Over the past few years, I’ve been in a fortunate position to be able to minister to many men locally and across the United States who are struggling with an addiction to pornography. Pornography is a huge issue inside and outside the Church. In ministering to men, I’ve learned four keys to helping men who struggle with pornography. These are, build a relationship with them, speak the truth in love to them, confront them in love, and preach the gospel to them.
Build a Relationship with them
Chances are only those who know you will open up to you about their addiction to pornography. This has mostly been my experience. As the Lord has expanded my ministry and speaking on this topic He’s opened doors to minister to people I don’t know. This has led to me be more intentional to learn about their histories, why they struggle, and more. Typically these types of opportunities take longer for me to be able to help people than people I know locally. In these types of conversations I want to know what makes them tick, ask about their likes/dislikes, etc. Basically, I’m just trying to engage in polite conversation and build a friendship with the person I’m trying to help.
Speak the Truth in Love
Once you’ve gotten to know the person by learning about their personal history and struggle, now is the time to speak the truth in love to them (Eph. 4:15). This can take many different forms, but it always means being faithful to Jesus by preaching the Word of God.
Let’s use Joe as an example. Joe has a real struggle with pornography. His marriage is in shambles and he has a chronic addiction to pornography. In this situation, I want to help Joe by helping him understand that at the root of his pornography addiction is idolatry. Jesus died for his idolatry and he can be free of it through Him who died in his place for his sin so he could put his sin to death.
Joe needs to understand that his pornography addiction is hurting his wife. When he views pornography Joe has told me he takes off his ring. I asked Joe, “Do you love your wife and seek to honor your vows?” He tells me that he wants to honor his vows but often times feels so overwhelmed with feelings of looking at things he shouldn’t. Often times he’s just so tired of the struggle that he just gives up and stops fighting. Joe needs to understand that in the midst of his struggle is Jesus who is a sympathetic High Priest who lived a perfect sinless life. Joe needs to learn that when he struggles he is not alone; rather Jesus is there with him looking over his shoulder. He can turn to Jesus and trust that He will see him safely out of his struggle.
When ministering to people with sexual addictions we’re dealing in my experience with Christians who know some of the answers. Knowing the right answers isn’t the goal of theology. Yes, it’s a first step but not the ultimate step. We step into godly maturity when we know the right answers and can see how those answers apply to our lives (James 1:22). In this case, Joe needs to see that his knowledge of his sin is affecting his relationship of his wife. Furthermore, Jesus sees his struggle and knows his heart. Joe needs to understand that an omniscient, omnipresent God is his sympathetic sinless High Priest who serves as his advocate before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16). Yet, Joe doesn’t see this yet which is why we’re going to move to the next step—confronting Joe in love.
Confront in Love
When I meet with Joe again we talk about his struggle. He tells me he’s still struggling a lot. I talk to Joe today about real biblical knowledge and Joe is nodding his head as I’m talking acknowledging what I’m saying. I make the point that real biblical knowledge isn’t in the head it is acknowledging biblical truth in our heads and in our hearts resulting in our lives being impacted by what we believe (James 1:22; 2:14-26). In other words, I emphasize to Joe that believing sound doctrine leads to right living (1 Timothy 4:16).
Joe is slowly starting to realize that he has been what James calls a hearer only and not a doer of the word (James 1:22). As we talk more about this he tells me how sorry he feels. I tell him that this is a good start that he feels sorry for his sin but that feeling sorry is not enough – he needs to turn from sin to Jesus. I explain to him that true repentance isn’t only sorrow over his sin and how it’s affected his relationship not only with God but also with his wife (2 Corinthians 7:10)
As our time ends I encourage Joe that there is real progress being made and that we’ll continue to meet. In addition to this he needs to be honest about his struggle with God, with me, and other men who are around him. I encourage him to get Covenant Eyes accountability and content filtering to block his access to sites that will cause him to stumble. I once again emphasize to him that he doesn’t struggle with temptation alone that Jesus is there and will always provide a way out when he experiences temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). I also tell him when he feels tempted to walk away from the computer. Joe and I plan another session to meet and talk and continue on meeting until he no longer struggles with an addiction to pornography.
