Leslie Basham: What’s your first reaction when you hear the word submission? Here’s Jani Ortlund.
Jani Ortlund: We must not think of submission as a sign of weakness or victimization. We’re most like Jesus when we submit. That’s our role, our Jesus role.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, July 2, 2015.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When you view your relationships in light of the gospel, everything changes. My friend Jani Ortlund began showing us that yesterday. We heard part one of a message called, “Marriage Through Gospel Eyes.”
Jani is married to Ray, who’s a pastor in the Nashville area. They’ve been long-time personal friends. They love the Lord. They have a heart for revival and are effective communicators. Jani has also written a book called, Fearlessly Feminine, and she’s a contributor to the True Woman blog.
I want to encourage you to go on that blog. Go to TrueWoman.com and look up Jani’s articles. I know they’ll be a big blessing to you as will be the other posts on that blog if you’re not familiar with it already.
Now, if you missed yesterday’s program, I hope you’ll go back and listen to it at ReviveOurHearts.com. Jani began contrasting two types of wives. She called one “Mrs. Law,” and the other “Mrs. Grace.” She picks up with that same concept as we continue with part two of “Marriage Through Gospel Eyes.”
Jani: Let’s look at how Mrs. Law relates to her husband, and then let’s look at how Mrs. Grace relates to her husband and see where you find yourself. Now, I need to put in a little disclaimer here: I’m only talking to us wives. I’m only asking you to change. I’m not asking you to go home and preach this to your husband. Okay? This is for us as women.
Mrs. Law says—maybe not in her actual words, but I think in her responses: “Honey, for me to be a really happy wife, this is how it could work.” And she says, “You need to do it this way, or do it at this time, or listen in this way, or understand me here, or not forget this, and if you do all that, it’s going to be a great marriage.”
But she’s not following Jesus Christ into a grace-filled relationship. She’s following three different avenues. The first one is she’s following Eve into taking over the leadership in her marriage.
You all know the story in Genesis 3, and Mrs. Law is just like Eve. “I’ve got to get it done or it’s not going to get done.”
This isn’t a new struggle. Genesis 3:6 says, “When the woman saw the fruit of the tree, that it was good for food . . . she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
Boy this is a troubling picture. Don’t you as a woman just want to stand up and say, “Hello, Adam. What were you doing?” Oh, my.
The serpent, though, very wisely, in his craftiness and deceit, ignores the man. The serpent in your marriage may ignore your man because he knows you’re an easier target. The serpent ignores the man and starts talking with the woman, and she takes his bait as if her husband were not even there.
When it comes time to make a choice, she doesn’t consult her husband or ask for his input or direction. She engages with a third party without welcoming her husband in. That is Mrs. Law and not Mrs. Grace.
And what was Adam doing? We don’t know . . . probably watching. He doesn’t interfere or get involved except to eat some fruit which his wife gives to him. This is the first role reversal.
Who is leading? The woman. Who is responding? The man. And it’s been going on like that since the Garden of Eden.
You see, our natural tendency is to take the reins, control our family, our budget, our home, whatever. Ironically, most of us women in this room want a strong man. We would love for a man to lead us. We find it sexy and freeing, and we want that. And when he doesn’t, we feel that it’s not going to get done, and so we insist our husband’s inactivity has forced us to take action.
Let me read a quote from a book by Elizabeth Handford called, Me? Obey Him?: The Obedient Wife, and God’s Way of Happiness and Blessing in the Home. She says this, and I think it’s very wise:
Most men hate scenes. They despise confusion and disorder. They will go to almost any length to have peace in their homes. They will let a woman have her way rather than argue and quarrel. But the price a man has to pay is the price of his manhood.
Before you complain that your husband won’t take the leadership of your home, search your heart carefully. Do you really rely on his judgments? Are you willing to commit yourself to his decisions if he makes them? If not, do not complain that he will not lead. For the sake of peace, he may not fight for his authority.”
