Relationships. Nothing else has greater potential to keep us sane…or drive us crazy! Wouldn’t it be great if there was a secret ingredient that could make every relationship better? There is! Join us as we look at what God has to say about the surprising secret to every relationship. Ever.
You are in relationships in every part of your life from your home life to your work life and everywhere else you have a repeated interaction with humans. What act can you bring into those interactions that will not only make that relationship better, but also experience God’s presence and power in your interactions within those connections?
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills Church Online. So good to have you with us this weekend for the launch of our new series, Amiright?! For the next few weekends, we are gonna be pushing into something that my guess is most of us are having to push into already, maybe without intending to, but this coronavirus quarantine has got us having to lean into our relationships. And here’s what we know about relationships. We know that relationships can be challenging under the best of circumstances. And difficult circumstances put additional strain on our relationship. And they show weaknesses and cracks. Difficult circumstances put additional strain on our relationships. And I don’t know what that looks like for you. I know for a lot of people around the world right now, they’re finding that this quarantine is putting strain on their relationships. I wonder which of these you can relate to. Here’s a thought that maybe you can relate to. If schools are closed much longer, parents are gonna find a vaccine before the scientists. Am I right? That’s supposed to be funny. And can I just be honest with you? Funny things said into an auditorium that is able to seat 1,800 people and has no people do not feel funny. I’m assuming that you’re laughing along with me, but I feel like I need a little bit of help. This is a weird question. Would it be possible for us to get up? Oh, we have it. Sweet. Okay, let’s try that again. I’m gonna give you a little bit of help. If schools are closed much longer, parents are going to find a vaccine before the scientists. There we go. All right. Yeah. How about this one. In an unsettling reversal of my teen years, I am now the one yelling at my parents for going out too much. Am I right? Yeah. All right. Let’s see. For those of you who are on way too many Zoom calls right now, how about this. I am going to kill the next person who says that we all look like “The Brady Bunch.” Am I right? Day 14 of no sports, losing hope, but found a woman on my couch. She seems nice. Am I right? How about this. Day 10 of quarantine, very disappointed in police who won’t remove unwanted people from my house just because they pay rent. Am I right?
You know what? Whether you can relate to those or you can write your own, the reality is that this situation, like all difficult situations, is exposing some of the cracks in our relationship. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a difficult thing. It’s never fun but let me tell you something. If you are facing difficulty in relationships, I want you to know you’re not alone, and I want you to know that it’s gonna be okay. In fact, let me just say this, if you feel like you are just absolutely at your wit’s end with your kids, that does not make you a bad mom. It doesn’t make you a bad dad. It just makes you normal, okay? Especially in this circumstance. If you feel like you are…you and your husband or your wife are getting on each other’s last nerve, that doesn’t mean that your marriage is doomed. It just doesn’t. If you feel like you and your roommates are just at each other’s throats, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to place an ad on Craigslist, either for a hitman or for a new roommate, it just means that you’re experiencing what everybody else is experiencing and that is that this difficult circumstance is kind of revealing some of the weaknesses in our relationships. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because we can lean into that. And in fact, this is something that I’ve come to understand. I’m not crazy about this truth, but I’ve seen it confirmed too many times in my life to deny the reality of this principle. And it’s this, is the most difficult relationships and the seasons or the seasons of our relationships that are most difficult, those actually have the greatest potential to help us become more like Jesus. And that’s what we’re all about at Mission Hills, helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission. And our relationships actually become one of the greatest tools in God’s hands to do that.
And so for the next few weeks, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna lean into what it looks like to experience from our relationship everything God intended, and to get out of our relationships everything God intended, and to give in our relationships everything God intended. And so for the next few weeks, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna lean into what I call the surprising secret to every relationship ever. God actually has a secret that he wants to communicate to you that will transform any and every relationship that you have. It will transform your marriage relationships, your dating relationships, your friendships, your relationships with your co-workers, with your neighbors, with your boss, with your employees, with absolutely every…there’s literally no relationship that this secret cannot transform if we understand it and put it into practice in our lives, okay? It’s the surprising secret to every relationship ever.
And I’m not gonna make you wait through the entire series to figure out what it is. I’m gonna share it with you right up front today. So if you wanna know the surprising secret to every relationship out there, why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Ephesians. We’re gonna be in Ephesians 5 today. And while you’re doing that, let me just say this. Here’s what you need to know about the Book of Ephesians. It was written by a follower of Jesus, a man named Paul, to a group of Christians, a group of followers of Jesus in a city called Ephesus, who were experiencing some very difficult circumstances, very different from our own. They were experiencing the difficult circumstance of persecution because of their faith, as opposed to our quarantine situation or the coronavirus fears. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter what kind of difficult circumstances, all difficult circumstances do the same thing. They put additional strain in our relationships, but that also reveals those places that we need to shore up our relationships, okay?
And so Paul, writing to a group of people who were in difficult circumstances, needed to shore up their relationships, he gives them this secret to every relationship ever. He says this, this is Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. That’s it. That is God’s surprising secret to every relationship ever. And I know some of you are probably going, “Are you kidding?” That can’t be it, right? There’s gotta be more to it than that. Submit to one another? Because that’s crazy. Honestly, that’s crazy talk. I mean, if you knew my boss, you would not be asking me to submit to him. If you knew my husband or wife, you would not be asking me to submit to them. If you knew my kids. And what does that even look like? What does that even mean? How would you submit to your kids? Does that mean we have ice cream for breakfast every morning? What are you talking about “submit to one another?” And listen, if that’s how you respond to that, I just wanna acknowledge that I feel that, too. I’ve actually read this passage probably hundreds of times in my life as a follower of Jesus, and every single time that I read that, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” every time I read that, there’s a part in me that goes, “No, that can’t be right. That has to be messed up.” And if you’re having that same response, then I get that because I’m in the same place.
But here’s what I want you to understand. Probably two things that we need to recognize, come to grips with, two things that make us very hard to receive this truth in the way that God intends it or to put it into our lives in the way God intends it. Two things that make it hard to receive this as the secret to every relationship ever. The first one is this. Sin and submission are like oil and water. Sin and submission are like oil and water. They just don’t mix. They actively repel each other, okay? And the reason for that is pretty simple. It’s because sin, by its very nature, is anti-submission. In fact, you might…could make the argument that sin is almost, by definition, it is the act of not submitting, right? Because sin is our refusal to submit to God. God’s the one who decides what is right and wrong, what is good and what is true. And he decides really what our lives are supposed to look like when they’re living or when they’re being lived in the way that they’re supposed to be lived. But sin, by its very nature, says, “Hey God, I appreciate the life and everything, but I think I’ll take it from here. I think from now on I’ll call the shots. I think from now on I’ll decide for myself what is right and what is wrong, what’s good for me and what’s bad for me. I’ll make the decisions from here on out.” And that’s the opposite of submitting to God. And so sin, by its very nature, is the opposite of submission. And the problem is we’re all sinful. We all have sin.
Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I love this. In one of his letters to the churches, the Apostle John, who was a follower of Jesus directly, he was there throughout Jesus’s life, right? He should have been a really holy person, we’d like to think, and yet he said this. He said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” And the truth is not in us. Even the Apostle John, one of the closest companions of Jesus, said, “Yeah, if we say we don’t have sin, we’re kidding ourselves. We’ve all got it. We’re all sinful.” And what that means is that we all have something in us that is working against us when it comes to understanding what submission is supposed to look like, and what God means when he says to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We’ve got something in us that’s working against us and understanding that.
Second reason I think that we always struggle to accept that this is the secret to every relationship ever is simply this. It’s that we don’t know what submitting to one another is supposed to look like. We don’t know what submitting to one another is supposed to look like. We’ve got a lot of messed up ideas about what is submission. We’ve had people call things that had nothing to do with submission as God defines it, had nothing to do with submission. They’ve called it submission and we’ve gotten that idea, well, that must be submission, and it’s not. We’ve seen people use a call to submit to them as an excuse to abuse their power over us or over others. And so that’s kinda messed us up. But the point is that the world has not given us a very good picture of what it looks like to submit to one another. And so really, before we can take a hold of this truth, one of the things we have to do is we have to get free of some of the myths of submission. So let me just cover five myths of submission. My guess is that one or more of these are ones that you struggle with. And we wanna identify them and then we wanna sort of deal with them and then we wanna kind of set them aside so we can move forward in what God actually means by it.
So here’s myth number one. Myth number one is this. It’s that submission is a one-way street, submission is a one-way street. That’s the way we naturally think about submission, right? Is that it goes from person who was under someone’s authority to the person who has that authority over them, right? So it goes from the kid to the parent. It goes from, you know, the employee to the employer. It goes from the citizen to the government. It goes from the one who has authority over them to the one who has that authority. It goes from the one who has somebody in authority over them to that person who has that authority, right? It’s a one-way street.
But did you notice what Paul said here at the church at Ephesus? 5:21 in Ephesians again, he says this, he says, “Submit to one another, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” He’s not picturing a one-way street. He’s actually picturing a two-way street. And I know that might seem strange. You’re going, “Oh, wait a minute. So you’re saying not only do kids submit to parents, but parents are supposed to submit to kids?” Yeah. Yeah, I really believe because God’s Word teaches it and because I’ve experienced the power of it in my life and in my relationships that as a father, I’m actually supposed to submit to my daughters. But, and this is really key, submitting to one another looks different depending on our role in the relationship. Submitting to one another looks different depending on our role in the relationship. And so what it looks like for me to submit to my daughters does not have much to do at all with what it looks like for them to submit to me. What it looks like for me to submit to the governing authorities is different than what it looks like for the governing authorities to submit to me. But God always intended it to be a two-way street. It just plays out differently depending on our relationships.
Now, we’re gonna unpack this in a lot more depth over the next few weeks because what we’re gonna see, as Paul continues here, is that he takes a whole bunch of relationships that we can all relate to, and he starts with the one who was kind of under someone’s authority, and he says, “You’re supposed to submit to the one who has that authority over you.” And we kind of all expect that. But then he flips it around and he says, “And to the one who has the authority over that person, they’re supposed to submit.” And he talks about what that looks like to the one who had or who was under their authority. He flips it around. Okay? And so he says, “You’re supposed to submit to one another,” but it looks different for different roles in the relationship. And again, we’re gonna unpack that. But for now, you just got to get rid of this notion that submission is a one-way street. It was never intended to be that way. It’s always intended to be a two-way street. It’s just gonna look a little bit different. And we’re gonna unpack what that looks like in specific relationships. So make sure you don’t miss joining us for the next few weeks.
Here’s myth number two that we need to kind of get rid of if we’re gonna understand God’s secret to every relationship ever, and it’s this, that submission is all about giving in, right? That’s the way we naturally think. Submission is all about giving in. It’s about letting somebody else have their way, right? And so if I, as a parent, if I submit to, you know, my kids, that means we’re gonna have ice cream for breakfast every single morning, right? Or if I submit to my wife, that means I never get to see another car chase and we watch the Hallmark Channel exclusively. And I need my laugh track again, right? Yeah. That’s not biblical submission. It doesn’t always mean giving in.
Here’s what we need to try to understand is that biblically, from God’s perspective, submission isn’t about giving in, submission is about setting aside my agenda to pursue God’s purpose for that relationship. That’s what submission is about. It’s about setting aside my personal agenda in that relationship in order to pursue God’s relationship in that and for that relationship, God’s agenda in that for that relationship, right? That’s what it’s all about. And did you know that God has a purpose for every one of your relationships? He does, every single one of them, the easy ones, the really hard ones, right? He has a purpose for every relationship.
I love what the Book of Proverbs says. One of my favorite statements. It says, this is Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” In other words, God wants to use your relationships to make you into everything he designed you to be. He wants to get rid of the stuff that has nothing to do with the person who designed you to be, and he wants to bring out all those things that are in there, sometimes buried under the crud and the junk, so that you can shine as the man or the woman of God that he created you to be. God wants to use your relationships to sharpen you. He has a purpose for every one of those relationships. And submission isn’t about giving in to the other person, although it might involve that at times. That’s just not what it’s all about. It’s not about giving in, it’s about setting aside my agenda in the relationship in order to pursue God’s purpose for that relationship. Again, we’ll talk in a lot more depth over the coming weeks about what that looks like in specific relationships, but for now, just set that myth aside that it’s all about giving in because it’s not.
Third myth is this. It’s the myth that I can’t submit to someone I don’t respect, right? I think one of the reasons a lot of us struggle with the idea of submission is because the people that we naturally understand that we’re supposed to submit to, whether it’s a boss or a parent or a governing official or somebody like that, where we look at those people and we go, “I don’t respect them. I don’t respect the decisions they make. I don’t respect the choices that they’re making. I don’t respect their politics or their ways of thinking about things. I don’t respect their attitude.” There’s so many different ways, we go, “I don’t respect them.” We have this idea that I can’t submit to somebody that I don’t respect.
But if you go back to Ephesians 5:21, there’s a really important statement there. He says, “Submit to one another.” And he does not say, “Submit to one another out of respect for the other person.” That’s not what he says. What does he say? Says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Out of respect for Jesus is what he says. That’s what drives our willingness to submit to one another. Not our respect for the other people, but our respect for Jesus. Listen, this is so, so important to understand, Jesus doesn’t call us to submit ourselves to others because we respect them, but because we respect him. It’s because we respect him. And if you think about it, why wouldn’t we respect him? He sacrificed himself for us. He gave up his own life, he shed his blood so that we could be free of our sin. When we were living in a rebellion against him, he came and did that for us. And in a very real sense, biblically speaking, what he did was he submitted to us for our salvation and for our transformation. And that’s what drives our willingness to submit to one another. Not our respect for them, but our respect for Jesus. Jesus didn’t call us to submit to one another out of respect for them, but out of respect for him.
Myth number four, submission means becoming a doormat. I think a lot of us have this idea that if I do submit to somebody, what I’m doing is I’m inviting them to walk all over me, to abuse me, to mistreat me. And I realize that some of that’s driven by the fact that we’ve seen that happen. And I understand that. I wanna acknowledge that. But you need to understand that when God talks about submitting to one another, he doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to just lay down and take all kinds of endless abuse. In fact, God calls us to speak up against abuses of power. That’s especially true when we’re speaking up for those who can’t speak up for themselves, for the powerless and the oppressed, but it’s also true for us. It’s also true when we’re being abused by somebody else’s misuse of their power. In fact, Jesus said this, this is Luke 17:3, he said, “If your brother or your sister sins against you, rebuke them. And if they repent, forgive them.” Right? He says if they sin against you, if they mistreat you, if they hurt you, if they abuse you, you’re not supposed to just always lay down and take it, but he says, challenge them on it, rebuke them. Call them on it. Tell them, “What you’re doing is wrong.” And so we’re not being called when we’re called to submit to one another. We’re not being called to just become doormats and just let everybody walk all over us. There’s a complexity to it. We’re gonna unpack some more of that over the next few weeks. But it’s important that you recognize that you’re not being called to be a doormat, that there’s a lot more to it than that. Okay?
Myth number five is that submission means losing power in our relationships. It means losing power. I think a lot of us believe that, that if I submit to someone, then they automatically get a lot more power over me. And that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. In fact, let me tell you a surprising truth about submission. You might find this hard to believe, but I promise you both from God’s Word and from my own experience that it’s absolutely true. Here’s what I need you to understand. Submitting to one another doesn’t mean losing power in our relationships, it means gaining power for our relationships. Submitting to one another, as Paul calls us to do, doesn’t mean losing power in our relationships, it actually means gaining power for our relationships and for our individual lives as well. Why is that? Well, let me tell you a couple things. The first one is this. That’s true because submitting to one another breaks down barriers, submitting to one another breaks down barriers.
See, the problem in our relationship so often is we find ourselves butting heads and we’re just kind of leaning against each other and pushing and no grounds being gained. And we feel like, well, but if I let off, then, you know, we are gonna go his direction or we’re gonna go her direction. And that’s the way we naturally think about it. But the reality is that what we do when we stop asserting our agenda is we’re actually beginning to take apart the barrier that we’re building as we’re pushing against each other. Every time we come into conflict, we’re pushing against each other. We’re actually building a barrier between us. And submitting to one another actually begins to dismantle that barrier. It breaks down that barrier.
There’s absolutely no better example of that than Jesus himself. This is such an incredible truth. This is something that actually Paul says in the Book of Ephesians a little bit earlier than what we’ve looked at so far. We’re looking at 5:21 but let’s back up to Ephesians 5:2. Listen to this. “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love,” listen to this, “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.” It’s an incredible statement, right? He says we’re supposed to follow Jesus’s example. And what did he do? He gave himself up for us. He set aside his agenda in the relationship in order to pursue God’s. When he was in the garden, he was thinking about what the cross was gonna mean. He was thinking about how painful it was gonna be to be our sacrifice. And he actually pleaded with God. He said, “It’s possible, take this cup away from me.” That was kind of his agenda in that moment as he was contemplating the suffering he was about to go through. But he ultimately said, “But not my will, but yours be done.” He set aside his preferences. He set aside his natural human agendas in that moment in order to pursue God’s purposes for his relationship with us. Right? He gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. And because of that, listen to this, this is what the Apostle John says. This is 1 John 4:19, “We love God and others because he first loved us.” We love because he first loved us.
In other words, Jesus’s sacrifice for us broke down the barrier between us and God. And actually, it breaks down the barrier between us and others as well. And that’s what I mean when I say that submitting to one another actually breaks down barriers. It begins to get us moving together rather than just in opposition to one another. I’ve seen this so often in my relationships with my wife, with my kids. We have this place where, you know, we find ourselves just in conflict, and we just can’t seem to get past it. And sometimes you sit there and maybe you know what this is like, you sit there and you’re just like, “I don’t know what we’re gonna do.” Maybe you’ve said that. I’ve said that before, “I don’t know where to go from here.” And the only thing that’s ever changed it is that one of the people, and I wish I could say it was always me, but it hasn’t always been, sometimes it’s been my wife and sometimes it’s been my daughters, but sometimes it’s been me, but somebody eventually has to go, “You know what? It’s more important that we be right with each other than it is that I be right. Our relationship is more important than getting my way or getting my agenda.” In other words, somebody basically says at some point this incredibly powerful phrase that I’ve tried to keep at the forefront of my mind as I find myself going into conflict. This is the phrase, “My need to be right isn’t as important as my need to be right with you.” Does that make sense, Church? Such a powerful thing to begin to try to pursue in our relationships. My need to be right isn’t as important as my need to be right with you.
And that’s why I say that submitting to one another, setting aside our agenda actually allows us to break down barriers and begin moving forward together. That’s one of the reasons why it is that submitting to one another actually gains us power for our relationships. But there’s another reason, and it’s unbelievable to me. This is the other reason. Submitting to one another invites God’s power into our relationships. Submitting to one another invites God’s power into our relationships. It doesn’t just break down the barriers so that we can move forward under our own power again, it actually invites divine supernatural power, the power of Almighty God into our relationships. Why does it do that? Well, to understand that, we need to understand that what Paul says here in 5:21, he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” it isn’t actually a command, it’s actually an explanation for how we follow another command. In this section of Ephesians, there’s actually only one command. And it starts all the way back in 5:18, and this is the command, “Be filled with the Spirit” He says, “Be filled with the Spirit” and the Spirit there is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, the very person, presence, and power of God in our lives and our relationships. And he says, “I want you to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I want the Holy Spirit to be so present in your life that you’re filled up to overflowing with his power.” He says, “Do it. Be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
And you might go, “Well, how on earth do I do that? How on earth do I cause God to fill me up?” Well, Paul goes on then and he actually gives five ways that we do that. Five ways that we invite God’s presence to fill us up. Now, as you may know, or maybe you don’t, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English. It was originally, this part at least was originally written in Greek. And in the Greek, the next several things that follow are clearly not commands, but a lot of times in the English, they come across as commands. But the more literal way to translate them would be “by doing this thing.” He says, “Be filled with the Spirit,” that’s a command, “By doing this thing.” And this is the five things he says. He says, “Be filled with the Spirit by speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” He says, “That’s the way you do it. That’s how you be filled with the Spirit. You speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.”
