CS Lewis

Believe in Jesus (HC:LD7a)

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Turn with me to John 3:16-21 and we’ll read it together. We talked about this passage a little bit last week when I highlighted the exclusivity of the claims that Jesus was making as being the only one to have faith in, the one and only way path to forgiveness and restoration to God. I also read John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And then the teachings of the Apostles in Acts 4:12 where Peter says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus didn’t say there were many ways to heaven, that God accepts the worship of other religions, or that anyone’s individual efforts – no matter how good – could win favour with God. No, over and over, Jesus taught and proved that He was the one and only Son of God, sent from the Father to give the message of life.

The first words of Jesus in Mark, the first Gospel ever written, were His declaration:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

He was saying in no uncertain terms because this was a command: “Here I am! The King of the Kingdom, the One to whom you owe your allegiance, the One that was foretold in all the prophecies, in all the ceremonies, and by all the signs. Now, ‘repent and believe’ in me.”

“Repent” was a word they had already heard lots of times from John the Baptist and it meant to “stop doing what you’re doing, stop sinning, and turn around”, but Jesus added to that message, “and believe”, meaning that anyone who turned around was supposed to follow Him. In other words, have faith in Him.

Faith in Jesus is a mega-theme in the gospel of Mark. When Jesus was asked to heal Jairus’ sick daughter, he was interrupted and then the girl died. And it says in Mark 5:35–36,

“While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’”

In other words, have faith in me. And then Jesus went and raised the child from the dead.

In Mark 4:35-41 we read the story of when the disciples were in a boat and a great storm arose, and everyone was scared they’d capsize, except Jesus who was sleeping in the front of the boat. It says,

“And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’”

In other words, “Guys, I’m in the boat. Do you really think that God’s going to let me drown before I finish my work? Do you really think I’m going to let you all drown? Do you trust me or not?”

And now, let’s read John 3:16-21,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

It says, quite simply, that God sent Jesus into the world so that the curse of sin that leads to death would be broken and we might have eternal life. It said that when Jesus came it wasn’t to condemn the world, though He certainly could have, but instead He came to bring salvation to us.

We’ve already established, over the past weeks, I hope, that we are sinners in need of a saviour and that Jesus is the only way of salvation, right? So, what is the single qualification for someone to be saved by Jesus? What must a person do in order to be saved by Jesus?

Too Easily Pleased

Turn over to John 6:22–40. This story comes after Jesus feeds the 5000:

“On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.’”

Hold on there for a second. Jesus’ problem here was that the people were so worldly-minded they cared more about a full stomach than a saved soul. They didn’t care that Jesus Christ Himself stood before them, offering access to God – they were more interested in whether or not He would make more sandwiches.

They were, like many of us today, so concerned about their own comfort and wellbeing that they look right past what Jesus really offers and only ask for what ends up being trite, silly, and temporary things.

For example, we just sent our teens off to El Salvador this week, right? What did you pray for them? The prayer I heard most often basically amounted to asking God to make sure they would “be safe” and “have a good time”. And I don’t mean to come across as callous or critical, but those are kind of “loaf” prayers, aren’t they? Are we more concerned that our kids have full bellies and don’t get hurt than what God really wants to do in them? What if God really wants to change them, challenge them, increase their faith, force them to confront what they really believe, drive sin from their souls, and cause them to cry out to Him alone? That can’t happen when they are “safe”, can it? That happens when they get desperate and learn how much they need God. What a terrible waste to send a group off on a mission trip and have them only come home with the biggest report being: “nothing bad happened and we had a good time.” We may as well have sent them to Canada’s Wonderland.

CS Lewis said it this way:

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”[1]

That’s what Jesus was criticizing there. That they were too easily pleased with loaves of bread and didn’t even desire the Son of God standing right before them.

The Work of God

Let’s keep reading though in verse 28:

“Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Take a look at verse 27 again. What did Jesus say?

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you”

They completely missed that part. They say, “Ok, Jesus. We want that bread that lasts forever, so that our bellies will be full and we won’t have to worry about that anymore. What does God want us to do? What kind of ceremony? Some kind of sacrifice or worship song or prayer or good deed?” And Jesus says, “Guys, first, the best thing for you isn’t actually bread… I’m not talking about actual bread… and second, you don’t have to work for it. I’ll give it to you…”

Look at what Jesus says in verse 29,

“Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”

I told you a while back that every Worldview has 4 Questions they must answer: “Why is there something rather than nothing?, What’s broken with the world?, Can it be fixed?, Where is the future headed?”

Every religion, every worldview answers that question. They all know that something’s wrong with the world, but each one comes up with different ways to fix it. Some believe in humanism, and that through our own ingenuity and technology we will be able to save ourselves. Some believe in environmentalism, that if we just leave the world alone, it will fix itself. Hindu and Buddhism believe that if humans get good karma that they will eventually reincarnate as higher and higher forms of being. Islam believes that unbelievers are the problem and if you everyone would obey the five pillars then they might earn enough points to get to heaven. And New Age groups mush everything together, call everything, including themselves god and say that if anything bad happens it’s because you didn’t control your godhood properly because you are in charge of creating your own reality.

All of these worldviews have the same thing in common: They answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?” with the answer, “I can save myself if I try work enough.”

Jesus says, No. There is no amount of work you can do to conquer sin, reverse the curse of death, make everyone get along, stop war, plague, pestilence, and famine, and achieve your way into the presence of the Creator. It’s impossible.

