Most newlyweds have little spats; Bre and I were no different. On one particularly hot summer day, the air conditioning unit of our little condominium broke. The repairman couldn’t help for a couple of days so we were forced to get ready for church in sweltering heat. Being quite compulsive over heat and sweat, I concocted a genius plan to shower, dress, and sit in the air-conditioned car while my new bride took her precious time. Feeling very “mature” about my plan, I set out my clothes and hopped in the shower.
However, following my shower I saw that my lovely bride had positioned herself on the bed to do her hair. As I rounded the corner, tuft after tuft of hairspray molecules were floating in the sunlight, down through the heavy air, and on to my newly ironed church clothes. Inside, I boiled. I tried to fight it, but couldn’t.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” she replied with innocent doe-like eyes.
“I mean, why are you spraying molecules?”
As you can imagine, she sat motionless, quite baffled and confused at the term “molecules.” It was then, that I lost it…
“You’re spraying molecules on my clothes!”
My summer angel then slowly stood up as her eyes watered over, and she walked down the hallway toward the hot stuffy bathroom, and shut the door. But, instead of letting it go, my ego was now involved, so I followed her down the hallway, standing outside the door, yelling about hairspray molecules.
Just then, she quietly uttered one tiny phrase, “It wouldn’t be a big deal if the shoe was on the other foot…” That was it for my cantankerous ego! I pushed open the door, she drew back into the corner, I saw the monstrous can of big red hairspray and said, “We’ll see…” And with the flourish of a man out to hunt his first deer, I walked directly to her closet, yelling over my shoulder, “Wouldn’t be a big deal, eh?”
Ripping open the closet door, I paused…. looking at her, looking at her clothes, feeling the sweaty grip of a sticky can in my palm. Then I cut loose; spraying her entire closet with hairspray.
It only took a moment before I felt guilty and ashamed. (I also felt a slight survival light click on indicating I was in real danger.) By this time the bathroom door was shut and I walked back down the hallway to apologize. Inside, I heard the sniffs of God’s princess and gently leaned my head against the door jamb. As I did so, I heard words, I’ll never forget, “Do you… even… love me… anymore?” Oh, my heart dropped. Somehow I’d allowed hairspray molecules to make my wife question my love for her.
You may not have sprayed your wife’s clothing (and lived to tell about it). But, I guarantee you’ve been in a disagreement that ended in one or both people in the marriage questioning the bonds of love. Why does this happen? Let’s study Paul’s words to the Ephesians and then come back to answer this important question to end the chapter. As you’ll see, Paul builds toward an answer by giving a series of comparisons, culminating in one vital takeaway.
Ephesians 5:15 says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise…” The first comparison Paul gives is between wise people and unwise people. As you can see, this forces us to ask, “What is biblical wisdom?” The simplest answer I can give is that biblical wisdom learns from mistakes and changes while biblical foolishness keeps making the same mistakes over and over again.
We won’t have time to dig in here but I’d encourage all men to perform a study on biblical wisdom. There’s an old saying, “If you always do, what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got” and if a man is unwilling to change, then he is stuck in the starting gate of foolishness and misery. Take time to evaluate your life: Do you see patterns? The same financial struggles? The same temper flair ups? The same sexual indiscretions? If this is the case, the issue probably isn’t the world, it probably isn’t others, it’s probably you!
The first step in change is admitting the need for change. This is the Gospel. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – that’s you, that’s me, that’s everyone. We are wicked by our very nature and a holy God simply can’t allow us into relationship with Him or into His heaven. However, Jesus Christ came, lived a sinless life, and died a substitutionary death. If you follow Him as your Savior and Lord He will give you a new heart, with new power, and new hope in His coming kingdom!
Paul then gives another comparison in Ephesians 5:17, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” After a person is willing to change, then Paul explains they’ll search out “what the will of the Lord is.” The term “understanding” is the word for bringing an army together or putting puzzle pieces together. We might view it as a person who literally sits down and looks at all of the components in life and asks, “Are these ordered around God’s design?”
Wow! Paul says the Christian husband or wife will look at every area of their life and ask if it’s in line with God’s desire. Obviously, this means the Christian husband and wife will need to know what God’s desire is! So, what are a few things we know God desires?
