Monday, May 21, 2018

Why Does the Bible Call Wives "The Weaker Partner"?

1 Peter 3:7a says, “Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker partner.”

What does it mean that the wife is the weaker partner?  We’re not sure because the text doesn’t specify, but we know it isn’t saying that women are weaker morally, spiritually, or intellectually.  The Bible teaches that men and women are equal before God.  Later in the same verse it says that women are “coheirs of the grace of life.”  Galatians 3:28 says, “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

Some scholars believe it is just pointing to the reality that in general, women are physically weaker than men, and, so this verse is encouraging husbands to act as their protectors.  That's a good message for husbands, but I don't think it is the point of this text.
I think Peter is referring to their position of weakness in marriage.  In a company, the employees are in a position of weakness, and the managers and owners are in a position of power.  In a family, the children are in a position of weakness, and the parents are in a position of power.  In society, civilians are in a position of weakness, and police, politicians, and judges are in a position of authority.  And in marriage, the wife is in a position of weakness, and the husband is in a position of power.  In marriage, the wife’s role is to submit and support; she is to follow her husband’s lead; she is to submit to her husband in everything, as unto the Lord.  So in terms of the marriage, the husband is in a position power and authority, and the wife is in a position of weakness, vulnerability, and dependence.  Her overall wellbeing is highly dependent on the husband. 

What Peter is saying is this:  In light of the fact that your wife is the weaker partner, and in light of the fact that she is highly dependent on you for her overall well-being, be a great husband.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

How Christian Wives Can Develop Their Inner Beauty

1 Peter 3:3-4 (CSB) says, "3 Don’t let your beauty consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry, 4 but rather what is inside the heart.”

Wives tend to make three mistakes when it comes to their outer beauty. 

First, some wives focus solely on their outer beauty and almost completely neglect their inner beauty.  These are the women who spend a ton of time and money on clothing and jewelry and makeup; and they might spend a ton of money on diet products; or they might spend a ton of time at the gym.  But they invest very little time, energy, and money on their inner beauty.  But that’s what Peter is saying wives shouldn’t do.  Outer beauty should not be your only or even your primary focus.  There’s something much more important.  There’s something much more effective at strengthening your marriage. 

Second, some women deny the importance of outer beauty.  They think their husband is a jerk if he cares about physical beauty, and he should just love her like she is.  But that’s a mistake.  That’s like a man saying, “I’m going to stop worrying about my odor and hygiene, and she better love me anyway.”  That’s just foolish.  Your physical appearance matters.  Don't neglect it.

Third, some women try to build a great marriage by focusing all their attention on developing their husband’s inner beauty.  That’s not going to get you very far.  And that’s not what the Bible says to do.  To build a great marriage, build your inner beauty. 

Why does God command you to focus first and foremost on your inner beauty?  

It's important to understand and believe that any time God tells you to do something, it’s good for you.  Why does God command you to focus first and foremost on your inner beauty?  Because it’s good for you.  It’s good for your marriage.  Focusing on your inner beauty will add more value to your marriage than focusing on your outer beauty.  God is saying that your inner beauty will attract your husband in a deeper, more powerful way than your outer beauty.  God’s not telling you this for His good; it’s for your good.  But you have to trust Him.

The Limits of Outer Beauty

Outer beauty is not irrelevant or unimportant, but it is very limited in what it can do for you. 

  • Outer beauty can attract your husband, but it can’t help you build intimacy.  
  • Outer beauty can turn your husband on to you, but it can’t turn your husband on to Christ (it can’t inspire your husband spiritually).  
  • Outer beauty can motivate your husband to chase you, but it can’t motivate your husband to not chase other women.  Many women think that they key to preventing their husbands from being unfaithful is to focus heavily on outer beauty.  But that’s not true.  Your husband will appreciate your efforts to be physically attractive, but remember, even men who are married to supermodels are sometimes unfaithful.  Tiger Woods’ ex-wife was a Swedish model, and he cheated on her multiple times.
  • Outer beauty can’t help you when you have conflict; or when you go through adversity together; or when you have money problems.
  • Outer beauty might help you start a marriage, but it won’t help your marriage last.  Many beautiful women see their marriages end in divorce.