Well, Mrs. Law follows Eve into taking the reins in their relationship. Mrs. Law also follows Sarah, our mother, the woman mentioned most in the Bible, into impatience.
You are probably familiar with Genesis 16, the story of Sarah and Hagar. Sarah is often lifted up as an example, but at least one time God did not seem to act quickly enough for her, and she took matter into her own hands.
You see, when she was sixty-six years old, God had told her husband—what? That she was going to get pregnant. He just did not tell her when. That was really hard for her. She was already over the age.
Now in Genesis 16, it’s ten years later. She’s seventy-six years old, and she’s still childless. So she resorted to a common practice of that day, to get a child through her servant. This wasn’t unusual. This was a normal practice. But it was outside of the bounds of God’s promise for her. She gave her servant to her husband, and it seemed to work. Hagar got pregnant. There was going to be an heir that Sarah would raise as her son. But the situation turned sour even before the child was born. And Hagar looked on her mistress with—what? Contempt.
So Sarah goes and complains to Abraham. You see, Mrs. Law places the blame on others. Mrs. Law looks for an excuse for her behavior and for her own unhappiness on all the circumstances surrounding her.
And in verse 6, Abraham says, “Your servant is in your power. Do as you please.”
Sarah’s infertility made her feel powerless, and a woman who feels powerless is a dangerous thing. We want control. We don’t like lack of control.
I’ve talked to some of you this weekend who are in a spot in your marriage, and you don’t know the next step. You don’t know if you’re going to be moving. You don’t know what job your husband is going to have. It’s very, very difficult because you want to know where to hang your pictures. You want to know where your kids are going to go to school. You want to know what address your Christmas cards are going to come to next year. You just want to control it.
Well, that was Sarah, and she got in a very dangerous position. We won’t go through all the story, but she sends Hagar away. God meets Hagar—that’s a very beautiful story all in itself. Hagar comes back, and fourteen years later, God fulfills His promise because God always fulfills His promise. He just doesn’t tell us when He will.
Abraham and Sarah had a son, but Ishmael, the son of Hagar, the son of Sarah’s impatience, was a lifelong source of conflict and pain. I wonder, Did Sarah ever think, “If only I had waited fourteen more years”?
Maybe God is whispering to you, “Wait for the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord.”
Well, Mrs. Law is not only impatient, not only is seeking control, but Mrs. Law follows the world into proud and stubborn defiance.
If we really understand the gospel, then it will have a profound impact on our marriages. It’s not the gospel’s here, and my marriage is here. Submission displays the gospel, I believe, at its deepest level.
We’ve talked some about submission. Let me just add a few words here. Submission is a very biblical word, and it is not only found addressed to women. Please hear me on this.
In Titus 3 everyone is told to be submissive to rulers and authorities.
In James 2 we’re all told to submit to God.
In Luke 2:51 it says Jesus was submissive to His parents. Can you not follow your Savior into submission?
And then, of course, in the Trinity, just think of the submission going on even in eternity past.
But, of course, 1 Corinthians 15:28 talks about it now: The Son is subjected to God.
If the Trinity understands submission and practices it, why is that so offensive to us daughters of the King?
To choose deference over defiance, meekness instead of arrogance, flexibility rather than stubbornness, a gracious adaptability in the way we relate to our husbands; to choose honor over contempt, this is kingdom work.
Submission is a yielding in love, a flexibility. It’s non-demanding. It’s very Christ-like. The right kind of submission is always a voluntary thing.
If you were to ask me, “Jani, who’s the boss in your house?”
I’d say, “Oh, Ray is.”
And if you were to say, “Well, who decided that?”
I would say, “I did.”
Because true submission has to be a voluntary thing, it can never be demanded. Biblical submission can never be demanded by your husband. He might say, “I need you to submit to me in this decision, honey.” But only you can do the submitting.
