What kind of people were Esther and Mordecai? Were they the kind of faithful people that belong in Hebrews 11? Are they worthy of emulating? Were they God-fearers? And why does the book of Esther never mention God directly?
The opinions of commentators are many and varied. One commentator I have been consulting does not think so highly of them. Pointedly, he declares:
The writer did not omit God’s name and references to Israel’s theocratic institutions because God’s presence was absent. He did not do so because thousands of Gentiles died at the hands of Jews, nor because the Jewish hero and heroine were personally self-willed, as some commentators have suggested. I believe he left them out because they were of little concern to Esther, Mordecai, and the other Jews who did not return to the land.
Certainly, Esther and Mordecai have some positive things to teach us, but perhaps the commentator (Constable) is right that we should be careful to avoid making them out to be high-end heroes of the faith. That being said, it is really important to remember that no one, whether in or outside the Bible, is without blemish and worthy of ultimate imitation (1 Corinthians 11:1) – save Jesus who alone can ultimately save and transform. Esther and Mordecai are no Jesus, and Jesus is the true and better Esther and Mordecai.
If the commentator/editor is right, then ironically it is the silence of God that actually amplifies God’s heroics. God can faithfully fulfill His promises to His people (Genesis 12:1-3), even when His people fall way short of being fully faithful.
Using other commentators, here is the rest of what the commentator/editor has to say about Esther and Mordecai:
The personal relationship that Esther and Mordecai enjoyed with Yahweh is a very interesting subject of study. The answer to this puzzle explains why God’s name does not appear in the book and what God’s purpose was in preserving this book for us.
Without question Mordecai was a man of great ability and admirable character. He also demonstrated faith in the Abrahamic Covenant and in God’s providential care of His people (4:13-14). Esther too showed some dependence on God for His help (4:16). However these qualities characterized many Jews who Jesus Christ in His day said were not pleasing to God (cf. Matt. 3:9; 6:16; John 8:39). Mordecai and Esther, it seems, were eager to preserve their nation and their religion, but they give little evidence of desire to do God’s will personally. In this respect they contrast with Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
No one forced Esther into Ahasuerus’ harem..
“For the masquerade to last that long, she must have done more than eat, dress and live like a Persian. She must have worshipped like one!”
We cannot excuse her behavior on the ground that she was simply obeying Mordecai’s orders (2:20). Her conduct implicates him in her actions.
“The Christian judgment of the Book of Esther has been unnecessarily cramped through our feeling that because Mordecai is a Bible character, he must be a good man. . . . Like Jehu he may have been little more than a time-server. The Bible makes no moral judgment upon him, but it expects us to use our Christian sense. He was raised up by God, but he was not necessarily a godly man.”
The Book of Esther shows how God has remained faithful to His promises in spite of His adversaries’ antagonism and His people’s unfaithfulness.
“The lovely story of Esther provides the great theological truth that the purposes of God cannot be stymied because He is forever loyal to His covenant with His eternally elected nation.”
The writer did not omit God’s name and references to Israel’s theocratic institutions because God’s presence was absent. He did not do so because thousands of Gentiles died at the hands of Jews, nor because the Jewish hero and heroine were personally self-willed, as some commentators have suggested. I believe he left them out because they were of little concern to Esther, Mordecai, and the other Jews who did not return to the land.
“In His providence He [God] will watch over and deliver them; but their names and His name will not be bound together in the record of the labor and the waiting for the earth’s salvation.”
“The early Jews sought to remedy the lack of explicit references to God and religious observances by attaching six Additions to Esther (107 verses) in the Greek version, including a dream of Mordecai, and prayers of Mordecai and of Esther. These sections form part of the Old Testament Apocrypha, which was declared to be canonical for the Catholic Church by the Council of Trent in 1546 in reaction to Protestant criticisms [of the Book of Esther].”
“There are few books of the Old Testament more relevant to life in a society hostile to the gospel.”
Stephen Hawking, the world renowned physicist, told us about really big things like black holes, but seemed to lack wonder for the small.
It must be one of the worst deficiencies of all to have such a small amount of wonder. Regardless of whether you are an atheist, agnostic or theist (hopefully the Christian kind), there must be something in you that sees the whole show of life as a miracle. Even if science explains some of how the universe works, surely there is still a place for wonder and awe instead of contempt. Let me illustrate with one well known quote from Stephen Hawking by which he reminds us humans of how insignificant we really are in the grand scheme of things.
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.” — Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys…”
Based on my Twitter feed I suspect in many ways that monkeys are often more reasonable and civil, but I don’t see them supplanting humans to have dominion (Genesis 1:26-28) – despite what is depicted in Planet of the Apes. The word “just” seems very telling. Since Hawking and many others are convinced we are “just” advanced monkeys, maybe that explains why so many treat their fellow humans with so little dignity. If one person believes another person is simply an advanced monkey, why would that person treat the monkey-person much better than the monkey from which they came? Beliefs have implications.
“on a minor planet”
Size is not the deciding factor of significance. Since we know of no other planet that sustains life, I am going to say earth is a pretty major deal.
“of a very average star.”
Quality is not always defined by size, but by the impact an object makes on what is available to be impacted. Think of the millions of stars that have little significance other than to be seen from earth – at least as far as we know and can tell from our special little blue, green and brown rock. If a star is one-hundred times bigger than our sun, but sustains no life, what good is its size? Except to be marveled at by those who were created to live on a “minor planet” with an “average star?”
Hawking was a brilliant man, but brilliance without the proper perspective leads to “minor”, “average” and wonder-less conclusions. Ultimately it leads to undervaluing the miracle that is life and the systems that sustain it.
