Monthly Archives: April 2012

On Christian Manliness

I was grumpy this morning.

It happens occasionally. Usually it is an unnamed dissatisfaction, an uptight sort of irritation that is just there it seems. I attempt to identify the cause of this feeling, (have I ate anything in the last seven hours?) but only for a few seconds, as prolonged efforts only compound the sensation. The best remedy is to name it aloud; “I am grumpy right now.” It is often helpful to have an engaging conversation as well.

Today, however, I had a bit of a rant.

After my wife graciously heard me out, (which is a long process; I have to stop myself mid-rant to make sure the things I am saying are truly valid, I hate making inaccurate or meaningless statements) she suggested I should blog about it. I won’t rant here, I’ll just express my thoughts.

The topic: Christian Manliness.

Manliness in the church has been a hot issue in the last decade. Many books, programs, seminars, conferences, and group study materials have been produced to address and solve this issue of manhood. I personally have read a couple books addressing this issue. I have been to the “Wild-at-Heart” conference, a weekend-long event specifically targeting the area of Christian manliness. I have even participated in “Novemberfest”, a celebration of manliness that included a couple of my guy friends eating bratwurst and ultra hot wings, watching braveheart, and drinking really dark beer, all without a shirt on; and no shirts allowed.

Essentially, while many of these activities and products may make people feel manly, they certainly do little to nothing to actually produce true manliness in an individual. In some cases, they actually are harmful in that they wind up establishing framework for manhood that is quite other than what scripture would tell us. This is detrimental in that case, even if manliness is achieved, it is an earthly manliness which is of little spiritual value, compared to a godly manliness, which is of eternal worth.

And so basically my rant was that the proposed fixes for Christian manliness tend to look in all the wrong places.

The power to grow in manliness is not repeated viewings of Braveheart, or Rocky or any other MAN movie (certainly not The Expendibles, as I heard one man suggest recently!) nor is it doing any number of manly events or activities. As many of the MAN books or seminars that I am familiar with would point you to some of these things, they too are powerless to produce true manliness.

No; the power to grow in manliness comes from sound doctrine.

I have experienced this to be true in my life. I am in many ways not the same person I was just a few years ago. I have grown leaps and bounds in confidence, maturity, wisdom, and strength; and I can connect most all of this growth to truths I have learned about God, Christ, sin, myself, the world, the flesh, the devil, the Holy Spirit, and so on. Having a proper understanding on these issues has positioned me and empowered me to make decisions that I would not have made before, decisions that reflect the growing maturity as a man.

What I have realized is that true manliness is not a standalone character trait or collection of traits; rather, true manliness is the male expression of godliness. The “manliness deficiency” I experienced as a boy, and adolescent, and right up into my twenties was really a godliness deficiency.

It follows then that the cure for any lack of manliness is not to redefine manliness, nor to expose ourselves to worldly displays and complexes of manhood, nor to engage in more “man activities”, but to seek godliness. 

This reminded me of some messages I had heard a year ago that were immensely profitable to me. A pattern of spiritual growth is outlined in 1 John 2 that I want you to notice. John outlines his reasons for writing his letter, starting in verse 12.

I am writing to you, dear children, 
   because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 
I am writing to you, fathers, 
   because you know him who is from the beginning. 
I am writing to you, young men, 
   because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, dear children, 
   because you know the Father. 
I write to you, fathers, 
   because you know him who is from the beginning. 
I write to you, young men, 
   because you are strong, 
   and the word of God lives in you, 
   and you have overcome the evil one.

This scripture outlines three progressive categories of spiritual maturity: CHILDREN, YOUNG MEN, and FATHERS. We can apply this very profitably to a discussion on biblical manhood. Notice how each category is defined:

CHILDREN – Sins forgiven for his names sake, and they know their heavenly father.

YOUNG MEN – Have overcome the evil one, are strong, the word of God lives in them.

FATHERS – Know him who is from the beginning.

I’m going to add one more category to lump in everyone to whom none of these categories apply:

OTHERS – Sins not forgiven, don’t know the heavenly father.

