Real Men in Church – Men After God’s Own Heart!
What would you say to men if you had the opportunity – about men being men in the church?
What does it mean to be real men in the church?
I was thinking about who we see as real men – I guess we tend to think adventurers…
- Edmund Hillary – climbing Mt Everest
- Chuck Yeager – first man to fly at Mach 1
- Donald Campbell – land speed record holder
- Ken Warby – water speed record – inventor of the phrase “that man’s an idiot”
- Captain Joseph Kittinger – you don’t know this one do you? Jumped from a balloon at 31.3 kilometres and free fell at a terminal velocity of 988kmh (1960).
But does the fact they do daredevil stuff – make them real men? Or are they just idiots putting their lives in danger? One of my mates is right into mountain bikes – proper down-hill-if-you-fall-off-you-might-die mountain bike racing – he fell off recently – broke his kneecap, leg, arm, shoulder, 3 ribs and the little wings off 4 of his vertebrae – he’s a good bloke but I’m not sure I want to say the fact that he’s an idiot who wants to race down mountains on a push bike makes him a real man. He’s also a firey so maybe he is!?
Maybe it’s the warriors – war heroes. If we’re giving out real men awards we might consider pilots in WW2 – the Germans were targeting V1 rockets on London – the pilots would fly alongside and use the Spitfire wing to tip the rocket off course causing it to explode harmlessly in the air. That is impressive manly stuff.
Maybe we think of actors – Charlton Heston, John Wayne, Cary Grant, George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Will Smith, Sam Worthington… Bruce Willis… has nothing to do with them being real men – some of them seem like good blokes, down to earth – some of them are more female heart-throbs than real men – but I guess if I’d said Jim Carrey, Rowan Atkinson or… Adam Sandler – they don’t quite fit the right image?
Maybe real men are the blokes on Top Gear – TV for real men – Richard Hammond – real man? Jeremy Clarkson – real man? James May??? Puts us in a bit of quandary – it would be hard to think of a TV show better suited to real men – yet the presenters are so different? Our own version of the show with Shane Jacobson and two other blokes – well it was a flop even though Shane is pretty much the stereotype of the big Aussie man – burgers and bbqs and beer – a total boofhead.
The Husband Store
So I discovered the other day that there’s a new store in New York – called “The Husband Store!” It’s a store that sells husbands – for women to choose the perfect man. As you enter the store you’re greeted like royalty and escorted to the lift – and handed an instruction sheet.
You may visit the store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and as the lift ascends each level so do the qualities and attributes of the men. You can choose a bloke from any floor but you can’t go back to a lower floor!
So, this woman goes in one day to find a husband. Into the lift and up to the 1st floor – the doors open and she reads the sign over the doors; 1st Floor – these men have jobs and love the Lord (it’s America).
Sounds great – but what does the next floor contain. So up she goes. The lift opens and the second floor sign reads; 2nd Floor – These men have jobs, love the Lord, and love kids.
Tempting – really who could want for more! But she presses the button. The doors open… 3rd Floor – these men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are extremely good looking and guaranteed to remain faithful.
“WOW”. This is sensational – yet she feels compelled – she might miss out… so she pushes the button. The doors open and she reads… 4th Floor – These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are incredibly good looking, guaranteed to remain faithful and help with the housework.
Tempting as it is to simply rush out and grab one off the rack she can hardly stand the suspense, and simply presses the button, fidgeting as the lift ascends. The doors open and she reads… 5th Floor – these men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are unbelievably gorgeous, are guaranteed to remain faithful, help with the housework, and have a strong romantic streak.
She almost pounces on the button, hardly able to contain herself wondering what on earth the 6th floor might hold that could be better. The door opens and she steps out, eagerly scanning the sign, a large electronic display which reads… 6th Floor – You are visitor 4,363,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely to prove that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store. Watch your step as you exit the building, and have a nice day!
