Sermon Series


May 6, 2012 AD, by Pastor Ben Willis

Paul’s Letter To the Ephesians 5:21, 25-33 [NLTse]

21 …Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Two weeks ago we spoke about the role God has given women in the marriage covenant. Today I’d like to talk about the role God has given men. It was awkward to put the women’s responsibilities out there first because of the bad press the biblical idea of “submission” has gotten in our culture. And yet it was important for us to talk about the women first so we might describe men’s role in relation to the women’s role.

We just read, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” So Paul writes that we can better understand a husband’s submission to his wife by looking at Christ’s submission to the church. Yes, one might grumble and complain that, “All the Bible talks about is God wanting people to obey Him and submit to Him and surrender to Him. Yuck!” But having acknowledged that God does indeed want these things, we can look at God’s role and what He’s done:

  • giving up His life – His rights and privileges as eternal, God Almighty for us by becoming a human being and then even further by going to the cross;
  • doing everything we needed done so that we might be whole and complete, brought back into relationship with God the Father, and experience God’s shalom-fullness and abundant life; and,
  • nourishing us and caring for us day by day.

At first glance, our part in our relationship with God may appear slavish and oppressive, but when you then look at God’s part we can see that, in reality, we’ve got it easy, and our obedience, submission, and surrender gets to be lived out with such awe and thanksgiving!

So, wives are called to submit to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church. But what exactly is the husband’s role?

First, as we’ve just seen, God calls us (and so remember, that means the Holy Spirit will empower us to carry it out!) God calls us, husbands, to give up our lives for our wives. When I think of Jesus giving up His life I think of Philippians 2:6-8…

“Though He [Jesus] was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

Jesus gave up His divine privileges for us. What privileges do we enjoy, husbands, that God is calling us to give up for our wives? Perhaps, what we want, when we want it, and as often as we want it? Is that a privilege we believe we have that the Lord God may be calling us to give up for our wife’s sake?

“MY WORD IS LAW AROUND HERE WOMAN! I WEAR THE PANTS IN THIS FAMILY!” Perhaps that kind of an Archie Bunker, tyrant’s attitude is one the Lord God might be calling us to give up for our wife’s sake?

That phrase, “gave up His divine privileges” most literally means that Jesus “emptied Himself”. But it’s the idea of emptiness the way you might say that your and a friend’s conversation was “empty” because you weren’t talking about anything substantial; you were just goofing and fooling around, “talking trash”; it was nothing. Empty. So the flavor of “giving up His divine privileges” means that Jesus – the Son of God, the Great I AM – took the risk of letting His creation see Him as a nobody. (Which, of course, is exactly what much of the world has done in their estimation of Jesus Christ.) And, husbands, that means we need to be willing to let “the guys” think she’s got us wrapped around her little finger, if that’s what they think as we are loving and giving up our lives for our wives. It means we need to let the other women around us see us as nothing: We’re not available to them; no flirting; no “playful” banter; nothing.

And the Lord Jesus gave up His life for us so that He might present the church to Himself “as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” This is the easiest one to gauge how we’re doing, husbands, though, perhaps, the hardest to carry out: Is your wife more “whole”, more “complete” now than when you married her? Is your wife closer to Christ now than she was when you married her, and (depending on how long you’ve been married) is she closer to Him and enjoying Him more than she was, say, five years ago? Is her life marked by greater, deeper, more abiding peace because you have been her husband? Is her life more abundant and exhibiting more of the Holy Spirit’s fruit because you have been her husband? That’s our role, husbands. And that’s God’s goal for us in our marriages.

Lastly, We’ve seen that, just as Christ nourishes and cares for us – the church – so we are called to nourish and tenderly care for our wives. I’ve said that Jesus “nourishes” us instead of “feeds” us, as is used in our reading, because the energy behind the word is not just to nourish or to feed but to bring to that which is nourishing, to bring to that which feeds. So, husbands, we need to be taking the lead with our wives. We need to be the spiritual heads of our marriages, or our families. That means we need to be initiating devotions, making church a priority, encouraging our wives and our children (if we have any or have any at home) to be part of a small group or Bible Study.

