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Win Your Wife Again
I was the college pastor at Grace Community Church under John MacArthur, and standing in the back in the midst of a series I was teaching called righteous routes to relationships for collegians was the coolest surfer dude. He came up to me and handed me this note and said, “While out surfing, my buddies and I wrote out this list.” It was 10 REASONS WHY A SURFBOARD IS A BETTER COMPANION THAN A GIRLFRIEND, and here they are:
1 It doesn’t mind riding on top of the car
2 It won’t leave you for another surfer if you forget about it for a few days
3 It won’t expect you to spend a lot of money on it
4 It isn’t worried about who your parents are
5 It doesn’t mind being put on a leash
6 It won’t give you headaches (unless)
7 It won’t attempt to make you spend time with it when you would rather be elsewhere
8 It won’t keep you up at night thinking about it
9 It doesn’t mind getting soaked for your enjoyment
10 It likes being walked on
After reading that to the college group, the college gals got together and the very next week gave me their rebuttal–TEN REASONS WHY A CAT IS A BETTER COMPANION THAN A BOYFRIEND:
1 They’re always loyal
2 They’re always there when you need them
3 They don’t have a hard time growing facial hair
4 They don’t have unreal expectations for you to try to live up to
5 They don’t mind eating off the floor
6 They’re not afraid to kill bugs
7 They’re always well-groomed
8 They don’t intimidate you
9 They have hair on their chest
10 They don’t mind drinking out of the toilet
We have had some dedicated singles in our church family and I love them–they are on fire for Christ and committed to ministry, and many of them are pursuing their job description from Christ, which is 1 Corinthians 7:35, “to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” And many of them are pursuing their role as a man and woman of God, many expecting to one day be married, yet with a patient willingness to wait for the right person. So to encourage you like you encourage me, let me share with you who Jesus says the right person is. Jesus made it really clear who the right person is too.
Now there are a few of our singles who have attitudes–I had a student friend of the Masters College expose his heart to me when he said, “Dating at the Masters College is like the parking lot–the best spots are taken, the rest are handicapped.” Regardless of your attitude, as I begin let me challenge your thinking on relationships in some basic areas.
1 Relationships are good
What is the sweetest, best, and greatest relationship you have ever known? What should come to our mind is the trinity. Before the universe was created, God the Father, Son and Spirit were in perfect relationship, and it is that relationship that is the foundation for all human relationships. Like 1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” The reason there is equality before God, yet headship and submission in marriage is because it reflects the character of the trinity–relationships are good, they have their root in God Himself.
2 Relationships are your biggest test
As a single, the best proof you’re a mature Christian is your relationships. The Bible is really clear in 1 John 4:20 to 21, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” As a single, nothing will demonstrate the reality of your love relationship with God better than your relationships with the opposite sex.
3 Relationships are a growth tool
The universal hang-up with most guy/gal relationships is, get this–men who refuse to accept responsibility and take the lead. I know of entire churches that are filled with irresponsible men and frustrated women, because men won’t lead. Men are to take the lead in marriage, ministry and relationships, yet what we find today is wimpy, irresponsible, afraid-to-commit, refuse-to-lead men who hide beneath the guise of being cool or being spiritual, but all of it is a mask for their fear of leadership. If you men are truly courageous, then relationships will be a major growth tool.
4 Relationships are not fatal
Regardless of the mistakes you’ve made, nothing says more about your beliefs and character than how you finish. I love people who finish–failure is not fatal. As a single, you are on a journey, and the question is how will you finish? If you want to finish strong, then you need to see this entire dating relationship process through God’s eyes.
But what are we to look for? Good question–turn to Matthew chapter 7. What’s on your list? Whether we admit it or not, we all have a list. She’s lookin’ for a guy who is 6-foot-2-inches, stud with blond hair that drives a Porsche. It’s always funny to see what she ends up with–the guy is 5-foot-1-inch, balding and rides a moped. The good news is Jesus made His list for you simple in Matthew 7:16-18, 20, “You will know them by their fruits. 17 every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
The key here is what I call provenness. How do you know that good looking babe or boy is a real believer or a make-believer? Jesus is straightforward. You’ll know the false from the true by their fruits–by the actions they do, the words they say, and the attitudes they demonstrate . . . fruit.
