Posts tagged john piper

Courage and fear: are they always opposites?



The qualifications for being a husband are simple but not easy. A man has to be a man, not just physically but in the full sense of the word. And a man has to be godly.

In their book The Silence of Adam, Larry Crabb, Don Hudson, and Al Andrews point to the interconnectedness between godliness and masculinity. “The only way to be manly,” they write, “is first to be godly. In our day, men are looking for their manhood more than they are seeking God. Too many men make the mistake of studying masculinity and trying to practice what they learn without paying enough attention to their relationship with God.”

Understanding the unique way in which you were created doesn’t make you fully a man. Getting married and having a family doesn’t make you a man. Success in the marketplace, great wealth and power, the honor and praise of the culture — these are not the measure of real masculinity. To be fully a man, you must commit yourself to the pursuit of godliness.

It’s almost a paradox, the idea of a godly man. Not because a man is incapable of godliness, but because of what is at the root of the idea of godliness in the Scriptures. We are called to live out our masculinity with courage and in fear. Courage and fear are not always opposites.

The Fear of God

There is a difference, however, between fearing God and being afraid. In fact, Moses, after receiving the Ten Commandments from God, appeared before the Israelites, who were filled with fear. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin’” (Exodus 20:20).

“There is a fear that is slavish,” writes John Piper, “that drives us away from God, and there is a fear that is sweet and draws us to God. … God means for His power and holiness to kindle fear in us, not to drive us from Him, but to drive us to Him. His anger is against those who forsake Him and love other things more.”

In his book One Home At a Time, Dennis Rainey says, “God is not feared today. In fact, He is mocked by our immorality, our treatment of unborn human life, our broken commitments, and the selfish, ‘me-first’ attitude that characterizes so much of what we do. Even in the Christian community, we are strangely silent about the fear of God. There is little teaching on judgment for sin, and the place of eternal torment called hell. We haven’t rejected God. But we have conveniently recreated Him in our image. We have reduced the Almighty to our level.”

Today there is such an emphasis on God’s great love for us that we have forgotten what it means to fear him. We don’t see him as a consuming fire, but as a kindly grandfather who chides us when we are mischievous, but always with a twinkle in his eye and only a faint sternness in his voice. Don McCullough writes “We prefer to imagine a deity who happily lets bygones be bygones, who winks at failures and pats us on the back to build our self-esteem. But according to Scripture, ‘God is love.’ And love devoid of judgment is only watered down kindness.”

Act like men”

Paradoxically, that fear of God ought to be the basis of great courage in us. As men who fear God, we learn that we are not to fear other men. “Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul,” Jesus taught, “but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Our fear of God should produce boldness in the face of opposition from men.

Tucked away at the end of his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul gives a solemn charge to those men who are leaders of the church. “Be on the alert,” he writes, “stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). In those five simple statements, he calls the men who lead God’s church to a foundational quality of masculine godliness. He calls them to be men of courage.

In fact, some translations of the Bible take the clause “act like men” in I Corinthians 16:33 (andrizesthe in Greek) and translate it “be courageous.” Earlier, Paul had chastised the Corinthians for acting like babies. “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food,” he wrote, “for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able” (1 Corinthians 3:2). By the end of his epistle, Paul exhorts his readers to act like men. The expression “act like men” is a call to maturity, to conviction and to courage.

In our hearts, we know we ought to fear God, but our sin nature keeps us from doing so. In the same way as men, we know instinctively that we ought to be courageous, but again, we are caught in the conflict between flesh and spirit — between what we know we ought to do and what we often choose to do. Instead of acting with courage, men today too often choose not to act at all.

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We’re just talking



One of the unique opportunities I have had in attending seminary, after ten years of marriage, is discipling young men who are single or dating. One of the disadvantages, however, is not being current on the lingo.

This struck me in a recent conversation with a friend who told me he had gone out several times with a young lady and was uncertain about the status of the relationship. Curious, I asked him if he was planning on continuing to date this girl.

“You misunderstand,” he said, “we aren’t dating — we’re just talking.”

“Talking?” I replied, a little confused, “you mean like we’re talking right now.”

“No,” he explained, “we’re at the stage of a relationship just before dating. It’s called talking.”

Dumbfounded and feeling a little old and disconnected, I decided to investigate this new pre-dating phenomenon. “Talking,” I discovered, is a widely accepted stage in current guy/girl relationships wherein a young man and a young woman get to know each other without better defining the relationship. This isn’t even a real stage of the relationship; it’s a pre-stage. They’re not just friends; they’re not really dating or pursuing marriage; they’re “talking.”

After these conversations, I was left with the question: Do we really need another stage in relationships that are directed toward marriage?

Shirking Responsibility

Our culture suffers from a large number of males wallowing around in quasi-manhood for many years. Boys used to grow up, get a job, and move out of the house. But we have inserted this chain of life stages from adolescence, to the college years, to early career, and so on — all of which permit young men to put off growing up, taking responsibility, and generally acting like a man.

This new phase of pre-dating called “talking” is like adolescence for relationships: an unnecessary stage in the relationship allowing young men to avoid taking responsibility and acting like men. It prevents the man from having to be clear about his intentions to pursue or end the relationship. If he wants to stop “talking,” he simply walks away, leaving behind a confused, and potentially wounded, young lady.

John Piper[1] defines biblical masculinity as, “a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.” It is the responsibility of the man to take a leadership role in relationships, to be forthright, honest, and clear about his intentions. This “talking” phase normalizes relationship without responsibility; closeness without clarity; cultural manhood, not biblical manhood.