And you might go, “What are you talking about? We’re supposed to talk to each other using only lyrics from worship songs?” No. Well, what Paul is doing is actually, he’s making a poetic point. He is talking about worship songs here, but what he’s doing is kind of poetically saying that we’re supposed to think of our relationships with each other and the conversations we have with each other and the way that we talk to each other, we’re supposed to think of that as an act of worship. And so what he says is this. He says, “When you think about your relationships as an act of worship, you’re actually inviting the presence of God.” So he says, “We invite the presence of God by seeing our relationships as an act of worship.” Okay? That’s the first way we be filled with the Spirit, by seeing our relationships as an act of worship.
Second thing he says is, “Be filled with the Spirit by singing and making music from your heart to the Lord.” Those are actual worship songs. And what he’s saying here is basically this, is that we invite the presence of God by worshiping him. And we see that throughout the Bible. Back in the Psalms, we’re told a couple different times that then he inhabits the praises of his people. And when we make a habit of worship, we’re making a habit of consistently making room for God to come in. And we’re inviting him into our lives and into our relationships. And so we invite the presence of God by worshiping him.
And then he says, “Be filled with the Spirit by always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Because being thankful actually invites the presence of God, right? He says that we invite the presence of God by being thankful at all times. And, you know, if I can just lean in for just a moment, right now, you might find yourself in a place where it’s really easy to focus on things that you’re not thankful for, but we actually push away the presence of God in our homes, in our lives and in our relationships when we fail to be thankful for the things that we can and should be thankful for. So I wanna encourage you, lean into this truth that we invite the presence of God by being thankful at all times.
And then finally he says, the one we’ve been looking at, he says, “And be filled with the Spirit by submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It’s the fifth way. He says that we invite the presence of God by submitting to one another. And I could make the argument that this is just one of five things, but I actually think the truth is, this is actually the most important of the five things. There’s a couple of reasons that I say that. Number one is that the act of submitting to one another is actually practice for reversing the power of sin in our lives. Because remember, the power of sin, the essence of sin is a refusal to submit to God. And so when we’re submitting to one another, we’re actually choosing to practice in everyday life the very opposite of what our sin has done. And so we kind of set the stage for us submitting to God.
The other reason I say this might be the most important of the five, though, is that it’s the only one of the five that Paul goes into great detail about. And over the next several weeks, we’re gonna see him go into very intricate, deep, specific detail about what it looks like to submit to one another in our marriages and in our parenting and family relationships, in our work relationships. He unpacks it in a lot of depth because there’s tremendous power in this. That the truth of the matter is this, that submitting to one another invites God’s power into our relationships and our lives. More than everything else today, I hope that’s what you grab a hold of. It’s a hard truth, but it’s an incredibly powerful and important one, submitting to one another invites the presence and the power of God into our relationships and our lives.
I was thinking about that this week, and I was thinking about what happens when the power of God comes into my relationship. And I was remembering a verse. It’s from an Old Testament Book called Ecclesiastes. One of my favorite verses, actually, in the whole Bible, it says this, this is Ecclesiastes 4:12, it says, “A chord of three strands is not quickly broken.” The cord of three strands is not quickly broken. And I was thinking about that. You know, the idea is that, you know, by ourselves, we’re just a strand. And by ourselves, we find ourselves in difficult circumstances or any number of things, and honestly, pretty easy to break. Same thing is true for a two-person relationship. You put two strands together, doesn’t matter how tightly wound you are, the reality is with enough effort, we’re broken. But three strands, you put three strands together, in other words, it’s you, it’s the person you’re in relationship with, and it’s God who you’ve invited into that relationship by being willing to submit to one another, by putting God’s agenda ahead of your own in that relationship, those three, the power of God together with us. And I’m not even faking it. Maybe I need to work out more. This is not gonna happen. The cord of three strands is not easily broken. That’s what happens when we invite the power and the presence of God into our relationships, into our lives. And one of ways we do that is by grabbing hold of this surprising secret to every relationship ever, that we submit to one another. Got a lot of work to do to figure out what that looks like, got a lot of work to figure out how we go about doing that in all of our different relationships. So I really wanna encourage you to join us for the next several weeks as we unpack that. But that’s the secret. That is the surprising secret to every relationship ever, submit to one another out of reverence, out of respect for Christ.
Let me give you just a couple questions this week to think about, three questions actually. Question number one, which of these myths that we’ve talked about do I most struggle with? Chances are one of those five is something that’s getting in the way of you submitting to one another, following his command to submit to one another, and thereby inviting his presence into your relationships and into your life. So I think it’s helpful to identify that one and just take that one to the Lord and go, “Hey, God, maybe because of what I’ve seen or what I’ve been told, I really struggle with this particular myth. Would you begin to teach me the truth? Would you begin to set me free from this lie so that as my mind is set free to think more biblically about what submission is supposed to be, that I have the freedom to actually practice that?” Okay? So what’s the one myth that you struggle with the most? Or maybe it’s two or three, but identify that, submit that to the Lord and ask for his help in changing.
Second question is this, what relationship in my life most needs the presence of God? All of them do, okay? That’s a given. All of our relationships need the presence of God, but some of them need the presence of God a little bit more than others, right? Right now maybe in this situation with the coronavirus and the quarantine, maybe there’s one relationship in particular that you’re really worried about. I wanna encourage you to identify that one relationship where you most need the power of God and then recognize the truth that one of the most important ways that we invite the power of God into our relationship is actually by choosing to submit to one another. It might be a difficult truth, but I think when we identify the relationship that most needs it and we invite God to show us what it looks like to begin submitting ourselves to one another, you’re gonna find that it becomes clear what it looks like to move forward in that relationship with God’s power at your back.
Question number three is this, what area of my life am I most struggling to submit to God? Because the reality is the power of God is available only so long as we submit to him as God. Okay? When we insist on doing life our own way, when we refuse to acknowledge God’s authority over us, when we continue to choose our own path, to set our own course, to decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong and all that stuff, when we refuse to submit to the power of God, whether it’s in all of our lives or just one area of our lives, we’re not gonna experience the power of God. And so if you’re a believer, I wanna encourage you to spend some time reflecting this week on what area of my life am I not submitting to what I know God wants? I encourage you to identify that area, confess it to him, ask for forgiveness and know that, as his Word tells us, he is faithful and just to do so.
But you know, maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus. And maybe the reality is, it’s not one area of your life. Maybe in all honesty, you’re like, “Yeah, I’ve never given my life to Jesus. I’ve never submitted his authority over me. I’m that person who’s living on his own.” But maybe at this moment, you’re recognizing the need that you have for the power of God in your life. Maybe you’re recognizing that living on your own right now, it’s not playing out the way that you hoped it would. It never does. It cannot ever play out the way that we hope it will and we think it will.
So I’m gonna pray for all of us right now to take hold of this truth, but if you’re not a follower of Jesus, I wanna ask you to just right now start considering the question, is today the day that I need to submit myself to God? And I’ll give you an opportunity in just a moment to do that. But wherever you are, would you just all close your eyes and bow your heads and join me? God, I wanna thank you for a promise that you’re giving us here. A promise that no matter what struggles we’re having in our relationships, there is a solution, that there is hope, that there is the possibility of a future where the relationship gets easier. It gets better. It becomes more joyful, more peaceful, more hopeful, more all those things that you want. And we thank you for that promise that’s available to us. And we thank you for the simplicity of what we have to do to take hold of that promise, that we are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We thank you for the simplicity of that truth, but Lord we just acknowledge that there’s a lot in us that works against us when it comes to understanding and applying that truth. So we ask that you would move in our lives right now and you’d move in our lives over the course of the series to allow us to take hold of this truth and its power, your power in our lives.
And if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you just begin praying for all the people watching from all over the world that don’t have that relationship with Jesus? They don’t have God’s power in their lives at all. Would you pray that right now God would meet with them wherever they are and speak love to them and hope to them and peace to them. And if you’re not a follower of Jesus, let me just speak to you for a moment. My hope and my prayer has been that in this moment, as we’ve been talking about the possibility we can have the power of God in our lives to transform our relationships, you’ve realized at this moment that you don’t have that power in your life because you don’t have a relationship with that God, but you can. Please understand this, God loves you. He loves you so much. It’s his love for you that caused him to send his own Son Jesus. And it was Jesus’s love for you, the Son of God’s love for you that caused him to give himself up for us to die on the cross in order to pay the consequence of every wrong we’ve ever done, to purchase forgiveness for our sins by his blood. And as we just celebrated this last week, three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that his sacrifice had been accepted, that our sin was paid for, that forgiveness was ours for the taking if we will only submit ourselves to Jesus.
And if you’ve never done that but you’re ready to do that, here’s how you do it. Just have this conversation right now in your heart. You’re gonna say this to Jesus. Say Jesus, thank you for loving me enough to die for me. I know that I needed it. I know that I’ve done wrong. I know I have sinned. I’ve tried to do life on my own. And I know it’s not working out. So Jesus, thank you for dying for me. I believe that you rose from the dead, and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, freedom from guilt and shame. You’re offering me hope. You’re offering me eternal life, a relationship with you and the power of God in my life and in my relationships. And I need that. And I realize the first step is submitting my life to yours, to you. So, Jesus, I’m saying yes to you. Come into my life. Take your seat on the throne of my life. You’re the only one who belongs there. I put my faith in you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
If you made that decision for the first time today, I would so much love to know about it. We’d love to know about it and be praying for you, get you some resources. And so here’s a couple things you can do. If you’re watching on our online platform or on some of the other platforms, there may be a button right below me right now that you can click. It just says, “I said, yes. I said yes to faith in Jesus.” Love for you to click that button and let us know you made that decision. If you don’t see that button, then I encourage you to text the word “Jesus” to 888111. You’re not gonna go on a mailing list. No matter how you do this, whether you click the button or text “Jesus” to 888111, you’re not going on a list. But what you’re gonna get is you’re gonna get a link that’s gonna give you some more truth that you need to know, some really good news truth about what it looks like to be in a relationship with this God who loves you. And that for your submission to him will pour power into your life like you can’t imagine. We wanna get those truths to you. So encourage you to click that button or text “Jesus” to 888111. Make sure you join us again next week as we dig into the surprising secret of every relationship ever.
Hey, you know, one of the things we said was that worshiping God actually invites his presence so that we invite God’s presence by worshiping him. So we’re gonna do that right now. And I know it might seem a little bit strange in your homes. Maybe you’re by yourself or maybe there’s just two or three of you, but you know what? Set aside all the weirdness of it and just stand up and let’s worship God together. And in so doing, let’s invite his presence into our lives and our relationships.
GOD’S WORD TO WIVES
CRAIG + COLETTA SMITH
Welcome to the second week of our Amiright?! series, where we’re unpacking God’s surprising secret to every relationship ever. If you were with us last week, you already know the secret…submitting to one another. Today we’re going to begin exploring what it looks like to put this into practice.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills Church Online for week number two of our “Amiright?!” series where we are leaning into God’s surprising secret for every relationship ever. If you were with us last week, you already know what the secret was. If not, let me catch up real quick. It’s found in the Book of Ephesians in the Bible, Ephesians 5:21. Here’s the secret, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That is the surprising secret to every relationship ever, and I’m so glad that it’s such an easy secret to understand and such an incredible easy secret to put into practice in our lives. Am I right?
Craig: Am I not right? Yeah, it’s actually pretty hard. We talked last week a little bit about why that is. There’s a couple of things that work against us. One is that we’re sinful, and sin and submission are like oil and water. They just don’t mix. So, we have something in us that works against us when it comes to understanding what God means by this command, to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. I think the other thing we have working against us is we’ve got some really bad models and, in fact, what the world calls submission really has very little to do with what God means by submission, but we’ve got that working against us when it comes to trying to understand it. And I don’t know that there is a relationship that is probably more impacted by those bad understandings of what it means to submit each other than what we’re gonna be leaning into for the next couple of weeks, and that is marriage.
And so, if you don’t know, this is my wife, Coletta. And because we’re gonna be talking about marriage for the next few weeks, I thought it might be really helpful, especially today, to have her join us because what we’re gonna talk about today is not something that we’ve always understood and it’s not something that we just easily implement into our life. We had to wrestle through this, but we’ve seen real power, and change, and transformation coming to our marriage because we did do the wrestling, because we came to understand that. And specifically, we came to understand the power of something that, honestly, I kind of wish I didn’t have to share. This is one of those verses I would prefer to skip over. If it was just up to me, I’m enough of a coward, I would just like, “Let’s just move on.” But at Mission Hills, we’re a Bible driven church. We’re compelled by the powerful truth of God’s Word, not by our ideas and preferences, but by what God has to say, and so, we need to wrestle with and understand it. And this is what he says. This is what I would have skipped if it were all up to me. He says this, this is Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.” Yay. Right? I think that’s one of those verses that probably causes some people some heartache for a whole bunch of reasons. I’m curious, do you remember when you first found out that that was in the Bible?
Coletta: Yeah. I actually do. I was in college and my best friend kind of opened it up to me. And I had never heard of this idea of wives submitting to your husbands in marriage, let alone ever seen a verse that said it. So, this was all new. And I thought of myself as a pretty intelligent, strong, courageous leader, and one who was able to make good decisions. So, the idea that suddenly when I got married, I was gonna throw my intelligence, my decision-making, and my leadership skills out the window, like that did not sit well with me.
Craig: And the truth of the matter is, what I was attracted to in Coletta was all those things she just talked. She’s not just tooting her horn there. Those were all things that they were absolutely true in her and I was attracted to. And the reality is that, if submitting to me as your husband basically meant that you did trash all that stuff, that would have been a disaster. It would have been really bad for our marriage and it would have been hugely bad for our mission together, serving Jesus. And so, I’m really glad that we came to her a understand that it did not mean that. But it does, on the surface, sound a little bit like that, right? It was probably made worse by the fact that he says, not just wives submit to your own husbands, but he says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord,” which really seems to ramp it up, right?
Coletta: Right. Yeah.
Craig: And I think it’s really easy for people to get out of that something that was never intended. So, let’s just be really, really clear, okay? This does not mean your husband is your lord, right? This does not mean your husband… I am not Jesus to you, right? Jesus didn’t tap me in and go, “Why don’t you take over? I’m tired of being the Lord. You’re the master.” You only have one Lord, one Master, and that is Jesus, right? So, this does not mean that your husband is your lord. But there are people who seem to think that. And the reality is that we have been in marriage counseling situations. I remember sitting in my office with a guy who said, “Basically, my wife has to obey me as though I were Jesus. That’s what the Bible says.” Well, no, not really.
Listen, here’s what you need to understand. If you’re a man and you’re tempted at all to lean in that direction… I’m sure none of you are, but just in case it’s out there somewhere. Let me say this to the husbands. Your wife is your partner, not your possession, right? She’s your partner, not your possession, okay? She’s not some peasant that you’re the master over. She’s your partner in marriage. The Bible is really clear that men and women are to be partners together in their marriage. In fact, I love this. This is in 1 Corinthians 7:4, Paul is talking about a marriage relationship, and check this out. He says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband.” Now, on the surface, that really sounds a lot like, okay, yeah, the man sort of owns the wife, but then, watch this, “And in the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”
It’s a back and forth, okay? So, husbands, your wife is your partner, not your possession. We’re supposed to be equals in that marriage. Now, the roles are different, and we’ll talk over the next few weeks about how that plays out, but your wife is your partner. She’s not your possession. What’s interesting, though, and we’ve talked about this a little bit before, sometimes, even though most women that I know, at least, would bristle at the idea that their husband is their
lord, sometimes women can actually live in such a way that they back themselves into that perspective accidentally. And so, to wives, I wanna say this, it’s for you understand, your man is not your messiah. You know what I mean by that?
Coletta: Yeah. I do. I do because I think it’s a temptation for anyone, but especially for us as women to take a human relationship and put expectations on it to meet needs that only God was intended to fulfill. So, we talk about having this God-shaped hole inside of us that God created to be filled by only a relationship with him. And when we take a human relationship and expect it to meet those needs, like for value and for identity, especially, that only God was intended to meet, it creates disappointment, and unmet expectations, and discontentment, which is really hard.
Craig: Yeah. And it’s like creates a lot of strife in marriage. If we have a God-shaped hole in us, and that’s true, not just for women, it’s true for men as well, and we look to a human being to fill that hole, it’s just not gonna work, right? They’re gonna fall into that and there’s just gonna constantly be a gaping void, which creates all kinds of strife in a marriage. And so, we don’t wanna accidentally back our way into thinking that this is saying that, you know, your husband is your lord. So to, men, again, listen, your wife is your partner, she’s not your possession. And to wives, your man is not your messiah. Okay? But what does it mean, right? Because he does say, “Submit to your husband or to your own husband as to the Lord.” What’s that as to the Lord business?
Well, I think what we probably need to recognize is that this as Lord business is talking about a motivation. Okay? It’s talking about what it is that motivates us to be willing to set aside self and to submit ourselves to one another because, remember, that’s the governing verse in this whole thing, verse 21, “Submit to one another.” Okay? So how do we find ourselves doing that? Because the motivation to submit to one another isn’t driven by how much we love the other person. It’s not driven by how much we respect the other person, it’s not driven by how much we trust the other person. I mean, if you have those things, that’s great, right? That definitely makes it easier to submit yourself to somebody that you love, and trust, and respect. But it’s icing on the cake. What drives us to submit ourselves to one another, actually, have been verse 21, is submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, right?
It’s our respect for Jesus that drives us to submit to one another. And so, in verse 22, he says, “Submit yourselves to your own husbands as to the Lord.” What he’s basically saying is this is what drives you to be willing to submit yourself to your husband. It is as though you’re doing it to the Lord, not because he is your lord, but because Jesus receives your act of submission as an act of worship. And so, really, what we’re having to understand is that what Paul’s basically saying is that that we need to see the choice to submit to your husbands as an act of worship to Jesus. That’s what he means to submit as to the Lord. See your choice…because it is a choice to submit to me as really as an act of worship to Jesus, to the Lord, right? Because that’s how he receives it.
I think this is so cool. There’s this principle throughout the Bible that basically the things that we do, and especially the sacrificial things that we do for others, Jesus actually receives as worship to him. There was a time in his ministry where Jesus was speaking about his…with his return, right? He would come back the second coming. And he said that when he came back, he’s gonna find some of his followers and he was gonna say to them, “Hey, good job. You did an amazing job. I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was sick and you took care of me.” And some of his followers at that time were gonna go, “What are you talking about, Jesus? When did I see you hungry or thirsty? When did I see you sick?” And Jesus is gonna say this, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Right? So we sacrifice for others and yet he receives it as worship to himself. And that’s what Paul is getting at here.
And that’s not just true in this relationship with men and women, although it is there, right? So he says, again, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as to the Lord.” Right? But what he’s saying is make sure that you understand that that’s an act of worship, so he was talking about motivation. There’s another interesting thing about this verse, though. There’s another word that I think we skipped over sometimes and I think it’s significant. He says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as to the Lord.” And that’s kind of an odd word, right? Like, I mean, have you ever been tempted to submit yourself to somebody else’s husband?
Coletta: No. No.