Humans are always trying to figure out what work God wants them to do so they can get their prize, so they can get the loaves and fishes, the comfort, the way out of pain. They want to be able to say they did it themselves, that they worked hard enough, tried hard enough, were good enough, smart enough, and clever enough to save themselves, but the problem of sin isn’t one that we can fix. There’s no amount of work we can do to save ourselves. So when we ask what kind of work we can do to fix everything, Jesus says, “‘This is the work… that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”

There is no work required: Only faith. Believe in Jesus. Trust in Jesus. That’s it. He does the work.

Bread of Life

Keep reading in verse 30,

“So they said to him, ‘Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

This is astonishing. They weren’t listening at all! They look at Jesus and say, “Ok, whatever. Yesterday you gave us actual bread. That was good! Can we have more bread? Moses gave us bread every day! How can we be sure that you aren’t going to flake out on us and forget to bring the bread? Prove that you can do it again. Make you a deal: If you keep filling our bellies and making us fat and happy, then we’ll believe whatever you want… ”

And Jesus’ answer is perfect:

“Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’”

It’s like he’s saying: “No. C’mon you guys! Moses didn’t give you bread. God did! Sure, for a short period in history, while you were wandering in the desert, God sent manna and quail to you so you wouldn’t starve on your way to the Promised Land. But now, standing before you is the “true bread from heaven”, the One who won’t just feed your bellies for a day, but has the power to grant life itself!

Verse 34,

“They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’”

Still not getting it. They look around to one another and say, “Oooohhh… I get it! He’s talking about bottomless breadsticks! Yes! Give us that!” Still worried about food. Still stuck on temporal blessings and comfort. Still thinking about their momentary physical need for a bit of bread and not their deeper spiritual need for forgiveness of their sins and restoration to God.

So Jesus spells it out:

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

Now pay attention to this next sentence, because this is what we’ve been building towards:

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’”

What is the one, singular qualification for salvation? What must we do? Believe in Jesus.

HC LD7a – Belief

Turn your page over to the Heidelberg Catechism Questions for today. Remember last week we learned that Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and man, the only one who can take the punishment for the sins of the world? Look at question 20:

“Are all men, then, saved by Christ just as they perished through Adam?”

This is a good question. In our study of sin we learned that because of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, all of their offspring would fall under the curse of sin. Romans 5:12 says, “…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” All humanity was infected with that curse, and therefore we are all sinners and stand condemned. And so the natural question then is, “Ok, then if all humanity is automatically infected with Adam’s curse, does it follow that all humanity is automatically cured by what Jesus did?

And the answer is,

“No. Only those are saved who by a true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits.”

Just as Jesus makes an exclusive claim to be the one and only savior, so in the same way, He says that the only people who are saved are the ones who make the choice to accept his free gift of salvation. Just as Adam and Eve chose to sin, so everyone must make the choice to believe in Jesus. Remember John 3:18,

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Now, I know, there are a lot of theological debates about what comes first: Does God change the heart before a man can believe? Or does a man have to believe before God changes his heart? If faith is a gift from God than how can man make a choice? I don’t want to spend a bunch of time talking about that today.

I think the moment of salvation works like this: It’s like we are sitting alone in a dark room eating something. We can’t see anything – what we look like, what we’re eating, or any way out. The room is all we’ve ever known, all we’ve ever experienced. But then, all at once, Jesus opens a door and sheds light into the room. We look around and realize we are sitting in filth, surrounded by garbage. We look at the food in our hands, and it’s disgusting, mouldy, maggot ridden…. We feel sick to our stomachs, regretful of where we are, what we’ve been putting in our bodies, disgusted by what we’ve been doing. And then Jesus says, “Hey, I’ve got a place for you and better food. Food that satisfies and makes you well. Will you come and eat what I’ve prepared for you?”

To me, that’s how salvation works. We can talk about the nuances of Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace and Conditional or Unconditional Election, but that’s a debate for theologians. I want to keep it simple.

Question 20: Is everyone saved? The answer: No. Only those who have true faith are saved.

Which leads to question 21,

“What is true faith?”

and the answer is beautiful,

“True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.”

That boils down to some very simple beliefs. How do you know if you have “true faith” or if someone you know has “true faith” in Jesus Christ as their Saviour? Are you sure and confident of what God says in the Bible? And do you believe you are forgiven of your sins, not by anything you have done, but because of what Jesus did on the cross for your sake?

It is not enough to say that you believe in God. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” 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.”

If the answer to those questions are “Yes, I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I don’t get to make things up about Him or what He wants because He has revealed it to me in scripture. And yes, I believe that Jesus alone has saved me and I don’t need to do nothing else to add to that salvation.” then you are saved! You are a Christian!

But if you are not willing to say those things, and instead doubt God’s Word, make things up about Him, subscribe to other religions or superstitions – or that you think that you can earn your way to heaven through good works or religious ceremonies – then your soul is in danger and there is a very good chance that you are not saved.

Conclusion

We are going to cover a lot more of what the Bible says in the coming weeks, but let me conclude today’s message with this. Romans 10:10 says,

“For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Do you believe in Jesus as your saviour? And if so, will you confess that faith to Jesus and others? Don’t keep your belief in your heart because you are told not to. You must first confess your faith to Jesus. You must, in prayer, confess yourself a sinner in need of the salvation that comes from Jesus alone. Have you confessed your sins to Jesus and asked Him to save you? You must do that.

And secondly, have you confessed your faith to those around you? Let me read the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:32-39,

“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Have you confessed your faith to your family and friends? Or are you afraid or ashamed? Are you still trying to gain worldly bread, worldly comfort, trying to gain this life – and missing out on the greater blessing by being completely sold out to the one who is the Bread of Life.

Let me encourage you today: Stop working for things that perish. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mk 8:36) Give your life up to Jesus. Repent and believe. Confess to Jesus, and then confess your faith to those around you, and so be once and forever saved.”

