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God’s Grace reaches down to the lowest depths of our need and meets all the exigencies[urgent needs] of the moral and spiritual impossibility which inheres in our depravity and inability. And that grace is the grace of regeneration.
God effects a change which is radical and all-pervasive, a change which cannot be explained in term of any combination, permutation, or accumulation of human resources, a change which is nothing less than a new creation by him who calls the things that be not as though they were, who spake and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast. This, in a word, is regeneration.
-John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: , 1955), 96.
Take aways from this and the last post:
1. We should never over look God’s regenerative work in our lives. We are sinful and dependent upon Christ’s righteousness for acceptance every moment of our lives. Yet, we are to rejoice in God’s present work in our lives. He is working and it is real.
2. We are not to be downcast about our condition. Sin in us, as believers, is pervasive. And in this we mourn. But the new birth of the Spirit and all the sovereign, transformative power He wields is just as pervasive! We are new in Christ Jesus and there is nothing to be downcast about that!
3. There is no sin which is out of the Spirit’s reach. His effect upon the believer is all pervasive. No sin is to far away. No action is totally removed from His holy influence. Never think you are beyond His transformative work.
4. We should declare the goodness the Spirit’s works in us and others. Christians can be good because they are indwelt with the Spirit who is good. His works do become manifest in the believer. And it is actually the believer. The Spirit does not shut the person down and perform the good works. The person, being recreated by the Spirit, produces the good works. And it is praise to the Lord to proclaim His works.
We need men to be men!
Now the full explanation of that statement is another issue but we can say that there is always a need to think about what it means to be a man biblically. There has been a lot of thought and articulation of biblical manhood as faithful teachers seek to set the biblical portrait of what God wants of men in the face of the cultural’s ideas on this issue.
Let me say at the out set that I am for this development. I think that groups who are exploring what the meaning of manhood is through a biblical lens are right in doing so. By this exploration there is going to be a standard set (hopefully biblically) that men are suppose to meet.
But We Are Going to Fail…
Whenever we set a standard before ourselves we are going to fail it. We are fallen and sinful. No one will meet the picture of the perfect Father, Mother, Friend, etc. This is no different in the pursuit of being godly men. When we see ourselves failing or not obtaining the standard perfectly what are we suppose to do?
The way the theme of biblical manhood is framed at times it can make it hard to pursue. It is very easy to speak of manhood in terms of what one already possess and not what one is growing in it. If one does or does not do a certain action or have a certain characteristic then their entire identity of manhood is on the line. Men do _______ or men do not do ________. Plain and simple.
What happens, although, if a man does not do that? If we are not careful in how we frame the concept of biblical manhood then we put men who are sinners is a precarious position. No matter how central we think the characteristic or action some man is going to fail in that area.
It is at this point that our theology of manhood is revealed. Is it legalism that has more likeness of secular self-help programs or does it find it’s place if the redemptive work of the Christ?
It seems that we can easily revert to the former. We construct the law of manhood which we are to obtain. The drive to obtain it is out of the fear of failing short. If one does not meet the criteria then they fail at being a man. The voice is very clear, “Keep all the plates of manhood spinning or else you will fail at being a man.”
Because it is legalistic in nature there is a congruent means of responding to failure. When a system is legalistic in nature people either get depressed or created loopholes to deal with failure. We are all going to fail thus we have to have means of dealing with it. How we usually deal with it is the normal way of dealing with legalistic failings: depression or lessening. Depression is easy to understand, someone sees they are failing the standard and so they fall into the pit of despair.
Lessening, on the other hand, is the trick of defining the law around one’s self so that obtaining it is automatic. Thus, for some men, manhood is defined by what already defines them. For the guys who hunt it is hunting. For the guys who live in their lust it is lusting, etc. This is also where unbiblical definitions creep in. When manhood is something one has to obtain no one wants to discover that they do not already obtain it. Unhelpful standards are then crafted by what men perceive manhood should be and so exclude several men who do not meet it. But those men might have their own definition of what manhood is. Before you know it the standard of manhood can be several places. All of them very easy to obtain to whoever is crafting the standard.
All this will create, though, are men who miss the true meaning of manhood. Depression and false standards will never take us to a right understanding of what it means to be a man and help those who think and feel as if they are failing.
Through the Lens of the Gospel
The other means of dealing with this issue is to turn to the salvation that is offered in Christ. When we look through the lens of the gospel how are we to understand failure in godly manhood?
First, we have to understand that manhood is a good thing that God created. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). “Manhood” is not some social construction that has been forced upon us. God specifically means for His image to be reflected and represented by two genders: male and female. Thus, we are to embrace our identity as men and not desire to be women. Not because men are better than women in any way. But because we embrace God’s glory is the way He chose to display His image. A man is suppose to live as a man and a woman is suppose to live as a woman.
This also means that we locate manhood in the image of God displayed in us. Once again, manhood is not a social construction but created identity. God created man and women to be His representatives and ambassadors on this earth in their structure and function. Each gender is to be that image in the way their gender has been fitted. If God wanted His image in one gender He would have done so but instead He knew it would bring Him more glory to display His image in two. Manhood is not something that Adam was to obtain, it was something that he was based on how God created Him. This means that there is a two stage but related aspect of manhood. We are males that are suppose to live as men. Thus, we are men because God created us to be. Adam could stop being a man when he stopped being the image of God. And we are suppose to live out that image which means we are to fulfill biblical manhood.
Thus, we are men because we are created in God’s image and we are to live out that image in biblical manhood.