And to top it all off, I am convinced Hawking is now bowing before the One who created every star and planet, both small and large (Phil. 2:9-11 and Isaiah 40:26).
Stephen Hawking died this day (03.14.2018). I wonder if he is now regretting his little statement before the God who created a massive universe?
My 13-year-old son has taken a liking to 70s and 80s music, and so when I take him to school we often end up listening together. I grew up listening to 80s music, but it now occurs to me that I was mostly clueless about the content that was being delivered, and what was ultimately being communicated. As I listen now with a more fully formed brain, I realize that some of the songs are about the anguish of broken or lost relationships. Sometimes I will be singing or humming along and realize I have no idea what the song means. As a matter of fact, I am convinced some songs don’t mean anything – especially 80s music. A lot of the songs are about unbridled impulses that seem to drive and own the artist, and perhaps the listener who resonates with what is being proclaimed.
For example, consider the very distinct and catchy song, “Red, Red Wine”. Neil Diamond originally wrote the song in 1967, but the English reggae and pop band, UB40, recorded the best known version in 1983. Here is a sampling of the lyrics: “Red, red wine – goes to my head – makes me forget that I – still need her so; Red, red wine – it’s up to you – All I can do – I’ve done – But memories won’t go – No, memories won’t go; I’d have sworn – that with time – Thoughts of you would leave my head – I was wrong – now I find – Just one thing makes me forget. Red, red wine – stay close to me – Don’t let me be alone…”
Should either of us be listening to this song and songs like it? What am I consuming, and in some sense, what am I am agreeing with when I listen and sing?
As I was driving my son to school and singing along with UB40, I caught myself and wondered why I was singing. I don’t like red wine and I don’t drink alcohol, and I would rather my children just avoid it altogether for convictional reasons that need not be mentioned now. But there I was, singing about red, red wine in front of my 13-year-old son. Only this time as a 42-year-old man I was actually conscious of the lyrics.
And so I asked my son, “What is the singer saying and meaning?” To which my son responded: “Well, I can’t understand half of what they are saying, but it sounds like someone is using wine to forget or escape.” He is a smart boy. He must have gotten that from his mom.
As we continued to talk about it, he was able to see that the song was really just a praise song to a functional savior. For the person who wrote this song, sings this song and embraces this song as their own, wine is a way of escaping a painful, broken relationship. If we will have ears to hear and eyes to see, we will notice everyone is singing the song of a savior. Some find rescue in sex. A few find it in science. Others find it in drugs. Many find an escape in entertainment. What is your savior? Is it work? Exercise? Man-centered religion? Social activism? Knowledge? Isn’t everyone seeking relief and rescue from something or someone?
I wanted my son to hear and see that all of us will have a savior. He will have a savior. It seems as if we are wired to worship, and that is true whether we are religious or not. Something will ultimately be valuable to us and I think he sees that because of a discussion about “Red, Red Wine”. It appears we redeemed a song about the idolatry of escape through drink. It must have struck a chord with him because he brought it up to his mom later that evening when I came home from work.
Can you identify the saviors of the world? What savior are you proclaiming? You might find the savior of the world and your savior in the songs that are sung.
One other thought: Some things should not be consumed. Some music should not be listened to. Some media should not be watched. But maybe there are times to listen in to what the world is saying and consuming to see what is being worshiped. Maybe we need to hear and see that they desire to worship as much as Christ-followers do. And maybe if we listen well and discern what is really being said, then we can introduce them to Jesus Christ, who alone can ultimately save. He is who they are looking for. And maybe we will be reminded that all the faux saviors will only deliver us so far, and that is why we cling to Christ.
It is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and as you can see from the title, I am going to jump into controversy times two.
- But to begin, I want to try to clear some obstacles that might keep you from hearing.
- I plead with you to give this sermon a fair hearing. It’s too important to not give it your attention. Even if it is uncomfortable and stings.
OBSTACLE #1: THIS IS REALLY PERSONAL AND HARD FOR SOME OF YOU.
- Several years ago, we did not preach directly on Sanctity of Human Life, but chose to highlight it by promoting Stillwater Life Services and using a video.
- The video was a barrage of quotes in favor of a pro-life worldview.
- I was standing in the back at our connection table, when a young woman came to me with a concerned look on her face.
- She suggested that the video was insensitive and hurtful to those who may have had an abortion. I listened, acknowledged her concern and explained our intentions.
- She never came back. I wonder if she was speaking for herself?
- That has haunted me and I promised myself that if we ever talked about this issue, we would do it in the context of the gospel that sets us free from guilt and death and condemnation before a Holy God.
- We all our dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). But while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). If we would turn from our sin and surrender our lives to Christ by faith, we know there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus before a holy God (Romans 8:1). In the end, no matter what we have done or not done, being right with God through Christ, is all that will matter and forgiveness and salvation and a new life is available to us all in Christ alone.
- It hurts me that this talk may hurt some of you who have experienced the destruction of Abortion, but I can’t stay quiet.
- I want to protect people from future hurt, and help people to think biblically about a hard topic. Please give this your hearing.
Which leads me to OBSTACLE # 2: WE HAVE HEARD THIS BEFORE – OR – AREN’T YOU PREACHING TO THE CHOIR?
- Yes, many of you have. I have preached regularly on this for years. Yes, likely most of you already agree with me and think biblically about all of human life.
- But, let me point out a couple of realities:
- There are many sides to this and the arguments are evolving.
- There are many new people in the room and many university students.
- Studies show that many pastors avoid this like the plague.
