not supreme in their lives. When they put Christ first, the marriage problems were shown only to be symptoms.

Conversely, I have seen a couple plugged into church. The husband and wife pray and read the Word together. They are doing well spiritually, and their marriage is healthy. Then, for various reasons, they:

  • Get distracted from the Lord and their priorities shift
  • Start wavering in church attendance and spiritual disciplines
  • Fall out of fellowship

Soon their marriage suffers. Why? Their relationship with Christ was suffering.

So remember: Marriage “problems” are really only symptoms—or negative consequences—of not having Christ as the focal point in the marital relationship. If couples want a strong, healthy marriage, they need a strong, healthy relationship with Christ. When a couple’s relationship with Christ is weak and unhealthy, the marriage will be weak and unhealthy.

Handle marriage problems with these three encouragements

If we’re going to have healthy, joyful relationships, we have to learn to handle marriage problems that inevitably arise. These frustrations can actually increase as we become  more familiar with the Bible!  Since the standard set by God’s Word is so high:

  • A husband could easily become frustrated that his wife is not more respectful or submissive as God’s Word commands.
  • A wife could as easily become frustrated that her husband does not cherish her or provide the spiritual leadership God’s Word commands.

This is illustrated by a situation that took place years ago when I was teaching on marriage. While talking about husbands loving their wives, a woman stood up in front of everyone and criticized her husband for the way he mistreated her. I could have interrupted and said, “Can we pray for you two?” or “Why don’t we talk about this after the study?” Instead, I was caught so off guard that I did the worst thing possible—nothing! I simply stood there with my jaw dropped while the angry wife finished berating her husband. After that I decided it was important to give people encouragement for handling marriage problems…

First, handle marriage problems by remembering your own weaknesses.

Instead of keeping a mental account of all that your spouse does wrong, remind yourself of your own struggles. Instead of focusing on your spouse’s failures, focus on your own. We all have plenty of weaknesses to work on without obsessing over the weaknesses of our spouses. When we start to feel frustrated toward our spouse, we should think back about the ways we’ve failed. This will humble us and diffuse the frustration we’re feeling.

Second, handle marriage problems by thinking of ways to help your spouse grow.

The Bible is not split into one section for husbands and another for wives. The passages on marriage, such as Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7, contain intertwined exhortations for both spouses. This encourages a husband to be familiar with the instruction for his wife, and a wife to be familiar with the instruction for her husband. If a husband knows what is expected of his wife, and a wife knows what is expected of her husband, they can help each other fulfill their biblical responsibilities. We should ask ourselves:

  • How can I help my spouse be a better husband or wife?
  • How can I encourage my spouse to fulfill the role God has given him or her?
  • Is there anything I can do that will make being married to me easier?

If you cannot think of any answers to the last question, you are not thinking hard enough!

Third, handle marriage problems by turning them into prayer.

Take any feelings of hurt, betrayal, or disappointment, and pray that God will help your spouse grow in the area that is upsetting you. Pray also for God to help you be as forgiving and gracious as necessary. When it comes to our spouses, we far more likely to complain, gossip, yell, threaten, pout, or ignore than pray. If we would spend as much time praying for our spouses as we do on these other things, our marriages would be much better. Instead of focusing on:

  • What your spouse does wrong
  • How you shouldn’t be treated the way you’re being treated
  • How you deserve better

Every time you start to feel frustrated, pray for your spouse.

Why you should actually embrace marriage problems!

Have you ever considered that tension in your relationship can be a good thing? Often God is introducing areas that need to be improved. He wants you to embrace these marriage struggles. The best way to do this is by asking each other tough questions:

  • A husband might say, “Outside of the Lord Himself, do you feel like you are taking second place to anything in my life?”
  • A wife might ask, “Do you feel like I respect you?”

Then there are right and wrong ways to respond to these questions:

  • Imagine a wife answers that she does not feel that she is the supreme relationship in her husband’s life. He should not try to talk her out of the way she feels or persuade her to see things differently. This will make her feel even more misunderstood.
  • Imagine a husband answers that his wife makes him feel disrespected. She should not argue with him and try to convince him he is wrong. This will make him feel even more disrespected.

Instead, each spouse should listen to the other, apologize the right way, and try to make the appropriate changes. When couples ask each other these difficult questions, they should expect some painful discussions. That’s great.