Craig: Yeah. And so, here’s probably what’s going on there. What Paul’s getting at here is that often what can happen in the relationship between husband and wife is the wife can find herself in a position where her loyalty is divided. Okay? Now, in the ancient world, this was a particular issue because there was actually sort of a legal thing going on and so, what Paul’s basically saying is this, he’s saying, “A wife’s primary loyalty is to her husband.” And I say that there’s a legal aspect of that because in 1st century Israel, which was under Roman occupation, that they were having to kind of begin to contend with this weird Roman. I don’t know that it was a law exactly, but it was a principle, and it was called sinomonas. Nobody needs to know that. There won’t be a pop quiz later, but here’s the idea behind sinomonas. It was that a woman’s loyalty, her primary earthly loyalty was to her father first and everybody else second, which meant that even after she get married, the dad could tell her to do something and she had to do it even if it went against her husband and even if it harmed her husband because her primary earthly loyalty was to her father. And Paul’s kind of…he’s combating that a little bit. He’s going, “No, no, no, no. That’s not the way it works. When you get married, your primary earthly loyalty is now to your husband.” You know, in the old marriage vows, the more traditional marriage vows, when we say that phrase, “Forsaking all others”?
Craig: And I think we tend to think of that primarily as like sexual faithfulness, but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s actually rooted in something. It goes all the way back in Genesis when it talks about, you know, a man leaving his father and mother. Well, the woman does the same thing and they form this new family unit, and the wife’s primary earthly loyalty at that point is to her husband, not to her father. Right? And I realize that on the surface that might feel like a really kind of irrelevant concept because we don’t have that kind of principle in play today, but I think it still happens. It happens inadvertently. In fact, we struggled with it a little bit earlier on in my marriage. Here’s the way it would happen. So, you know, we would have a big decision to make, and it was not an easy decision. So, there’s a lot of wrestling with it. And I always felt like the way to honor my wife and all the gifts that she brought to the marriage was to involve her in that conversation. And so, we would wrestle together, and we’d go back and forth and pros and cons and what about this? And let’s get information. Let’s try this and seek other counsel. And we do all that. And we’d eventually come to a decision, right? And we would feel good about the decision. And I’d go, “Okay, well, as the leader of the family, I’m gonna begin leading out in the implementation of that decision.” So, I’m leading. And then I look back and I’m like, “Coletta, where did you go? I thought you were following me. What happened?”
Coletta: Yeah. Right. Well, I went and mentioned it to my dad, and my dad had a different opinion about what we should do or how we should move forward. And at that point, I found my loyalty divided because, up to that point, all through my growing up years, I was really a daddy’s girl. His opinion and his opinion of me and my decisions was the opinion that carried the most weight in my life. And now I have his opinions and my husband’s opinions, and there’s this tension between the two. So, I had to learn to transfer my primary loyalty from my dad to my husband.
Craig: And it was a huge change in our marriage because it took me a while to figure out what was going on, and it took me longer. Honestly, it took me longer to respond to it reasonably well because it just bothered me at first and it caused some conflict. But then I realized, yeah, I mean, she spent her whole life up to this point, basically giving her primary earthly loyalty to her father. It’s gonna take some time for that to shift. But she was actually the one who realized what was happening and that she came, and she said, “I realize this is what I’m doing, and I need to make a shift. I need to shift my primary earthly loyalty from my dad to you.” And that was a huge change in even my confidence that I was gonna be able to lead. And it was massive.
And so, that’s part of what Paul’s getting at. He says, “Be loyal to your own husband.” In other words, “Make your husband the primary person that you’re giving your earthly loyalty to.” Right? And I think only when we understand it that way does it really make sense of what he says next. Verse 23 says, “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.” Which is another one of those verses that I think probably causes some people to get a little nervous, right? How did you feel the first time you realized that was in the Bible?
Coletta: Yeah. Well, it was probably a few minutes after I realized the first part about submitting. And whenever I think of someone that’s a head, I think of them having more value and more importance. So, if I’m not the head, I have less value and less importance. And that’s just kind of sad.
Craig: Yeah. And it’s perfectly natural to think that way, I guess, because we hear the word head and we’re like, “Well, it’s the top one, and whatever’s at the top is the greatest privilege,” and so on and so forth. But I do think it’s important we recognize, he says, “The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” And I think that’s really important because Christ saved the church by sacrificing for her. And so, rather than thinking of the head as the one that has the greatest privilege, what if we began to think of the head as the one who has the greatest responsibility to make the greatest sacrifice to move the relationship forward? Right? I think that’s much more in line with what Paul is talking about here.
In fact, here’s the way that I would say it. There’s been a lot of debate about this verse over the years, and some people see head as authority, some people see it as ruler, some people see it as source, actually, another possible translation of that. But I actually think the best way to think about it is leadership. And so, what essentially Paul is saying this, he’s saying that wives are to honor their husbands as the leader of their family as Christ is the leader of the church. I think leadership is a much more helpful way to think about this. Now, I know there’s probably some people out there going, “Oh, my pastor’s wussing out.” Right? You know, “He’s trying to be politically correct and keep all the women happy. Didn’t want to say what clearly God says, which is the husband has authority over the wife.”
I actually don’t have a problem saying that. We both believe that I do have authority over her. The problem is that in our culture, what it means to have authority is twisted. Okay? And, in fact, let me say it this way, in our culture at least, although I think this is true in most cultures, authority suggests privilege. Leadership, on the other hand, recognizes responsibility. See, the word authority, it just tends to be taken as, “Oh, that’s the person who has the power, the privilege of getting their own way of getting what they want done, done.” And so, the word authority tends to suggest privilege. But biblically, from God’s perspective, leadership recognizes responsibility. It recognizes that the leader is the one who’s actually called to make the greatest sacrifices for the sake of whatever it is that he is leading, and that’s why Christ is the head of the church because he gave himself up for us. See, that’s the Gospel, right? That God loved us, but we didn’t love him back.
And we sinned. We rebelled against him. We said, “I refuse to submit to you and we’re gonna do life on our own.” And that led us out of light into darkness. It led us out of life into death and all the bad stuff that came with it. But God continued to love us, so Jesus came looking for us and he found us. The problem was that we were trapped by the bonds of sin. There’s a price to sin. The Bible says there’s a wage to sin, and somebody had to pay it and Jesus was the one who paid it. So, Jesus died for us. He made the sacrifice for us in order to save. He’s only the savior because he was a sacrifice. Now, that’s a very different view of authority. It’s a very different view of power. It’s not privilege, it’s a responsibility to make the greatest sacrifices.
And I believe that’s really, really important as we think through this. And so, the reality is that, yes, the leader of any group does have authority. I’m not avoiding that. But I think it’s important that we recognize that leaders only have authority in order to fulfill their responsibilities, right? God has given us responsibility as husbands. As the leader of this church, he’s given me a responsibility. And there’s some authority that goes along with that, but it’s not to get my way, it’s to get God’s way. In fact, I just had this thought, this is kind of an interesting thought. What if instead of thinking of submission as giving in, what if we thought of submission as substituting God’s mission for mine?
Coletta: I love that.
Coletta: I love that. Yes.
Craig: And as the leader, I have to do the same thing. I have to substitute God’s mission for mine. I have to move mine aside to put God’s in. And so, that’s the way that Paul’s talking about this. He says, “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, in Christian circles, what we’re really describing something that we often call servant leadership, right? And in order to like contrast it against the world’s view of leadership, which is about privilege, now the biblical view is about serving, and so, we call it servant leadership. I love, though, that even in the secular world, there’s a movement to recognizing that’s really the only kind of leadership there is. In fact, I love it. One of my favorite leadership gurus is a man named Patrick Lencioni. He wrote an incredible book recently called “The Motive,” which I really believe should be required reading for every husband. It’s a business book, but he unpacks, you know, a lot of the bad motives that people have for getting into leadership and why it is that they ultimately aren’t real leaders at that moment. And I think it’s actually very powerful of a husband, he has this fantastic quote. Here’s what he says… Can we pop this up? He says, “My hope is that someday people won’t talk about servant leadership because that will be the only type of leadership that exists.” How awesome is this? Right? And we’ll just stop talking about servant leadership because we’ll recognize anything else isn’t actually leadership.
That’s what Paul is talking about here. And he says this, he says, “Now, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” We should probably make sure that everybody understands everything there doesn’t mean anything that goes against God, right?
Coletta: Yes. Right.
Craig: First off, it’s really terrible leadership. If the husband’s asking his wife to do something that goes against God, that’s a terrible husband, and the wife doesn’t have to say yes to that. Right? Because your primary loyalty is to Jesus. Earthly loyalty might be to me, but your primary, your highest loyalty is always gonna be to Jesus. And so, everything doesn’t mean the bad stuff. It means basically this. It means that wives are to honor Jesus by honoring their husbands as the leader of their family. That’s really what all this boils down to, right, is that wives are to honor Jesus, as he receives it as worship, by honoring their husbands as the leaders of their family and as they lead to honor them in that. It’s not only good for the family but it honors Jesus as well, right? So, what does that look like? What does it look like to honor your husband as the leader of your family? Let’s talk about a few practicals, right?
Craig: One of them, I think, we talked about a little bit is if you’re gonna honor your husband as the leader of your family, and so therefore honor Jesus, you’re gonna have to figure out how to build him up instead of tear him down, right, which is a little bit counter-cultural today, isn’t it?
Coletta: Yes. Because every time you watch a sitcom and there’s a husband involved, he is a total oaf. Like, if the wife isn’t in the picture, the kids are having meltdowns, there’s no food, he can’t get them to school on time, the house is crazy. And when the wife comes back in, she kind of restores order to the chaos, and he really ends up looking pretty stupid.
Craig: Yeah. Which is really interesting because it’s almost a complete reversal of the way it was in the media back in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s. If you’ve ever seen any of those articles that circulate where they have ads from the ’40s or ’50s and, honestly, the women kind of come across looking like bimbos, like airheads. And it’s incredibly demeaning and devaluing to women. And I’m really glad that’s changed. Okay? I’m really glad that’s changed, but it’s interesting that the pendulum has swung the other direction now, right? It’s typically husbands who look stupid. Right? And so, given that, you actually have to work a little bit harder to follow this idea of honoring your husband by building him up rather than tearing him down. What kind of situations do you think women find themselves in where it’s almost easier to tear a husband down than it is to build him up?
Coletta: Right. So, I think it happens most often when wives are in pain, and that happens after they’ve had a fight or argument that’s been pretty bad. And they come to a friend and they’re retelling the story and they’re telling all the awful things he said, the awful things he did, the awful things he is. And it’s one side of what happened, and we don’t take responsibility for our part in it, and that friend ends up having this kind of skewed maybe perspective of who he is and him being torn down. And there’s kind of a second kind of damage that’s done in that situation. He’s not only torn down, but whoever’s hearing the story, whether it’s the friend, or a family, or kids, they have this baggage, this weight to carry around of being angry with him. And like when we come back together and we have this reconciliation that happens and we move toward each other, they don’t have the benefit of that happening. And so, they’re left only with this anger and this diminished view of who he is.
Craig: Right. Which men feel, right?
Coletta: Yeah. So yes.
Craig: I mean, you see that every time I see that friend, she rolls her eyes at everything that I say. And it begins to really to sap a man’s confidence because it becomes clear that, “Okay, you know, my wife doesn’t respect me. She’s telling things to her friends that are negative.” And so, that really saps the husband’s courage, but also, honestly, his capacity to lead. And so, if you’re going to honor Jesus by honoring your husband as a leader of your family, you’re gonna have to figure out how to build him up rather than tear him down. Now, does that mean that you can’t ever share something that you’re struggling with in your marriage with anybody else? Does it mean you have to be completely closed off to everybody else?
Coletta: No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that I have to be more careful about how I share those things, that I’m taking responsibility for the pieces that are mine and that I’m not sharing it in a way that paints him in a really bad light.
Craig: Yeah. By the way, everything that we said so far about women is 100% true of men. Okay? Absolutely, men has to do that, too. The thing is, today, we’re talking mostly about wives. Next week we’re gonna lay into you… I’m sorry, I mean lean into the role of husbands in the relationship. But a lot of these principles follow for everybody as well. Okay? So that’s the first thing. If you wanna honor your husband as leader of your family and therefore honor Jesus, figure out how to build him up rather than tear him down, which is not always an easy thing to do because some men don’t like to be built up. That’s not true. We all like to be built up, but sometimes it takes some creative ways to figure out how to do it. I’m not an easy person to encourage, a negative filter, and so, whatever good thing you say, I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, let’s get to the bad stuff.” But you have figured out some things in our family that really do build me up in a way that I feel. You wanna share one of those?
Coletta: Yeah. So, one of the things that we can do as wives is to be creative and intentional about noticing places that are wins in his life. So, at the dinner table I can say something like, “You know, kids, we have been talking about how important integrity is. Your dad hit it out of the park this week. There was a decision that he had to make it work, that it would have been much easier to make the wrong decision to not be a leader that leads out in the way that God wants him to lead. But instead, he made the right decision even though it was harder.” And that’s what integrity is all about. And really affirming it in front of your kids and when he’s hearing it.
Craig: Yeah. That’s been really powerful in my life and I’m a very difficult person encourage, but… It may look different in your family, but you got to figure how to build him up rather than tear him down. Okay? And in the meantime, if you’re not sure how to build him up, at least stop tearing him down. Right? That’s foundational. Second thing that really, I think, is helpful when women are looking to honor their husbands as the leaders of their family is you got to do the hard work of separating your preferences from your family’s priorities. Separate your preferences from your family’s priorities. And again, all of us tend to do this. We all tend to elevate our preferences to the priorities, but that’s really gonna be a critical process to make that distinction if you’re gonna honor your husband as the leader of your family. This is one of those areas where you knocked it out of the park in a way that I’m never gonna forget. It goes back about 15 years. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Coletta: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Coletta: Uh-huh. It was back in like 2004, and the kids were about five and two, so little, and you had a full-time job as a youth pastor and a worship pastor at a church, which brought with it a full-time paycheck and there’s some security and some comfort and some safety in that paycheck, but at the same time, God was clearly leading us to start a nonprofit and that meant that we were gonna need to raise support. Now, raising support for anything is difficult.
Craig: So much fun.
Coletta: Yes. There’s great things about it, but it’s difficult. But raising support for a ministry that does not exist yet is even harder because there’s all these fears like, “What if people don’t understand the vision, people don’t come on board? What if we can’t raise enough to support our family and this like worldwide ministry that God is calling us to build?” So, there’s all this fear, and my preference would have been to hold on to the comfort that comes with the security of a paycheck. But what I had to do is separate my preferences for security and comfort from our family’s priorities. And those priorities are following God’s calling on our lives.
Craig: Yeah. And just to be clear, I knew that that was hard because we talked about it. I didn’t just come home one day and say, “Hey, this is what I’m doing now, and you got to get in line, right, because you got to submit to me.” No. We had a lot of conversation around that, and I fully understood what those fears were. And there was a place where we kinda got to where it was just difficult to know how do we move forward because we both agreed this is God’s priority for us, but you were really struggling with the fear that came with that and you were the one who you just…you did it, you basically cut it between…you said, “No. This is my preference, and this is our priority, and we’re gonna go with priorities over my preferences.” And, again, this is something that everybody has to do in a relationship, but specifically in this context, if you wanna honor your husband as a leader, you’re gonna have to do this because, otherwise, your preferences are going to drive the way that you fail ultimately to respond to his leadership. So really important thing.
Third thing you might think about doing is this. Love it when he leads. Love it when he leads. Because almost every woman that I know that we’ve talked to about this, goes, “I want my husband to lead.” And yet, sometimes when they do, right, when they take a step in the direction of leading their family, they’re met with eye-rolling, and they’re met with complaining, and they’re met with just a lot of resistance. And so, yeah, if you wanna honor your husband as a leader, you’re probably gonna have to figure out how to love it when he leads, don’t you think?
Coletta: Yes. And that’s hard because it requires us to set aside our pride and see that moment when he’s deciding to lead and see that as the win and not, “Is it exactly the way I would do it?” No, but that’s okay, and that’s a good thing. And the more important thing is that he’s leading.
Craig: So, principle two and three come together, right? You got to separate your preferences and priorities, and therefore, you’re more able to at least to love it when he does lead. Now, listen, this doesn’t mean that wives shouldn’t be or can’t be involved in that conversation. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have a seat at the table in deciding what that direction is, but it does mean that if you want to have a husband who leads your family, and my guess is most of you do, you’re gonna have to start loving it when he takes steps of leadership. Right? And so, here’s kind of a phrase that you might think about paying attention to. The next time that you hear your husband say something like, “I think that we should…” Right? “I think that we should,” what he’s doing is he’s taking the initiative to lead, and you need to figure, “Okay. What can I celebrate in this?” Again, it doesn’t mean you can’t be part of that conversation, it doesn’t mean you can’t share concerns, but it means you got to stop just putting up resistance and you need to start celebrating it when he says, “I think we…” because that’s kind of a trigger. So, think of that kind of as a new response.
Now, here’s another interesting thing about loving it when he leads. The reality is that sometimes the direction that he leads isn’t gonna be what you wanted, right? It’s not necessarily gonna be what you preferred. And so, there’s a humility required, right? There’s a humility required that says, “You know what? I might not be right. The way I would prefer to do this may not be right. And I think this might not be the best direction, but I might not be right.” And it’s almost, you have to kind of say, “Just because I think he’s wrong doesn’t mean I am right.” Right? But, men, here’s the thing. If you want your wife to do that, and I know there’s some men out there going, “That would be awesome, if my wife did that,” you also have to have some humility because just because you think you’re right doesn’t mean you’re not wrong. Okay? So, your wife should be part of that. And then there’s two. There’s this. Guys, if you want your wife to honor you as a leader of your family, you need to lead. You need to take the initiative to lead in the way that God’s calling you to, right? Don’t get upset if your wife doesn’t honor you as a leader and you never lead. Don’t put it all on her. It’s not all on her. Okay. So, this all boiled down to, wives, you’re supposed to honor Jesus by honoring your husband as a leader of your family.
Just a few questions that might help you kind of get a handle on that. Question number one, what’s one way that my husband is leading that I can love and celebrate? Maybe look around. Find one of those things that he is doing, that he’s taken the initiative, and celebrate that. We become what we celebrate. I say that in church leadership all the time, we become what we celebrate. So, find something your husband is doing that is leadership and celebrate him for it. Okay? Second question is, who else’s opinions infringe on my loyalty to my husband? Remember, our primary earthly loyalty, your primary will loyalty is to be your husband, right? So, wives, whose else’s opinions infringe on your loyalty to your husband? Maybe it’s your parents, maybe it’s your dad, as we’ve talked about, maybe it’s kids, maybe it’s friend, maybe…who knows what it is, but whose is it? Identify that and begin to change that. Then the third question, this one’s for husbands and wives together. What are some of my preferences that I tend to treat like our family’s priorities? What are some of my preferences that I tend to treat like our family’s priorities? Gonna have to do some hard work there or this submitting to one another in the context of marriage is never going to happen. Hey, would you pray with me? Coletta, thanks for being with me today.
Coletta: My pleasure.
Craig: Lord, thank you for a word that is, in fact, simple, even though it’s not simple to put into practice. Lord, we’re not given a huge, long, involved, complicated teaching on what it looks like to bring your power into our relationship. We’re given a very simple statement, submit to one another. We recognize that it’s simple. We thank you for that. We also confess to you that because of our sin and because of the world’s a very poor example, we struggle to put that into practice, and so we ask power from your Holy Spirit to do that. On behalf of the men, Lord, I want to confess that there are many ways that I have used my authority as a privilege rather than seeing my authority as what was necessary to accomplish my responsibility. And so, on behalf of all the men who recognize that, we confess it to you and we ask for your forgiveness.
Coletta: Oh, and Lord, we, as wives, we confess that we often do not honor our husbands as the leaders that you created them to be, and because of that, they are not able to be the leaders we want them to be. God, help us put aside our pride and help us celebrate who you made them to be.
