1. Dealing with Differing Opinions

    February 20, 2024 by Todd Burgett

    Dealing with Differing Opinions  

    I bet you have an opinion regarding a variety of topics. How about sports? What about the election? Coffee preference? Who shot JFK? Are the Star Wars prequels better than the sequels (the answer is clearly “no” by the way)? There is no end of topics for which people can exert their opinions – strong opinions – sadly, even to the hurt of relationships.

    What about more important theological topics within Christianity? What is your opinion on the mode of baptism? The Trinity? The deity of Christ? Views on the end times or communion? These are more important matters. Some more important than others. Rupertus Meldenius, a Lutheran theologian from the early 1600’s, coined the phrase, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”[1] This is a helpful filter in addressing various opinions within the church. (Note: this phrase has also been misused, but that is a topic for another day).

    Essentials vs. Non-Essentials

    Before we dive into finding help when differences occur within the church, we must first set the foundation of the difference between essentials and non-essentials. Essentials in the Christian faith are the clear non-negotiable beliefs from the Bible. These include: the Triune nature of God, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, etc. This does not mean that there have not been strong debates concerning these issues throughout church history. Nevertheless, these are the hills to die on when it comes to biblical Christianity. It is upon these that unity must exist. We are never called to be unified merely for the sake of unity.

    Non-essentials are the areas that may not be so black and white. These are the areas that are based on individual convictions and issues of conscience. These are important areas of belief (sometimes very important) but not the hills to die on. These might include: mode of baptism, which spiritual gifts are active today, how Christ’s second coming unfolds, music style in worship, which Bible translation is best, etc. These are disputable matters of liberty within Christian circles.

    Here’s the point of this article: As Christians, we are never to let different opinions on disputable matters deter us from our unified goal of honoring the Lord. In Romans 14:1–12, the Apostle Paul gives us some much-needed help in how to deal with differing opinions within the church.

    Eating Restrictions and Special Days

    In the first verse of Romans, chapter fourteen, Paul says, “do not quarrel over opinions.” The word opinion means “The process of reason; a conclusion reached through the use of reason; a disputable matter.” It is disputable because another person might reasonably come to a different opinion or a different conviction regarding the matter. In this passage, Paul uses two issues that were apparently causing tension and disagreement in the church of Rome. Both issues were mostly holdovers from some in the church, regarding their former Jewish beliefs under the Old Covenant. Paul refers to the one “who is weak in faith.” What he means by weakness is a person whose conscience lacks assurance that their faith permits them to do or not do certain things.[2]

    The first example had to do with food (v. 2–4). In this situation, the “weak person” only eats vegetables compared to the stronger person whose conscience allows themselves to eat anything. Food restrictions were only binding under the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, it was now okay (not a sin) to eat any and all foods(Acts 10:11–16; 1 Tim 4:4). The stronger believer, in this situation, was more fully informed regarding what was taught in the New Covenant, which resulted in a freedom to eat anything without the fear of sinning.

    The second example had to do with “special days” in verse five. The Jewish calendar is filled with festivals, new moon celebrations, and Saturday Sabbaths. Most of these particular occasions were a shadow of what was to come, when the Messiah appeared. Since Jesus the Messiah had come, these special days had been given their true substance and were no longer mandatory. Tom Schreiner explains, “Such ritual observance [diet/days] did not nullify the authenticity of their faith but it does indicate a certain deficiency.”[3]

    Paul explains this New Covenant freedom in Colossians 2:16–17, saying, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” The judgment that was being passed was upon the Christians who were not celebrating these Old Covenant festivals. Paul reminded them that they were no longer mandatory celebrations. Of course, they had the freedom to celebrate them, but they were not to look down on those who did not.