A helpful way to view marriage struggles…

Some years ago I hurt my lower back. It’s a recurring injury that reminds me I’m getting older, so I returned to the chiropractor. If you have ever been to a chiropractor, you know they can be pretty forceful. There’s pushing, twisting, snapping, and popping. Sometimes you’re left feeling sore, but this is supposed to happen. That is how the chiropractor makes adjustments and straightens things out.

What if you went to the chiropractor and all he did was rub your shoulders, pat your back, and tell you everything looked fine? Maybe after that, he sat next to you and asked how your day was going. How would you react? I know how I would react: “This is not why I came here. I know if you are going to help me, you are going to have to apply some pressure and do some pushing and pulling. There is going to be some tension. There will even be a little soreness afterward.”

Likewise, if we are going to embrace our marriage struggles, there will be some discomfort. There is going to be some struggle and frustration. We should not be alarmed, because this is part of the natural healing and strengthening process as God works in our relationships.

What is the alternative to embracing your marriage struggles?

Be lazy. That’s the simple answer. Choose not to:

  • Ask each other the tough questions
  • Talk about the tough issues
  • Take your marriage seriously
  • Improve as a husband, a wife, or a Christian

If you avoid discussing your marriage struggles, it’s true that you won’t have any tough issues with which to wrestle. But you will not grow either, and your marriage will not be strengthened. Even if you avoid the difficult discussions and the discomfort that accompanies your marriage struggles now, you will more than likely experience even tougher, more painful situations later.

So I want to encourage you to embrace your marriage struggles because of what they can produce. Romans 5:3–4 says:

We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope.

Glory in the problems you are having, knowing that they are producing something good as you, your spouse, and your marriage are refined!

Discussion questions for husbands and wives:

  • What marriage problems are “recurring injuries” for your and your spouse? In other words, what problems or conflicts do you continue to experience that need to be embraced so they can be “straightened out”?
  • Why should you expect discomfort as you and your spouse discuss your marriage struggles?
  • In what ways can this discomfort be beneficial?
  • Why do marriage passages, such as Ephesians 5:22–33 and 1 Peter 3:1–7, intertwine instructions for both spouses? In other words, why should husbands and wives be familiar with Scripture’s commands for their spouses?
  • After looking at the verses above, what things do you struggle with that are preventing you from fulfilling your role in marriage?
  • How can you encourage your spouse to fulfill the role God has given him or her? Provide three examples:
  • What can you do to make being married to you easier? Provide three examples:
  • How will you pray for your marriage differently?
  • While remembering to focus on yourself, if a “marriage doctor” were to examine your marriage, what are three “symptoms” he would observe?
  • What does your time in God’s Word look like? If you are unsatisfied with your answer, what changes should you make?
  • Are you involved in a church? Notice the question is not, “Do you go to church?” Or “Are you a member of a church?”
    • If you are involved in a church, in what ways do you share the marital challenges you are experiencing so God can use your church family to help you?
    • If you are not involved in a church, what changes need to be made so you can be active and involved?

Marriage God's Way bundle—1 book and 2 workbooksNOTE: Most of this post is from Marriage God’s Way and the Marriage God’s Way Workbook.  Save %30 and purchase the bundle—one book and two workbooks!

3 Blessings When Choosing God Over Family

There aren’t many situations for Christians more difficult than those involving choosing God over family. Consider the following:

  • A loved one claims to be a believer but wants to marry an unbeliever. So you’re unable to support the relationship.
  • Family members invite your child to stay with them, but you know they’ll be a negative influence on them. So you have to decline.
  • A relative is living in habitual sin and you have to confront the person.

There are examples in the Old Testament of individuals having to choose God over family members:

  • Moses called for the execution of the individuals responsible for the Golden Calf. This meant some Israelites had to kill their own relatives. Exodus 32:27 says, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”
  • King Asa was one of the greatest reformers in the Old Testament. When he purged the idolatry from the land, he had to punish even his own grandmother. 1 Kings 15:13 records, “[Asa] removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah”

Jesus is the premier teacher and example on this subject…

Continue reading “3 Blessings When Choosing God Over Family”

“What if my husband won’t lead?” 5 recommendations for a wife in this situation!

