Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Husband’s Love (Part 1)

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  – Ephesians 5:25

Ephesians 5:22-33 is the most misunderstood and misused passage about marriage in the whole Bible. Male chauvinist husbands have gravitated to verses 22-24, demanding that their wives “submit” to their authority. Spiteful wives have gravitated to verses 25-26, criticizing their husbands for being unloving and dropping the ball as spiritual leaders in their homes. Knowing that these Bible verses stir up frustration and arguments on both sides of the marriage aisle, many Christians avoid these verses like the plague.

But we shouldn’t sidestep this great passage. In this day and age when so many marriages aren’t “for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health ‘til death do us part,” we need to get back to basics. We need to return to the Creator of marriage and read His marriage owner’s manual once again. In Genesis 1 and 2, God makes it clear that He created marriage for two key purposes: unparalleled companionship and bearing children. But in Ephesians 5:22-33, God gives specific instructions to husbands and wives about their God-given responsibilities within their marriage.

Let’s focus on the husband’s two God-given responsibilities. According to this great passage, the husband is called by God to do two things within his marriage: to lead and to love his wife. Obviously, it’s the first of these commands that ruffles the most feminist feathers. You’d be hard-pressed to find a wife who would put up a fuss about her husband loving her, but there are plenty of women—and men as well—who balk at the notion of a husband having a position of authority over his wife. After all, modern wisdom dictates that spouses should be equal partners with equal authority in their marriage.

However, I would suggest that one of the main reasons these marital commands of Ephesians 5:22-33 are so often misunderstood and misused is because people treat these twelve verses as if they parachuted out of heaven and landed randomly in the Book of Ephesians. But they didn’t. In order to properly understand these verses, we must first read and take a closer look at the first four and one-half chapters of Ephesians, which provide the backdrop for this teaching on marriage.

Long story short: A husband’s leadership in his marriage must mirror Jesus’ leadership in the church, which the first four and one-half chapters of Ephesians describe. Many of us have developed a deep suspicion and resentment toward leaders, because we’ve known leaders who were domineering and manipulative. But Ephesians 1 makes it clear that Jesus’ leadership is not like that at all. Jesus’ leadership involves giving his church every spiritual blessing (verse 3), adopting believers into his family (verse 5), spilling his blood for us so that we can avoid eternal destruction (verse 7), and lavishing God’s rich grace upon us (verses 7-8).

Therefore, if a husband is to lead as God has called him to lead, his leadership in his marriage must mirror Christ’s leadership in the church. Like Jesus, he must be a blessing to his wife in every possible way; make his wife the most important, most valuable member of his family; be willing to spill his blood for his wife, and—like Jesus—he must cover her with God’s rich grace. Now ladies, how many of you would object to this kind of leadership in your home?

And just as it’s unfair and improper for us to superimpose our own cultural understanding of leadership on this Bible passage, it’s improper for us to superimpose our own cultural understanding of love upon this passage. The truth is: the Bible’s definition of true love is much deeper and richer that our culture’s definition of love. Our idea of love today is shallow and sexualized, whereas Christ’s idea of love is deep and pure. Our culture’s love tends to be selfish and self-centered; Christ’s love is selfless and others-centered. The world’s love is focused on what I can get out of the relationship; Christ’s love is focused on what I can put into the relationship. The world’s love is temporary and conditional based on whether or not the other person deserves my love, but Christ’s love is unchanging and unconditional.

Bottom line: Christ’s love for his church is sacrificial. Therefore, a husband’s love for his wife must also be sacrificial. Ephesians 5:25 says it so plainly. It’s a wonder that we’ve overlooked it in the past: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” There’s no way around it: A husband is to lead his family—including his wife—but his leadership is to be marked by giving himself up. It must radiate sacrificial love.

A husband must sacrifice his own good for her good. He must, when necessary, relinquish his own rights for her rights; he must be willing to get his own hands dirty so that her hands can remain clean. He must routinely forgo meeting his own needs so that he can meet her needs. That’s the put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of love that Jesus has for the church. So that must be the kind of love that a husband has for his wife. Marriages become much stronger when husbands mirror Christ in their homes by sacrificially leading and loving their wives.

