Good Strength

  
I get seduced, often, by the brash, self-exalting trumpeting that passes as success or manhood in certain circles.  I know conservative Christians who do it, people who I’d agree with on theology and ethics, but who speak or e-mail or post in a way that magnifies themselves and denigrates almost everyone else.  I see it on reality TV, on Shark Tank, in the NFL and UFC and in Donald Trump.  And of course I often see it in myself.  When I look down on someone whose life is a little more chaotic than mine, or when I deem myself a failure for all the wrong reasons.  

It’s an attractive lie, that being strong and successful and self-vindicating is a satisfying way of life.  

But Jesus is strong as iron, unbreakable, and His glory and worth outshine every king and model and billionaire.  Jesus is purer and better and more central to the story than any of us.  And He allowed Himself to be humiliated and punished so that the ones given to Him might be rescued.  

Good strength gives of itself.  Good love isn’t puffed up.  A Christlike heart doesn’t need to beat its chest and shout out its greatness.  A mind conformed to be like His doesn’t need to fret about carving out its place in the world; it is free to give of itself and humble itself.  A Christlike soul can simply rest in what it has received.  

The degree to which we clamor to prove ourselves, to which we brag about our righteousness and despair about our failures, reveals how far our heart is from the Messiah’s.  

Only fake gods have to counterfeit their strength. 

The real God traded glory for shame, and wore a crown of thorns while Pilate hid in his palace, scared of a crowd.  The rest of us seek to be gods, and would often sooner die than give up what we hope will be our glory.  But Jesus took on skin and washed feet like a slave and hung on a Roman Cross and endured the wrath of God, and did it all freely.  

Tonight I pray for a heart more like His.  To have a heart so satisfied in God that being braggadocious seems obnoxious, and being self-forgetful a joy.  

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 

2 Corinthians 10:12

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Don’t Be Like This Guy

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A warning to young men idolizing UFC fighters, boxers, or certain musical artists: Self-exaltation is not good manhood. It is wicked and suicidal. Manhood done well, done honorably, done to save one’s soul and live life well, is strength spent for the good of another.

The most powerfully, virtuously masculine man who ever walked the Earth surrendered Himself to the violence of those who came against Him. And He could’ve killed them, could’ve killed you, could’ve undone me, with a word. So why didn’t He? When being spit on, mocked, slapped, and whipped by humans whose molecular structure He could’ve unwound with a whisper, why did the Lion of Judah who knew what true manhood was submit Himself to murder and defeat?

To bring God glory and bring the weak great good.

Good manhood doesn’t brag about its exploits. It doesn’t pound its own chest and shout about its abilities. It doesn’t abuse others for self-gain, nor does it humiliate for self-glory.

True manhood, manhood that is actually worth something, spends itself on others. It uses its strength, whatever limited capacities it’s been given by God, to protect and serve and sanctify. It fights for holiness in its wife or the saving Gospel proclaimed to the lost who need it. Godly men of truly strong stuff want redeemed souls and a world in awe of God more than fast cars and fruitless lust.

Godly men live for the only wise God and for others. Childish, shrill men live for games, pleasure, and applause.

Godly men protect women, devote their muscle and energy and spiritual sweat to one woman alone, and honor the Christian sister as an adopted co-heir. Lazy or diabolical men use women or chase them. They are too slothful or spiritually dead to promise and protect, too idolatrous or timid to love and lead.

Godly men love children, as Jesus did. They teach, admonish, discipline, and shepherd. Brash and unteachable men act like children, unwilling to live for or love anyone other than themselves.

Godly men, men living in tribute to the only perfect Man, and living with Him in them to enable it, call evil evil, while forgiving quickly the wrongs committed against them. They are unafraid to say what is sin, but they hold no grudges. The fights these men choose are for the glory of God and the protection of the weak. But small men fight battles for their own fame and glory.

Godly men control their anger, but spiritually weak ones surrender to it.

Godly men speak and sing and work and play with the goodness and glory of God in mind. Stupid and sinful men seek shallow joys in deep graves.

I want to be like the Savior who rescued me and lives within me. I want to be the man He calls all men, shepherds and servants, fathers and friends, to be. I want to be less about myself and more about Him and others. I want to use the muscles and vocal cords and brain and heart, the tongue, testosterone, and tenacity He’s put in me for His fame, my wife’s good, my children’s upraising, the service of the saints, and the salvation of the lost. I want to shove the pictures of selfish sex, loud chest pounding, and smug self-glory far from my head and heart. For they are not manhood. God made the first man, and He decides what manhood is. No, those infantile screechings and idiotic, wicked prides are hollow shells, walking bodies with nothing to give and no desire to give it.

I rebuke them from my own heart, and I ask God to remind me to live and sweat and fight and pray for His glory and my neighbors’ good. Vainglory, lust, unbridled temper, and idolatry be, quite literally, damned.