Craig: If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me right now? Would you start praying for the people all around the world who are watching this, who don’t have a relationship with Jesus? And if that’s you, I’m gonna speak to you for just a moment. It may be that you tuned into this and you’re not even entirely sure why. And a lot of what’s going on here is, honestly, it’s just kind of flying by and you’re not quite sure what to do with it. But maybe for the first time you heard this thing that we call the Gospel in a way that connected. You heard that even though Jesus had all the power and authority, he used that to serve us, that God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us to pay the price of our sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead so that he could offer you, he could offer me salvation simply by trusting in him. And if you don’t have a relationship with God, you can forget all the rest of this other stuff. This is icing on the cake. You need to hear that you have a God who loves you. And in spite of the fact that you’ve lived your life out of submission to him as God, he did everything necessary to buy you back, to remove the barriers. And so, if you don’t have that relationship with God, but you’re ready to start it, if you’re ready to say yes to a relationship with Jesus, here’s how you do it.
Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have this conversation with God. I’ll say it. You say it after me to God. “Hey, God, I’ve done wrong and I’m sorry. I have not submitted to you as God. I’ve done my own thing. I’m sorry. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your own Son as a sacrifice for me. I believe he died on the cross for my sins. I believe he rose from the dead to prove that he’d done it. And I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness and relationship with you, eternal life, entrance into heaven just by trusting in what he did. So, I’m ready to submit. I’m ready to submit to the One who sacrificed himself for me. Jesus, come into my life. I’m gonna follow you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
If you made that decision for the first time today, we would love, love, love to know about it and celebrate with you. A couple of ways you can do that, if you’re watching on the Online Campus, just click the button below me, and say, “I said yes to Jesus.” Just click that button and let us know. If you’re on another platform, you can text the word Jesus to 888111. Text Jesus to 888111. And either way you do it, you’re not gonna end up on a big list. You’re gonna get back a link to a bunch of truth. We just wanna give you some truth about this God who loves you and what it looks like to walk in that relationship with him. And so, we would love for you to let us know that you made that decision so we can put that truth into your hands.
And hey, as we wrap up, maybe as part of this discussion, you’re finding yourself going, “I think I need to lean into my marriage.” Maybe your marriage is struggling, and you need help or maybe it’s going okay but you’re realizing it could be a whole lot better, and I wanna encourage you to sign up for a Re-Engage experience. Pastor Will talked about it earlier in the service today. We are launching those online during this coronavirus quarantine, so there’s no reason not to do it right now. Go to missionhills.org and look up Re-Engage. Get connected to one of those and see what God can and longs to do in your marriage. God bless. We’ll see you soon.
In this third installment of our series we focus on how men can have the best relationships ever by allowing themselves to become submissive as Jesus did for the church.
Reza: Well, Mission Hills, it is so good to be with you all today. I’m thankful that you’ve joined us, and during this COVID, the shelter-at-home, I’m sure there have been a lot of things that have been tested in your home, just like they’ve been tested in my home. Maybe your patience, your security, your finances, maybe they’ve all been tested. And again, if you’re anything like us at our home, our relationships have absolutely been tested. You know, we’re in a series here at Mission Hills, and the series is really centered on this idea of relationships. Relationships are so essential to who we are as humans. And the name of this series is “Amiright?! The Surprising Secret to Every Relationship Ever.”
A couple of weeks ago, Craig led us, and he launched us into this series. And we talked about this one passage, this one verse that really gives us the secret to every relationship ever. And it’s in Ephesians chapter 5, verse 21. And Ephesians 5:21 very simply states, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” You see, that’s it. That’s the simple principle of what it means for us to succeed in any relationship that we enter into. You see, this passage, the Apostle Paul wrote this passage, and it was written to a specific group of people in a city called Ephesus, which is a port city in what is now known as modern-day Turkey. And this was a cultural hub where people from all over the world would come for trade. And there was actually some types of Greek worship that were happening there, and Paul was very concerned for this young church because this young church was starting to get influenced by the culture around it. And this one area of their life was really influenced, and it was the way that they related, not just to one another, but how they related to other people.
And, so as we’ve been talking the last couple of weeks, and as we will continue in the next few weeks, we’re gonna talk about this idea of relationship, and what Paul meant when he spoke to us and he told us, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Now, here’s something that we’ve gotta understand about the Apostle Paul. That he knew that our relationships were so important because it is a great witness to the rest of the world, that the way that we treat each other is actually a witness to other people. Now, when the Apostle Paul wrote this letter, he wrote it not with numbers, or verses, or chapters in mind. We added all of that later. And essentially, what we’re talking about today, we’re dialing into this one area of relationships that the Apostle Paul kind of launched us into starting last week. Craig and Coletta did a great job walking us through, “What does it mean for wives in the midst of this marriage relationship?” And, today I wanna lean into us husbands, and what is our call? And, we gotta understand, that what we’re talking about today, this call to husbands, is not a unique thought in itself, but it’s actually a continuation of what Paul has been writing in the entire letter to the Ephesians. And, if you go back and read it, he’s talking about what Christ has done on our behalf, and essentially how we are to respond to the wonderful grace that is found in Christ.
And, so what we’re reading today is a continuation of the thought from last week. And, so wives, Craig and Coletta really lifted up what the Scriptures call us to, in the marriage relationship as women. And, today I really wanna dive into men.
But, here I wanna be sensitive to a few of us because I know once we start talking about husbands and the image for husbands, what their responsibility or their role is within a marriage, it’s a big responsibility, but I can already understand there are some people that are listening, that are streaming, that say, “Hey, you know what? I’m not a husband.” Or, “I don’t have a husband.” Or, “I used to have a husband.” Or, “You know, I really want to be a husband.” Or, “I really want a husband,” and man, you’re just throwing salt in the wound.
And can I just tell you that I hear you, I understand. My wife, Alison and I, our story, we got married later than either of us really thought that we’d be married and start a family. And I remember being single in church and hearing messages like this, and I almost cringed when I heard these types of messages. But here’s the truth. No matter where your story is, no matter where your story’s taken you to this moment, that the principles that we’re gonna talk about today are essential for every relationship ever. And so, I encourage you to lean in and dive in with us as we really talk about, “What is God’s design for this thing called marriage?” And, specifically for us men, “What is our call as men in this marriage relationship and this marriage union?”
You wanna know what the hardest thing about marriage is for me? The hardest thing about marriage for me, is that it’s not what I thought it would be. You see, I grew up in Southern California, I grew up in the shadows of this place called Disneyland. I remember as a young kid, you know, we didn’t have summer camps or things, or summer daycare. Both of my parents worked outside the home. And so, my neighborhood friends, the moms got together, and we each got season passes to Disneyland. And literally my mom or one of the other neighborhood moms would pick us up and drop us off at Disneyland. We’d hang out there for the day, and then we’d be picked up later on that night. And we did that a couple of times a week. And so, I kinda grew up under the shadows of Cinderella’s castle and, you know, seeing all the things there is at Disneyland.
But here’s the hard part about something like that. I thought marriage was gonna be a fairy tale. I thought as soon as I got married, it was gonna be happily ever after, and everything was gonna be amazing. But the reality is marriage isn’t happily ever after. I desperately love my wife, and I love my children, and I love the life that the Lord has given us. But it’s not always happy. And that might be your story as well, that one day it was happily ever after, and then life happened, and then there were kids, and then there was job changes, and then there were circumstances, and bills started piling up. And what we thought was going to be happily ever after, really has turned into this thing called marriage that honestly, if we were honest, we would say has kinda gotten routine, and if, dare I say, blah.
But the problem isn’t marriage. The problem isn’t this thing that God created for husbands and wives. The problem isn’t marriage, the problem is our perspective about marriage. We’re gonna be confronted with some realities as we look through the Scriptures and continue in Ephesians chapter 5. And my heart, and my hope, I wanna talk a little bit about my heart and my hope. You see, I know this, I don’t need anyone else, men, I don’t need anyone else pointing out areas of my life that I’ve fallen short. I know all the areas that I’ve fallen short. And I can almost be resistant to these kinds of messages because I do a really good job of pouring shame upon myself and hiding in my shame.
But here is what I want us to do. I don’t wanna just take us to another place where we tend to fall short. But my heart is to encourage us that maybe we’ve misunderstood what God intended marriage to be. And so that’s my heart. My heart is that maybe we just open ourselves up a little bit to see that maybe we misunderstood what marriage is intended to be. And then my hope is that as men, we would be inspired to value and respect and honor our wives out of reverence for Christ as the Apostle Paul encourages us.
You see, one of the things that also makes marriage so hard is, in our culture, marriage gets a bad rap. There’s an obstacle to living this biblical mandate of marriage because the world’s view of marriage and God’s view of marriage are not the same thing. But the world’s view of marriage is, “Hey, get into a marriage or get married because it’s gonna make you happy. That it’s going to make you complete, that it’s gonna make you incredibly fulfilled, and this thing called marriage is gonna give you everything you ever desired.
But in today’s passage we’re gonna see that marriage is actually intended to be elevated far beyond your happiness, and my happiness, and our happiness, as husbands and wives. You know, the average couple spends, today the average couple spends $33,900 on their wedding. Now that’s a lot of money. But marriage will actually cost us much more than that. That marriage will cost us something great. Marriage will cost us more than a ring, a dress, a ceremony, a honeymoon. Marriage is actually gonna cost us more than anybody has ever spent on a wedding.
You see, the true cost of marriage is yourself. That for us to understand when we get married with only our own happiness in mind, or if we get married thinking that marriage is only for my benefit, or only so that I might be complete, then we’re gonna be in for a rude awakening. We will be disappointed that marriage is not about our happiness, that marriage is not about me and my needs being met.
Dare I say, marriage isn’t even about…ultimately scripturally, marriage isn’t about falling in love with somebody else. But marriage is about experiencing and expressing true, sacrificial love, and doing it the same way that Jesus expressed love towards us. You see, here’s the problem. When you and I step into marriage relationships or when we view our marriage about our own happiness or our own needs being met, and when my needs don’t get met or I’m not happy then I’m free to jump ship. But you see, the Scriptures lead us to a different view of what marriage is all about. That marriage is not about us, or our happiness, it’s about something greater.
You see, there’s a couple of dangers to thinking that marriage is just about me and my needs being met. You see, the first danger that we fall into, and the first reality, if we view marriage just about our experiences and our happiness, that first of all, that’s not real love. You see, real love is sacrificial love. Because, if we love just to get something, then really, we’re not loving. We’re…matter of fact, we’re manipulating. That if I love somebody just so that I can get something in return, that’s not true love. You see, when I marry someone to get my needs met, then basically I’m just masking my selfishness.
You see, in all the years counseling that I’ve done with men for various issues, there’s a couple of statements that I’ve heard that I can almost pick up on, that I can tell, “Hey, there’s some deep things that we need to talk about regarding marriage.” It’s these statements. When someone comes to me and says, “Hey, I’m concerned about my marriage.” Or, “My marriage isn’t very strong.” You see, when I hear someone talk about “my marriage”, or when it’s just about them, I think to myself that we’ve completely missed the idea of what we’re supposed to be committed to.
Nowhere in Scriptures that says that we’re supposed to be committed to marriage. You see, my wife Alison, Alison doesn’t want me to be committed to “our marriage”. We’re called to be committed to a person. We’re not called to be committed to an institution. I’m called to be committed to my bride, my wife, Alison. So, we’re not to be committed to just making sure the marriage lasts. But we’re called to be committed to a person that God has placed in our life.
And I think the second thing that we’ve gotta be careful when marriage becomes all about us, is we completely miss what marriage was intended to be, and it destroys what is made to make marriage great. You see, we live in the day of social media, where there’s examples of marriage, and our expectations of marriage are higher than ever. But, in reality, marriages are crumbling more than ever. And, especially during this COVID lockdown where our time, and our finances, and our stresses, are starting to kinda pull against each other. That a lot of these cracks in our foundations are starting to fall apart.
You see, marriage is intended to be a way for us to express our love and devotion to God. And we do that as we love and devote ourselves to our spouses. So, here’s the main point for us. Our goal as husbands and wives should not be a good marriage. And you might say, “Well, that sounds kinda weird.” Our goal of husbands and wives should not be a good marriage, but our goal should be higher than a good marriage. That our goal should be God honoring lives.
And, so let’s dive into this. What is marriage, anyway? What did God intend when he created this union of husband and wife? This passage that we’re gonna look at today, men, it’s got some pretty profound things in it, but I wanna go to the very end of the passage, to get a little bit of a picture of where we’re going, and what the design for marriage is. In Ephesians chapter 5, verse 31, Paul writes to the Ephesians, “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
You see, men, we’ve gotta understand some things about this passage, and ladies I think these might be pretty beneficial for you as well, considering what we talked about last week. That marriage is an image of God that we represent to the world. And men, for us to understand our opportunity in the midst of this marriage, I wanna take us back to Genesis. I wanna take us back to the very beginning when God created. And in Genesis chapter 1, verse 27, it says, “God created mankind in his own image.” Now, listen to this. This is something that I just realized not too long ago, that just kinda jumped out at me, “In the image of God he created them. Male and female, he created them.”
And so, when God created, when he created humankind, he created us in his image, and he created us in his image as male and as female. And then we’re taken back and we see the first union of the first husband and the first wife, Adam and Eve, as they come together. And the Scripture that Paul talks about here, the husband, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” is a direct quote from the very first marriage in Genesis chapter 2. That there is this picture of marriage that we have, God creating in the image of himself male and female, coming together. And the marriage union is supposed to be a perfect picture of the Triune Godhead to this world. That one day, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus will return. And he’s gonna return as a groom, and he’s gonna come waiting on his bride, his people, the Church, us, followers of his, and we’re gonna be united with him. And the picture that’s given to us is this marriage. Because a marriage is, as the Scriptures layout, and what Paul has just called us to, and what we see in Genesis, is this union of male and female coming together to this perfect expression of who God is. And see, our marriage is not about us being happy. Our marriage is an opportunity to express the reality of who God is to this world. And so, with all that in mind, understanding that there’s something we must understand, that when we come together with our wives, that we’re representing something greater than our happiness.
And understanding all of that then we dive in, to Ephesians chapter 5, verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Now, I can probably hear some of you all say, “Reza, this is where you’ve already lost me. Like, if that is my standard, then I’ve already fallen short. Like, I’m not even sure I’m following Jesus correctly. How in the world can I love the way Jesus loved the church when I’m not even sure how Jesus loved the church?”
And again, let me just say this. I hear what you’re saying. I understand what it’s like. I understand that it feels like this is a high standard that we oftentimes fall short of. Here’s what I know, men. And I’m gonna talk in a little bit of generalities. If you’re anything like me, then I know that we have many areas of our lives that we already fall short. And so, when I hear this, that I’m to love my wife the exact way that Christ loved the church, that’s just another layer of shame that I put upon myself. Because I know there’s so many ways in which I fall short. And I wonder if there’s a few reasons why we feel the shame when we read something like this in Ephesians 5:25.
One, because, men, maybe sometimes we’re already feeling like we’re a failure. Maybe sometimes we already feel like we’re a disappointment to God, our wives, and our children and we’re not even who we wanna be, let alone what they want us, or even need us, to be. And I think some of us, men, we might feel shame because up to this point, we haven’t done the things that we’re gonna talk about here today. And we think to ourselves that, “My spouse is gonna see right through me, and she’s gonna know that I’m only doing this because the church talked about this.”
You see, men, I wanna call us to a higher level, to understand. Look, I get this, and I understand this. But men, we play a tug-of-war with guilt. Continually in our heart and our mind, but men, we’re playing a game that we were never intended to play. For it is the Apostle Paul who also said, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” All the condemnation is gone. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And, men, make no mistake. If this is God’s call for us as men, to love our wives the way Christ loved the church, if this is God’s call for us, then he’s gonna equip us, and come alongside of us as we live out the calling that he has for us in our lives.
Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
And so, for us to understand we’re to love our wives the way that Christ loved the church, it’s important for us to really dive in and take a look. How did Christ love the church? What did it mean for Christ to love the church? How did he do it?
Look, Jesus knew the needs of his people. That Jesus understands who we were. He understood who we were, and he understands what we experience, and he walked with us, and he loved us, desperately. Men, there’s something that we also have to realize. That no matter what state our relationship is in with our wives, that God has placed this woman in our lives. That you and I are the steward, the people that God has placed around us, and in our families. And it’s important for us to really dive in, to understand what it looks like for us to love our wives, and our families, the way that Christ loved the church.
The first way that Jesus loved the church was Jesus pursued the church. And, men, we did this one day as well. When we were dating, we pursued our wives. Jesus pursued the church. When God stepped out of eternity and he came into humanity, which is called the Incarnation, he walked with us. He understood us. He felt what we felt. He experienced what we experienced. He took the human form with us and experienced joys, sorrows, strength, weaknesses, temptations, our triumphs. He also understood our failures. And we were accepted in his sight.
You see, one of the ways, men, that we are to love our wives the way Christ loved the church, is we are also to pursue our wives the way that Jesus pursued us. Now, this isn’t just about dates, or setting up a date night. And I can say my wife and I, we don’t do that great at doing a weekly date night, or dates, and it’s something in our marriage we know we wanna do and engage in, but life circumstances have made some things kinda difficult for us. But we know it’s something that we need to engage in, and we want to engage in.
But, you know, pursuing your wife is not just about dates, although dates are a part of that. That having fun with our wives, and enjoying experiences with our wives, pursuing our wives, is about observing, and listening, and pursuing their hearts. You know, when we get into a conversation, or when my wife is struggling and… Here’s one of the hardest things for me when I sit there, because I like to fix things, and I love to give advice, and I love to help. That’s something I love to do, is come alongside people and help them.
But it’s really been helpful for me to sit back and simply ask her, and say, “Alison, do you need me to fix something, are you looking for advice, or you just want me to sit and listen?” And, men, I have found that question to be incredibly insightful for us. And observing what gives her energy has become huge. You see, husbands, there’s a lot of wives that feel like their husbands are disinterested, because they’re no longer being pursued.
The second way that Jesus loved the church, is Jesus affirmed the church. I remember years ago, we were in our church-planting journey up in Northern Colorado, and I remember that was a season that was fairly difficult, and there was a lot going on at work, and planting the church, and getting to know people, and finding a building, and there was a lot of stress going on in my heart. And I wasn’t very emotionally healthy at the time.
And there was a moment when I came home, our kids were young. We had a 4-year-old, we had a 3-year-old, and we had a newborn. My wife had transitioned from working outside of the home to working inside the home, along with raising our kids. And I remember, in a moment of weakness, I come home… And now, you gotta know this about me, I’m pretty OCD. I’m weird. I kind of like things neat, nice, put away, when I come home and…I came home and like, the house was a disaster. Like it would, it just, it was crazy. Kids were running around, still in pajamas and all of that stuff, and in a moment of weakness, I looked at my wife and I said, “What did you do all day, like, what happened?
Oh, I gotta tell you, that didn’t go very well. That conversation really led to some other conversations and… And then, later on, we tried the whole don’t-let-the-sun-go-down-on-your-anger, but then after about three days, we realized, “Hey, we actually need some sleep.” And, so we slept on it and talked and talked, and about a week later, I thought that, “Hey, you know, our relationship starts getting a little bit better.” I thought that things were in a good, kind of a good rhythm, and I came home.
And I came home another day, and again, it was chaos at home. And, I looked, there were still breakfast dishes on the kitchen table, there was McDonald’s Happy Meal® boxes, and half-eaten chicken nuggets across the living room. Again, everyone is in pajamas. And I looked at my wife, and this time literally, out of genuine concern, I just said, “Hey, like, what happened today?” And, she looked at me, and she said, “Hey, remember last week, when you asked what I did all day? I didn’t do any of it.” And so that was the result of her not doing anything that she had done.
