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Men’s Meeting Notes: Our Calling as Christian Husbands

• John McLeod

Posted in Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Marriage, Masculinity

Here are my notes from the men's meeting this morning. Thank you to all who attended, and to those who watched the LiveStream.

If you're interested in the sermon audio or video, you can find them on this messages page.


Our only hope in life and death. Christ alone. Christ alone.

I came across an article in DesiringGod this week that seemed relevant to our topic this morning. Here’s an excerpt:

If our discipling of young men consists merely of encouraging spiritual disciplines and checking sexual temptation, why would we be surprised when our men are spiritually immature, and our churches are deprived of leadership?

Since before I could drive, I have watched men’s discipleship groups struggle to rise above accountability for Bible reading and pornography. We talked about other issues, even important issues, but the real agenda was to make sure we had read our Bibles and hadn’t looked at porn. The unintentional message over time was that this was spiritual maturity: consistent devotions and sexual purity. By setting such a low bar for men, though, we inevitably train men to be lazy, selfish, insecure, and ambitionless. We raise a generation of men to check spiritual boxes and then live for Xbox.

But men are capable of so much more in Christ than Bible reading and self-control (not to diminish either). God has wired and redeemed us with energy to lead, to risk, to serve, to initiate, to work hard, to sacrifice — to love like Christ loved. To put our backs and shoulders into something eternal, into caring for others and drawing them to Jesus.

What is our calling as Christian Husbands?

The elders have a burden that we as the men of our church need to help one another to pursue strong, loving, enduring marriages.

  • marriages and families that are focused on God’s priorities. We don’t just need “nice” couples that pursue the same priorities as the culture, just in a nicer way.
  • Marriages as first for God’s glory and second for our sanctification. All the other benefits of marriage should flow after these.

If you’re unmarried, why would you want to get married?

If you are married, why did you marry? What are you trying to accomplish together with your spouse?

Our task today is to explore Our Calling as Christian Husbands. What purposes or goals should demand our attention and focus?

Example: Orienteering

Have you ever used a compass and a map to find your way?

Using a map is different than punching in an address in GPS

  • Do we have the right map?
  • How do we orient the map in the correct direction? Where is North?
  • Where am I on the map?
  • How do we read the map? Where is the map legend? What do the signs mean? (Topography, landmarks, roads, trails, dangers)
  • How do we use the compass?
  • It’s difficult to travel in a straight line. You must line up several objects in your line of sight to make sure you’re not deviating.
  • Being a few degrees off in your bearing can send you miles off course and cause you to miss your next destination entirely.

Scene: The Hunt for Red October

  • Captain Marko Ramius is navigating the difficult “Red Route One” passage with under water mountains
  • All based on bearing and speed
  • It could be navigated with exact clinical measurements. This many seconds at this speed and depth.
  • The captain had so internalized the route that he could change speed and course and still navigate.

Do you hav e the right map? Are you seeking the proper destination?

Map = scripture

Have you so internalized the familiarized yourself with the map that you can adjust real-time? Or are you dependent on prescribed checklists prepared by someone else?

Can you find enough landmarks on the map to know where you are?

What is your compass? Is it pointed in the correct direction?

How would you know if you were getting off course? You may be looking at the right destination but wandering all over the place to get there.

How do you view well-worn paths that you find via the map or your experience?

1. Define Marriage God’s Way

We won’t spend much time here, but we must acknowledge that our culture misses this at some of the most basic levels. God’s word doesn’t leave the definition of marriage up to our own imagination or creativity.

But the negative ways that we are influenced by the culture’s idea of marriage goes way beyond the topics of same-sex unions or issues of gender confusion and transgenderism.

I’ll just offer a few statements about marriage drawn from Genesis 1-2.

Marriage as God’s idea

It was not a process of social development over thousands or millions of years. The very first man and woman were given to one another in marriage by God himself.

Genesis 2:24–25 (ESV) — Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

God’s word prohibits any sexual expression outside of the context of a marriage relationship between a man and a woman.

“Sex in the service of God” from Married for God by Christopher Ash.

Marriage is Good

It is not good for man to be alone.

Genesis 2:18 (ESV) — Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

In the midst of the glory of creation, God announces that it is not good that man should be alone. He needs a helper.

This is a good reminder in the midst of a culture that continues to postpone or avoid marriage altogether. Where cohabiting becomes the norm and marriage is viewed as something I might eventually need to pursue, but it’s best to “live life to the fullest now” we should counter with God’s word that says:

Proverbs 18:22 (ESV) — He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

It’s important to understand why man being alone was not good. It’s not necessarily because Adam was lonely. He was able to enjoy perfect fellowship with God at this point. The difficulty would come when Adam tried to fulfill the Dominion Mandate all by himself. He needed help. It was a task too big for him to do alone. And just like the rest of creation, when the man and woman are working together to fulfill God’s commands, they are bringing glory to him and it was very good.

