The Strength of Friendship

Men are not autonomous creatures.

Self governance is indeed a good thing, but defining your own law (as autonomous literally means) or being self-authorizing can get you into trouble. Ultimately, man’s authority is God–and our earthly authority comes from him, like sub-contractors on a job site. In addition, men aren’t self-capable; that is to say, one man can’t do everything by himself.

The greater scope of work God gave to mankind is immense: to take dominion of creation through the redemption of the Gospel, and so to be the tools of God as he implements His kingdom in the earth. But his personal call is perhaps more challenging–to live holy, obedient and godly lives through faith. Son, you can’t do either of those things without help.

Throughout the Bible, you read stories of friends who strengthened each other’s faith. They are a tool of God to sustain both your wider and personal callings.Are you developing strong fellowship? Because faith rarely succeeds without it.

Serving an Employer

The jobless rate, I’m becoming convinced, is due more to the general ineptitude of the American worker rather than the economic inability of employers or even government interference.

Young men, a word of advice: if you’re willing to take initiative, work hard, expand your skillset, submit to your employer and look out for his best interests ahead of your own, you’ll never be out of a job. Employers can’t afford NOT to employ people like you–and businesses regularly close simply because the owners can’t find enough good men.

Some other really valuable commodities in an employee:

  • Peacemaker
  • On time
  • Honorable/Loyal (speaks well of ___)
  • Joyful/up beat/encouraging
  • Focused
  • Courage (takes responsibility, indomitable)
  • Ability to learn/teachability

It’s not surprising that the same characteristics that make a spirit-filled Christian make an excellent employee. After all, the word of God applies to all parts of life, including submission and authority.

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. – Ephesians 6:6-7

Even if you’re an entrepreneur or an employer (“master”), you must submit daily in your work to Christ, your customers, advisers, and others. As the centurion soldier said, “I too, am a man under authority.” Humbly is the way to do a real man’s work.

Being God’s Man

The world cries out against weak men, because it stands or falls by their strength. Truly, the battle for the world is fought in the hearts of Christian men.

The world’s answer to the weak effeminate is “cowboy up, be your own man.” Agreed, an important aspect of manhood is the ability to stand on your own two feet; when the world is against you, to stand as Athanasius did, one man against the world.

But men are never to be autonomous–operating solely by their own law, under no one else’s authority. The Christian man is to be God’s man–quite literally His servant or slave. Like a soldier under his commanding officer. Keeping his body and mind under his own authority, but subjecting everything to Christ. How can you expect to bring your sphere of influence under the feet of Christ if you yourself are not so subjected?

My answer, and Paul’s answer in Romans 8 & 9 is this: humble yourself, and be God’s man. And when you humble yourself, God will exalt you; when you rest in His provision, he will give you the desires of your heart. Will not the God who gave us reconciliation through the gift of His Son, and who owns the cattle on every hill, be sure to abundantly bless us as we trust in Him?

And that’s a true man: self controlled, under the subjection of Christ, and willing to do the work of God even if it means opposing the entire world for the name of Jesus.

Euphemizing the name of God

God is holy and perfect. He has placed His name upon us who are in Christ, and His Holy Spirit indwells us.  In keeping with His Holiness, He demands that we treat His name with sacred honor.

How careful are you with the name of God? How cautious are you to refer to His character? Are His punishments or rewards a light thing for you? Too often I catch myself using expletives I’ve heard in the world without a thought to their context. Many different euphemisms have been created for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ–from jeepers creepers to lord-y. It seems like everything related to the triumph of God has been twisted into a curse–from the Blood of Christ, to calls of damnation (making light of God’s justice), to degrading anything holy and pure. In fact, I’m hard pressed to arrive at a common cures that does not explicitly degrade God, His righteousness, His church, or Christianity. By referencing the holy in a common or crass situation, we degrade the holy. Instead, the name of God should be used to make holy what is common–and for that to happen it must be held in reverence.

Perhaps, Christian men, it’s time to rethink our use of expletives entirely. What’s the point? Loosing self control and uttering a stream of words that makes the holy crass is certainly not an example of strength. Perhaps the opposite is true. Maybe silence is the stronger sign of courage when you’re in a tough spot. Oh, I know it’s hard–I’m trying to quit myself. But Christ’s strength is with us to do what is right.

Perhaps we should also rethink our callousness to swearing in our media consumption. Aside from it’s immediate offense to God, and even if you never speak a word of what you hear, do those phrases lodge themselves in your mind? God, who observes our thought process, also commands us to be pure of heart. (Mind.)

Self-denial and Personal Holiness

Sin attacks the Christian from multiple fronts—principally, it springs out of our dying old nature, influenced by our culture and heritage, and is spurred on by the devil. To cut off a sin at it’s source then, we need to die to self and become alive to Christ through the process of sanctification. Personal holiness, then, comes through the process of self-denial.

Throughout Scripture, self-denial is practiced and encouraged. Notably, fasting is mentioned again and again. To our modern American culture, however, fasting has become lost knowledge. Perhaps with the rise of materialism and its infusion into the church, the idea of voluntarily giving up something for the sake of giving it up is foreign. Lent has been relegated to the archives of liturgical churches. Lent remembers what Christ gave up when he left heaven and the glory of the father. No, we’re not used to self-denial.