“My husband won’t lead!”

The command for wives to submit to their husbands is criticized by many non-Christians and even some liberal or egalitarian churches. As a result, you’d think as a pastor I’d regularly hear women saying, “My husband wants me to submit and I hate it.” Instead, the most common complaint I hear from wives is, “My husband won’t lead.”

Here’s part of a message I received recently:

I’m really struggling trying to get my husband to lead. I have tried to encourage him to do so, but I’m at a loss! Taking the initiative is what I want him to do, but he won’t. I have your workbook, but he won’t go over the questions with me. Short of reminding him again and again and feeling like I’m nagging him – which I hate doing and have tried really hard not to do – how do I get him to step up?

Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…

Unfortunately, there’s no answer that guarantees a husband will grow in this area. Although I provide the following recommendations, I can’t assure a wife that her husband will be different in the future. For any single ladies, this is one thing to keep in mind before saying, “I do.”

Here are the recommendations I’d give a wife whose husband won’t lead…

1. If your husband won’t lead, keep reminding him.

I’ll be the first to say that as husbands we can be oblivious and forgetful at times. God has called you to be your husband’s helper, and this is one of the best ways for you to fulfill that role. The obvious danger is that your reminders turn in to nagging. The woman who sent me the above question said she makes an effort to prevent that from happening. That’s wonderful!

2. If your husband won’t lead, keep inviting him.

Continue reading ““What if my husband won’t lead?” 5 recommendations for a wife in this situation!”

Three Reasons Christianity Is the Opposite of Other Religions

Christianity is the opposite of other religions, and the main difference is contained in a few profound words Abraham spoke to his son, Isaac. Genesis 22:7 and 8:

Isaac said, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

1. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God provided the Sacrifice

For a moment, consider the absurdity of Abraham’s words: “God will provide His own lamb for sacrifice. He will provide what’s necessary to worship Him.”

This doesn’t make sense. Religion is about what man does. At the heart of every religion is an individual providing a sacrifice. That’s what makes it worship. A sacrifice that doesn’t involve any sacrifice isn’t really be a sacrifice. Yet God can be worshiped even though He provided the sacrifice.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Abraham prophetically said God would provide the Lamb for Himself. John the Baptist saw Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

2. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God did the work

In other works-based religions, even those that claim to be Christian, people do the work. But in Christianity God has done the work. This doesn’t just make Christianity different than other religions. This is why Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The Tower of Babel was the first organized rebellion against God. It also serves as a good picture of all false, works-based religions. The people said, “Come, let us build a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:3).

  • Other religions are about man reaching up to God. The people say, “Let us…”
  • Christianity is about God reaching down to man. God says, “I will…”

God did this so dramatically He actually became a Man in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul explained it like this in Philippians 2:6-8:

Though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

3. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God did the propitiating

Propitiation is a gift, offering, or sacrifice meant to turn away the wrath of an offended individual. The closest English words are appeasing, expiating, placating, pacifying, or satisfying. In other religions, the responsibility for propitiating is on man. Although, whenever propitiation is discussed in Scripture, it always discusses what God did for man:

  • Romans 3:25 [Jesus] whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood.
  • Hebrews 2:17 In all things He had to be made like His brethren…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
  • 1 John 2:2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
  • 1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In other religions man puts forth the effort, brings the sacrifice, provides the offering, etc. But in Christianity, like Abraham prophesied, “God provides for Himself the Lamb.” The Lord did what was necessary to turn away His own wrath, by pouring it out on His Son, Jesus Christ.

God provided the only sacrifice that could ever satisfy Him

To go a step further, not only did God provide the sacrifice, He actually became the sacrifice. To tie it back to the typology between Isaac and Jesus, like Isaac was willing to become the sacrifice, Jesus was willing to become the sacrifice. This is why Jesus is called the Lamb OF God. He is the Lamb God provided.

If we made propitiation for our sins:

  • It would be about us showing our love for God.
  • It would allow us to be prideful and take credit for our salvation.

But the way God did it reveals His love for us and leaves Him with all the credit and glory. This is why Christianity is the opposite of other religions. This is why only in biblical Christianity does God receive all the glory and praise. It is not about what what we have done for God. It is about God, and what He has done for us.

