Man is a Worshiping Soldier

As we move, within our model, from the center to the 3 secondary roles, you’ll notice a few things.  First, we will discuss how each of these 3 secondary roles relate to the core role of worshipper.  That’s important because if any of these become unmoored from the center, then not only is our understanding of manhood going to be warped, but we are also going to increasingly injure ourselves and others around us.

Second, I will highlight a key characteristic of each secondary role.  Could more characteristics be added? Sure, but my hope is to identify the characteristic at the heart of that role and focus there for simplicity.

Third, I obviously want to show that these are, indeed, roles assigned to men in the Scriptures, so we will explore that in a variety of ways, perhaps through the exposition of a passage and/or perhaps through observing the example of one or more persons in the Bible.

So, then, that brings us to the first of our secondary roles.  I don’t want the order in which we proceed to seem to suggest a priority here, but one of them has to be first, so we’ll start with Soldier.

Men are meant to be Worshipping Soldiers.  What does that mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that we are men of violence.  I don’t use the word Soldier to in any way refer to actual fighting, so please don’t go out and take up boxing because of me.  Our struggle, our mission, our battle is not against flesh and blood.  So, don’t picture the Crusades here with “christian” knights going out to conquer the invading armies of the Saracens. Then, what do I mean?

A soldier is someone under orders.  A committed soldier follows those orders.  Even in some cases, whether because of devotion to cause, country, or commander, we read of soldiers with such undying commitment that they follow those orders with great joy and wouldn’t choose any other path.  The man of God is like that latter example. Because he delights in God, he is happy to follow God’s lead. He’s not obeying to earn anything or avoid anything. He obeys for joy! If you’re looking for a short book to stir your joy in the Lord, I’d recommend Mike Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity.  I’ve also had Sam Storms’ The Singing God highly recommended to me.

The danger of being a soldier without being a worshiper should be clear.  It would mean having our own mission instead of the mission of the God we so adore.  It would mean using our courage and strength for unholy purposes.  It would mean trudging through life somehow thinking that our efforts earn us something, be it praise, adoration, acceptance, forgiveness, money, or love.  We call that kind of soldier a mercenary.  He’ll fight anyone if the pay is good.

Not for the Christian the man!  No, we love Jesus.  He is the chief of ten thousand in our eyes.  He’s lovely and more to be desired than all this world.  So, it is with JOY that we say, “Jesus, you are Lord.  You are in charge.  I joyfully embrace your call on my life.  I gladly follow you wherever you go and whatever you are doing.”  Read the Gospel of John, notice how joyfully Jesus goes about the Father’s mission.  That is our example, and that is what we’ll look at in the next post.

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The Core Characteristic of Manhood

Welcome back to this series on Manhood.  Today we’re looking at the CORE CHARACTERISTIC of Manhood.  This is central.  Everything else flows from it.  Before we dig in, I wanted to let you know (if you didn’t) about David Murray’s Christian Man Academy.  David blogs over at Head Heart Hand, and this new undertaking, I’m sure, will be the go-to place for Biblical input/resources on Christian masculinity.  So, now, back to the task at hand.

At the heart of every real man must be a heart of worship towards God. But, I have to clarify that statement in two ways.  First, what do I mean by “worship” and, second, what do I mean by “God.”

What comes to mind when you think of worship?  When I ask this, time and again the answer is almost always something that I do.  I bow down. I sing a song. I clap my hands. I give money.  And those things are certainly an outworking of worship.  But, we want to beware of worshiping like those Jesus (quoting Isaiah) rebuked: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”  Going to church, sharing your faith, preaching, praising, and even our day to day work CAN be worship, but only if it flows from a heart of worship, of delight and love for God.

I’m not talking about ecstatic experiences or goose bump praise.  I’m not asking if you enjoy worship, singing, etc. I’m asking if you ENJOY GOD!  Look at these few samples from the Psalms. How did David and others feel about God?