Worse, Christian men have largely failed the fight against the sinful nature in lust, self-ambition, and every other form of immoral habit. In short, we don’t know how to fight anymore. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of who and what we’re fighting. Perhaps we’ve forgotten where the battle is. Across the four realms of jurisdiction (self, family, church and state), self is the foundational field of war. If Christian men cannot control themselves, they have no way to lead their families, teach the church, or guide the state, all for the dominion of Christ.

Men, learn to fight the battle inside of you. God promises to deliver you from your enemies. Use the tool of self-denial to combat the root of selfishness. Don’t be afraid to take drastic measures to win. Satan isn’t missing any tricks—fight sin with no holds barred.

Battle for the world

The battle for the world is in the hearts of Christian men.

I’ve been encouraged by older men with the phrase, “don’t waste your youth!” (perhaps most eloquently by J.C. Ryle in his book.) The question is, how to utilize the time that god has given? Many young men have taken up causes, and campaign against evil in the world. Some have taken up arms against sin in the world, and I know some young men called to preach, as was John the Baptist.

All that is well and good, and needed. But I received some wise counsel from another wise man–the battle for the hearts of nations begins in your own heart. The battle for the things of God, holiness, purity and righteousness–that conflict is most present in your own heart, Christian.

Your task is to extend the dominion of Christ over the spheres where God has given you influence, and to work out the reality that our Father has put everything under His feet. And your influence and authority is greatest over your own heart and mind. (Primarily, the Bible describes the center of consciousness as the heart, what we often consider our minds.)

Yes, if you father a family, your are the primary one to lead them in submission to Christ. And if you are an elder in the Church of God, you have a primary calling to bring Christ’s flock to His fold. If you are a civil magistrate, your duty is to bring your sphere into submission to Jesus as Lord. Men are placed in authority in this world. Christians are guides to the world, Christ’s representatives on earth. If Christian men fail, the world fails.

If you fail in your heart, the catastrophe of that failure will rock any success in other spheres. If you cannot walk humbly before God with a clean heart, your ability to help others do so will be severely hobbled.

That’s where the battle is, in your heart.

A Man after God’s Own Heart

In his early life, David developed a rigorous righteousness that protected him in all kinds of bad situations. From his boyhood fighting with lions and bears, God protected him because David did what was right in God’s sight. When he was a young man, David fought God’s battles and God blessed him for it. Even when King Saul mounted a rigorous search-and-destroy mission for David, his careful holiness protected him from killing the Lord’s anointed. Because David’s obedience placed him in God’s circle of protection, he had nothing to fear.

However, later in life David was not so careful–he let his guard down. When the kings went out to war, David stayed home and relaxed. When he saw a beautiful women, he did not avert his gaze and challenge the lust of his heart, but sinned mightily against God, who had been so good to him for so many years. And after sinning, he lied and murdered to hide his guilt.

But God was there, God saw it. David’s kind heavenly father spared his life, but other consequences remained. After an uplifting story about the man after God’s own heart, a passionate and faithful agent of God in the world, the story of David becomes a bitter and painful one. Nearly everything that could go wrong did, from the sexual immorality of David’s sons, to their outright rebellion, and the rebellion of the whole people (as inferred in 2 Sam. 24).

The key to David’s early walk with God was his active, faithful obedience. He avoided every opportunity of evil, and concentrated his life on fighting the battles of the Lord. The trigger of David’s fall was sloth, laziness and selfishness. A little sleep, a little folding of the hands to rest, a little temporal fun, and sin was upon David like an armed man. But for the grace of God, David would have failed. But our God’s kindness never fails to bless His children.

Young man, if sin is knocking at your door, remember David. Flee the opportunities for sin, covenant with your eyes to turn from the pleasure of examining it. Understand that every honey-sweet word from sin is a bitter lie. Trust in God above all, and whenever you are under attack, run into His fort for relief. Find protection in the circle of Obedience. You can’t fight this one on your own. Run.

At my side

Never alone is not merely an expression. It is hope, promise, and reality. It is fear and glory.

Christian, never again act like God is not with you. He knows every sin you commit in secret. Every ambitious, proud thought of your heart is laid to his full view. Every evil deed, He sees. So let your heart be ashamed of wickedness, and let the blood of Christ cleanse your sin.

But in a world where everyone else seems alienated, and you stand friendless and as alone as Athanasius, God is at your side. Never wavering, never fickle. Always working everything out for the good of those who trust in Him. When everyone has an angle, the Word is still true.

This is the beauty of the union between Christ and his church. Christian, you enjoy an intimate relationship with the Almighty Creator, as intimately as a bride-to-be knows her betrothed. (The wedding supper is still to come, and the marriage not yet consummated.)

To be a man is to stand on your own two feet. Athanasius did. As the story goes, a fellow whispered in his ear, “do you not know that the whole world is against you?” and Athanasius replied, let it be know that it is Athanasius against the world. But even the great Athanasius did not stand alone–Christ, who he was serving, stood right beside him. And that’s how a man can be strong.