Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 4

What do we do with the atonement? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue through Zuersher’s work, we come to a chapter on atonement. Now I’ll state this upright. I have not spent much time looking at a lot of theories of the atonement. I have read Wright’s recent work on the cross. I think it’s an excellent work. Still, I cannot speak as an authority on the atonement, but that could be in some ways an advantage here.

You see, the reason I don’t see this as a defeater here is this is my situation. I have enough evidence to convince me that God exists. I have enough evidence to convince me of the full deity of Jesus. I have enough evidence to convince me that Jesus rose from the dead physically. I have enough evidence to convince me that Scripture is reliable. Does it make any sense to anyone to say “I’m not fully clear on how atonement works, so therefore I should doubt that Christianity is true.”?

Of course not. Any area of study will always have some unanswered questions. Consider for instance in science, when we see creatures that seem incredibly advanced. Does this mean every evolutionist will just throw in the towel and abandon the theory wholesale? Not at all, nor would I expect them to. One looks at the primary data they have for a position even if secondary details aren’t exactly clear.

Zuersher says first that there is disagreement means that this is being made up as we go along. He says that this means we do not have some privileged path to the divine. If by that He means that God is not obligated to answer all of our questions for us, that is entirely correct. If He means that we do not have the way to God in Christ, that would be wrong, but believing we do doesn’t mean we have perfect atonement knowledge.

The next part is one that Zuersher gets so close to the truth of matters, but then He rejects it for theological reasons. Zuersher says that satisfaction says that God’s honor must be restored, but if that’s true, then God has personality traits unworthy of a morally perfect being. It’s truly tragic how close Zuersher gets to good theology but then allows his cultural prejudices and lack of understanding of honor to get in the way.

To begin with, I don’t think it’s right to speak of God as a morally perfect being. A morally perfect being is one that does that which they ought to do always. God has no ought. He does not owe anyone anything. God is instead a good being. He is perfect and lacking nothing in Himself.

So how could God be lacking honor? It’s not a lack in Himself. It’s rather how God is perceived. There were two kinds of honor in the ancient world. One was one had based on who they were and their lineage and such. God’s honor is untouched here. The other is their reputation. How are they perceived in the eyes of others? Here, God’s reputation is tied to how He is seen in the eyes of humanity and how we treat Him. We can live lives that honor God or not. Zuersher rejects this without bothering to understand the culture or the theology.

Third, he says that God could just forgive. After all, we do it. Sure, but we are not the ones that are perfectly good and holy. If God just lets it go, He is saying that our well-being is of greater importance than His goodness. In other words, the good of man outranks the good of God. God is treating sin as no big deal, when every sin is really an act of divine treason.

He next says that if Jesus had a fully human nature, then what happened on the cross was murder since it was a human sacrifice. Well, he is right that it is murder. Jesus submitted to the ruling authorities. This is also not the same as suicide. The authorities did not realize what they were doing, but many holy men in Judaism dying would see themselves as dying for the sins of the people.

He also says that a willing death does not excuse the executioners. Of course not. Whoever said that it did? They were fully convinced they were doing right. My statement about this has been that either Jesus was the wickedest man who ever lived and the crucifixion was the most just and righteous act of all to stop Him, or He was the most righteous man who ever lived and the crucifixion was the most wicked act of all time.

He then goes into the claims of how Jesus was an invalid sacrifice. I recommend the works of Michael Brown here on answering Jewish objections to Jesus. Brown has looked at this a lot more than I have.

Next, he argues that this was not a real sacrifice since Jesus did not stay dead. One wonders how this is so. Once the offering is given to God, God can do with it what He wants. If He wants to resurrect Jesus, then He can resurrect Jesus. This would be God’s vindication on the life and claims of Jesus.

He also argues that the theory is immoral since it undermines individual responsibility by having someone accept Jesus’s sacrifice. On the contrary, it upholds it. When presented with the claims of Christ, one must accept their responsibility for the sins that got Him there.

Finally, Zuersher ends with saying that educated men and women hold to atonement thinking today should require no further comment. I instead think that someone can bother to write a book responding to a view without interacting with the best scholarship on it should require no further comment. Sadly, Zuersher does this consistently.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Real Problem of Evil

What is the problem we seem to pay the least attention to? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

He hurt Allie.

That’s all you need to know at the start.

If someone hurts my wife, my kind and pleasant demeanor goes out the window. Instead, the claws come out and I am ready to tear into someone and many times that has happened on Facebook. If people are scared to do something against my wife on there, all the better. I want that. I want it to be known that if you mess with my Princess, I do not sit idly by.

So like I said, he hurt Allie.

Who he is is not important. I don’t want to name names. I will just say someone I trusted did her a great wrong. In the end, I had to talk to many men of God I respected about my own issues. Look at the parable of the unforgiving servant. Look at what John says about hating your brother in your heart. (Yes. This was a Christian who did this to Allie.) Those issues were troubling to me, but what’s a guy to do?

And what does this have to do with the problem of evil?