“Okay,” you say, “I got it, the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience.” Yes that’s good, but there is more. “Oh, you mean service to others.” Sure, but you’re missing the point of provenness. I have trained men for ministry for a long time, and have always battled with the process of placing a man in a ministry. Sometimes they meet a guy on a weekend or a week, then decide to make him the leader of their church family–that’s crazy. It is one of the reasons why, when I left Arizona, I would only come to a place where some of the leadership knew me intimately. In sending a man to a church family, there needs to be a sense of provenness. And when guys and gals are thinking about potential mates, there needs to be provenness.
You see provenness is fruit over time. This has a lot to do with the biblical doctrine of assurance of salvation. As you look at the opposite sex, the issue is not whether they’ve made a decision for Christ. The real indicator of provenness is the direction of their life established over a period of time. Have they faithfully, passionately pursued Christ over a long period interconnected to a church family. Summer camp, Christian college are all fine and good, but you have a lot of guys looking for a Christian gal who talk a good Jesus, but it is a self-defined, self-willed Christianity where they call the shots. Abercrombie and Christ—unsubmissive, unattached, good-looking, cut Calvinists who do their own thing, float from church-to-church, looking for good looking Christian gals but are not proven.
Jesus said the greatest among you will be your servant, and the true characteristic of a true servant–get this, it’s faithfulness. So how can you make provenness a priority? Think about it–what makes the ideal Christian marriage? Is it having the right amount of kids? You know, a boy for me, a girl for you, praise the Lord, we’re finally through? No, get this, it’s someone who loves Christ more than you. And someone who has proven their love for Christ with faithful, consistent, you can count on them service over time.
Don’t you realize, if they love Christ more than you, choosing Christ over you in a hundred small decisions now, that you’ll die happy from the overflow of that vertical love relationship later? Wake up! If they disciple others to follow Christ now, they’ll know how to parent later, since parenting is another name for discipleship. If they function in their role as a man or woman now, they will know how to function as your spouse later.
If they faithfully serve others in the church now, they’ll function in a vital role in the local church later. So many singles don’t, so you never know if they are faithful, submissive and motivated from the heart to serve Christ. If they witness to the lost now, they understand their purpose on this planet, which is crucial to a healthy Christian lifestyle later. The person to partner with is the one who, “To live is Christ”—it’s all about Christ and not them, and it’s all about others not them. That is the person to partner with.
Wake up, gals–if they’re a selfish, whining, complaining, too cool to be humble, float from church-to-church, into himself, lazy slug-of-a-guy now, more often than not, they’ll be that way later. Wake up, guys–if they’re a self-consumed, super needy, flirtatious, appearance-driven, immodest dresser now, more often than not they’ll be that way later. Most likely what you see is what you get. “Whoa!” But you say, “They’ll change later.” (I’ll change them.) And I say, “No they won’t.”
Let ‘em change now before you get chained to a loser later. Even provenness contains an element of risk–I know several precious saints who were super careful, but later found themselves married to unbelievers. But ignore provenness and what will happen is you’ll think you got a good deal, but it will turn into an ordeal–then you’ll want a new deal.
Jesus said you will know them by their fruit. They don’t demonstrate provenness by going on a mission trip–they show it at work, at play, with friendships, in church ministry under the watchful eyes of elders, by keeping their word and in remaining faithful to their commitments over a long time. Provenness is fruit over time in everyday life. If you can’t say, “Amen,” say, “Ouch.” One of the ways husbands prove they are committed to fulfilling God’s role for them as men is to progress in being . . .
#1 The responsible leader of his bride
Remember verse 23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” Paul states a fact, the husband is the head of the wife. The only question is this—is he a good one, seeking to be like Christ by dependence upon the Spirit of God, pursuing the Word of God? Or is he a bad one, winging it, following the patterns from his own home, or the poor examples around him? And as the head, he pursues relationship with his wife, he takes the responsibility of setting direction for the marriage, and he even humbles himself and repents first. He is the initiator, the leader, even in reconciliation. He knows he is responsible–when it goes south it is his fault, so he takes the lead. But that is not all, he is also . . .
#2 The continual sacrificial lover of his bride
Verse 25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” The main point of this entire passage is husbands love your wives. There are only two commands in verses 22 to 33–both are ongoing, both are directed only at husbands, and both of them are the same. Husbands, love your wives. It is present tense continual, and it is a non-optional command. It is supernatural, in that it must be of the Spirit whose fruit is love. And it involves giving not merely provision, not merely giving time, not merely giving attention, but giving of yourself.