You see, men, affirming our wives verbally is huge. One of the ways that Jesus loved the church, is Jesus affirmed the down-and-outs of society. That if you take a look through the Scriptures and the people that Jesus interacted with, he interacted with a lot of people the society had cast aside. And I believe that him, as the Messiah, calling them up, and speaking to them, raising their voice, was a way of affirming them with his words.
And, men, a lot of us right now, we have a front-row seat, during the lockdown and stay-at-home orders, we have a front-row seat to what our wives have been doing on a daily basis. And for some of us, it’s a little bit of a rude awakening, because we didn’t realize all that they had been doing. I have a list of ways in which I kind of wrote this week, of thinking about these are ways for us to…men, we can affirm our wives.
First of all, look around the house and see what is clean, and consider how that happened, and thank her for it. Especially, if what you’re wearing is what’s clean. Maybe ask her about her day. Ask her how you could help her day better, or maybe could have helped make her day better. Or maybe this. Simply follow through on tasks that you said you would do around the house. It’s like…so, this is a struggle for me, projects around the house I’m not good at. Like, I can walk people, I can walk people through Leviticus, I can walk people through the Old Testament, I am not very good at cutting with a skill saw. So, that’s a struggle, but it’s still something that I can do to affirm my wife in the things she asks me to do.
And I would say, maybe a tangible way of affirming your wife is by offering to get her a night at a local hotel, just to say, “Hey, go, and I got the kids for this evening.” You know, there was a list of women that were asked, “I feel most valued by my husband when…” These are some of their answers, guys. This is a little insightful. “He does something to take care of me, without being asked.” He sees something I need before I tell him I need it.” “He listens to me without looking at his iPad, the phone, or the TV.” That’s convicting. “He says, ‘Yeah, I understand.’ like he really means it.”
So, there’s a lot of ways that Jesus affirmed the church. The third way that he loved the church was, he was intentional with the church. You know, just a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a close friend of mine, and I was telling him this realization that I had and it really crushed me. That I was up late one night, writing a Bible study, or preparing for a sermon or something and…and I prepare a lot, and I’m writing a lot and speak in different places, putting together devotionals, and Bible studies, and this late-night, I was working on something because I had to present something the next day.
And it just dawned on me, that the intentionality that I give to my work and my vocations, I don’t do a very good job giving that same intentionality to my wife, or my kids. That I don’t do a very good job of being as intentional with my children and my wife as I am with my vocation. And here’s something that I realized. That, men, we’re really good at giving our attention to our kids and our wives. But giving our attention or being attentive is not the same thing as being intentional. Because being attentive means that we’re there physically, but we may or may not be there emotionally. But being intentional means that we’re intentionally pursuing and engaging the hearts of our wives, asking questions intentionally wanting to engage in conversation, activities, and experiences for them to be enhanced.
And, men, let me also address this. I know many of us might feel ill-equipped to “lead our family spiritually”. That’s an area for a lot of us that just kinda feels a little awkward. It feels unnatural. But let me encourage you. You don’t need to be a theologian to be able to help set the spiritual thermostat in your home. There really… I’m assuming that you’re watching this because you’ve got some sort of an affinity, or questions, or some sort of attraction to this idea of following Jesus.
What would happen if you just simply just open up to your wife and say, “Hey, these are a couple of things that I got out of a message that I heard. What did you think about it?” Or, maybe it’s you taking initiative next week, getting the breakfast together or making sure kids are settled, and making sure everyone’s ready to engage with Church Online. Or even maybe if you hear a song, or watch a movie, or read something, read a verse, simply asking the question, maybe asking your family, “Hey, what do you think about that?” Or, if a situation rises up at school, simply asking your little 9-year-old son, “Hey, what do you think God thinks about that?”
You see, you don’t have to have all the answers to be able to just simply inspire our family spiritually. Leading spiritually doesn’t mean knowing all the answers. It just means leading our family in a way that propels them towards Christ.
And the last way Jesus loved the church was he laid his life down for the church. You see, the Roman process of crucifixion was intended to dehumanize and incredibly embarrass a person, and their family. That Jesus went to the Cross. Jesus knew what was best for the church, and he made a conscious decision to go to the Cross on our behalf. He made a conscious decision to go through the embarrassment of crucifixion. That even the night before he went to the Cross, he pleaded with his Father, saying, “Father, I don’t wanna do this. If there’s any other way, I don’t wanna go through with the Crucifixion.”
And then in a moment of surrender, he made up his mind and he took up the calling that God had for him, and he went to the Cross on our behalf. Even when the church spit on him, even when the church mistreated him, hit him, cursed him, condemned him, he went beyond his feelings and he did what was best for the church. He did what was best for you and I. He laid his life down on our behalf. Now, men, laying our life down might be needing to lay down our comforts, or even our dreams in a particular season that we’re in.
So as we continue, in verse 28, of Ephesians chapter 5, “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. And after all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church. For we are members of his body.”
You see, there is a parallel between Christ and the church. And there’s this parallel of husbands and wives becoming one flesh. And, men, what this is telling us, is essentially, when we cherish and nourish our wives, when we take care of our wives, we’re actually taking care of ourselves, because we are one flesh with our wives. That when Christ was nourishing and cherishing the church, he was actually benefiting this union that we have with him, called the overall church, this beautiful union that we have with our God.
And so, men, when we mistreat our wives, or when we cut down on our wives, or when we build up our wives, we’re actually pouring that upon ourselves. And I’ve stated this before, that many of us, maybe we tune out because of shame, maybe because we are shameful because of ways that we’ve lived up until this point. But remember how Paul started this passage out? Remember how he told us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ? The word is “submit” to our spouses, out of reverence, and love and appreciation for who Christ is, and what Christ has done.
You see, if I show Alison and my kids love only when I feel like it, it’s not gonna go very well. Life, and work, and circumstances, they sap the emotional energy from me. And so, I’ve gotta go beyond myself, and I’ve gotta love, even when I don’t feel like loving. I want you to hear how Eugene Peterson, how he paraphrased the Bible. And listen to what Eugene Peterson says in “The Message” paraphrase of the Bible.
In this passage, Ephesians chapter 5, he says, “The husband provides leadership to his wife, the way that Christ does to his church, not by domineering, but by cherishing. Husbands go all out in your love for your wives exactly as Christ did for the church. A love marked by giving, and not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole, his words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring out the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling, white silk, radiant with holiness.” You see, this is a beautiful way for us, men, to love our wives.
I’ve got a few practical tips for us. Just a few things that we might be able to put in place, whether it’s this week, this month, the next month, or, hopefully for the rest of our lives. Here’s a few practical tips for us.
First of all, men, don’t settle for giving attention to your wife but be intentional with her. You know, it’s huge for us to be able to set up those times where can maybe go out on a date when things open back up. Or maybe simply go on a walk with our wives, round the neighborhood, and maybe we take the responsibility of making sure there’s babysitting taken care of.
Second practical tip. Pray for your wife, and eventually, pray with your wife. And I know for some of us, this is gonna feel unnatural, because praying out loud is not something we’re comfortable with. Do you know, Jesus isn’t looking for specific words. He’s not looking for words that are great. He’s looking for a heart that is open. And so, maybe simply starting with these words, “God, I need your help. I need you to help me.” You see, prayer can grow into an incredibly intimate practice for a husband and a wife.
Third practical application. Engage your heart, and mind, and soul, when you come home from work, even when you’re tired. Look, I get it. I’ve been there. We come home, men, and it’s been a long day. And we come home from the office, we’ve got that coworker, we’ve got that client, we’ve got circumstances, and issues are piling up. And we come home, all we wanna do is just relax, like, “I just need an hour to decompress, because you have no idea what my day was like.”
You see, that’s… I came home one time, just like that, saying, “I’ve had a long day. Hey, I just need to go take an hour by myself.” And the look on my wife’s face showed me that that probably wasn’t the wisest thing that I should have done, that I could have done in that time.
You see, she would tell me, “Reza, there’s nothing more demoralizing for me than when I hear the garage door open, and you’re home, and I think, ‘Help is on the way.’ And then I gotta sit down for another hour and try to figure out how to handle these kids when I’ve had no break all day long.” So, even when we’re tired, men, it’s an opportunity for us to engage and lay down ourselves on behalf of our families.
Another practical tip, don’t compare your wife to someone else. Look, in our day of social media, this can be incredibly tempting. And the reality, there’s a saying that says, “Hey, the grass is always greener on the other side.” Well, hey, the grass might be greener on the other side, but we gotta remember it costs a lot of water to make it green, and there’s probably a lot of fertilizer over there, as well.
Lastly, strive to leave a legacy and not just an inheritance. You see, we gotta know this. That inheritance is what we leave to people. A legacy is what we leave inside of people. It is so tempting, men, for us to think that we’re providing when we simply provide things for our families. When we’re simply providing for our wives, or we’re giving her opportunities, or we’re giving her something, or we’re giving our kids something. But, I wonder, what would it look like, for us not to just try to live to give things to people, but to truly invest in them? And that’s what a godly legacy is all about, is about investing in people. I wanna be somebody that invests specific things in the lives of my family.
As we close this passage, verse 31, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
You see, a bunch of years ago, when I was pastoring at this church, I had a dear friend of mine who actually… We played college football together, and him and his fiancée had started coming to our church. And I remember we were talking a little bit, and they asked me to officiate their wedding and I loved the opportunity to do that, so we sat down with some pre-marriage counseling, and talked about through some things. And we did their wedding, and it was beautiful, and it was wonderful.
And they started coming to our church and growing in their relationship. They’re very new to church, and very new to Jesus in growing their relationship. And about eight months later, I get a phone call. And I pick up the phone, and all I hear is him crying on the other line. And I’m thinking to myself, I was like, “Bud, what’s going on, like, what happened?” And through tears and sobbing, he just says, “Reza, I think my marriage is over.” And I said, “What? Like, what happened, man? Let’s talk.” He’s like, “I can’t talk now. Can we get together?” I said, “Absolutely.”
So, the next day, he met me at the church, and we went on a walk. One day after work, after I was done with work, we simply went on a walk on some trails near where our church building was. And I’m hearing him tell the story of their relationship and their marriage. And, things had been amazing, they’d been wonderful.
But one night, out of a moment of weakness, she was out with some friends, and ran into an old boyfriend from high school, actually. And one thing led to another, and she made some decisions that she incredibly regretted. And the next day she told her husband about it. And he was heartbroken, as you can imagine. And so I’m sitting there, walking with him, and he’s crying, and he’s sobbing and… And so, when walking, I really don’t know what to say, I’m just walking with him, and just listening, and nodding my head, and praying over him, and just praying over him and pouring my heart, just to God on his behalf.
And then he stops, and he looks at me. And with tears coming down his eyes, he said, “Reza, I’m embarrassed. I cannot believe that my wife would do…I can’t believe she’d betray me like this.” And he said, ” But Reza, I remember when you officiated our wedding, and we sat in your office preparing for the wedding, you walked us to that verse in Ephesians chapter 5, about how I’m supposed to love my wife the way that Christ loved the church.”
And I said, “Yeah, that’s true. And he said, “Reza, I feel embarrassed. I feel beat up. I feel spit on. I feel discarded. I feel disposable, quite frankly.” And he said, “But Jesus was spit on. Jesus was cursed at. Jesus was embarrassed. Jesus probably felt disposable, because the people that he came to love were actually the ones that had turned on him. And he said, “But Jesus still went to the Cross for us. And if I’m gonna love my wife the way that Christ loved the church, then I’ve gotta love my wife even though I’m feeling these ways.” And I said, “Buddy, absolutely. You’re totally right. This is exactly how we’re called to love.”
Men, it’s a high calling. It’s an incredible calling. It’s a beautiful calling. And men, we also remember that we submit to our wives by sacrificing ourselves, on behalf of our wives. See, that’s what’s important. And guys, we don’t have to do this alone. That’s the beauty of all this. You don’t have to figure this out. That a lot of times we’re feeling this shame, or this angst in us, saying, “I can’t do this. I haven’t done this to this point, how do I even start?”
We’ve got some opportunities that I wanna share with you. First, and foremost, re|engage. We have a marriage ministry here with hundreds of men just like you, trying to figure out, “How do I love my wife, how do I handle my issues, how do I deal with this thing of wanting to honor God with my life and my marriage, but I just don’t know how?” Can I encourage you to dive in, to re|engage, and join one of their open groups, and go on this journey together?
And the last thing I wanna remind us, is we’re not alone, because we have other men with re|engage. We also have a God, who promises something great. And men, I encourage you to write this verse down. Maybe write it on a card, a little 3 by 5 card. Keep it in front of you all week long. It simply states this, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you, the God who began the good work in you, the God who led you to marry this woman, the God who started this good work, will carry it on to completion, until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Men, you are not alone. The Holy Spirit is God’s chief tool in us. That the Holy Spirit in us he is the One who leads us, and guides us, and finishes this work in us. And he brings it to completion. So, I hope this becomes an encouragement for us, that lifts our heads higher, to what marriage could be in this world. Would you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for your incredible grace, and your mercy. We’re thankful for who you are in our lives. We’re thankful that we can come and just sit and understand that we’ve been trying to attain something this world has told us that we’re supposed to attain, but we’re actually chasing after the wrong thing. That may we find our fulfillment in you and you alone, Lord, and not try to find our fulfillment in other places. So, Lord, we ask you would lead us and guide us in our lives, in our relationships with people we interact with, in our marriages, in our families, and in our community. We love you, Jesus, in your name, we pray. Amen. And amen.
Continuing on in the theme of working toward our best relationships ever, this week we look at the relationship of kids and parents. In trying to bring them up in the training and instruction from the Lord, we can look to how God treats us as a template for parenting.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. Wherever you are in the world, we want you to know that you have found a church home with us. And we’re so glad that you’re with us today for this Mother’s Day weekend. I realize it’s kind of a strange Mother’s Day and a lot of us are not able to be with our moms in the way that we had hoped we might be able to be. But maybe you are. Maybe your mom is actually in the room. Maybe you’re one of those lucky few, or maybe there’s just a mom in the room with you. And so, I want you to do this right now. Why don’t you just find the closest mom and give her a hug and tell her Happy Mother’s Day. If you’re by yourself, go ahead and tweet it out right now. But moms, we love you and we recognize how high and how hard a calling motherhood can be.
And so before we get into our message today, I would just love to pray a blessing over all the moms out there if you’d all join me. God, thank you so much for the moms in our lives, both the moms by biology and those women who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to raise all of us up to be the men and the women that we are. For all of them we are so, so grateful. Lord, I realize that in this season, it’s still good for a lot of people, but I think it’s particularly hard right now for moms, especially for those moms that have small children at home. And so, Lord, for any mom out there who’s just feeling like she’s running on fumes, I pray that you would fuel her up with your power. For any mom that is feeling like she’s just coming to the end of her rope, that you would lengthen that rope supernaturally and give her just a supernatural patience. And for all those moms that are feeling anxious and afraid, Lord, would you speak to their hearts and speak courage to them and remind them that they are warriors who contend every day for the hearts and the minds of their children. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Moms, I got a special blessing for you today. I’m so glad you’re with us today. I hope your kids are with us as well. If not, you might want to go get them real quick because this gift that I have for you is actually a Word of God to your kids and you want to make sure that they don’t miss this. So, if you need to pause things and go get them, whatever you need, or just yell right now, get in here, whatever. But you want to make sure your kids hear this. This is the Word of God from Ephesians 6 chapter, verse 1. Here’s what God says to all the kids out there, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” So, moms, you are welcome. Feel free to use that as much as you need to. God has said to all kids out there, you have to obey your parents. That’s the right thing to do. Now, it’s also probably helpful for the kids to understand that it’s not just the right thing to do, it also has rewards associated with it. In fact, this is what God goes on to say. He says, “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise, meaning it’s the first of the Ten Commandments that has a reward associated with it. It’s the first of those Ten, right? The big Ten, honoring your father and mother is in God’s top 10 list, right? So, obviously, it’s very important to God. And as a reward for that, he says that you’re going to get this when you do it. He says, “So that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth,” right? So that it may go well with you and you may enjoy long life on the earth. That’s a blessing. It’s a traditional Hebrew blessing. It’s actually, if I can geek out for a minute, it’s not that different, very similar actually to what Spock used to say. Remember Spock, right? He would say, “Live long and prosper.” Basically, the same thing. It’s blessing for a better life.
And so, basically, what’s being said here is that obedient children lead better lives, right? That’s the blessing. That by obeying our parents, we find ourselves moving into the blessing of God and the better life that comes from that. Obedient children lead better lives. Why is that? Well, I think there’s a spiritual reason and then there’s a practical reason. Spiritually speaking, it’s a promise from God. And so, this is something that God will deliver to those who honor him by honoring their mother and their father. He blesses them with a better life. So, there’s a spiritual side to it. But there’s also a practical side to this and that is that obeying our parents teaches us to limit the destructiveness of our selfishness. Let me say that again. It’s really important to understand, is that learning to obey our parents, obeying our parents teaches us to limit the destructiveness of our selfishness. So, here’s the problem. We’re all sinful. We’re all born that way. And unfortunately, sinfulness and selfishness are two sides of the same coin. They go hand in hand. In fact, the essence of sin is in fact selfishness. And so, we’re all not only sinful, we’re all also selfish by nature. And unfortunately, selfishness does not lead to a good life. It certainly doesn’t lead to the kind of blessed life that God is talking about that he wants us to experience. Selfishness gets in the way of that all the time, right? Selfishness keeps us from making and having good friendships. Selfishness definitely interferes with our ability to succeed at school. Selfishness gets in the way of us doing well in teams. Selfishness keeps us from having successful careers.
Selfishness blocks us from having healthy, satisfying, fulfilling marriages, and ultimately, selfishness really puts us at odds with God, right? It’s really hard to love and to worship and to serve God when we’re driven by selfishness because the reality is you’re not the king of the world. I’m not the king of the world. There’s only one King of the world, that’s Jesus and it’s not us, right? But selfishness kind of puts ourselves forward as the king of the world, and so selfishness gets in the way of all of our earthly relationships and it big time gets in the way of our relationship with God. But as we learn to obey our parents, especially as small children, what we’re doing is we’re beginning to limit the destructiveness of our selfish. We’re beginning to force ourselves to put that selfish impulse aside and to learn how to function without giving into its every driving call. Okay?
And here’s what happens then is that as we learn to obey our parents, that sets the stage for learning how to honor everybody who has authority over us. And it’s not just God who has authority over us. We all have lots of different people who end up in positions of authority over us. We might have teachers or coaches or bosses, right? All kinds of people have authority over us. Government officials have authority over us. And here’s the thing that when we learn how to honor our parents, how to obey our parents, it sets the stage for living in a way that honors every authority that we will find in our lives. And when we honor the authorities, they’re much more inclined to bless us here. Here’s an important principle. The more that we honor those in authority over us, the more likely they are to use that authority to bless us. Does that make sense? Really important principle. The more that we honor those in authority over us, the more likely they are to use that authority to bless us. That’s true of earthly authorities. It’s also true of God. And that’s why obedient children lead better lives. Both a spiritual and a practical side to that.
Now, before I move on, I think it’s probably important to recognize that there’s an interesting progression here. Paul moves from… He says, “Obey to honor.” And I think that progression actually follows the progression of a child growing up to be an adult because the reality is that small children are called to obey their parents. That’s not necessarily true for adults. Okay? I’m not supposed to obey my mom and my dad in the same way that I was when I was living in the house under their authority. But adults are still called to honor their parents. Okay? Not necessarily to obey, but to honor. And so, this is something that we still have to pay attention to even as adults. In fact, Jesus himself spoke about the importance of continuing to honor our parents even as adults.
