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Next Steps, 1689, Chapter 15 – Of Repentance Unto Life & Salvation, Part 3

In this chapter on repentance, what stood out to you most? This could be something about repentance that you had not thought of before, or it could be something that seemed particularly relevant to your own walk.

How has it helped you?

Marriage and Spiritual Warfare, Part 2

“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.”

The call to stand firm is not a call to dig in your heels against your spouse and stand your ground. This is often the posture of a spouse who feels trapped in marital conflict. They think if they make a concession or admit a wrong that they will give up ground, so they dig in, even if they know they are wrong. This is the wrong way to dig in. The call is to stand firm in the spiritual battle, to dig in against my spiritual enemy. We are not to give up ground to him. As he attempts to advance in my marriage, I need to resist that advance! I need to dig in my heels against his strategies. Digging ours heels in against my spouse may be giving ground to the enemy.

The next thing, what helps us stand, is to put on the belt of truth. The ESV puts it like this, “having fastened on the belt of truth.” Briefly, the belt of truth is the source of core strength. Think of a thick leather weight-lifting belt. The belt was also the center of the armor in that it was the “attachment center.” The belt of truth is vital. But what is the truth? The truth of which this belt consists can be two perspectives on the truth. The first is an objective perspective, “the belt of objective truth,” that is, the truth, the truth of God’s Word. At the core of our being, we need to have the Word of God as our strength. If we don’t, we will be thinking our own thoughts and allowing our emotions to run unrestrained. Both our thoughts and emotions can be clouded by what Dave Harvey called “the fog of war.” One of the critical things I need to maintain in marriage is a biblical perspective. Too often we lean on our own understanding, we lose biblical priorities on the nature of marriage, the nature of holiness and happiness, the nature of serving one another. Without the belt of God’s Word wrapped around my core I might start thinking that this marriage is all about me, about my feelings, my happiness. I will start concluding my spouse is always the problem, disaffection sets in and I lose sight of God and the Gospel.

But the belt of truth also refers to the important idea of an internal truthfulness. In Psalm 51, God says, “I desire truth in the innermost being” (Psa 51:6). This means honesty with oneself about oneself. By the way, the only way there can be truth in our innermost being is if we are committed to the truth of God in the Word of God. The Word is that two-edged sword that judges my thoughts and motives (Heb. 4:12). This personal, internal sense of truth demands that I look at things the way God sees them. For instance, do I see the log in my eye (Matt. 7:3-5)? This is a belt of truth issue. Do I see the source the conflict often being my unmet desires (James 4:1-3)? Our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9). We can easily convince ourselves that we are right. We can easily convince ourselves that our spouse is the villain. We can easily see our unmet needs as an intentional act of war. We can easily be offended. We can fail to see our spouses and ourselves as sinners in need of grace and forgiveness every day. All of which is antithetical to Christian love (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

When we fail to have a biblical perspective at our core, and when we fail to put on “truth in innermost being” our sins are hidden from us (Psa. 19:12). Those hidden faults, as Derek Kidner reminds us, “may be hidden not because it is too small to see, but because it is too characteristic to register.”[1] Truth in the innermost being asks God to search our hearts and expose our sin (Psa. 19:12-13; 139:23-24).

Maybe I am the problem. Maybe my thinking has become so clouded by my flesh and my pride that I don’t see things as they really are. Maybe my avoidance of biblical analysis of my heart and my actions is simply a carnal way for me to keep the pressure and blame on my spouse. Maybe I refuse counsel, under the guise that nobody understands me; but the truth is I am protecting myself from scrutiny. Maybe I am a hyper-critical complainer, a blame-shifter. Maybe I am cold and distant and punish by silence. If we are guilty of any of these things, it is a clear indication that we have lost a biblical perspective and are not trafficking in truth in the innermost being.

The enemy can take these things, magnify them, pour fuel on them, exacerbate them. Fasten on that belt of truth! Put the enemy to flight by wanting truth and honesty in your marriage. It is hard. It is painful. It requires confession, repentance, and death blows to pride. But it is worth it. If we do not fasten on the belt of truth, the father of lies (John 8:44) has us in his grip. Break that grip by grabbing the Word, and praying to your Savior, pleading with Him to deflate pride, crush the flesh, and open your eyes to see yourself and your sin for what it really is. Learn to live this way.

“But what if my spouse doesn’t follow suit? What if my spouse still holds to unbiblical perspectives and never takes responsibility for the dishonesty in his or her heart?” Always remember, in spiritual warfare, you do right even if everyone else is doing wrong. God can use the belt of truth in your life to change your spouse, but that is in God’s timing.

Stand firm, not against your spouse, but against the devil. Stand firm by putting on the belt of truth. Put the father of lies to flight and put your own lies to flight, as you seek the truth of God for your life!

[1] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 118.

