If someone were to ask you if you are a Christian or not, what would your answer be? If it would be something like, “Well I’m trying my best”, I have some unfortunate news for you. It seems as though you don’t know what Jesus is all about. It may not be your fault. We live in a time where there are many self help motivators that we call Pastors. Not many have a deep knowledge of what the gospel even is anymore. Because of that, many of us are left without the true essence of Jesus and are given simply self righteous, works based religion, like every other belief system out there.
Grace is the wild card. It changes everything, and completely separates Jesus from any other religious system. Every belief system, overtly religious or not (every belief system is religious, but thats for another post), is based on a promotion mindset. The whole idea is if I do these 5 things, follow these 8 steps, move towards morality, increase my capability of reason, etc, I will find salvation. If you can do all of these things then you can “move up” in the system and work your way to heaven. We all have this thought in us. When someone dies and has a funeral, most will say, “They were a good person, they must be in heaven.”. We are constantly working to earn the love and favor of God. And we do this because we instinctively know, we aren’t good enough and need to improve.
But Jesus isn’t about that. I know it actually may be a shock to some of you. Jesus isn’t focused on your works. He already did the work. Jesus isn’t about promotion, He’s about adoption. It’s a status change. And there is no in between. With Jesus you are either in or out. There’s no trying because its not about what you do, it’s about what He did.
A very illuminating way to get this idea is to actually look into the Old Testament. What we can do is look at the process of God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. If someone were to just guess why God delivered them out of Egypt, I have a feeling it would go something like this, “Well, the people must have been asking him for a while, and finally started to do what he wanted, they listened and did all the rituals and stuff, and so when God was pleased and satisfied He helped them.”. Maybe not that barebones, but along those lines. But that is not what happened at all. It’s actually quite amazing. The Bible tells us that God had made a promise to Abraham that his offspring would be God’s people and that He would rescue them from Egypt. Then when the time came, the people cried out to God. The Bible says that God heard them and sent Moses, a mediator, and God delivered them. Then the people crossed the Red Sea, switched over from slavery and death, to life and freedom. Their status was changed and there hasn’t even been a single reference to God’s law. Only after God’s rescued them did he lead them to Sinai, where the law was given to govern the people and work holiness in them.
God didn’t save them because they did anything at all. They didn’t earn it, they were given it. And the same is true for us and Jesus. Our Sin is Egypt, our conversion in the Red Sea, and we’re saved by grace - not because of good works. That is the gospel.
If you do claim to know Christ, He says to you today, “You ARE the light of the world.”. Not that you could be, can be, or ought to be. You ARE, because of his work. The works come after, not before. Jesus says after calling us the light of the world that we need to shine our light, by doing good works, so that all men might see and glorify God. Good works don’t earn you salvation, Jesus dying on the cross and your trust in him do. But good works do show the evidence of your transformation.
Be encouraged today. If you are in Christ, YOU SHINE. No if, ands, or buts about it. But remember also, just because you claim to know Him, doesn’t mean much. Putting a verse as a Facebook post, or tweeting a Christian author, even showing up to Church doesn’t make you a Christian - trusting in Jesus and submitting your life to him does. The evidence of your allegiance to Him is seen in your love for His ways.
YOU SHINE, let the whole word see it.
Real Men…are Gentle
When someone says the word, ‘Manly’, I’m sure the farthest thing from what comes to mind is the word gentle. Gentleness, generally is ascribed to the women or really wimpy men, but not real tough guys. How stupid.
In 1 Timothy 3:3 Paul tells us that men are to be, “not violent but gentle…” (ESV) How often do we fail at this in what we think manhood really is. But, what is gentleness? Paul contrasts it to violence, so that should give us a hint into what he is meaning. A gentle person is controlled, level headed, and fair minded. Gentleness does not mean that there is an absence of power, ability or authority. But it does mean that the way I conduct myself, how I speak, interact, feel, react, etc. are under control and appropriate.
You see there is a continuum that men fall on, some call it the tough/tender, others the warrior/poet continuum. Whatever you want to call it, it means that at one end there is all tough, all warrior mentality, no emotion, duty, violent, anger, reactivity. And the other is the passivity, the impish, emotional and easily swayed, no backbone and cant defend himself or anyone else. Either of these two extremes are wrong, are boyish. A Man works to be the middle ground. Let’s look to Jesus.