 

[1] CS Lewis: The Weight of Glory

What R U Reading L8ly #3 (Carnivore Theology: Ep. 61)

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Books What are your reading lately 3

Books, books, books! The CT guys LOVE books and we think you should too! Today we talk about what’s on our desks and bedside tables.

Podcast Audio:

 

Behind the Scenes Video:

Here’s the List:

East of Eden – John Steinbeck

Institutes of The Christian Religion – John Calvin (Beveridge – Older/Free) (Lane – Newer)

The Spirit of Early Christian Thought – Robert Wilken

A New Testament Biblical Theology – G. Beale

God Dwells Among Us – Beale & Kim

The Meaning of Marriage – Keller

John Wyclif: Myth and Reality – Evans

The Abolition of Man – CS Lewis

Knowing God – Packer

The Tipping Point – Gladwell

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection – Doyle

Picture of Dorian Gray – Wilde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Stevenson

How to Get Free Books

https://www.monergism.com/

http://www.ccel.org/

https://www.logos.com/free-book-of-the-month (More Free from Logos)

http://www.ligonier.org/store/collection/crucial-questions-ebooks/

http://www.desiringgod.org/books

http://blog.vyrso.com/tag/free-ebooks/

How Can You Help Carnivore Theology?

1. Pray for us!

2. Record a question in your voice on our SpeakPipe page! (Or Facebook or E-mail!)

3. Comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, and iTunes!

4. Share www.CarnivoreTheology.com with your friends. Sharing is caring!

5. Give financially: If you’d like to help us with our productiong costs, send us a financial gift through PayPal by clicking here. (We are not a registered charity, so you won’t get a tax receipt — but you will have the good feelings that come with helping out a friend!)

Is Harry Potter Good or Evil? (Carnivore Theology: Ep. 51)

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Harry Potter

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a worldwide, cultural phenomenon, beloved by many and hated by some. Christians can’t seem to agree on whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Carnivore Theology takes on the question: “Is Harry Potter Good or Evil?”

Podcast Audio:

Behind the Scenes Video:

Recommended Reading:

Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me – Andrew Peterson (Christianity Today)

Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader – John Granger

How Can You Help Carnivore Theology?

1. Ask us a question in your voice on our SpeakPipe page!

2. Comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, and iTunes!

3. Share www.CarnivoreTheology.com with your friends. Sharing is caring!

4. Give financially: If you’d like to help us with our productiong costs, send us a financial gift through PayPal by clicking here. (We are not a registered charity, so you won’t get a tax receipt — but you will have the good feelings that come with helping out a friend!)

What R U Reading L8ly & Coffee in Church (Carnivore Theology: Ep. 34)

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What R U Reading

The 34th episode of “Carnivore Theology”.

Book Talk and Coffee in Church

Steve’s AWOL today so Chad and Al get to nerd-out on the books they’re reading lately, answer a SpeakPipe question, and promo Al’s book.

Podcast Audio:

Click here to download the episode MP3.

Here’s the link to the behind-the-scenes YouTube video.

Al’s Book List

CS Lewis – The Space Trilogy

George Orwell – 1984 & Animal Farm

Zondervan – Two Views on Women in Ministry

Chad’s Book List

coming soon

Please Consider Partnering with Us!

How can you help Carnivore Theology get better? Start by asking us a question in your voice on our SpeakPipe page!

Let us know what you think of our podcast by commenting on our Facebook page, connecting on Twitter, and rating us on iTunes! We’d also really appreciate if you’d pass them around to your friends. Sharing is caring!

Carnivore Theology is free for everyone, but it does have a cost to produce. If you’d like to help us with our hosting and equipment costs, you can send us a financial gift through PayPal by clicking here.  We are not a registered charity, so you won’t get a tax receipt — but you will have the good feelings that come with helping out a friend!

Where is God When Bad Things Happen? (Or, If God is Good, Why Does Evil Exist?)

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Don’t  forget to enter the “Be the New Podcast Intro Voice” Contest!

Podcast Audio:

Don’t You Care?

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:35-38)

Let’s stop there and dig into that question, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

The Wrong Ending

Do you ever read spy or adventure novels? Imagine this scene occurring in the middle of your book.

The hero, Ace, has tracked the diamond thieves across the whole globe, finally reaching their secret hideout deep in the woods. But things have turned for the worse! As he was taking pictures with his spy camera, he fell through the roof right in front of the leader of the gang. Oh no! Ace has been captured!

Now, there sits the hero of the story, bloody and bruised, tied to a chair in the middle of a cabin, deep in the woods. His enemies have left him there to die as they run outside to finish off Ace once and for all. Our hero looks around, wondering what he can do. His hands are tied, the chair is made of heavy wood, and he’s weak from the beating he’s just taken.

The villains outside are drenching the cabin with gallons and gallons of gasoline. Ace can hear their leader laughing and mocking him – and in good evil villain fashion, telling Ace his whole dastardly plot for world domination. Ace pulls against the ropes with all his strength, turning over his chair, landing with a crash on the floor.

Suddenly, outside there is silence… and Ace hears the click-click of a torch being lit. Within moments bright yellow blaze of flames engulfs the walls in seconds. Ace is trapped. He yells for help, but there is no one around for hundreds of miles. Suddenly he remembers his laser spy watch! He can cut through the bonds with the laser! H wrenches his wrist, breaking his thumbs, but struggle as he might, he just can’t reach his watch. Finally, in an act of desperation, Ace rolls to the wall, using it to get himself onto his feet, and tries to smash his body and the chair through the burning cabin wall–it leaves a dent, but the wood on the outside is far too thick to break through.