Mrs. Law lives by her feelings. She feels that since she can’t help her feelings, she has to submit to her feelings rather than to her husband. But let me tell you, your feelings, my feelings, they’re just as sinful as our thoughts and our words and our actions. Somehow we think of our thoughts and our words and our actions, that’s where we sin, but our feelings . . . we can’t help our feelings, can we? “If I feel this way, I can’t help that.” Hogwash!
The Bible tells us . . . it commands over and over again as it talks about feelings. Think of the Tenth Commandment. Do you know that? “You shall not covet.” Covetousness is a feeling. It might lead to actions, but it’s a feeling.
What about when Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord”? Do you think that’s not a feeling? I mean, I know we do it with our words and sometimes our hearts are far away, but He wants our hearts there.
What about, “Fear not”? Is that not a feeling? That’s a command.
Seek to live above your feelings so that your changing emotions won’t dictate the level of your commitment to your man. We must not think of submission as a sign of weakness or victimization. We’re most like Jesus when we submit. That’s our role, our Jesus role.
You see, He says, “Submit as to the Lord.” Your submission is an act of worship. It’s a ministry to your husband. Ultimately, a wife’s submission doesn’t say as much about her view of marriage as it does about her view of God.
If you can’t have a submissive and flexible spirit in the ups and downs of marriage, how will you be able to trust God with the whole of your existence as a woman? It could be that you’ll live here on earth some days without a man.
Justification changes my relationship to Christ from law to grace, and that changes my marriage from one of judgment to mercy. Listen to Romans 15:7: “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you” (NIV). Other versions say, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (ESV).
Oh, we can do that to the visitor at church. We can do that to our new neighbor. We can do that to our Sunday school class. But at home? Does that verse apply to my husband? I’m to accept him the same way that You accept me?
Ask yourself: “Why does it matter that much to me that my husband is a sinner? Why does that irritate me so much? Why does it bug me so much that he’s human? Why is it so important? Why does it occupy my mind so much? Why do I want to explain to him how much I’m irritated, and how, if he did something different, how wonderful our live together would be?”
Why not treat our husbands as God treats us in our sins? For Christians, sin does not have to be the same level of crisis as it is for a person outside the environment of the gospel.
What’s the best guard to an unhappy marriage? A deep satisfaction in the gospel, a heart made new every day because of His grace.
Be a live giver in your marriage. When you have problems and you feel alienated and you feel no love for your man, treat him as if you were not mad at him.
I’m not saying you don’t need to pray for your husband. What I’m saying is, don’t be his conscience. Be your own conscience. Maybe God has brought this into our marriage just to change us as women.
Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. The paradox in marriage is that to build a truly great marriage, you have to be willing to be unhappy at times. And we didn’t bargain for that. You have to be willing to be unhappy, and if you’re not careful, you can take a rare and beautiful relationship, the mystery of two human beings becoming one flesh, and smash it with the sledge hammer of selfishness.
Do you want to live with a defensive and resistant man? Be his conscience. Rather than flexing with him, freely point out to your husbands the things that you think would really be great if he could change.
The Bible says that this kind of woman is worse than deep hunger, than tedious torture, and it’s even worse than physical and social deprivation. You know those proverbs?
“A nagging and contentious wife is worse than a dry morsel.” Worse than just having a crumb for dinner. It’s worse than continually dripping, dripping, dripping of rain. And it’s worse than only have a corner top of a house to live in in isolation.
Is your husband married to Mrs. Law or Mrs. Grace? The men Ray and I talk to are tired of being rejected by the women they promised to give themselves to. We often hear this: “I love her, but it feels so empty.”
Do you remember Romans 7? Paul compares bondage to the law to a bad marriage.
Mrs. Law says, “Do this or else. Be this or else. Remember this or else. Say this or else.”
