Weakness among men is now promoted as a social virtue. Being “soft” is the new ideal. During the Rio Olympics, corporate sponsors spent millions promoting transgendered and androgynous users of their products.
This has become the new “normal.” But the erosion goes deeper than just a new emphasis on gender confusion and sexual ambiguity. It’s even as basic as declining strength among men.
Last month, The Washington Post published a study showing that the grip strength of a sample of college men had declined significantly between 1985 and 2016.
The grip strength of the average college male had declined so much — from 117 pounds of force to 98 — that it now matched that of older Millennial women. In other words, the average college male had no more hand strength than a 30-year-old mom.
In The National Review, David French begins his article on the subject with this provocative sentence: “If you’re a Millennial male, your dad is stronger than you are.”
It’s an ominous trend. For centuries, fathers have taught their sons to be strong and to protect their honor. But they also expected their sons to defend those who were weak.
This is not merely a cultural value; it’s a biblical value that godly men defend the weak.
For any man to defend the weak, he needs a combination of requisite strength and courage… but mostly courage. Yet the social trajectory among American Millennials is moving in the opposite direction. Diminished strength is resulting in diminished courage.
And it’s not just Millennial males. The average male in general today is more likely to watch a person get attacked (like a spectator watching a movie or video game), than he is to physically intervene to stop the attack.
This reality, as told in The Washington Post, tragically illustrated the crisis I’m describing more than a year ago on a crowded Washington D.C. metro subway on July 4, 2015.
The young victim, Kevin Sutherland, was repeatedly stabbed while his fellow passengers remained “huddled at both ends of the car,” watching but doing nothing to intervene.
Among the spectators on that subway were many able-bodied men of various ages and sizes; but they all stood-by in silence as the attack went on, watching but doing nothing.
In the heart of most men, we intuitively know this is not the way it should be. Inactivity in the face of such brutality may be rationalized, but it is not excusable.
Ronald Reagan’s adage of “peace through strength” is as true on a D.C. subway as it is on the playground as it is on the battlefield. As a father, I want to instill in my sons a vision for biblical masculinity.
These components include a cultivation of physical strength through service and exercise; a sense of dignity, honor and respect, for themselves and for others; and an intentional focus on intervening to protect the weak in our society – physically, spiritually, and otherwise. Don’t adopt a “victim mentality;” but cultivate a good defense strategy.
One of the small ways I’ve started doing this with my children is through our nightly family Bible studies. It’s part of our family bedtime routine.
My wife and I alternate, but when I’m the one leading the Bible story, whatever the narrative is about, I’ll usually look for something good or bad relating to masculine honor that I can emphasize in one of the characters. Either way, they see an inspired example that illustrates godly masculinity… or its absence.
This allows our children to see real-life examples in God’s Word of what traits we want to develop in ourselves – as well as the negative traits we want to avoid.
We want our sons to defend the weak and never be an attacker who bullies or belittles. We want them to have an attitude of joyful service to assist others in an honorable way. We want them to conduct themselves with dignity and respect, both in our presence and behind our backs; both publicly and privately. This curriculum will last for years.
I groan to consider the many ways I’ve failed to be more intentional as a father, thinking that my children would automatically grow up to be living demonstrations of biblical masculinity and biblical femininity. But these rare traits must be taught and cultivated.
My prayer is that we will raise strong warriors for Christ and that God will use those of us who care deeply about these qualities to stem the tide of our society that is running headlong in the opposite direction.
After all, we are surrounded by ample evidence of our fallen condition. Sometimes, just remembering the destitute moral state of humanity without Christ is sufficient to put our perspective back into proper order.
Nothng does this more that Romans 1:18 and following.
There’s not a more hopeless picture of our fallen race in all of Scripture than what we have in this second half of Romans 1. Understanding this hopeless condition apart from Christ actually encourages me as a believer with good news for repentant sinners.
Our wretchedness and inability to please God on our own is set against the perfect righteousness of God and the free gift of salvation just stated in verses 16-17.
In verses 18-32 all of humanity is in view, but the emphasis in these verses is on Gentiles and the pagan immoralities that are most common among Gentiles.