- I want our high school students and university adults to be biblically, convictionally pro-life and pro-woman.
Let’s see the big picture, think beyond our comfort and preferences, and not become apathetic. Be teachable and remember it’s not just about you, but the others who are in the room who need this.
THERE MOST CERTAINLY ARE OTHER OBSTACLES, BUT THESE ARE THE ONE’S THAT SEEM MOST RELEVANT.
READ PROVERBS 24:11-12.
- When I read this text I think about how hard it is to watch people be hurt (11a) and hurt themselves and others (11b).
- And when people hurt themselves, they almost always hurt others – I can’t think of a time when they don’t.
Now some of us might be prone to think: “Well, they are getting what they deserve. They are reaping what they sow.”
- And it is true that there is consequence to sin, but should this be the primary mindset of the Christian? That all we can think is: “Well, they got what was coming to them.”?
- Let’s see in God’s Spirit inspired word how we should respond to tragedies like abortion.
(11) God cares deeply about the oppressed and He expects His people to advocate for the vulnerable, outcast and hurting.
- Contextually, the author does not have a precise concern in mind. It is general.
- “Oh hold them back.” Indicates a Deep passion and concern to protect and rescue from harm.
Exodus 22:21-24 is another biblical example of God’s concern for the downtrodden: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” As you can see on the bulletin (IG), this runs through the whole of the Bible – Old and New Testament.
- Let’s make it personal. You would want someone advocate for you? To pursue you? To protect you – I hope? You do believe in Matthew 7:12 – right?
- Ask yourself: Do you care about what God cares about?
As I plead with you to care, you might be thinking, “there are so many problems, what can I do?” You can start by caring!
You may not be able to do something about everything that is wrong with the world, but you can know about injustice and care about injustice. And when you can, act to rescue the hurting.
Who are you caring for? Who are you passionate about that is hurting? The LORD God cares and so should His people! That is biblical!
(12) God will hold His people accountable and the claim of ignorance won’t work.
- 12 = Three questions that expect three “yes” responses. 1) He considers and knows your motives. 2) He knows the deep-down truth 3) He will judge you justly.
- Ignorance is not bliss and is no excuse before an all-knowing and just God – especially on this subject.
- ILL: Eisenhower and the Nazi Concentration Camps in 1945 – Eisenhower visited the death camps personally and was stunned at the atrocities. He made the locals walk through the death camps so they would know what they had been an accomplice to.
- “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.” Martin Luther King Jr.
- “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” William Wilberforce on the slave trade and what was really happening.
In light of these biblical truths, for the next ten or so minutes, I want to advocate for hurting women and the unborn persons they might hurt. But particularly for hurting women.
- You see, I am convinced the pro-life cause is the true pro-woman cause. Let me show you.
We often come at this from the side of the unborn – and we should.
- They are vulnerable, defenseless, created in the image of God. They are persons because God says so in places like Ps. 139 – You were known before time began. God knew you and everyone else.
- And even those who say the unborn are not persons often speak as though they are in fact human persons.
- Their own language betrays them. When not guarding their words, they speak truth too.
- ILL: Hillary Clinton in April 2016 The NYT reported that she was “roundly criticized” because she said, “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”
ILL: PPact wants us to believe that unborn babies are not human, but yet they sell their body parts for human research. They can’t have it both ways.
- ILL: Cosmopolitan (I don’t read it, but thanks to Twitter I came across this) ran an article in March of 2015 reporting research of ultrasounds in which babies react to mothers who smoke, “concluding that nicotine is terrible for unborn babies”.
- Notice they called them babies – little humans. Not fetuses or clumps of cells.
- ILL: The NYT Times ran an article just six days ago, marveling at a “baby” who had surgery in the womb on a spinal deformity, and came out kicking its legs.
- How wonderful that a baby could be helped in the womb – Unless no one wants to help the human baby.
You can call it reproductive rights or women’s healthcare, but we all know what is going on. Human beings are being killed.
- In most cases, organizations like Planned Parenthood are taking advantage of hurting and desperate women, prostituting them for profit.
- I say most cases because, there are women like actress, Martha Plimpton, who “shout their abortions.” Plimpton, at a pro-choice rally, said her first abortion at the age of 19 was her best one, raising her fist in the air with a “yay” as the crowd responded with cheers.
- Planned Parenthood wants women to hurt their unborn children: Planned Parenthood’s annual report typically looks like the 2014-15 report. Adoption referrals: 2,024. Abortions: 323,999 One adoption referral for every 160 abortions. And we know they are selling their dismembered bodies for money. Adoption is not profitable. Selling “human body parts” is.
- The pro-abortion cause has tried to convince us that they are the ones that are really for women because of choice.
But they don’t tell you about the immense suffering abortion produces, for those who are willing to admit it.
- NARAL Pro-Choice America – (National Associate for Repeal of Abortion Laws) tweeted: 95% of women who have an abortion do not regret it and feel it was the best choice for them.
- NARAL and PP often make these kinds of claims – that abortion is good for women.
Yet the research says otherwise:
Abortion Increases Risk of Women’s Mental Health Problems 81%
Sept. 2011 A new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry by leading American researcher Dr. Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University finds women who have an abortion face almost double the risk of mental health problems as women who have their baby. Coleman’s study is based on an analysis of 22 separate studies which, in total, examine the pregnancy experiences of 877,000 women, with 163,831 women having an abortion. The study also indicated abortion accounts for one in ten of every adverse mental health issue women face as a whole.