First, we know that God expects sexual purity. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Therefore, if people look at porn, sleep around, fantasize, joke sexually, they are outside of God’s design for them.
Next, we know that God expects order. 1 Peter 2:13 says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” So, if people oppose government, create civil unrest, get arrested, and operate with a politico-revolutionary attitude, they are outside of God’s will.
Finally, we know God expects perseverance. 1 Peter 4:19 tells us, “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” If people stand for truth even when opposed or harmed, that is clearly God’s will. In essence, Paul tells the little church of Ephesus, “God didn’t tell you everything, but He sure wrote quite a bit down! Keep your body pure, your family taught, your record clean, and your love bold.”
Take a brief test. Ask yourself: 1) Is my sexuality pure? 2) Is my legality pure? 3) Is my witness pure? If you’re nailing those three items, you’re very likely in the center of God’s will!
Billions of lives have been destroyed by alcohol. Sadly, even many supposedly Christian men and women need alcohol to feel happy, sexual, and at peace. If you find yourself needing a drink at night or on the weekends to feel satisfied, study these words very closely.
Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation…” The third comparison begins with a warning about alcohol. Paul is not giving a treatise on “how much alcohol is okay to drink” but a general warning on its consequences. It saddens me that people use this text to point out that Paul said “drunk” as if that is Paul’s point. Yes, Paul does not say it’s entirely wrong to drink wine of some sort, but his emphasis is to a church suffering under the drunken orgies of the pagan god Dionysius, and he’s urging the church of Ephesus to steer clear of their parties and alcoholism.
The wisdom of Proverbs clearly supports this warning on alcoholic consumption. Proverbs 23:29 says, “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine…” Over use of alcohol is a manipulative killer who takes no hostages. It prompts men think they’re happy, healthy, wealthy, and sexy, as they walk their way to ruin! Alcohol sets the hook, and no matter how rationally a person sees their ruin, they can’t squirm away. Statistics indicate that alcohol claims fifty times more lives than all other drugs combined, destroys 1 of every 4 families, and is linked to over 80% of all arrests in America. [i]
When my wife and I first entered church work, we did so with a wonderful group of Christian friends. Most of them ended up in blessed marriages serving in pastoral roles at various churches. But one day I saw a Facebook post from one of the girls we’d known well. The post showed that instead of being home with her husband Sam and one year old daughter Malinda on Friday night, our friend Marissa was at a country line dance club with girlfriends downing margaritas. Immediately Bre and I knew to pray, something was not right. Sure enough, it was only months before news of the divorce began to circulate. Friends, I’ve seen this same scene play out in dozens of families – believers and unbelievers – When alcohol and partying invade the family, the family falls apart.
Let’s look at what Paul compares alcohol to. Instead of being filled with alcohol, Paul commands, “but be filled with the Spirit.” The present passive imperative “be filled” describes a conscious surrender of the mind and will, allowing the Holy Spirit to do repeated work on the inside. I like to picture this as a sponge, allowing the Holy Spirit to permeate everything. The clear picture here is of a person choosing not to be downing beer and wine but daily be drinking in the Holy Spirit!
The obvious question then is, “How do I know if I’m being filled with the Holy Spirit?” so Paul goes on to describe the outcomes of a Spirit filled life. Instead of selfishness, partying, drunkenness, temper flair ups, sexual temptations, sarcasm, covetousness, jealousies, and depression, the Spirit filled life exerts itself in three areas. Use these three items to assess your own personal filling of the Holy Spirit:
1. Singing in the Spirit
First, the Spirit filled life sings. Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;” Paul is pointing out the songs of the Old Testament and telling the early believers that a Christian’s heart will be so overcome with joy through the Holy Spirit that he’ll want to sing.
Do you remember singing loudly as a child? My daughter Peyton Faith loves to make up songs. Even our youngest Ezekiel babbles a song or two. The other day my son Ethan was mowing the lawn while I worked in the garage and I heard him belting out his favorite worship song over the hum of the mower. Inside I thought, “Why don’t I sing when mowing the lawn?”