I resolved my issues a few months ago, but last night’s Bible reading with my wife and I reminded me about it. We were reading in Proverbs about a righteous person will fall, but God will pick them up again seven times. However, if your enemy falls, don’t gloat. God might move His anger from him to you. We ended up having a discussion for awhile about the evil other people do.

What I reminded her of then was when we talk about evil, we many times talk about the things other people do to us. No doubt, those are often very wicked. Like any evil, there is no excuse for them. There is no justification for them. At any evil, there is something that is really unforgivable and that is the sin itself and no excuse can be given. The amazing thing is God does forgive that which we often find unforgivable.

What other people do to us is horrible many times, and the problem is it’s easy to focus on that. It’s incredibly easy. When we do that, we get caught in our own selves and focus on ourselves and have a greater idea of “looking out for number one.” It could be a protectionist thing at that point. “They hurt me, and I will never be hurt by anyone like that again.”

Generally, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to avoid hurt and pain. The problem is when we often do this at the expense of others. If our wanting to avoid hurt is hurting others, then we have a problem. This is because the great evil we should want to deal with is not other people.

The great evil we should want to deal with the most is in the mirror.

Of course, there are times we have to do things about other people. That’s why we have people like police officers out there who do work to protect us from evildoers. There is nothing wrong with protecting a loved one from someone who is doing them evil. If we focus on changing everyone around us, we will have a problem because many times, they will be resistant.

Someone whose evil we can do something about immediately is our own. How others treat us can be horrible, but how do we treat others? Do we put a limit on our love? I’m not saying be reckless around a stranger. Don’t be foolish in the sense of not appropriately handling what God has trusted you with, but most of the problem for us is that we are much more focused on watching ourselves.

When we watch ourselves, it’s not so that we will be good, but so we will receive our good. There is much less thought on the good we can do for others. What are we doing about the evil in our own hearts? Are we living lives of repentance? Are we relying on the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and change our behavior accordingly?

Do we not realize that the evil that we do will always hurt those around us? There are no private actions. A husband may choose to watch porn in private, but it will affect him when he tries to be intimate with his wife. A person may be having a temper, but what happens when he gets in a car accident for going too fast? How many other people will suffer as a result?

Also, each action we do does something to us. We are becoming a certain kind of person with each action. We are becoming a person with the nature of Heaven or the nature of Hell each time. We are embracing the things of God or embracing our own way.

This is ultimately how I learned to deal with the man who hurt Allie. I chose to not look with anger. Instead, I looked with pity. I feel sorry for him. He had an opportunity to do good to someone and lead them into Christlikeness and he squandered it. Despite myself and Allie’s parents offering several warnings, he never listened. The damage he did to Allie was great, but the damage he did to himself was something he could have prevented. Allie could have taken better steps to resist what he said, sure, but what you do to yourself is something that the immediate effects do not change. It will never be that you had not sinned.

There will be other people who greatly wrong Allie, and I will be there to deal with them. There will be times she wrongs me as well. That happens in marriage. I will need to respond with grace each time. Should I help her to be more righteous and holy? Yes. At the same time, I cannot make changing her my focus. Instead, I need to remember that the tragedy from my perspective in marriage should not be her hurting me, but my hurting her, and vice-versa for her. It is why I am constantly asking myself what I can do to make things right for my wife. That also means that when I screw up, which I often do, I own up to it and ask forgiveness.

Pain and hurt will come into my life. It is inevitable. The greatest person of all, Jesus Christ, knew sorrows and suffering intimately. He was the person who in fact came to suffer. If He could not avoid suffering, it is absurd to think that I should.

While pain and hurt will come into my life, may I make it a focus to not pass pain and hurt on to others. No doubt, I will. Still, life should be a constant seeking to live holy and in repentance wanting to do the best for those around me that is within my power.

That starts immediately in my own household. While I should strive to honor God above all, my wife is the next person on the list. The rest of my family will come after and then my friends closest to me. As I go into the world, everyone who I meet should be someone I strive to be holy before.

That is how I deal with the real problem of evil. Will I deal with the evil within me? Will I turn it over to Christ? There will always be an urge to hold back, but I am cutting myself off from the greatest good when I do that. When we withdraw into ourselves, we say no to all love around us. It is only by opening up and risking hurt, even from the pain of being transformed by God, that we can embrace the greatest good.

So I’m fighting evil. I’m fighting the evil in me mainly so I can do the most about the evil outside of me. Will you do the same?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Valentine’s Day Thoughts for 2017

What are we to do with Valentine’s Day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today is Valentine’s Day, which many also do call Singles’ Awareness Day. I do understand it. I used to dread the day, but now I’m married so that changes. As I thought about the day today, I thought about how much has changed since the coming of Christ with regard to romantic love.

One of the mistakes we often make when we read the Bible is we assume the people of the time were for the most part, just like us. They weren’t. Through studies today, we’re learning that the majority world is really radically different and we’re the odd ones out. They function more in terms of honor and shame and we in terms of guilt and innocence.