There are various stages to confronting in love. First we always speak the truth in love by remaining faithful to the truth of Scripture (Eph. 4:15). Second, we need to understand what the person is saying about their struggle. If we assume what they mean and then speak before we gain understanding, our advice will likely be wrong. This is why asking lots of questions is important. This is also why we should ask clarifying questions after someone we’re working with states something we feel is important. Then we can speak the truth in love. After awhile (perhaps a few sessions) or as you’re feeling led (but please give it time) then confront them.
Your first time confronting them should be very gracious. You should point out what you’ve been talking about and how you don’t see them implementing principles you’ve discussed into their lives. After awhile though it might become obvious they aren’t as serious. It then becomes important to get a little sterner. Throughout this process please be sure you are praying for the person. In fact, you should open and close each session in prayer. Confronting the person isn’t to ridicule and beat them up. Instead, it’s to love them with the love of Jesus and to point out how they are living is contrary to what they say they believe. It’s also important when ministering to people struggling with addictions that there are clear expectations for both parties along with clear boundaries, and to assign some work for them to be working on for your next meeting.
Gospel-Centered Ministry to Those Struggling for Purity
Throughout my conversation with Joe as you can see I’ve emphasized the work of the gospel. Personally I’ve learned through struggling with an addiction to pornography and overcoming this addiction that Jesus is the only way to freedom. Jesus sets the captives free (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18). He is our sympathetic High Priest who serves as our Advocate before the Father. Jesus longs to set the captives free (Hebrews 4:14-16). This is why we need to emphasize who God is, what He expects of His creatures, who Jesus is, and what He has done in His death, burial, and resurrection.
These four ways I’ve looked at in this post are some ways that I hope will expand your tool belt as you have an opportunity to minister to those around you who are struggling with an addiction to pornography. These four tools are one’s that I regular use in my ministry to men who are addicted to pornography. I pray these four tools will be of help to you as you minister to men.
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Manhood is a growth stage every male faces when he is maturing from child-like behavior to manlike behavior. Throughout history, the manhood stage has meant different things for different cultures. The Jewish tradition holds a Bar Mitzvah when a Jewish boy turns thirteen and thus becomes responsible for himself and his actions. The Maasai tradition of Kenya and Tanzania takes boys ages of 10-20 and establishes them as the “warrior class,” with festivities including circumcision, eating large portions of meat and sleeping in the forest. A unique coming of age tradition is found in the Amazon, where boys from the Sateré-Mawé tribe wear gloves filled with angry bullet ants as part of the initiation.
Coming of age is a very different process for boys around the world. Here in America, there is little to nothing ritualistic or traditional about becoming a man. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful when I was a teenager that I didn’t have to be ceremonially circumcised or wear gloves full of ants. One of the dangerous realities of living in America is there is no event or process that marks the transformation from boyhood to manhood.
Our culture insists that “boys will be boys” and that calling boys to become men against their will is a violation of their freedoms and rights. Lots of boys grow up without a father that took the time to love them through counsel, discipline, and by simply being present. As a result of this, we have a lot of boys who have gotten older. These young men can shave and do everything a normal fully functioning adult can but they don’t take their careers, relationships, or faith seriously. This would be unacceptable in nearly any other culture, but in American culture, boys can grow into larger, older, more responsible boys without ever having to truly grow up into manhood. Many men have developed a sort of Peter Pan Syndrome, living in Neverland and staying as long as they please.
