(Excerpts from The 2011 GA Seminar “Reaching the Heart of a Man”)
A good summary of the goal of men’s ministry is to help men better love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. Bryan Chapel points out, “Spiritual change is more a matter of what our heart loves than what our hands do” (Holiness By Grace). So, what are the barriers that prevent our men from loving God more? There are many, but one of the most deeply rooted is the feeling that God’s basic attitude towards them (even though they are forgiven in Christ) is disgust, because of their sin. Many Christian men, who know that God loves them and forgives their sin, nevertheless feel inside that they are too dirty for a holy god to like very much.
Today’s Christian men have a lot to feel ashamed of. Some feel shame because they lost their job and are not providing for their families. Others feel ashamed because their grown children are not following Christ. A majority feel like they are not very good husbands. If that isn’t enough to feel ashamed of, there is always lust. Most Christian men would crawl under the table if some of their sexual fantasies were flashed up on a screen for their wife and daughters to see. For some reason, sexual sin makes us feel especially dirty.
Consider how shame affects a relationship. How would you feel about meeting your boss for breakfast once a week if he thought you were a disgusting human being to be loathed?
Shame totally destroys our desire to draw near to God.
The only antidote for the toxic shame that destroys the love relationship of believers with God is the gospel. The gospel is that I am more corrupt than even my foulest sins show, but at the same time more loved and valued than I ever dared to dream. By taking that truth deeply into our hearts our desire to know and love God grows. In the words of Tim Keller, “We can only change permanently as we take the gospel more deeply into our understanding and hearts.” Tim Keller, The Prodigal God. Here are 5 truths we leaders need to help Christian men deeply internalize:
1. God never tires of forgiving us. We cannot out-sin his willingness to match our sin with forgiveness! The well of his forgiveness towards those who are in Christ is filled by the eternal spring of his mercy. Paul makes this point in Romans 8:33: “Who would dare to accuse us whom God, himself has chosen. The judge himself has declared us free from sin.”
2. Bigger sin means we have a bigger savior. When a prostitute washed Jesus feet with her tears, he made the observation, “She who is forgiven much loves much.” Our biggest screw-ups are the best opportunity to grow to appreciate our savior’s love for us and what it cost him to bear our shame at the cross.
3. We are the delight of God’s heart. “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17.) Scotty Smith asks, “What would it feel like in your heart to know that God not only accepts you, but that he richly enjoys you? To know that your company is his pleasure, your fellowship his joy, your face his delight? What effect would that have on how you think about God, yourself, others.” (Objects of His Affection.) You and I love to be in the presence of those who enjoy us!
4. Loving God and being loved by Him is the answer to our deepest longings. “You cannot say that our body was made for sexual immorality. It was made for God and God is the answer to our deepest longings.” 1 Corinth. 6:13. As CS Lewis said in his message, ‘The Wight of Glory,’ “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
5. Life in Christ is not moralism. The gospel changes our view of failure. Paul wrote, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). The gospel changes my view of the church. “The church is actually a place for people who are needy, afraid, confused, and quite sinful. But even more important than that, the church is a place for people who have been loved…and have no idea why. Each congregation is, as it were, a local chapter of ‘Sinners Anonymous'” (Steve Brown, What Was I Thinking). The gospel changes my view of self-reliance. “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” (1Cor. 12:21). God has told us that his grace is sufficient for us but he has never promised us a private solution to our struggles with sin. The place where we find grace is in community-connection in the body of Christ. Christ disciples us through his body.
How can we help our men love God more? By helping them feast on the gospel of grace. Only those who know God will love them even if they don’t get better will ever get any better.
Note: The 2011 General Assembly Seminar, “Reaching The Heart of A Man” can be viewed in its entirety online for free at www.developingmen.com