Our women have critical words to speak in God’s global cause, and we need their voices, but it is especially grievous when our men shun their fatherly calling to speak the hard, but necessary truths no one else wants to (1 Thessalonians 2:11).
When a man spends his brief existence as a remote-clicker, a couch-sitter, an unending joke-teller, when he starves his soul — that which he should not trade for the world (Mark 8:36) — on triviality, and wraps his affections around frivolity, he has become a shadow in a world that desperately needs men of great density.
“Man was made to take and exercise noble dominion, to multiply, to work, to laugh, to provide, protect, sacrifice.”
Our society often promotes a silly, light, and airy moron of a man in its sitcoms and movies. He stands for nothing. Weeps for nothing. Lives for nothing but the next punchline or comedic blunder. It’s insulting on screen, but tragic in real life, when we meet similar men who lack any gravity, because they put off thoughts of eternity. Such men who, as William Gurnell so vividly remarked, “pass their wretched days like so many swine; they never look up to heaven till God lays them on their back” The Christian in Complete Armour.
Amidst the swirling tides of truth and heresy, heaven and hell, God and Satan, this world and the next, many — it must be lamented — do not rise above the shallowness of sports, sex, and careers. They are as spiritually deaf, mute, and useless as the idols they worship (Psalm 115:8). Their story is Pinocchio in reverse: devolving from a real boy to a wooden puppet. Their name might as well be Ichabod, because the glory has departed (1 Samuel 4:21).
The full tragedy is seen best when compared to what God made man to be in the first place: a reflection of himself. He was made to take and exercise noble dominion, to multiply, to work, to laugh, to provide, protect, sacrifice — to know his God and advance his Master’s kingdom in the world. Instead, modern men take neither themselves, nor this world, nor their God seriously. They drift carelessly downstream as a leaf on the surface of their instincts.
Satan is left with easy work. He need not conjure up great delusions or ancient heresies to capture such men. He simply hands them chocolates. Men should not be flies to be caught by so thin a web. And yet our lands are cursed with weightless men.
Thick Pews, Thin Men
In the church, as well, our share of frothy masculinity has crossed our threshold. What an even stranger and more awful sight to see a man, who claims to be remade in the image of Christ, pass his brief existence as little more than a sermon-hearer, note-taker, small group-attender. He too lives with little passion, little mission, little seriousness — just religious habits tucked neatly within a saltless life. How can we explain this?
Is nothing ever at stake? Has the devil tired of prowling for souls? Has he ceased blinding unbelievers to the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Should not an ever-filling hell and an ever-beckoning heaven forbid such a breezy manner?
“God remakes a man to make demons tremble, to shake the gates of hell.”
God remakes a man (if indeed he has remade him) to make demons tremble, to shake the gates of hell. God sent his Almighty Spirit to dwell in him, and give his promises and his grace to empower every effort. But what do the demons say when they encounter such a respectably lukewarm churchman? “Jesus we know, Paul we recognize, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).
Their enemies will never say, “These men have turned the world upside” (Acts 17:6). Such men never reason with anyone about “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment,” nor do they ever receive the response Paul did: “Felix was alarmed.” Their religion is too shallow to make them happy, holy, or heavy.
Three Resolves for Men of God
I have need, like others who may read these words, to resolve to gain, not lose, weight this year. To gain substance, gain gravitas, move from indifference to zeal, superficiality to depth, milk to solid food — and be the heavier for it. In this, I have been helped by considering the ballast of a man in the boat of all boats: Noah.
Whatever Noah was before God found him with grace, he became a heavy man afterwards. At least three realities conspired to build his mass: the world he lived in, the Giant he walked with, and the family he sought to protect.
Warn the Dying World with Love
Noah lived in an evil generation, on the verge of cascading judgment. The tides of wretchedness upon the earth had risen. Cain’s violence was spreading throughout the earth, and “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). But God showed Noah grace and told him to construct an ark for deliverance, for he purposed to bring a flood through which “everything that is on the earth shall die” (Genesis 6:17).