Soon, smoke is billowing throughout the room. His breathing becomes laboured and his head is starting to spin. He’s becoming covered by the thick, dark clouds of ash. He passes out to the sound of a helicopter roaring to life – full of wealthy super-villains . Within a few minutes his barely breathing form is engulfed in flames and our hero, Ace, is gone forever. The chapter closes with the jewel thieves laughing at the fool who thought he could stop them.

And there you are, holding your book, thinking, “What? They killed the main character? No way!” So you turn to the next chapter to see if he had actually escaped, or if it was all a dream. But no. The hero is dead, the bad guys have won. Evil triumphed and as far as you can tell the rest of the book goes on to describe how the thieves spend their millions of dollars and took over the world. (Story adapted from Gary Poole’s “How could God allow suffering and Evil”)

 

Re-Writing the Ending

R.R. Martin. Famous for killing off favourite characters.

What would you think of that book? Unfair, right?! That’s not how it’s supposed to go! You’d think the author would have figured out a better ending than that! But the author didn’t write it that way… he let the hero die.

That’s how life seems sometimes, doesn’t it? Unfair. Not right. When something catastrophic like a natural disaster, kidnapping, or a family member dies or is terribly hurt in a car accident, it’s as the Author has made a huge mistake. Breaking up with someone you love causes a huge, dark hole of disappointment opens up in your heart… and you just wish that someone would come and rewrite that part of your life.

Have you ever felt this way? I’m sure we all have. We all find ourselves asking the question: “Is God in charge, or not? Is He out there writing the script for how this world works, or is it all just random and out of control? And if He is in charge of everything, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, then why doesn’t He write a better ending? We want him to write like CS Lewis, JK Rowling, or the old Fairy Tales authors where everyone lives happily ever after… but sometimes He seems more like RR Martin or Quentin Tarantino – randomly writing in heartbreak and loss for what seems like no reason at all – other than to frustrate everyone.

Do you ever wish that God would step in and rewrite something in your life, or someone who is close to you? I can think of a few times that I wish God would have just expunged from my record. Relationships I’ve messed up, an uncle who committed suicide in a horrible way, the rejection that I felt all through High School, arguments I’ve had with my wife, things I’ve said to my kids that I never should have said, debts I’ve accumulated that are now plaguing me. I wish that God would have come down at that moment, hit rewind, and rewritten it to have a better ending.

Big, Important Questions

We all, at some point, cry out to God just like the disciples did on the boat, They said, ““Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”. We say “What’s going on? It’s not fair! It’s not right! Why won’t you step in and fix this?”

Take comfort that we’re not alone in those questions. We read this all over scripture.

Jeremiah the prophet who was called by God to deliver messages to Israel, half way through says to God, “O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me.” (20:7) He says, “God, you lied, you strong-armed me into this mess, and it’s not right! Why are you doing this?”

David says to Him, “Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Ps 22:1b-2) “God, you’re letting me down, and not even listening! Where are you?”

The prophet Habbakuk (1:13) says to God, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” Essentially saying, “Horrible things are happening to good people, and you’re nowhere to be found! Why don’t you do something?”

These are questions that each of us ask. I think it’s very meaningful and comforting to know that I’m not alone in my frustrations, and even the holiest people of the Bible have felt what we’ve felt – and far worse – and felt that they could ask God these kinds of questions. It lets me know that I’m not alone.

But at the root the question is really this: Where is God when bad things happen? What is God doing about the problem of evil in this world?

People often site sin, evil and all the bad things that happen in the world as reasons to either deny or distrust God.

There’s an old quote from a Greek philosopher that states this problem like this:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

If God is all powerful, then why do bad things happen? Isn’t God a good God? Either there is no god and all this horrible stuff is just chaos out of control. Or, there is a god, but He has no power to help us. Or, there is a god, and he is all powerful, but he’s not good and simply enjoys watching people suffer. Is any of that true?

Some Options

Well, I want to go through a few options of what God could do about the evil in the world see if we can’t find out what He’s doing. I’m not coming up with this on my own, but am using a wonderful little study guide by a man named Gary Poole’s called “How could God allow suffering and Evil”.

For these options, let’s assume a Biblical view of God. That He is perfectly good, perfectly just, all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present. So then, what are some options that He could use to take over the world? Let’s do a little philosophizing and try to “think God’s thoughts after Him.” (Johann Kepler)

Option 1: Destroy The World

First, He could simply destroy all of humanity. If He is all-powerful then He could easily wipe out the human race. He did it before with a flood, right? This is a simple solution: if there weren’t any people, then no one could get hurt. No evil, no murder, no thieves, no problems. And if He blew up the whole world there would also be no hurricanes, volcanoes or earthquakes! Perfect peace.

Well, that’s not the best solution, is it? If God is all-knowing, then He knew all this would happen before He ever created us. So, He must want us around. He must have created us for a purpose, and wants for us to be a part of creation. We mess it up, hurt each other, and are slowly killing the planet He gave us, but we are apparently important enough to Him that He’s decided to keep us around. But there’s still a problem with Evil…

Option 2: Zap the Evil People

Pay no attention to the concentrated lightning bolts on Parliament Hill…

The second thing God could do is to hand-pick all the evil people out of the world and eliminate them. Tally up all the really bad people – the murderers, rapists, terrorists, etc. – and fry them with a bolt of lightning.

And then, let’s go one better. Since God is all-knowing, and already knows who is going to commit an act of evil against someone else, or any part of creation, or against Himself, He could destroy them before they even take their first breath. And everyone else – all the people who would live their entire life without ever committing any kind of evil or sin – or even thinking evil about someone else, because the bible counts that as sin – whether they would do it on purpose or by accident – all those people could just live in peace.