A new study published in the Winter 2017 issue of The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons confirms that many women suffer from long-term negative psychological effects of abortion. This includes regret, shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, loss of quality of life, and self-destructive behaviors. The study included 987 post-abortive women. The results of the study showed that 67.5 percent of respondents sought help from a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor after their abortions, compared to 13 percent who had sought help prior to their abortions. In addition, 51 percent reported prescription drug use after their abortion while only 6.6 percent used prescription drugs prior to their abortion.
58.3 percent of the women said they had their abortions to make other people happy, and 78.3 percent said that their decision to abort was aided by pressure from others. When asked about the negative results of their abortions, women stated that they felt deep feelings of loss, a decrease in their quality of life, lower self-esteem, and a decrease in their ability to connect with others. Regret, shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior were all common experiences for these women.
- 27% of women who abort contemplate suicide. Amongst teenage women, the rate rises to 50% – @CharmaineYoest CEO of Americans United for Life
BTW, our government reports that since 1973, 400 women have died from legal abortions. And yet PP often tweets that Women should have safe, legal abortion. No abortion is safe. Someone always dies.
AGAIN: NARAL Pro-Choice America – (National Associate for Repeal of Abortion Laws) tweeted: 95% of women who have an abortion do not regret it and feel it was the best choice for them.
- Somebody isn’t telling the truth about the facts or about who is really trying to protect and advocate for women.
Common sense tells us who is right and who is wrong and what is hurtful and harmful to women.
- The Bible tells us it is wrong too.
- Abortion goes against the doctrine of the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:26-18) – that humans were created to be reproducing image bearers.
I know women in our church – women who would be more than glad to talk to you – who have suffered for years because of abortion. Pushing the pain down, hoping it would go away. Living with shame. They can listen to you and help you if you have experienced abortion. We can help you find hope in Jesus Christ. We all need forgiveness and restoration.
So church, who will do Proverbs 24:11? Who will protect those slipping toward death? Who will hold them back?
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Remember the gospel that sets us free from sin, shame and guilt.
- Let your mourning and anger move you to love and compassion. We must not return evil with evil and harm. Be angry about abortion, but do not sin in your anger. Rather love – do what is best for others.
- Be knowledgeable – about the Bible and about science and about the facts. Science is on the side of life.
- SLS handout – volunteer, serve, give.
- Foster and adopt.
- Rose Day
I want to be pro-human and pro-woman. Abortion is not the way. Brothers and sisters, hold them back. Be pro-woman. Keep them from destruction. The LORD God demands it from His people.
I had a dream last night about my wife – the details are unnecessary – but it was the kind of dream that gave cause for pause and contemplation.
After some thought this morning the result was one of thankfulness and joy. Why? Because the dream helped me to see how much I trust my wife and that the trust we share is worth more to me than the treasure of Warren Buffet. I mean that because I realize it is so rare.
Now it is true that we have our moments and that I can be a bit overbearing about a thing or two, but that has more to do with me than her. I have some deficiencies and believe it or not, so does she – though few. But I trust her more than any human on the face of planet earth.
So you might be reading this…
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I really wanted to share this quote from John MacArthur in the sermon yesterday, but alas, something had to give in the interest of time. So I cut Dr. MacArthur.
In the text (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10) and sermon we saw that when Christ returns He will afflict those who afflict followers of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:6). The Thessalonians are being afflicted and Paul writes to comfort them in the midst of persecution for their faith in Christ Jesus.
When will this comfort come? How will it come?
The answer that Paul put forward to give comfort is at least in part a future fulfillment. In verse 7 Paul promises there will come a day when Christ is revealed: “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution (righteous vengeance) to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (8).”
Take special note of the words, “will be revealed”. Contextually this indicates a future moment when Jesus will apokolupsei. You likely recognize this word because it looks like the word “apocalypse”. It is used in Revelation 1:1 to describe John’s writings as “The Revelation (revealing or unveiling) of Jesus Christ”. He will be unveiled or revealed, and when He is, He will repay with affliction those who afflict.
Where is the comfort? It will come in the person of the returning Jesus and He will bring rest (2 Thessalonians 1:7) to the afflicted.
Here is how Dr. John MacArthur described the unveiling or revelation of Jesus Christ when He returns and how it will look very different from the first appearing of the Christ who was veiled in the likeness of of men (Phil. 2:7):
The first time Jesus came, the reality of who He was, was hidden. Were you to have gone into the stable in Bethlehem and looked into the crib, you would have seen a baby. There would have been nothing in that baby’s form to have revealed to you who it was. Were you to have lived in a village called Nazareth and to have known a carpenter and his wife by the name of Joseph and Mary and their boy by the name of Jesus, you would have seen a boy, perhaps an unusual boy, but there was nothing you would have seen in Him that would have revealed to you who He really was, the creator of the universe. Were you to have been on those hillsides and along those dusty paths in Galilee or down in Judea when Jesus was ministering as an adult, you would have seen a man, you would have heard a man, a man who walked and talked and slept, a man who ate, and you would have not known by looking at that man who He was, for it was veiled. Were you to have seen and heard Him teaching, no matter how profound the things that He said, there would have been nothing on the surface to have proven to you that this was an eternal being, the God of creation. Were you to have stood on a hillside called Golgotha and watched a man nailed to a cross, blood streaming from His body, there would have been nothing that you would have seen with your visual eye that would have indicated to you that this was eternal God who could never die.