God told Noah that all would perish outside the ark — family, foes, and friends — even while their lives continued on as normal. God’s flood will be no respecter of person. The poor will perish with the rich; the young with the old.
Noah’s world is not very different from our own. We slaughter our children at staggering rates. Sexual immorality and perversion are sport. We too await coming judgment at the return of Christ, who says,
As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:36–39)
“Before they would drown in the waters, they first would drown out Noah’s life, his warnings, and his pleadings.”
Noah responded by believing God and becoming “a herald of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). He lived counterculturally in obedience to God’s will and spoke forth his hope, even when he was surely asked what in the world he was doing. It would have betrayed his manhood not to declare the truth. Before his generation would drown in the waters, they first would drown out his life, his warnings, and his pleadings. In his world, as in ours, the masses stood already condemned (John 3:18), and Noah, being the righteous man that he was, still spoke. Will we?
The weight of his message gave him substance. He sought to be taken seriously because he had something critical to say: “Enter the ark or be lost!” It betrayed that message to be dismissed as the town jester. So with us, we have something to say: “Enter the ark who is Christ or be lost!” Billions today eat, drink, and make merry at the foot of an active volcano. Men of substance will point them constantly, audibly to our only hope.
Walk Closely with Your God
How ridiculous was the message that the “windows of the heavens would open” and for the first time pour fourth rain, and so intensely that mountains would disappear and birds would drown (Genesis 7:17–24)? How absurd to see a man labor for a century on a stadium-sized boat, nested a six-day’s journey from the sea. And then to watch him fetch thousands of animals.
Noah’s message of salvation, like ours, was foolishness to the perishing, but the power of God for those being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18–19). And we, like Noah, smell like our message: the fragrance of death to many, but the smell of life to some (2 Corinthians 2:15–16).
Will we too be faithful in our day? Will we conquer the ever-pervasive fear of man that risks honor, to protect reputation and threatens to deflate manhood in the process? Will we too be described in these four words: “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9)? Open Bibles and bended knees will make lions of lambs. Even common, uneducated men can blaze with boldness because we too have “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Over and over in Noah’s narrative, we find the secret to this man’s strength: he knew God. He feared God. He loved God. He “did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22; 7:5). His God was a giant hovering over the anthills of men. What did he have to fear?
Care First, and Most, at Home
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
It betrays a man to worry about the refugee status of distant peoples in far off provinces but not consider the health of those under his immediate care. We face a great temptation to care in theory about other people’s homes, while neglecting our own.
“Should we not burn audibly for God’s glory in the ears of an unbelieving world before we fade to black?”
Righteous Noah did not make this fatal mistake. When he heard about the impending flood, he began building with a trembling reverence towards God for the saving of his household. He sought to bring his own family into the ark before other families. Other sons and daughters, wives and grandchildren were welcome (if they heeded his preaching), but he began with what God had first assigned him: his own household.
He did not outsource their welfare to the local pastor or youth leader, or to the government. In the fear of the Lord, he labored intentionally for the saving of his family.
Before All Becomes Dark
Soon after the boat landed, Noah would fall into the same drunkenness that God had just sent the flood to drown. Noah proved to be Adam’s son, not the second Adam. Sin survived the flood, and mankind, like Noah, would need someone to cover his nakedness.
And the one who came to do so is the one we proclaim today. We do not preach ourselves, bringing a hopeless message of mere death and judgment. We bring good news of great joy: the gospel of Jesus Christ. We bring news of one who submerged to the bottom of the flood to become an ark for all who will find refuge in him.
We speak seriously of the world’s separation from God in order to tell gladly of this King. We have the privilege of laboring for our families, laboring among our neighbors, laboring in our Lord. We are shooting stars across the expanse of history, should we not burn audibly for God’s glory in the ears of an unbelieving world before it fades to black?