If this weren’t true, the statistics wouldn’t show that 68% of video game players are above the age of 18 and that the average age of a video game player is 30. If this weren’t true, the numbers wouldn’t say that the average fantasy sports player spends eighteen hours a week consuming sports. This is (Lord willing) the only era that a movie like The Hangover could win a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture. The idea of actual manhood has become completely distorted, dismissed, and overall disinteresting. How will manhood ever be restored?
Perhaps the most widely known verse on manhood comes from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11). Paul doesn’t exposit that thought much, leaving us to wonder what exactly he meant by it. Any of us that have spent time reading Paul’s letters know he would definitely not be a dead-beat, couch-surfing boy who can shave. He was one of the most zealous men of God this world has seen. He is a man’s man. But what does he mean by giving up “childish ways,” and how can we become like Paul, and furthermore more like Jesus in our everyday lives? While Paul doesn’t elaborate here, the Bible as a whole is clear on how grown-up boys can step out of Neverland and finally come of age, in Biblically-fueled maturity and manhood.
Recognize Our Identity.
My pastor recently taught on how men have deviated from their intended design from creation. All men were created with design elements, but sometimes these elements turn into culturally shaped distortions, causing us to lose our identity and original design as men. For example, instead of being strong, our culture tells us to be powerful, two very different things. Weakness, then, makes us feel like we’ve lost our power when, in reality, we are called to embrace our weakness and let Christ be our strength (2 Cor. 12:9-10). We have been purposed and tasked with many gifts as men, but if they’re exercised apart from Christ, these gifts will be squandered and be put to wasteful use. We must find our identity as men in Christ alone (Gal. 2:20, Eph. 2:10).
One of the interesting components of the Maasai tradition of training boys to becoming men is what follows the initial ceremonies. After their celebration, the boys spend ten years training at a warrior camp, where they learn or enhance their skills to become greater warriors. What God has called us to as men is a life of perpetual, tough, but necessary training. When a man enlists for the military, he isn’t baffled when he is informed about his upcoming basic training. We shouldn’t be perplexed either that God expects us to take our training seriously. Practically, this means something different for everyone. Paul never said, “throw your television away.” He simply called us to give up childish ways and become men. Spending more time in the Word is a good place for all of us to start (2 Tim. 3:16). It also means spending more time in prayer (Phil. 4:6-7). No one thinks they read God’s Word or pray too much. Sometimes, we have to reprioritize these things at the expense of what’s frivolous, like fantasy football or even reading too many books (those are for me). None of us will enter into heaven distraught at how little time we spent on temporal matters.
Lead Your Team On The Field.
Many of us men will be if not already, called to find a woman to marry and a family to begin. But the marriage ceremony and the birth of children are only the beginning of a lifelong journey for us as men to be daily leading our wives and children onto the field. God has placed us as the captains of our team, and that responsibility is not taken lightly (Rom. 14:12). To use a football analogy, they’re two places we can choose to be in the Great Game God has designed for us. We can sit in the stands and watch other great men do what we never took the time to try, or we can take our place in the huddle and lead our team to the line of scrimmage.
The reality is, greater battles need our attention. The world doesn’t need more men watching or acting like Homer Simpson. It needs more men that love their wives and kids as Christ loved the Church, giving Himself up for them, carrying them through trials and providing for them. The world needs men who are more serious about eliminating poverty and sex trafficking than winning in Call of Duty. It needs men who know more about Scripture than NCAA recruiting classes. To be such a man, we have to come back to our designed identity in Christ, continue in fervent training, and lead our God-given teams well. Are you ready to play the greatest game of all?
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One of my many concerns about manhood in our day stems from modern notions of strength. When we think of strength as men we think of that massive offense lineman whose bulked up through a good diet and lifting weights. We’ve been taught as men from a young age to seek after being men of strength. We were taught to hold back those tears and to be macho. Almost everything we’ve been taught about manhood is completely wrong and not biblical. Biblical manhood begins with Jesus who is not only the example of what a man should be but is our Savior, Lord, King, and God. The command to love our wives is rooted in His command to obey His teaching. The only way we can obey God is not only because of His grace but because the Holy Spirit empowers us to do so.