You need more than outer beauty to build a healthy marriage.  You need more than a pretty face if you want to finish the race.  You need inner beauty. 

So how do you develop your inner beauty?  

The Bible gives women five virtues to work on right away in 1 Peter 3:1-6.  A virtue is a morally excellent behavior.  Here they are:  Submission.  Purity.  Reverence.  Gentleness.  And quietness.  If you want to build a great marriage, then develop these five things in your heart.  These are five ways to attract your husband at the deepest level.

Join me tomorrow as I define these five essential virtues. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Should Christian Wives Ignore Their Outward Appearance?

1 Pet 3:3-4 (CSB) says, “3 Don’t let your beauty consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry, 4 but rather what is inside the heart.”

At first glance, this sounds like Peter is saying that wives should not worry about their physical appearance, or that a wife’s physical appearance is not important.  

That’s not what Peter is saying.  

Here’s what Peter is saying to wives.  Outer beauty should not be your only focus, or your primary focus.  

Let me illustrate with the words of Jesus.  In Matthew 6:19-20 (CSB) Jesus said, “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”  Now at first glance it seems like Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t have any money in savings, or that we shouldn’t keep anything of value; we should just give it all away.  But is that really what God wants?  Don’t save up for emergencies?  Don’t plan for retirement?  Don’t have any assets to your name?  No.  Because we know that elsewhere in the Bible it talks about the importance of savings, and of financial responsibility, and of planning for the future.  So what does Jesus mean?  He means earthly treasure should not be your only focus, or your primary focus.  He is saying that there is something much more important than storing up earthly treasure, and that is storing up heavenly treasure.  Don’t get so focused on storing up earthly treasure – saving up, planning for retirement, enjoying your money – that you forget about what’s most important – storing up heavenly treasures by investing in the kingdom of God.  

Peter is saying something similar to wives.  He isn’t saying that physical appearance is unimportant, or that wives should completely neglect their physical appearance.  He is saying that outer beauty should not be your only focus, or your primary focus.  

Let me say this about a wife's physical appearance.  Is it important?  Yes.  

Men are visually stimulated.  Men are attracted by sight.  For the majority of men, their wife’s physical appearance is very important.  It’s just a fact; it’s reality.  You would be foolish to try to defy or ignore this principle.  Dr. Willard Harley, the Christian marriage counselor and author of His Needs Her Needs, lists the five most important emotional needs of a husband.  One of those five is his wife’s physical beauty.  Your physical appearance is important to your husband.  

Now some Christian women might say, “That’s horrible.  My husband shouldn’t care about my physical appearance – how much I weigh, or how I dress, or how I paint my face.  He should just love me unconditionally.”  

Let me explain it like this.  As a general rule, bad smells are a turnoff.  Bad hygiene is a turnoff.  Women care about that stuff.  Would you love your husband if he neglected his odor and his hygiene?  Yes you would love him.  But would you want to snuggle with him on the couch?  Would you want him in your bed?  Would you want to stand next to him in public?  No!  Or at least it would be hard.  You might have to hold your nose.  It’s similar with your physical appearance.  If you neglect your physical appearance your husband will still love you.  Should!  But you will put a strain on your relationship.  You will be more like friends than lovers; more like roommates than soul mates.  

So Peter isn’t saying that physical beauty isn’t important, or that wives should neglect it.   Physical beauty should not be your only focus, or your primary focus.  

Why?  There’s something more important to the health of your marriage.  There’s something more important to the happiness of your husband.  What is it?  Go back to 1 Peter 3:3-4.  “3 Don’t let your beauty consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry, 4 but rather what is inside the heart.”  The thing that’s more important, that should demand the majority of your attention as a wife is what’s inside the heart; your inner beauty.  In other words – your character.  Your character is the combination of your conduct and convictions; your behavior and your beliefs.  It’s the inner you.  It’s your morality; your attitude; your spirituality.  That’s infinitely more important than your outer beauty.