A perfect balance of these two extremes is profoundly observable in the life of Jesus. There are times when he has to be tough with people, we can think of how he interacts with the Pharisees who religiously oppress people (Luke 7, Matthew 15, Matthew 23), how he cleansed the temple and flipped over table because of the sin (John…) and even how in the garden before he was sent to be crucified as he was praying he was sweating drops of blood and yet still saying that his fathers will should be done. (Luke…) When he needed to be he was tough. He spoke with conviction, stood for what was right, fought for the worthwhile things. But he was also tender. Like how he desired to have the kids come to him, how he spoke to the woman who anointed his feet with her tears, how even on the cross he was looking to take care of his mother, how he treated the woman caught in adultery before the Pharisees, how he wept for the death of his close friend. Jesus was gentle, he was that middle ground, that perfect balance and what we should strive to be.
Boys just go with their emotions, which for many men is primarily anger. That’s why Paul contrasts gentleness with violence. Males can be violent aggressive creatures. Men know when it is appropriate and when it isn’t. Boys think punching hard means something. Men are warrior poets who understand emotions yet are willing to fight a worthwhile battle.
So, how then should Real Men live?
First, what do your words sound like and what is the tone that is behind them? This is a great clue as to where you are on the gentleness continuum. Admittedly, I struggle with this one. I come from a house of 4 brothers and we are loud and not always the most gentle people with each other. And of course it becomes a habit of speech. But how you speak and the words you use do reflect your heart. Are they uplifting words? Or are you often sarcastic, and rude? Are you prideful in how you talk and build yourself up? Do you use your words to intimidate those around you? If you do that to a women, then you’re a joke and need to shut up until you learn how to speak. Is your tone giving or taking? Does it breathe life into a situation or person or does it spew death? How you talk is extremely important.
Which leads us to how you react. How you talk is often influenced by your controlled or uncontrolled reactions. Do you react quickly and harshly? Is your temper under control or does it go off in a second? If so you need to repent of being violent. Violence isn’t just physical, it can be emotional. Gentleness reacts slowly, as we are told we need to be, “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19) Gentleness doesn’t expect everything to go my way or the highway. Gentleness honours the other person even in a moment of disagreement. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you. Like, when you and your wife, or anyone, has a slight misunderstanding, are you quick to get angry because she isn’t doing it right? Or said something wrong? Be gentle, be humble.
Obviously, how you physically act is also defined by gentleness. Any male who would even hit a woman or child in anger, to prove a point, display dominance, intentionally harm is demonic boy. A gentle man never physically intimidates his wife or children. He doesn’t fight them, he fights for them. Gentleness doesn’t mean that you cant physically be strong and be able to defend your family literally. Your wife should feel safe under your physical protection. Impish boys make their wives do the defending. They make their wives have the backbone. And this is wrong. Men are called the stronger vessel for a reason. Do you physically harm your wife? Stop, get help and repent. Do you intimidate your children? Grow up. Repent. Are you unnecessarily harmful to creation? To plants and animals? Are you destructive? It’s not just ‘being a man’, it’s sin. Repent, and steward God’s creation.
Gentleness is not just restricted to anger or aggression its also a positive attribute that adds to a person. Are you sweet and loving to your wife? Does she know she can come to you at all times, with any concern? Do you call her names or bless her with your words? Do you love her the way she needs to be loved? If not, ask her how you can, repent for not, and grow up. Do you spend quality time with your kids? Do you build them up? Or is that just sissy stuff? Become a Dad, throw out the fake macho act and tenderly love your kids
Boys think that being gentle means being a women, and that is stupid. Gentleness is a deep way the Men get to embody Christ to their families and the world. Men, its time to move past the stoic, macho man definition into true masculinity.
Real Men…take Responsibility
Real Men take responsibility. I wrote a couple weeks ago about how men need to be men of repentance, they need to refrain from blame shifting and man up when they screw up. But, what about when you have no direct fault?
The answer: Even if it’s not your fault, because you are a Man, it’s your responsibility.
This is most obviously seen in the work and life of Jesus. To put the gospel simply, when Adam ate the fruit the human race was plunged into the depravity of sin. We were separated from God and nothing that we could do, could ever repair the relationship. So, Jesus left heaven, incarnated as a man, and lived a perfect sinless life, and then was rejected, abused, and murdered to pay the debt of our sin, and rose again to victory.
Now, the key in Jesus’ life is this, he died as the payment for sin after living a perfect life. The Sin wasn’t his fault, he didn’t do anything wrong, but he took the responsibility on himself to deal with it. Men are called to emulate this in how they treat their wives, families, and even in everyday situations.
Boys try to pass the responsibility on to someone else. Their battlecry is “well it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t do anything to cause this…” Most likely you did. But even besides that, if you are the man in the situation its your responsibility. It’s your job to man up and start taking responsibility.