True godly strength is about knowing when to use your position as head of the home and when not to. Godly strength is measured not demonstrative. Yet this is exactly what many men in my generation have been taught. We see how our fathers yelled at our mom’s and we think that’s okay but deep down we know it’s not. We also know it wasn’t okay when our dad’s yelled at our mom or when they yelled at each other. We know deep down that there is something better. We know that these are the effects of the Fall. Just like you know, men that looking at pornography isn’t what God expects of you. Instead of living up to God’s commands and standing in Christ you instead give up. I want to call you to stand up and in Christ in this article. I want to call you to steady yourself in light of Christ. Won’t you stand now! Wake up o sleeper Christ is coming again! Praise His name!
Men, God has called you to come out of the darkness and into the light of His presence. He has transferred you from the Kingdom of the darkness and to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus. Men let’s face it, we need to raise the bar. For far too long we’ve excused ourselves. We’ve said I’m just plain tired of fighting. And yet I want to call you once again to fight. I want you to fight for your manhood. I want you to fight for your purity. I want you to fight for loving your wife. I want you to fight for loving your children. I want you to fight for worshipping the Lord every single Sunday and gathering together to hear the Word preached in gathered worship. I want you to fight for your personal time in the Word of God.
I am deeply concerned about men today. We’re told that it’s okay to be passive to just sit on that couch and do nothing. Well, this man is done with that kind of manhood. I’ve been done with that kind of manhood for a long time, but I’m sick and tired of it, I have to speak up. I’m compelled to do so because of Christ. I see many men settling for second best when God has called us to His very best in Christ. It’s because of Christ that we can be men of strength. It’s because of Christ that it’s okay to admit I don’t have it all together. It’s because of Christ that we’re being conformed into the image of Christ. It’s because of Christ that we can stand. It’s because of Christ that we don’t yell at our wives or treat them as objects of pleasure for our own enjoyment. It’s because of Christ that we see our ongoing need for His grace and turn from our sin, and to Christ. It’s because of Christ that we care for our wives when they are sick. It’s because of Christ! Do you see what I’m saying? Do you see your great need of Christ?
Men, I plead with you today to stand in Christ. To stand saturated and trenched as you are in the love and greatness of Christ. He is not just some example for you to follow. He doesn’t call you to just believe and then do nothing with what you believe. God calls you to obey Him and provides the means for your obedience through the present ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The lie of worldliness for many men is seductive. Many men have heard and heeded the siren call of worldliness instead of the summons of King Jesus to come hither to His throne of grace for mercy and help in time of need. The seductress that is the world promises us much. It tells us that we can be happy, but the truth is we won’t be happy—we’ll be guilty. Instead of happiness, worldliness promises much but results in guilt and shame. Jesus came to deal with our worldliness. He came to address our shame and guilt before God. He died in our place and for our sin to take away our guilt and shame. To not only address it but to carry it away. Jesus took our guilt and shame and carried it away into a sea of nothingness so now by His shed blood, we can stand in Him no longer under condemnation but in Christ.
Many men live in condemnation instead of freedom. Christ has come to deal a death blow to condemnation. When you were transferred from the Kingdom of Jesus to the Kingdom of Jesus, He signed and sealed you with His own blood. You’ve been adopted as a child and signed, sealed and delivered by King Jesus. This is where we need to come, men.
In order to raise the standard of manhood in our churches, we must come to Christ. We must see and know Christ in the brilliance of His splendor. We must be undone as Isaiah was in Isaiah 6. He was undone because he saw his sin. As men, we come to the end of ourselves today by acknowledging our need for Christ. We come to the end of ourselves by refusing to trust in and boast of our good works. While our work is important, we need to trust and rely on the works of Christ first and foremost. This is especially true those of you who have a long history and patterns of behavior of impurity, anger, bitterness. Your struggles are real. They take time to overcome. But rest assured because of Christ you who are enslaved can be made free. That truth is guaranteed by Christ for He came to set the captives free and bring liberty to the captives.
