It was Father’s Day. In fact, it was the last Father’s Day I would bring the sermon for the church I had pastored for 10 years. The church was dissolving to unify with a sister church across the road. For the past 10 years I had been blessed to serve a congregation that believed in something greater than themselves, so much so, the day they found out a church was coming in across the street, they started talking about what it would look like for ours to die.
“Who does that?” I remember asking myself. Who adopts, as the first option, the dissolution of a 110 year old church? The answer is simple: men who understand John 17. Men who understand the kingdom.
On this Father’s day morning, the fact wasn’t lost on me that I had been priviliged to minister to a special group of people, lead by a special group of men. It also occurred to me how the pulpiteers of our day had often spent our time bringing woefully inadequate advice the young men of our churches. We’ve spent too much time telling them about the habits of highly effective people, about the 7 Steps to a Happy Marriage, the 5 Things Dads Can do to Be More Effective and the like.
All the while what we needed to be telling them was how to be more like Christ; teaching the orthodoxy (doctrine) and the orthopraxy (practice) of what a selfless servant leader of the home really looks like.
As I survey the culture around us, social media, and other outlets they are saturated it seems with admonitions on Biblical Manhood and what that entails. Sometimes the materials are really good. Others, not so much.
As the church explores what it means to be a man or a woman in the Kingdom of God, I can’t help but simultaneously look around at the culture surrounding me and wonder where we went wrong. I don’t mean the crazy worldly culture requiring a safe place, a shelter from being told No, or the absentee fathers who set aside the responsibilities of leading. I mean the men in our churches. There are a few messages we need to be giving our men, young and old alike. Our seasoned Christians and new converts.
Many of the ideas we will discuss will run counter-culturally and counter-intuitively to many. Being a Christian man does not mean a more “Christianized” version of the worldly bravado of the day.
It means being like Jesus. Possessing His qualities, walking His steps, loving His ways, imitating who He is. If we can grasp these and make them our own, our young men will grow to be what our Father intended: an image of the Son.
I believe time is short. The coming Kingdom of God is near and will soon take His place beside the Kingdom of God already here. Jesus meant what He said when he told His disciples the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. It(He) was here. It(He) is here. It also will come in its fullness later on. To that end, let us be ready. The Bride of Christ is said in His Word to be pure and white, ready to meet her bridegroom.
The church is being purified and rallied to her feet, to His feet. In the midst of that, we must speak to the hearts of men and give them the charge to walk worthy of their position; to lead their families, and to kneel before the awesome power of God Almighty.
I sincerely believe the last thing many believers need is another Bible study. Another opportunity to learn more of the Word they already aren’t willing to obey. Through these posts I pray we will seek to know more of Him who redeemed us and conform more tightly to His nature and character as men, as sons of the Living God.
The first message is simple:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
Philippians 2:5-7, 17
We must first examine what it means to have “this mind among yourselves.” What mind? The mind of Christ, of course, but what does that even mean? What is the mind of Christ? We can look to the preceding verses of Philippians 2 and find the answer. Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to be of the same mind with one another, to be in “one accord.” This unity of soul and practice is spurred on by increased devotion we find in verses three and four:
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When we men lose sight of our purpose to die to ourselves daily, to take up this personal cross of self-denial and make a conscious, intentional effort to consider others more highly than we consider ourselves, then we will find not only the opportunity, but the strength, to be emptied. In fact, this is the true nature and definition of being emptied. The true nature and definition of what it means to be a man: Emptied in service to others, just like Jesus.
Considering others more highly than ourselves is not an inherent trait we find ourselves born with. To the contrary, we are born selfish, brutish little creatures bent solely on the satisfaction of each and every particular whim and whimsy of soul.
We want our breakfast, and we want it NOW. Our culture is replete with examples of selfish egocentric behavior which relegates nearly all household tasks beneath the unsustainable masculine self-image. While some of us may be from the generation where boys aren’t allowed to cry, we have entered into another generation which preaches to get all we can, can all we get, and sit on the can. Self-interest has replaced service; self-exaltation humility.
If we are to raise and train up the next generation of fathers, husbands, elders, servants, pastors, and teachers for the body of Christ, we must take care to model what it means to have the mind of Christ, a mind not only comfortable with, but bent on, taking the form of a servant and emptying ourselves out before the Lord. Living it out in overt, intentional sacrifice for the good of those we serve and lead; for the good our children and spouses; for the good of our churches and most notably, for the glory of God Himself.
Instead of filling yourself up, are you willing to be emptied?