Mrs. Grace says, “Since God treats me with grace, by His grace, I’m going to treat you with grace. I’m going to let the channel of God’s grace from me flow through to you. I’m going to love this disappointment or bitterness or sin right out of you. I’m going to set you free by accepting you with a glad-hearted acceptance, not a finger-pointing acceptance. I’m going to encourage you not criticize you. I want our marriage to flourish within a culture of grace.”
You know, in heaven, dear sister, God is not going to stand us before Him and say, “I am so proud of how you changed your husband.” Don’t take on a responsibility God never intends us to have.
Who God is makes all the difference. God’s grace is the only power that can tear down the wall in some of your marriages today. If you came in here with a broken heart, this is what God is saying to you: “Hear who I really am . . . the Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious.” He has grace enough for the walls built up in your marriage.
Why not treat my husband the same way God treats me in my sins? Why not welcome him or accept him the way God accepts and welcomes me?
Nancy: Well, Jani Ortlund has been challenging us with this thought: What does it really mean to love others the way that Christ has loved us? That’s an important and tough question.
She’s been specifically showing us what that looks like in marriage, and I believe that many women who are listening today want to become the type of wife that Jani described as “Mrs. Grace.”
I want to tell you one practical way that you can start into that journey, and that’s to get a copy of a booklet that our team has put together called, 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband.
The book describes a challenge that we’ve given many times here on Revive Our Hearts, and it’s one that’s so effective, so impacting in women’s lives that we keep coming back to it.
The challenge is: Over the next thirty days to let the Lord restrain your tongue and not say anything critical or negative about your husband but also each day to say something encouraging and affirming and positive that you appreciate about him.
I hear from women all the time who’ve taken this challenge, and they’ve seen the Lord use it in powerful ways in their own life and in their marriage.
Leslie: Yes, Nancy. In fact the team met up with a listener in the Cleveland area. This challenge had a huge effect on her. In fact, she carries her completed booklet around in her Bible and had it with her when our team talked with her. Here’s what she had to say.
Woman: It was during this challenge one of the days that God revealed to me that I had a lot of offenses to harden my heart towards him. God also revealed to me that I had trust issues. I thought it was with my husband, but God revealed to me that it really was with Him because ultimately He’s the one that I was not trusting completely.
God told me that I needed to give my trust to my husband as a gift instead of trying to make him earn it. That has made a major change in our relationship. In fact, I ordered a little charm that I just wanted to present to him with the word “trust.” I thought that he would just lose it or put it away in a drawer, but he wears it behind a cross that he wears around his neck.
He’s seventy-six and I’m sixty-four. It’s never too late. It’s just been really great to have that love that we have had for one another. It had kind of gotten stale, but it’s come to life again.
Today as I was out in the foyer I saw a woman reach to pick up a copy of this book. I encouraged her to do it. Then I shared with her that I’ve purchased several, and most of the time women . . . well, some women are really glad to receive it but some aren’t because they just really don’t have an interest of even going deeper. But God sort of impressed upon my heart that it’s my job to give it to them, and they’re accountable for what they do with it.
I’ve just been challenged to pray for them and to pray for their marriages because I know what God did for my marriage through this. So I’m encouraged that God can do the same or even more for them.
Nancy: Now, I can’t guarantee that thirty days of encouraging your husband will automatically change your husband . . . although I’ve heard from countless women who say that it has. But I’ll tell you one thing that for sure will happen when you take this challenge, and that’s that it will change you because you’ll begin seeing your husband and perhaps even other family members and friends through different eyes—eyes of encouragement.
We’d like to send you a copy of this booklet when you send a gift of any size to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. When you make that gift, know that you’re helping other women become women of grace, women of encouragement. Your investment will help to strengthen and transform marriages that would not make it apart from God’s grace.
So be sure to ask for this booklet when you call to make your gift, and the number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Let us know how much you’d like to give, and then also be sure to request a copy of 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband.
Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.
The only way you’ll learn to trust an imperfect husband is by learning to trust a perfect God. Jani Ortlund will be back tomorrow to explain. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
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