Well, the problem with that solution is that, according to the Bible, and according to our own consciences, we have all sinned and done evil. There is not one person here who hasn’t done something wrong in the eyes of God. So again, everyone on the planet would get fried by a bolt of lightning.

Option 3: Eliminate Choice

Third, God could step in every time something evil happens and counteract it. He could get rid of our ability to choose evil. Just like we talked about before – just hit rewind and rewrite a new ending – and we would never know the difference. Someone wants to do something wrong, and God stops it before it ever happens.

Or, even better, He could make everyone immortal and mess with everyone’s plans. If someone shoots someone else, they just get up and go on with life, without even a scratch. If you get thrown off a cliff, you don’t even get hurt. You just hit the ground, wake up and walk home. If you decide to cheat on your spouse, God has our car break down, and fills the hotel room full of spiders. If you want to steal something, you find that there is suddenly a parade of police officers exactly where we want to take it from. No one’s choices would make any difference.

Or, even better, just get rid of choice altogether. Don’t put a Tree of Good and Evil in the garden of Eden. Pre-program everyone’s minds that they will always make the right choice, every time, no matter what. No bad thoughts, no worries, no issues, no arguments, no one ever even considers doing anything wrong – ever.

Now, the problem is that if there is no choice, then there are no relationships – no love. We would all be robots and play-actors in God’s perfect, little play. No one would choose to love you, they would be programmed to in advance. No one would choose to love God or serve Him out of thanksgiving or worship, but would simply do it because they were supposed to.

In order for there to be true love, true joy, real worship, any meaning in life at all, then we must be able to choose. If God created us to be in relationship with Him, then we must be able to choose not to be. If all you had to do was walk up and push a button on someone to have them say “I love you”, then it wouldn’t really be love, would it?

People sometimes ask why God doesn’t just get rid of all of the wrong choices. The answer is because without the ability to choose the wrong answer — to love or not to love, to be good or do evil, to help or to harm… there really isn’t a choice. For us to be able to experience love, we have to have the freedom of choice.

Option 4: Leave Us Alone

The fourth way God could deal with evil is to just walk away and let us fend for ourselves. He could wind the watch, keep the planet spinning but let everyone do whatever they wanted. Just let the pieces fall where they may. He wouldn’t get in the way when someone wanted to do something evil, He wouldn’t give them a conscience to tell them right from wrong, and He wouldn’t perform any miracles. Just let it go.

That wouldn’t help us much, but from His perspective, if He could make Himself not care about us, turn his back and walk away, then at least for Him, the problem would be kind-of solved.

Can you imagine that world? A world without conscience, without God’s intervention. A world without Christians, without divine morality, where it really is the “survival of the fittest”. A world without God giving people the desire to selflessly serve others. A world where God never raised up strong, bold, courageous, moral leaders who would fight for what is right – even in the face of a stronger evil?

2 Thessalonians 2:7 says, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.”  That means that right now God is restraining, holding back, the full effects of evil. If God stopped doing that, we’d be living in hell. And God doesn’t want that for us. He doesn’t want to turn His back and leave us alone.

Two Reasons Evil Continues

So, none of those solutions work, do they? So what is God doing about evil?

Let me say this first. I believe God allows evil for 2 important reasons.

First, so that we can see what life is like without God. What it’s like when people are left to themselves, when evil is left to flourish, and when people really get what they want. In this world, we experience evil and its effects partly because it let us see what happens when we get to the end of our lust for sex, power, money, attention. We see the results in ourselves and in others, and are meant to say “That is terrible and I no longer want any part of it. I don’t want to be like that anymore – I don’t want to become like that. Thank God that He has kept me from that.” Many who have looked deeply into themselves, after God has gotten a hold of their heart, and are able to have compassion on those who are so evil thinking to themselves, “But by the grace of God go I.” Evil gives us a glimpse of life in Hell, and is meant to drive us to God.

Second, because He wants more people to be saved. We wonder why He doesn’t just come now. Why not end it all now and just be done with this horrible world? One reason we are given is in 2 Peter 3:9 which says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  If He would have come before you were saved, you would be in Hell. Those of you who are praying for members of your family to be saved from their sin, saved from Hell and go to heaven… what if Jesus were to come today. Where would they be? I don’t know how it all works, but I know that it is a grace that God gives us time to repent!

Option 5: Experience It and then Destroy it

So what did God do about evil? Well, that’s option 5.

He came to earth to experience evil first hand, so we could know how to live in this world. He came to live a perfect life where He would commit no evil, to show us His divinity and perfection. And then, through His death on the cross, where the perfect man was sacrificed in our place, made it possible for us to join Him and be free of the effects of evil forever.

He could have left us in sin, given us our way, and allowed humanity to just go to hell, but He didn’t. Instead, Jesus came and lived in this world and knows exactly what it’s like. His ministry, the inauguration of His New Kingdom, set in motion our ultimate deliverance from evil. Our faith in His life, death and resurrection, makes it possible for us to be accepted by God into His perfect kingdom.

Because of the evil within us – our sin – we would never be allowed to be in the presence of Holy God. But, since Jesus has taken our sin, upon his own shoulders, and God poured out His justice and wrath on Him, instead of us – we have been given the opportunity to come to the Father in His name. God imputed (credited, ascribed, gave as a gift) Jesus’ righteousness to us.

Martin Luther called this “The Great Exchange”: our sin and unrighteousness for Jesus’ perfection and righteousness. That’s the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Everyone who believes and who is touched by evil, death and disease can live without worrying that that will be their final condition. Instead of fear, God infuses the Christian with hope . And more than that, God promises to use the evil in our world, our pain, suffering, loss, and even death, to bring about good in this world (Romans 8:28).

