My name is Mike Edmisten. I’m the pastor here at Connect, and I have loved this series called I Want A New Marriage. We’re wrapping up this four week series today, so let’s pray and just get right after it.
Check out what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7. “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life…” (1 Corinthians 7:28b, NIV)
How’s that for an awesome, feel-good verse to wrap up a marriage series? That’s probably not what you were expecting, but let’s be honest…that’s true, isn’t it? It’s absolutely true.
I’ve met so many young couples who thought that marriage was going to fix everything. In fact, I’ll never forget one couple I met in college. They were engaged, but they fought and argued and bickered all the time. And one day, after they had a really big fight, the guy told me, “I just can’t wait until we get married. It will all get better then. It’s just so hard being engaged.”
Those of you who are married….have you ever heard a dumber statement than that?
Marriage doesn’t fix things. And if you’re single right now, this is especially important for you to hear. Marriage doesn’t fix things.
Marriage doesn’t make things simpler. It makes things more complicated. Marriage doesn’t get rid of tension. It magnifies it. Marriage doesn’t heal brokenness. It exposes it.
So if you’re in a dating relationship right now that isn’t healthy, you’ve got to understand that marriage isn’t going to make it healthy. It’s going to amplify the unhealthiness. If there are things that you are uncomfortable with in the relationship now…when you get married, multiply that by 1,000. It doesn’t go away. It gets magnified 1,000 times.
And that’s partly why Paul said that those who marry will face many troubles in this life.
To put it bluntly, single is simple. It is just simpler to be single. It really is. And if you’re content to remain single, then you can embrace and enjoy this truth.
When all your married friends are running kids to sporting events and school functions…when they’re leaving work early to get a kid from school that has a fever or when their cleaning up puke because their kids has a stomach virus AGAIN, you know what you can do if you’re single? You can just smile and say, “Have fun with that. I’m going to go catch a movie.”
Single is simple. It really is. It is just simpler to be single. And if you want to remain single, you need to know that that is a healthy, godly choice. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently. If you’re content to remain single, go for it.
But if you want to get married, or if you’re already married, then you’ve just got to embrace this truth.
Single is simple. But marriage is messy.
It’s messy when two sinful, imperfect people are living in the same house. And it gets a million times messier when sinful, imperfect kids are added to the mix. Things just get crazy. And as much as we want people to believe that we have the perfect little family, we know the truth. Things at home can get really messy sometimes.
But the mess is worth it. It is. The mess is worth it, because marriage is worth it. Yes, it’s messy. Yes, it’s crazy. Yes, it can be difficult. Yes, it complicates things. But it’s worth it, because there is joy in the mess. There is fulfillment in the mess. There is peace in the mess.
Well, there’s supposed to be, anyway. That was God’s intention for marriage. But there are a ton of marriages that aren’t joyful and fulfilling and peaceful. And that’s why we decided to preach this series at Connect. Because God’s way is better. And we want the marriages here at Connect to experience God’s better.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. God’s better is always better than my best. That’s true for anything in my life. And it’s absolutely true in my marriage. God’s better is always better than my best.
When we surrender to God’s will and we do it God’s way, it’s always better. Doesn’t matter what it is. When we surrender to God’s will and we do it God’s way, it’s always better.
And that’s what I want for my marriage. I want to do it God’s way, because it’s better. And God’s better is always better than my best.
Last Sunday, my family had to sprint out the door after church to get to a soccer game. Our son, Brock’s, team was playing in the championship game of the tournament. They had only lost one game during the entire regular season, but guess who they were playing for the tournament championship? They were playing the one team that had beaten them.
And it was the most evenly matched game they had played all season. But Brock’s team won the championship game 2-1. It was awesome!
And I’ve got a few pictures to show you. Here’s the team giving their coach an ice water bath.
And here’s Brock running through the parent tunnel after the win.
And here’s Brock getting his trophy from his coach.
You know how some parents are so obnoxiously proud that they’ll whip out their phone to show you pictures of their kids when you really don’t care all that much? Well, I’m a dad who happens to be armed with two HD projectors. And I’m your pastor, so you have to at least pretend like you’re interested.
I’ll be honest, when this season started, I didn’t think this was a championship team. We had several kids on this team who had never even seen a soccer ball before. But our team had some really fantastic coaches and some really supportive parents. And the kids learned and grew and developed as players throughout the season.
