Lead in faithful intimacy | A guide for husbands
When you are one with your wife — physically, emotionally and spiritually — you bear the image of God. Your oneness reflects the sacrificial love of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-32) as well as the oneness and fellowship between the Father and the Son (John 17:20-23).
This connection is made even more obvious in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he explains how sexual sin distinctly wars against God’s design for oneness in the body of faith and in marriage:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:15-20)
Satan is not unaware of this truth. As he prowls around seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8), he knows he can distort the truth of God’s oneness and love to a watching world by attacking the oneness in your marriage. This is ground zero. Your leadership is essential at this point in order to ensure the area that can bring the deepest joy and pleasure in your marriage doesn’t become the source of Satan’s greatest victory against you, your wife and God’s reflection in your marriage.
Your leadership is crucial in three specific areas: sanctification, redeemed desire and prioritization.
“For this is the will of God,” Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “your sanctification.” Sanctification is the essential work that begins after Jesus justifies you before the Father and presents you blameless. It’s the process of growing to be holy as God is holy. In the same breath where Paul says that God’s will is your sanctification, he immediately adds, “that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6).
The Spirit is at work to guide your sanctification, but you have to be active in this work as well — especially in abstaining from sexual immorality and in controlling your body. This is where you work with the empowerment of the Spirit to develop self-mastery over the flesh. It involves being watchful, putting distance between yourself and sin and rushing to repent when you do sin.
Be watchful: In our sex-saturated culture, you have to be alert to temptations that can hit you everywhere you turn and can begin to pull you away from oneness with your wife. You have to lead in being watchful (1 Cor. 16:13 and 1 Peter 5:8) of your surroundings and in being on guard where you know you’re most likely to be tempted.
Put distance between yourself and sin: “[M]ake no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires,” Paul writes to the Romans. “Abstain from sexual immorality” he writes to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:3b). “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you,” he writes to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:3). “Flee sexual immorality,” (1 Cor. 6:18) he writes to the Corinthians. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire” he writes to the Colossians (Col. 3:5a). Paul’s choice of words — abstain, make no provision, flee, put to death and so forth — makes it clear that you should actively distance yourself from sexual immorality. That means guarding your eyes, words and thought life from any images, conversations or wandering thoughts that could be a gateway to sexual immorality.
Be repentant: As born-again men, we are still prone to sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” the apostle John writes, but then he adds, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). James writes, “sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). Don’t be surprised by the reality of sin in your life as a believer, but don’t let unrepentant sin grow towards death.
While it’s true that sexual temptation will be with you throughout your life, it is possible to significantly change how you fight temptation by allowing the Spirit to redeem your driving desires.
Desire is a powerful engine when it comes to intimacy in your marriage. The most effective way to fight sexual temptation is to let God do an engine replacement — to change out the engine of fleshly desire that drives you towards sin and death with a Spirit-driven engine that drives you towards abundant life. Paul shows what that looks like in his letter to the Galatians:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:16-24)
As you crucify the desires of the flesh, you won’t have to keep struggling to throttle the desires that lead to sin and death (James 1:14-15). Instead, you can submit to the Spirit and allow the desires of the Spirit to drive you toward deeper intimacy and oneness with your wife.
As the Spirit leads you and produces fruit in your life and your marriage, remember the wisdom of Solomon to continually cultivate your desire for your wife:
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:15-19)
Enjoy the wife God has given you as a good gift to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Celebrate your love together. Drink deeply of her love.
Finally, lead in prioritizing oneness with your wife. As you faithfully lead in your work, your responsibilities as a father and your commitments in the local church, remember that oneness with your wife is a source of stability to keep you grounded and replenished for all of your responsibilities. She is your helper for the work God has given you to do.
So, prioritize oneness with her. Hold all your responsibilities in tension with your responsibilities to her. Give her the first hug and kiss when you walk in the door from work — even as your kids race to you with updates about their day. Give your kids the security of knowing your marriage is secure and thriving by preserving dedicated time with your wife (that goes for regular date nights as well as regular times at night of uninterrupted time for you and your wife to catch up). This is what it takes to regularly grow in oneness and intimacy — just make it a priority.
A Guide to Biblical Manhood
– Randy Stinson serves as Senior vice president for academic administration and provost. He is also associate professor of leadership and family ministry. You can follow Dr. Stinson on Twitter at @RandyStinson.
–Dan Dumas is senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern Seminary. He is a church planter and pastor-teacher at Crossing Church in Louisville, Ky. You can connect with him on Twitter at @DanDumas, on Facebook or at DanDumas.com.