We can spend a lot of time unpacking that but let me just give you two quick things. One way you honor your parents is by continuing to connect with them, okay? They miss you when you move out. My oldest daughter just bought a condo and she moved out and I miss her and I love when she texts me or calls me. I love it. Okay? So, kids, even though you might be adults, you can honor your parents, your mother and your father by connecting with them. The other thing you can do is you continue to serve them. Remember, this whole section of Ephesians that we’re working through in this series is unpacking the surprising secret to every relationship ever, which is Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And even as adult kids, we can till submit to our parents by serving them, by sacrificing for them. You may know what that looks like in your context. Let me just say this to my mom who I think is probably watching out there. Mom, I will continue to be your tech support as long as necessary. All your tech problems bring them to me, and I’ll continue to serve you by being your tech support. I bet some of you can probably relate to that, but that’s just one way that we continue to serve our parents and therefore to honor them.
Now, here’s what’s really interesting to me. Throughout this section of Ephesians as Paul’s unpacking this secret to every relationship ever, which is submit to one another, he always starts with the relationship with the person who’s most obviously under someone’s authority, and then he turns it around and then he talks to the person who is actually most obviously over the other person. But he says, but you’re still supposed to serve them. You’re still supposed to support them. You’re still supposed to submit to them, even though it looks different for different relationships. And so, he started with kids here, but then he says to parents that you still have to sacrifice for your kids. You still have to serve your kids; you still have to submit to your kids. And here’s what it looks like. He says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord.”
Now, he’s speaking to fathers directly, but he means fathers and mothers. I think there’s probably two reasons why he speaks directly to fathers only. First off, it was a patriarchal culture that he was writing to, meaning it was a father-centric culture and it was often the case that you would address father and mother by speaking directly to the father. But also, because I think that what he’s talking about here is something that fathers are particularly prone to do. Fathers are particularly prone to exasperate their children. Now, that doesn’t mean mothers don’t. In fact, we’ll talk today about how mothers can do that and how they can avoid doing that. But fathers have a particular temptation. And I think to understand why I say that, you need to understand what exasperate means. And here’s what it means. To exasperate is to provoke someone to anger by using your power to dominate them. Okay? To exasperate is to provoke somebody to anger by using your power to dominate them, to hold them down, to keep them under control, to be in charge of them. Right? And I think fathers can be a little prone to do that. It’s not just fathers, again, but it is something that I think dads, just men in general are often tempted to do. We are tempted to use our power to dominate. And really then what Paul’s doing is he’s giving us a contrast in parenting styles because he says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Well, what does bring them up mean? Well, bring them up means, it means use your power to cultivate. It means, use your power to cultivate, not to dominate, okay? Rather than using your power to dominate them, it means use your power to provide and to protect and to direct so that they move forward and become everything that God designed them to be. That’s what it means to bring them up.
And so really what’s happening here is Paul is contrasting two very different parenting styles. One parenting style will uses the power to dominate and that leads to exasperation. The other parenting style uses their power and authority as parents to raise them up, to help them be everything that God intended them to be. Okay, so how do we do that? How do we use our powers to cultivate? Well, he says, “Bring your kids up, bring them up.” He said, “Bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord.” And listen carefully because this is very important. It’s often misunderstood. When he says bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, he’s not telling you to teach them Bible verses or to have daily family devotionals with them. He’s not telling you, this is the content you’re supposed to communicate to your kids. Now, teaching them the Bible and having family devotions, that’s good stuff. I’m not saying don’t do it, but that’s not what he’s talking about here.
What he’s saying here basically is you need to parent your kids the way that God has taught you to parent them. Okay? These are boundaries for our parenting. “Keep your parenting,” he says, “inside the training and instruction of the Lord. Parent your kids the way that God has taught you to parent them.” Okay? In other words, don’t follow the world’s model of what to do with power. Don’t follow the world’s model of using power to dominate people, whatever that relationship looks like, but especially in the context of kids, right? Instead, he says, use God’s model. Take a look at what God did and you follow his example. In other words, what he’s really saying is use the way God treats us as a model for treating those that you have influence with. And I say influence and not just authority there because I think this applies not just to parents, it applies to every person who has the opportunity to speak into the life of a younger person. Whether you’re a coach or a teacher or an employer or whatever it is, if you have the opportunity to speak into the life of somebody that’s younger than you, you need to follow the same example. And so, use the way that God treats us as a model for treating those that you have influence with.
So, what does that look like? How do we do that? Well, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to talk about a couple of ways that I think, especially as dads, we need to pay attention to the example that God’s set. And then we’re going to talk about a couple of ways that maybe it works for moms in ways that are unique to them. But let’s start with something that I think dads need to pay a lot of attention to. And then the first one is this. Here’s how you can not exasperate your kids. Here’s how instead you can cultivate them, not dominate, but cultivate. Use love as a fuel rather than a reward. So important. Use love as a fuel rather than a reward. See, so often in the world we use love and we use affection and even praise and encouragement as a reward when people have complied, as a reward when people have done what we wanted them to do or when they’ve performed. And sometimes we carry that into our parenting relationships, and we got to change that.
The reality is, check this out, this is how God did it. This is the Book of 1st John 4:19, listen, “We love because he first loved us,” right? God’s love for us is a fuel that leads us to be able to live lives that are holy and pleasing to him. We don’t live holy, pleasing lives and therefore he loves us. We love because he first loved us. It comes from his love. How about this, I love this. This is Romans chapter 2. “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” Do you know that? God’s kindness leads us to repentance. See, God didn’t love us because we performed. He didn’t love us because we did all the right things. He didn’t love us because we were good enough. His love for us actually led us to turn away from our sin. That’s repentance. It led us to a relationship with him. His love, his kindness led us there because God uses love and affection as fuel, not as a reward, and we need to do the same thing.
I was so fortunate. I grew up in a home where my dad told me on a regular basis, “I love you.” I thought that was normal. And then I grew up and I realized so many kids grew up in a home where neither mom nor dad said, “I love you,” but a lot of them, maybe mom said it, but dad didn’t. And dads, we’ve got to change that. We have to change that. I found it such a powerful truth that I found that I say it to people just because I know how much they need to hear it. I say it to staff, I say it to people in the congregation, I say it to my kids, I say it to my wife, I say it to friends. And it’s a little weird sometimes. They’re like, “What? You love me?” But there’s so much power in it. It’s fuel. It shouldn’t be a reward and dads, we got to pay attention to that.
Second thing that I think dads need to pay attention to is this. We need to sacrifice for them more than we demand from them. We need to sacrifice for them more than we demand from them. Now, I know a lot of dads out there are going, “What are you talking about? I sacrifice for my kids all the time. I work so hard for them.” And maybe you do, and that’s awesome. If that’s your motivation, good. You’re in great shape. But sometimes we count as sacrifice what is, in fact, self-service. I remember counseling with a dad once who was really struggling with his relationship with his kids. And he was in my office and over and over again, he kept pounding the table going, “I just sacrifice over and over. I work so hard for them. It’s all for them. It’s all for them.” And I don’t know if it was the Holy Spirit, but suddenly I just got a little tired of it and I broke in and I said, “Hey, I just got a question for you. Let me ask you something. Would you go to work if you didn’t have kids?” And he said, “Well, yeah.” I said, “Would you go to that particular job if you didn’t have kids?” He said, “Well, yeah, I love my job.” I said, “Would you work as hard if you didn’t have kids?” “Well, yeah, probably so.” Then I went, “Then that’s not a sacrifice. It’s not a bad thing, but you can’t count it as a sacrifice if you would do it without your kids.” Listen, you can only count as a sacrifice what you don’t want to do and wouldn’t do if you didn’t have kids.
Listen, this is cliché, but it’s so important. Most kids don’t really care about the work that you do. They care about the time that you spend with them and the things that you do with them after work is over. And sometimes we kind of talk ourselves out of having to do any of that because we’re like, “Well, I went to the job.” Yeah, you would have gone to that job anyway. Listen, we need to sacrifice more for our kids than we demand from them. That’s what God modeled for us. I love this. This is also Romans 5:8. He says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He sacrificed for us.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world,” fuel not a reward, “He so loved the world that he gave or sacrificed his only Son.” Right? That’s a sacrifice for us. That’s the model we’re given. As dads we need to pay attention to those things. Now, those are probably true for everybody. They’re particularly true for dads, I think, but I think they’re true for everybody.
But I think there’s some ways that moms also need to pay attention to the model that God has given us. And I’m not a mom and so I’m not able to speak to that with any kind of authority. And so, I’m really excited to invite Michele Cushatt. Michele, would you come up? Michele is a Christian author. She’s a Christian speaker. She works with Michael Hyatt in leadership development, a very gifted communicator. But maybe most importantly, and I think she said it was most important thing, is she’s part of the Mission Hills family. And she and her family attends here on the Littleton campus. And so, Michele, so glad to have you with us. Would you bring a word for our moms out there?
Michele: I would love to, thank you. It was actually just a couple years ago right here in this room. I’ll never forget it. I was sitting right over here on the left-hand side. It was a Saturday evening service. I had my husband and my three youngest children with me. And in addition to that, this particular weekend, one of my grown children had come home for the weekend. He’s been in the Air Force for a number of years and he got leave. And so he came home and joined our family for the weekend. And as a mom to have a child that I haven’t seen in a while, not only come home but to sit in church with me, it just doesn’t get much better than that. But the reason I remember that night wasn’t so much about the fact that he came home for the weekend, what I remember about that night is what was said during service.
Craig was standing up here speaking, and at the beginning of his sermon he said, “How many of you grew up believing that you had to be good for God to love you?” I remember I got really quiet and kind of looked around the room to see if anybody was moving. It was like everybody was trying to figure out if it was a trick question or not. And so he asked you again, he said, “With a show of hands, how many of you grew up believing that you had to be good for God to love you?” Well, that’s when I found my courage and I very slowly raised my hand in the air. And I remember hearing the rustle of movement in the auditorium as many, many other men and women in the room raised their hand. But before I could even get my arm all the way up, I was distracted by noise that was coming right next to me on my right-hand side. And my 20-year-old son was raising his hand in the air as well. You can imagine at that moment, I was crushed. If I had a list of things that I want to get right in this life, motherhood would be at the top of the list. And in that moment, as I looked at my son’s hand in the air and my hand in the air, I felt like I had failed. I’d blown it.
You see, for most of my life I dreamed of being a mom. Being a mom was a dream as long as I could remember, and yet motherhood didn’t quite turn out like I thought. When I was in my 20s, I had my first child. However, a year and a half later, I watched my husband drive away for the last time, about six days before Christmas while I held my one-and-a-half year old in my arms. At that moment I became a single mom. By the end of my 20s, I met another man who found himself unexpectedly divorced as well. And he had two children and we thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fine to make a blended family? I’m sure it’s just like the movies. It’s easy, right?” We had no idea how complicated it would be. And so overnight, I became a stepmom. And then when I was 39 years old, I got a phone call from a doctor. Ordinary Tuesday in November, and that doctor told me I had cancer, cancer of the tongue. You can hear the lisp when I speak. Over the next five years, I would have cancer three times. Each time more severe, more significant, more devastating to me physically than the time before. And that’s when I became a sick mom. A mom who has chronic pain, who lives with permanent functional disabilities, who has all kinds of health complications and everything else.
And in the middle of single motherhood, step motherhood, sick motherhood, my husband and I felt God calling us to take in three little preschoolers, twin four-year-olds and a five-year-old who had their own hard story. That’s one thing I’ve learned that my hard story became a means for me to connect with other people with hard stories. And in my 30s and 40s we became, I became a foster adopt mom of 3 sweet children who, man, they had their own suffering. So, I’ve had biological motherhood, I’ve had stepped motherhood, single motherhood, foster adopt motherhood, sick motherhood, and I can tell you, for me, motherhood is complicated. I have six children. Just take a minute to let that sink in. Six children. I told you, I had dreamed of having a house full of children, but I didn’t quite anticipate six. I’m often asked to speak on Mother’s Day because people assume that I have so many children I must be good at it. But the truth is, I believe God gave me six children because he knew how much I needed the practice. I rarely feel successful as a mother. In fact, speaking on Mother’s Day is one of the hardest things for me to do because it’s probably the area of my life where I feel like I’m stumbling the most.
And this sermon series is all talking about the secret of every relationship. And one thing I’ve discovered over my motherhood journey is a lot of people claim to have the secrets for motherhood. A lot of people will tell you the secrets to raising good children, the secrets to being a good mom, and the secrets to having a guarantee that everybody’s going to turn out okay and be healthy, responsible adults. And man, it hasn’t quite worked out as easily as everybody told me in all those books and all those messages. But in this message, in this series we’re talking about, there’s one surprising secret. Ephesians 5:21, “To submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We’ve talked about what it looks like for wives to submit to husbands and husbands to submit to wives and children to submit to parents. But what in the world does it look like for a mom to submit to her children? I would bet you money right now that my children are sitting at home hoping that mom’s submitting to children means that they don’t have to clean their room anymore, or they get to have candy and ice cream for dinner. Not so fast. That’s not going to happen.
And also, it talked about…Craig talked earlier about Ephesians 6:4, not to exasperate our children. I got to tell you, I’m pretty sure I frustrate my children most days. To exasperate, I looked up the definition because I wanted to get really clear on what it means. It is to cause irritation or annoyance. I bet you if you took a poll of my six kids, they would all say that I have irritated or annoyed them at some point. Or to excite the anger of. I excited the anger of my children yesterday when I asked them to clean up the kitchen after they made lunch. I don’t think that’s what this is talking about here. Through exasperation, what Paul is talking about here in Ephesians is often sourced in high expectations. Exasperation is often sourced in impossibly high, unachievable expectations. Expectations that we have for ourselves as mothers but then inadvertently expectations that we put on our children, when we’ve worked so hard trying to be so good and to do everything right and we feel like we can never measure up.
Mother’s Day is often a mixed bag for me because rather than feeling celebrated, I’ve got the same message in my head that tells me, “I just never can do it quite right.” I’ve been mothering now going on three decades. My children are 28, 26, 23. And wait for it, you’re ready for this, 13, 13, 13. Yes, I am quarantined at home during a global pandemic with three 13-year-olds. So, anytime y’all want to feel sorry for me, I’ll take it. I should definitely get a gold star. That’s what I keep telling myself. Man, it’s tough. But in my three decades of mothering, I finally have boiled down in my heart what I need to most get right on my mothering journey. I need to anchor myself to two truths. Are you ready for this? The first truth is that God always prioritizes the relationship over the rules. I need to anchor myself deep into this because I have been spending so much of my life, the 48 years of my life, working so hard to be good. Remember that first service, I was convinced that in order for God to love me, I better get it all right and I lived that way, but then I started to parent that way too. However, if you and I want to learn that secret to submitting to one another, we parent like God does. And God always prioritizes the relationship over the rules. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were still rule breakers, while we were still sinners, while we were still not getting it all right, he died for us.” The relationship was more important than the rules. It doesn’t mean the rules aren’t important, so children, don’t hear that. You still have some good rules you need to follow, but the relationship always comes first over the rules in God’s heart. That’s how he parents us.
But the second truth is equally important. God always prioritizes the person over the performance. God always prioritizes the person over the performance. One of the passages in Scripture that has brought me the most encouragement over the last few years is Paul in Romans 7 talks about his desire to do what is right, his desire to do good things, to be a rule follower, to honor God with his life. And yet the way that his performance doesn’t always match up. And this is what he says, starting in verse 15, he says, “I don’t understand what I do, for what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” And in verse 24 he goes on to say, “What a wretched man I am.” I can’t tell you how many times at the end of the day when I feel like I’ve blown it as a mom, I could easily say, “What a wretched woman I am.” And he says, “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to dust. Thanks be to God who delivers me through Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
You see, our performance will always be a bit spotty. I wake up every day with great intentions. In fact, often on Mother’s Day what happens is I double down and make promises to be a better mom. I make promises to spend an hour of quality time with each of my children. And when you have six, that’s a lot of time. Or I make a commitment, I’m going to sign up to be room mom at school, or I’m going to spend more time reading books before bed, or I’m going to sing them songs. I’m going to do this and that. And I think that’s what it means to be a good mom. And what happens is, impossible expectations, exasperation, frustration, disappointment for everyone. And God is saying here that the secret here is to bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord. Do you know what that is? That’s God’s style of parenting and it’s all about the Gospel, that while we were yet sinners, while we couldn’t get our act together, while we still tried so hard and yet failed so much, God said, “I love you anyway. You are worth dying for.”
If there’s one thing you and I need to get right as moms, and yes, it’s good to teach them manners and teach them how to pick up their dishes and to fold their clothes and all that, if there’s one thing that we want to get right as moms, it’s to help them understand the love of God that never fails. But in order to offer that kind of grace, in order to offer that kind of love to them, we first must believe it and receive it for ourselves. We cannot communicate a love that we don’t know. We cannot pass on an awareness of the extravagance of God’s affection if we have not sat in it and received it and be covered with the ocean of it ourselves. This is the good news. Without the Gospel at the center of our mothering, then our drive for good behavior in ourselves and our children will become a source of impossible expectations, exasperation, and exhaustion. However, when you and I keep the Gospel at the core of our center, when that becomes our fuel as moms, then good behavior becomes an expression of an abundant, overwhelming, overflowing love that just spills out.
Remember that Saturday night service I told you about sitting right over here? I didn’t finish the story. My hand was up in the air. Yes, I grew up believing that I had to be good for God to love me. My 20-year-old son, his hand was in the air and my heart sunk. I remember I reached over and I put my hand on his knee and I whispered, “I’m sorry, babe. I’m so sorry. I know better now.” And he looked at me and he put his hand on top of mine and he said, “That’s all right, Mom. I know better too.” This is the good news. It’s not all dependent on us. We have a God who has given it all to rescue his children. That’s me and that’s you. Family is to be the kind of place that so fully understands the Gospel, so fully understands the extravagant love of God that is safe to say, “I’m sorry. I know better now.” Being a good mom is less about your good performance and more about you being anchored in the love of a good God.
Romans 8 says it this way. I’ve spent so much time over the last few years trying to get these words to sink deep into my heart because my hope is the more that I believe it, the more that I receive it, the more I’ll be able to give it and pour it out on my children. And Romans 8 says this, “What then will separate you from the love of God? Shall trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” No. In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. We’re not conquerors because of our good behavior. We’re not conquerors because of our good performance. We’re not conquerors because we check off every box that we think mothers need to do. We are conquerors because we have a God who loves us that much and his love fuels us. And then that section of Scripture goes on to say, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” You want to do one thing for your kids this Mother’s Day, you want to do one thing that will make the difference in their lives, then you sink into that. You soak up every bit of that truth and then you let that love fuel your mothering.
Craig: Wow. Thank you, Michele.
Michele: My pleasure.
Craig: That was awesome. That was so rich. That was so good. These are pretty simple principles we’re talking about today. Whether you’re dealing with the principles for kids or the principles for parents, they’re simple principles. They’re a little harder to live out in practice, right, so we would like to give you some questions you may be able to wrestle with. So, yeah, what does this look like in our lives? So, let me start with a question for kids, all the kids out there. Here’s the question, how can I honor my parents whether I’m still under their authority or not? So, whether you’re still at home where you have to obey them or you’re out of the house, but you’re still called to honor them, well, what does that look like for you? And what would that look like practically right now for you to take a step of honoring your parents in that way to do what’s right, but also to set yourself up for the rewards from God that come from that?
And here’s a question for dads. Hey, what’s one thing I need to do to fuel my kids with my love and affection? Remember, we don’t want to reward them with love and affection. We want to fuel them with it as God did for us as well, right? So maybe it’s just saying, “I love you.” Maybe that’s something that hasn’t been a part of your vocabulary and it needs desperately to be part of your vocabulary. Or maybe there’s some other way that you can do it to fuel your kids towards everything that you long for them to be rather than rewarding them when they comply with what you think that they should be.
Maybe a couple of questions for moms, Michele.