That’s because the first time He came He was veiled. The first time He came, the reality of the fullness of His person was hidden. The next time He comes, it won’t be. The next time there will be no Bethlehem, there will be no stable, there will be no manger, there will be no carpenter shop, there will be no humble village. There will be no poverty, no dusty roads to walk, no sinners to attack Him and grieve Him, no false religious leaders to oppose Him. There will be no demons who will stalk His steps, no soldiers to pound nails into His hands and thorns into His brow. There will be no spear run into His side. There will be no cross – not the next time. The next time He comes it is the unveiling. There will be no humble form. There will be no servant form. There will be no human form alone, but only that glorified God-Man in full blazing presence.
It is better to embrace all of Christ now, than to have to bow the knee (Phil. 2:10-11) when He returns to “press the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)
So we wait for the big reveal of the one who will come and right all wrongs, repaying those who afflict His people.
This summer we spent six weeks covering various topics and asking probing questions in order to challenge each other about what it looks like to fight against the malaise of masculine mediocrity that too often is the default for many men. Does God have a good and gracious design for us as men, or not? If He does, then should we not pursue it relentlessly for God’s glory, the good of others and our joy? Is it enough to settle for avoiding the caricature of the modern man as a buffoon, which is so often expressed in various forms of media? Or is there a biblical standard that we should doggedly pursue so that our families, our local churches and our communities flourish and the gospel is advanced?
To be the Godly men God created us to be, here are six crucial truths that men must hold to and excel at.
- Men must make the Bible their authority for all they think, say and do. We must relentlessly build our lives on what the Bible says about our masculinity, because if we don’t, all we do will fall and be lost. We will either live Jesus’ way, or another way – the wrong way (Matthew 7:24-27). There are really only two ways for people to live, and that reality also extends to our manhood. Ultimately the decision to submit ourselves to God, comes down to whether we trust God and His goodness toward us in His design, or whether we don’t. Who do you trust? Who do you believe about what it means to be a biblical and Godly man? Your response to God’s word reveals the answer.
- Men must have a biblical definition of manhood. Real men do what – Serve? So do real women. Real men persevere – right? So do real women. There are bumper stickers that say that real men love Jesus. Is a woman a man if she really loves Jesus? So what is a real man? We can’t relentlessly pursue biblical manhood if we don’t know what biblical manhood is. What makes manhood unique? Here is a definition: Biblical Manhood is gladly embracing the initiative for the primary responsibility to sacrificially provide and protect God’s design and creation according to His word, and for His glory (Genesis 2:15-18 and Ephesians 5:25-27). Women can lead, take initiative, serve, sacrificially love, give, do hard things, encourage their husbands to follow Christ and be Godly dads, etc. But the distinguishing mark is that men take the initiative for the primary responsibility of these things. A biblical man accepts the responsibility to plan and act to love Jesus and help others to do the same. If the male has to constantly be nudged or pushed to take the initiative, then something other than biblical manhood is happening.
- Men must discipline themselves for Godliness. Left to themselves, men tend to be passive and lazy toward the initiative to take primary responsibility. We must discipline ourselves for the purpose of masculine godliness (1 Timothy. 4:7-8). We must be gospel-changed and gospel-driven men who fill our lives with God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) to fight the spiritual battles we will face (Ephesians 6:10-17). Even though it is hard, and even though it may hurt, we must engage the means of grace God has given us to do what He expects of us. On the other hand, men must also be careful not to discipline themselves for the sake of crossing off a list, or to be seen by others. The spiritual disciplines that empower us to love God and others are a means, not an end – lest we make even a good thing an idol or a way to perform for the praise of others. Having said that, I suspect most men trend toward laziness and passivity. “No man will be a spiritual leader in his home if he is not going deep with God in his own private life.” John Piper We cannot be the consistent leaders we need to be if we are inconsistent in filling our lives with God’s means of life-giving grace.
- Men must be honest with God and others. We need to be honest with others and others need our honesty. Men tend to hide weaknesses and failures because they want to be respected as someone who has all their stuff together – as though anyone has it all together. When men close themselves off, they are playing into the hands of the enemy and are hurting those who follow them because they teach others how to hide from what is real. Men must be relationally engaged in the life of the local church so they can get to know other men they can trust. They must be willing to take the risk of sharing honestly about what they struggle with so others can ask helpful questions and pray specifically for them. Honest confession is biblical and good for those who trust God enough to practice it (Psalm 32:5 and James 5:16). Many men are wasting away inwardly, and perhaps outwardly, because they are not man enough to be honest. Wise vulnerability is not optional for the Godly man.
- Men must fight for sexual purity. This is something every man battles with. Whether it is lust, pornography, adultery, etc., every man must discipline himself and find honest accountability if we are going to walk in ongoing sexual purity. This is Satan’s biggest weapon against men and he uses it to devastate men spiritually. One blogger who worked with college students said the number one issue he dealt with was young men who had a lack of assurance of salvation because of habitual porn use. If they were really Christians, why do they keep sinning this way? Were they really repenting? Sexual immorality makes men numb to the image of God in women, to the spiritual needs of their family and it makes us hide from God in the shadows of shame and guilt.