Men after Gods Own Heart
So we’ve got men in the world… we’ve got women’s expectations… and we’ve got the church – us!?
How do we be real men in the church?
The Bible has a huge amount to say about being real men.
In Acts 13 Paul is explaining the OT to a group of Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism – on the Sabbath in the Synagogue – he goes through their history so they can see that Jesus truly is the long awaited Messiah. And he speaks about King David – and David had one particular quality, different to the kings of surrounding nations and different even to the rest of the kings of Israel.
Acts 13:21-22 “Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”
Saul was a shallow vain king – just like the kings of surrounding nations – in the end he had no relationship with God. But God’s assessment of David before he was king – a man after God’s own heart. We read the same words in Jeremiah 3 – one of the main OT passages that speaks about the coming Messiah, at a time when Israel is falling apart and are looking for God to save them from themselves – Jeremiah speaks of a time to come…
Jeremiah 3:15 “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.”
Jeremiah is ultimately talking about Jesus – the passage goes on to speak about the coming of the Messiah.
What do we know about the Church? I’ll tell you the big one – we know that the church is God’s! We belong to God – in a very real sense we are his possession – Christ is the king.
2 Corinthians 6:16b “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
The church is God’s people living God’s way – God has given us the promise he gave Israel – to be our God and that we would belong to him forever and share his glory.
Let’s pull this all together. David as King was not to be a ruler like other rulers who used their position to lord their power over others. He was to be a servant king and particularly to serve Israel as a model – the people of Israel were called to follow David’s example as a man after God’s own heart. Just as we Christians are called to follow Jesus – not simply in his footsteps or doing good works or preaching the gospel or whatever – but to follow Jesus who was a shepherd ‘after God’s own heart’. This is not about leaders and ministers but about ordinary Christian men and women – and I’m just looking at us boys today – as we look around the Bible at what it says about us men – we are to be men after God’s own heart. We are to be men whose life and heart is from the same mould as God’s. Having been made in God’s image, to have a heart that strives after that image. That was the thing about King David – he was not perfect – in fact at times he was an appalling sinner, though I’m sure we can’t throw stones his way. God chose him not because he was beautiful, handsome, tall, politically connected, well liked or from the right family – he was the youngest son of a family of shepherds – a total nobody. God chose him as king because his heart belonged to God.
In our world we value our men if they are strong, wise, shrewd, educated, have nouse and guts, manage people, use time well etc. They might all be important – or not – but when we come to the church we need men who are men “after God’s own heart”.
I like that husband store joke – you’re not sure whether to laugh or just smile knowingly.
Let me tell you another.
A man was walking along a Melbourne beach, deep in prayer for the people of Tasmania – and he calls out to God; “Lord grant me one wish”. The sky clouded and a booming voice said, “Well mate – you have been a faithful servant so I will grant you one wish.” The man said, “Build a bridge to Tasmania so I can drive over anytime I want to take the gospel to those godless men and women.”
The Lord answered, “Whilst your motives are pretty good think of the logistics – the bridge supports into Bass Straight, the storms and danger – the concrete and steel required just makes it a huge job – you know I can do it but it’s pretty hard to justify. Think again – ask for something that would honor me”.
The man thought for a long time and finally said, “Lord, I wish that I could understand women. I want to know what they feel inside, what they are thinking when they give me the silent treatment, why they cry, what they mean when they say ‘nothing’, and how I can make a woman truly happy?”
After a few minutes God said, “How many lanes did you want on that bridge?”
Jokes are fun – but jokes also tell us about our world – and especially about the damage sin has done – about the damage between men and women. We know that God’s judgment against men and women in Genesis has come true – women desire to be in the role of men and men want authority over women. And in lots of churches I reckon that the consequence we are seeing is that men take a back seat in church life and we just keep the ladies happy. That’s a strong statement I know and maybe it’s not true here – but I have to say I’ve seen it enough times – it’s easier to let the women have their say in how churches work.