Later on, Paul focuses on moral Gentiles who are lost as well as moral Jews who are lost in chapters 2-3. They need the gospel as well.
But let’s consider the emphasis here on pagan Gentiles as representatives of all humanity in verses 18-32.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” [ESV]
This is the problem for all of us apart from Christ.
We are by nature children of wrath. By nature, we are suppressers of truth. Yet God has written His moral law even on the hearts of lost humanity.
That point may be a very surprising thing to hear.
That’s why when we do evangelism, the only effective resource to use is the written Word of God. We must quote Scripture. Scripture is powerful in converting the soul.
That’s because the evangelist who uses God’s Word has an unexpected ally in the heart of every lost person. That’s the work of God’s law that He has already written on their hearts. Later on, in chapter 2, verse 15 he writes of lost Gentiles that…
“They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…”
When Scripture is read and quoted, it brings to light what the fallen heart has been suppressing up to that moment. They may reject it, but the witness is still effective.
It is this inner work of the law that responds to the written Word of God. So we use God’s Word and quote Scripture in our witnessing to the lost.
In addition to the Bible, God has also shown His existence to all men by the things He has made.
Although lost humanity knows that God exists, if only at the deepest level of their suppression of this truth, they know it and yet still reject Him as God.
They choose instead to worship anything other than God. They deify the most contemptible of men in cults and false religions and other creatures as well.
As a result of worshipping fallen creation, they give themselves over to vile affections. That’s because people can never rise higher than the object of their worship.
When people reject the Creator and worship the creature or the creation, they begin to descend lower and lower into a moral abyss of self-degrading passions.
Far from forcing people against their own fallen will to have freedom in Christ, God “gives them up” – verse 24 – “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”
When fallen man hates the Savior and spits in His face, God gives them what they want. They don’t want heaven or holiness. They don’t want peace with God.
They want, by degrees, distance from God; they want the absence of light and truth and holiness. In short, they want just a little bit of hell on earth.
And they want it under the guise of freedom. They want autonomy – to be their own Lord and Master and to invent their own way of salvation and atonement.
They want to feel free in their bondage to immoral pleasures and sexual perversions.
And after they shake their fist in God’s face at the very end of their lives, they get the permanent separation from God they wanted all along – forever in hell.
In verse 28, a “debased mind” or a “reprobate mind” (KJV) is a mind that no longer works.
It doesn’t function as a mind ought to function. It can’t think properly and it no longer operates in the best interest of the person who has this kind of mind.
This is a self-destructive mind, delighting in its own ruin. It calls good, evil; and evil, good. So this person does what ought not to be done to their own destruction.
The only hope for reprobate sinners is total submission to Jesus Christ. He is able and willing to redeem all who come to Him for salvation from their sins.
All of us need this salvation… and it’s the only way to be encouraged forever.
Held by His grace,
Right now, many of the worst assaults on the Bible are coming from seemingly friendly sources… people who claim to follow Jesus and also from Christian book publishers.
You see aspects of this assault in the modern charismatic movement with private personal revelations couched in “the Lord told me…” formulas… with special hidden revelations.
And you can also see an undermining of the sufficiency of Scripture in best-selling devotional books, like “Jesus Calling.”
And you see this same downward trend in personal experience books about heaven and the afterlife in “Heaven Is For Real” and so forth.
This trend is also found in private messages from God, so-called ‘words of knowledge’ that are essentially an evangelical breed of ‘fortune-telling.’
And then there’s the growing cult of personal experience all of which is distracting Christians away from a reliance upon God’s all-sufficient Word.
Scripture itself has much to say about its own sufficiency.
We don’t need private supernatural messages from God; we have Moses and the prophets – moreover, we also have Jesus and His Apostles to give us everything God wants us to know about life and death; and about heaven and hell.
Yet the Bible also requires us to think… and that’s an increasingly unpopular activity.
So I want to briefly consider the sufficiency of Scripture in this blog.
The first six verses of Psalm 19 describe God’s general revelation through nature. In particular, it reveals His self-disclosure through the skies and by the light of the sun.
Then in verses 7-14, we have a description of God’s revelation through Scripture, here described as law, testimony, precepts, commandments, and rules – which all emphasize its binding authority.