- Men must build a difference-making culture of biblical manhood in their homes and as a part of their local church. How does this happen? First, men have to know how to be men and they must contend together to hold the line of manhood. The first five truths of manhood articulated above, represent the line we must know and hold. There certainly are other truths that would help us be Godly men, but the aforementioned five are critically important. There has to be some sort of expectation and plan. There has to be some way of evaluating whether or not we are acting like biblical men, and when we know what needs to be done, we can fight for these things together. We can stand shoulder to shoulder and encourage, admonish and even rebuke each other according to the need of the moment under the authority of God’s word. Think about just a few examples of men who did not trust God’s word and hold the line. Adam did not hold the line in Genesis 3:1-6, and now we all are infected with sin and are destined to die once and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Abraham had a very specific promise from God that he would miraculously be given a son, but he listened to Sarai and took matters (Hagar) into his own hands and the consequences persist even to this day. Abraham did not hold the line in Genesis 16:1-6. In 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12, David did not act like the man after God’s own heart. Rather he committed a slew of sins for which people lost their lives, and for which he momentarily lost his integrity. Second, men have to move forward by helping others to know the line and hold it. We have to lead our families to know and trust God. We have to help men in our church fight against the tendency to be lazy and passive in their manhood. Men must be inviting others to join them in following Jesus. We must lovingly press men to love the gospel deeply and share it freely. We must challenge men to be teachable, reminding them of all that Jesus commanded for obedience. We must call for courage and risk-taking. We must own the responsibility of being the solution when there are deficiencies and problems, instead of just being a critic and problem-finder. We must take it upon ourselves to equip and train Godly men who will carry out the mission of the church.
We must know the line. We must hold the line. And we must advance the truth that there is a way for Godly men to live. A man with no plan to be a biblical man, is no man at all. Our families, our churches and our world need more biblical and Godly men.
Manversation – The first goal for our time is to build meaningful and honest relationships with other men.
- One more week next week and 5 Groups – you can continue what we have started here by being a in 5Group.
- Introduce yourself – name, phone number and known birth marks 🙂
- When was the first time you looked at porn and how does that make you feel now? Would you go back and undo what you looked at back then?
- ILL: I read the other day of 9 yr old girl who began looking at porn when she was 6 because lack of supervision on a device.
Relentlessly Pursing Purity in our Manhood
This is a massive problem because of the proliferation the accessibility of porn – it is just a click away!
- Porn makes more money than the NFL, NBA and MLB combined. Not to mention marketing that prostitutes the bodies of women to sell products and services.
What is sexual sin?
- Matthew 5:27-30 – Sexual perversion is: Rebelling against God’s design by physically, mentally or emotionally acting like you are married to someone when you are not, and/or sexually mistreating your spouse.
- Jesus says sexual sin is ultimately a heart issue in us that must be aggressively and severely dealt with. Eternity hangs in the balance (Matthew 5:30).
What does sexual sin do to men?
- God dysfunction A blogger claimed the # 1 issue among college men is the sin of lusting over porn that results in doubting the assurance of their salvation.
- Relational dysfunction – it results in our dishonoring the image of God in women. It makes us less helpful spiritually.
- Sexual dysfunction – studies find that men who look at pornography are less intimate with their spouse.
- “Sin is missing the mark. It is transgression. It is rebellion. It is iniquity. It is evil, and only evil. It covers us with guilt and shame and shame and filthiness. It is folly, the opposite of wisdom. It is a lie, the opposite of truth. It unmans a man. Left to itself it crushes him who indulges in it. It covers the soul with a pall (dark cloud) of the deepest sadness. It separates between God and his creature. One sin naturally leads to another. It shuts the mouth. It opens hell…And God hates it. If we think lightly of sin, we shall not be much concerned to get rid of its guilt or defilement, nor be very watchful against its assaults, nor very thankful for supposed deliverance from its curse or its power.” WS Plumer
Why are men so susceptible to the sin of sexual perversion?
- We are visually driven. This isn’t all bad. There is something good in that God has given us this drive. But it is reserved for our spouse and it is dangerous when perverted. Matthew 6:22 “They eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, you whole body will be full of light.”
- The sins that are the most dangerous are the ones that are perversions of a good thing God has created for His glory and our enjoyment.
- We are not disciplined and so we are:
- Lazy – porn and lust are too good to be true. Porn is too easy. Relationships that produce loving physical and intimate interactions require patience and serving. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” Ps. 119:9.
- Empty – Full of the flesh and not of the Spirit. Because we are lazy, we do not discipline ourselves for Godliness (1 Tim. 4:7-8) and therefore we are not full of the things of God, which leaves lots of room for the flesh.
- We are fake – we are not honest. We must be accountable about the extent of our struggle with sexual sin.
Why Are These Men Downloading Child Porn from May 30, 2017 Psychology Today “One popular sight boasts 91 million videos were viewed last year alone. That is 12.5 videos for every person on earth. The popularity of internet porn is generally attributed to the three A’s – anonymity, availability and affordability. People can learn about sex and engage in experimentation without personal vulnerability or fear of embarrassment. There is no responsibility for another’s satisfaction.”
How do we fight for the joy of purity?
- We make sure we are saved. You need positional righteousness and you need Spirit power that comes from becoming a new creation (Eph. 1:12-13 and 2 Cor. 5:17).
- We make sure we are repenting. If you fail and fall, repent. Repent as much as you have to in order to progressively kill the sin of sexual immorality.
- We fight it with every weapon we can muster:
- We make commitments (Job. 31:1) to ourselves and others.
- We make sure we are nourished and full of the Spirit. Eph. 5:18
- We employ negative ILL: Could be your daughter or mom. Are you a rapist?
- Are you an atheist? Then why do you act like no one is seeing when God is looking? God is with us and watching.
- We preach to ourselves that those we love the most need our purity. Don’t you want to be spiritually sensitive to God? Don’t you want to be able to say to your children, you can do this.
- We warn our sons and daughters about it. By the age of eleven, we have better have had the talk about the dangers that lurk and can kill.
- We choose to never to give up, repenting and clinging to the perfect gospel.
Remind ourselves that sex is God’s idea and it is good when done within the protective boundaries of marriage (Gen. 1:27; 2:24).
PRAYER – Lord God, help us to trust in Christ for our standing before You. Help us to be full of Your Holy Spirit and to be like Your Son, who was fully human and never sinned sexually. Lord God, empower us to never give up fighting sexual perversion, for the good of others and your glory and our joy. Amen.
This past week social media was buzzing with comments and posts about celebrating and/or recognizing the Fourth of July as a part of Sunday morning worship gatherings. There are wide-ranging views (often generational) about what is appropriate when it comes to patriotism and Jesus. For example, some of the questions being volleyed back and forth are: “Should churches have patriotic services?” “Should there be an American Flag in the worship gathering space?” “Are we elevating country and civil religion over the kingship of Jesus?” These questions, like almost all things in this increasingly contentious culture, are not easily resolved.
In light of these questions, and others, here is an article that I found to be biblical and representative of how I see this increasingly sensitive conversation. But even this balanced article reveals the tension we find ourselves dealing with in regard to the place of national pride in the life of Christ-worshiping churches. Our temporal love of country should not divide the forever people of God and churches of Jesus Christ.
On top of all the theological and cultural arguments for and against recognizing a holiday like the Fourth of the July, there is a more practical concern that often goes unmentioned.
Do we really have enough time? Is this the best use of our Sunday mornings?
Even if a church wanted to recognize a day like the Fourth, or Memorial Day or any other special day, how would they squeeze them all in without squeezing out regular, through-the-Bible preaching? And how would they decide what is worthy of addressing and what is not?
Take this list of prominent calendar days and consider the sermons that could preached for each one.
- New Year’s Day – getting a new start and living for a greater purpose
- Sanctity of Life Sunday – whether born or unborn, all life matters
- Valentine’s Day – working on relationships and love
- Easter (Resurrection of Jesus Christ Day) – the resurrection changes everything
- Graduation Day (High School and University) – God has great plans for your life
- Mother’s Day – mothers are great and we all love them
- Memorial Day – thanks to the many who made sacrifices for our freedom, especially Jesus
- Father’s Day – dads need to get their acts together and lead
- Independence Day – thank God for this nation under God
- Labor Day – God made work and rest
- Thanksgiving Day – are you thankful? If not, then you are not in God’s will (1 Thess. 5:18)
- Christmas Day – Jesus was clothed in flesh to live with us that He might die for us
That’s 12 days. 12 is a nice number when talking about the twelve tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples, but not for topical preaching. If a preacher did a sermon for every significant holiday that meant something to someone, he would have to give up 12 sermons a year. That is 23% of the year.
Our Eagle Heights faith family usually acknowledge days like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and I am thankful for each of those days, because we should be thankful for our nation’s freedom and those God used to preserve it. But when I think about what the church is and why we gather, I would rather reserve special occasions and sermons for days that are explicitly Christian, or days that transcend our temporal county (Hebrews 13:14) – unless there is very special reason to do so. It is biblically hard to ignore Christmas and Easter, and Sanctity of Life Sunday is really about God’s creative rights and the dignity of every person He has created. And sometimes we will focus on Mother’s and Father’s Day, but we can’t do them all.
Please hear me loud and clear. I am thankful for my country and the men and women who have served and sacrificed. I love my mom and dad, and I hope the best for graduates. I also want everyone to be loved and keep their covenant of marriage, but I am committed first and foremost to the kingdom of King Jesus. We have 52 weeks a year to gather and I want to give those weeks to the most important person in the universe while being secondarily thankful for all the other good things we celebrate. Jesus and His agenda must always have first place, and everything else must bow to Him. Even our love of country and the holidays that remind us to honor and celebrate.
I recently received an email from a former church member who asked whether there were biblical grounds for a Christian to seek a divorce. If Jesus tells us we are not to separate (Matthew 19:6) what God has joined in a life-long covenant (Genesis 2:24), then are there biblical reasons for getting a divorce?
I turned this into a public post for several reasons: 1) to answer the question 2) to help others who know professing Christians who may be considering divorce 3) to serve as a warning about pursing divorces that are not biblical 4) to remind us that divorce is not defining. The gospel of Jesus is greater. The gospel is greater than divorce.
The following answer is not exhaustive, but it is a beginning attempt to answer a very challenging question. Here is what I wrote in response to the aforementioned question.
(If you read any part of this, please read the next to last paragraph too.)
To begin with, this is a very difficult topic because so many have been divorced and in many cases many feel and/or believe they are justified in divorcing because of any number of reasons that makes the commitment to their spouse undesirable. This is very emotional to people and that makes it a hard topic to address. When trying to talk with people about what God says about divorce, people will have many reasons for which they deeply believe they have the right to divorce. Maybe they just are not happy. Maybe they chose the wrong “soulmate”. Maybe all trust was lost because of money. In a no-fault culture of divorce, the reasons are many and varied. Many people just steer clear of it to avoid confrontation or causing further hurt, but the Bible has something to say about it. Are we to ignore God’s word and say nothing?
First, let’s reestablish what marriage is and what God’s part is in bringing it about. The idea from the beginning, is that marriage was intended to be a life-long, covenant commitment between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27; 2:24 and Matthew 19:1-6). That is God’s beautiful design and will for the lives of those who would make this covenant, one-flesh commitment. Jesus said in Matthew 19:6, “What God has brought together, let no man separate.” So when someone pursues a divorce, you can be sure of one thing: There is hardness of heart (Mark 10:5) and that means sin is flourishing instead of God’s original and perfect design. Divorce is ALWAYS the result of sin, and what is sin? Sin is the rejection of God’s goodness and God’s way, which results in trusting the way of the world and our way, and this leads to disobedience. Obedience is what we do when we trust God’s goodness toward us and others. Divorce is the result of not trusting God.
Second, divorce that is unsanctioned by the Bible leads to adultery. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18) Why is this so? Because the person who declares and acts like they have ended the existing marriage, then goes to another person and engages in a second marriage when the first marriage has not ended. They are committing adultery against the first union which no one should separate. God brought the first union together, and the person who did the divorcing is acting like God and pretending they can just dissolve the union. They can’t. It still exists and they are going on to another relationship and acting like they are unmarried. Biblically, they are still married and, therefore, they are committing adultery. Are you tracking with me?
However, there are biblical reasons for divorce. There are exceptions. But before we explore the exceptions, keep in mind that even if there are legitimate reasons for divorce, sin that flows from a hard heart that is set against God is still the root problem. Sin always confuses, distorts, destroys, hurts, scars, etc. Divorce is never a good thing. Having said that, the first biblical exception that allows for divorce, resulting in termination of the covenant that God created, is physical adultery (Matthew 5:31-32). So if a man or woman commits physical adultery, that infidelity would be grounds for divorce. However, my hope would be that the one who was sinned against would grant forgiveness if the offending partner repented. Sometimes people make really bad decisions, but that doesn’t always mean they are not a believer who desires to trust and obey Jesus. If they repent, that is a good sign that they have growing to do, or just had a really bad lapse in judgment. The consequences will not soon be forgotten, but there is hope for that marriage if repentance happens. If adultery becomes a pattern, I don’t see how a person could do anything but get a divorce since the faithful partner would be stuck in a lie that they are in a monogamous, biblical relationship. It takes two faithful people to be married. The second exception that allows divorce is that of abandonment – particularly by an unbelieving spouse. The fact is that a true believing disciple would not abandon their spouse permanently, and even if they did for a moment, we should expect them to show signs of listening to Godly counsel and moving toward repentance since this is such a cut and dry teaching in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes that if a believing spouse has an unbelieving spouse, they are not to divorce them. However, if the unbelieving spouse abandons the believing spouse, Paul says to let them go (1 Cor. 7:15). More than likely the context here is that either a husband or wife has become a new believer and their spouse did not convert or get saved, so the natural question would be: “Should a new believer stay married to an unbeliever?” Paul says as long as the unbeliever consents to continue the covenant, stay with them and work for peace in the relationship. The covenant should be honored and the believer should not leave the unbeliever, but the opposite may indeed happen. I also want to suggest that any abandonment must be a physical abandonment. Many men, and sometimes women, are emotionally and spiritually absent, but it seems to me the context is one in which the unbeliever says I don’t want to stay together, and decides to move on literally (1 Cor. 7:12). These are the only two exceptions I see in scripture to Jesus’ command, “What God has brought together, let not man separate.”
A couple of other thoughts might be helpful regarding this very difficult topic. When I have encountered this, it is always very messy and very confusing to those who are divorcing and to those who are trying to help the divorcing couple save their marriage. When the word divorce starts getting tossed around, it usually is the result of many years of hurt and pain that often leads to a really bad decision like adultery. I say this, not to make an excuse for adultery, abandonment or divorce, but to point out that these twisted webs that have been woven, often take a lot of challenging work to untangle. Sometimes it will take many, many meetings and many years for relational health to flourish. There are often no quick fixes and repentance often is a process of many decisions and many ups and downs, not just a one-time decision.
So what if someone has divorced their spouse but did not have a legitimate biblical reason, and now a long time later, they realize that they were wrong? The good news is this: Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are a new creation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 and 1 Corinthians 5:17). Be careful though, no one should continue to sin that grace may abound or increase (Romans 6:1). But if you are just now realizing, “Oh No! I was wrong!” – that is good news. That means you are sensitive to the work of God’s Spirit through the Word of God. One of the most certain marks of a true believer in Christ is that of conviction of sin (John 16:8-11). What then can be done, especially sense there are those who likely can’t undo what they have undone with divorce? Repent. Trust in God’s forgiving grace and boldly confess to Him the wrong that has been done. And then seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt, as much as it depends on you. This may mean contacting by phone or letter a former spouse, children or anyone who was hurt in the process. If you are convicted and you can change course in the short term, then do that before too much time goes by. The good news of the gospel is that when Jesus saves us and transforms us, we have a righteous standing before the Holy God of the universe. We are righteous in Christ, by faith alone in Christ alone. God’s grace through Christ, is greater than all our sins. A divorce that is not biblically sanctioned may seem like a special sin that can’t be forgiven, but if God can forgive, then there is something to rejoice about despite the hurt and pain. The person that I am most concerned about is the person who claims to be a Christian, and runs headlong into sin thinking, “Well, I will just ask for forgiveness later. After all, God wants me to be happy.” Yes, God wants you to be happy. But the kind of happiness God has for you is not the kind of happiness the world promises. Eternal and lasting happiness is the kind that comes from pursing holiness and obeying God’s commands. Any happiness that comes from opposing God’s clear and written word will not last.
Divorce is never good. It tears a part what God has done. It comes from a hard heart toward God, and is not loving toward others. And it produces a lot of damage and even spiritual death. But keep in mind that God can also rescue and restore. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I pray He uses Bible-trusting Christians for the good of others and His glory. There is lasting joy in trusting and obeying God’s word and loving others with it.
I hope this helps far more than it hurts. But sometimes things have to hurt before there can be help and healing.