So here’s what Peter is saying in this passage.  To build a great marriage, develop your inner beauty.  

Do you want to improve your marriage?  Work on your inner beauty.  Work on your character – your conduct and convictions; your behavior and beliefs.  Work on the inner you – your spirituality, your attitude, your morality.  Don't neglect your physical appearance.  But be sure to keep things in perspective.  Your inner beauty is far more important to the health of your marriage then your outer beauty.

Tomorrow I will explain some practical ways to improve your inner beauty.  

Friday, May 18, 2018

How to Teach Your Kids About Salvation

The following is part of my exposition on the Home Discipleship Catechism, written to equip parents to disciple their kids.  Each week I plan to release a new chapter.  You can download the Home Discipleship Catechism HERE.  You can find more resources for parents HERE.

Question 11:  Is there any way to be saved from the punishment for sin? 
Yes.  We must repent of our sins and have faith in Jesus Christ.
We learned from Question 11 that the punishment for sin is hell.  Since we are all sinners, hell is what we all deserve (Rm 3:23; 6:23).  But God loves us so much that He has provided a way for us to be saved. 
What is the way to salvation?  Most people think it is a life of good works.  Let’s call this idea the performance plan.  The belief is that when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, He will compare your good deeds to your bad deeds, and as long as you have more good than bad you will be saved and given a place in heaven.  In other words, as long as your performance is good enough, then you will be saved.  But there are several problems with this view.  First, the performance plan is unbiblical.  The Bible does not command us or tell us that it is possible to earn our way to heaven by good works.  In fact, it very clearly says that good works cannot save us (Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-5).  Second, the performance plan is unclear.  How can you ever know if you have been good enough?  How can you know for certain that your good deeds outnumber your bad deeds?  The best you can do is hope for the best.  But this would lead to a life of fear and worry, and the Bible tells us that those are two things God doesn’t want us to do (2 Tim 1:7; Phil 4:6).  As well, the Bible tells us that God wants us to know for sure that we are saved (1 Jn 5:13).  A third problem with the performance plan is that it is unjust.  Sin incurs the wrath of God.  Doing good deeds does not make up for sin; they are simply our duty.  No matter how many good deeds we do, our sin still needs to be punished.  A just God cannot ignore sin.  The performance plan will lead to hell. 
God’s plan of salvation was to send His Son into the world to perfectly fulfill the law, and then to die for our sins, in our place, as our substitute (Jn 3:16), and then to rise from the grave on the third day.  Now, when we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ, God forgives our sins and gives us the promise of eternal life.  This is called the faith plan.  Rather than trusting in our good deeds, we must trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the way to salvation.
Jesus was qualified to die for our sins for several reasons.  First, Jesus was perfect.  He never sinned by breaking God’s commands, or by failing to do every good work.  If Jesus had any sin, He would have had to be punished for His own sin; but because He was perfect, He could die for the sins of others.  Second, Jesus was qualified to die for our sins because He was fully human.  When Jesus came to earth, He took a human body.  Without a human body He could not have been killed.  Third, Jesus was qualified to die for our sins because He was fully God.  As God, He was able to die not merely for the sins of one person, but for the sins of the world.  And because He was God, death could not defeat Him.  He was able to rise from the grave in order to give us eternal life.
Good deeds cannot save us.  Only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can save us.  And to receive the gift of salvation we must turn from our sins and have faith in Jesus Christ.  You can be saved today by admitting your sin, believing in the death and resurrection of Christ, and calling on Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.
Questions for Discussion:
  1. What is the punishment for sin?
  2. Who deserves the punishment for sin?
  3. How can we be saved from the punishment for sin?
  4. What is wrong with the performance plan?
  5. Why was Jesus uniquely qualified to die for our sins?
  6. What is the faith plan of salvation?
For Further Study:
  1. John 3:16
  2. Ephesians 2:8-9
  3. Romans 5:1
  4. Romans 5:8
  5. 2 Corinthians 5:21
  6. Titus 2:14
  7. Titus 3:4-5

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Benjamin Franklin's 3 Principles of Success

Ben Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States, as well as the publisher of the famous Poor Richard's Almanac.  I like his 3 principles of success.  (The following is my notes from a talk by author and speaker Jim Rohn.)