This responsibility starts with yourself obviously. Taking care of yourself, growing up, and owning up to the demands of life. Then it must move beyond yourself. You take responsibility for the well-being of a woman and take a wife, you take the responsibility of children and become a father who loves his kids and is present for them, he takes responsibility for the well-being of his church, community, city, country, and world. (Not everyone is called to be a husband and father, but statistically, most of you will)
A Man takes responsibility for the state of his marriage and the well being of his wife. Your wife’s relationship with Jesus is not determined by you, but it is your responsibility to make sure she is doing well. Sin that is present is her life is not your fault, but it is your responsibility. The health of your marriage is determined by both of you, but it is your job as the man to be the covenant head (more on this in a later post). She might be to blame for the problem, but it’s your responsibility to fix it. Don’t be a joke and pass the responsibility off onto your wife to do all the work, you need to cover her, pray for her, work for her, serve her. (For you single guys, this applies to you as well. If you have a girlfriend, and are headed toward marriage, you should be trying to cover her with prayer, and encourage her in her relationship with Jesus as well. )
A Man takes responsibility for the next generation. I firmly believe that most men should desire to be a father. (Yes, there are exceptions, but you probably aren’t one) I find that you can tell what males haven’t grown up by the ones who don’t want to have kids, because simply put, they are too selfish and kids will just get in the way. The Bible tells us that children are a blessing and since God himself is revealed as father, there should be a desire to understand that father type love. Boys want to care about themselves only, maybe get a woman for sex and selfish companionship, not covenant love. Men want to love a woman, and raise kids. It’s about responsibility and seeing the next generation go far beyond the current one. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy and Titus that man is responsible for the spiritual health of his kids. His kids sins aren’t his fault, but it is his responsibility to oversee his kids, and loving lead them to Jesus, to be their pastor. Their purity, morality, physical health, mental healthy, media consumption, education, etc. is your responsibility. No one ever said that being a man was easy.
A Man takes responsibility for the health of his church. He serves the church, honors the pastors, tithes to the church. He desires to see the kingdom of God move forward and works to it. He doesn’t complains that things may not be going well, he shuts up and stands up and starts serving. He takes responsibility for his church.
A Man takes responsibility for the well being of his community, city, nation, and the world. He takes responsibility for the place where he dwells. He seeks to bring betterment to the immediate community by creating a proper familial culture in his house and deeply cares for his neighbors. He works for the betterment of his city, seeking to meet the needs. He cares for creation and stewards what God has made.
A Real Man steps up and takes responsibility for himself, for his wife, kids, church, community, city and world. He moves beyond himself and does the hard work of caring for and working to better others.
When God seems Silent..
We all have had times when God seems to have ignored us and shut his mouth. We seek him, we cry out but there is no answer, there is no response and it seems that even at the hardest of times is when God is the quietest. How are we to deal with that?
The first place we have to begin at is that in his word, the Bible, God is always speaking. We know that in the Bible God has given us His words and so they are the foundation upon which we build our lives, and find our peace. Too often we can get caught up in needing to ‘hear’ the Holy Spirit speaking specifically into a situation, but we have to consider that there is so much going on in our hearts that to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit is much more difficult than what it would normally be. We hear ourselves saying what we really want, we hear ourselves speaking what we think we ought to want, we have the enemy speaking lies, we have other people speaking what they want and feel, and the Holy Spirit as well and often times the voices get confused and God seems silent. And so to have a solid word spoken into your situation you need to become fluent in the word. The bible is speaking to you in your present situation. (Hebrews 4:12)
We must always keep in mind when God is silent that God is a sovereign God. It may seem a tad cold to be honest, especially in the face of great trial, but God, if He is who He says He is, is in control. (Ps. 73:28) When Job was robbed by Satan of all that he had and his wife, who had the response that most of us would have, told him to curse God and die (Job…) Job responds the way a man with a deep knowledge of God should respond, not emotionless, but as a man who trusts in God, “ The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job..) Job worshiped God. But as his friends came around and started accusing him of sin that must have caused this trial, Job does lament, as any man would, and calls out to God for an answer. And after 38 chapters God finally speaks, but really just displays His splendor and Sovereignty. He doesn’t belittle Job but He does make the point that He is God, and no one is above God to judge His actions. Jesus is much like this as well. In the garden before the cross Jesus calls out and asks the Father to take the trial from Him, but He finishes the conversation with the Father by saying that not His will but the Father’s be done. It may not be easy, almost cliché, but it is really true that God is the sovereign God and we can trust Him. So, even when God seems silent, we know that He is in control.