And one of the biggest things they had to learn was how to play their position. In soccer, just like in any other sport, you’ve got to know your role when you’re on the field. If you don’t play your position well, the whole team will suffer.
And I saw Brock develop that throughout the season. He mostly played fullback, and he knew his role was to clear the ball out from in front of his goal. He would occasionally play forward, and he knew his role was to drive the ball down the field to try and score. And he even played a little bit of goalie, which Nicki and I hated, because as parents, that’s the most nerve-wracking position to watch your kid play. He’s the last line of defense for the team. I think I chewed off every fingernail I had when Brock was in the goal.
But all the kids learned to play their position, and that’s why the team succeeded.
Here’s a truth that can be controversial, but it’s absolutely true. There are different positions to play in marriage. Marriage is a team sport, and there are different positions on that team.
Last week we talked about how men and women are different, despite when our gender neutral culture wants us to believe. When you open the pages of Scripture, you can clearly see how God designed us to be different. And the differences are more than physiological. It’s more than differences in the plumbing. Men and women are different in the core of their hearts. They have different needs and desires, and in marriage, they have different roles and responsibilities. And God outlines those roles and responsibilities in His Word. It’s not necessarily politically correct, but it is God’s design. And remember…when we surrender to God’s will and do it God’s way, it’s always better. And God’s better is always better than my best.
So let’s open up the pages of Scripture and see what God has said about the different positions we’re supposed to play in our marriages.
In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul gives some clear instructions on marriage, but it has turned into what is possibly the most controversial and misunderstood passage in the entire Bible. And we’re going to take it head on today. This should be fun.
In verse 21, Paul writes, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21, NIV)
That one sentence sets the stage for everything else that Paul is about to say. It begins with this principle: I will put the needs and desires of my spouse ahead of my own.
There is not a single marital struggle or problem or issue that can’t be solved with this one verse. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. I know it sounds way oversimplified, but that one verse is THE solution to the problems in your marriage.
Guys, if you put your wife’s needs and desires ahead of your own…ladies, if you put your husband’s needs and desires ahead of your own…everything else will take care of itself because you are more concerned about serving your spouse than serving yourself. And that paves the way for God to bless your marriage.
This verse tells us that the reason we live with this mutual submission is “out of reverence for Christ.” It is done because we want to honor Jesus in our marriages. And when we desire to honor Him and we live to obey Him, we are blessed by Him, because God’s better is always better than our best.
Now, with that as the foundation, let’s read what Paul said next. He’s told us to submit to each other…to give our spouse what they need and desire…because of our reverence for Christ. Now he tells us what those needs and desires are. First, he speaks to the ladies.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24, NIV)
Can you feel the tension in the room? If you can’t, you should try standing up here. Let me tell you…it’s palpable.
This is incredibly controversial in our culture today, but a lot of the controversy comes from a misunderstanding about what Paul is actually saying here. This text has become a lightning rod because it’s been misinterpreted and misunderstood. Pastors have abused this text. Men have used this text as a weapon. Women have declared war on this text. But I’ve got a better idea. How about we just listen to the text? How about we see what Scripture is really saying here?
When you drop the aggressive or defensive posture and you just look at what it says, here’s what you see. God has designed husbands and wives to be on the same team in marriage, but He has designed them to play different positions on that team.
The reason for the controversy surrounding this text is the idea of submission. There are men who love this text because they use these verses like a sledgehammer with their wives. Submission is a lot more like slavery in their minds. They seem to forget that Paul opened up this passage by telling husbands and wives to submit to one another. They conveniently leave that part out.
And then there are women who hate this passage because culture has engrained them with the mindset that submission is demeaning. It turns women into objects or possessions. “The Bible is filled with an anti-woman message because it was written in a hyper-patriarchal culture whose goal was to keep women down.”
Both viewpoints of these verses are equally wrong. So let’s put aside all the preconceived ideas and all the cultural clutter and let’s look at what the Bible is really saying here.
Paul just told husbands and wives to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. Now, he specifically reiterates the command for wives. Submit to your husbands as you submit to Jesus. And then he tells us why. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.
Ladies, God has placed your husband in the leadership role in your home. He is, according to the Bible, the head of your home. Men are created by God to lead. It is a burden that He has placed on their shoulders. Your husband has been charged by God to lead you, as his wife, and to lead your children as their father. It is a heavy burden to carry, but a godly man will understand that he has no choice except to rise to the challenge.