First, happiness doesn’t come from big pieces of great success, but from small advantages hammered out day by day.  We must be happy with what we’ve got while we are in pursuit of what we want.  You won’t be any happier when you reach your goals than you are right  now.  You have to enjoy the journey.  Enjoy and take pride of your little accomplishments.

Second, life is plastic.  Life is not rigid.  Within each of us is the power to mold ourselves and our environment.  It is up to each of us to begin this molding process with a final product in mind, and it is within our power to work it, and form it, every minute, every day, every month, every year. 

Third, success is a pleasure.  If what you are doing today is not satisfying and gratifying and fulfilling, then you are not successful. It doesn’t matter what you achieve or own, if you are not happy, you cannot be successful.  Success is measured through pleasure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Surprising Ways to Find Happiness

There's something I know about you.  You want to be happy.  More than that, you are pursuing happiness.  That's the way God created us.  And ultimately, the deepest and most abiding happiness is only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  But if you already have that as your foundation, what else can you do to make your life more fulfilling and enjoyable?  Here are five surprising sources of happiness:

One, get in shape.  48% of people in excellent health are very happy, compared to only 32% of people in good health, 22% in fair health, and 15% in poor health.  That’s huge!  We tend to think that we will be happier if we eat whatever we want and avoid physical exertion.  Wrong!  If you want to be happy, get healthy.

Two, educate yourself.  42% of college grads are very happy compared to 30% of those who have only a high school diploma or less.  I guess the old saying, "What you don't know can't hurt you" isn't true.  Ignorance is deadly!  The good news is that you don't need to go to college to grow in knowledge.  All you need is to know how to read.  When's the last time you picked up a book?  (Check out my Reading Lists HERE.)

Three, vote Republican.  45% of Republicans are very happy compared to 30% of Democrats; 40% of conservatives are very happy compared to 27% of liberals.  Let me give you one reason why I think this is the case.  Democrats tend to blame all their problems on the government, and at the same time they tend to look to the government to solve all their problems.  Republicans are the opposite.  They want the government to leave them alone and let them solve their own problems.  They would rather have freedom than the pseudo-security offered by Big Brother.  This attitude of responsibility and self-reliance leads to a happier life.

Four, go to church.  43% of those who attend weekly are very happy, compared to 31% who attend monthly or less, and 26% of those who never attend.  This should be common sense, but it's not.  Church attendance helps you stay closer to God, the most powerful source of happiness.  It helps you to avoid sin, which leads to unhappiness.  It connects you with good, happy people.  And it gives you a sense of purpose and significance as you work with others to reach the world for Christ.  All of this makes you happier.

Five, get married.  43% of married people are very happy compared to 24% of singles.  Marriage can increase happiness – dramatically.  That may come as a surprise because there’s a powerful and popular urban myth in our society that "marriage will make you miserable."  But that’s simply not true.  God created marriage to be a blessing.  That’s why the Bible says Proverbs 18:22 (CSB), "A man who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”  If you aren't happily married, then you aren't doing it right!  (Check out my BLOG POSTS and SERMONS for help with building the marriage of your dreams.)

(Source:  Pew Research, 2010.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Description of Submission

Yesterday I cleared up three common misunderstandings about submission in marriage.  Today I want to explain what submission looks like. 

First, the WHAT of submission:  Voluntarily allow your husband to be your leader, giving him the final say.  This is what it means to submit.  Voluntarily allow your husband to be your leader, giving him the final say.  Author Elizabeth George writes, “Submission is primarily a military term meaning to rank oneself under someone else.  This heart attitude is lived out by subjection and obedience, by leaving things to the judgment of another person and yielding or deferring to the opinion or authority of someone else (A Woman After God’s Won Heart, p. 65)."  

Again, it doesn’t mean the wife can’t be involved in the decision-making process, or offer insight.  But in the end, the wife let’s her husband have the final say.