One way of change also is romantic love. Now let’s be clear. When we look at the ancients, there were indeed times that you would see a man with deep love and affection for his spouse. This was more often the exception. Many a man was seen as more of a man by how many women (Or young boys even) he could bed. The women meanwhile were to be chaste. As we see our culture abandoning Christianity, it’s not a shock that we move back to that idea even more.

Marriages were more often arranged. There wasn’t any going out and dating and finding the right man for you. You were also expected to be married at a much earlier age. Many of our fourteen-year-old girls today could be in a panic trying to decide what to wear to school the next day. Their ancestors would be busy being mothers to children. I really think one of the great disasters of our age is we’ve lost a rite of passage idea into manhood and womanhood and too many of our young people think the way you show yourself a man or a woman is by having sex instead of having the mindset of a man or a woman.

When we go to the letter to the Ephesians, we can get into a lot of arguments about a woman submitting to her husband. What we often forget is the shock that would come to the men when they heard the command to love their wives and give themselves for them. They would have thought that Paul was on the crack of his day.

Through Christ, we learned immensely about sacrificial love and men learned to be chaste and be only with their wives sexually. This became a reigning paradigm for some time, but sadly we’ve seen ourselves moving away from it. Just yesterday in fact, I read a statistic about how 30% of women doing online dating sleep with the guy on the first date. You have to wonder at that point if anything is sacred.

Valentine’s Day is a day for us as Christians to show the world a different and a better way. I always encourage Christians who are married to live out their marriage. If we look at the world as dishonoring marriage, my fear is that the world does it because the church did it first. If we want the battle for true marriage, we need to not only defend marriage as it is, but we need to live it as it is.

I don’t know what your plan is for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, but if you are a husband, love her as Christ loved the church. If you are a wife, love him as the church loves Christ. Seek to give of yourselves. There is no place in marriage for looking out for yourself. In fact, we are told to look out for the interests of others above ourselves. If you can’t do that in marriage, where can you do it?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts On Memorial Day

Is there anything to keep in mind with a cookout? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today is Memorial Day as I write this. I will be going to spend it with my in-laws at their place for a cookout and my wife is bringing Into The Storm for us to watch together. I have seen the movie several times and I don’t care much for food so aside from fellowship, I’ll probably be spending more time with my Kindle and my books.

Okay. So I’m the odd one out here, but a lot of you are doing something special for Memorial Day, and I’m not knocking that. That’s something to celebrate. It’s a special day, but let’s not lose sight of what this day is all about. This day is not about cookouts. It’s not about time spent on the lake. It’s not about even reading books. (GASP!)

This day is about people who have died serving our country. These are people who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They are not here to celebrate today. They can’t spend the day kissing their wives or hugging their children. There are mothers and fathers who won’t see their children, children who won’t see their parents, and spouses who won’t see their significant others. In fact, for them, this day could be very depressing.

Let’s not forget them. In fact, if you know someone like that, try to go and see them if you can. Bring them a homecooked meal. Center the day around them. These people have also made a sacrifice. They live without the person or persons that they love. They want to know that someone appreciated the sacrifice that that person made. They need to know that the person who sacrificed was a hero.

How many of us today are willing to face death? The reality is we all are facing it every day. There’s a commercial that I see on TV now and I think it’s about heart disease. It says that for people with heart disease, tomorrow is not a guarantee and in the background you hear the song “Tomorrow” from “Little Orphan Annie.” You know who tomorrow is also not a guarantee for? You and I. It is not a guarantee. If we want to live, the time to live is not tomorrow. It is today.

Today, hug your children. Today, honor your parents. Today, make love to your spouse. Take the time to celebrate those people who are in your life. Do not wait to live life. People died so that today, you could live. Not just exist, but live. Are you living? Do you want their sacrifice to be in vain?

People did not die just so we could have fun. They died because they thought that what they were dying for was indeed worth dying for. The question we have to ask of ourselves is do we think what they died for is worth living for? Our freedom as Americans? Our ability to love those around us? Our ability to enjoy our lives? Our freedom to worship as we see fit? Are these all goods worth celebrating?

Let today be a day you start living. They died so you could live. Don’t let it be in vain. If you’re Christian especially, remember the original hero who died so you could live. Don’t let His sacrifice be in vain either.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Importance of the Covenant

What does it mean to say you’ve formed a covenant? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Covenants. The term doesn’t really resonate much with us today. We don’t take it as seriously as we used to, and yet all our talk today is about covenants. What is the debate over marriage but a debate over covenants? What covenants are we going to hold up and affirm and what are we not going to affirm? Do we give some covenants greater recognition than others? Do some covenants require more than others?

On a minor level, we can think of a business contract. These are legally enforced by the law for example, but we will not put it on the same level as a covenant. A contract has two parties making an agreement to be sure, but a covenant involves a lifelong self-sacrificial commitment. Many of our best relationships are built on sacrifice. The greatest of friends are those who are willing to sacrifice for one another. Of course, this will not involve the same as the ultimate covenant that we know of in society today of marriage.

