Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Biblical Manhood 5--Live in Love to be a Real Man

2013 is at an end. This means that my Biblical manhood study is as well—at least in a purposeful sense. I may well come back to it at some point. However, I have learned many things that I totally realize I do not do well enough, but God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), and with it I will improve. From January 1st, where I learned initially that Biblical men are to be strong and courageous (which I can definitely improve on), to April 18th, where I learned that Biblical men trust God’s promises (which I can use work on), to August 4th, where I learned that Biblical men are ready for the Lord’s return (which I need to pray for more), to September 25th, where I learned that Biblical men are controlled by God (which is by no means an excuse to sin), to December 21st, where I learned that Biblical men repent (which I need to grow in). My study took me from the book of Joshua, to Ruth, Job, and the “Minor” Prophets. From there I went much slower—starting on February 16th—and made it through Acts, Genesis, Luke, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and finally, 2 Chronicles—finishing on December 28th.

With only three days left in the year, I stopped, but today, I felt called to 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. This passage sums up everything I have read this whole year in the realm of Biblical manhood. In addition, it’s ironic because my dorm at school adopted this passage as their theme.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Your every ⌊action⌋ must be done with love.”

Biblical men do everything in love. Evangelism, parenting, preaching, sin-fighting, doctrine-correcting, must all be done in love. Christians are to be known by their love, so Biblical men must be loving.

This verse is huge. It does not, by any means, mean that Biblical men are to be sissies. Love is one of the hardest things to truly do, and our culture is slowly working to destroy it. For Christian men to truly live in love, we will combat the culture. In the verse, we are given four commands: be alert, stand firm, act like a man, be strong. We are told to do all of this in love. Jesus said Himself in John 13:35 that, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Allow me to elaborate.

Be alert. This means that we must be on guard. Guards must be in place against temptation, false beliefs, and anything else that will distract us from God. Doctrine-correction comes in here; it must be done with love. I’ve been studying the book of Jude the past few weeks, and its whole point is to warn against false teaching. First Peter 3:15-16 says, “[H]onor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect.” It’s specifically speaking of evangelism, but doctrine correction (“debates”) comes in the same way. We must do it in love, but keep ourselves alert to falsities.

Stand firm. This means that since we are believers, we can’t impinge on our beliefs. We have to hold to them. People look to us and how we act. Firmness must be held in actions so we are not called hypocrites. However, in so doing we must still be loving. Homosexuality is a good example of this. We must be firm in the fact that it is a sin, but we must be loving in how we go about telling them. We can’t be Westboro Baptist. We have to love the sinner enough to share God’s grace with them—which includes the fact that sin must and will be punished—and pray that God grants them salvation. However, we must stand firm in our beliefs.

Act like a man. This includes right relationships with brothers in Christ, right relationships with women, and right relationships with children. Men need relationships with fellow Christian men. Men need to treat women properly—whoever they are: mother, wife, sister in Christ—and use intimacy appropriate to that place. Men—if married—have a responsibility to properly raise their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord and to daily pray for their salvation. All of this should be done in love.

Be strong. Second Timothy 2:1 says, “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” We are to be strong—not primarily physically, but more so spiritually—in the grace of God. We must trust that grace as more powerful than anything we possess. God is good, and in Him is everything we need. This is love for God.

Do I do everything in love? How can I improve? Will I? Am I a Biblical man? How can I improve?

God, help me to be a man. A real man. A man after Your own heart. I read Proverbs 31 today as well—December 31—, and if I’m to find that woman, I must be a Biblical man myself. I love You, Lord. You’ve shown me much this year, and grown me too. Never let my life regress. Use me, God, to further Your kingdom. Thanks for grace and loving me first.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Biblical manhood 4--Real Men Bow Down in Repentance

My Biblical Manhood reading today had me read about the wickedest king of Judah—King Manasseh. Manasseh’s story has awed me from shortly after I was first saved. He doesn’t inspire me, but his is a comforting story for those saved by grace alone—of whom I am one. Second Chronicles 33:10-17 tells the story:
The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they didn’t listen. So He brought against them the military commanders of the king of Assyria. They captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze shackles, and took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he sought the favor of Yahweh his God and earnestly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. He prayed to Him, so He heard his petition and granted his request, and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that Yahweh is God. After this, he built the outer wall of the city of David from west of Gihon in the valley to the entrance of the Fish Gate; he brought it around the Ophel, and he heightened it considerably. He also placed military commanders in all the fortified cities of Judah. He removed the foreign gods and the idol from the LORD’s temple, along with all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the LORD’s temple and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city. He built the altar of the LORD and offered fellowship and thank offerings on it. Then he told Judah to serve Yahweh, the God of Israel. However, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to Yahweh their God.
There is more to his story prior (33:1-9) and after (33:18-20), but the focus is on these verses.
Biblical men repent. Maybe they’ve lived wickedly their whole life, or maybe there’s just small sins that need repented of. Biblical men will repent. Manasseh is a prime example.
Manasseh was the typical teenager since he became king at age twelve (33:1) and immediately undid the good that his father Hezekiah had done in Judah (33:3). He built altars for other gods in God’s temple (33:4). He sacrificed his own children in the fire (33:6). In short he—as Judah’s leader—led the people into such evil that they were labeled as doing “worse evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites” (33:9).
Despite all this evil, God still spoke to Manasseh (33:10a). God is so good. Way more good than we deserve most of the time. However, Manasseh didn’t listen (33:10b). I see myself here in a sense: senior year of high school the only thing I wanted was for God to speak to me, but unfortunately I missed His voice until after I graduated, because I was looking for an audible voice and didn’t touch His Word. God will get the elect’s attention somehow though, and we see that in the next verses.
When Manasseh ignored God’s voice—through the prophets, Law, or auditory voice—God didn’t give up on him. It was all part of God’s sovereign will for Manasseh’s life. God sent Assyria to take him to Babylon (33:11). If Manasseh won’t listen to God when it’s just God, maybe he’ll listen to God when enemies are pressing against him and have him captured. It took me declaring God a liar and calling myself an atheist and contemplating suicide in order to come to the point where I could be changed by God’s grace.
Manasseh was changed. In a dank, dark, dirty prison he humbled himself and cried out to God (33:12). He prayed and confessed his sin (33:13). God is so good that He brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and made him king again. Manasseh proved his repentance real by removing idols and altars to false gods and telling Judah to worship God alone (33:15-16).
Repentance means turning away from something to something else. Second Chronicles 33:13 ends with the words, “So Manasseh came to know that Yahweh is God,” which shows that he believed in God. True belief manifests itself with repentance—two sides of the same coin—and Manasseh displayed repentance too; 33:15 says, “He removed the foreign gods and the idol from the LORD’s temple, along with all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the LORD’s temple and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city.” When people truly believe in Christ it intrinsically includes turning away from sin. This is why repentance is not a one-time altar call. The story of Manasseh is good for believers just as much as unbelievers. We all need God’s grace, and we all can do better at falling on our knees and repenting of our sins. I know I can. Real men bow down in repentance.
Unfortunately, godliness is not passed down genetically. Just as Manasseh was the opposite of his father, Hezekiah (33:3), his son, Amon, would follow his father’s original steps and do evil (33:21). Not only must we daily fall on our knees and repent, but we must cry out for God to grant repentance to our children. I should repent of not starting to pray sooner for my future children’s repentance.
Do I repent? Why not? How can I repent? What can I repent of?
God, help me to be quick to repent when I sin, and let my life be a life of habitual repentance in which I habitually choose You over sin. Thank You for choosing me over wrath. I should choose You over sin for that reason. I love You.