But ladies, you have the power to take this from a burden to an impossibility. Here’s the question: are you leadable? Do you position yourself in such a way that you make it possible for your husband to lead, or do you make it an impossible task for him? You have that power, ladies. You can help your husband be the man God has called him to be, or you can make it impossible.
You make it impossible when every decision in your marriage becomes a power play.
You make it impossible when you criticize and condemn your husband. And if you want bonus points, run him down in front of the kids. And if you want to score a hat trick, run him down in front of your friends.
You make it impossible for your husband to lead when you turn everything into a drama. It’s impossible to lead a drama queen.
You make it impossible for your husband when you are shrill and harsh and loud.
Listen to this truth from Proverbs 9. “The foolish woman is loud; she is ignorant and knows nothing.” (Proverbs 9:13, NRSV)
There are some wives who try to win an argument with their husband using sheer volume. If that’s you, then you need to know that the Word of God says you’re a fool. That’s not me saying it. That’s straight Scripture.
Loud, harsh, shrill women are foolish because they are placing their husbands in an unwinnable situation. He can’t possibly play his position well on the marriage team. He can’t be the leader that God called him to be.
When a wife yells at her husband, he can’t win. Think about it. What are his choices? If he yells back at his wife, he is mean. If he cowers and does nothing, he is weak. Either way, he can’t win.
If he caves in, he becomes weak and emasculated. If he fights back, he becomes an ogre and a beast. It’s an unwinnable situation.
Ladies, you hold the winning card. You can decide how it all will go. Play your card in a way that allows your husband to succeed. Help him become the man that God created him to be.
And when it comes to this whole submission thing, you’ve got to understand this, ladies…the leadership structure of your home is not based on worth. This is where so many people get this so incredibly wrong.
This doesn’t mean your husband is more important than you are. It doesn’t mean that he’s smarter than you are. It doesn’t mean that God loves him more than He loves you. It has nothing to do with worth. It has everything to do with the differences that God hardwired into men and women.
God designed men to lead. And a real, masculine, godly man will take that burden with gladness. I heard one preacher describe it like this. He said, “Men are like trucks. They drive straighter with a load.” This burden of leadership is heavy, but a godly man will accept it gladly.
It’s an uphill battle all the way, but it’s a battle that a godly man is willing to fight. Until the battle happens within his own home. Until the battle becomes a power struggle. That’s not a fight that your husband can win.
And when you keep reading this passage from Ephesians 5, it all really comes into focus. Here’s what Paul says to husbands.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25, NIV)
There are a lot of women who want to complain about the submission verse, but I’ve never had a woman complain to me that her husband was loving her too much or too well. No wife has ever called me and said, “My marriage really needs help because my husband is loving me like Christ loved the church. He’s serving me too well. He’s loving me too deeply.” I’ve never gotten that call. And I don’t think I’ll get it anytime soon, either.
The reason a godly wife can submit to her husband’s leadership is because he takes his responsibility to her very seriously. And his role is to love his wife as Jesus loved the church.
Guys, think about that. Even if you’ve heard this before, let this thought really percolate in your mind and heart. You are charged by God to love your wife like Christ loved the church. Jesus laid everything on the line for the church. Ultimately, Jesus died for the church. It was completely sacrificial. It was a love that never asked, “What can I get?” It was always, “What can I give?” And in the end, Jesus gave everything.
That’s your model, gentlemen. Your model is Jesus. And Jesus leads by love and by sacrifice.
This is obviously Memorial Day weekend. It’s a weekend we set aside to remember the sacrifices that so many of our armed forces have made so we can live in freedom. In fact, if you have served in any branch of our military, or if you currently have a family member that is serving, would you stand up right now? God bless you guys. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.
Service and sacrifice are the pinnacles of love. We see that in men and women who have fought, bled, and even died for our country.
And we see that infinitely more in a Savior whose love drove Him to serve and sacrifice for us by giving His life on the cross for us. And men, we have to realize that He is our model for how we lead and love our families. It’s all about service and sacrifice.
So listen to me, guys…if your wife really hates that submission verse, it could be because you’re not following Jesus’ lead. Your wife might struggle with the principle of submission simply because you’re not a leader worth following.
A heavy-handed, authoritative ogre isn’t worth following. A lazy, useless lump isn’t worth following. A grumpy, angry jerk with a short fuse and a long temper isn’t worth following.
