Matt Carter speaks on Ephesians 5:23-27
Series: The Real Win
Men, we have been called and commanded by God to be the physical and spiritual leader of our wives and homes. But most of us don’t have a clue how to do that.
If the veil of our private lives were opened up, more often our professional success would be seen, but there would be a great lacking in biblical leadership in our marriages.
For a long time, that was me. I had such a passion in my early years. But, because of my passion for the church and all the stuff I was trying to do in my career, the church had become like a mistress to me. I was putting my God given responsibility to lead and love my wife on cruise control. God has done an amazing work with us since. He has changed me in a lot of ways. But for the first eleven years, I just stunk at what I’m about to discuss.
Pursued, Valued and Cherished
I thought I was doing great. Jennifer and I rarely argued. She is not the type of women that complains. So I just figured we were doing awesome. She has a very strong walk with Jesus and was doing her own thing. Then I was doing my own thing with Jesus. She seemed to be doing okay.
One day she started crying and said we needed to talk. I’ll never forget what she said, “Matt, I want you to know I would never leave you. I would never cheat on you. Ever. I love Jesus too much to do that. But I’m not okay in this marriage. I don’t feel like we’re doing okay.” I was confused, I thought I was doing great. I thought I was an amazing husband.
She said, “I feel like you’re here with me physically, but not emotionally. You feel so distant all the time, I don’t feel pursued by you.” When we were dating I pursued her all the time, but now in marriage I didn’t anymore. She said she didn’t feel like I was interested in her as a person. I was a pastor and was interested in everybody else’s walk with Jesus, but not hers.
I was also doing a lot of counseling while this way going on. There were a few couples going through affairs. It was the women having the affairs. All three of the women had the same complaints, saying, “He’s the one I really love. But he’s just distant and doesn’t pursue me anymore. I don’t feel cherished by him.” Inevitably they would then say, “But there was this guy at work who did.”
This was also the time the book series, Twilight, was popular. It’s a story of a girl who falls in love with a vampire. That’s it. No big deal! Yet, one hundred and sixty million of those books have been sold. Every body was reading and talking about it. I was in the office one day and overheard some of the women talking about it over lunch. I sat down and said, “Y’all quit eating for just a second, I need to ask you a question. Every girl I know in the world is reading this book right now. My wife just finished them all in a day. Why do you women like this Twilight book so much?”
One of the girls responded and started explaining, “Edward is the perfect man.” I looked at her and said, “What do you mean he’s the perfect man? The dude is an albino vampire!” She said, “Matt, he’s just so into her. He cherishes her and pursues her. He doesn’t even notice the waiter, he’s so into her.” I walked out of that conversation and into my office. Pulled up the news and right there was an article about Twilight. It read, “The success of Twilight is a testament to the failure of the American marriage and men’s inability to understand and meet the deep needs of a woman’s heart.”
I’ve got a wife saying I don’t pursue her, that I feel distant to her and don’t cherish her. I’ve got women in the church that are having affairs on their husbands because they don’t pursue, cherish and value them. I’ve also got tons of women reading a book about a dude with fangs, because he cherishes and pursues and values this girl. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
There is a deep need in the heart of women. They have a deep need to be pursued, valued and cherished. To be led to the person of Jesus, through the man God has placed in their lives.
But we, as men, struggle with that. The good news is the Bible tells us exactly how to do this.
Love Her First
23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:23-25 (ESV)
The first thing he says is, “Husbands, love your wives.” It’s a command of Scripture. But He doesn’t just leave us there, He actually tells us what that love is suppose to look like. He says, “Men, love your wives as Christ loved the church.”
We are to love our wives like Jesus loves the church.
But how did Jesus love the church?
He loved her first. When we were still in our sin and brokenness, He didn’t sit back in heaven with His arms folded, saying, “Hey, get your act together and then maybe I’ll come love you.” No. When we were yet still sinners, Jesus came and He loved.