My wife recently blogged on this. I agree with much of what she said, but I’d like to add my own spin to it. The point is that in our society we too often have an idea of “Look out for #1.” In that case, we often treat marriage as a way to get what we want. Now naturally, all of us enter marriage wanting some things out of it and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the institution is greater than we realize and we do a dishonor to it when we treat it wrongly. We can rightly say that too many Christians have no basis arguing against redefining marriage when they’ve allowed no-fault divorce and living together before marriage to go on in their own lifestyles. Of course, many of us have not done these things, but unfortunately too many Christians have. I do think that our culture as a whole has dishonored marriage, but they have dishonored it because the Christians took the lead in dishonoring it first.

When you marry someone, you make a lifelong commitment to that someone. You make a commitment to do and live the way that you ought and you give yourself to that one person only. That is quite a severe oath to make. Consider that when we speak of it sexually, that that means that until the point of death, the only person you are going to have any sort of sexual relationship whatsoever with is that person that you are marrying. If you break that promise, then biblically, you are guilty of adultery. This is something that we should take extremely seriously, especially in light of a passage like 1 Cor. 6:9-10.

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Now in our current climate, we can rightly note that those who participate in homosexual acts are there. Who else is in there? How about those who commit adultery? Yep. That’s how seriously God takes it. Why does He say to not be deceived? Because this is something you are quite likely to be deceived on. In fact, Paul spends the rest of the chapter talking about the gravity of sexual sin. It is sin unlike any other because it is a sin against your own body and it is taking that which is supposed to be the temple of Christ and using it in a completely unholy manner. Robert Gagnon has compared it to having sex in the Holy of Holies right on top of the Ark of the Covenant.

Signing on the dotted line of marriage is a strong commitment to make and too many of us are breaking it way too easily. What are some of our favorite reasons?

“Well I don’t feel the same way any more.”

I hate to tell you this, but your life is not to be dependent on your feelings nor is right and wrong dependent on your feelings. If you become a parent and have a child, you can’t just say one day “I don’t feel like being a parent any more so I’m not going to take care of this child.” On a lesser level, try being in a business contract with someone and saying you’re not going to uphold it because you don’t feel like it. If you do that, hopefully you will feel like showing up in court because that is exactly where you will be going. If it applies to the lesser, how much more to the greater?

If your feelings aren’t there, well so what? It’s nice if they are, but you have a duty to do the right thing anyway and doing the right thing is not dependent on how you feel.

“We’re just not in love any more.”

In our modern day and age, marriage has been about love. This sounds perfectly normal to us, but we are the exceptions to the rule. Could love and affection have happened historically? Sure, but that was not the norm. Most of the time it was about survival. How are we going to make it in this world? Today, it is mostly about love, so what do you do when it looks like that spark is no longer there?

Simple. You love the person.

We often think of love as a feeling, but it is not. It is a verb. It is an action. It is seeking the good of the other for the sake of the other. Sometimes this is soft and gentle. Sometimes it’s hard. We have to do things that are painful to the people we love at times because we love them, such as when a family has an intervention for a person who is getting caught up in behavior that they shouldn’t be caught up in. Sometimes when you act in loving ways, the feelings will follow and that’s great. Sometimes they won’t, but oh well. This isn’t about you and your feelings. This is about the good of the relationship.

So what are some ways you can improve the covenant?

For you men, your wife generally wants love and security. She wants a man that she can feel safe with and who she knows cares about her. If she doesn’t think any of these things is true, you really need to take a look at yourself. Peter tells us in his first epistle that we need to be gentle with our wives. That means even when you think she’s being crazy and makes no sense, you try to be understanding with her. A great way men usually fail at this is that women tell us about their problems and we don’t listen really. We go straight into fix-it mode. A lot of times, women want someone to just listen. They could be fine with advice later on, but at the start, listening is all they want.

Another great mistake is to treat your wife like a sex object. My Allie recently shared something that said that what Planned Parenthood and pornography have in common is that they treat people like objects. You can treat your wife the same way. Your wife is not just someone in your life whose purpose is to have sex with you. She is someone you are in fact to be willing to die for. Live your life as a life of love for your wife. My recommendation is that if you’re both on Facebook, make your Facebook page sizzle. Let it be obvious to the rest of the world that you love your wife. I share an image of love to my wife everyday on Facebook save Sunday when I take a break. Facebook has been the cause of many marriages being destroyed so guard yourself closely on Facebook.

Beyond that, be a gentleman. Manners go a long way. Hold open the door when your wife is going somewhere. Make sure she sits down first in a public place and if possible, pull her seat out for her. These are simple things, but they mean a great deal. Remember, your wife is asking every day “Do you still love me?”

So now women, here are my recommendations.

I’ve said before that men should not treat you as a sex object. This is true, but women need to realize how central this is to their men. This is not just an add-on to marriage. This is something that strikes at the very identity of your husband. If you are asking every day “Do you still love me?” your husband is asking “Am I still your man?” If you do everything else in the world for him and don’t give yourself to him sexually, he will go to bed at night saying “Nope. Guess I’m not her man.” I’m sure that makes no sense whatsoever to some of you, but really, that is the way it is.