Are you tired of being a captive? Are you tired of living for yourself? Look to Jesus. He is your relief. He invites all who are weary and heavy laden to find rest in Himself. He is your rest. But not only is your rest, He is your life. He came to bring you who are dead in sin to new life in Christ. Not only new life but to a new hope with new affections, a new identity and to take away your old heart and give you a new one. This is the promise of the new covenant which Christ died for you to have. And now men stand because of Christ.
It’s time to stand up. It’s time to raise our standards for purity to God’s. He who has called you is holy. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord. Because of Him you can reflect His holiness in the world. You can shine His light. Together, we can shine the light of Christ, and march on for this is the battle cry of the gospel. This is also what men who understand biblical manhood do. Biblical men love their wives, are faithful to their wives, and serve in the local church because of Christ. They stand and serve and do all they do because of Christ. They do it because Christ gives them strength in their weakness. So now man of God grow ever in His grace and stand now in His grace. Be the man God has called you to be. Men, be a repenting, God-fearing, Jesus-loving, Church-attending, Gospel-proclaiming and servant-hearted son of the King you are. That is a radical call in an individualized culture that devalues institutions I know, but it is God’s call to you. So I pray you’ll hear it, heed it, and obey it by His grace. For when God commands He always empowers His people to obey His commands.
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This article is a part of the new 30:1 Marriage Devotional series.
If there were one topic in all of this devotional series to write about, this one would perhaps be one of the top three. Hands down, as it’s enmeshed in all of the topics. There is no more of a time when we are brought into the right position and relationship with one another and with God, than in prayer. I have counseled many different couples who were in need of marriage reconciliation. I stressed their growth forward must contain unified, hand-holding, undivided prayer time.
God has uniquely and spiritually placed two people’s body into one flesh, and unified prayer is essential for a healthy marriage. Praying together is a form of communication. While it is right and we are to individually enter our prayer petitions and supplications, we also need to do this with one another; this is when we find out the heart and soul of the person—we hear their hurts, their joys, and their needs for wholeness. I know that the times when I am praying with my wife that we may have some similar requests to our heavenly Father, but then I will also notice some which are different or would not have thought about.
Praying for our spouses is one of the duties of being a good and faithful husband—we are supposed to be invested in our wife’s spiritual and emotional maturity and health. As I have stated to quarreling couples, when we come into the presence of God together, hand in hand, it is impossible to still hold onto our sins, grudges, and biases—the Holy Spirit will not allow it—or you will have to back away from the prayer time, which will convict your own heart.
I can vividly see the picture of the time when my wife and I were on our knees together in front of our sofa, weeping; we had submitted our goals, surrendered our needs and wants, and asked the Lord to show us His will and unified plan for our lives, for the Kingdom’s sake. It was such a beautiful moment and a defining one. I think most couples miss out on these times. While the husband and the wife have an individual prayer life, most do not have unified prayer time—this should not be.
There is power in unified prayer and especially within the spiritual union of two souls working and living as one flesh. Sometimes our individuality gets in the way of our unique combined DNA. Each married couple has a specific God-given DNA. This is why some couples are exact opposites, some are alike, or weird, or passionate, or any other attribute, but the bottom line is that the two individuals are knit together by God, as He creates an exclusive unified DNA. When this DNA prays to the Creator, I believe things change within a marriage. No longer is life about self, but about serving the Creator through a unified flesh.
This post first appeared at Men’s Daily Life and is posted here with permission.
• When was the last time that you held hands and prayed with your wife—besides saying the blessing before a meal?
• “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” (1 Peter 3:7). This does not mean weaker in intellect, but in strength. It is obvious that most women have smaller frames. As husbands, we respect, protect, and honor our wives as companions in the journey through life.