PSALM 73.25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

PSALM 27.4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
 that will I seek after: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
 all the days of my life,
 to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
 and to inquire[a] in his temple.

PSALM 42.1-2 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
 so pants my soul for you, O God.
  My soul thirsts for God,
 for the living God.
 When shall I come and appear before God?

This is the language of a lover.  Imagine if I called my wife and said: “Whom have I but you?  Who else could I ever want? I want to gaze upon you. I want to be with you.  When can I see you?” Whew! That’s passionate, deep affection.

I love to read the Puritans.  Men like Jonathan Edwards, Richard Sibbes, and Thomas Goodwin.  The way the talk about Jesus makes me say, “Really? Is Jesus really that good!?!?!”  But, he is.  And friends, these are men speaking of their unashamed affection for Christ.  Do you get carried away as you think about and talk about the beauty of Jesus? Due to cultural shifts, it’s now considered unmanly to speak affectionately about another man, even Jesus, our God and Savior.  And it’s to our shame and our loss.

If Jesus weren’t in heaven, would you want to go?  I hope not. While this series doesn’t have the time or space to unpack the depths of our salvation, let’s see quickly what Jesus says in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  Do you see it? Eternal life is KNOWING God.

The Christian doesn’t just want forgiveness or righteousness.  No! We want God. We delight in God. We never want to be parted from God.  He is our beloved, the lover of our souls! Heaven, whatever treats it may hold, without Jesus, would be no paradise at all.  Worship of God means nothing less than a heart level love of God.  A warm affection for God.

And that has everything to do with the answer to the second clarification. When I say men should, at their core, be worshippers of God, who do I have in mind when I say “God.”  What God am I talking about.

Now, you may think, “Schell, I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure I know who God is.”  But, do you?  Let’s be clear because what we have said and will say about manhood means that not just any god will do.  Because we will become like what we worship. Take these gods for example:

  • So, if the god I worship created mankind because he needed them (ancient Greek gods for instance), then I will become a needy, self-serving man who demands that others exist to fulfill me.
  • If I worship a god who created mankind, but now keeps his distance (the god of Islam for example), I will be a detached man who produces something (perhaps work, a child, a family) but then stands apart from it as if it must now continue without me.
  • If I believe creation comes from an accident (new-age spiritualism, most forms of evolutionary theory, Gnosticism), then it doesn’t matter how I live. In this view, the fact that I’m a man is an accident any way.
  • Finally, if I believe that creation isn’t a reality (Buddhism, Hinduism), but is a mirage, a façade, then my life isn’t real either, so the best thing I can do is ignore reality and spend my days seeking nirvana – whatever self-actualization plan I prefer.  I will check out on my responsibilities because I don’t really believe in reality.

Does that sound silly?  Think about the cultures that have grown up around those belief systems.  What kind of men did it produce? Were the Spartans known for their Christ-like, self-sacrificing, benevolence?  Does Islam seem to produce a society that is a paragon of love and mutual service between genders? I may be generalizing, but they are true generalities.  So, when a man worships his work or accomplishments, money, sex, or any other heart-idol, we shouldn’t be surprised when he become a detached man, a selfish man, a boy in a man’s body, or a devil.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, I have a God that is altogether different.  He is real. He created with intentionality. He created not out of need but out of love. He created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world.  He takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be. And if I’ve been made in His image – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference.  AND, get this, when I see Him as He is, He is so delightful, so attractive, so breath-taking that I want to be a worshiper of THAT God!

In the next post I’ll unpack that last paragraph, but I’d love to hear your thoughts so far!

The Love of God and our Feelings

Here we are at the end of our blog series on Psalm 45.  I hope it’s blessed you.  If you haven’t, be sure to read those because they’ve been leading us to this point.  We just found out that because of the love of King Jesus for us, His Bride, we are adorned.  We are completely majestic.