Now of course, women do enjoy sex and they should, but it’s usually more central for the men. A man with sex is wanting to give you the gift of himself and be accepted as he is. Turning him down is a way of saying he’s not man enough for you. Now of course, I’m not saying jump into the bed every time he asks, but I am saying take this seriously. Perhaps you just can’t then. If you can’t, then my suggestion is that you give your man a time frame. Let’s picture a husband wanting to have a frisky morning with his wife before he leaves. She’s just not into it. What can she do? She could say “Honey. I love you, but I’m just not feeling it right now, but tell you what. You go to work and you do a good job and when you come home, I will be waiting for you and I’ll show you how much I appreciate what you do.”

Ladies. You say something like that and your husband will be thinking about you ALL DAY LONG.

In fact, you do this kind of thing and you will shoot his confidence level through the roof. It is extremely difficult for a married man to have confidence if he does not think that his wife accepts him. If he is sure his wife accepts him, everything changes. This man will be able to do anything. He can conquer the world. He will walk with an extra spring in his step. Whatever miserable situation your husband is in, you can always help it with sex. As one of my friends told me, a husband will never gift his wife a return receipt on sex. If she’s worried about performance, she needs to remember that for a man, sex is like pizza. Bad sex is good sex. As long as it’s sex, that’s enough.

Another great benefit this will give your man is your man is constantly tempted. When we see a woman approaching us, we are instantly aware that this is a woman we are dealing with and in our mind, we start immediately checking her out. It is instinctive on our part. Your husband is going to do this regardless. It is what he does next that matters the most. I have written about this some here. The temptation is very very real and if you have a good and honoring husband, he does not want it to be that way. He hates the fact that he is attracted to other women besides you, but he is and he wants you to remain in his mind at the forefront constantly. A great way to do that for him is to have it be that your body is constantly in his mind by giving yourself to him. The gift your husband wants most from you is you. Your husband is better able to withstand temptation if you are honoring him sexually.

Something else to be careful about is with respect, watch how you speak about your husband. If your husband makes a mistake, and he will, be careful that you’re respectful. Don’t berate him even in a way that seems harmless. Your husband might not know as much about shopping for groceries and cooking as you do. If you send him to the store and he gets the wrong thing, don’t say anything that could be interpreted as “What? Are you some kind of moron? Don’t you know better than this?” It can be guaranteed your husband will not want to do that again or will see it as a chore for you because that sting will be remembered.

Suppose your husband does something really nice for you and decides to wash the dishes. If you take a look and say “Don’t you know how you’re supposed to scrub these? There are stains still all over this!” then congratulations on emasculating your husband right there. He will quite likely not want to do this again. It would work better to say “Honey. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it. I do want to show you this because there is a way to improve. You see, if you take the sponge and….” In fact, if you end it with “You know, I do appreciate what you did today and keep it up and I will REALLY appreciate it even more” then your husband will be begging to do the dishes for you. (Honestly women, if you want your husband to get up and do the vacuuming and things like that more often, seduce him. Seriously. You’ll have a husband lunging for that vacuum cleaner the moment you ask.)

This idea of nagging especially applies in public. Do not say something that is highly critical of your husband in public. If you’re at a couple’s event and you say something like that about your husband, he will instantly feel lowered. Believe it or not, men are very sensitive. You see, your man can brush off most everything everyone else in this world says. He cannot brush off what you say. He will take everything that you say and do extra seriously. Your man is still striving to be your knight in shining armor and he needs to know every day that that is how you view him and if you don’t feel that way at the moment, well tough. You would not give your husband a free pass on not being loving to you because he doesn’t feel like it. Give him the same courtesy back.

Ultimately, it is all about self-sacrifice. Now in your relationship, you might want to ask “Who makes the first move?” The answer to both parties who ask this is “You do.” The husband makes the first move. The wife makes the first move. You have no control over your spouse and how they’ll do at fulfilling their side of the covenant. You have great control over what you will do and how you will fulfill it. There is nothing in Ephesians that says “Husbands, love your wives, unless they don’t respect you and then you don’t love them.” It does not say “The wife must respect her husband, unless he’s being unloving and then don’t respect him.” Many struggles in marriage are because we are waiting for the other person to make the first move. I often tell people that it is better to be wronged than to do a wrong yourself. If you know the right thing to do, you simply do it.

Now many times, that could require patience on the part of someone else. For instance, I have a great phobia of water actually. As a child, the undertow dragged me under the water at the beach unexpectedly and I just don’t trust water. This makes it very hard for my wife who loves water in a pool with me because I absolutely panic to be away from the edge. I do require her patience, but I know that I must learn to overcome to some extent. (Of course, with the steel rod on my spine from earlier surgery, I will be limited anyway.) Where the other spouse is weak, be patient, but always try to be encouraging and enabling to them and let them know how much they’re capable of. Always try to realize that deep down, your spouse does want to please you.