Discuss: 

  • Do you often think about what you need to do for God, or do you think about what God has done for you?
  • When you think about what God has done for you, in what ways should that affect your life?

I discussed all of this in greater detail in this sermon: Genesis 22:5-8: A Father’s Love.

The Holy Spirit Will Help Your Marriage

Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage we often feel alone. God’s standard for husbands and wives is so high that we ask, “Who is going to help me obey these commands?” The answer is the Holy Spirit will help you! Two words that summarize what it is like thinking about being the husbands and wives God commands us to be are “intimidating” and “overwhelming.”

  • As a husband, it is intimidating to think of being to your wife what Christ is to the church. If you are not intimidated by it, you do not understand what is expected of you.
  • As a wife, it is overwhelming to think of submitting to your husband as you should to the Lord. If we had to obey God’s commands on our own, we should feel not only overwhelmed or intimidated but completely hopeless. Because of a promise Jesus made us, though, we can feel hopeful.

Jesus told His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). If you have embraced the gospel, then the Holy Spirit lives in you. You are not alone! The Holy Spirit will help you do what God has commanded you to do.

Be filled with the Spirit…so the Holy Spirit will help you!

The first half of Ephesians 5 is about living in the Spirit, and the second half is about marriage. This is fitting because if there is any area of the Christian life in which the Holy Spirit’s help is necessary, it is marriage. In Ephesians 5:18, the apostle Paul states:

Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.

It might sound odd to compare drunkenness with being filled with the Spirit, but we can sum up Paul’s point with the word “influence.” People who are driving drunk are “driving under the influence.” Just as alcohol has the potential to influence, so does the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word for “be filled” is pleroo, which means “keep on being filled” or “stay filled” with the Spirit. Paul is talking about something that should be ongoing in the lives of believers. Christians need to allow—and trust—the Holy Spirit to influence them as husbands and wives. The following verses are promises from God’s Word. As you read them, consider how they apply to your marriage:

  • 2 Corinthians 9:8—God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
  • Philippians 2:13—It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
  • Ephesians 1:19–20—The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.
  • Hebrews 13:20–21—May the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.

Wouldn’t God want us to have strong marriages?

God gives us what we need to obey His commands. He is the One working in and through us to accomplish every good work. He makes this possible through the incomparably great power that raised Jesus from the dead. God wants us to be equipped to do what He has called us to do, and of all God wants from us, what could be more important than our relationships with our spouses?

Marriage is a reflection of Christ and the church. Does God want Christ and the church to have a great relationship? Absolutely! Does God want the world to witness Christian marriages that wonderfully represent Christ’s relationship with the church? Without a doubt! God has given us His indwelling Spirit to help make that happen.

When we become discouraged in our marriages, these are the truths that we need to remember. It is as if God has said, “The standard I have set for husbands and wives is high, but you do not have to do this alone. My Holy Spirit will help you. I would not command you to do something without also giving you what is necessary to obey.”

Help the Holy Spirit while He helps you!

Some balance is needed. “I will help you” is very different from “I will do everything.” The Holy Spirit helps us, but we still have responsibilities. The Holy Spirit is not going to supernaturally take control of a marriage when the individuals involved are not committed to putting forth the necessary effort. So help the Holy Spirit while he helps you!

The apostle Paul reveals the relationship in Ephesians 2:10: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God prepared good works for us, but we have to “walk in them.” We do not want to miss out on what God wants to do in our marriage because we are being lazy or selfish. Consider the responsibilities placed on our shoulders elsewhere in the New Testament:

  • Romans 13:13–14—Let us walk properly . . . Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
  • Colossians 3:12–14—Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; [bear] with one another, and [forgive] one another . . . Put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Note the calling we are given to walk, put on, make no provision for, bear with, and forgive.

How do we help the Holy Spirit while He helps us?

What does this look like in practical terms? How does the Holy Spirit’s help work with our free will? Here are some examples.