The concept of group singing is unique to Christians. Where else will you gather with hundreds of other people to sing? At a concert the talent sings and the rest of us cheer. At a ballgame, most people act silly during the seventh inning stretch. Really the only place you’ll see and hear a group of people sing is at church. Why? Because it’s prompted by the Holy Spirit!
This means that spiritual families will spend time singing. One family I know does devotions with their children every night before bed and then sings a worship song. Another family I know has home worship nights where the children preach sermons and lead the entire family in song. One other family even put together a mini-worship team (aka God’s Partridge Family) and writes their own music. None of these families plan to “take it on the road” or publish their music, they simply do it as an out-flowing expression of their love for Jesus.
We’ve a family friend whose son (age 13) is undergoing heart transplant surgery at UCLA. While awaiting his heart in the ICU, hooked up to IV’s and heavy medication, he and his dad brought their guitar and drums to the ward. There on the eighth floor of UCLA Medical Center, this young man helped lead worship for dozens of other children suffering from life threatening illness. Even while his physical heart deteriorated, his spiritual heart blossomed with praise!
2. Thanksgiving in the Spirit
Secondly, a Spirit filled family will give thanks. In Ephesians 5:20 Paul continues, “always giving thanks for all things…” Notice that a Spirit filled person isn’t only giving thanks for good things but for all things!
There are some great examples in the Bible of people who thanked God in all circumstances but one of the best is Daniel. There’s one moment in Daniel’s life where he has risen to the top ranks of the kingdom and is highly respected by the king. His fellow officials get jealous and fabricate a way to get him sent to the lion’s for punishment. After the trap has been sent and he knows the coming consequence, Daniel 6:10 says that he, “entered his house and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” One day, Daniel was beloved. The next day, he was sentenced to death. However, Daniel knew that even though his circumstances had changed, God hadn’t! God was God in the good times and God was still God in the hard times. That is a Spirit filled man.
You see, there are three levels of thanksgiving that indicate our level of intimacy with God: Level one is thanking God for former blessing. Many people do this, thanking God for positive things in their life. Level two is thanking God for future victory. Many people do this, looking back at all God has done, and trusting that He’ll continue to do good. But, very few ever reach level three. Level three is thanking God for current trial. The most Spirit filled believers will look at present hardships and realize that God has a specific purpose for such difficulty and thank Him for the strength to endure. In brief, people are like tea bags, put them in hot water, and you see just how strong they are!
3. Submission in the Spirit
A final key out working of the Spirit filled believer (and family) is submission to one another. Ephesians 5:21 concludes, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
“Subject to” means to put one’s self under another. In the world unbelievers take great pride in their independence. But believers choose to take the lower seat and elevate others over themselves. A husband is to elevate his wife over himself. A wife is to elevate her husband over herself. Church members are to show up on Sunday looking for ways to serve others over themselves. Congregants hold their pastors in high regard. Pastors serve their sheep with utmost faithfulness. Mutual submission is what Christ manifested when He washed the disciple’s feet in John 13 and is one of the things that separates Christianity from everything else on earth.
Why do Christians go to such great lengths? Paul tells us why when he writes, “in the fear of Christ.” Paul is reminding Christians that very soon they’ll meet the Head of the body, and because of this they are to be very careful with how they treat each member of His body. Remember, every Christian will stand and give account for their life and their opportunities for service in the coming kingdom will be based on this (1 Cor 3:11-15, 2 Cor 10)
Hopefully you see how this brings our chapter full circle. To begin the chapter I told you that I hair-sprayed my wife’s closet. Now, a psychologist might have said I had “anger issues” or needed to explore my childhood. But what Scripture has shown us is that I had a different, and more serious, problem altogether; My issue was that I hadn’t surrendered to the Power of the Holy Spirit, to live out God’s best, and elevate my wife above myself!
Friends, I can promise you that any relational frustration you find in marriage and family can be boiled down to this one point: Are you surrendered to the Spirit’s work, growing desirous of God’s biblical design, to elevate your spouse and children above yourself? This is the magnum opus of a healthy marriage, the coup de gras, the rubber stamp, the money-back guarantee! If you can properly address this single question, the rest of the book will make sense, and your life will become more holy.
The preceding is an excerpt from DEFINING FAMILY, a modern user-friendly guide to the biblical home, set to be published and released February 2017.