By noting the differences in each category, we can discern what is necessary to move from one category to the next:

OTHERS –> CHILDREN

The process of spiritual maturity (and growth toward true manhood, to stick to our topic) begins with SALVATION. Consider John 1:12 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. You begin the process of spiritual growth as a Child, born again into the family of God. God is the heavenly father to every true Child of God. Note that the Child has his sins forgiven and knows his heavenly father; these are the first things that accompany salvation, the forgiveness of sins and the knowledge of the loving heavenly father.

It is critical to note that the Bible recognizes no true maturity, no growth, no manliness apart from Salvation. That is the absolute beginning; the scriptures d. I will return to this thought later.

CHILDREN –> YOUNG MEN

While it is wonderful to know the heavenly father, and have their sins forgiven them, this would be a sorry place to end. There are two full categories of maturity (and degrees of true manliness) that await the newborn Christian, and by all means he should strive to attain them.

Consider now the difference between the Child and the Young man, specifically of what they take in. I have a child of 8 months, and while he is happy and healthy, he has a habit of indiscriminately putting whatever he can get his hands on into his mouth. For this reason, it is imperative that I as the loving parent am on constant duty to ensure he does not take in anything dangerous. Now, I can say with confidence that as a young man, he will not have retained that habit. As a young man, he will know what to take in and what not to take in, what is good for him and what is bad.

This is precisely the physical picture of the spiritual reality that we are considering in this shift from the Child to the Young Man. The Child consumes indiscriminately, taking into his mind and heart all manner of teaching or philosophy; some good, much useless, and much detrimental.

The Young Man however has no such problem, we are told that his is strong, and that he has overcome the evil one. What a feat that is! Should believers not strive with all they have to earn that claim? For we know that the evil one is none other than the Devil himself, the enemy of all that God is and all that we would become. How is it that a mere child can grow to overcome Satan himself?

The answer comes in considering further our enemy. He goes by many names; for today let us consider him as “The Father of Lies” (John 8:44) and “The Deciever”. We can think of how one with names such as these might be overcome; by the truth! One who is grounded in the truth cannot be deceived, and one who knows the truth will recognize the lie. The greater the knowledge, the greater the scope of our victory.

It is by DISCERNMENT and DOCTRINE that children can mature into young men, even overcome the devil. Consider Hebrews 5:14 …solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. The mature man is practiced in discernment, noThey no longer need to take in to know, they can often identify early on what is good and evil, what is true and false, and thus they overcome the devil and grow strong.

YOUNG MEN –> FATHERS

Overcoming the Evil One is marvelous, and one would wonder that it is not the pinnacle of spiritual maturity and manhood. Yet we have one more echelon to attain, and that is the category of Fathers, who “know Him who is from the beginning.” This speaks of an intimate knowledge, a deep wisdom, and a close and steady walk with the Alpha and the Omega. To know Him who is from the beginning is to be well acquainted with righteousness, to have shared in the sufferings of Christ, to have explored the depths of God’s heart and communed with the All Holy God.

Young men know their doctrine, have discernment, and are no longer susceptible to false teaching or false doctrine; but there is much more to God than doctrines. They lay the boundaries by which we have the immense privilege and honor to commune with God himself. As the Young Man continues his walk, he will experience many things that will sanctify him, make him Christ like. As he shares in the joy’s and sorrows, trials and victories, he shares in the very life of Christ, established firmly in the grace and knowledge of Christ, the relationship honed by years of communion and fellowship with God eternal.

And so it goes like this:

OTHERS

Salvation

CHILDREN

Discernment, Sound Doctrine, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

YOUNG MEN

Life Experience, Faithful Obedience, Constant Communion

FATHERS

To apply this to the topic of Christian Manliness, the thing to remember is that true manliness is really the outworking of godliness through a male individual. True manliness comes by growing spiritually, by growing in godliness.

It is dangerous to define manliness by categories other than the ones present in scripture. To do so is to establish a target outside of God’s word, and it is impossible to grow in godliness unless our eyes are fixed on the right target. Many Christians get caught up looking at some successful businessman or some character in a movie as if they are a model for manliness. Forgetting the fact that these men or characters show no regard for God, his word, or his righteousness, Christians hold these characters up as models of manliness worthy of emulation.