In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah is lamenting over his current situation. He says God is basically trying to kill, calling God a lion and a bear waiting to devour him, that he is God’s target for his bow practice. But then in verse 21 he switches his tone and gives a deep key insight into how we can face the moments when God is silent. Hear Jeremiah’s words, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope because of the Lord’s great lovewe are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:21-23) Jeremiah says that the reason he can hope is not that God has come to him and spoken to him in a thundering whirlwind but that he recalled, he remembered who God is, that our God is a God of love, that His love upholds us, that He is compassionate and intimate and faithful. And because of all these things, we have hope. Our hope and trust is independent of our situation. It is founded in the very nature of God.
I know that this doesn’t solve the present trial. People are still sick, stomachs are still hungry, hearts are still broken, but what it does do is give us a new perspective. We can be comforted in that even though we feel as though God might be ignoring us, silent, or even causing our pain, we can know that he is certainly speaking to us, His word is always fresh, and since He is faithful we know that He is right here, “not far from anyone of us.” (Acts 17:27), and the Holy Spirit is speaking.
When you feel like God is silent know that He is not. Know that He is faithful and that His word is living and active. Do not let the circumstance determine your hope or trust, let His character determine it.
Men love being right. I can think of no man who would ever admit to loving being wrong. But you see, a Real Man is humble enough to know when he is wrong and fix it, with a repentant heart. Boys love to blame-shift, they don’t want to be corrected and are too prideful to admit a fault. For them it’s always someone else’s fault and they are quick to point out whose.
It all started way back in the garden. God had made Eden, and proceeded to make us. He made Adam, the first man, and told him to tend to the garden, to take care of it and keep it. God gave Adam one prohibition, that he was not to eat from the one tree. Along comes Eve, for God saw that it was not good for Adam to exist alone. The two, man and woman, husband and wife (yes, married) lived together in that Garden overseeing it together.
But, there is always a ‘but’ with us, Satan went and tempted Eve with the ‘forbidden fruit’, she ate of it and gave to Adam, “who was with her…” (Gen. 3:6) and he ate. And at that moment, sin entered into the world, and when God came to find them they hid. They were ashamed, and rightly so, but Adam hid from God when he should have repented. In fact, God comes and calls Adam out, and here’s Adams response:
“And [God] said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’
The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’” – (Gen. 3:11-12, emphasis added)
Not once did Adam step up and take the blame for the action that he did. He immediately shifts the blame both to Eve and to God! He says the woman that God gave him caused all this. Adam tried to pass blame to whoever he could as long as it made him seem better than he was, even blaming God.
This is typical boyhood behavior. Whenever a boy is confronted with wrong doing he blame shifts and always finds someone else to pin it on, never himself, he is to perfect to be bad after all. It is simply pride. This is no perversion of a good quality, this is no deficit of the good, it is simply disgusting, all bad, prideful.
Men repent. Men are humble enough to admit to being wrong and work to make things right. They take responsibility, and even love being corrected that they may grow in righteousness. Unfortunately, repentance has been take by a bunch of boys and watered down and destroyed so that they can feel like they are being men by having a sense of false repentance, where saying “I’m sorry” fixes everything. True repentance is characterized by 4 main things: Confession, Reparation, Change, Accountability.
Confession – “Therefore confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16) Repentance is not getting caught! We often are quick to ‘repent’ when we are found out. All this proves is that we aren’t really sorry for our sin. If we were truly repentant and hated the wrong we were doing we wouldn’t need to get caught, we would confess. We would man up and own up. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you are sorry when you continue in your sin and hide it. In John 1 we are told that the light comes into the darkness and exposes it. It takes a lot of humility to expose oneself and that is what a man does. Pride waits to be caught then tries to patch it up with a quick plea of shame and saying sorry, Men confess and expose the wrong.
Reparation – Just because we as Christians are people who are supposed to be filled with grace and forgiveness, doesn’t mean we also shouldn’t make things right. If it is within your power to make things right between you and the offended party, it’s your duty as a Man to do so. This is just another level of added humility. It takes humility to confess and be exposed and it takes even more to say, “how can I fix this?”. In some situations this is obviously impossible, but where it is within your power, you fix it, even if it is a simple flower for the wife.
These last two, these are where you find out whether you are really a Man or not.