What does it mean to speak of the sufficiency of Scripture? It generally means that the Bible tells us everything we need to know about God and how to follow His will.
It means that we go to Scripture alone when we want to have God’s words for us.
It further means that private messages having nothing to do with the Bible that come from individuals who claim to speak on God’s behalf are false. We are not to seek them.
God considers His written Word to be enough for us… all we need for life and godliness… all we need to please Him.
All that God requires of us is recorded in His written Word: to do everything the Bible commands of us is to be blameless in God’s sight.
And since none of us can ever do all that God commands of us, Scripture alone reveals the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, as the Savior of all who believe.
In 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, we are told that…
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” [ESV]
Verse 17 teaches us that if there’s any “good work” that God wants a Christian to do, then God has made provision in His Word for training us to do it.
In other words, there is no “good work” that God wants us to do other than those that are taught somewhere in Scripture: the Bible equips us for every good work.
In this equipping ministry, the Bible is both sufficient and supreme.
If you are a follower of Christ, be comforted by this thought: ‘God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.” Have you been called to salvation? Have you been called to some blessed form of service in His kingdom? Then go with His equipping.
Scripture is what equips us for every good work in this life. It is altogether sufficient.
All for His glory,
God became a Man and entered our world. The everlasting Creator left His throne in heaven to take on human form and live in a body like one of us. His entrance was anything but peaceful. Herod was on the throne and Israel was under Roman occupation.
God chose one of the darkest hours to introduce His Light into the world. Consider Matthew 2, verses 1-12 where we meet two very different kinds of people.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.
Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. [ESV]
In these verses we find a great variance of response to Jesus’ birth. The wise men were compelled to worship the new King, but Herod wanted to kill Him. But both parties converged on this scene in history.
The Light had come into the world and that Light was drawing worshipers, but wicked men loved darkness because their hearts were evil.
Those same two responses to Christ are seen in our day as well. Those who reject Jesus typically ignore the true meaning of Christmas and choose to focus on cultural rituals and personal traditions. But those who love Him, delight in the truth of His incarnation.
In Matthew 2, we learn that true worshipers are sovereignly drawn by the Father of Lights, while those who insist on self-rule are doomed to fear and ultimate defeat.
The worship of the magi and the opposite response of Herod both point to the true identity of King Jesus. Because Jesus was the true King, the wise men sought to worship Him. Because Jesus was the true King, the foolish king sought to slaughter Him.
If you are a true believer, an obedient follower of Christ, then your heart desires to please Him. You are compelled to worship Jesus with your thoughts, and words, and actions.
May this contrast in Matthew 2 prompt you to respond more reverently and more fully to Christ during this Christmas and New Year.
With joy in His coming,
The Lord has already used this online ministry to bless us in some incredible ways.
Not only have thousands of people benefitted from hearing our sermons and conference messages over the years, but we’ve even had families visit and even join our church (!) because they found out about Providence by listening to SermonAudio!
We also receive a steady flow of letters and comments from listeners. Just this week, I got an encouraging email from a missionary in Eastern Europe. He was writing to connect with our church for like-minded doctrinal fellowship.
In terms of numbers, our SermonAudio pages have been viewed over 24,000 times. The sermons themselves have been downloaded over 10,000 times all over the world. And in the five-plus years we’ve been using this site, the traffic to our sermon page is only growing. One sermon alone has been downloaded well over 1,300 times!
So God is using this online ministry to multiply the influence of every preached message. I’m so thankful that we live at a time when sermons can be recorded and preserved for future downloads. I’m also grateful to those who work in our sound booth to set the levels and capture the messages as they’re being delivered from the pulpit.
This is a noteworthy ministry to the Body of Christ. In fact, the audio and sound booth ministry of a local church may be one of the most highly-effective and yet under-rated ministries in a church.
Think about it: every online or national radio ministry starts out with sound people recording the sermon and setting the levels for optimal transmission to the public. It’s been this way for over seventy years, going back to the 1940s when sermons were recorded that are still impacting the world in our day.
Recording the preached Word is the most significant thing a microphone or soundboard can do. It’s worth the investment of time and money to make it work, because it has the potential to exponentially spread God’s Word to the greatest number of people.
God is using this technology in amazing ways!