This is totally backwards! Consider the categories. Maturity BEGINS with salvation, before that, there is nothing worthy our consideration. Whereas many Christian men today may esteem certain traits of unsaved men with high regard, even jealousy; this is due to a worldly complex of manliness that has crept (rather unimpeded if I might say) into the church of God. This worldly system doesn’t account for godliness one wit. I think it is disappointing to say the least that men can get caught up treasuring the worldly constructs of manliness rather than godliness, which is of immeasurable value!

On another note, I can’t help but see this as revealing either a great ignorance or disregard of the value of salvation. It is supremely offensive to God that we would fail to consider the value of our salvation when we compare ourselves to other men. Whatever we may see in others that we desire for ourselves, the fact is that if the person we envy is without God and his salvation, there is simply nothing there we should desire in the slightest; certainly not when we have been blessed with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN THE HEAVENLIES in Christ Jesus!! We have the greatest treasure and the most powerful resources in our Salvation! O God that we would not forget that our salvation is the supreme possession, as our Salvation is none other than the person of Jesus Christ himself. He IS, in every way, the entirety of our salvation. To neglect Salvation is to neglect Christ, and to esteem anything higher than salvation is to esteem it above Christ. In him we have everything, manliness included.

The man who is saved for one minute is more mature and more manly in the eyes of God than Alexander the Great. If you are a Christian man, then so are you. You are more blessed than he, you are more mature than he. You are in the truth. Stand in it! Revel in it! Rejoice in it! Be eternally satisfied with your salvation, and covet not for a moment anything other than Christ and his glorious eternal reward!

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At the Cross: Sovereignty Revealed

This is the third post in a series that will conclude on Good Friday. Each day will feature a different perspective of the Cross of Christ, focusing in on just one of the many themes revealed in his crucifixion.

Who was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus?

Some say the Jews killed him. Jesus had come to them offering the kingdom of God, yet his own people rejected him. “He came to that which is own, but his own did not receive him.”  Although the overwhelming majority of his miraculous deeds were given to the Jews, it was also Jews whom Jesus offended by his words and deeds. It was the most influential and prominent Jews that were the most incensed by Jesus’ blistering rebukes and brilliant intelligence. These men did not long tolerate Jesus seeming attempt to bring the socio-religio-political landscape that had so profited them to ruin. These jealous men not only plotted to kill Jesus, but succeeded in dragging the common masses into their scheme. Pilate made his offer to the people: The notorious Barabbas or the innocent Jesus.

 …the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. – Matt 27:20

The chants of “Crucify!” grew so loud Pilate could no longer address the crowds: they were a full on mob now. They got their wish.

Some say the gentiles killed him. – Although the Jews no doubt wanted Christ crucified, it was not in their power to have this done. The Jews were living under Roman governance at the time of Christ, and while they were permitted to deal with their own manners, the power to execute belonged solely to Rome. Therefore all criminal cases involving capital punishment were handled by Roman officials, all of whom were Gentiles. The chief priests and elders wished Jesus dead, and not having the power to have him thus punished, he was brought before Pilate. Though multitudes of accusations were hurled upon Jesus, Pilate knew it was for jealousy that Jesus was handed over. He sent Jesus another step up the Roman political totem pole to Herod, who in short order sent Jesus back, having deemed him to be no threat to anybody.

Pilate knew the accusations against him were false, and attempted to get Jesus off the chopping block so to speak. He offered to have him scourged first and then set free: the chief priests wanted more. Then he offered the people a choice between Barabbas and Jesus: the people chose Barabbas. And so, “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” – Mark 15:15

The Jews wanted Jesus crucified, but it could never have happened without Pilate’s decree.

Some say that Satan killed Jesus. – Of all the evil days seen on the earth, It is hard to imagine a more unjust, more cruel, more wicked, more senseless, more hateful, more evil day than the day of Jesus death. An innocent man was betrayed by one friend and abandoned by the rest, arrested illegally and tried illegally. Falsely accused, spit on, hit, mocked, punched, abused, flogged, tortured and murdered.

How could Satan not be responsible?

Seeing as he is the “father of lies” and that “he was a murderer from the beginning”, it is right up his alley to be behind something so evil and so wicked. We know historically he was in the mix somehow, because he took up residence in Judas at the end of the last supper.  Filled by Satan, he went out quickly to betray Jesus, kicking off the darkest 24 hours since the dawn of creation.