And we need to be willing to make the hard calls, asking our Father, “What do You want for my wife and I and (perhaps) our family here, Lord?” You need to make the difficult call: Is it a time for your wife to what you want, or a time to lay down your wants and do what she wants? We need to be asking the Lord, “Does it best serve Your purposes for my marriage, Lord, to go this direction or that?” “Which of us is expressing Your wisdom in this situation, Father, my wife or myself?” And these questions, and this servant leadership of our homes, takes discernment, and wisdom, and humility, and the willingness to ask forgiveness when we realize we’ve been wrong, and the willingness to freely give forgiveness when she asks for it.

The world has made a sad caricature out of the husband’s high and holy calling. Not us, men! The Holy Spirit has filled us so that we might show the world a much more compelling picture, and show them Christ and His love for His church while we’re at it.

29 April 2012 AD, by Pastor Ben Willis

Exodus 15:22-26 [NLTse]

22 Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).

24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to Him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, obeying His commands and keeping all His decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord Who heals you.”

We’re going to be praying for each other’s healing this morning. Two or three elders (and some others) will be spread around the Sanctuary, and as songs praying for healing are played you are invited to come forward, bringing your hurts, temptations, and brokenness to Jesus present in these groups so that He might heal you.

In the Scriptures, when we read of people coming to Jesus for healing, the Lord often asked them what they wanted Him to do for them. So tell these elders and others what you hope the Lord would do for you, and you can expect them to anoint you with oil, lay hands on you (perhaps on your heads or your shoulders), and pray for you as the Holy Spirit leads them.

We recognize there are several ways the Lord heals us when we come to Him seeking healing: He “miraculously” heals us, bringing about changes in us – restoring relationships, reforming limbs, driving away evil spirits, knitting together broken parts, and replacing missing parts; but sometimes our prayers result in less immediate healing, leading us to proper treatments or specialists, or helping treatments work that haven’t or giving specialists new direction where they’ve been clueless before; sometimes our prayers for healing will grant us insights or special knowledge, often granted when it’s our own actions or behaviors that are causing our troubles and trials, for instance, where diet, harmful habits, and the need for forgiveness are involved; and, of course, the Lord Jesus heals us thoroughly and absolutely in the resurrection to come, and the prayers we offer here and now merely help produce in us the grace we need to persevere day by day.

Our reading this morning reminds us that being in a reconciled, obedient relationship with our Father is at the heart of being in full-communion with His help and healing. So as we come seeking prayer let us refresh our commitments to love Him with our all our thoughts and motives, all our words and actions, all our possessions and influence, and to love those with whom we come into contact each day to the same degree we love ourselves. Let’s recommit to obey His Word and to let the Holy Spirit guide our actions and activities each day.

I’d like to invite the elders to come forward and take the lead in praying for us… As the elders come, I’d also like to invite forward:

Mary Beth Bell;

Barbara Boehm;

Lucille Fenner;

Joan Franklin;

Bill Herdman;

Laraine Kensicki;

Pat Melzer;

Ethan Moore;

Alex Pratz;

Jenn Smetana; and,

Noah Willis…

[To the healing pray-ers]: The healing people seek primarily falls into the areas of physical, mental, emotional, and relational healing. Evil and unclean demonic powers can be at the heart of, or merely complicate, any of these areas of our lives. So when people tell you what they’re seeking prayer for, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you – or them – to the heart of the matter for your prayers. Trust that still, small voice speaking to you: Giving you ideas and directing your words. But be humble, as well. Our own experiences and hurts can get us thinking, “They’re just like me,” when, in fact, each soul is a unique expression of God’s image, and their troubles and trials, no matter how similar to yours, may have affected them altogether differently. Love each one who comes to you; let our Father love each one through you…

[To the congregation]: Come, seek healing prayer. He is the Lord our healer.

April 22, 2012, by Pastor Ben Willis

1 Peter 3:1-6, 8-12 [NLTse]

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives.

3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5 This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands. 6 For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do…

8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it. 10 For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns His face against those who do evil.”

As you may have guessed, I’d like to talk to those of you who are wives, this morning, but I want to do it with you, husbands, listening; and with you who may be hoping to be wives someday listening; along with you who may be hoping to be husbands…

Being married has many challenges. But through those challenges, we learn how to be flexible, and most importantly, how to love and forgive. For those of us who are married, the question to ask is, “Am I doing my part?” A failure to understand and live out the specific roles and responsibilities God has given to the husband and wife is the reason for the breakdown of so many marriages today. Wives, do you know what your responsibilities are? 1 Peter 3:1-6 that we just read does a wonderful job of summing them up. Let’s start at the beginning.