Marriage is not a consequence of the Fall

Just as it’s helpful to remember that work is not result of the Fall, it is helpful to contemplate the fact that marriage predates man’s fall into sin. It was part of God’s perfect creation.

This point is a bit tricky because we all experience marriage after the Fall. Every marriage we’ve either observed or experienced has been significantly affected and marred by the Fall. But from the beginning it was not so.

Marriage was significantly affected by the Fall and the Curse

Though marriage came before the Fall and before sin entered the world, it is important to realize how much it has been affected by Adam and Eve’s sins, as well as the curse that came from God to Adam and Eve.

  • Their intimacy with one another was broken. They covered their nakedness with fig leaves.
  • Their fellowship with God was broken. They hid in the garden.
  • They blamed others for their sins. Their relationship with honesty and truth was broken.

It is helpful to remember that we have an enemy, Satan, who is attempting to get us off course from a God-glorifying marriage.

God’s curse on the woman explains a great deal about why marriages are still broken today.

Genesis 3:16 (ESV) — To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

Not only was marriage more difficult simply as a consequence of reaping what they sowed in sin. It was also affected by God’s direct curse over their relationships to one another, to God, and to Satan.

Philips spoke well to this issue in The Masculine Mandate:

God’s curses on the relationship were the poison for which God alone was the antidote. This is why marriage is practically hopeless apart from the grace of Christ, and why divorce is so rampant. The struggles that men and women experience in marriage are intended by God to drive us to our knees and to our Bibles, that we would restore God to the center of our lives. (P. 74)

So, the first step for us to take is to define marriage according to God’s word.

2. Embrace God’s Purposes for Marriage

Defining marriage seems very basic—an exclusive, intimate relationship between one man and one woman for life.

However, we must go a bit deeper; we need to embrace God’s purposes for marriage. One of our calling as husbands is to mine the depths of scripture to identify these purposes and to pursue them. God gave us marriage as a good for many different purposes.

We’ve already touched on one purpose. To enable obedience to the Dominion Mandate in Genesis 1:28.

Genesis 1:28 (ESV) — And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 2:15 (ESV) — The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

What other purposes would you identify?

How did you answer these questions earlier?

  • If you are considering marriage, why do you want to get married?
  • If you are already married, why did you get married? For what purpose?
  • How are the purposes of marriage different for the Christian than for an unbeliever?

What is the proper order of the purposes of marriage?

  • personal happiness: I like the way I feel when I’m around you
  • personal comfort: I’d like you to make my life easier
  • social standing or status: people will respect me more because I’m connected to you
  • ordering society for human flourishing: people are generally happier living in functional families
  • God’s glory
  • picture/demonstration of the gospel
  • companionship
  • satisfying sexual desires
  • procreation and rearing children
  • personal holiness / sanctification
  • sacrificial love and service to another
  • Dominion Mandate
  • Great Commission
  • Great Commandment

Once we are committed to defining marriage God’s way and to pursuing God’s purposes in marriage, now we will look at a three specific callings as husbands—to know, to love, to lead.

3. Husbands are to Know

Now, there are two kinds of knowing. We’ll mention both. First, we should considering the knowing from 1 Peter 3:7.

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) — Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

A significant part of being married is learning to dwell with your wife “in an understanding way” or “according to knowledge.” Women truly can be a mystery to us. Stacey often jokes with me that I don’t have to understand all women, just her. In fact, if we try to apply general knowledge of how women think, act, or respond, we will often miss out on understanding our wife.

And we must add to this complexity that in some real sense, I’m not married to the same person I was married to 22 years ago. She changed. (I changed as well.)

So, one of your main tasks as a Christian husband is to study your wife.

  • learn what makes her tick. What brings her joy? What are her struggles or temptations? What helps her rest and relax? What kind of affirmation and encouragement blesses her? How can you help her operate within her strengths and also help her depend on God within her weaknesses?
  • Don’t merely spend time trying to “solve your wife’s problems.” Remember that she desires to be understood, not merely fixed. Remember the broken washing machine (rainbow).
  • Learning requires lots of observation and inquiry. Part of the knowledge you need can come from observing behavior, but much of it will have to come from carefully asked questions.
  • hormones - it’s not always about you. Her changes are real.
  • weaker vessel - treat her like fine china, not like a child
  • honor her by how you speak to her and treat her. Honor her before others. Before your friends; before your kids; in front of her friends. Don’t expose her weaknesses unnecessarily.
  • Knowing your wife includes realizing that your sins affect her deeply. Don’t expect her to so easily get over your sins of anger or harsh speech or lust.
  • Part of knowing your wife is understanding what other relationships will help her thrive. Remember you are not “everything” to your wife. You should encourage her to have meaningful, deep friendships with other women.
  • Woman’s brain is like a web browser with 15 tabs open. You might have one or two open and can “X” out the ones you’re not dealing with.