Certainly he was hard at work throwing all his furious hatred and rage against the son of God.

Some say that you and I killed him. – Historically, both the Jews and the Gentiles were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ, and Satan was no doubt involved in tempting and inciting the mobs to extreme wickedness,  Yet believers today should know that while Jesus’ crucifixion is indeed a historical event, the implications touch every individual who has ever lived and ever will live. The crucifixion of Christ is in a sense “THE” historical event.

The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” – Romans 3:23; and that “the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23. It isn’t hard to put two and two together. All are sinners who deserve death. The “All” there refers to you, it refers to me, to our friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers…everyone alive…everyone who was alive….everyone who will be alive.

Except for Jesus, the sinless one. 

While every one of us should receive according to the evil works of our hands; Christ deserved none of it.

But he did die, and we see why in Isaiah 53:

…he was pierced for our transgressions, 
   he was crushed for our iniquities.

The 2nd verse of “How Deep the Fathers Love” speaks also of this by the lyric “It was my sin that held him there.” Were we not sinners, Christ would have had no need to suffer and die the way he did. It is a trustworthy statement that his death was brought about by our sin; his death was brought about by us. By you. By me.

So who was responsible for the death of Jesus?

All of the answers above have merit. In some way, the Jews, the Gentiles, Satan, You, and I all had a part in putting Christ on the Cross. We are all responsible in some way, we are all guilty of the death of Christ.

Yet there is another answer that compliments all of the above:

God is responsible for the death of Jesus.

Scripture credits God with taking Jesus to the cross far more than the Jews, the Gentiles, Satan, You, or even I. Consider the following:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.Isaiah 53:4

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and…the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, – Isaiah 53:10

God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him – 2 Corinthians 5:21

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did:
sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin – Romans 8:3

 

God is also responsible for the cross of Christ. He willingly offered him up, sent him to the cross, made him sin.

 

How is this Sovereignty Revealed?

 

What is unreal to consider is the thousands of individuals who were involved in the whole deal. Each one operating independently, out of his own faculties, making his own choices. And yet not only does Jesus get crucified EXACTLY on schedule (prophecy after prophecy was fulfilled during the last week of Jesus life, especially on that fateful Friday.) but the independent actions of all those people worked together to accomplish the perfect will of God.

In Peter and John’s prayer recorded in Acts 4, they say “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”

How fitting that they address their prayer to the “Sovereign Lord”!

And to put this in perspective, exactly when did God purpose Jesus to go to the Cross? Revelation 13:8 refers to Jesus as “the Lamb Slain from the foundation of the world.”

 

At the Cross, The Sovereignty of God is revealed: for there, on Calavary, the plan God drew up before the heavens and the earth were spoken into being came to pass through the independent action of countless individuals. The personal choices and efforts of all the Jews, all the Gentiles, Satan and all his demons; all of them in total rebellion against God, by their combined efforts accomplished nothing but their own undoing.

At the Cross, they accomplished the fulfillment of the greatest plan ever devised in the infinite mind of the God they utterly reject.

 

 


At the Cross: Righteousness Revealed

This is the second post in a series that will conclude on Good Friday. Each day will feature a collection of thoughts on a different aspect of the Crucifixion of Christ.

The cross is often seen as a display of the righteous requirement of God in relation to sin and sinners, in that God’s righteousness condemns and punishes every instance of sin at every point; and to that I say “Amen!”. Sin was revealed in its fullest sense at the cross, when Jesus bore in his body the sins of the World. Scripture says Christ actually became sin, that God made him to be sin. In becoming sin itself, Jesus drew the fierce and righteous indignation of God upon himself. As sin is condemned, he was condemned. As sin is punished, so he was punished. The cross is a revelation of the righteousness of God in that it is a full demonstration of a truly righteous response to sin.

This is not the only glimpse of righteousness to be seen at the cross.

The righteousness of God is revealed not only in God’s righteous response to sin, but also in Christ’s righteous obedience in becoming the ultimate sin offering. This is the righteousness of God revealed through Jesus humanity.