Dane Davis is the lead pastor of First Christian Church of Victorville and the author of Holy Huldah! Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of. To hear Pastor Dane's messages for for more information about the church, visit www.fccvv.com.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Marriage and Questions of Final Authority

"Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God." 
-- Acts 4:19

Perhaps Chief Justice John Roberts said it best as he responded to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last year to legalize gay marriage in all fifty states: “Who do we think we are?” It’s a valid question because—as Roberts sees it—in one fell swoop five of his colleagues treaded upon the democratic process, states’ rights, the Constitution and a several-thousand-year-old cornerstone of civilized society. The Supreme Court’s marriage decision certainly does beg the question: “Who do we think we are?”

Our great nation was founded upon the premise that our basic human rights are God-given, and our Constitution was shaped and influenced by the Bible more than any other book. Many Americans try to argue that the United States has never been a “Christian nation,” but the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. From the Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact to the U.S. Constitution to the Supreme Court’s Trinity Decision of 1892, there is ample evidence that America was founded as a Christian nation upon the timeless principles of Scripture. And America’s political leaders and justices—for the first 170 years of our nation’s history—understood this and legislated accordingly.

But in recent years, America’s political leaders have moved further and further away from our nation’s Christian foundation and have begun moving—with ever-increasing speed and intensity—toward full-fledged secularism. So, have we reached a point where America has become a “post-Christian” nation? Although I hate to admit it, I believe so.

Corporate Bible reading and prayer have both been illegal in public schools for over fifty years. The Bible is no longer held as the source of absolute truth in the public square, the Capitol building or the White House. Prayers are heavily censored and—to a large extent—are just a matter of polite formality in city halls and state capitals across the nation. And Christian pastors and Christian business owners who were once respected and esteemed by elected officials are being ridiculed and prosecuted for refusing to ride the ever-growing wave of moral relativism and secularism.

Ultimately, each of us who claims to follow Christ as Lord and Savior has an important question to answer: Who is the final authority in my life? In Acts 4 when two of Jesus’ apostles, Peter and John, were commanded by the Jerusalem authorities to stop preaching and teaching about Jesus, they responded with these timeless words: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”

Obviously, Peter and John had already made their decision: If the religious and political authorities were asking them to say or do something that was contrary to what God Himself had asked them to say or do, they would obey God without batting an eye. God had called them to submit to the governing authorities up to the point that the authorities began asking them to say or do things that were against God’s word. At that point, civil disobedience was the most God-honoring response.

So, let me ask you: Who or what is the final authority in your life? Is your life theocentric (God-centered) and bibliocentric (Bible-centered) or is it anthropocentric (man-centered) and egocentric (self-centered)? In other words, are God and His word the final authority on what is right and wrong, or are you the final authority?

Sadly, the Supreme Court’s ruling last year revealed a weak link in many Christians’ views on final authority. Many Christians—knowing full well that God condemns homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments—have chosen to ignore that reality and make the case that homosexual marriage should be praised and supported. By doing so, they have lowered the authority of God’s word while exalting their own authority. Many Christians—knowing full well that God created marriage to be a committed covenant relationship between one man and one woman—have chosen to reject His created design for marriage and redesign it themselves. Which begs the question, “Who do we think we are?”

In the grand scheme of things, there are hundreds, even thousands, of moral decisions that we will make over the next few years about what is right or wrong. And with each of these decisions, you and I will have to determine who or what is the final moral authority: our secular culture, our President, the U.S. Supreme Court, Hollywood, our friends and family, ourselves or God’s word.

It goes without saying: the final authority for me is God and His word. Therefore, I must both embrace and speak His truth in love. Even when God’s laws are hard to accept, even when they feel restrictive, even when they go against the flow of our secular culture and nation’s leaders, even when speaking them generates an impassioned backlash from media moguls—God and His word are the final authority in my life. If you call Jesus “Lord,” the same should be true of you.

Dane Davis is the lead pastor of First Christian Church of Victorville and the author of Holy Huldah! Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of. To hear Pastor Dane's messages or for more information about the church, visit www.fccvv.com.