The Image of God and Real Masculinity

In the last post, we saw three things that help us understand masculinity: that God is real, that He created out of love and not out of need, and that He is intentional.  We saw that those things shape what a real man is and does.  Let’s dig into three others now.

God remains involved in the world He made

In Christ, Paul says, “we live and move and have our being (Act 17.28).”  And in Colossians 1, “For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  He didn’t make us then abandon us.  No, we exist “in Him,” meaning that our existence is sustained by His power.  And that’s the clear declaration from Colossians 1.17: in him, all things hold together.

He hasn’t left us to fend for ourselves.  He hasn’t left creation to crumble around us.  He is here. He is sustaining all things. We see this in a really intimate way in Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.”  You wouldn’t even wake up in the morning if the Lord wasn’t actively involved in keeping you alive.

And so, real men have staying power.  That doesn’t just mean that they don’t abandon their families, though that’s certainly true, but they also bring a sustenance to those around them.  They aren’t just present, but they are involved in such a way that life flourishes around them. They hold things together. They are a safe place in which others can live and move and have their being.

God takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be

Lamentations 3.37-38 asks, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”  Talk about responsibility. Good and bad…that covers everything. The Most High is in control. He is actively involved, and he doesn’t shirk His responsibility. And when mankind questions His intentions or His righteousness in what He does, He doesn’t run away, but He answers them.

He comes to Job in a whirlwind to show how good and right He has been in everything that occurred in Job’s difficult circumstances.  He comes to Habbakuk when that prophet questioned whether God knew what He was doing. After hearing from the Lord, all Habakkuk could say as he watched devastation surrounding God’s people was,

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

We look at the world and think, “man, this place is a mess.”  But because He’s fully sovereign, we can declare, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8.28).”

Therefore, real men take responsibility.  And if you’re married, you take double responsibility.  Jesus took upon himself responsibility for all the sins of His bride, the Church.  And so men, even when it’s the fault of your wife, it’s still your responsibility.  You own it, you address it the way Jesus did, by giving all of Himself.  We’ll talk more of this in a later chapter.

I’m made in God’s image

You are made in the image of God.  That could actually be translated “as the image of God.”  You are meant to image forth God in the world. People should look at your life and know something true about God.  Perhaps they see your kindness, your self-sacrifice, your tenderness, or your bravery. And even if they don’t recognize it, they’ve seen a reflection of the attributes of God.

Genesis 1.26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So, one point about the image of God is that it plays out in how humanity leads creation.  It is representational.  You are the image of God, therefore, have dominion.

Of course, God’s dominion is a loving, self-giving rule, not a dominating, smash-and-grab sort of rule.  So, the image of God isn’t just about our representation of God in our actions, but it also includes the idea of relationship.  He made man in His image – MALE AND FEMALE.  It wasn’t good for Adam/Man to be alone.  Why?  Because a single, solitary individual couldn’t reflect a God that is 3 persons united in love.  So, when man and woman (two people) become one flesh, they image the God who is Father, Son, and Spirit (three persons) who are one God!

So, those made in the image of God rule, but they do it in a fruitful way.  They are meant to bear fruit. Why? Because that’s what God is like. He gives life.  He overflows. He is a bright, shining Sun who warms the world. He’s a fountain that can’t stop spilling over. So, being made in the image of God requires multiplication.  That’s why it took male and female to really pull it off.

So, men ought to have dominion – a self-sacrificing, servant-hearted rule.  A my-life-for-yours reign. And it should be fruitful and life-giving. What would our relationships look like if men lived out the reality that they are made in/as the image of God?

So, at the heart of every real man is a delight, a relishing, in the God – the Triune, true, and living God – of the Bible, who made him and all things. If that is missing, nothing else in the Model will work.  He is the foundation of what men were always meant to be.  So, again, our the core component of masculinity, then, is authentic, happy worship of the God of the Bible.

Manhood in light of a real, intentional, and loving God

I ended the last post with this statement, attempting to clarify what the God of the Bible is like in contrast to the gods of this world, highlighting 6 things about the Triune God.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, I have a God that is altogether different.  He is real (a). He created with intentionality (2). He created not out of need but out of love (3). He created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world (4).  He takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be (5). And if I’ve been made in His image (6) – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference.

Now, I want to take a few minutes to unpack that.  Today’s post will cover 3, then the next post will cover 3.

He is real

I love what Glen Scrivener says about this.  There are 4 answers to the question, “What was there before the beginning?”  Scrivener argues that every worldview can be classified into 4 categories based on how they answer that question.  First, some answer the question with “nothing.”

If that’s true, then what is the consequence for humanity.  We’re an accident. We’re alone in the universe, just happy that some random molecules came together to form our little planet and our little lives.  We came from nothing and are returning to nothing, so what’s the point of manhood? Nothing.

The second answer is, “Chaos.”  Like Buddhists or Gnostists, something bad happened (we’re often not sure what) in the “cosmos,” and we’re the result.  We’re not just “nothing,” we’re the excrement of the Universe. It burped us out. So, men, life is chaos, and nothing really matters.  Do whatever you can to escape chaos, even if that means infidelity or abandoning your family.

The third answer is, “Power.”  Either power itself (big-bang) or an all powerful, solitary deity (the god of Islam or the Titans) caused us.  So, what’s the point of life? Power! Gaining power. Survival of the fittest. Creating a following of slaves and servants.  So, men, feel free to conquer and oppress because that’s what life is all about.

But, the Christian answer is different from every other answer.  Before creation, Christians argue, there was love. There was a Father loving His Son, in fellowship with the Spirit.  We take a sneak peek into Heaven in John 17. We hear God the Son, that’s Jesus, speaking to God the Father. Listen to what they were doing before creation:

17.5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

17.24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The Triune God, the Christian God, Father, Son, and Spirit were sharing glory with one another before creation.  They were loving one another before the foundation of the world. The were giving to and receiving from each other.  They were enjoying each other. Isn’t that beautiful?! What does that mean for life? That it is the outflow of love, which we’ll look at in a moment.  And for men, it means that whatever characteristics we have, if we don’t have love, then we are not like God, and we are failing at the entire purpose of life.

He created with intentionality

Creation wasn’t a surprise.  It also wasn’t just thrown together like a kindergarten art project.  No, the all-wise God – Father, Son, and Spirit – working in tandem, together created the world and said afterwards, “It is very good.”  The heavens declare the glory of the Lord. The beauty of creation show his power and wisdom. He is intentional, and mankind is meant to live with intentionality within His creation and purposes.

He created out of love, not out of need

God wasn’t lonely before creation.  We’ve already seen that. He also didn’t need people to serve him, to meet his needs.  No, He was just fine without humanity, without creation. So, why did He create? The great theologians of the Church over the centuries all agree, Father, Son, and Spirit created as an overflow of the love they already experienced together.  They had so much love, that they wanted to create a people to whom they could further give their love. A people to fellowship in loving communion with, just like what they already had.

Here’s how Jonathan Edwards put it:  The spouse of the Son of God, the Lamb’s wife (the Church) is the reason for which all of the universe was made…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.

Isn’t that awesome!  And so, if that’s the purpose for God’s work, for God’s activity, for God’s leadership over the new world he has made, then that means we men already know the purpose for our own work, activity, and leadership.  Not to be served, but to serve. Not to have our needs met, but to meet the needs of others. Not to acquire and hoard, but to give and pour out.

Come back for the next post when we’ll cover the other 3 points!

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!

What is God’s Glory and Why does it Matter?

Last year, I read Michael Reeves’ wonderful little book Delighting in the Trinity. In it, he spends just a few pages showing how the Trinity, particularly the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shapes our doctrine of God, including the attributes of God like Holiness, Wrath, and Glory.  I want to focus some thoughts, reflections on the last one: GLORY.  Very briefly, he declares that God’s glory is His outgoing love. THAT is what God’s glory IS.

This was new to me. To my shame, I must admit that I’ve never taken on God’s glory as an object of study.  Nor was it covered in any particularly way during my time in seminary.  Like many younger reformed evangelicals, I’ve always looked to John Piper for an explanation of God’s glory and why it matters, but what Reeves was saying was a departure, at least in part, from Piper’s approach.  I wanted to know more.  But, where to turn?

I’ve listened to many of Reeves’ sermons since then.  I have found several where he introduces this idea again, but in most of them, he doesn’t cover much more ground on this issue.  There is one workshop called Matters of the Heart: How to Enjoy God where Reeves unpacks it further, with the assistance of Jonathan Edwards.  It may be a good place to get a first look at what I’m talking about.

That brings me to the real point of this post.  Glen Scrivener has taken up the idea (I don’t know if he got it from Reeves or vice versa or some other way) and helpfully interacted with it quite a bit.  So, the rest of this post will be a bit of an annotated Bibliography of Scrivener’s Doctrine of God’s Glory.

GOD’S GLORY ALONE

The first place to start is his post entitled “God’s Glory Alone Sermon.” This is a sermon from a series on the 5 Solas of the Reformation. The first half of the sermon reviews the first 4 Solas and introduces the 5th through the story of David and Goliath. About 2/3 through the sermon, Scrivener says:

“The living God is Giver.  And it’s this very grace that is His glory. But what does that word mean really?  Glory.  It’s a big bible word. What is God’s glory?”

The rest of the sermon answers that question, primarily through John’s Gospel (click here for more John’s Gospel and God’s glory). In short, Scrivener answers the question thusly:

Wind the clock back all the way through time, before creation, back and back and back into the depths of eternity and you will find Jesus with His Father loving and serving each other in the power of the Spirit.  That’s what the trinity has ALWAYS been up to.  That IS the eternal life of God.  So on the cross, when we see Jesus giving Himself up to the Father we see the eternal glory of God.  At the cross when we see the Father GIVING His Son to the world, we see the eternal glory of God.

The cross IS God’s glory.  And it’s the glory of infinite SELF-GIVING love.  God’s glory is His grace.  It is His very “Godness” to give Himself away to us and for us.

You really should read/listen to the whole thing though. OK, so that brings us to a definition, but I wanted to interact more with this understanding of God’s glory, and there’s (thankfully) no shortage of this on Scrivener’s blog, including his posts and quite a bit of good interaction in the comments. So, the rest of this post is an attempt to give you an idea of how to explore this treasure.

SERIES: WE DID IT ALL FOR THE GLORY OF LOVE

Well, Scrivener put together a little series of posts to wrestle through “what is God’s glory?”  Not only is this little series named after a great song from the greatest decade of music, it’s also a great next step in the journey of discovering what God’s glory is all about.

In Part 1, you are invited to look at a selection of verses/passages that will help frame the conversation.  Part 1

In Part 2, he begins to interact with John Piper’s classic understanding of God’s Glory and why it may not be the best way to think about/talk about it.  Part 2

Part 3 takes digs deeper into the differences between what Scrivener is proposing and Piper’s approach.  Part 3

Part 4 digs into more scripture so that we aren’t just looking at it from the Gospel of John, and then Part 5 digs into Ephesians 1 as a final study.  Part 4  //  Part 5

MORE INTERACTION WITH JOHN PIPER

Now, I want to be sure to highlight how much Scrivener spends genuinely praising John Piper for his life, his ministry, his influence, and theology. He even shares an embarrassing moment when he tells Piper that he’s his biggest fan and then realizes he’s just behaved like a fanboy (in first link below)! Even in the comments sections, it seems that any time Scrivener interacts with a commenter (and the topic involved Piper’s theology of God’s glory) who is new to the site, he makes sure to reiterate his appreciation for Piper. Not only that, but his comments on Piper are always respectful, so don’t get the sense from me that he’s just a Piper-hater. Those folks exist. Scrivener isn’t one of them. So, here are some links to explore:

Why I am a Trinitarian Hedonist

Theo-centric? (or “What does God-Centered mean?”)

Piper’s Theology of Glory (this is a shorter version of the next one)

God is not a Narcissist (He gets the Trinity involved here in a very helpful way, as you’ve probably seen already…and more to come below)

One of the questions that arises in this discussion is the nature of God’s love for us. Piper would say that God’s love for us is primarily seen in making it possible for us to love Him (therefore glorying Him). So there is a boomerang effect where the intention is that we would make much of God. Many have posited squirmy reactions to this, but it’s PIPER, so they don’t speak out for too long. But, I think this Reeves/Scrivener approach (“God’s glory is His grace” in the word of Jonathan Edwards) actually does greater service both to God’s fame and to his affection for his people. Scrivener interacts with this question in his God Loves God more than God Love Us? post. And just for fun, here’s a short, wonderful quote on Why God Love Us.

TRINITY SHAPES EVERYTHING

In his post called Beginning with the Creator? Scrivener is super-helpful to show why the TRINITY must be the starting point for understanding God’s glory.  And why starting anywhere else is detrimental/dangerous. Read it! You’ll thank me! For more on this topic, see his Oneness and Threeness post and his You and Me, We’re Not so Different Really post.

So, how do I wrap up this tour through Scrivener’s writings on the glory of the Triune God? Well, I guess by saying that you should spend more time over at Christ the Truth. I may eventually do a similar post looking at his writings on Mission. But, I’ll also say that this understanding of Glory; namely that it is the outgoing love of God, that it is His grace, His cross…that it is the Gospel, which Paul calls the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus,” changes things.  Look at the overflowing love of God!  Oh what a God we have! Oh, what a beautiful Father! Oh, what a glorious Son! Oh, what a majestic Spirit of overflowing love! Glory isn’t an abstract, glowing blob of awesomeness…it’s the love of God on the move! That changes everything!