You love her more than sports, hobbies, more than your job, more than your kids, more than any person except for Christ. Once a man came to a famous preacher and said, “Sir, I think I’m guilty of loving my wife too much,” to which the preacher replied, “Have you died for her?” The startled man said, “No!” Then the preacher said, “Then you don’t love her enough.”
Wow, can you be more specific, Paul? Yes he can–Paul now states the goal or purpose of Christ’s love for His bride, which is the model for a husband’s love for his bride. Why does Christ love His bride? Why should husbands love theirs?
#3 The purpose of a husband’s love for his bride
As I read verses 26 and 27, please notice the word “that”, the Greek word hina, is listed three times. Hina indicates purpose, and notice that the last two “that”s are in contrast to each other, which gives us a total of two purposes listed in your outline. “That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.” Why should husbands love their wives in a verse 25 manner?
First To make her yours like Christ made the church His
Tune in here, we are about to swim in some pretty deep waters, and my goal is to make it understandable to everyone here, including the kids. Notice verse 26, “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” This verse does not mean what you think it does on the surface. My study rattled me and consumed me over the last two weeks. I even talked it over with my mentor to confirm my findings here.
The purpose is that He might sanctify His bride. You know there are two kinds of sanctification–one is a positional sanctify, and the other a progressive sanctify. Positionally, God sets you apart and makes you His own, or progressively, God continues to change you to be more like His Son. I believe the context here demands this is positional sanctification. The verb sanctify in verse 26 is the expectation of being set aside to God for God. Christ set the Church apart for God.
The word is used of something set aside to make it suitable for ceremonial or worship purposes, like you saving your best china or tea set for use at a unique time with someone special. Sanctify here is like cleaning up your house and fixing up an amazing meal on your best plates to be used exclusively for an important guest.
It’s like when I come over to your house–yeah! Don’t you just hate that when people expect special treatment? Listen, I want you to know that I am good with whatever kind of lobster or filet mignon you want to serve me. In some Jewish writings, the word sanctify meant to separate to oneself as a wife, and here probably means Christ’s sacrificial death, His love was expressed by setting aside the Church for God.
Next look at the phrase “cleansed her” in verse 26. This is a moral cleansing, and it is how Christ set the Church apart from Himself. He had to clean us. We are so filthy dirty that Christ can’t touch us. Like trying to clean up the ink from a broken pen, God is so perfect He can’t touch us, because we’d stain His perfect holiness. But even though we are that dirty, Christ loved us so much that He died in order to pay the cleaning bill.
Before Christ cleaned us, we were much more like a ragged Cinderella wallowing in the ashes than a pure white bride. And our dirt and filth from sin was not merely external, like a dirty plate to be washed off, as if we could ourselves clean up our act to be acceptable to God. No, our sinfulness is an internal heart problem–we are sinful through and through, to the core of our being. We stinketh within.
Our sin problem can be illustrated by your pet pig. You can clean up your pig, put a bow on it and make it your household pet–but it will still run to the mud if you leave the back door open. And you can clean up your act externally–you know, don’t smoke, drink or chew, or go with girls that do. But we will still have a heart that is filled with self, pride and worse—sin.
Our problem isn’t only that each of us have sinned, but we have an internal desire to do what we want, go our own way, and not have anyone tell us what to do, especially God. Every one of us have lied, stolen and abused others with our speech. And just one sin makes us dirty enough for God to keep us out of His presence forever in heaven. We can’t go to heaven if we have sinned just once, and every one of us has sinned more than once.
When Christ died, He took the punishment for our sin upon Himself. God poured all His wrath for sin upon His Son on the cross. So when God saves someone, the judgment for their sin falls upon Christ, and He transfers His perfect righteousness to us so that we can now stand in His presence because of what He did, not what we did. And when Christ saves His children, not only does He change your position from being under God’s wrath to now being under His grace, but He also regenerates your heart. He washes you and me clean inside and out–He changes your very nature. This enables Christ to set you apart to God and for God.
So in verse 26, Paul uses the phrase “washed with water.” Some have said this means baptism–but baptism doesn’t wash you from sin, nor does the context fit a baptism reference. The only other time Paul uses the word washing in the New Testament is Titus 3:5. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
This washing, like Ephesians 5, comes with salvation and makes us acceptable before a perfect sinless God. Paul uses the phrase washing with water because that would be the common means to wash someone clean. But why does Paul use washing with water in connection with the Word? The Greek term for word here does not refer to written word, but spoken word–referring to speech, a word or message.