Do you believe that?  I struggle to sometimes.  Many times, I feel like I’m being tolerated by Jesus instead of being his beautiful Bride that causes His pupils to dilate.  But, friend, THAT IS THE TRUTH!  He’s not just putting up with us.  He’s enamored with us!

You may not feel completely majestic.  Sometimes is so hard just to lift you eyes off of your own SHAME, SCARS, WHAT YOU’VE DONE, WHAT’S BEEN DONE TO YOU to see the love in the eyes of your King.  He’s taken all of that on himself. See what the King says about you in Song of Songs. Listen, Christ says this about YOU:

SoS 4.7, 9

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,

The King doesn’t rescue the street girl so that she can just have a clean, well-provided room in his castle.  NO. He rescues her so that he may never be parted from her again. He desires you. He longs to have you with him.

13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14     In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
 with her virgin companions following behind her.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along
    as they enter the palace of the king.

And she doesn’t just want his stuff, remember, she wants HIM!  The Christian doesn’t just want forgiveness or righteousness or to get out of Hell free.  NO NO NO!  WE WANT GOD.  WE DELIGHT IN GOD. WE NEVER WANT TO BE PARTED FROM GOD. HE IS OUR BELOVED, THE LOVER OF OUR SOULS.  HEAVEN, WHATEVER BLESSINGS IT MIGHT HOLD, WITHOUT JESUS, WOULD BE NO PARADISE AT ALL.

He wants us, His Bride, and we want Him!  And because of this marriage, the Sons of Korah, our authors, now speak to the King again:

16 In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
    you will make them princes in all the earth.

What are they saying?  Basically: You and your bride will bear fruit together.  Friends, you were meant to be united with Christ so that HE MIGHT MAKE YOU FRUITFUL.  In fact, this is why creation exists. Jonathan Edwards put it this way:

“The spouse of the Son of God, the Lamb’s wife…is that for which all of the universe was made.” and “God created the world for His Son, that He might prepare a bride for Him to bestow His love upon; so that the mutual joys between this bride and bridegroom are the purpose of the creation.”

Do you believe that?!?!?!  That Jesus might enjoy you!  That the Father might call you to be the Bride who will be joy to His Son!  THAT is the purpose for which the world was created.  Oh, how weak is our faith.  Oh, how hard it can be to believe, and therefore feel this passion of Jesus.

And the Sons of Korah, these men delivered from death, out of the very pit of the earth…men who love the King, who BOIL OVER with affection for Christ, end their song this way:

17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

This love they feel for the King will fill the earth!  They will declare this love for ALL who will come to the King, for all the people that God will bring to be a part of the Bride of Christ, His Church!  And that’s evangelism.  Not a grit your teeth and just share.  Not a fearful thing.  But a joyous recounting of how your King found you in the gutter and now calls you magnificent!  It’s not a chore or a duty, but a delight to speak of your lover, your treasure!  I pray that you would believe it and that you’d feel it, because Jesus does.  He’s overwhelmed with affection for His Bride – and that’s you.

Marvelous Grace & Beautiful Wrath

In our previous posts we’ve seen

  1. The Sons of Korah (SoK), men who deserved death but had reserved mercy wrote Psalm 45 a song to the King
  2. Deep affection that was being communicated to the King, in fact, it is a love song, with words that only a lover would use.
  3. That the King in the Psalm is Jesus and he’s described as smelling like an altar, temple, incense, and dead body.

Now we want to look more deeply at WHY the Sons of Korah are so crazy about Jesus.  Let’s start back in Verse 2.

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
 grace is poured upon your lips;
 therefore God has blessed you forever.

That first line is striking.  Dudes don’t describe other dudes that way any more.  Is that manhood?  YES, this is absolutely the MOST MASCULINE inclination you could ever have.  This is no mere mancrush! The SoK aren’t just praising him for a great fastball, big biceps, or an impressive intellect.