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Young Christian men need older, seasoned, godly men in their lives. In the past year, I’ve been meeting regularly with an older, godly, seasoned man from my church. In addition to this, I’m in regular communication with one of the pastors because of my role in the Men’s Ministry. Who they are isn’t as important as the fact that they pour God’s grace into my life and are a tremendous encouragement to me. In this article, I want to convince and persuade you, young men, to find a godly older man to speak into your life.
Moses was a very busy man, after all he was leading Israel from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. He was leading a massive number of people. Moses needed his father-in-law (Exodus 18) to speak into his life, although he didn’t realize he needed it. And yet his father-in-law’s advice was timely. The same is true for us today. Young men, you need older men in your life. Don’t assume that you don’t need this, because if you think that you don’t, you are simply being prideful. Older, godly, seasoned men have much to impart to your life, not only knowledge of the Word of God, but also experience with God that they have gained through many trials and experiences. They also have life knowledge that you may one-day need. Don’t resist this knowledge and experience; heed their rebukes and be wise.
When I was a teenager, like most teenagers, I thought I knew everything. But at this time in my life, however, I realize that I don’t know everything. I resisted my parents’ instruction and was foolish, often even as I heeded other older men’s speaking into my life at my local church. Young men, we need older men in our lives for the simple purpose that they know more than we do. I don’t care if you’re like me and have a long list of titles after your name, or if you’re 30-40 years old, and have been in ministry for 10 plus years as I have. You still need older men in your life! I don’t care if you’ve been a Christian for the majority of your life, as I have been. I qualify under all those categories. I have multiple Masters Degrees and have been a Christian my entire life and I still need older men. I still have many areas where I need to grow. Young men, be humble—God uses humble men who are still repenting for His glory.
Thanking those who are godly and take the time to speak into our lives is so important. Not only is it important in terms of thanking them for how the Lord is using them, but it is another way of honoring our elders for their godly example. This is sadly an often neglected aspect of ministry towards the saints.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul tells the Corinthians to follow him as he follows Jesus. The Corinthians are to follow the apostolic pattern of life that Paul has set before them. We, as young men, need to follow the example of godly men who are farther along than us. As a young man, you may think you know everything, and I understand that feeling. You may think you know more about God than those who are older, and you may very well. Yet you still don’t know everything. People may come to you to ask for answers from the Bible and guidance for life all the time. If you’re like me you can answer dozens of questions about systematic theology and can rattle off the meaning to more doctrinal and theological words than you’ve experienced in your own life, yet you still have need for godly mentors. If you don’t think you do then you are misguided, arrogant, and prideful. In 1 Timothy 4:11-15 young men are told to make their progress evident to all. One way we do this is by being in submission to those who are older than us, especially to our pastors and elders who will have to give an account to the Chief Shepherd the Lord Jesus Christ.
To wrap up this article, please allow me, to summarize, a few points. First, be humble because of the grace you’ve received in and through Christ. You don’t know everything, and that’s okay. To acknowledge that you don’t know everything is to admit that you still have areas to learn and grow in; the word disciple, after all, means “learner”. We are to learn from Jesus and one another. This requires living in humble submission to Jesus and to those who are older and more seasoned than us.
Second, it requires that we minister from a place of neediness of God’s grace. Since humility is, as Augustine and Calvin said, the definition of the Christian life, it goes to reason that we have a great need for Jesus all the time. As Charles Spurgeon said, “I have a great need for Jesus. I have a great Christ for my need.” Jesus is what we need and He lives to make intercession for us at all times because He rules and reigns now, as our High Priest and Intercessor.