Paul is actually talking about the preached word, or the gift of the Gospel, using the same word here as he does in Romans 10:8b, “the word of faith which we are preaching,” or Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” In verse 26, Paul is talking about the preached word of Christ’s love for the Church, in that He gives His life for her, and cleanses her by the instrument of washing in connection with the proclaimed word, the free, life-changing gift of the Gospel.
So now what is Paul saying in verse 26–are you still with me? Once you understand the 1st century wedding practices I think you will get it. Get verse 26 firmly planted in your mind. What’s Paul say? “That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
Now picture this–when a Jewish husband would become betrothed and propose to his bride-to-be, he would present her with a gift–then he would say, proclaim, speak to her some good news. He’d say:
“Behold you are consecrated until me [another word for sanctify]
“Behold you are consecrated until me, you are betrothed to me; behold you are a wife until me.”
With this spoken word they would be betrothed, and then married about a year later. Just before the wedding she was bathed (washed) symbolizing the cleansing that would set her apart to her husband. The spoken word of the man set her apart to be his wife, and the washing showed she was ready for her new life.
Are you getting this picture yet? Christ made the church His. She could not wash herself, so at a great cost, Christ Himself washed us and set us apart to God, for God, as His special bride. It happened the moment He called us through His spoken Word, the good news telling us that Christ alone can save us if we turn to and depend on Him. Through a great cost, Christ Jesus made the Church His own.
Now this is powerful and very convicting–Christ is talking about what it took for Him to win His bride, and it is described here using the imagery of the 1st century betrothal as a model, an example, and a challenge for husbands to imitate toward their own wives. In the way Christ won His bride, husbands are to win their brides. Husbands, if you love your bride the way Christ loves his Church, you will make your bride your own. Hopefully you husbands are saying, “Chris, how do I do it? Tell me–I must know.”
Answer–you already did it, you already won her. That is why she married you–you wooed her, pursued her, treated her special and she gave you her heart. Are you getting it men? Let me spell it out–you won her, but if you love her like Christ loves the Church, you will still keep seeking to win her. You are commanded to love like Christ, and to keep loving her continually in verse 25, and now in verse 26. Christ tells you the amazing things He did to make the Church His own. So you husbands, keep winning your wife.
Christ won His bride through a great cost, and you husbands won your wife at a cost. Paul is saying love your wife that way all the time–love her the way you did when you won her. Don’t stop winning your wife, don’t stop making her your own, don’t stop trying to win her heart. Again in verse 26, “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” At the cost of His own death on the cross, He set His bride apart to God and for God–He cleansed her and washed her internally through the Gospel, and He did all that to win the Church to Himself.
Now husbands, you do the same–you did it before, and if you are going to love her continually like verse 25 commands, you will keep on winning her. This is the big complaint of wives when marriages go stale. Wives say, “He was so romantic, he was so attentive, he cared so deeply, he brought me flowers and he was so affectionate–now all he wants is instant romance, cooked meat and the channel changer.” Husbands, love your wives continually by continuing to win your wife’s love like you did when you courted her. Christ sacrificed Himself to win the Church, and you can sacrifice yourself to win your bride too.
And husbands, just like faith and repentance that brought you to Christ continues as you walk with Christ, so does the sanctification that set you apart for God. In other words men, just like Christ did this for the Church, He continues to do it for the Church. And you men are to do the same for your wives–you are to sanctify her with the Word. Men, it is your job to make sure Scripture permeates your marriage. It is the Word which brings stability, trust and vibrancy in a marriage, and it is the privilege of the Christian husband to make sure the Bible is kept open.
One of my big concerns for the Church today is statistically the true Church is dominated by females. Women are the majority at Christian colleges and solid churches. Now I am glad women love Jesus–but in our culture, typically mom drags her boy to church till he gets his license, then he eventually disappears from church–until when? When he gets married and his wife drags him back.
One of the main reasons men are flocking to Islam is because it is a male-dominated religion. But true Christianity is supposed to be led by men—we need men to rise up. And your challenge, men, in verse 26 is to initiate the study of the Scripture with your wife, to saturate your home with the Bible, to live it, share it, refer to it, solve problems with it. She will be more prone to trust a husband with an open Bible than one who only brings it to church sometimes. Marriage can get boring—“What did you do today?” “I shaved and went to work.” “Yes, I see you are less hairy, and you were gone for a while.”
“What did you do today?” “I watched the kids.” “Were they good?” “No, they are never good.” “Okay, great–we are all caught up now. Now what?” Hey, start studying the Bible together and you will discover endless riches and growth. Men, we are failing here—take the lead, love your wife, win her all the time, then study the Bible regularly.