“Teacher, Do You Not Care?”

Let’s finish the story in Mark 4:37-41,

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’”

I can’t imagine what went through the mind of Jesus when the disciples asked that question: “Don’t you care?” He knew why He was there. He was there to suffer and die for not only their sin, but the sin of every other person who would believe in Him, for all time. He was to the perfect and final sacrifice for sin, finally completing the whole law and everything prophesied about him from the beginning.

In a short time, He would be tortured to death for no reason other than the hatred that this world had for him. He will have had done nothing to deserve it, but because of His love for them – for us – His blood would be spilled.

It’s the same question we ask: “Jesus, do you not care?”

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”

So, why are we so afraid? With a God like this, as powerful and loving and wise as He is, why are we so afraid? Why do we lack faith? Why are we not constantly falling down in worship? Why would we try to do this all on our own? Where is our faith?

Let me ask you: Is your future secure in Jesus Christ? Have you been asking Him for the strength He gives, to face your pain and persecutions? Did someone convinced you that Christianity is easy and safe, or are you aware of the spiritual reality that there is evil around you at all times, that you are at war, and all of humanity is part of it?

God has conquered evil, and has invited us into His Kingdom so we might work with Him against it. The words, “Do not fear” are shear and utter madness in this world! There is much to fear… unless God truly did raise Jesus from death, and unless He is abiding in our hearts. Our faith destroys the fear of storms. There is nothing we cannot face if we trust in Jesus Christ.

So let me close with Hebrews 10:19-23:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

The Demise of Biblical Manhood (a Father’s Day Sermon)

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Father's Day - The Demise of Guys - BOOKSI’ve been reading a lot about men these days. I just finished The Screwtape Letters and The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis, Happy Happy Happy by Phil Robertson, and am half-way though Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield.

Mansfield is a New York Times best selling author who writes about history and biographies. CS Lewis was an academic and intellectual giant who taught at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Phil Robertson, on the other hand, is a redneck from Louisiana and the patriarch on reality show called Duck Dynasty.

And what I found remarkable was that though CS Lewis was writing around the 1950s, and Robertson and Mansfield were writing in 2013, the issues they discuss were remarkably similar. They were worried about men.

Lewis spent a lot of time talking about the consequence of having an educational system that teaches men to deny the universal values that God has placed inside of them (like their courage, conscience and masculinity) in favour of trying to be more relativistic, neutral and contemporary. He calls these men, “Men Without Chests”, meaning men who have no heart, no drive, no passion, no drive, no bravery, and no realization that things have objective value because God created them.

Robertson’s book is what I would call an opinionated autobiography where he tells his own story of how he grew up and came to faith, but also spends a lot of time criticizing the society he has seen rise up around him, especially the men who he sees as “chickified yuppies”.

Mansfield’s book begins with the premise that “The Western World is in a crisis of discarded honor, dubious integrity, and faux manliness.” He then sets out in his book to identify “the virtues, the habits, the disciplines, the duties, the actions of true manhood.”

Biblical Manhood

I didn’t mean to read these four books altogether, nor did I expect to be talking about them on Father’s Day. But, as I was praying about what I should be talking about this Sunday, I came across a couple of verses which, if you get one of the Father’s Day gifts today, you will see printed on your M&M’s.

The first verse comes from Proverbs 14:26 and says

“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”

The other verse is Joshua 1:9 which says,

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 Each of those authors I mentioned have their own definition of manhood, and solutions to the problems they present, but these two verses sort of summarize what I would call Biblical manhood. One speaks of leading their family in the fear of the Lord, and the other is about having the courage to trust God and go wherever He leads. That, in a nutshell, is Biblical Manhood. To Courageously Follow God and Lead others.

The problem is that today, the Christian Church is doing neither very well.

Boys in Crisis

In preparation for this sermon I re-watched a TED Talk, and re-read a book by a psychologist and professor at Stanford University named Philip Zimbardo, in which he relates a lot of statistics about what he calls “The Demise of Guys”.

He says, “Guys are flaming out academically, wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women.”  They have a “fear of intimacy”, he says. Not because they are “traditionally shy”, but because they are “socially awkward”. When they wander around life “they are like a stranger in a foreign land. They don’t know what to say and they don’t know what to do. Especially one on one, [to the] opposite sex.” He says they now prefer what he calls an, “asynchronistic internet world to the spontaneous action of social relationships.”

What is the cause of this? His answer is two-fold. The first problem is “isolation” and the other is what he calls “arousal addiction”. Essentially, we have a generation of boys who are spending a huge amount of time with, “excessive internet, gaming and porn.” He says that “boys brains are being digitally rewired… for change, excitement and constant arousal.” This makes them “totally out of sync in traditional classes and totally out of sync with romantic relationships which build gradually and subtly.”  I would add that it also puts them out of sync with the traditional North American church service, and not only romantic relationships but all relationships — including with God. It’s not happening quickly, in 3D Dolby Surround Sound, and bringing them into a state of profound, physical excitement – so they don’t want it or understand it.

Whose fault is that? I don’t think we can totally blame the boys who grew up this way. They didn’t have much of a choice, did they? So, where can we lay the blame?

Saving Men

I don’t want browbeat anyone, or get into the all of the ways that we have raised up a generation of useless men who have no concept of biblical manhood, but it’s Father’s Day, so I feel as though this is a good time to present the problem and hopefully seek a solution.