Friends, this is serious.  Right now, how do you feel about Jesus.  When Bible translators throughout the centuries have tried to capture this in English language, they’ve really struggled!  Our language can’t capture the height of beauty that is being communicated.

  • KJV – Thou art fairer than the children of men
  • Chaldee – Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is above that of the sons of men
  • Mudge – Thou art wonderfully fair beyond the sons of men
  • Alexander – Beautiful, beautiful art thou above the sons of men
  • ESV – You are the most handsome of the sons of men
  • NASB – You are fairer than the sons of men

Those last two, newer translations really seem to fall flat, don’t that.  Now, when William Plummer, 19th century scholar, tried to capture the point of this passage, listen to what he said:

In true religion, everything turns on our views of Christ, v.2.  What do we think of him?  Is he in our opinion and thinking incomparable?  Do we regard him as “fairer than the children of men?”  Is he, or is he not the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely?  If you don’t love him, if you don’t admire him, if you wouldn’t, in a fair trial, die for him, you are not his. Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33.

So again: How do you feel about Jesus?  Don’t tell me you’re just not an emotional person.  I use to say that…I invented that. Let’s not fool ourselves.  How we feel about Jesus is a striking indicator of the reality and quality of our faith.

So, what was it about Jesus that the SoK wanted to highlight?

GRACE

Grace was on his lips!  Grace! He came to us with grace.  We are so broken, but he has healing.  We are vicious to each other, but he’s tender.  We get angry, defensive, and mean at the drop of a hat, but he is patient.  Notice what the Gospels say:

And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.  LUKE 4.22

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. JOHN 1.14, 17

He wasn’t just being nice…he was bringing the very goodness of God, the word and presence of God to us.  He was the very embodiment of the grace of God.  The kindness and tender compassion of God.

Children ran to him, prostitutes found him to be the safest place they’ve ever known, people wanted to be with him.  They all found in him the answers to their deepest longings: how can I be right with God?  How can I know peace?  How can I have God as my very own?

But, it gets better There’s more good news.  He brings grace, but he also came with a Sword…wait, what?!

3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, 
in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
 5 Your arrows are sharp
 in the heart of the king’s enemies;
 the peoples fall under you.

So, they also praise the King because he comes with a sword.  Does that seem shocking to you? I think part of the reason we find that shocking is because we continue to say things like: “God is loving, but he’s also just.”  As if those things are opposed to each other. Or “God is merciful, but he’s also holy.” Statements like that show how far from the Bible we’ve strayed.

God’s love is not opposed to his holiness, justice, or wrath.  No, God IS LOVE. This is 1 John 4.16. This is what he is like at his core.  In fact, John says if you don’t love, it’s certain that you don’t even know God because to know Him changes you and makes you loving.  God is love, at his core, and so EVERYTHING he does flows out of that, even wrath

God’s wrath isn’t opposed to his love.  No, Michael Reeves says it this way: wrath is what happens when a loving God encounters evil.  Wrath is the loving response to evil.  And we actually know this instinctively…

Imagine going outside in a few minutes and as you step out the door you see a man abusing a little child.   How would you respond?  How OUGHT you respond. What would loving behavior look like?  If you see it and turn a blind eye to it – you are not loving.  If you see it and say, “well, we all have our struggles” then you are not loving. Love would do everything it could to bring an end to evil.  It will judge it. And it will bring holy consequences against it. The King has a sword…hallelujah.

Let’s look a little more closely at this loving war that the King is waging:

4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!



What would you ride in the Ancient Near East?  A motorcycle? A segway? No, a chariot, and this king rides to victory on a chariot of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  He goes to war against evil by means of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  This is a different sort of King altogether.  He’s not a dictator simply hellbent on maintaining control.  He’s not Allah simply looking to make the world submit.

This King is the truth.

He is meek.

He is our righteousness.

What does he smell like? He smells like salvation for sinners!

The Psalm is about to change gears.  We’re about to find out something exciting:  The King is getting married!