Finally, you need godly, older men because you need to live in community with God’s people. You need to see how these older men live their Christian lives. You need to consider the outcome of their doctrine and way of life. We live in a culture that devalues all of this, and I realize that the message of this article is countercultural, but it is biblical. You need Jesus and other godly, mature, seasoned men in your life. If you are serious about pursuing ministry of any kind, for any length of time in your life, I plead with you to consider what I’ve said in this article. If you want to last in ministry, you will need the counsel and friendship of older men. You need to learn now from their failures and their successes. You need to consider their doctrine and the patterns of life that flow from their doctrine. If you don’t, the consequences could be great and your faith will suffer.
Make no mistake, I’ve been a Christian since I was four years old. I’ve seen many, many Christian pastors and leaders come and go in the 30 years I’ve been a Christian. One way to avoid failing and destroying not only your life and ministry, but also the lives of many people around you, is to have older men speaking into your life.
Older men speaking into younger men’s lives is God’s pattern of ministry. Intergenerational ministry is not optional, it is God’s means of grace to you. It is a help to you; accept it, don’t fight against it. Gladly accept this means of grace in your life, rejoicing in the God who provides wisdom to you through the examples of godly men. Learn from them, seek them out and follow their pattern of life and doctrine as they follow Jesus. I plead with you, young man, to abandon your life of impurity and ungodliness, and consider the standard of God in His Word. Follow your leaders as they follow Jesus. Seek the Lord and His righteousness. Consider what the Bible has to say about true wisdom and how it is dispensed from the older to the younger. Consider how our God places people in your life; consider all He has said and you will see that God does use older men in powerful ways.
Older men, be gentle with the younger men in your local church; we need your rebukes and your love for Jesus. We need your wisdom, and most of all we desperately need your prayers. We are a generation that is hurting. We are the generation of the father-wound: those without fathers. Pray for us and love us with the love of Jesus. And, young men, as you heed the counsel of older godly men who have “been there and done that”, God will use you. Those who decrease are those who are growing in the grace of God. I believe the Lord will make these things plain to you, young men, who earnestly desire more of Jesus and less of yourselves. May the Lord richly bless you young man as you seek after His righteousness.
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Have you ever felt like you don’t know how to show your wife love? More than one study has shown that men have a hard time loving their wives, despite the fact that the Scriptures require it. Five times in typical English translations of the Bible (and six times in the Greek) in Ephesians 5:21-33 Paul exhorts the Christians to love their wives. As Paul often does, he builds upon the teaching of the rest of the Bible to support his case. After all, Jesus teaches that Christians are to love Him and love their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40).
Early on in my marriage I was one of those men who struggled to figure out how to love and care for my wife. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my wife either—I did and still do very much. But we’ve been taught that “love is often fickle”. People often think if they don’t feel like loving their spouse then they don’t have to. That isn’t love, that’s feeling—“warm fuzzies” to be exact. The love that Paul speaks about in Ephesians 5:21-33 is based on something more than feelings; it’s based on the sovereign work of God’s grace. In other words, the “love” being spoken of in Ephesians 5:21-33 is based on covenant. Marriage is a covenant between God, one man, and one woman, seeking to live life together under the authority of the Word of God.
It’s popular in our day to hear others say to married couples, “If you’re not happy in your marriage you can just leave or get a divorce.” The sad thing about that statement is the fact that it’s not only unbiblical, it’s also wrong. When a couple gets married, they sign up for life together—not just when they feel like it, but to stick with it and work at loving each other. After all, the man and woman have both said “I do” in front of family members and friends. They have pledged that they will love, cherish, and take care one another. The sage wisdom of the world in regards to love is nothing more than foolishness before God’s Word.
Men, what our wives need more than anything is for us to understand that they need the “love tank” of their hearts to be filled. You may not have thought about loving your wife as filling her “love tank” before, so let me elaborate on what I mean. As I mentioned earlier, loving our wives is not optional, it’s a command. Jesus empowers His people to do that which He commands; theologians call this the indicative (what Christ has done) fueling the imperative (what we are to do).