    Responding to Differing Opinions on Non-Essentials in the Church

    In light of these two test cases, Paul has interwoven the rules of engagement when Christians face these non-essential areas of liberty. Paul gives us five right responses regarding engaging others in disputable matters:

    1. Be Welcoming: Differing opinions on non-essentials should not just be met with tolerance but warm fellowship. There is an expectation of those “stronger” in faith to take responsibility to welcome the weak in faith. Just because their conscience is not fully informed, don’t just shove a cheeseburger in their face and say, “Get over it!” Do you welcome those whom God welcomes? Not everybody is at the same stage of faith and understanding.
    2. Do Not Quarrel: Disputable matters should not cause unnecessary quarreling. Yes, there is a stronger and weaker side in many of these issues, but quarreling never solves the tension. This does not mean you cannot discuss them. It means that there is no reason for these matters to cause division, hurt, or inhospitality. Do you let your strong opinions about non-essential matters cause you to be that guy that other Christians avoid? Needless quarreling is not the answer.
    3. Do Not Despise the One for Whom You Disagree: Again, this is more than likely in reference to the strong one showing contempt, mocking, and dismissing the weaker brother. The new believer is very sensitive to sin. At times, this sensitivity can even extend to areas of freedom. Making them feel weak or rejected is not helpful.
    4. Do Not Pass Judgment on the One with a Differing Opinion: This one might be more for the weak regarding the strong. They may be inclined to pass a wrong judgment on the stronger brother without realizing it. “You’re eating a steak? You’re not going to Passover?!” They may be unnecessarily assuming the worst of their fellow Christian. Paul reminds them that each Christian is ultimately accountable to their Master (v. 4), who alone has the right to judge.
    5. Be Convinced of Your Convictions: When it comes to meat, no meat, or which days to celebrate or not, be convinced ultimately that your motive is to honor the Lord. Your motive is not to think that you are better than a Christian who may have a different conviction. Whether it is celebrating Christmas or not, eating barbequed pork or not, going to church on Saturday or Sunday, etc., do not think of yourself as more superior than the one taking the opposite position. Make sure you are convinced, that as far as you are concerned, it is the right decision, and that your goal is to honor God in your conviction. That is really the point, after all, in all that we do.

    Honoring the Lord is the Ultimate Motive

    Ultimately, honoring God in all we do is Paul’s overarching point. When you stand before Christ to give an account for your actions (v. 10–12) you are not going to be held accountable to the convictions of others, but to the convictions of Christ. In fact, you will find out which personal convictions you had that were wrong, as well as the ones you got right. However, this ultimate motive tempers our whole understanding. When it comes to the liberty you have regarding the non-essentials, is the motive of your conviction to honor the Lord? If so, that diffuses the quarreling, despising, and judgementalism. It helps clarify your convictions and reminds you to be welcoming of those who differ on disputable matters. In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity. How can you honor God today as you follow Him?

    [1] Mark Ross, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity,” Ligonier, September 1, 2009.

    [2] John R.W. Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World (Netherlands Antilles: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 355.

    [3] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 1998), 714.


  2. Looking Forward, Looking Up

    January 18, 2024 by Todd Burgett

    Looking Forward, Looking Up

    It seems that for the past ten years, when we enter the new year, there has been a focus on treating the former year as a curse, as in, “curse you, 2023.” This thought process is usually followed by a doom-and-gloom approach to the new year with a side helping of fear and anxiety. In fact, fear and anxiety provide the key ingredients to what fuels the ratings for news outlets. You better tune in, or you might die. That may be overstated a bit, but not by much.

    Sadly, even many “churches” and “ministries” contribute to this kind of hysteria by providing endless YouTube videos trying to predict the apocalypse (you know, the videos that one uncle keeps sending to you). Or, how the world is going to “Hell in a handbasket.” However, this type of “curse” mindset, couched in fear and anxiety, can be a form of discontentment and a distrust in God’s righteous control of all things.

    All that to say, we need to revisit a familiar passage. Matthew, chapter 6, which is right in the middle of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” is a key place to find help for our most simple and complex anxieties. We need a renewed trust in God’s goodness. Jesus does just that in the “Sermon on the Mount,” as he explains what a relationship with God truly looks like. Specifically, in chapter 6, verses 25–34, Jesus calls us to reprioritize our lives by trusting God in three overlapping ways, which will be a sure remedy to alleviate our anxiety and fear.

    Jesus Calls us to Trust God’s Care and Provision

    Verse 25 starts with a “therefore.” In verses 19–24, Jesus challenges his listeners to “lay up their treasures in Heaven,” not Earth. With our treasures in the right place, this causes our focus to turn away from the things that cause us anxiety, specifically concerning life’s necessities: food and clothing. Jesus provides two testimonies that help us trust in God’s provision in our life.

    The first testimony comes from the birds. The birds do not reap or store food in barns, because God provides for them. God is not against hard work or proper storage, but he is concerned with how we view him and where we place our trust. As image-bearers of God, we are more important than birds. If God provides for birds, how much more can we trust God to provide food for us? In fact, worrying about things like “daily bread” has the inability to add even an extra hour to our lives.

    A second testimony comes from the lilies of the field. Jesus compares the superiority of the way the lilies are “clothed” with the way the dapper Solomon dressed. The lilies win the contest. Again, as image-bearers, God cares more for us than flowers. The real problem is not that God is unaware of our needs (v. 32), but that we often lack the faith that he will provide them (v. 30). These two testimonies are meant to give us confidence that God cares more for us than animals and plants. If God cares for them, how much more does he care for us?

    In verses 31 and 32, Jesus explains that our focus should stand in contrast to non-believers (“Gentiles”). The world is obsessed with food and clothing, to the point of worry. Are you a Christian? Are you characterized by worry? This should not be. Let Jesus’ words be a reminder of God’s care and provision for you. Paul, too, reminds us of this amazing truth in Romans 8:32 when he says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” What a great reminder of just how trustworthy God is when it comes to caring and providing for us.

    Jesus Call us to Trust God as Reflected in Our Priorities

    Verse 33 starts with a “but.” This means there is a contrast in verse 33 compared with the previous verses. Rather than a heart focused on worry (vs. 25–32), Jesus calls us to refocus our priorities. This is a major shift in focus as to what the number one priority should be for a Christian. This number one priority is reflected in two areas.

    The first area of focus is on “God’s kingdom.”  The word for “kingdom” in the original Greek is “basileia” which is not about geography or borders, but is a reference to “kingship, rule, dominion, and sovereignty.” This re-prioritizing is really about allegiance to God and his Lordship in our lives. We adopt God’s kingdom priorities and make them our most important priority. His kingdom, not our own, is our top priority.

    A companion area of focus is in “seeking first…his righteousness.” As one commentator explains, “[Having] heavenly expectations is met with a holy life.” Seeking God first means living our life in obedience to our King. Paul echoes this in Colossians 3:1-4, saying: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

    As Christians, we have a new life, a new focus, new priorities, and thus, a new way to live. Does the way you live your life reflect God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, or something else?

    Notice that verse 33 ends with a promised blessing. The promise? Jesus said “…and all these things will be added to you.” What “things?” Precisely what Jesus has been talking about in the previous verses: food and clothing. God will meet our needs as we make him our greatest priority. This is the hope that eliminates anxiety and fear.

    Jesus Calls Us to Trust in God’s Control of the Future

    In verse 34, Jesus reiterates and summarizes this point of his teaching. Worry is a result of being anxious about the future. Jesus reassures his audience that we are to stay focused on “today,” and in so doing, we trust God with our “tomorrow”. This is not about Jesus telling us not to plan ahead. It’s more about him reassuring us that God is in control of everything, including the future. Even if 2024 turns out to be the craziest year yet, we can trust that God is at work, and we need not be characterized as those who worry.

    Conclusion

    I have heard it said many times in church circles that, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” That’s not actually true. Often times our faith can be stretched during circumstances that are beyond our ability to handle them. Here’s the real assurance: “God will never give you more than he can handle.” This is the heartbeat of Jesus’ message on re-prioritizing our lives.

    So, as we embark on this new year, our response does not need to be fear and anxiety. Nor should it be. As we look forward, we look up. We are called, as Christians, to order our priorities according to God’s kingdom and for his righteousness, trusting that he will provide and care for us. Faith is not only trusting in God, but trusting that God is, in fact, good and cares deeply for those who are his. The most important question then is: Are you his? We have an amazing God who cares deeply for us, and 2024, nor any other year, will be an exception.


  3. Embrace the Cross-Taking Life: A Summary for Every Follower of Christ

    December 14, 2023 by Todd Burgett

    Embrace the Cross-Taking Life: A Summary for Every Follower of Christ

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the twentieth century martyr, has famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”[1] This is the heartbeat of Christ’s call to all who would follow him as disciples. Jesus said it this way,

    “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). The point here is that Christ uses this word picture of “taking up one’s cross” as a metaphor for the attitude of every Christian as they live the Christian life.

    It’s important to note that cross-taking is not a work to be done, or merit to be achieved, in order to earn salvation (Eph 2:8–9). Rather, it’s the new life that a Christian is born into once he or she has received God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The life that follows is defined by taking up one’s cross.

    Let me summarize it this way: The cross-taking life is the life of a true Christian – one who has been saved by Jesus Christ and willingly dies to self in full submission to the One who has saved him or her. More than mere suffering, this is a purposeful and perpetual sacrifice of self for the glory of God, no matter the cost. In this article, I want to look at five summary statements of how the cross-taking life is explained in the Gospels.

    First, Cross-Taking is Essential to the Christian Life

    Jesus shows the essential nature of cross-taking in this statement, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Taking our cross describes our daily battle in denying self for the sake of Jesus Christ. Author and preacher J.C. Ryle helps us understand the impact of this: “Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict in which it costs much to win the victory.”[2] In other words, cross taking quite simply describes the life of a Christian. Ultimately, what Jesus is saying is that there is no such thing as a Christian who does not take up his cross in following him.

    Second, Cross-Taking is a Daily Exercise of Trust in God and His Promises

    Taking up one’s cross is not a one-time action. It’s part of our daily life. Again, Jesus says it this way, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Nor is the cross taken up and then put down. Writer Walter Chantry says it this way, “For a true believer the cross is ubiquitous, lifelong, a daily weight. There is one depository of the cross, that is the cemetery.”[3] Thus, taking up one’s cross becomes the identity of Christian since it is a daily exercise of faith.

    Third, Cross-Taking is a Path of Suffering

    The Christian is reminded through taking up his cross that suffering is inevitable as one seeks to live in obedience to Christ. Cross-taking is a key metaphor for the sanctification process where we become more and more like Jesus, as we grow in our faith. D.A. Carson is careful to clarify what this does not mean, saying, “The taking of one’s cross does not mean putting up with some awkward or tragic situation in one’s life, but painfully dying to self.”[4] This is the cost of following Jesus. There will be difficulties, hurts, loss of friends and family, persecution, trials, etc. that are a result of following Jesus. What Jesus experienced, you will experience. And God will use these experiences to make you become more like him (Rom 8:28–30).

    Fourth, Cross-Taking Yields Many Blessings

    Taking up one’s cross is not misery for misery’s sake. Cross-taking is an apt description of what it means to follow Christ as one lives in a way that is in the opposite direction of the world. Yet, the sacrifice that is made comes with the promise of blessing. Jesus reminded his disciples of this as follows, “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30). There is a great blessing that come in the sacrifices of cross-taking. Again, J.C. Ryle helps us understand this: “A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown.”[5] There is an old adage that says, “There can be no crown without a cross.” The result, then, is that taking up one’s cross leads to reward.

    Fifth, Cross-Taking is a Whole-Hearted Embracing of the Will of God

    Jesus, before taking up his unique cross, prayed beforehand, “Father, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus’ attitude should be the heart of every prayer. There is no detour around cross-taking. Jesus faced his own cross, knowing that it would be extremely difficult, but he still trusted the Father’s will. In doing so, Jesus saved sinners, was resurrected, eventually ascended to heaven, and was seated at the Father’s right hand. This is the beauty of what Christ achieved on his cross. Although one’s outcome in taking their own cross is different, the attitude is the same: God’s will be done, not yours. His will is always better.

    Conclusion

    So then it begs the question: “Christian, is cross-taking the defining mark of your life?” By calling you to take up your cross and follow him, Jesus is essentially asking that you surrender the entirety of your life to him. Have you done that?Until Jesus has all of you, he has none of you. More importantly, if you do not have all of him, you have nothing of him.

    The cross-taking life is the life of a true Christian – one who has been saved by Jesus Christ and willingly dies to self in full submission to the One who has saved him. More than mere suffering, this is a purposeful and perpetual sacrifice of self for the glory of God no matter the cost.

    The only worthy response is to embrace the real Jesus, as revealed in Scripture, and to take up your cross fully and daily, until you die. That’s what it truly means to follow him. And Jesus has promised that you will not regret it.

    [1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The Cost of Discipleship. United Kingdom: Hymns Ancient & Modern, 2015, 44.

    [2] J.C. Ryle. Holiness (Abridged): Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. United States: Moody Publishers, 2010, 139.

    [3] Walter Chantry. The Shadow of the Cross: Studies in Self-denial. United Kingdom: Banner of Truth Trust, 1981, 23.

    [4] D. A. Carson. Matthew. United States: Zondervan Academic, 2017, 299.

    [5] Ryle, 144.


  4. Grace: The Christian Life from A to Z

    November 8, 2023 by Todd Burgett

    Grace: The Christian Life from A to Z

    A few years ago, while attending a conference, I was reminded of this very important bit of truth: “The Gospel is not ‘the ABC’s’ of the Christian life, but ‘the A to Z’ of the Christian life.” Did you catch the significance of that statement? Let me try to expand on it a bit.

                Here’s how Paul says it, in his letter to the church at Colossae, in the first century, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him…” (Col 2:6). In other words, how we received Christ is the way that we continue to follow him. So how did we receive Christ? Ephesians 2:8 & 9 reminds us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The answer, then, is that as Christians we received Christ by grace through faith. Grace is a gift given to us at that transformational moment, when we are born again to new life in Christ. We recognize that our sin has separated us from God, and that we will receive his forgiveness for these sins as a gift of his grace, if we humble ourselves and ask for it by faith (Rom 3:23, 6:23; 1 John 1:9).

    Thus, many think that grace begins and ends for us at conversion – at the “ABC’s” of the Christian faith. It’s easy for many (including myself at one time) to think of God’s grace as something that is only given to us when we first receive Christ, as if we are left to our own strength as we walk the Christian life. Of course, no one actually admits that, but that is often how we function.

    Moving Forward with the ABCs

                If we limit our understanding of grace to “the ABC’s”, then we mistakenly believe that it only applies to our past actions.  However, if we “continue to walk in Jesus in the way we received him,” we see both a promise and a responsibility.  The promise is that God’s grace isn’t left behind at conversion, but that it stays with us each step of the way – from “A to Z.”  Therefore, what God is ultimately promising is a future grace. Future grace is the hope that God will meet us every step of the way in our life here on earth, and that we will receive heaven when this life is complete. Grace is not only a pardon for all the sins that we have done and will do, but it is also an  enticement and empowerment to separate ourselves from our sin. This is the “responsibility” aspect of future grace.

                If God promises that he will meet us with future grace, then our responsibility is to live by faith in those promises. In other words, we act on those promises by actually believing in them by faith. Trusting in God’s future grace is much more than wishing on a star, or sprinkling “holy water” on our baseball bat before stepping up to the plate. Rather, it is an active trust in his promises, with an expectation of transformative results.

    An Example of How Future Grace is Applied

                 Let me illustrate what this looks like in practice. It’s common for humans to worry or be anxious about almost anything. From the potentially disastrous effects of how ineffectively we have potty-trained our children, to the endless germs we may encounter at the supermarket, to the much more serious issues of looming lay-offs and life-threatening diseases. These are just a few of the possible worries we may face, all of which contain a future component.

                Anxiousness is rooted in sins like self-trust, doubting God’s goodness, and generally being a control freak when it comes to managing our lives. However,  Scripture says this about anxiousness: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6–7).  By faith, we place our trust in God by not being anxious, calling out to him in prayer, and believing that his future grace will be demonstrated in our life, thus receiving a supernatural peace that defies understanding. In fact, this kind of trust and repentance is not something we muster up from our own strength, but instead, is a confidence that comes from God’s strength and power which dwells within us (Eph 3:20; Col 1:24–29). In reality, God gives us grace upon grace (John 1:16).

    Living in Grace, Living in Christ

                It’s important for us to understand that failing to trust in God’s promises, denying all that he claims to be, and not trusting that he is capable of delivering on those promises – are all key components of sin.  We rely on an abundance of false, lesser promises, even false gods that derail us from trusting the true God and his promises.  This was evident in the Garden of Eden when Satan’s temptation to Eve started with, “Did God actually say…” (Gen 3:1)? Every sin since the Garden of Eden is laced with the notion that there is a greater promise, or a greater way, than the superior promise and way that God has handed down to us through his Word.

                All this to say that God’s grace is there with us from “A to Z,” from first to last. The grace that justifies is the grace that sanctifies and the grace that glorifies. Or, as stated previously, grace is not just there at conversion, but meets us in the future, as God fulfills his promises to us time and time again, for his glory and our satisfaction. So then, what is our response? “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him…” (Col 2:6).


  5. Marriage Myths-Part 2: I’m the King of the Castle

    October 19, 2023 by Todd Burgett

    Marriage Myths–Part 2: I’m the King of the Castle

    On my last blog entry I called for us as God’s people to retire the slogan, “Happy Wife, Happy Life,” in exchange for a more biblical principle, like the following one: “When God is glorified above all else as we seek his will–then there will be true joy in our home.” Moving away from that slogan may be harder than you thought. Also, we shouldn’t move so far away from it that we end up in another dangerous territory that men can find themselves in (especially husbands and fathers). Let me explain:

    Avoiding Extremes

    If “Happy Wife, Happy Life” encapsulates the mindset of a husband who has abdicated his leadership in the home to his wife for the sake of peace–the opposite extreme is not the answer either. In other words, many a husband may agree that “Happy Wife, Happy Life” is not God’s answer for the family, but are guilty of possessing the opposite mindset. So, what is the opposite?

    The opposite extreme would be that the husband, rather than the wife, takes center stage. Apart from its rhythmic inferiority–the answer is also not: “Happy Husband, Happy Life.” This mindset can easily sneak in under a philosophy like this one: “I’m the head of the household, therefore, what I say goes.” Now, I’m sure those words haven’t been uttered out loud (or have they?). Although most likely unspoken, this type of thinking can surely still be evident. This other extreme is simply being a type of “control freak”–all under the disguise of leadership/headship.

    Evaluating Perceptions

    Whether you’ve said those controlling words out loud or not, maybe you’re wondering (or should be wondering) how you can know if that’s the way your wife and kids perceive your attitude as a husband/father. Let the following small sampling of bullet points serve as a “gut–check” to help you discover whether or not you are in fact a “control–freak”:

    • You deem any disagreement by your spouse as “disrespectful,” even if she’s been godly, civil, and kind in her approach.
    • You’ve said or thought the following phrases regarding your wife: “Just let me lead, even if it means I fail”, “I’ve made my decision; that settles it”, “Your role is to submit. Period.”, etc.
    • You make most decisions alone–especially the “big” ones–because you like it that way.
    • Your wife and kids walk on eggshells around you–especially when a decision needs to be made.
    • You can’t take any criticism, even the constructive/gracious type.

    If any or all of those resonate with you, there’s a good chance that you are a “controlling” husband and father. Being controlling is based more in sinful attitudes such as insecurity, arrogance, narcissism, and resentment than it is a biblical understanding of being a leader in your home. Men, our responsibility is to lead, not control.

    Obviously (I hope), you know that we should lead as Christ led. We lead our wives by “loving them as Christ loved the Church” (Eph 5:25). Again, how did Christ love the Church? He gave up his life for her. Jesus also said, “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt 23:11). Amidst an age when war is being waged on true biblical masculinity, kingship in the home is not the answer. Rather, our Lord and Savior washed the disciples’ feet. And he commanded us to do likewise. That’s the kind of King he was and is.

    Leading Biblically

    So, then, how do we servant–lead our wives and children?  Rather than a heavy-handed/controlling approach in decision-making, why not humbly ask for input, and weigh the choices in light of that input, before making a final decision? This simple act could very well be a type of “foot–washing” for your family. Your wife or children’s input may end up being faulty, unbiblical, not feasible, etc. But if you at least take the time to hear them out and explain what you think, before merely barking out royal edicts, it can be a demonstration of love, care, and respect. If we lead like Christ, our love will reflect his love. Paul reminds us of Christ-like love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7,

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    All in all, the servant­-leadership of husbands negates both the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” and the “King of the Castle” mindsets. By being a servant-leader, you are deciding to be neither a “cowardly-butler” nor a “dictatorial-king.” Loving our wives as Christ loved the Church is simple. But it’s not easy. Much grace is needed. Much grace is available.

    Seeking Humbly

    Maybe the first step is to repent before God for how you’ve failed as a man to lead your family the way God intends. Know that God will not only forgive you, but will enable you to lead the way he desires (1 John 1:9; Eph 3:20-21; Phil 4:13). Denial doesn’t make it better. So own it. Confess it. Repent of it. And receive more grace than you can possibly imagine.

    Secondly, confess to your wife if you’ve wrongly led by either of the two false mindsets (“Happy Wife, Happy Life” or “King of the Castle”), or some strange mixture of both. Ask her to join you in reclaiming Christ as the ultimate head of the household (Eph 5:21, 23; Matt 6:33), and seek to operate in a way that better reflects God’s design. Can you think of a brother in Christ who will hold you to it? The goal in marriage is for you both to be moving toward God, his grace, and his rightful position in your household. The result will be that there is one King of the Castle, Jesus Christ. And your household will be in line with Christ’s design.


  6. Marriage Myths–Part 1: Happy Wife, Happy Life

    September 22, 2023 by Todd Burgett

    Marriage Myths–Part 1:

    Happy Wife, Happy Life

    Maybe you’ve heard the slogan, “Happy wife, happy life”. Maybe you’ve not only heard this slogan but believe it to be true. In fact, maybe you not only believe this slogan, but you believe it is the “best” marital advice you’ve ever been given. I wouldn’t be surprised, because it seems as if this slogan has become a predominate view for how to have marital harmony in the twenty-first century. This is true not only in the world, but in the church, too.

    Surprisingly, I first heard this little phrase over twenty years ago by a pastor. It was his primary point to a “sermon” in a series he was doing on family and marriage. Since then, I’ve heard this slogan on numerous occasions, usually delivered in a manner that is both jokingly and awkwardly nervous (as if the one telling it had encountered the consequences of an unhappy wife). This motto resonates with experience (especially bad ones) and has a sense of comic truthfulness. All joking aside, though, the point of the slogan is clear: a husband better capitulate to his wife’s happiness or his home and life will truly be miserable.

    A Myth To Be Avoided

    Here’s the problem: this little slogan and mindset has become so pervasive and universally accepted that it seems as if no one challenges its experiential authority. This is true even among Christians (Remember, I first heard it from a pastor?)!  Why is this slogan and the embracing of it a problem? Despite its seeming “comic truthfulness” and experiential affirmation, it simply is not the biblical view of a healthy marriage. It has become a myth to be avoided. Let me explain why.

    There are assumptions made by the world about men, pertaining to men being dumb and doing dumb things. Can you think of a sitcom on TV that doesn’t fortify and exploit this assumption?  Yet, this assumption actually goes a few steps further – it simply assumes a low bar for men, that they are dumb and cannot do anything about it. So then, the only hope for men is to make women happy for everyone’s sake. Thus, because this assumption is readily accepted, many women are happy to agree and perpetuate this myth. And why not, after all, are they not the ones who benefit?

    This is one of the world’s solutions for discord and tension in the home. But this solution is based in selfishness. Even the husband’s desire to make his wife happy is really under the guise of appeasement with an end goal of his own happiness. The goal, then, is happiness for the wife in getting her way, and happiness for the husband in avoiding marital conflict. The true result is a diminished view, at best, or a counterfeit view of happiness, at worst.

    What really happens? The Proverbs tell us: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Prov 14:1). To foster the mindset that everyone needs to tip toe around the house in order to make momma happy is a surefire way to “tear down” her house. This myth perpetuates a destructive self-centeredness.

    A Solution To Be Embraced

    So what’s the solution? It’s time to retire this mythical and potentially dangerous slogan. Accordingly, it’s time to reclaim God’s solution for the family, which is always better than any worldly, sinful solution, like the one this slogan perpetuates. God’s way is always the only way to true joy. It’s a way covered in grace and filled with the Good News that, as Christians, God’s power is working mightily within us, as we commit our way to him.

    Consider the following verses from Colossians, chapter 3:

    “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Col 3:18-19).

    It’s here that we get a genuine sense of the pathway to true happiness in our marriages. In these God-given roles as husbands and wives, the solution for joy in our homes is submissive wives and loving husbands. Thus, these commands to husbands and wives fly in the face of the mindset behind “happy wife, happy life.” If a wife sincerely submits to her husband, it will increasingly lead to letting go of selfish desires and control. True happiness is not found in either.

    Likewise, sacrificial love for wives elevates a husband’s motives and actions beyond merely appeasing his wife, to a greater motive of doing what’s right and what’s genuinely in her best interest. Loving your wife will inevitably include confronting her sin rather than just avoiding uncomfortable conversations, as husbands “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). The wisdom of the Proverbs affirms this:

    “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov 27:5–6).

    If a husband genuinely loves his wife and truly wants her to be happy, then he must be concerned with her sin, which causes her relationship with Christ to suffer and chokes out her true joy. A truly happy wife is one who is walking in God’s ways. When a husband loves his wife in this way, it isn’t always easier, but it is what’s right and, ultimately, it’s what has her best in mind.

    A Marriage To Be Desired

    Amazingly enough, living according to God’s will moves our marriages beyond the nervous and awkward tiptoeing of wondering how a husband’s possible choices might make his wife unhappy, to a home that glorifies God and results in true joy for all. Ironically, living by the motto of “happy life, happy wife” might provide a thin veneer of harmony and peace, but it will not prove to be a truly good, lasting, or happy solution to the tensions in your home. In fact, it will eventually augment them.

    So, let’s erase this phrase from our Christian life: “Happy Wife, Happy Life”. Instead, why not embrace a motto like this: “When God is glorified above all else as we seek his will – then there will be true joy in our home.” It’s not as catchy as “happy wife, happy life,” but it is much closer to the heart of God, and the true blessings he desires for every Christian marriage.