For His Glory,
Romans 10 begins with Paul’s heart desire and prayer to God for the salvation of his kinsmen Israel. As Israelites, they are members of the external, “ethnic covenant,” they are descendants of Abraham, and they have God’s law and even a knowledge of God in some sense… but they are lost in terms of salvation. So Paul is pleading for them in Romans 10.
At the beginning of Romans 9, in verse 3, Paul refers to them as his brothers “my kinsmen according to the flesh.” And the fact that Israel isn’t responding to the gospel in large numbers doesn’t mean God’s Word has failed to accomplish His design. Just the opposite.
In Romans 10:2, he says Israel has a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. They’re ignorant of God’s righteousness and they try in vain to establish their own righteousness through the Law.
Then, in Romans 10:6, he quotes from Deuteronomy 30:12-13 about ascending to heaven or descending into the depths of the sea (in Deut 30:13 “depths” refers to the sea; in Rom 10:7 “abyss” refers to the grave).
The point is, true faith doesn’t require an arduous quest to locate Christ; rather authentic belief confidently asserts the true Word of the true faith… and that brings us to verse 9.
This is where belief and faith and evangelism are all linked together.
Romans 10 beautifully describes the means God employs to reach His chosen people with the good news about His Son; means such as hearing, and preaching, and sending to make Christ and His gospel known.
Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:7 and employs this metaphor to say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the gospel of good news.” The message is what makes the messenger’s feet or cadence so beautiful to those who are impacted by it.
The gospel is decisive news of victory that Christ has given His people to tell the world. Making Christ known to all is the joyful privilege and responsibility of every believer in Jesus Christ.
I use the word responsibility for a reason: we need to understand that evangelism isn’t optional for us as believers. The church is, after all, an evangelistic enterprise – and evangelism is one of the few projects we can do better on earth than we can in heaven.
If worship for the glory of Jesus Christ is the ultimate mission of the church, then evangelism becomes the penultimate mission of the church because evangelism is the means God has ordained to fulfill the ultimate purpose… to bring in worshipers to glorify His name, beginning on the earth and culminating forever in heaven.
Our mission is not merely to make converts, but to make genuine disciples of Jesus Christ who are truly regenerated, growing in their faith, and able to make more disciples.
It may help to think of evangelism as the means God uses to make Christ known to those who don’t know Him. It can refer to everything that God uses to bring about true regeneration. We’re talking here about gospel encounters with people.
It can refer to witnessing, one-on-one conversations talking about the gospel; quoting Scripture; preaching Scripture; using Scripture-saturated tracts that cross the language barrier and so forth.
Evangelism encompasses every wise, legitimate, and biblical means of reaching the lost with the truth about Jesus Christ. Even grief and tragedy have been great evangelists in the cause of God throughout redemptive history. That’s what Romans 8:28 is all about.
And the reason evangelism is so important is that it’s the prerequisite for making disciples… and that’s the Great Commission. Making disciples begins with evangelism and leads to growing conformity to Christ for the remainder of life.
Evangelism is one of the ways God’s people are reminded of the need to continually sow gospel seeds, where in America, even many churches are like mission fields where the lost need to hear and believe the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
The scope of evangelism encompasses every human being. We don’t know whom God has chosen for salvation or not. Our charge is to obey our Master who gave a very clear commission.
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [On that basis…] 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus told His followers to go into all the world… that’s the missionary enterprise of crossing into other cultures to make the saving gospel message known to every individual within every culture.
Evangelism aims at regeneration with a view toward making disciples. But it doesn’t require a positive outcome (in terms of having someone receive Christ with you on the spot) in order to be deemed effective or successful. One sows, another waters, but God must give the increase (1 Cor 3:6). Man sows, but only God saves.
In other words, when you present the gospel faithfully and accurately, even if people do not come to Christ and do not respond affirmatively to your faithful presentation of the gospel, that doesn’t mean you have failed as an evangelist. That’s the confidence of knowing your mission.
The evangelist is not responsible for the final outcome of the harvest; the evangelist is only responsible for the faithful sowing of the seed. Therefore, be faithful to the truth of Christ revealed in Scripture and you cannot fail as an evangelist.
All for His glory,