Men, if you were to stop reading this article right now and ask your wife what she wants the most, I think what she (or most wives) would say is to know that she is loved and cared for by you (or maybe for you to take out the trash…kidding). Men, as you know, we live in a culture that encourages us to not be proactive in our marriages or relationships with others. Instead we’re encouraged be passive, rather than to actively lead. This idea reinforces our sinful (fleshly) propensity to be apathetic. This is why, if you’ve not tended to your wife’s heart in some time, she may seek comfort and affection—which she needs and desires—from other sources, like friendship with other men, her job, a romantic novel/show/movie, or other “filler” things. Yet, what God calls men to do is to tend to the garden of her heart, thereby filling her “love tank”.
You may ask, “But how do I do that?” The answer is simple: we do that by speaking true and godly words to her, filling her heart with Jesus’ love as you are likewise filled. Since I minister to men on a weekly basis from all across the country via email—both in full-time ministry and secular jobs and at my local church—I know well what men are struggling with. My purpose here is not to shame you, because chances are you already know the weight of guilt and shame in this area of your life. Instead, I want you to look to the One who can take away your guilt and shame—Jesus Christ. Jesus died in our place and for our sins, to remove our guilt and shame before the Father. He stands as our Advocate now and pleads our case before the throne of God. He intercedes on our behalf whenever Satan accuses us. And it is through His shed blood that we are forgiven, and by which Jesus serves as our High Priest.
You may not feel like you have love to give today and that’s okay. Love is more than a feeling, and through Jesus you can love your spouse. I encourage you to pray and ask Jesus to fill you with His love. This is a prayer that He will always answer. Paul tells us this in Ephesians 3:16-19:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
God desires to fill us with His love after all, which He spilled for us when He died on the Cross.
I realize that you may not feel entirely loving all the time, and I want you to know that it’s okay. Real love is sacrificial, but it also recognizes its own limits. By recognizing that you’re a work-in-progress by His grace, you can come to understand your wife’s need, which is the same as your own: more of Jesus. You may think that you have enough of Jesus in your life, but the truth is that we always need more of Him. We need more of His care, more of His grace, and more of His love.
How do you fill your wife’s “love tank”? First, by recognizing your need for Jesus. Secondly, by speaking true and godly words to your wife. Focus on not being sarcastic and poking fun at your wife, but instead on building her up, focusing on what God is doing in her life. This will require you to get into the trenches and build your relationship with your wife, using intentionality and hard work. This brings me to my fourth point—filling our wives’ “love tank(s)” requires us to be the shepherd leaders of their hearts. And lastly, filing your wife’s “love tank” will require you to sometimes speak hard, but truthful, words. As you do this, keep in mind that your wife isn’t “one of the guys”. This means you shouldn’t shoot from the hip. Your wife, while she may appear to be tough on the outside, is soft and tender. She needs your words to be tender, caring, and affectionate, not harsh and cruel.
While you might think that all this “love tank” business is nonsense and that you don’t need to do it, I encourage you to understand the work of God’s grace in your own life. You don’t deserve to be shown mercy when you fail, rather you deserve the full wrath of God. Instead of having blessing after blessing poured into your life, you deserve to feel the full brunt of His wrath. Instead of air in your lungs you deserve to be six feet under. Everything in our lives is truly a gift from God, and if we’re honest, deep down we know we don’t deserve anything in life. Everything that we receive is a gift of God’s grace. If we really think about it in the way I’ve described in this article, we will come to see that not only do our wives “love tank(s)” need to be filled up regularly, but ours do as well. After all, Jesus said in John 13:35 that “the whole world will know us by our love”. So let’s abundantly display the love of God in our lives, in our marriages, and in our ministries—to the glory of God. By doing this, not only will our marriages improve, but so will our relationship with God and others. This is why Paul lists LOVE as the first of all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Love should be a natural overflow in our lives, since it is the fruit of the love we have is received is from God. Therefore, let us demonstrate to our wives (and others) the great love of God.