Here is what we just read from Peter’s First Letter… Here is Ephesians 5:22-23, “…wives… submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of His body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” And  here is Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.” And Titus 2:4-5, “…older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”

And there’s no way around the word, because “submit” or “subject” is a good translation for hupotasso, which means to place under or to subject. Wives are to place themselves under – are to subject themselves to – their husbands. And according to the passage from Ephesians we quoted, your model for that is the Church’s submission to Christ.

Different husbands and wives might live this out differently, but it certainly doesn’t mean that wives don’t get to have a say in the marriage relationship or the decisions couples have to make together. After all, Christ gives us a say in what He does – we call it “prayer” – to the point that the Bible says we reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12)! So wives are called to fully share the wisdom, insights, and clear thinking they’ve perhaps been given, along with their wants and desires. (And men, let’s remember that many women, and many of them are our wives, are wiser and more insightful and clearer thinkers than we are.) But it remains that God has made the “buck to stop” with the husband; husbands, we are held responsible.

The kind of submission Christ calls wives to is very different from the kind of submission you can hear about and read about in the world:

(1)     In the world submission is enforced, people are made to submit; but a wife’s submission to her husband is voluntary, from the heart;

(2)    In the world submission is motivated by self-interest, demanded by those who expect us to act in ways which benefit them; biblical submission is motivated by a wife’s faith, hope, and love, and though directed to her husband, it is most truly given to our Lord and Savior Who gave up His rights and privileges in order to bring blessings to us;

(3)    In the world submission is mainly a matter of who has power over whom; but a wife’s submission is more a matter of putting the interests of her husband ahead of her own.

Be encouraged, ladies, that the Lord’s given you life-changing, eternal reasons for such submissiveness. Peter says in our reading: “Even if [your husband’s] refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.”

I know many women and wives who try to get the men in their lives to do what they want by arguing and power-plays. But  Proverbs says, “A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping,” (19:13) That “it’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife” (Proverbs 21:19) So trying to fight your husband for control clearly isn’t God’s way.

What’s the best way to influence your husband, regardless of his conduct or attitude toward you? Stop fighting with him and lovingly, willingly, submit to him. At least that’s what the God Who made you and your husband says, ladies.

Of course, there are situations where a wife must not submit to her husband. When we have a husband (or other authority figure over us) demanding we not show God’s righteous-love in a particular instance, or demanding we not show God our love for Him in some particular way, we must obey God rather than people, no matter their authority. And the Lord’s given you sisters and brothers to help you discern the truth about such things when you’re in the midst of them…

Enough about submission, let’s go on to the next big thing Peter talks about: With fashion, make-up, and weight-loss being billion dollar industries in our day, 1 Peter says to wives, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.” Now, the Bible speaks of women being properly dressed and physically fit, of course (Proverbs 31:17, 21; 1 Corinthians 6:19), but our society has put burdens upon you ladies – you wives – which you were never intended to bear, and which the Lord your God is calling you to throw off today.

Our society pressures you to look a certain way, have a certain shape, and reveal it all to anyone who might take a look your way. But the Lord your God says, “Don’t be so concerned with how the package is wrapped, what you’re to be concerned about is the condition of the present that’s inside.” In the apostle Peter’s words, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands.”

Can you see how this might benefit your marriage? Not bearing the burden of wondering if everyone thinks you’re beautiful or if you’re as shapely as the latest cover girl. After all, you are for your husband and he for you. What does it matter whether anyone else in all creation finds you attractive or not? As long as He does. And along with your inner beauty and your gentle, quiet spirit, that’s all that matters!

Maybe you hear this and say, “But I don’t have a gentle and quiet spirit. My life’s more like an awkward clamor of bells!” Well, then it’s time to turn to God and turn away from your habits and practices and activities that are keeping you from being the woman and the wife God has purchased you to be through Christ’s death on the cross.

God’s calling you to submit to your husband? You do that by submitting to His Holy Spirit first! Stop giving in to your anger and gossiping and dirty language. No more lying, for you’ve stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. “Put on your new nature,” Paul writes to the Colossians, “and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.” Instead, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. Try and try and try and try and try again.

Make allowance for other’s faults. Forgive anyone who offends you. Remember that the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Focus on being thankful. Let the message about Jesus, in all its richness, fill your life. And teach and counsel others with whatever wisdom God’s given you. Whatever you do, whatever you say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God…

Husbands, I’m looking forward to talking to you very soon.