Covenants are serious matters, but they can be a source of great joy and a wellspring of life if you cultivate them right. You know what you are to do. Your covenant is made before God and man. If you are wanting to honor God, you will honor your spouse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Death To Self In Marriage

Why is it that a marriage relationship requires hard work? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I lived the bachelor life for quite some time. I didn’t marry until two months before I turned 30. I had lived on my own for a time and then I lived with a roommate, who turned out to be my best man at my wedding. It was a couple of years after moving in that we realized that like the roommate agreement, we hadn’t put in anything about what if one of us gets a girlfriend. (That seemed a little too far-fetched) As it turns out, I was the one who got one and even after the first date, talk was buzzing around our circle of friends. “Well we all know where this is going.” Indeed, we did. My roommate moved into another place and I found another apartment for my future wife and I to live in together.

So then comes the wedding and then comes the honeymoon. When we get back, it’s time to get used to living our lives together as husband and wife with sharing a grocery bill, sleeping in the same bed, and of course sex is involved.

News flash to all of you out there who are unmarried.

This is radically different from anything else.

Now I could write a separate post sometime on why I think living together beforehand is really a disastrous idea, but not now. In fact, it could be when I’m done here you might get some clues as to why I think it’s so foolish. You see, after I made those vows and came home, I had to do my part of the work. I had to get used to sharing my life with someone else. When it was just me or just me and my roommate, for the most part, I could do my own thing. Oh sure, roommates have to make sacrifices for each other, and we did, but it’s not like a binding contract. If one of us had wanted to get out, well we could have I’m sure. Friendship does not require the level of sacrifice that marriage does.

Marriage shows that the pathway to true life is death. Not in a suicidal sense, but dying to the life of self. When you cling to yourself in a marriage, you will lose and in fact, your spouse will lose. What you do to yourself, you do to your spouse. What you do to your spouse, you do to you. There really is something to the whole idea of being one flesh. When you marry, you give up the right to be your own person as it were. You belong to your spouse and your spouse belongs to you.

This is why the marriage relationship can be so difficult at times. We all want to do our own thing and be able to get away with it. We all want there to be no consequences to our actions, but there are in fact consequences. There are prices to pay. There are no actions that have no ramifications. Every little thing you do has an impact. This is also because everything you do builds up a character. You are becoming a kind of person over and over and that is the kind of person that your spouse is going to have to live with. Remember this, in marriage, the greatest gift you give to your spouse ultimately is you.

This is one reason that when a husband wants sex, and in most marriages the husbands are the go-getters (Although I do like how Mark Gungor in his Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage says that he knows some of you men out there are married to women who love sex and want it constantly and can’t get enough and I think I speak on behalf of all men when I say “We hate you.”) and when you ask them what they want, it’s more than just pleasure and a good time. They want their wives. They want them as persons and nothing leaves them feeling closer to their wives than that sexual intimacy.

For a woman, a woman will often want that security from her man. She wants to feel safe and protected and nothing seems to make her feel as safe as the presence of the man in her life. My wife can be someone who can get scared of many things and I, as anyone who sees me knows, am not a big muscular man by any stretch of the imagination. I am actually very much underweight, and yet if I have her in my arms, my wife will feel much safer. What is it that makes her feel safer? It sure isn’t knowing that I’m a powerhouse who can take down anyone who comes after her. It’s just me. I’m what makes her feel safe.

Men and women want something different from each other in marriage. There is something that they do not have in themselves and they seek that in the other, but here’s the deal.

Both parties have to die.

A man will have to sacrifice much of himself for the love of his life. A man will give his time and his money and pass up many other things he would like to do. He’s no longer free to spend every minute of his day at the golf course or be spending all that time with his friends. Now of course, he can do that from time to time and that’s fine. When we lived in Charlotte, my wife knew that on Sunday evenings, I’d go out for a bit with my friends, but if she needed me, she could call and I’d be right there. She just knew that for me, time with my friends was important, just like I want Allie to have time with her female friends apart from me.

But a man has to sacrifice much of that and he does that when he marries, but let’s be sure on one thing. Men would not marry if it were not for sex. I’m not saying a man marries only for sex, but it sure is a high ranking reason. A man sees the beauty of the woman and wants to embrace and take it on and be received by all that beauty. He wants to be as close to the beauty as he possibly can.

And so, this is the death of the woman. A woman wants that kind of security quite often, but what does she have to do. She has to risk herself. She has to put herself in a position of vulnerability, but in order to do that, she must be convinced the person she’s with will not hurt her in any way. She must be willing to make herself totally vulnerable to that person in the most intimate way possible.

The beauty of this all is that the more the persons die to themselves, the more they actually find life. In fact, in the case of sexuality, they find true life in that that kind of love is capable of bringing about a life on its own.

And this is the difficulty of marriage. Our natural tendency is to look out for #1. In marriage, we have to not do that. That means that for the husbands, your wife needs that security from you and she needs you to sacrifice for her. Meanwhile, you wives, your husbands need that intimacy with you. You will have to sacrifice.

And in fact, the more each party sacrifices, the more it will not become a burden. It will become a joy. There will be no harm in giving something to your spouse that is entirely good for them. Their joy will be your joy.