19 We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 (ESV)
We love Him because He first loved us. My first ten years of marriage I was literally doing it the opposite way. I would have never admitted this, but at the time, I was looking at my wife and thinking as long as she takes care of me, pursues, cherishes and values me, then I’ll pursue her. That is not how Jesus loves us.
Whatever your wife is doing or not doing, whether she deserves or doesn’t deserve it, your call is to love her first.
One of the best resources I’ve come across is the book, The Five Love Languages. Everybody gives and receives love in one of five ways:
This is real simple guys, find the way your wife receives love and do that first.
My wife receives love through quality time and words of affirmation. If I write her a text during the day, she thinks I’m the sweetest guy in the world. She feels so loved. She’s kept every hand written note I’ve ever written her. I’ve also learned that in order for her to feel loved, I have to turn the phone off, put the sermon away and just be there. Be present. Actually listen. It really ministers to her heart.
Here’s the problem. I hate writing notes. I hate talking even more. The last thing I want to do is go home and talk. But it’s a command on my life. Not only is it a command on my life, but I love that woman. I’m nuts about her. I want her to not only know, but feel my love for her.
When the Bible says to love your wife like Christ loves the church, it means to find out how she receives love and do it. Regardless of whether she’s earned it or deserves it. You go first and love her that way.
Give Yourself Up for Her
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25 (ESV, emphasis added)
Christ gave himself up for the church. Not only are we called to love our wives, but we’re also called to give ourselves up for our wives. That’s a lot harder. It’s giving up your rights and freedoms in order to minister to her.
Here are two ways I’ve had to give myself up in order to love and minister to my wife:
Not only am I called to purity because I belong to Jesus, but I’m also supposed to be a one-woman man. I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life to let my wife know that. Here are some of the things I do:
You might think it seems a little extreme. It’s true; I’ve had to give up a lot for her. But maybe it’s time we get a little extreme in order to love our wives. Last time I checked, Jesus was also extreme in His love for us.
I have a temper. But Jesus calls us, as men, to be peacemakers.
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:21-23 (ESV)
Jesus suffered not just for your sins. He suffered in order to leave you an example. In the midst of his suffering He didn’t sin. When Jesus was reviled, He didn’t revile in return. This is all easy to say, but really hard to do.
A pastor once said, “Men, when you get married, you need to lose every argument you ever get into with your wife.” I remember thinking that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. Yet, the older I get, the more I realize how right he was.
In conflict, you take the initiative to make peace, because God called you, the man, to lead. When things like the volume of voices and harshness of words begin to escalate, you de-escalate. Why? Because you’re the man. God called you to lead and love first.
Love you wife like Christ loved the church. Love her first. Then you find the areas and ways that you need to do this for your wife and you lay those things down for her. That’s what Jesus did for you.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV)
The number one person responsible for the sanctification of your wife is you. It is not me, the pastor. It’s not Beth Moore. It’s you. That doesn’t mean you preach at her constantly. But you do care about her prayer life and her devotional life. Do you know what your wife’s prayer life is like? When’s the last time you took the initiative to pray with her? Do you know what she’s studying? Do you know what her spiritual gifts are and if she’s utilizing them?
There are so many spiritual widows out there. We are with them physically, but they’re all alone spiritually. Scripture is very clear when calling us to love them the way Christ loves the church and give ourselves up for them, so that we may sanctify them.
It is spiritually critical that you engage in her walk with Jesus.
If you had asked ten years ago what my goals for life were, I would have said something about the church or things I wanted to accomplish in my career. But I now have two new goals. When my kids and wife are standing over my casket:
When Jonathan Edwards died, his wife wrote a letter to their daughter. She wrote, “Oh my very dear child, what shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. Oh, that we may all kiss the rod and lay our hands on our mouths for the Lord has done it and God has made me adore His goodness, that we had your father so long. But my God lives and He has my heart. Oh what a legacy my husband and your father have left for us.”
Who in this room would not want their wives to say that about them?
By the grace of God, by His power, let’s live our lives in such a way that the people close to us can say that about us.