  • Husband, you normally plop yourself down on the couch next to your wife, but the Holy Spirit has been compelling you to be more affectionate. So the next time you sit next to your wife, you put your arm around her. The Holy Spirit has also been leading you to be a better listener. Instead of simply hearing your wife speak, this time you nod and verbally affirm what she says. Perhaps even paraphrase her words to validate her sentiments. Since she is not used to this, your wife will notice and appreciate the extra effort.
  • Wife, you are riding in the car with your husband when you notice the low fuel light come on. Normally you point this out and “remind” him until he pulls into a gas station. Though he does not like this, you think it beats running out of gas. Lately, however, the Holy Spirit has been directing you to trust your husband, so this time you simply mention it and let it go. He pulls into a station, and since you have had a habit of telling him what to do, he notices the difference and is pleasantly surprised. Maybe at the pump he even says, “Thank you for not repeatedly telling me to pull over!”

In each case, the spouse would do well to verbalize his or her appreciation for the changed behavior.

These are only simple examples of how the Holy Spirit works with us. Look for other ways in your daily life with your spouse! Be submissive and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Consider this encouraging verse that ties these thoughts together: “To this end I labor, according to [God’s] working which works mightily in me” (Colossians 1:29).

The apostle Paul was discussing working side by side with God to accomplish His work. Similarly, we should see ourselves working side by side with God in our marriages. Yes, we labor to be the husbands and wives He wants us to be. But what an encouragement that while we are laboring, He also “works mightily in” us.

Discussion questions and activities for husbands and wives

  • Read John 14:16, 26, and 16:7. What three areas of your marriage most need the Holy Spirit’s help?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 9:8 and Philippians 2:13:
    • What “good works” do you recognize in your marriage?
    • Which works are you more naturally inclined toward, and therefore they are easier for you?
    • Which works, or areas of your marriage, do you find to be more difficult, and therefore they:
      • Require more of God’s grace to abound toward you as 2 Corinthians 9:8 says?
      • Require more of God’s work in you as Philippians 2:13 says?
  • Read Ephesians 1:18–20 and Hebrews 13:20–21:
    • Using the language of these verses, what parts of your marriage seem dead and in need of resurrection? These could be your financial situation, intimacy, communication, or unity in parenting.
    • When considering the power discussed in these verses, what encouragement can you take away for these “dead” areas of your relationship?
  • Read Romans 13:13-14. List three ways you are “making provision” for your flesh.
  • Write down the above verses on index cards or sticky notes. Post them in places where you will see them frequently, such as a mirror, dashboard, a lampstand beside your bed, the hood over your stove, or inside your iPad cover. When you see them, pray for God to show you how you can change your marriage, through changing yourself—enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • Provide three practical examples of how the Holy Spirit might compel you to treat your spouse better.
  • Since it’s so important to verbalize your appreciation for your spouse’s changed behavior, provide three examples of ways your spouse has tried to change.

Marriage God's Way bundle—1 book and 2 workbooksNOTE: Most of this post is from Marriage God’s Way and the Marriage God’s Way Workbook.  Save %30 and purchase the bundle—one book and two workbooks!

Marriage Is a Reflection of Our Relationships with Christ

A few years ago I learned  the important lesson that marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Katie and I faced the biggest crisis of our marriage. I started pastoring Woodland Christian Church when it was fairly small. Within three years the congregation had tripled in size. I admit that before I became a pastor, I was completely unaware of how much work is actually involved in shepherding a church of even a few hundred people. I had been an Army officer, a supervisor at a distribution center for Target, and an elementary school teacher. But none of those occupations approached the amount of mental and emotional energy and sheer hard work pastoring entails!

We had no secretary or associate pastor at the time. Almost all of my waking hours were packed with studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, sending e-mails, meeting with people, addressing administrative responsibilities, and tending to benevolence issues. When I was home, I should have been an engaged father and husband. Unfortunately, I did not have much left for my family emotionally, mentally, or physically.

Although I was failing as a husband and father, I was able to convince myself I was still pleasing the Lord. I compartmentalized my life by saying, “I am a Christian first, a spouse second, a parent third, and an employee fourth.” Instead, I should have said, “I am a Christian spouse, a Christian parent, a Christian employee.” The danger of seeing ourselves as a Christian first and a spouse second is we can find ourselves believing the lie I bought into at the time: “If I can be a good pastor, I can please God even though I am not the best husband.” The truth is that I was a poor husband, and I should have recognized that meant I was not pleasing the Lord. Continue reading “Marriage Is a Reflection of Our Relationships with Christ”