Death is the way to life in marriage, but that life is something beautiful.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Listening To Bids

Are we missing hearing something that our spouses are trying to tell us? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My pastor preached an excellent sermon on marriage Sunday. You know it’s incredible when you do a sermon on Ephesians 5 and the passage that starts with wives submitting to husbands and yet, the pastor manages to leave the church in one piece. After the sermon ended, Allie and I went out to get some lunch together and discussed the sermon, mainly what submission looks like and what sacrifice looks like.

As I’ve thought about it this week, it has occurred to me that someone once told me about how in marriage, we often make bids. What they meant by this is that the person who is making the bid is asking for one thing, but in reality, they’re really asking for something greater than the simple request that they’re asking.

Allie and I can have many different interests. For instance, we can experience this when it comes time for the Super Bowl and it’s insisted that we have to watch it around here.

Why she wants to I still do not understand….

Meanwhile, on my end, a big event would be getting to go to an apologetics conference. I’m sure she understands this more than I do as to why I like it so much, but still, it just doesn’t have the same draw for her.

Each time we get this request, we need to realize there is something much deeper being asked. Of course, there are times we can’t fulfill the request. There are many times I would like to be able to buy Allie something, and I just can’t do it. Of course, there are times I want her to do something and she can’t. Husbands and wives need to understand this in each other.

So to get to the request, let’s use music as an example. Allie and I have incredibly different tastes in music and for me, most of her stuff I just cannot get into at all. Yet lately, I realized I am way too hard on it. If I listen and find I don’t like it, Allie is fine with that. I am under no obligation to like what she likes. On the other hand, if I dismiss it even before hearing it, then I am rejecting her in a sense. She is showing me something she likes because she is seeking to connect with me.

How does this work in reverse? For those of us who are husbands, one of our main drives is physical affection, especially in the area of sex. This is an area that is defining to us and women can often think that this is all men think about. As I said when teaching on marriage at a church class lately, this is nonsense because we men think about many other things like…

ummm….

uhhh….

errr….

Give me a few on this one. Alright?

When a husband makes a request of his wife be it verbal or non-verbal for affection, he’s wanting something more than physical pleasure. He’s wanting that connection. The reality is in their own way, husbands and wives want the same thing. They want to be connected. Now let’s take this idea and see where else we go wrong with it.

Let’s pick on the husbands first.

The husbands could say “Well she needs to know how much this means to me and if she really cares about me, she’ll be physically affectionate with me more often.”

Now of course, you can explain how much this means to you and why it matters so much, but don’t you see that at this point you’re pointing to her as the problem? One piece of advice in marriage I have tried to follow is that when problems arise, try to look in the mirror first. See if there is something that you are doing wrong. If you have to, ask a friend for advice.

Okay. Your wife isn’t being responsive to you. Could it be you’re doing something wrong? Consider the man who comes home from work and sits down on his chair, the first thing he asks his wife is to bring him dinner, and he eats it while watching TV and not paying attention to his wife. Then when they go to bed in the evening, he wants her to want to make love to him.

Because, you know, being treated like just a servant when she gets home has just turned her on so much.

You see, your wife all day has been cleaning the house, taking care of the kids, doing laundry, and any number of things for you while you’ve been away. Why has she been doing this? She’s been doing it so you won’t have to do it. When you come in, she would appreciate knowing how much what she does is appreciated and you connecting with her before you connect with the television.

Now I’m sure the wives are happy to hear this, but let’s turn the tables around.

Yeah. Your husband might be being insensitive here, but he’s been out working all day. For all you know, his boss got after him today without any real reason. He’s bored silly in a job he can’t stand where he finds himself tremendously underpaid and when he gets home, he wants to forget about everything and the last thing he wants to hear is “How was your day?”

The mistake here is to think however that one spouse is in the right. In reality, both need to seek to change as much as they can.

Both also need to realize that when each one withdraws from the other, and both of them are guilty of it, it only pushes the other spouse to withdraw even further. Part of marriage you find is it really is about learning to give to the other. Husbands. You want that sexual connection with your wife? Then you need to learn to connect to her emotionally. Find the way that lets her know that she is your treasure. Remember, your actions will speak louder than words. You can speak easily about all the things you’d do for her. It means a lot more when you actually do them. Believe it or not, this might mean you actually do some things around the house even when you get home. Sacrifice first to meet her needs.

So wives, you want that emotional connection with your husbands? Then consider submitting more to his advances on you. You can say and do everything else in the world, but if you don’t meet the primary longing in your husband, it won’t really matter. (And if there is a difficulty with this due to past events, I highly encourage counseling and a good husband will be supportive and understanding in this.) You can say you don’t feel like it, but chances are your husband doesn’t feel like talking about his day or doing housework when he gets home.

In fact, my pastor when giving this sermon gave this claim that is quite amazing. Try living like this for two days and see what happens. See if there’s a change. Let the husband be sacrificial to his wife for two days and see if she has a major change. Let the wife live submissively to her husband for two days and see if he has a major change.

In the end, husbands and wives who love each other both want the same end. They both want to connect with their spouse. They just see that differently. The tragedy is we’re often so busy blaming the other that we forget to look at our own selves, and there are always ways we can be improving.

