When Apache leader Sitting Bull turned 12 years of age he had to spend a week in the wilderness to survive. Today we have a show on television with supposed adults who turn “survival” into a glorified, “reality” game show.
Until recent animal protection laws came into play, Maasai warriors in Africa had to kill a lion with a spear at an age American youth watch Disney’s Lion King on DVD.
As youth David killed a lion and a bear; we go to the mall and build a bear.
As a youth Daniel was taken to pagan land. Today students whine like mules if their free time is held hostage to books.
Spurgeon at 21 preached to 1000s in London. George Whitefield preached to 1000s in the new world at age 25. Luther at 34 nailed 95 theses to a door and led a Reformation, while in the US the average age of a video game buyer is 37.
It is hard to lead a Reformation when you are playing Halo.
What has happened that we are more obsessed w pop culture more than the Scriptures?
Why do young men cherish leisure time more than time with God and His mission?
What has made us love hanging out with people our age more than seeking mentors?
A little historical context:
1. 1951– Catcher in the Rye Salinger. One of the founding documents of American adolescence, Holden Caulfield demonstrates a troubled youth who never really grows up.
2. 1954– Lord of the Flies by Nobel Laureate William Golding (1954). This allegorical novel uses a group of British schoolboys stranded on a deserted island to show the disastrous impact of youth left to themselves.
3. 1955– Rebel Without a Cause hit the big screen with actor James Dean. It told the story of a rebellious teenager who came to a town, met a girl, disobeyed his parents, etc.
4. From the 60s to now, the rise of Rock and Roll and an entire subculture has arisen glorifying youth who act like youth even when they are too old to be youth. I am not a hater of all pop culture and all pop music, nor am I a defender of much of the stale, subcultural Christian music and perspective of our time. But MTV and other factors have contributed to a world in which men today prolong their adolescence to embarrassing lengths.
In our time we have seen a president of the United States have oral sex with a young intern (that would be juvenile delinquent behavior) and a pop star who died thinking he was Peter Pan and who lived on a ranch called Never Land, where you never have to grow up. Michael Jackson did not understand why he in his 40s should not be sleeping with boys eight years of age.
Darrin Patrick in his fantastic new book Church Planter talks about BAN—a half boy half man, a man in chronology but a boy in maturity. These are males reflected in movies like Wedding Crashers, Failure to Launch, or pretty much every Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell movie. These movies are pretty funny (I have enjoyed watching my share of them), but they are not a standard for life for men.
You might be a BAN if you are male and:
-Your favorite show is Glee
-You smell like almonds or peaches
-You wax anything except your car
-You use guyliner or use terms like bromance, mandate, or mancrush.
-You feel like you are a true musician if you only wear skinny jeans
-You cant teach the Bible on Sunday because of how your team did on Saturday
-You NEED A MAN CARD. I don’t need a man card to prove I am a man. I do not need an imaginary card made popular by a stupid beer commercial. I do not have to be a juvenile in a grown up’s body.
My point is not to challenge you to stop watching sports or these movies or playing fantasy football. But take a few minutes to read I Timothy and ask yourself, how much of my time is given to the areas Paul is addressing in I Timothy 6 versus time spent wasted in trivial, often juvenile pursuits?
In I Timothy 6:11-16, Paul is talking about another kind of man. Not a phony macho guy. He is talking about a man of God. And he does not command us to be men of God, for that is what we are if we know Jesus. “You, oh man of God,” he says. Indicative. If you follow Jesus, you ARE a man of God. Be what you are. Then he tells us what that man looks like.
1. Men of God Are RUNNERS (11) Paul says “flee” (see 1-10 for what to flee) and “pursue.”
We have to decide what we will FLEE and what we will PURSUE. The word “flee” has the idea of SEPARATION more than actual running. Run FROM some things: from materialism and consumerism. From divisiveness and stupid arguments. Run false doctrine. In another place “flee immorality,” we are told.
But Paul says men of God run TO some things as well. Men have a natural aggressiveness that must be channeled. Growing from boyhood to manhood means increasingly using PHYSICAL STRENGTH more passively and EMOTIONAL and SPIRITUAL strength more aggressively. It does not mean to be less aggressive. It means to channel that aggression toward the things of God. The church has too often told men to squelch their passion rather than helping them to channel it into godliness. I have met manly men, tough guys, who wouldn’t share Christ to save their life. They may love God, but their manliness suffered a wimp injection at the point of the gospel. Paul gives some things men should pursue with all the passion of their lives:
1) RIGHTEOUSNESS—Do you seek to have integrity more than you seek influence? Do you seek to be holy more than you seek to be known?
2) GODLINESS—How do you spot a great leader? Get to know a man who leads and you will say to yourself, “I will follow him.” How do you spot a man of God? Spend time with a man, then you will say to yourself, “I want to know Jesus more.”
3) FAITH—What are you trusting God for that He must do? What is happening in your life that can only be explained by the fact that Jesus rose from the dead?
4) LOVE—Boys love themselves and care what others think of them, men love others first. If you do notintentionally treat women with respect, if you do not confront men who disrespect ladies, even in jest in the dorm, you may be helping to create a culture that could be dangerous to women and children in the future. Be careful in the pulpit to show respect to women, to show love to others, to show compassion to the broken.
5) PERSEVERANCE – I meet lots of young men who say, “I want to change the world for the gospel.” But then they realize it is HARD. I asked a group of young men how many of them did the harsh workout known as P90X. About 25 raised their hands. I then asked, “how many of you actually completed the entire 90 days?” About 5 raised their hands. Perserverance is a value of a man of God.
6) GENTLENESS—Men of God are gentle. If you are still trying to bully people (by the way, either physically OR intellectually), you are a BAN. We live in a sad day when the only time you see the word “gentleman” is on a strip club sign or a bathroom door.