In fact, I was asked this week to identify some of the more pressing issues facing church ministry today. I came up with a few of them including poor theology, absent spiritual disciplines, financial debt, and rampant distraction and business, but I also said that one big problem in the church is that we have too few good, strong, godly men. Here’s what I wrote:

“North America is in a crisis of not having enough godly, Christian men. Absent fathers, spiking divorce rates, and the pornification of our society are only a few of the problems that have come from ‘The Demise of Guys’ (as one author called it). We need to equip and inspire our older and young men to be godly, scriptural, Christian men and fathers. If we save the men, we will solve many of the problems facing our families and churches.”

I believe that with all my heart. If we can figure out a way to recapture the spirit of Biblical Manhood – to courageously follow God and lead others – then we can solve a lot of the world’s problems. And there are a lot of ministries that are figuring this out too.

Promise Keeper’s Canada has started something called the Fatherless Project, which is a ministry that encourages godly, Christian Men to get involved in the lives of boys without fathers. Let me throw a few more stats at you.

They say that Canada has over 1.5 million single parent families, and over 80% of them are led by women. That means that there are a huge amount of men fathering children and then taking off, leaving the mother to raise the child alone. Statistically 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. This is a generation raised by single women – the fathers are either useless or gone.

Churches Too

Fatherlessness and a lack of Biblical Manhood isn’t just in the world, it’s a problem in the church too. David Murrow, author of “Why Men Hate Going to Church”, says on his website that in the US, “…women compromise more than 60% of the adults in a typical worship service… [and] some overseas congregations report ten women for every man in attendance…. Men are [statistically] less likely to lead, volunteer and give in the church. They pray less, share their faith less and read their bible less. The men who do go to church seem passive and bored. It’s often impossible to get churchgoing men to do anything other than attend services.” That’s a brutally honest view of the church, and I guarantee that the statistics are even worse in Canada

One article I found in the Vancouver Sun said, “…men have been quietly, but in huge numbers, streaming away from many of North America’s Christian churches…. The typical United Church congregations [in Canada] is 80% female…. [and] two out of three of those filling Catholic pews are female.” Pentecostal, Baptist and Mennonite, congregations aren’t doing as badly, but are mostly full of older, married men. Certainly not young, single men.

Girls Need Fathers Too

Now, I’ve talked a lot about men and boys, but girls are in crisis too. Girls with absent, or ungodly dads, have huge struggles too (also here). A girl without a good, godly father will struggle with a lack of self-confidence, have self-image and body issues, will feel consistently lonely and vulnerable, and try to seek the love they need from other men who will only want to use her and discard her. They won’t have a role model for what a good man is supposed to look like, so they will hook up with idiots, losers, and abusers – because that’s all they’ve known. Then that boy-in-a-man’s-body will lure her into bed with lies, get her pregnant, and take off on her. That’s how it’s going right now – and the reason is because there is a huge lack of good, godly men.

Satan’s Plan

We have a generation of men – and more and more women and girls too – who grew up (and are growing up) isolated from people and distant from the church. They’ve spent so much time on the internet, playing video games, and watching porn by themselves in their rooms, that they have no idea how to even talk to real people. They have been taught by evolutionists and atheists that their life is meaningless, that they have no future beyond death, and that there are no consequences to their actions.

Only a few weeks ago we watched the culmination of this thinking as Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree, killing six people and them himself. I watched the video he posted and it reads like the endgame of what Satan is driving all young men towards.

Let me quote a little from his video:

“For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me…. I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair.”

This young man has no idea what’s wrong. He’s rich, he’s got the car (he recorded the video sitting in a BMW), he’s a decent-looking guy, and he’s attending a university in California. Every movie he’s ever seen, from Hollywood to internet porn, has conditioned him to believe that women should be throwing themselves at him, but he couldn’t figure out why they weren’t.

Let me quote him a little more:

“And girls, all I ever wanted was to love you, and to be loved by you. I’ve wanted a girlfriend, I’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven. If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you. You denied me a happy life, and in turn, I will deny all of you life. It’s only fair.”

Yes, this guy is clearly a psychopath with some serious problems, but his life and words read like the perfect game plan of what Satan and society is trying to mould men into being. I can hear the voice of the demon:

“If you devote yourself to achieving wealth, power, and being physically attractive, then all that you desire will come to you.

You will be sexually and relationally fulfilled.

You’ve been watching porn since you were 10 and I have taught you that men and women are merely objects.

If you press the right buttons they will do whatever you want – instantly and perfectly.

Women will fall for you, men will obey you. And you will be satisfied.

If they don’t do what you want, then there is something wrong with them.

You should shame them, call them cold, heartless, stupid, and frigid until they give you what you want.

And if you can’t get what you want – take it.

You deserve it.

It’s their fault for making you feel that way, for dressing that way, for enticing you, and not fulfilling your desires.

Take it.

Take it.

But if they won’t give it, and you can’t take it – then there must be something wrong with you!

You need more money, more power, better looks. What, you can’t get more?

Then it’s hopeless.

You will never feel fulfilled, you will never get what you so deeply desire – you will never feel love.

And what is the point in living if you cannot feel love.

So go, punish them. And then end your pain.

It’s ok.

There’s no consequence anyway.

You’re just evolved scum and to scum you will return.”

This is the record that is playing over and over in the minds of girls and boys, men and women, all over the world –in our homes and our neighbourhood.

“You are an object.

You are an animal. 

Fulfill your animal desires.

If you are not powerful or beautiful, you are worthless.

This is all there is.

Seek pleasure and if you cannot get it, take it or kill yourself.”