Righteousness is a personal characteristic, but it is also a path:

     “…he leads me in the path of righteousness for his names sake.” – Psalm 23:3

As a man, Jesus was led by his father in the path of righteousness. We read that he grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man; Christ accumulated favor with God by continuing in righteousness through obedience and continual fellowship with the father; it is accumulated by walking faithfully along the path of righteousness.

Scripture testifies that throughout his life, Jesus loved righteousness and was bound by his love for the father to follow that path. At his baptism, John was astounded. Should not the messiah be doing the baptizing? But Jesus would not have it: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” And so he was baptized, another faithful step along the path of righteousness.

It was not an easy path.

The path led him immediately to the desert. 40 days without food. Tempted by Satan.

The path led him to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and inaugurate the kingdom of God on earth.

The path led him to call out 12 disciples to share in his ministry and life.

The path led him to heal the sick, raise the dead, and perform many signs and wonders.

The path led him to preach repentance unto eternal life through faith in the father.

Along the way he suffered many things at the hands of many people, yet he wavered not, but trusted in his father as God led him down the path of righteousness.

It led him through over three years of intense public ministry, wherein he suffered the ignorance of his disciples, the unbelief and rejection of the people he was to minister to, the people he dearly loved.

It led him to heartbreak, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and sadness.

It led him to Gethsemane, to THE hour of THE darkness, where he stared into the coming storm of Calvary, where he gazed into the cup of wrath filled to the brim.

His whole life he had walked in perfect harmony with the father, loving righteousness and hating sin. He had walked the path of righteousness faithfully every step of the way, not for one instant choosing to break fellowship with his heavenly father. And now he was about to become the very thing that he hated to perfection.

He was going to become sin.

He was going to be alienated from his father, separated from the one whom he had loved perfectly from the beginning.

It is no wonder he asked for the cup to pass.

It is no wonder he prayed for any other possibility.

     “Yet not my will but thy will be done.”

He knew what awaited him on that path of righteousness: the rugged altar on which he would become the ultimate sacrifice.

It is no wonder he sweat blood.

It was not the impending physical trauma that caused him such unprecedented stress, it was the sin bearing; the sin becoming.

Yet he arose undeterred, full of resolve, determined to go to the cross.

     “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

And so he went willingly to the cross, where upon he became the sin of the world. It is here that God, his father, the apple of his eye, turns his face away from his only son and utterly rejects him. It is here that Jesus cries out not to his father, but for the first, and only time, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Separated from God, the agonies Christ experienced those few hours that Friday will never be known to you and I. Yet even then, his father nowhere to be seen, Christ still was faithful, and faithful to the end. There, at the finish, a loud cry of triumph from Calvary rings throughout  eternity:

“IT IS FINISHED!”

The perfect righteousness of God, fulfilled perfectly by man. The perfect law of God unbroken. The perfect sacrifice for sin accomplished.

The righteousness of God leads God to punish sin, yes. But that same righteousness that so blazes against sin also accomplishes our redemption. The righteousness of God left Christ no other option in the Garden of Gethsemane; there was no other way but for Jesus Christ to become sin for us. To turn away was to abandon the plan of salvation and to leave the cup of God’s wrath full for us to drink. The righteousness of God required Jesus to humble himself in order to secure our redemption.

 Jesus, being in very nature God, 
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 
    rather, he made himself nothing 
   by taking the very nature of a servant, 
   being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man, 
   he humbled himself 
   by becoming obedient to death— 
      even death on a cross!

The righteousness of God is therefore revealed in both through God in his perfect judgment of sin on the cross, and in Christ the man: a) by his attaining perfection through his works, qualifying himself to become the perfect sacrifice for all sin for all time, and b) by his becoming our sin so that we can become his perfect righteousness, so that we can own it, be justified forever before God by it, be purged from a guilty conscience to serve and worship the living God by it.

Friends, I believe the 24 words underlined below to contain the greatest truth we will ever comprehend. I pray that the God of righteousness will open your eyes to show you that the exact same righteousness Jesus demonstrated throughout his life, the very same righteousness of God himself, becomes your righteousness when you believe on him. This verse is the heart of the gospel. Believe it. Receive it.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

He has done it all, from beginning to end! Glory be to Jesus Christ and God the father! Amen!