“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a Lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Men, we need to pursue godliness.
“A holy man of God is an awesome weapon in His hand.” McCheyne
In Part One I wrote about the need for men, not BANs. Looking at I Timothy 6 I noted first that men of God are runners, who flee certain things and pursue others. But there is more:
2. Men Are FIGHTERS “Fight the good fight of faith,” Paul says (v. 12). The Greek term is to “agonize.” Men of God are those who fight for things that matter. In II Timothy Paul would later say, “I have fought the good fight.”
Our SEX is determined by our bodies. Our GENDER is less tangible but is not any less distinct. Men love movies like Gladiator and the Patriot and Braveheart and Jason Bourne. Not that women don’t like these, but men like them more. And many women like Glee, the Batchelor, and chick flicks. Not that men don’t, but women do more. Men need a challenge. Men give up their seats in a crowded room for ladies and men gave up their seats on lifeboats on the Titanic.
Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, in his blog introduced me to the article “Wimps and Barbarians” by Terrence Moore. Moore offers a diagnosis of contemporary boyhood and the challenge our new “boy problem” presents to the nation.
Moore argues that young men are now divided between “barbarians” who represent crude, antisocial, and uncivilized character; and “wimps,” who are described as “whiny and incapable of making decisions.” Manhood, Moore explains, “Is not simply a matter of being male and reaching a certain age. These are acts of nature; manhood is a sustained act of character.” The prescription for what ails our young males might be reduced to two simple instructions: “Don’t be a barbarian, Don’t be a wimp. What is left…will be a man.”
You can see barbarians at the local shopping mall, wandering about in packs, recognizable by their sloppy dress, their lack of linguistic ability, their crudeness of manners, and their treatment of women. Barbarians do not need words nor use them, they communicate to each other through grunts, shrugs, and various noises. Evangelical barbarians obsess themselves with constantly pushing the edge of civility and biblical integrity in the name of freedom, and they are far too common.
Wimps on the other hand lack manly conviction and character. The wimp is incapable of living up to his responsibilities as a man, and shows no valor in his public or private life. “Many of today’s young men seem to have no fight in them at all. Not for them to rescue damsels in distress from the barbarians,” Moore sadly reflects. The wimp seeks the easiest way out of a problem. With respect to women, barbarians demonstrate a crudeness, profanity, and violence that treats women merely as sex objects for male pleasure. Barbarians show women no respect, and are completely lacking in the manly virtues of protection and respect for the well being of women. Wimps, on the other hand, look to women for emotional support, consider girlfriends to be conversation partners, and look to women for pity. They are shameless. NOTE: If you are a young man with more girl friends than guy friends, you are a wimp. I have said this publically and received some grief from a few young men, all of whom fit the stereotype above. Get some guy friends who will give you more than sympathy.
For what will you fight? For what will you stand no matter whether any one stands with you? Men of God fight the fight of faith, for things that matter. Seth Godin commented on the new laziness, a kind of laziness that is not physical, like avoiding cutting the yard to watch video games instead. This new laziness, Godin writes, “has nothing to do with physical labor and everything to do with fear.” The new laziness hides because you are afraid of “expending emotional labor.” So young men will not ask a girl on a date for fear of rejection. Emotional laziness at best and cowardice at worst. The sun will rise if you get rejected, boys. I know, the girls can be weird today too. That is another entire article. So young men who say they love Jesus hide in their books so they do not have to expend the emotional energy involved in sharing Christ. But I think Godin is too kind. I think he is referring to another form of wimp.
3. Men Are WRESTLERS: “Take hold of eternal life.” This term is used to mean to ARREST in Acts 16:19.
What do you grasp with tenacity? What is a conviction you will not release? What do you value more dearly than anything else? This speaks of priority, that NOTHING matters more to a man of God than matters of eternity. Men of God in history understood this:
Hudson Taylor: “IF I had 1000 lives, Id give them all for China.”
Jim Elliot: He is no fool who gives that he cannot keep in order to gain that he cannot lose.”
CT Studd “some want to live within the sound of chapel bell, I want to run a rescue mission a yard from the gates of hell.”
Carey: “To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map.” (This by the way is for young men who need to be reminded that in the SBC young ladies going to the hard places on the globe far outnumber young men. BANs are everywhere it seems).
Zinzendorf: “That land is my home that most needs the gospel.”
Young man—how do you know you are striving to be a man of God? Not by how many men your age are drawn to you. Ask yourself this question: how many older men are drawn to me?
4. Men are GUARDIANS: “Keep the commandment” (v. 14). This can be used of keeping someone in custody, or of preserving of value.
Men are protectors, guardians. Look at example Paul gave: Jesus made good confession before Pilate. He did not wimp out. The quota for wimps in the church HAS BEEN MET. If a man eating tiger came to many of our churches he would die of starvation.
Men stand for and guard their convictions. They do not write anonymously on the internet. They stand by their convictions and their opinions. Men have confidence in the truth of Scripture and find their security in Christ. Paul ends this section as he often does, with a lengthy statement of praise to Jesus. Men of God are not opportunists; they are servants. They do not have to exaggerate on the one hand or spend their lives in useless controversies on the other (see v. 4).
For a man of God, Jesus is enough. The gospel will do. We need men. Men of God. We need men of God to mentor younger men. We need younger men to admit they have been a BAN and to commit to be better men. We need men of all ages to stop behaving like middle schoolers and represent Christ well.
When my son Josh turned 12 I took him on a trip, a rite of passage for a dad and son. On that trip I gave him this poem by Rudyard Kipling. I commend it to you as well.
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two imposters just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breath a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run – Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!