Yet I would say what we need are churches with men taking the lead – just like David did with Israel – maybe we won’t all be king – but then David’s job was to be an example first.
I don’t just mean that men should be taking on all the different ministry roles in the church. Every minister wants to fill up the program with people and then create more programs requiring more people. What I really mean is that men should be doing David’s job – being men after God’s own heart and taking the lead, being the example in life and love and faithfulness and service.
Titus 1:5-9 “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
This is not just about the overseers and leaders but about the men – just as David was to be an example of a God driven character to the people of Israel – so Titus is to be and to appoint men with God’s heart to the leadership of the church that they might be the example to all men in the church.
Jesus says the same thing to his disciples – after they have walked dusty roads in sandals – and Jesus is on the floor washing their feet and says…
John 13:15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you
Jesus is the head – the chief shepherd – he wants us to be faithful, to be men after his own heart – to be servants – and his practical example was that he washed their feet and said – go and do the same thing.
The leaders that Titus is to choose are not good leadership material – they are simply real Christian men – not actors, athletes and adventurers – but rather Christian men whose characters are modelled after Christ and shines through the day-to-day mess of life.
Maybe we need to ask… why do we need men with character in the church – men like David?
We could go to any number of passages to see why. We could look at Ephesians 2 and talk about the fact that we are God’s workmanship created by God to do good works in Christ Jesus. We could look at 1 Corinthians 12 and the Spiritual gifts that we have all received.
But have a look at 1 Timothy.
1 Timothy 1:12-17 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.
I reckon the world needs to see that men go to church – men are involved in church life – not because their wives are or their families but because we know – we know deep down inside us that we have been saved from our sins – that despite the fact we in no way deserved God’s grace… he has given it to us anyway. Men need to see men as Christians. Women need to see it – our wives and daughters need to see that men stand for Christ and we should be leading them in the faith. Our sons need to know that we have turned away from sin and to Jesus and that we are taking the opportunities to grow and serve. Why – because we want them to share what we have received – surely? I want my wife to know the fullness of God’s love for her so that she will be safe forever. I want my son and daughters to know what it means to be a Christian and how to live as a Christian in this crazy confusing world – and no-one else is going to do what I can do – no-one else is going to care like I do that they are safe.
I like Paul’s words to Timothy because there is no doubt in Paul’s mind what has happened. He was a thoroughly convinced persecutor of Christians – he would leave Richard Dawkins or any of the modern atheists in the shade – a blasphemer and a violent man – Paul not Dawkins. Paul’s life was turned around by the grace and kindness of God – grace poured out even on a terrible sinner like Paul. And Paul gets it – it drove his life from that moment.
If the church was filled with men who got it – who like Paul were driven by the conversion, driven by the change in their life at the hands of God – what would we see? What difference would it make?
Are you driven by the change that Christ brought to you?
If you’re not a Christian – just investigating maybe – that’s cool – cause if you decide to follow Jesus you need to know what you are up for. Jesus wants you – he designed you for a relationship with him – so now is very defiantly the time to hand over control and ask for forgiveness.
If you’ve been a Christian for a while – what you are doing with it? Are you a man after God’s own heart – are you a man who is progressively looking like Christ? Or are you a man that makes excuses?
Let me tell you a quick story – and finish with a Psalm.
The names have been changed to protect the… Brendan was a big Aussie male – tough, solid, faithful Christian, very well off, very well regarded, the CEO of one of the largest Insurance companies in Australia – and at Church he looked the perfect Christian. I asked him to come and speak to my young adults group about being a Christian in the workplace. He sort of paused for a minute and then said – look I’m not sure I can do that. At work I’m not a Christian – I’m just a ruthless business man – I don’t work as a Christian. So I wouldn’t know what to say to others about being a Christian in the workplace.
I didn’t get him to speak!
Psalm 51:10-17 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from guilt that requires my blood, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”