Second, The bible makes it clear that manhood has been marred and depraved by the fall. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). When the human race fell in Adam the image, the glorious display of God’s glory through humanity, became ruined. And since manhood is in the image it fell with it. What we should be as men is now ruined and marred by our selfish rebellion against God’s good, just, and righteous rule.
Thus, while we are men, the fullness of what God intended to be lived out as men has been depraved by the fall.
Third, manhood is redeemed by Christ. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). The restoration of what was lost by sin was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Christ. The cursed placed upon us for rebelling against the image God intended us to have was placed upon Christ as He hung on the cross (Gal 3:13). The new life of displaying the image, once again, was secured by Christ as He rose again (Rom 6:4). What we failed to accomplish was won by Christ. Our salvation is found in Him. By faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection the merits won by Him are counted as ours (Rom 4:24-25). And the Spirit’s work in a believer is creating him after the likeness of God (Eph 4:24) by one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18)
Thus, the restoration of manhood is found in salvation in Christ.
Fourth, the restoration of manhood is located in the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The life that has been ransom by Christ and been given new birth to treasure Christ and rest in Him for salvation is not working to re-obtain the image in a moment. The life of sanctification is not doing an action or not doing an action and so ultimately gaining perfection. It is a life long process where by the Spirit transforms the believer more and more into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). Part of that work of sanctification is the reclamation of manhood since it is part of the image. Manhood is not something, as believers, is to be obtained in a moment. It is part of the lifetime work of the Spirit in our lives. It includes God’s mercy and grace in all the times we do not live up to our Master’s teaching. It includes the times that I quiver inside and and not take leadership over a situation out of fear. Just like any other areas of our sanctification there will be sin and failure.
Thus, The restoration of manhood is progressive, not instantaneous.
Fifth, our identity does not rest upon the law of what the perfect man should be but instead in the One who was and is the perfect image of God and so what is true manhood–Jesus Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15a). I know for myself that this God came to me when I had completely twisted and transgressed what a true man was and saved me! He has made me His child and started the work of reclaiming and restoring that image and promised that no power of this world or of me can stop that work of restoration. My heavenly Father does not look upon me as a failed attempt at being a man. No, instead, by looking upon His beloved Son in whom I am hidden He sees the image as already restored! My manhood has already been reclaimed in Christ. I can amass all the failures of being a man I could and then bring them to God to only hear, “but I am not looking upon those, I am looking upon the perfect spotless image of my Son and your Savior.”
Because that is my identity the Spirit is working into me, day by day, the perfect image of Christ through my fight of obedience. I get get to become more and more like the image of the One I already am hidden in. This is where the daily fight of manhood comes into play. My manhood is not something that is obtained but something that is reclaimed by the salfivic work of Christ in our lives. And so to for the all of us fighting.
This, I believe, is the gospel response to failing as a man. We are created as men but because of sin fail at living out manhood as we should. But God has sent Christ to fulfill the commands of God where we have failed. And Christ was given as the perfect sacrifice for the sins we committed—bearing the shame and condemnation we should bear. He rose from the dead to seal the victory and ascended to the right hand of God. Now, by faith in Jesus, His works and victory is accounted as ours so that our identity becomes one of a loved, adopted son and not a slave. By the work of the Spirit we are being renewed in the image of our creator. So failure is not a fall from being a man. It is a sin from which the condemnation has been removed in Christ and we can press on against by the power of the Spirit.
Behold, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their metal images are empty wind. Isaiah 41:29
“I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion — which raises its head in every temptation — that there is something else than God, some other country into which he forbids us to trespass, some kind of delight which he ‘doesn’t appreciate’ or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as he can, or else a false picture of what he is trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. . . . He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts. He is longing to give it to us. . . . The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. . . . You know what the biologists mean by a parasite — an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.”
~C. S. Lewis, in Walter Hooper, editor, They Stand Together (New York, 1979), page 465. Italics original.
HT: Ray Ortlund
The most significant and appalling demonstration of God’s holiness that the universe ever beheld , infinitely distancing ever other, is the suffering and death of His only and beloved Son! The cross of Calvary exhibits God’s hatred and punishment of sin in a way and to an extent which the annihilation of millions of worlds, swept from the face of the universe by the broom of His wrath, could never have done!
…Go, my soul, to Calvary, and learn how holy God is, and what a monstrous thing sin is, and how imperiously, solemnly, and holiy bound Jehovah is to punish it either in the person of the sinner, or in the person of the Surety. Never was the Son of God dearer to the Father than at the very moment that the sword of divine justice, flaming and flashing, pierced to its hilt His holy heart!
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
What qualifications must I have in order to be accepted by Jesus? Well, He spells it out for me: laboring and heavy laden.
Laboring: toiling hard in this life. Life is hard, there is no doubt about it. There are relationships that constantly go array. Needs that seem to go unmet. The constant grind of day to day living with nothing getting better.
Heavy Laden: living with a massive weight upon my shoulders.I can begin with all the failures from the laborings. No matter how hard a try I cannot get my life in order. I work hard and people still get mad at me and I at them. I fail to do the day to day things that need to be done. But on top of my personal failure there is even a greater failure. It is my inability to keep the righteous commands of my Lord. I can’t keep the commands to love my God and to love my neighbor. It light of all this I walk around with a heavy burden upon my back.
Yet, there is Jesus saying, “Come to me! Give me those burden to bear. I want to give you true rest.” He does not want people who think that they have it all together. He does not want people who believe that this life is easy. He does not want people who feel no guilty weight upon their shoulders. It is to those that see and feel their labors and burdens that He says, “Come!”
Do I have burdens? Yes. Am I weighted down with my sin? Yes. Am I too weak to continue to carry the load? Yes.
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.
Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.
Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.
Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.