And once again, I am not a master at this by any means, but like many of you spouses out there, I’m working on it. One benefit of writing something like this out is you hope to not only help others, but realize you say something that you can hold your own self accountable to if need be.

Treasure the spouse that God gave you and do all that you can to show them in the way that speaks loudest to them your great love for them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is God a SadoMasochist?

Is the cross just a sick and depraved act? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, this video was brought to my attention. Be warned that it does contain strong profanity for all interested as well as some disturbing images. I put it up here just so that readers can make sure I have given an accurate representation of the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXXgUpv7APE

Now lately, I’ve spent much time blogging about how we have the gospel wrong. We have taken a part of it, forgiveness, which is an important part, and made it the whole deal.

When John the Baptist and Jesus showed up teaching the gospel, most people were not thinking about forgiveness. The Jewish system already had a way set up where you could receive forgiveness and there was no major need to replace it. Of course, some did come for forgiveness as Jesus was showing how forgiveness would work in the Kingdom, but Jesus did not preach an unheard of concept. All the Jews knew about forgiveness.

Jesus taught something greater. He taught that the plan of Israel was coming to a fruition. God was about to act to rectify the problem. What problem is that? It is the problem of sin and evil and death. Our teaching today tends to ask about the cross “What does it do for me?” It is foreign for us to think about the rest of the world.

So in replying to the producer of the vid, who based on his name I will just call BD for short, we will need to keep this in mind. Nowhere is there any material about the kingdom of God in the video, or about the problem of evil, or anything about the story of Israel.

Note also something else important that never shows up in the video. Never do we see an argument against the existence of God. We do not see an argument that shows that the resurrection did not happen. It is as if BD just wants to hit us with an emotional attack and make us not think about the real claim. If God exists and if Jesus did rise, then Christianity is true and that must be dealt with.

So let’s deal with some errant concepts that show up.

BD has a terrible rendition of the Trinity where the Son is the reincarnation (How can there be a reincarnation without a first incarnation) of the Father. However, he also uses the classic Bill Maher type of argumentation where God sends Himself to sacrifice to Himself, Himself to solve the problem that He Himself created.

If BD does not want to be a Christian. Fine. If he wants to think the Trinity is nonsense. Fine. Yet in all of this, at least get the concept right. If someone wants to be an atheist, at least seek to be an informed atheist. When I see a misrepresentation of the Trinity in this way I automatically know this is someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. A good library would have volumes that would help give BD some understanding of the Trinity even if he doesn’t believe in it.

BD also wishes to point out that some people have suffered worse than Jesus. This is not being denied. But so what? BD assumes the worst part of the crucifixion was the pain of the cross. Of course the cross was physically painful, but it was more designed to be socially painful. It was designed to shame the criminal before others and thus give the notion to anyone else watching that “Maybe you don’t want to do what this guy did.”

Furthermore, Jesus being shamed was said thus to be a traitor to Rome and to be under the curse of YHWH. This is what makes the resurrection so important. The resurrection is the vindication of the claim of Jesus to be the King of Israel. It is God raising Him up so He can rule, since a dead king cannot rule the Kingdom of God. It is a reversal of the shame and God giving Jesus the place of highest honor.

So what about that sacrifice? How could it be a sacrifice if Jesus knew He was coming back? When something was offered to God, God could do with it what He wanted. Jesus had to face shame and death as it was entirely to take on the full curse for us. (If you remember, Genesis 3 has a little something about a curse) In facing death and shame head on, Jesus is able to overcome them for us. He is able to rectify the problems of evil, death, and sin.

This is why the story of Israel is so important. Genesis 3 is not an accidental test. It sets the whole tone of the Bible from then on. It’s not the case that the story of Abraham has nothing to do with that. The story has everything to do with it. Abraham’s role is to help restore that which was lost. Over and over, man fails at the attempt to rule as God desires, until finally Jesus comes who is able to do that.

Well couldn’t God just forgive? Not exactly. God is the greatest good and thus has the greatest honor. If God decides He won’t punish sin, then He is not treating Himself as the greatest good. He is being inconsistent. If He does this just for us, then it is akin to idolatry.

God must be just. That must mean there must be some punishment given for sin. BD wishes to make it be that God delights in punishing us. If that was the case, then one wonders why forgiveness would be offered at all. If God just wanted to punish us, He could have been eternally just and never sent Jesus and no one could say “You’ve done wrong.” God is under no obligation to forgive anyone or even provide a way of forgiveness.

Of course, BD has the idea of Hell as a torture chamber. Is he truly unaware that there are many different views of Hell, including ones that see it as eternal conscious torment, that are not torture chamber motifs? This includes my own view that sees Heaven and Hell as not physical locations, but as relational realities. The same sun that melts wax hardens clay. The love of God that melts the hearts of the repentant hardens the hearts of those opposed.

In conclusion, we note that BD has not given any arguments against the central truths of Christianity but has chosen to speak (Quite ignorantly) of the parts he does not understand. Once again, if someone wants to be an atheist, be one, but at least be informed in your atheism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters