South Fellowship is having their men’s retreat this mid-October weekend. It’s not clear from what the men are retreating, but it sounds like they will have great time doing so. Perhaps next year I’ll be able join in retreating?
In any case, this got me thinking about a subject near and dear to me: man-ness. The essence of being a real man. Every era and culture has its own definition or expectations for what a manly male is like. Right now you could Google until you Yahoo, searching billions and billions of books, blogs, articles, myths, stories and poems on man-ness. Frankly, I enjoy The Art of Manliness as it provides historical, hysterical and helpful articles on the subject. The author even gives very practical lessons on such things as how to paddle a canoe or how to date a woman, 1950’s style (which might include paddling a canoe while on a date with a woman?)
Christian leaders have authored books on the subject; of course. Some will have you believing that a real “Christian” man is tough, gruff, and filled with stuff with the looks, build and strength of Superman. You know, Superman with a halo! Others focus only upon character. Still others bring more opinion to the table than substance from the Creator of men. Sadly, such sources tend to pontificate from the imaginations of the proud. In other words, it’s more an exhortation to “think like I think and do like I do and you’ll be a real man.” My thought? Don’t try this at home!
Before you allow me to chase rabbits further off the beaten path, let me get back to trying to give a description and somewhat of a narrative from God’s Word about man-ness. After all, God created male and female. His original male was a true man; a real man; the normal man. Hopefully, God’s Word informs this article far more than my pompous opinion. With that, let’s dig in further to see what is meant by this.
The Original Man was a Real Man
The original man, Adam, was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27;5:1; 9:6 Ps. 52:1; 1 Cor. 11:7; 15:49; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; Jas. 3:9). This means he was created with:
Like God, the original man, named Adam, was created as a social being. By the way, I like that name. It means dirt or more precisely, red clay. So guys, if someone says your name is mud, they really aren’t too far from the truth.
As a creature he was created with the need and ability to relate with others, namely with God and with people. The essence of this connection was love. Man was also given an earth suit (body) in order to relate with others and to have an active affinity with God’s new creation. Adam’s body was endowed with perfect health, incredibly chiseled strength, and absolute masculine beauty – – every woman’s desire and every man’s wish.
Man was made to know and be known. God gave Adam brilliance, gifted with the highest intelligence and emotional quotients. He was made analogous to God in his thinking, though with knowledge that is created, limited and acquired. He was made to think God’s thoughts after God, to learn truth, to understand himself and others, and to fully know the wonders of creation. In other words, Adam surpassed the best of all Renaissance men. He was also created to be in consort and in council with God, and then announce and proclaim the will of Heaven on earth.
Adam was created with the capacity and ability to do God’s will, because he could and would make choices consistent with God’s will. As such he was created with moral excellence and integrity. He was holy and godly (which means God-like)
Adam was made a man with a mission. He was created with the inclination and executive power to do the right things. God issued a call to him to be responsible, productive, and to serve creation and God’s creatures. This service was as a co-ruler, not for domination but for glorification of God’s creation.
The original man was the “normal” man. He was a real man!
But Man Had a Great Fall
Though created innocent, Adam failed a major test: he failed to believe God, to proclaim the Law of God when he was tempted by , and to speak God’s will with clarity and directness to his bride and the enemy (Genesis 3). He also failed to guard the garden and guard his bride from the deceiver. In his failing a transformation took place within Adam. He wanted to become just like God in ways that was impossible. He also wanted to dominate and rule as an equal with God. This transformation from normalcy is called sin. Adam sinned and henceforth became a sinner. He became abnormal.
Judicially, Adam represented all mankind; but he also passed this deformity on to all those who descended from him. Since then, we are all born with the condition of sin. This defect in normalcy quickly affected humanity and the environment in which all live. It also had a ripple effect in the unseen spiritual dimension.
Another sad consequence was that man became ignorant, guilty, sinful, and disconnected. The penalty was that he suffered spiritual death (Eph. 2:1-5), judicial death (Rom. 5:16), and a psycho-social death (Gen. 3:19). The result of spiritual death was a horrific disconnect from God, and a disability in understanding spiritual realities. The fallout of judicial death rendered Adam incapable of ever meeting up to God’s holy standards and ever being pure like God. Consequently, sin caused him to have character defects. It also rendered him incapable of being completely unbiased and rendering fair judgments. As hard as he might try, he would not be able to be perfectly equitable and impartially just. The psycho-social death negatively affected all relationships, since his propensity toward selfishness, lust, and power would only bring about some level of conflict in all his relations. From the moment of that fall man would lose the struggle to be an ideal servant and a responsible steward. Instead man is inclined to dominate and rule, often abusively. This fall from God into a dark condition would pollute and contaminate not only relationships with other people, but also other creatures and with God’s good creation.
This fall into a state of sin and misery reverses what God created as normal. Man now thinks himself to be wise, but without reference to God (Rom. 1-3). His inclination is to suppress God’s truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Therefore, he twists and redefines truth, and assumes God’s Word is subject to man’s judgment. This is not truly normal.
Man also set himself as the standard of good and evil. He seeks to be worshiped rather than to worship God. Either that or he seeks to create a god in his own image and build a kingdom on earth as it is in his head. He desires not self-sacrifice but self-aggrandizement. He also no longer seeks to give unselfishly, but rather seeks to get for himself. Rather than glorifying creation as a steward he seeks to dominate. His tendency now is to misuse and abuse. He seeks to conquer. What’s more, his new impulse is either toward laziness or “workaholism.”
While this is the reversal of God’s original blueprint for what it means to be a real man, this does not mean that men are as bad as they could be. Contrary to what some believe, men do relatively good things. The hope given to mankind is that God put into place his plan to reverse the effects of the great reversal. Confused yet? In other words, God has made a way for abnormal man to become God’s normal man, to become a “real” man.
The New Man
The preexistent, eternal God became a man (John 1; Heb. 2:6-8; Col. 1:15). He became a “normal” human while retaining his divinity. This was Jesus the new Adam, but perfect God (1 Cor. 15:45-49). Jesus started his ministry in the place of the wilderness, the figurative arena for the kind of fallen life that man suffers (Matt. 4). The place where sin-infused man-ness resides. Jesus entered into that place in order to bring mankind out of the wilderness and back to the place of Eden’s normalcy. Well, actually beyond Eden to an eventual new heaven and a new earth.
Jesus was rightly and perfectly connected to God and others through love. He was born with true knowledge, sinless moral character, and faultless integrity. He lived his life as the Man with a mission: to lead people back to Eden’s beautiful utopia and beyond. Yet, in order to do so Jesus also suffered disconnection and rejection by others, and ultimately by God the Father when he took sinful man’s place and hung upon the cross judged by fellow man and by God.
Jesus fulfilled everything that Adam failed. Therefore, Jesus completed what all men fail to do. But then Jesus traded places with man, suffering the demise that awaits all infected and defective creatures: the hellish, painful experience of all that is wicked and evil, such as suffering, pain, ultimate loneliness, total rejection, a cruel death, and a deafening, dark blackness.
Thankfully, while this was his destiny it was not his end. God’s acceptance of Jesus’ mission to lead his people in the great exodus out of the wilderness of sin and evil, and because of his own power, Jesus passed right through that tar pit of death’s underworld to the other side of life (Rom. 5). He took with him man’s sin and came through alive and with a new body (1 Cor. 15).
Jesus did this in order to rectify man’s ignorance, resolve his guilt, reverse the effects of sin, and reconnect with God. How is this relevant for you? It is relevant because through his perfect work in life and his sacrificial death upon the cross Jesus redeems and restores your knowledge, holiness, and righteous state (Eph. 4:24; Col 3:10). The process of restoring man began at the cross, and it begins with each man when God’s Spirit brings him to the place of that cross by faith. In other words, Jesus Christ remakes and re-forms man, bringing him back to the place of what is truly normal. He makes man real again.
You – A New Man!
When you, or any man, trust in the God-Man Jesus Christ, and rest in his work and accomplished mission, a transformation takes place (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:8-10). First, Jesus Christ reconnects your disconnected relationship with God. His finished work is the guarantee that you will also pass through hell on earth and come out alive and well.
Jesus did incredible things for you. By the Laws of Heaven he earned the right to pay for your release from the wilderness, obtained a declaration of pardon from God, acquired the certificate of passage, and then he himself became the guarantee that you will be purified, restored to heaven-made normalcy, completely acceptable to God. If that were not enough, his good works were so perfect that he also procured an eternal line of works-credit for you (Rom. 4:23-24; Rom. 5)!
He brought all of this to God the Father on your behalf. You were the long lost and rebellious son who declared emancipation from God. Yet, completely satisfied with Jesus’ accomplished mission and very happy to see you restored, God the Father receives you and legally adopts you. More than that, to see that you would be of the same bloodline, so to speak, he sends his Spirit to breath new life into your soul. Your new, reborn spiritual life connects you as his child (Jn. 1:12; Jn. 3:5-8).
God then pours his Spirit into you in order to empower you with a special faith that will take you on the journey through the wilderness-hell back to Eden’s heaven (Rom. 8). The Spirit brings God’s ancient writings to life for you so that your mind understands the thoughts of God (1 Cor. 3), your heart desires the things of God, and your will seeks to do the mission of God. Those mysterious writings become the very food that nourishes, strengthens and empowers you in the journey.
While Jesus made the journey through wilderness-hell without becoming contaminated with sin, darkness and evil, you go through the journey for a different reason. He cleared the way, but the moment you are justified, adopted, reborn, and exercise that special faith, the journey becomes for you a lengthy decontamination process. At the same time it is a rejuvenation process. In fact, your identity is now as a new man in Christ, being changed from the abnormal into the normal, real man. Along the way you make new connections. Especially important are making connections with those who have also been transformed.
Like a child, you begin to comprehend reality and God-defined normalcy. You can think God’s thoughts about life and absorb truth. But to gain more insight and true knowledge you have to remove ignorance and foolish thinking. This is a purposeful and deliberate progression. It should be a daily progression. This is part of what it means to be a real man.
Since God has forgiven and pardoned you, you are no longer guilty. Yet because you have not yet passed into heaven’s purity, you still wrestle with the remaining vestiges of sin. On the one hand life in Jesus Christ means putting on more and more the quality of Christ’s character (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; 1 Tim. 3). Life for one who trusts in Jesus also means battling that old sin, confessing that sin, and putting off that sin. As Colossians 3:5-8 tells us about the residue of sin in our lives we are to kill it, cast it, and quit it! The challenge is a tough one that confronts you, the real man, every day. Like a soldier your order from God is to put off the sin and put on the pure life. Like an athlete you vigorously train yourself in holiness. Like a faithful servant whose allegiance is to the Emperor, his will is your command. What’s more, you are empowered to carry out his will!
With newfound empowerment you also have the executive ability to do what is right – to live righteously. With this power you can fulfill God’s mission for your life. He does not have some mere job for you – he has a calling. Your task is to discover this vocation and execute it in the service of God for the greater good of others. Your task also includes being a responsible steward for the glorification of God’s creation. Everything you do then ought to reflect God’s awesome beauty and radiate his wonderful light.
The sphere in which you live is like a decontamination chamber, cleansing you more and more of your sin. As you shed the old layers and clear out that old cancer, you also gain new health and life so as to become “normal” like Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be a real man. A real man in Christ is active, not passive; he is proactive, not unengaged; he is growing, not shriveling. The Christ-follower is intentional in his call, function, and roles. Jesus, the God-Man has made a difference in this new man’s life, and consequently he makes a difference in life.
As a believing follower of Jesus, like it or not this is your journey and manifest destiny. You are not westward bound, but upward bound. Your God-given motto is “excelsior” for you are on the challenging path that is forward and upward to the high calling in Christ. You stay the course as you trek across the wilderness with patient endurance because in the end you will be transfigured into a heavenly being like Jesus was (2 Cor. 3:18). You will be the perfectly complete and real man.
What’s a Real Man to Do?
Okay man, I’m not going to say to you “Don’t wear plaid,” or “Eat quiche.” However, allow me to nudge you to go forward and upward into real man-ness.
First, if you have not come to faith in Jesus the perfectly real Man, do so now. If you are unsure about what that means or how to have that kind of transformational faith then feel free to contact me or Pastor Ryan or Pastor Dan or one of the elders or any other man who knows what this excelsior journey in Christ is all about.
Second, find a man who is intentional about the transformation from our society’s normal to God’s new normal. Develop a mutual mano a mano friendship to spot one another in the developmental exercise of real manliness.
Third, see about getting involved in one of the various men’s groups. Especially, the ones that meet for breakfast where they eat quiche, or at least omelets. Maybe even eat wearing plaid?
Here’s to being a real man!