If that’s you, then I want to tell you the truth. I’m your pastor, and I love you enough to tell you the truth. And the truth is, you’re not a man. Not by this definition that we see in Scripture. You’re not living like a man. You’re living like a boy who can shave. And guess what, dude? Women raise little boys. Women change little boys’ diapers. Women breastfeed little boys. But women definitely don’t submit to little boys.
It starts with you, guys. You are the leader, and leaders go first. In fact, that’s exactly what Paul says in Ephesians 5.
Go back and look at Ephesians 5:23 again. “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” (Ephesians 5:23, NIV)
Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife. The Greek word that Paul used for “head” can mean a literal, physical head. But that word was also used to describe the point of a spear or the front of a ship.
The context of Ephesians 5:23 tells us that just as Christ went ahead of the church to save it by dying on the cross, the husband goes ahead of his wife and his family to protect them, and serve them, and love them. A godly husband will always go ahead of his family.
Masculine men lead their wives in the sense that they sacrifice for them, protect them, and keep them from experiencing undue stress, exhaustion, pain and hardship. Only weak, weenie, effeminate men push their wives to go ahead of them and experience what they should experience as a husband and a leader.
That’s the mantle that you carry, gentlemen. That’s the deal you signed up for when you put that ring on her finger. And today, I’m calling all the men of Connect to grow up, step up, man up, and lead well.
Now, look at how Paul wraps this up in Ephesians 5. In verse 33, he writes, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33, NIV)
At the beginning of this passage, Paul said to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Put your spouse’s needs and desires above your own. And the last verse in the passage says the same thing.
Husbands, love your wives. Guys, your wife needs to know that you love her. The answer to, “Do you love me?” is not, “I married you, didn’t I?” Wrong answer. Your wife needs to hear your words of love and affirmation everyday.
Everyday, she needs to hear the words, “I love you.” Everyday, she needs to hear you say, “You’re beautiful. You’re so special. I never have and never will want anybody else.” That’s what your wife needs above anything else.
Guys, your wife can face anything that life throws at her if she knows that she is unquestionably and unequivocally loved by you. Your wife needs a love from you that is unyielding and uncompromising. She needs to know that you are willing to go to the cross for her. As her husband, you can give her nothing less.
Husbands, love your wives. Wives, respect your husbands. Ladies, this is what your husband needs above anything else. He needs to know that his wife respects him. And I know that might sound weird to you.
You might think, “You’re telling me that my husband needs to hear the words, ‘I respect you,’ even more than, ‘I love you?’” That’s exactly what we’re saying. See, here’s what you’ve got to understand. To your husband, respect IS love. They are one and the same to a man. Your respect, your admiration, your loving support will make it possible for your husband to stand up under the weight of the responsibility on his shoulders.
Ladies, you’re husband wants to be admired and desired by you. That’s how you build him up. That’s what love is in his eyes.
And guess what happens when both husbands and wives take this to heart? Husbands give their wives what they need most: love. Wives give their husbands what they need most: respect. Guess what happens when you both take that to heart? You get a new marriage.
Maybe you were skeptical when you heard the title of this series: I Want A New Marriage. Maybe that just sounds too good to be true. Maybe you’re in a marriage that has drifted so far that you just don’t think it can be made new. Maybe you’re in a marriage that you think is beyond hope. You want to believe that a new marriage is possible, but to be honest, you just don’t.
If that’s you, then you really need to see this.
I want to thank our friends at Eastside Christian Church for giving us permission to use that video today.
Do you still think that God can’t make your marriage new? Do you still think that “I Want A New Marriage” just doesn’t apply to you? Look at what He did for Leo and Cynthia. God makes lives and marriages new, because that’s just who He is.
In Revelation 21, John tells us that God said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5b, NIV)
That’s what God does. It’s at the core of who He is. He makes things new. And that includes your marriage.
It can be made new for the very same reason that our lives can be made new. It happens through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus died on the cross, He took all of our brokenness and shame and sin on Himself. And it died with Him.
And then when He rose to life again, He won the final victory over our brokenness and shame and sin. That’s what allows Him to make everything new.
If you want a new marriage, then there’s only one way it can happen: Jesus. In that video, Leo and Cynthia found hope in Christ. They found a new life, and a new marriage, because of Jesus. And that same hope is available to you and me today.
It’s all about Jesus. Because of Jesus, your new marriage really can start today.