Michele: Yeah. Absolutely. And speaking for moms, some of you may be mothering in unusual ways, so I’m talking to any woman who’s mothering in any way, shape or form because it’s all important. First question, on a scale from 1 to 10, how confident are you that God’s love for you is not dependent on your performance? How confident are you, 1 being not confident at all, 10 being extremely confident, how confident are you that God’s love for you is not dependent on your performance? Your answer to that question is really important because ultimately God wants you to get to 10 where you know without a shadow of a doubt that nothing will compromise his love for you. And the next, moms, what is one way, just one, let’s not lace yourself down with a list of 30 changes you need to do for your kids this week. That’s not solving anything. Moms, what is one way you can communicate that same kind of extravagant, unconditional God love to your children this week?
Craig: Hey, whether you’re a kid or you’re a parent or everywhere in between, whether you have somebody in authority over you or you have authority over somebody, let’s lean into these principles this week. And let me pray for us as we do that. Would you join me? Hey, God, we come to you as a people who recognize that we are selfish and that there is a destructiveness to that. And so many of us are able to say thank you for parents who parented us in the way that you parented them. And they parented us according to that model, Lord. And we’re so, so grateful for those of us who have had that blessing in our lives. And we ask that you would give us the ability to do that same thing for our kids, to love them in the way that you have loved us. Lord, for those who are out there that are listening to this and they’re going, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about because, man, I didn’t have that kind of a model. My parents, they dominated. My dad, he dominated. My mom dominated.” And maybe even for you, maybe this idea that God is a loving Father who loved you before you’ve done all the right things, that he loves you in spite of the fact that you are a sinful, selfish person. Maybe that’s radical news to you and maybe that’s why you’re here. Maybe that’s why you’re listening to this.
In fact, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you just start praying for the people that are listening to that message and struggling with that truth? And if that’s you, if you’re struggling with it, let me speak to you for a moment. Here’s what you need to understand. It doesn’t matter what kind of parents you had; you have a God who is a good, good Father. You have a God who loves you in spite of your sin, and in fact, a God who loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you. Jesus came. He lived a perfect life. He went to the cross to pay in his blood with his life the price of our sin, the price of the selfishness that drove us away from God that gets in the way of all of our relationships. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for you to set you free. That’s how much God loves you. And as if that weren’t enough, he allows you to take hold of all of the promises, of forgiveness, of salvation, of eternal life, and of a relationship with a loving Father that begins now and goes on for all eternity. You’re allowed to take a hold of those simply by an act of faith. By saying yes to what Jesus did on the cross and bringing it into your life by saying yes to a relationship with him.
And if you don’t have that relationship, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have it right here right now. If you’ve never said yes to a relationship with Jesus, to a relationship with a good and loving Father, here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, you can say this out loud, you can say it in the quietness of your heart, it doesn’t matter, but say it with sincerity. Speak these truths to God and I’ll show you what you say. You’re just going to say this. Say, God, I’ve done it wrong. I’ve definitely not been good enough. I’m sorry. Thank you for dying for me, Jesus. Thank you for loving me enough to pay for all the ways I wasn’t good enough with your good and perfect life. Thank you. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand maybe for the first time that I don’t have to be good enough because you’ve already done what’s necessary. You offer me salvation and forgiveness by faith. That’s really good news. Jesus, I you’re need your forgiveness and so I’m giving you my faith. I’m putting my trust in you. I’m going to follow you. Jesus, come into my life. I’m yours from now and forever. God, I call you my good Father. Amen.
And if you made that decision for the first time, we’re so excited and I so want to celebrate with you. I want to know about it. I’m going to ask you to let us know that you made that decision, that you prayed that prayer. A couple of ways you can do that. If you’re watching it on the Online Campus, there’s a button right below me. You can just click that and say, “I said yes to Jesus. I gave my faith to Jesus.” If you’re watching it on a platform and you don’t see a like that, here’s another thing you can do. You can text the word Jesus to 888111. The same thing is going to happen. Either way you do it, press that button below me or text Jesus to 888111. You’re not going on a list somewhere. What you’re going to get back is you’re going to get back a link and that link is going to tell you five things that are true about you now that you have this relationship with this good Father. We want to get that truth into your hand, so please let us know you made that decision today.
God bless. Thanks for joining us. Happy Mother’s Day. We’ll see you soon.
We wrap up the series on the secret to relationships by looking at how employer/employee relationships can also be an act of worship (or not), depending on how you view and treat those you spend your work life with.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills Church Online. So glad to have you with us. I want you to know, no matter where you are in the world and what circumstances you’re facing, you have a church home with us, and we’re so glad that you’re with us today. We are actually wrapping up our relationship series today. For the last few weeks, we’ve been unpacking God’s surprising secret to every relationship ever. And if you’re just joining us, and you’re not sure what that is, I’ll go ahead and catch you up real quick. It is this. It’s to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. That is the surprising secret to every relationship ever. It’s to submit to one another, to serve each other, to put each other’s needs above our own, and ultimately to substitute God’s mission and agenda for mine in the relationship. That’s the secret.
And for the last few weeks, we’ve been kind of leaning into, what does that look like in our family relationships? Today, we’re gonna take a look at what that sort of looks like in our work relationships, specifically in the relationship between employees and employers. And let me…just to let you know, I’ve been on both sides of that table. I’ve spent most of my life as an employee. My first job, I was a market researcher, which is a really fancy title for a guy who stood in a mall with a clipboard and tried to get people’s opinions on fabric softener and peanut butter kind of stuff, right? And I struggled with my boss in that job because I felt like she stayed in her office all day. I didn’t know what she was doing in there. She would only come out to tell us we had not gotten enough surveys done. And I was like, “Well, how about you get out of your office, grab a clipboard, and get out here with us.” Right? And then I worked for RadioShack, and I struggled with my boss there because I felt like he spent a lot of time in the office on his computer, but then he would come out and tell us we weren’t selling enough stuff, right? So, I was like, “Well, I don’t know what you’re doing in there. Why don’t you get out of here and do what you’re telling us we’ve got to do or something like that.” All right? So, I struggled with my boss there.
So I was really excited when I graduated college and I went into vocational ministry, meaning that I was gonna get paid to follow Jesus and help other people do the same thing. And because I thought, you know, “When I’m in the church, my bosses are gonna be awesome. I’m gonna have nothing but respect and admiration. I’ll be able to look up to them.” And it turns out that pastors are people too, and sometimes, like all people, they’re difficult. I had a pastor that I had really substantial disagreements on their theology, and we struggled with our theology back and forth. I had a pastor that I really disagreed with the way he spent money and the decisions he made around financial stuff in the church. I had a pastor that I just felt like almost every one of his leadership decisions was almost the opposite of what I would have done. And so I struggled with all of my bosses, both inside and outside the church.
And so here’s what I know as an employee. For all of the employees out there, and you can say a hearty amen right now. I know that as an employee, being an employee is difficult, and relating to employers can be challenging, right? Am I right? I am. I know I am, right? Then I became the boss, right? I went to the other side of the table. I became a lead pastor. So, I wasn’t an employee anymore. I was an employer. And here’s what I found out, that it turns out that all the other employees in the church were not like me when I was an employee. They weren’t perfect, right? I was perfect, but I was having to suddenly deal with employees who honestly weren’t. And I had to deal with, you know, gossiping. And I had to deal with, like, backbiting. And I had to deal with office politics. And I had to deal with people who criticized every decision I made, that nothing I did was good enough. I had to deal with people who didn’t seem to do much work. I had to deal with people who didn’t come into work, even though they were on the clock.
And so, here’s what I realized, as an employer. As an employer, I realized that being an employer is difficult, and relating to employees can be challenging. So that’s true on either side of the table. And I know that many of you out there understand exactly what I’m talking about. Some of you are employees and you know how challenging it can be to relate to an employer. Some of you are employers and you know how challenging it can be to lead your employees. And some of you are right in the middle. Honestly, some of you are middle managers. And honestly, I have tremendous respect for you because you have the hardest job out there because you have to lead employees, but you also have to answer to another boss. And so, you’re kind of caught in between. And I know that’s tough.
And so, what we’re gonna find today is that God has two ingredients that are kind of the secret sauce to our work relationships. And it’s true, whether you’re an employee or an employer or a middle manager caught in between. So why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Ephesians 6?. Now, here’s what you need to know about Ephesians if you’re kind of new to the Bible. Ephesians was written by a man named Paul. He was a follower of Jesus, and he’s writing to a church, a group of followers of Jesus in a city called Ephesus. And they’re facing some difficult circumstances, not like we’re facing. They weren’t facing a pandemic. They were facing persecution for their faith. But here’s what we know about difficult circumstances. Difficult circumstances put additional strain on our relationships. Difficult circumstances always put additional strain on our relationships. I don’t think that difficult circumstances create weak spots in our relationships, but they absolutely exploit them. And they reveal where those are.
And so, what Paul’s doing here is he’s writing to a group of followers of Jesus, and he’s basically saying, “Here’s how you address those weak spots in your relationship.” And as I said, we’ve already kind of leaned into what those look like in a family context, but now he’s gonna lean into what it looks like to find and address those weaknesses in our work relationships, employees and employers. And so, he says this. He says to employees, chapter 6, verse 5 says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters.” And we’re just gonna stop there for a second. Because my guess is that for some of us, those words set off all kinds of alarm bells, right? Slaves and masters, like, “What’s going on here? I thought we were talking about employees and employers, and you’re talking about slaves and masters?”
Well, here’s what we need to understand. See, those words are kind of hot-topic words, but they have to do with our history as a country. And so, here’s a couple things you need to keep in mind. The first one is this. The biblical concept of “slavery” and I’m putting quotes around it because I’m not even sure that’s the best translation given our context. But the biblical concept of “slavery” was wildly different than New World slavery. New World slavery is what was practiced in this country in the United States of America from the 17th through the 19th Centuries. And let me just be really clear. New World slavery was horrific. It was shameful, and it was sinful, okay? Not only was it horrific and shameful and sinful back then, but honestly, the legacy that it’s left us, the legacy that we’re still living with today, the legacy of racism and prejudice, racism and prejudice are also horrific, shameful, and sinful. They have no place in the life of a follower of Jesus, but I think they’re ultimately rooted in New World slavery, at least in this country.
But what we need to understand is that when the Bible talks about masters and slaves, what it’s talking about is something that’s wildly different than New World slavery, okay? In fact, I would say this, that the closest modern equivalent, okay, the closest equivalent in the modern world is actually employees and employers. That’s the closest equivalent. It’s not perfect, but it’s the closest we’re gonna come. And it’s actually pretty close. And here’s why I say that. See, in the ancient world, there were no corporations. There were no companies. Nobody worked for Lockheed Martin or Walmart or whatever. In the ancient world, people worked for families, okay? And there were basically two categories of people. Either you worked for your own family or you worked for someone else’s family. Now, if you worked for someone else’s family, you fell into one of two buckets, okay? One bucket was people who worked for somebody else’s family with what we’d call short-term contracts, usually just one day at a time. They were contract laborers. And what would happen is they’d go work for a family, they’d serve a family, and at the end of the day, they’d be paid cash money for the work that they did for that family that day, okay? Those were day laborers, short-term contract employees.
The other category, the other people who fell into this kind of category of working for other families but into a slightly different bucket were people who had long-term connections to that family. They served that family for years, sometimes for their entire lives, in return for which, the Bible specified, that the people they were serving had to give them food and clothing and shelter and time off and legal rights and proper treatment. The Bible specifies all of that stuff, okay? So, you had this group of people who worked for a family for a long time in return for what they needed to not only to survive but to thrive. Now, what do you think the Bible calls those people who served another family, not their own, another family, over a long haul in return for what they needed to thrive? The answer is the Bible calls them slaves or servants, as some people think would be a better translation because it gets us away from the lens that we tend to read it through, which is the New World slavery model, okay? So sometimes it’s better to think about them as servants. But that’s what the Bible calls these people who had these long-term arrangements in return for what they needed to not just survive, but to thrive.
Now, in the modern world, what’s the closest equivalent? In the modern world, what do we call someone who works for another person or another group of people in return for the things that they need to survive and to thrive? And the answer is we call them employees. And we call the people they work for their employers. And that’s why I say this is probably the closest equivalent. So, let’s read this again using those words through that lens. It says this, it says, “[Employees], obey your earthly [employers] with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” Now, that sounds like three things they’re supposed to have, but it’s actually only two things. Two things, two key ingredients, two things that make up the secret sauce in the employee to employer relationship, okay?
And here’s why I say it’s just two things and not three. In the original Greek, because this wasn’t written in English, it was written to the people in Ephesus who spoke Greek in the 1st century. And so, in the original Greek, what we have here are really two catchphrases, okay? The first catchphrase in original Greek literally says something like, “With fear and trembling. Serve them with fear and trembling.” And that was a catch catchphrase that meant respect, okay? So fear and trembling means respect. The second phrase, the NIV says, “With sincerity of heart,” but in literal language, it would actually say, “With singleness of heart.” And that’s a catchphrase that meant loyalty, okay? So you’ve got two catchphrases that basically mean two different things. He says, “Obey them with respect and with loyalty.” Okay? So that’s really what it says. It says, “Employees, obey your earthly employers with respect and loyalty, just as you would obey Christ.” Okay, that’s the two key things, “With respect and loyalty, just as you would obey Christ.”
And I know some of you out there going, “Problem already. Pastor, if you just knew what my employer was like, you would not tell me that I’m supposed to have respect for that guy. My boss is an idiot. My boss is a jerk. My boss is about the worst human being I’ve ever encountered. There’s no way that I am gonna be able to treat them with respect because I ain’t got any respect for that person.” Listen, I get that. I understand what it’s like to be in a situation where you don’t naturally feel respect for the person that you’re working for, okay? Let me tell you two things because I think these are really important. The first one is this, it’s that respect and loyalty are actions, they’re not emotions. As is being described here, we’re talking about actions, not emotions. Respect and loyalty are actions, the things that we are able to give to our employers, or to show to them, not things that we feel for them, okay? So these are actions. We can show someone respect, even if we don’t necessarily feel it, okay?
The second thing you need to understand is that what Paul is saying here is motivated by the respect that we have for Jesus, not our employers. If we go back to that surprising secret to every relationship ever, he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence or respect for Christ.” That’s what motivates everything that he’s talking about throughout this section of the Book of Ephesians, and it’s what motivates our treating our employers with respect and loyalty. It’s a respect that we have for Jesus. It’s great if we feel that for our bosses. That’s awesome, but if you don’t, you don’t have to, to still pay attention to what he says here, okay? Because it’s motivated by the respect we have for Jesus, not necessarily the respect we have for our employers.
Okay. So, what does it look like to treat our employers with respect and loyalty? Well, he says this. He says, “Obey them. Obey them.” Now, this is complicated, okay? This is really, really super tricky. Fortunately, I’ve been to Bible school. Fortunately, I have wrestled with the original languages here. Fortunately, I have a big shelf of books with really, really, you know, large commentaries with tiny print that allow you to delve into the historical context and to get all this background. So I’m able to tell you, from the benefit of all of that, that when Paul says, “Obey them,” what he means is, “Do what they say,” okay? That’s what he means. So you’re welcome. You know, I appreciate being able to use all my education to help you understand that. Basically, he says, “Do what they say.” That’s all he’s saying. “Do what they say. Do what they’re paying you to do.”
And you might go, “Well, like, isn’t that what employees do?” Apparently not, actually, not as much as you might like to think. Getting ready for this message, I read a bunch of studies. And one of the things that I found was that across all industries and across all age groups, it varies a little bit by age group, but if you kind of factor it all together, what you find out is that the average worker in the United States, the average worker, wastes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours a day while they’re on the clock, 1.5 to 2.5 hours a day while they’re on the clock. And we’re not talking lunch breaks and things like that. We’re talking about being on Facebook. We’re talking about being on Instagram. We’re talking about being on Amazon and buying stuff that you can play with that weekend, okay? We’re talking about googling your own name, okay? We’re talking about crazy stuff like that, that they’re doing while they’re on the clock being paid to do work, but they’re not doing that work. They’re doing these other things, okay?
Now, listen, Paul says that one of the main ways that we honor God by giving our employers respect and loyalty is actually by obeying. It is by doing the things that we’re being paid to do. So, listen, this is really practical, but this is really important. The number one way that employees can show respect and loyalty is just by doing the work that we’re paid to do, okay? As an added bonus, you can also sleep at night knowing that you’re not a thief because honestly, doing personal stuff on a work time that you’re being paid for, that’s a kind of theft. But that’s not even what he goes at here, okay? What he goes at is the fact that we can actually be serving Jesus, be honoring Jesus and God by giving our employers respect and loyalty by simply doing the job that we’re called to do, okay? It’s really practical, but it’s a really important thing.
And he says this. He says, “Obey them not only to win their favor,” in other words, not only to get an advancement, “When their eye is on you,” when they’re paying attention to you, “But as slaves or servants of Christ doing the will of God from your heart.” In other words, don’t just do the work they tell you to do in order to get ahead. Do it because it’s the right thing to do, and do it when they’re not looking at you, right? And that’s where it gets tricky, right? It’s one thing to give respect and loyalty to our employer when we’re face-to-face with them, it’s another thing to do that when they’re kind of out of the scene, right, out of the picture. That’s when it’s really tempting to start talking bad about them, talking smack about them, right? Hey, I’m gonna be honest. I used to do this. I wasn’t one for gossip really, but here’s what I did do. I questioned most of their decisions to my fellow employees, or to my family, right? You know, I hear a decision, and I’m an opinionated guy, and so I would immediately start going, “That’s kind of stupid.” And I tell other people that I thought it was stupid. And I finally became convicted. The Holy Spirit convicted me that I needed to pay attention to this verse. And I wasn’t obeying it in my life because I wasn’t giving them respect and loyalty when I was questioning every one of their decisions and calling even their competence into question to other people.
And so here’s what I figured I needed to do because I didn’t necessarily agree with the decisions. I couldn’t just change that. But what I did figure I could do is I could ask some questions. And so I started making it a practice in my life that before I questioned a decision that any of my bosses made, I would go talk to them and ask some questions. Instead of questioning their decisions, I would ask them some questions. Basically, go, “Hey, can you help me understand why this decision?” And here’s what I found out. I’m humbled to admit this to you. Here’s what I found out time and time and time again, was that there was complexity to the situation. There was a complexity that drove that particular decision that I didn’t know anything about. Everything seemed black and white. Everything seemed, you know, pretty cut and dried to me, but it’s because I didn’t know what my bosses knew.
And the reality is this. I’ve come to understand this, that every position in an organization, every position has a perspective. And that perspective allows us to see certain things that people who aren’t in that position don’t see, okay? And that’s certainly true for our employers. It’s certainly true for our bosses. Because of the seat that they’re in, they see things that we don’t see as their employees, and they’re having to consider those things as they’re making those decisions. We don’t know about those things, and so we’re questioning their decision. We’re calling them stupid idiots, but the reality is, it’s not that they’re incompetent. It’s that they’re dealing with a complexity we didn’t know about. And I found that time and time again as I began to ask, “Hey, why this decision?” And I was super embarrassed looking back that all the ways that I had dishonored my employers by talking behind their back to other employees, even just questioning their decision.
So, here’s a practical thing that might be useful to you as you think about showing your employer respect and loyalty. It’s this. Assume complexity before incompetence. Assume complexity before incompetence. Assume that that decision probably was made in light of some things that you don’t know about. And maybe you should find out about those things before you decide, and certainly before you tell anybody else what you’ve decided that that decision was stupid and idiotic, okay? A really practical thing that employees can do. Just assume complexity before incompetence.