The Bible speaks of knowing your wife in a different context as well.

Genesis 4:1 (ESV) — Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.”

It is no mistake that the Bible uses the word “know” to refer to sexual intimacy. Many of the same exhortations apply from above. Observe your wife. Study her. Ask good questions. Learn what arouses and pleases her. Realize that she changes over time. Encourage her.

Also soberly consider how your temptations and sins in the area of lust and pornography affect her deeply. You must not believe the lie that these are simply areas of personal sin between you and God. They profoundly impact your wife in the moment and for years to come.

Hebrews 13:4 (ESV) — Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

So, husbands, study your wife. To the unmarried, learn to observe, inquire, and appreciate the complexities of women’s thinking and emotion. Learn to treat them as the weaker vessel. Young men, seek to understand and honor your mother and your sisters.

Having said all of that, knowledge is only part of the calling. We must use our knowledge to love sacrificially.

4. Husbands are to Love

Ephesians 5:25–33 (ESV) — Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

It is clear from this passage that the love we have in mind is not mere affection or feelings.

How husbands should love their wives is not obvious or intuitive to us. That’s why Paul goes to such length to point to Christ’s example.

This love will cost you something.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing this is primarily about glamorous, highly-visible, honor-getting sacrifices. Those may be necessary at some point in your marriage, but it’s much more likely that you’ll spend much of your marriage dying to your own desires or preferences to serve your wife and family.

  • It’s listening when you’d rather be pursuing your hobby.
  • It’s being patient when you have solved “the problem” but your wife is still struggling.
  • It’s taking risks to admonish your wife in an area of weakness or sin and not fearing her response.
  • It’s being more vulnerable about your own fears and failures than you’d like.
  • It’s washing the dishes when you’re tired.
  • It’s making hard decisions about finances to bless your wife, even if it means you go without yourself.
  • It’s caring more about affirming and developing your wife’s godly character than about the orderliness of your schedule or the cleanliness of your house.
  • It’s showing grace to your wife when the stress of life is overwhelming to her.

A wife is the garden a godly husband “works and keeps,” and her growth in spiritual beauty should be among his chief delights. (P. 90)

  • Colossians 3:13 (ESV) — bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Part of loving is protecting, though that could get it’s own sermon. There was one quote from the Masculine Mandate I thought particularly helpful here.

I used to think that if a man came into my house to attack my wife, I would certainly stand up to him. But then I came to realize that the man who enters my house and assaults my wife every day is me, through my anger, my harsh words, my complaints, and my indifference. (P. 87)

Alright, we’ve looked at the needs for husbands to know and to love. Now let’s briefly see that husbands are to lead.

5. Husbands are to Lead

  • we shouldn’t take for granted that husbands are called to lead their families.
  • it is important that we hold to a biblical view of roles in marriage. Men are called to lovingly lead. Wives are to respectfully submit.
  • However, we must not stop here. Getting the roles right is just the beginning. Husbands are to lead the family toward God’s goals. This is more than “we should buy this house” or “we should have x-number of kids” or “this is how we are going to relate to our in-laws” or “this is how we should handle money and debt.”
  • The much harder task is establishing the correct vision—setting the correct course. This is asking “why do we do what we do?”

toward the Dominion Mandate

Genesis 1:28 (ESV) — And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

toward the Great Commission

Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV) — Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

toward the Greatest Commandment

Matthew 22:37–39 (ESV) — And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Application Questions and Reminders

As the chief end of a man’s life is to glorify God and enjoy knowing Him forever, the chief end of marriage is that a man and a woman should know and glorify God together through their lives, and most particularly through their godly love for one another. (P. 65)

You are not your own. You are bought with a price.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (ESV) — Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Why does your family exist? Do your spouse or your children have a clear sense of why your family exists?

Unmarried young men

  • Should I pursue marriage?
  • What should I do now to prepare for marriage?
  • How should I talk about marriage with my peers or friends?
  • How do I know if I have the gift of singleness?
  • How do I know if I am ready to be married? How would I go about answering this question?

Newly married men

  • How do I settle into healthy patterns of growth and discipleship that will help my marriage thrive?
  • What are some danger zones I should avoid?
  • How can I proactively seek out wisdom from men who are years ahead of me in the journey of marriage?
  • Seek input before you are in destructive patterns and “need counseling.”

Long-time married men

  • How can I avoid becoming stagnant in my marriage relationship?
  • How can I get involved with proactively discipling younger men in their marriages?
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