Paul continues with the same imagery in verse 27, moving from the betrothal to the wedding. So what else is the purpose of a husband’s love for his bride?
Second To make her glorious, like Christ made the church
Verse 27 says, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.” The ultimate purpose of Christ’s love for His bride is to make her glorious, to make her like Himself, to bring her home to heaven in absolute perfection.
Right now, how do you look at the Church? What is your attitude? Do you treat her as optional, as an important club, or a vital family? Do you see her stained and ugly, or do you see her as glorious and white? Do you see her as the apple of Christ’s eye, His bride? You cannot truly have God as your Father who does not have the Church as his mother. One day this bride, the Church will be glorious, and Christ sacrificed all for his bride in order to make her glorious. Again the picture here is the wedding day–look at verse 27 again.
Why does Christ love the Church? That He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The verb “present” means to render, to have the Church literally be able to stand by Himself, stand next to Him, in all her wedded glory. Most of the guys in this room will never forget our bride walking down the aisle to stand next to us, as she became our wife. We remember how glorious she looked—breathtaking, white dress, perfect make-up, no zits, no smudges, no stains, perfect skin, gorgeous eyes, sweet smile, amazing figure (I’ll stop). Glorious! Paul describes the Church on her wedding day and she is perfect.
As we get older, sadly we get wrinkles–they keep showing up everywhere, and there is nothing we can do to make them go away. But the Church in heaven will have no wrinkles. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones puts it this way, “Dare I put it like this? The Beauty-Specialist [The Lord] will have put his final touch to the church, the massaging will have been so perfect that there will not be a single wrinkle left. She will look young, and in the bloom of youth, with colour in her cheeks, with her skin perfect, without any spots or wrinkles. And she will remain like that forever and ever.”
And the result, the contrast to wrinkles and spots that we now have, the purpose of all of this will be at the end of verse 27, “but that she should be holy and blameless.” The result is that we will be like Christ for all eternity–totally holy and totally without blemish, perfect, without sin, stain, mark or wrinkle. This is exactly what Paul said at the beginning of this letter to the Ephesians–1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
All God’s children look forward to that day when we will be like Him. Listen, a godly husband will always be concerned about the true status of His wife spiritually–he’s concerned she makes it home. And until that day, part of our role, men, is to protect the purity of our wives. Simply, externally, never intentionally expose her to evil. Talk about what you both read, watch, listen to, where you go, and who you hang out with. I am not drawing legalistic lines here for you, but your assignment, husbands, is for both of you to pursue holiness.
It may mean offending family or finding new friends, but swimming in evil causes premature spots and wrinkles, and grieves the Spirit who is the key to a healthy marriage. Husbands, verse 27 says, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”
Singles, keep the end in sight. Paul reminds us God has a long-term plan for His children, and He is going to complete that task. Single guys sometimes look at a gal’s mom and wonder what his potential spouse will look like as she gets older. Let me challenge you singles to look beyond appearance to something far more important. Have they been committed to ministry in the local church, under submission to elders, following God’s Word and pursuing God’s mission, for a long time? Don’t listen to their words, or be enamored by their looks–they too will get wrinkles–look first at proven lifestyle. If you will heed what I am saying, you will be rescued from a lifestyle of pain and sorrow. Only be attracted to someone who loves Jesus Christ more than you, and has proven that love over time.
Husbands, win her like Christ did the Church. Christ showed His love for His bride by setting her apart, internally washing her, giving her the Gospel and causing her to respond all at the price of His painful death on the cross. If He would do all that to win His bride, then if you are going to love your wife like Christ, spend the rest of your days winning your bride. Maybe you don’t have the cash you once did, or the time, but you can and do have the same heart, show it, men. Make sure she knows you still love her like you once did, but even more. Write it out on your schedule, buy cards, bring flowers or whatever she loves, take that walk, get a sitter and show her—prove it to her.
Christians, pursue the process of becoming like Christ. The Holy Spirit’s greatest desire is to make you like Christ–cooperate. Show a commitment to be at church faithfully, be in the Word continually, pray zealously, share the Gospel regularly. He is more important than your spouse, your kids and your home–then act like it. Some of you need to stop coasting and start running after Christ.
Religious? Turn to Christ now. You can’t live the Christian life, love your spouse, or go to heaven forever unless you have turned from self and sin and depend only on Christ and His work on the cross on your behalf–you are going to hell without Christ. Turn to Him today.