The young ladies I’ve spoken to share this frustration. They are left in a state of relational limbo, where they are unsure of the young man’s intentions and the purpose of the relationship. They are stuck going on non-dates with guys who are scared to date.

In their defense, guys tell me they are afraid to ask a lady out because she might immediately assume he wants to marry her. I understand the concern, but that does not change the need for character — it makes it all the more necessary.

Intentionality Is a Way to Serve Sisters in Christ

First, you should ask girls out that you see as potential wives. Second, when you don’t see her as a potential wife any longer, explain yourself and then stop asking her out. Third, throughout the relationship be clear, upfront, and honest about your intentions. If you just want to get to know her better, tell her so. If you see this relationship turning into something more serious, tell her that too. If you think she’s a great girl but don’t want to pursue the relationship further, tell her! That’s the kind of “talking” that should characterize the relationship.

If things don’t work out, and if you’ve acted like a true man, you’ve gotten to know a sister in Christ better and helped prepare her to meet her future husband. If things do work out, congratulations, you’re married. Those are the only two options for a man of God.

If you are a young man intimidated by the prospect of intentionally pursuing a young woman as a wife, seek the Lord in fervent prayer. Search your heart and your intentions to ensure they are grounded in the gospel and informed by Scripture. With your conscience clear before the Lord and your heart and mind shaped by His word, stand confident in the care of your heavenly Father (and hers) and speak boldly to your sister in Christ. Our God is a God of truth, and your sister in Christ deserves to know the truth from you.

If you are a young lady stuck with a guy who isn’t interested in pursuing you but expects your prolonged time and attention as he “talks” to you, ask yourself if this is the type of indecisive boy-man you want to follow for the rest of your life. It is impossible to follow someone who will not lead. Find a man who will treat you as a sister in the Lord deserves to be treated: with honesty, integrity, and clarity.

It’s time to kiss “talking” goodbye. Our brothers and sisters in Christ deserve better than this.

 

[1] Piper, John. What’s the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Books), 23.

JD Gunter is a student and staff member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming to seminary, he served in various church leadership positions in addition to spending fifteen years in the automotive and finance industries. He and his wife Tiffany have been married ten years, have two children, and are active members at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

5 challenges to keep men leading well



Men Leading Well

The Bible tells many stories of good men behaving badly — single men, married men, and fathers gone mild or gone wild through compromise, lust, murder, jealousy, anger, passivity, or cowardice. Scripture paints men as they really are, hiding none of their blemishes or barbaric ways. The honesty of Scripture is one of the reasons I knew that the Bible would be the place to go to learn what a real man should be and do. I began looking through the Scriptures, focusing on passages that talk about men and manhood, and along the way, I discovered five prevailing themes about men leading well:

1. A man controls his emotions and passions

Whether single or married, a real man tames his passions. He doesn’t abuse women and children; he protects them. He keeps his hands off a woman who is not his wife, and he treats his wife with love, respect, and dignity. He keeps his eyes off pornographic images. He protects a single woman’s virginity and innocence. He’s not a jerk defined by his exploits below the waist. He’s a man with a heart, head, and conscience.

2. A man provides for his family

1 Timothy 5:8 exhorts us, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” These are strident words. When a man doesn’t work and provide for his family, he feels a sense of shame. His self-worth sinks. A man who doesn’t work, who can’t keep a job, who moves from job to job, or who refuses to assume his responsibility creates insecurity in his wife and children. Every man needs to provide for his family.

I find that most men feel a natural sense of responsibility in this area, but many don’t seem to understand that providing for their family means more than meeting physical needs. It also means taking responsibility to provide for emotional and spiritual needs. A father should train his children and prepare them to become responsible adults who know how to negotiate the swift and sometimes evil currents of culture.

3. A man protects his family

To borrow an illustration from John Piper and Wayne Grudem on the essence of masculinity: When you are lying in bed with your wife, and you hear the sound of a window being opened in your kitchen at 3:00 a.m., do you shake her awake and say, “The last time this occurred, I was the one who took our baseball bat and investigated to see if someone was breaking into our house. Now it’s your turn, sweetheart. Here’s the bat!”?

No! That’s when the man gets up.

But being a protector calls for more than ensuring physical safety. Proverbs 4:10–15 describes a father who protects his son by passing on wisdom, helping him build godly character, and teaching him to reject the lies and temptations of the world. This father is protecting not only his son but the generations to follow, as the wisdom he shares gets passed on and on.

4. A man serves and leads his family

Those two words—serve and lead—may seem like a contradiction, but they are inseparable according to Scripture.

While the apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:23 that “the husband is the head of the wife,” he quickly puts to rest any notions that this leadership allows any form of selfish male dominance. He completes the sentence with “as Christ also is the head of the church.” Then the passage goes on to say that husbands should love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (verse 25).

This paints a picture of leadership that is contrary to how the world views it. A man is called to be a servant-leader — to take responsibility for his wife and children and to put their needs ahead of his own. He is called to demonstrate selfless, sacrificial love — the type of love we see in God toward His children.

5. A man follows God’s design for true masculinity

Micah 6:8 tells us, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

The core of a man’s life should be his relationship with God. The man who walks humbly with God is motivated and empowered to step up and assume the difficult responsibilities that come his way. You see, a courageous man is never off duty.

This post was excerpted from the book, Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, © 2012 by FamilyLife Publishing. All rights reserved.

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