And he says this. He says, “Serve wholeheartedly,” okay? “Serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” And I love that. I love it because what Paul’s doing there is, he’s giving us an incredibly powerful principle. And here’s the principle, it is that our work is an extension of our worship. Our work is an extension of our worship. That when we work well, we’re actually extending our worship out into the world. Now, I think this is good news and bad news, depending on who you are. For some of you, this is really good news because you’re not really good at what we traditionally call worship. Maybe you’re not even comfortable with it. You know, you come to church, maybe you come in a little bit late, and you miss a song or two. And it’s because, honestly, you’re not real comfortable singing. And I get it. You know what? The church is like the only place in the world where we still sing out loud in public together, right? Where else do you do that? And so, it’s super weird and It’s super unusual in some ways. So maybe you’re a little hesitant to get here for all the songs.
But maybe you’re here, maybe you’re here a little bit late, or maybe you’re right on time but, you know, you’re still a little uncomfortable. And then, of course, everybody stands up to sing. And so you’re going, “I have to stand up, and I don’t know what to do. And I’m supposed to sing,” but you know, you sing just a little under your breath because you’re not real comfortable with your singing, or maybe you’re not comfortable with your breath and there’s people real close, right, and you’re worried about that, you know? But you’re trying to do your best, right? You’re doing your best. And then, you know, then the worst, it was like, “You’ve got to sing louder.” And you’re like, “I don’t think you wanted me to do that.” Right? But people around you are. So, you’ve got to do that. And they’re like, you know, “Get your hands up.” And the people around you are doing that. And you’re like, “Man, they’re better at this worship thing.” And maybe, honestly, you struggle with it. And maybe you even feel a little bit guilty. Maybe you feel like maybe you’re not as good a follower of Jesus because you’re not as good at this whole worship thing.
But here’s good news, right? If our work is an extension of our worship, you might be a much better worshiper than you think because you’re a really good worker. Listen, you get up in the morning and you go, “I’m gonna go teach these kids like they were Jesus’ kids.” That’s worship, right? You get up and you go, “Hey, I’m gonna crunch numbers like they were God’s numbers like from the Book of Numbers.” There’s actually a Book of Numbers. “And I wanna crunch numbers like it’s from the Book of Numbers,” right? Hey, that’s worship, okay? You’re gonna study hard for a test. That’s worship. You’re gonna fold clothes at The Gap, but you’re gonna do them well as though Jesus were gonna come browsing looking for jeans. That’s worship. This is great news. Listen, if you work well to serve Jesus, to honor him, you’re not just going to work. You’re going to worship every day that you leave the house. That’s awesome, right? That’s good news.
Now, here’s the bad news. The bad news is some of you out there, you’re great singers in church and you’re big slackers at work, okay? Like when church worship happens, you’re like the best at it. Like you’re already out loud. The worship leader didn’t need to tell you anything, right? And you’ve already got the hands up and the people around you are kind of backing away because you’re so enthusiastic. You’re a great, great singer. So you think you’re a great, great worshiper, but you go to work and you’re on Facebook. You go to work and you’re…you know what? You’re on the upside of that. You’re not wasting 2.5. You’re one of those on the outlier that’s kind of bringing everybody else’s average, or you’re wasting three, four, five hours on Facebook, or Amazon, or whatever it is, right? You’re a slacker at work. And listen to me. You’re a great singer at church, but a big slacker at work. You’re not as sincere a worshiper as you think you are. Because our work is an extension of our worship. Listen to me. The quality of our work confirms or denies the sincerity of our worship. The quality of our work either confirms or denies the sincerity of our worship. How you live at work, how well you serve your employer either proves that you are a sincere worshiper of Jesus, or it calls that into significant question, okay? Good news, bad news, but it’s news we have to pay attention to, okay?
And he says this. He says, “You’re supposed to do it because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether slave or free, whether employee or employer.” I love that, okay? Because what it says is that working hard isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s also the thing that leads to rewards. He’s saying that God rewards those who work well. That’s awesome, right? God rewards those who work well. That’s fantastic. And notice, he didn’t just say for Gospel good, right? He didn’t say he’ll reward whoever does Gospel good. He says, “Reward whoever does whatever good.” Right?
So listen, you share the Gospel with somebody, that’s good and God rewards it. You’re generous with your finances. That’s good, and God rewards it. You go on a short-term mission trip. That’s good. God rewards it. You join a serve team at work. That’s good and God rewards it. But check this out. You spend a little bit extra time on that spreadsheet to make it perfect for your boss. That’s good, and God rewards it. You polish up that presentation to make your boss look really good to his or her boss. That’s good. God rewards it. You work hard at studying if you’re student in school. That’s good and God rewards it. Kids, you clean up your room like mom asks, not just by getting everything out of sight, but actually genuinely clean the room up, right? That’s good and God rewards it. You get your job done on time and under budget. You save the company money. That is good, and God rewards it. God rewards whatever good we do. That’s fantastic news.
And as a bonus, check this out. Great work earns us permission to live on mission on the job. See, at Mission Hills, we’re all about helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission, which means extending his influence out into the world. And listen, you can’t extend God’s influence out of the world if you’re not willing to talk about Jesus out in the world. And if you’re called to extend his influence into your work, that means you’re gonna have to talk about your faith at work. And I know a lot of Christians are really nervous about that because they feel like, “If I do that, you know, I’m gonna get in trouble and maybe even I’m gonna get fired.” And, you know, we’ve heard stories about that kind of thing happening, but check this out. I’m not saying it can’t ever happen, but I’m gonna tell you this. Do you know what the greatest safety net is for being outspoken about your faith and on mission with Jesus at your job is? Do you know what the greatest safety net is? It’s the quality of your work.
Listen to me. Do you think, for one second, that they’re gonna fire the top salesperson in the company, the top salesperson in the company just because she happens to tell people that she’s a follower of Jesus? Not gonna happen. You think they’re gonna get rid of the engineer that keeps finding ways to improve the bottom line of the company, keep finding ways to improve their products and increase their profits just because he keeps a Bible on his desk and he invites people to come to church with him on the weekend? Not gonna happen. Do you think the contractor who gets the job done on time and under budget… That does happen. It does. Do you think the contractor who gets the job done on time and under budget but who also hands his clients, you know, an invite card to the next sermon series of his church, you think they’re gonna stop calling that guy to come do work? Not a chance, right? Listen to me. The quality of our work gives us permission to live on mission with Jesus. And that’s an awesome thing. Okay. So what do we know? Here’s what we know. Employees, we’re supposed to see your work as an extension of your worship by treating your employers with respect and loyalty. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s the bottom line, okay?
Now, that’s employees. What about employers? Here’s what he says. He says, “And [employers], treat your [employees] in the same way.” I love that. “In the same way.” In other words, extend to them what you expect from them, right? He says, “Treat them in the same way.” Okay? Well, what does that mean? What’s “In the same way?” Well, what he’s already said. He said this. He says, “It’s about respect and loyalty and doing it as though you’re serving Jesus.” So employers must treat their employees with respect and loyalty as if they’re serving the Lord. Okay? That’s what they’re supposed to do. Now, obviously, it’s gonna look a little bit different for an employer to show respect and loyalty to an employee, but it’s the same concept, respect and loyalty as if you’re serving the Lord.
Okay. If you’re an employer, what does this look like? Well, let me give you a few things, some things that I’ve learned in my own journey from employee over to the other side of the table as employer. The first one is this. Assume complexity before incompetence. If that sounds familiar, this is exactly what I said to employees. You know, employees are questioning, you know, the boss’ every decision because they’re not aware of all, you know, the factors that are going into that decision. Well, employers, we’ve got to do the same thing with our employees. And sometimes we get frustrated because, you know, we ask them to do something, it’s taking an awfully long time, or it didn’t come out quite the way we expected it would. And we get frustrated. And we tend to assume that either they’re lazy or they’re just not paying attention, or they’re not doing their job. But the reality is, remember, every position has a perspective. That includes the employee positions. And sometimes our employees are in a position to see things that as employers, we don’t see. And so we ask them to do something. It seems super simple, super easy, but the reality is it’s a lot more complex. And maybe they’re trying really hard, but they’re struggling to get it done in the time frame that we expected or in the way that we expected because we’re not aware of complexity. And so rather than assuming that they’re incompetent, we should start with the assumption that there’s complexity, okay? Assume complexity before incompetence. We need to ask questions before we pass judgments. That’s one of the ways we can do it.
Another way we can do it is this. Promote from inside rather than hiring from outside whenever possible, right? In other words, especially with upper-level positions, sometimes, you know, we find a management position, something like that, and we’re like, “Okay, I need to bring somebody in,” and we never even pay any attention to the people who were managed by that supervisor, right? We kind of look outside the organization and immediately go, “I need somebody else who’s got the same experience as that position had and, you know, they occupied the same position in another company. And so we’ll bring somebody from the outside.” But the reality is that sometimes we have people in our organizations that are ready to rise up. And we should ask that question first. Before we look to the outside, we should look to see if we have somebody else that we can raise up into that position. It’s actually gonna be good for us, in addition to being good for them, because the reality is, they’re gonna have our culture. We’re already gonna know whether or not we can trust them, whether they have chemistry. We already know what they’re able to do and maybe where they struggle. And so where we can kind of come alongside them. So it’s really good for us, too.
And that’s part of being, I think, respectful and loyal to our employees, is to try to hire from within or promote from within rather than hire from without, okay? Now, you can’t always do that. I know that. Sometimes you don’t have the right person, so sometimes you do have to go outside, but we should at least start by asking the question, “Do we have somebody else here who’s ready to rise up before we reach out to bring somebody else into the organization?” Okay?
Here’s another thing you can do. You can invest in employee development. Okay? Invest in employee development. We try really hard to do this here at Mission Hills. We spend a fair amount of money on sending staff to conferences and having training days and getting them further education for stuff. And I know some employers kind of, they balk at this. They get a little nervous. In fact, I’ve had conversations just recently with an employer who went, “Yeah, that’s great for the church, but the problem is, in the business world, you know, if you develop your employees, you make them really good at what they do, they’re just gonna go somewhere else and work for somebody else. And so it will have all have been a wasted investment.” And first off, I’m like, “Yeah, I think you might have a problem in your company.” If you’re developing people and they’re immediately jumping ship, there might be a bigger problem.
But let’s say that they do, okay? Let’s say they do go work for somebody else. That’s okay because here’s the thing. Being respectful and loyal to your employees means caring about them as people rather than producers. It means caring more about them for the people that they are rather than for the producing that they can do for our company, okay, or for our church, our small business, whatever it is. And if we really care about people, then we’re gonna want the best for them, whether that’s with us or not with us, okay? So if you invest in developing somebody and they go work for somebody else and it’s good for them, you know, you should consider that a win. That’s what it means to be respectful and loyal to our people, okay? And honestly, if you don’t feel that way, then the chances are you don’t have genuine respect or loyalty to your employees. We take this seriously enough at Mission Hills. Actually, I have a full-time staff person who’s in charge of staff development, and she sits on my executive team. That’s how important I think this is. And really wanna encourage employers out there if you’re gonna say that you are loyal and respectful to your employees, are you looking to develop them as people as well as workers?
Here’s another thing you can do. You can invest in developing a healthy culture, okay? So much stuff written about this, we don’t have anywhere near enough time to dig into it, but this is the thing. Maybe you’ve heard this phrase before. Culture eats vision for breakfast, or culture eats mission for breakfast, okay? Culture is basically…it’s the actual values that drive the way you interact and make decisions in your organization, okay? Not the ones that you print on, you know, plaques and things like that and say, “Oh, we care about this. We care about that.” I mean the ones that actually impact your day-to-day operations, the actual values that drive the way you interact with each other, and the decisions that you make, okay?
Developing a healthy culture is one of the best ways that an employer can demonstrate respect and loyalty to their employees because the thing is, if you have a really healthy culture, you’re gonna achieve your mission, okay? You’re gonna achieve your vision. You’re gonna hit your goals and your benchmarks. But if you have an unhealthy culture, it doesn’t matter what you do or how much you drive people, you’re probably not gonna get there, okay? This is something we take pretty seriously at Mission Hills. I had somebody say to me the other day, “At a church the size of Mission Hills, do you kind of feel like a CEO rather than a pastor?” Yeah, there’s some truth to that, but actually, you know what? I don’t think of myself as a CEO. I actually think of myself as a CCO, a chief culture officer because I really believe that one of my most important jobs as the pastor here is to inspire people by creating a culture that allows us to accomplish our mission, a culture where people feel valued and cared for.
Here’s another thing you can do, the last thing for employers out there. You can review your compensation on a regular basis. A lot of employers go, “Well, I give everybody, you know, a 2% raise or whatever every year.” And that’s not a bad starting point, but you know what? There’s things that happen that maybe require you to reevaluate that people have more experience now. And maybe if you were hiring somebody else for that position, with that amount experience that they now have, you pay them more. So maybe you need to pay that employee more or the housing market’s changed. And if you want people to be able to live and thrive, you maybe need to pay them more.
We’re actually doing this right now at Mission Hills. We have a process every year that we go through that we think is fair to try to get people not only to pay them what other churches our size and in our kind of area of the country are paying people doing similar jobs, but we wanna pay them a little above that because one of our core values is crazy generosity. But you know what? We actually paid some money to a consultant this year to do an independent compensation analysis for all of our staff to make sure that we’re being as fair and generous as we think we are. And if we’re not, we’re gonna make changes, okay? So there are some suggestions if you’re an employer about how you can show respect and loyalty. Basically, all I’m asking you to do is extend what you expect. That’s it, okay? Extend the respect and the loyalty that you expect.
He says, “Do not threaten them,” or literally it says, “Give up threats,” implying that for a lot of employers, threatening employees in one way or another is kind of their standard way of leading. And it’s a terrible way to lead. He said, “Give that up.” He says, “And do it, do that, give that up since you know that he, who is both their Master and yours, is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” Basically, he says, “Hey, God’s not impressed by your position, employers. He’s the real big boss.” Okay? So bottom line, employers, see your work as an extension of your worship by treating your employees with respect and loyalty. It’s the same thing, right? It plays out a little different, but it’s the same thing, both sides of the table, right? What’s the big idea, for all of us, employer, employee, middle manager, see our work, we need to see our work as an extension of our worship by treating one another with respect and loyalty. Those two ingredients, they will transform your work relationships, transform them. I promise you.
All right. Let’s push in a little bit. A question for all the employees out there. Is the quality of my work confirming or denying the sincerity of my worship? That might be an uncomfortable question to push into, but I’m gonna challenge you to push into it. Does the way that you conduct yourself at work extend your worship out into the world, or does it actually call into question the sincerity of your worship? Here’s another question for employees. What’s one way I could improve the quality of my work? What’s one way that I could up the quality of my work and in that way, extend my worship into my work and into the world?
Here’s a couple questions for employers. How about this one. Am I guilty of threatening my employees in some way, holding some kind of a threat over them to try to motivate them to work? It’s not respectful? It’s not being loyal. So, what do I need to do to change that? Okay? If that’s the way that you are leading, what do you need to do to give up those threats, as Paul says? Instead, lead them out of respect and loyalty to them. Okay? The last question. What’s one thing I can do to extend the loyalty to my employees that I expect from them? One thing you can do to extend loyalty, you don’t have to come up with a billion things or 20 things, or even 5 things this week. What’s one thing you can do as an employer to extend to your employees what you’re expecting from them? Okay. The Bottom line? No matter where you sit at the table, right, bottom line, see your work as an extension of your worship by treating one another with respect and loyalty.
Would you pray with me? Hey, God, we just give you thanks. For those of us who have jobs, we just give you thanks that we have jobs. Maybe they’re jobs that are difficult, maybe they’re jobs that we’re struggling with our employees or our employers, or maybe with our fellow workers, but Lord, we’re thankful in the season that we have jobs, and we say that to you right now. But we also lift up all those who are struggling in this season. We know that a lot of people have lost jobs. We know that a lot of employers have had to make really difficult calls of furloughing employees or laying them off or cutting their wages. And I know that they’re heartbroken over that. They’re losing a lot of sleep over that. So we pray for those who have lost jobs and for those who have had to cut those jobs. And we pray that there would be a return to our economy quickly, as you end this pandemic and bring people back to work. Lord, maybe not only would all those people get their jobs back but maybe even those who had been struggling, looking for work before this pandemic started, would find meaningful, significant work at the end of it because of the greatness of your blessing on us, as we take these commands seriously.
Now, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you just take a moment right now, just begin praying? Start praying for all those who are watching around the world who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. And if that’s you, you tuned into this and, you know, maybe you don’t go to church normally and you’re not a follower of Jesus, that’s fine. We’re so glad you’re with us. Hopefully, you found some practical things today that’ll be a blessing to you. But the most important thing you need to hear is this. You know, Paul talked about, we all have a Master in heaven. What you need to understand is you have a Master in heaven. There is a God in heaven who treats us with the same respect and loyalty that he calls us to give to one another in the workplace. He treats us with love.
See, we’ve all sinned. We’ve all done wrong. We’ve all rebelled against God. We’ve walked away from him. And there’s a cost to that. The cost is death, separation from God for all eternity. But in spite of our sin, God loves us so much that he sent his own Son, Jesus, who lived the perfect life. He had no sin to pay for. So when he went to the cross, he reached down, he took our sin on his shoulders. He died to set us free from our sin, from the guilt and shame, to remove all the barriers between us and God. That’s how deeply God loves you. That’s how deeply our Master in heaven respects us and is loyal to us. He sent his own Son to die for us. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And he provides salvation, forgiveness, and freedom simply by faith, by trusting in what he did for us, and our relationship with that Master who loves us, a relationship that begins now and transforms life here now, but it goes on forever.
And if you’ve never begun that relationship, here’s how you can do it. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have this conversation with God. If you’re ready to put your trust, to put your faith in this God, here’s how you do it. Just say this in your heart. Say, “Hey God, I know that I have not been loyal and respectful to you. I’ve sinned. I rebelled against you, and I’m sorry. Thank you for sending your son Jesus to pay for all the wrong I’ve done. I believe he rose from the dead to prove that he’d paid my debt. And I understand that he’s offering me forgiveness and freedom and a relationship with you just by faith. So I’m gonna put my faith in you, Jesus, right now. I’m saying yes to a relationship with you. Come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever.” Amen.
If you made that decision, I’m so excited for you, such…you know, I was gonna say it’s a life-changing decision, but it’s an eternity-changing decision and I’m so excited. I’d love to celebrate with you. So if you made that decision for the first time, what I’d love for you to do is let us know. If you’re watching the online campus, you can just click the button right below me, the, “I said yes” button. Let us know that you said yes to a relationship with Jesus today or if you’re not on the Online Campus but you’re hearing this, you can text the word “Jesus” at any time. Text the word “Jesus” to 888111. Either way you do it, what’s gonna happen is we’re gonna send you a link to five things that you need to understand, five things that are true about you now that you put your faith in Jesus, in this Master who loves you and is loyal to you in a way that you and I can’t even begin to imagine. We’d love to celebrate that with you.
Hey, another week online, and we’re so looking forward to that time that we get back to meeting in person. We think it’s coming soon. But in the meantime, we encourage you to continue joining us for these online services and continue inviting people to join you beyond mission with Jesus in this season. We’re gonna be able to celebrate all the ways he used us when this thing is over and we’re looking back. And speaking to that, at the beginning of the service, we talked about those stones of remembrance at the Littleton Campus. We really wanna encourage you, if you’re in the Colorado area and able, come by the Littleton Campus. You’re gonna see a pile of rocks by our fire hydrant. You’re gonna pick one of those rocks up and carry it into the center of that little island in front of the entrance or you can bring your own rock. But either way, you’re gonna write on that rock something that you’ve seen God do, some way that he’s been faithful to you during this season. We’re gonna build that pile and we’re gonna keep looking at it in the years to come because the God who led us through this is gonna be the God that we can continue to trust no matter what comes in the future. Can’t wait to see you soon. See you next week. God bless.