Change - We are told by John in his first letter that we are to hate what is of the world – or sin. (1 John 2:15-16) And once we confess our sin, our job is not to do it again and continue sinning, or offending, or abusing. We should hate wrong doing and TRUE repentance is change. It is NOT enough to say I’m sorry and expectant that you can use that as a get out of jail free card. Repentance can be visualized by a complete turning away from. Imagine yourself hugging your sin, a deep embrace, repentance is marked by a letting go of and turning and embracing Jesus. It’s a 180 degree switch. NOTHING LESS! 179 degrees isn’t enough.
Accountability - Because you as a Man hate sin and don’t want to continue it, you get accountable. This shows that you want again to be exposed, corrected and matured. To try to be repentant by fighting the fight all on your own is either pride thinking that you can do, which you can’t, you need Jesus and community, or you don’t want to be held accountable because you want to continue in your sin. Accountability says I don’t want to continue, I want to change, and I admit my weakness. Simply, humility.
Men are not like their forefather Adam, a blame-shifter. Men are repentant. Boys are pride filled, arrogant and shallow. They won’t take responsibility, they won’t change, they won’t pursue what is right and just.
Men grow in humility, grow in repentance.
It should sadden anyone of us to come to the realization that we live in a age dominated by boys. We have bought into the lie that somehow going through puberty makes a boy into a man. But, truly, age has nothing to do with Manhood. The truth is, all males are born boys and they can die as one. Unfortunately, in our modern day Manhood has been murdered, and it’s time for a resurrection.
For any of you who may read these blog posts, I will be up front and honest. I am unashamedly a Christian, and will be writing from that perspective. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn, or can’t be challenged to grow. I pray that as I share what true Manhood is, I will continue to grow as I read and write, and you will be able to grow into Manhood. (For the ladies, this will be just as beneficial for you, since we all know you want a real man to end up with, so take notes, don’t lower your standards **but have grace, men do screw up a lot).
Real Men… Worship.
The greatest thing a man can do for a woman, his children one day, friends and neighbors, is lead them to a deeper knowledge of Christ and his gospel of Grace and life. But in order to do that he needs to know and love Jesus himself. You see, the call to Manhood is literally impossible. To even think right now that you can be a man within your own strength is ridiculous. You might be thinking that you know plenty of “good” men who aren’t Christians, and I don’t doubt that their have been good men, but we need to realize that all of us are broken, all of us sinful. In Isaiah 64:6 we are told that even our good works are like dirty menstrual rags before our Holy and Perfect God, and I’ll tell you this much, I have been a pretty good guy by all the world’s standards, and yet, the one thing I know is that I sin all the time, and even after I have surrendered my life to God, I am in desperate need of his help. This is a HIGH calling, Manhood isn’t for the faint of heart, it isn’t for the weak willed but it is for the humble. Manhood begins in the heart that is humble enough to admit to what you already know, that you suck and you need a saviour. That is the gospel, it isn’t good works, it isn’t earning God’s love, it is humble admission and repentance of sin, it is placing your trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus, not that complicated really.
Once you surrender your life to God, you open yourself up to his work in you and that is where Manhood starts. Here’s why… all the markings of boy (which we will discuss over the next weeks) are sin, and so to grow up in Manhood is to grow in Holiness. Martin Luther wrote that if we can get the first commandment right (Ex. 20:3, worshiping God alone) the rest will just take care of themselves, and that is where the lightbulb should have went off. Sin, or boyhood in this context, is a worship issue. A boy worships himself, he is surrendered to no body, he looks out for number one, takes for himself, uses for himself, and in this place of prideful worship is found all the failings of a man. But when a man chooses to surrender and worship, he begins the journey on Manhood. When he allows the gospel and Christ to shape and transform him, when he can admit his inadequacy and seeks the saviour, he is already displaying the beginning signs of Manhood (surrender, humility, accountability, selflessness).
And I am not talking about some one time prayer you prayed at summer camp 15 years ago. I am talking about true worship, a deep love for God and his word, a surrender to God’s desires and a continual life intimacy with Him (John 15). This is where I must lament the most, there are way to many ‘Christian’ boys, who are quite frankly jokes. Whether they are 16 or 65, they take the Lord’s name in vain by the actions of their lives and it’s sick. A Real Man loves Jesus, is surrendered to God and wants live out His grace.
In the next weeks we will look at these signs of a Real Man:
Humility, Love, Sacrifice, Grace, Service, Mercy, Purity, Forgiveness, Repentance, Integrity, Faithfulness, Perseverance, Provision, Protection, Toughness, Gentleness, Wisdom, Generosity, Identity, Legacy, Intercession, Peace, Justice, and I’m positive other that will come in along the way.