Marriage and Spiritual Warfare

Satan hates marriage. Satan attacks marriage because of that hatred. Satan seeks to destroy marriages because (1) marriage is a creation ordinance ordained by God before the fall. It was designed for His glory and the good of His creation, men and women, created in the image God. Satan’s hatred of God means his determined opposition to what God created for His glory and the good of His creation. (2) marriage is designed to reflect Christ and the church. Therefore, Satan is not just violently hostile to marriage in general, but to Christian marriages in particular.

In Satan’s assaults against marriage, his nefarious purposes are clear: Satan seeks to spoil what God created and declared good. Marriage is for the happiness of image-bearers. Satan delights to turn what God created for enjoyment and turn it into a source of misery.

Satan seeks to sully the reputation and testimony of the Christian church throughout the world. Miserable, bad marriages are a terrible testimony to the world.

Satan seeks to destroy the next generation. The Christian home should be an incubator for faith for the next generation. Satan will use a contentious, miserable marriage to turn the incubator of faith into a toxic chamber of unbelief. Next to parental hypocrisy, a Christ-dishonoring marriage in which there is no Gospel in action, has the potential to be fatal to our children’s view of the Christian faith.

Satan seeks to side-line Christian service. Although Christians in bad marriage may serve in the Church, often they don’t because they are consumed with their own crises. When they do serve, often they are not serving filled with the Holy Spirit because they are grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). Satan always tries to marginalize a Christian’s service in their local church. Satan loves to turn Christians into isolationists, who think life separated from the local church is the way to go. Satan loves to turn Christians inward, so all they are focused on is themselves. Marriage is a platform where Satan tries to mitigate Christian service.

Satan seeks to destroy assurance of faith and full confidence in God’s goodness. Sometimes the “slow fires of marital misery” drives a saint to his or her knees, seeking God like never before. But all too often, a Christian can become bitter against God because they are not happy in marriage. The Christian can begin to think that God owed them a better spouse, or a better marriage. They become the faultfinder, speaking, thinking, and feeling hard things against God, which are not true. They doubt His sovereignty and goodness. As they sin in this way, assurance erodes, and faith weakens. Satan smiles.

There are so many other directions we could look at this, but let’s get to some good news.

First, Jesus Christ has won the ultimate victory over Satan. Satan is living on borrowed time between D-Day and VE-Day. The decisive battle has already been won through the Cross and the empty tomb (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8), but Satan still rages, knowing his time is short (Rev. 12:17). So our fight is against a defeated, but still dangerous foe (1 Pet. 5:8).

Second, God has provided armor for this warfare (Eph. 6:10-20). There are several things we can learn at we apply this classic text to marriage.

Eph. 6:10-12 sets the stage for spiritual warfare:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:10-12

In our marriages, we need God’s strength. We need to seek to be strong in the Lord. This demands that we reject a victim mentality, a “woe is me” mentality. God has called you to be strong in His strength. Maybe you are the less guilty party, you need God’s strength to endure, to continue to love, to trust and to fight for your marriage. Maybe you are the more guilty party, you need God’s strength to confess, repent, turn, to trust to fight for your marriage.

Next, God has given you provision for your daily Christian life, which includes your marriage. The armor is for your marriage too!

Notice from the text, that the devil has schemes. Satan is an expert strategist, who knows how to use bad childhoods, bad relationships, unbiblical thinking, selfishness, carnality, lust, greed, anger, jealousy, et al. as tools to chip away at marriage or explode it. Know your enemy! He knows you.

The battle we are fighting is not ultimately against a spouse, this is a spiritual, and there is always a spiritual component in the resolution. The warfare may seem deeply inter-personal, against a cold and distant husband, or an implacable and selfish wife. The warfare may seem deeply inter-personal as affections for your spouse die, and it is easier to despise than to love. This is all true, there is a human dynamic that is real. But behind the scenes of the human pain is a busy devil sowing the seeds of the destruction and fanning the flames of misery. There is a strategizing devil who knows your weaknesses and uses them to his wicked advantage.

Stop right now and reflect on Eph. 6:10-12 as it relates to your marriage. Recognize that your spouse is not the real enemy. Ask God to show you how you contribute to the enemy’s strategy, how your view of your spouse funnels right into the devil’s plans. Ask God to open all four eyes in this marriage to see how each spouse has unwittingly given the enemy footholds (Eph. 4:27).

Renew your desire to fight this fight against the true enemy, in God’s strength. Maybe your spouse thinks you are the devil, he or she is wrong. But that may mean she or he doesn’t want to lock arms with you to fight the real enemy. You still need to be strong. You still need to stand. You still need to fight for your marriage.

Paul says in Eph. 6:13, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

God will hold you to account on how you fought this fight. So, resist in the evil day, and do everything to stand firm.

Over the next few weeks I will share how each piece of the armor is applied to marriage. Until then, reflect on these things, ask God for insight and wisdom, and a renewed zeal to fight.

          Awake my soul, stretch every nerve, and press with vigor on;
         A heavenly race (or fight) demands your zeal.