And the only ones who are going to be able to stand in the way, and shout louder than this voice is us – Christians. And who are the ones who have been given the responsibility to lead their church, lead their families, and stand between the women and children and the flaming-arrows of Satan? Who are the examples, guides, protectors and provider? Christian men. (Ephesians 5:22-25; 2 Timothy 3:4; 1 Corinthians 15:58, 16:13; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Timothy 5:8)

Be Strong and Courageous

Father's Day - The Demise of Guys - BIBLICAL MANHOODSo, what is the solution? Society will presents ideas like changing the way schools approach educating boys and telling parents to turn off the computer and send the kid outside to get some exercise and use their imagination. Those are good ideas, but they are not the solution. I believe that the answer to the problem is in the Christian Church. These boys don’t need special education training or an exercise program. They don’t need Ritalin or Adderall to calm them down so they can act more like girls. What these boys need (and girls too) are Good, Christian Fathers. We need to recapture the next generation of boys so they can be good dads.

As I said before, I believe the answer to this epidemic of dying churches, uninspired worship, decrepit evangelism, broken families, aborted babies, lost boys and destroyed girls, is to find a way, as a church to teach, equip and inspire men toward Biblical Manhood.

We need to teach young men (and the lost older ones) how to courageously follow God and lead others in faith. We need to teach them how to pray, study and serve like Jesus did. We need to show them how to lead their families, their church, and their own spirits, in courageous obedience of the Spirit of God. This why I read those verses before.

Proverbs 14:26 says:

“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”

Those are the words of a father to a son. Not just a biological father, but a spiritual father. One who knows his words will reverberate through generations and to generations of father and families. He implores the fathers of his generation and the ones that come after, to realize that children need a place of “refuge”.

When everything turns dark and scary, and the thunder crashes, and the stranger is knocking at the door – who does the family turn to. Father. He is their refuge. And who does the Father turn to? “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence…” The wife and kids are protected because the man is the protector. And where does the man get that strength? From God.

The other verse, Joshua 1:9, are the words of God to Joshua right before he assumes command of Israel after Moses died. He’s probably scared spitless and needs a pep-talk and a reminder of his responsibilities.

Like all fathers who look at their children, and spiritual fathers who look at the next generation of men: He has a good idea of where he needs, and what he has to do, but he hasn’t taken the first step yet. He knows there are battles before him, and that things are going to be rough for a while. And what are the words of God for him?

Look at Joshua 1:2-9:

“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

God knows the trials ahead. Three times God says, “Be strong and courageous.” And He’ll say it even more times. He knows that Joshua and his big-family are going to have to fight huge battles, be challenged in their faith, and face enemies way too large for them to even consider going against without God’s help. And God knows that the people are going to mess it all up, shrink back when they should charge forward, and will need miraculous provision to see it all happen.

And so, over and over again, God tells Joshua – the new leader of Israel – their human father, to “be strong and courageous”. I love how he says it in verse 6, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” One of my commentaries explains this verse this way, “The need for Joshua to be strong and resolute was acute because he was the instrument for the people to inherit the land. The Hebrew grammatical construction here highlights Joshua himself: if he, of all people, was weak and irresolute, then the cause was in deep trouble.” (Howard, D. M., Jr. (1998). Joshua (Vol. 5, p. 85).)

In the same way, men, we who are biological fathers, adoptive fathers, or spiritual fathers – which covers all of us, by the way – if we, of all people, are weak and irresolute, our church, families and nation is in deep trouble. We know that’s true because we are seeing the fruit of it already.

What We Can Do

So what ought we to do? I realize that the cause looks hopeless, but it is not. Here are a few suggestions for what we can do, as a church, to turn things around.

1. Ladies, Pray for The Men. This first one is for the women. Pray for your men. Your husbands, sons, fathers and grandfathers. Pray that God will send the Holy Spirit to convict them, grow them, change them, strengthen them and turn them into courageous Christian Men who will courageously follow God and lead others. Pray that they will be godly, biblical leaders in your home, your church and your neighbourhoods. Pray that God will send boys and men to this church, and that the men here would take up the challenge to mentor them in the faith.

2. Men, be Good Fathers. Live out your biblical manhood! Be strong and courageous to follow God and lead others.If God has given you sons or daughters, you have a great blessing. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Be thankful for the children you have and see them as a heritage, a reward, and weapons of light in this dark world!

Be a Christian man. Get clean, get pure, get help from God and others. Put down your distractions and sins and “Train up your child in the way he should go…” (Proverbs 22:6). You don’t have long, and this whole world is working against you.

I remind you of the command from the Apostle Paul that your job is not to simply be a harsh tone of discipline, or to exercise authority over your child, but to carefully and lovingly train them. He says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

And I remind you of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:5-6 which speak of how serious God takes the training and raising up of young disciples:

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Take your position as father and spiritual trainer seriously. You will be judged for it in the end.

3. Men, find and care for other’s children (and, may I say, especially boys). I’ve already stated the case for how dangerous the life of a child, boy or girl, is without a father. There are still some children within the walls of our church – and they need the influence of men. Sign up to teach Sunday school, adopt them as friends, speak into their lives on purpose.

And there are other young men who desperately need mentoring. Seek them out, build a relationship with them using whatever tenuous thread you can find. They need you so desperately – whether they want to admit it or not.

But don’t just look inside the church, look outside as well – or maybe especially. Whether it’s Promise Keeper’s Fatherless Project or The Boys and Girls Club or whatever, go and find some men and boys to get into the lives of. Let me say this loud and clear: THEY ARE NOT GOING TO COME TO YOU.

They’ve looked at your religion and see only ridiculous rules and soul-crushing boredom, and want no part of it. They’ve been taught to distrust authority figures, so they don’t want pastors, teachers, parents or mentors to guide them. They seek direction and ultimate meaning from their peers and popular culture, which you know is a terrible idea, but they think it’s the greatest! These young people are just making it up as they go along, guided by foolish peers, internet lies, and demonic temptations – and Satan is having a field day. You must go to them. They will not come to you.