“Let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Eph. 5:33)
Men often lack respect today. Frequently, they lack the respect of their wives, their families and they certainly lack the respect of the world; at least in the disrespectful way the media commonly presents men today. It would be easy for men to point to this trend and say their wives are wrong, their kids are wrong, the world is wrong and they all need to have their attitude fixed. And there may be times in which men would be right to say this. But doesn’t this reaction miss something? The reality is, the first thing that needs to be fixed is the men themselves. The biggest problem we have is not what our wives and kids get wrong about us. The biggest problem we have is what our wives and kids get right about us.
Jerry Bridges, in his book, The Discipline of Grace, captures the spirit of this conflict in the following:
“A cartoon in a recent edition of our daily paper showed a man ready to leap from the edge of a high-rise apartment building with a suicide note in his hand but with a parachute strapped to his back. His wife, leaning out of the window, says to him, ‘Just can’t make a commitment to anything can you, Larry?'” (p. 147.)
Sadly, Larry’s wife is not alone in her frustration with her wimpy, weak-willed, no follow-through husband. In fact, churches today are full of “Larrys.” These are mambi-pambi men who can’t be counted on to live as men ought to live. They lack commitment across the spiritual spectrum. They lack the power of self-motivation and the ability to make (let alone carry out) responsible decisions. They lack personal spiritual appetite. They like the haven of autonomy and get squeamish when threatened with accountability. They lack any sense of life-transforming identification with Christ. They lack a sense of gospel mission and divine calling. When they should be something equivalent to a spiritual rock of Gibraltar in their homes, in reality they are stone of stumbling.
In a word, they lack real manliness. They lack the manliness that is designed by God. They lack the manliness of gentle strength and selfless love (Eph. 5:25, 28-29). They lack the manliness of attentiveness to the needs of their families (Song of S. 1:6-7). They lack the manliness that produces persevering obedience to God’s law (1 Kings 2:1-4). They lack the manliness that causes one to be immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15.58). They lack the manliness that fears God, but no man (1 Pet. 2:17). They lack the manliness that resists the temptation to expend their lives on themselves. Ultimately, what is lacking is a manliness that is willing to die for God, truth, wife, family, and church, and to do that whenever called upon, even daily.
One of my favorite sermon titles is from a sermon that R. C. Sproul preached on the topic of godly manhood. It was titled, “Off with the skirts, and on with the pants.” There are too many skirt-wearing evangelical men running around. At a recent wedding I attended, it occurred to me that it would seem strange to those gathered if there was a “flower-boy” littering the aisles of the church with flower petals. Why does it not seem even more strange, then, when boys reach adulthood and the pews of the church are littered with pansy men? This masculine deficiency comes in many forms. Sometimes these are men with anger problems, who throw temper-tantrums like a two year-old but do it with an adult body that makes them successful as a tyrant in their home. Or in other cases they are the spineless men who live by the motto, “Happy wife, happy life,” but don’t have the biblical backbone to consistently lead their wives and when necessary to speak into their lives to correct them when they go astray.
I want to challenge you men to ask yourselves the question: Where are the heroes of our age? If it won’t be you, who will it be? I fear we are becoming a people without spiritual ambition. We are a people who fear man and forget God. We are in competition for the title of the generation with the most pathetic eulogies. Like the people Paul preached to, the lives of too many men in our generation look like those who say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). As a pastor, don’t make me preach your funeral when all you give me to say is ‘Yes he was practically worthless and his life amounted to nothing but at least he had a worthwhile Savior.’ I trust you will forgive me and the family you leave behind if we think that sounds somewhat hollow.
Where are the conquering men of world-defying, and self-denying faith? May God grant us to be men whose widows say at our death, ‘My husband was my rock who always led me to the Rock that was higher than I,’ and whose children say, ‘My dad walked with God and was my hero.’ May God grant us the insight that men who bow before God can stand before any man, or any obstacle. May God grant us to be men who will say with Luther, “The body they may kill but God’s truth abideth still.” After all, Jesus said, take up your cross and follow me. Christ suffered as an example that we might follow in his steps (1 Pet. 2:21). Can the passion of Christ be imitated by men who are pansies?
Is the church doing anything to contribute to this masculine deficiency? I believe we are. There is an old saying that ‘What you win them with, is what you win them to.’ In other words, the way you pitch a product (i.e. what you say about that product to make it appealing) is what people who respond to the pitch will expect. Sadly, churches today often doubt the power of the gospel and feel the need to repackage it in a way that appeals to the worldly appetites of worldly men. Is it any wonder that these same worldly men, who are supposedly converted, sit in church for years with eyes glazed over when they have to endure sermons of any substance? Is it any wonder that football and fishing and video games have more appeal to these men than the doctrines of grace and the glory of God? The theory of such market driven churches is that if they can lure men with worldly means, then they will do a subtle switcheroo and hook them with spiritual means at some point down the line. They hope the magic wand of “discipleship” will undo the damage inflicted through their worldly evangelistic methods.
The church must learn that this bait and switch technique is bankrupt. Flashy programs may prop up spiritual corpses for a long time in this life, but they are of no eternal value. The church doesn’t need any more petal-pushers. It needs preachers in pulpits who lead with the message of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. And the gospel is the power of God for the conversion of worldly men. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t hook you, a church that periodically pretends it is a movie theater, a coffee lounge, or a sports arena won’t hook you either. May God shut down the flower-factories and replace them with true churches.
If, by God’s grace, you are a man who is cut to the heart with conviction over your worldliness, then drop to your knees and seek the Creator and Redeemer of the sons of Adam. God took Adam, from the dust and breathed life into him. Because you are created in the image of God you are starting out similar to Adam, except dirtier…morally speaking. Your sins of laziness and selfishness and irritability are morally abhorrent to God, and that is only the begining. Your heart is even more morally repugnant to God than your life reveals. But Scripture assures us that where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. Jesus Christ, the last Adam, has accomplished redemption through the blood of his cross when he died for the sins of all those who repent of their sins and believe in him. Scripture assures us that God’s regenerating and renewing grace is able to breath life into you as well.
So believe the gospel and leave the world behind. But you better count the cost. It will not be an easy road. You will not have ease and comfort. You will not enjoy the good life as the world envisions it. You cannot serve God and mammon. Many have deceived themselves into thinking they can. But what you will have is a clean conscience. You will have forgiveness of sins, the fellowship of Christ, the presence of the Spirit and the encouragement of the Word. You will have a knowledge of God. Those who live godly will suffer persecution. In this world you will have trouble, but Christ will enable you to triumph through it. The reproaches of Christ truly are better than the treasures of Egypt.
Real men have scars. May God raise up an army of men who can say with Paul:
“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Gal. 6:17)