Notice that I used the word “voluntarily.”  Submission is the wife’s decision.  It’s really between her and the Lord.  The Bible does not command husbands to bring their wives under submission, or to discipline their wives when they disobey.  Submission is the wife’s decision.

Second, the HOW of submission:  Submit to your husband as to the Lord – unconditionally. 

Ephesians 5:22-24 (CSB) says, “22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.” 

Your submission to your husband has a bigger purpose than you.  You are supposed to paint a picture with your submission.  You submission is to be a picture, or a living illustration of the church’s submission to Christ.  This has two applications. 
First, your submission needs to be respectful.  Just as the church should obey Christ with a good attitude, respectfully, you are called to submit respectfully.  Let your husband have the final say, and do it respectfully.  That means don’t criticize him; don’t complain; and don’t rub it in his face if the decision turns out bad.  Second, your submission needs to be unconditional.  Here’s what I mean.  (I’m going to challenge you a bit.)  The Bible doesn’t say submit to your husband when you feel like it; or if he’s being good to you; or if he is meeting your needs; or if this or that.  The Bible says to submit unconditionally.  Now on the surface that sounds very challenging, but isn’t that similar to what God calls husbands to do?  God calls husbands to love their wives unconditionally – not just when she smells good and looks pretty; not just when she’s meeting your emotional needs; not just when she’s fun to live with; not just when she’s healthy; not just when she’s young.  Husbands are to love their wives unconditionally.  In the same way, wives are to submit to their husbands unconditionally. 

I found this quote by author Emerson Eggerichs to be very challenging.  He wrote the book, Love and Respect.  “The problem many women have today – including Christian wives – is that they want to be treated like a princess, but deep down they resist treating their husbands like the king.”
Third, the SCOPE of submission:  Submit to your husband in everything. 

Ephesians 5:24 (CSB) says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.”  You are to let your husband have the final say in every area of your life.  Do you know what everything means?  Everything.

Now there is one obvious exception to this.  You must not submit to your husband if he is leading you to disobey God.  In that case you must say what the Pater and the apostles said in Acts 5:29 (NLT), “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”  So if your husband is leading you to sin, or to do something illegal, then you not only have the freedom to not submit, you must not submit.  God comes before your husband. 

Fourth, the STRENGTH of submission:  Trust in the Lord to take care of you through your husband’s leadership.

Submission is very challenging.  Where do you find the strength to submit like this?  It comes from faith.  You have to have faith that God will take care of you through your husband’s leadership.  You have to believe that if God commands you to submit to your husband, then God is big enough to take care of you through your husband’s leadership, even when your husband makes bad decisions. 
Remember Matthew 6:31-33 (CSB).  "31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

Fifth, the MOTIVE of submission:  Submit in order to win your husband over to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

Why does God want you to submit to your husband?  We already mentioned order and harmony.  And we already mentioned that your submission is to be an illustration of the church’s submission to Christ.  But there’s another motivation.  It’s found in 1 Peter 3:1.  “In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live.”  This verse was written to Christian wives who had unbelieving husbands.  And Peter said that your best tool to evangelize your husband, to win him to Christ, is not to preach to him, not to argue with him, but to submit to him.  And there’s something magnetic, and attractive, and winsome about godly submission.  And I believe this also applies to women who have Christian husbands who are backslidden.  How do you influence him to turn back to the Lord?  Your best tool is submission.  There’s something about submission that God can use to grab your husband’s heart and pull Him to the Lord.

I read an interesting story about Mark Twain.  Once when he was lecturing in Utah, a Mormon argued with him about polygamy. After a long and intense debate, the Mormon finally said, "Can you find for me a single passage of Scripture which forbids polygamy?" "Certainly," replied Twain. "No man can serve two masters."  That story is funny because it describes the way that many women treat their husbands.  But God has a better way.  The happiest marriage is one in which a wife respectfully submits to her Christ-like, loving husband. 
(Much of this was inspired by Elizabeth George's wonderful book, A Woman After God's Own Heart.  It's the best book on Biblical womanhood that I can recommend.)