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THE REAL MAN
In the privacy of my pastoral office, I heard the complaint that launched me on this venture to reclaim man's place under God. A female member of my congregation sat before me, single, frustrated, lonely, and teary-eyed. She saw in her future nothing more than protracted emptiness. It was not long before I realized that her idea of a happy future centered on marriage.
After listening to her reasons for feeling that she should marry soon, I asked, "Exactly what type of man are you looking for?"
Without hesitation she exclaimed, "A total man."
"Just what is a total man?" I asked. "How would you describe the man you are seeking for a life mate?"
Thirty minutes later she had completed her description—of a breed of a man that does not exist except in some women's imaginations.
THE IDEAL MAN
Since that time I have asked many women the question I asked the young woman in my office, only to find their descriptions unsatisfactory. Some women visualize the ideal man as a strong, healthy, well-dressed, good-looking, aggressive, successful, dependable, and responsible businessman. Others picture someone adventurous, exciting, romantic, and possibly artistic. Either way, he is interested in all things and excels in most. He loves only one woman but charms them all. He's an attentive listener and is in touch with his feelings. And most excellent of all, he is a super spiritual leader in his home.
Have you ever seen anyone who answers this description? Take heart, friend. Neither has any woman. Besides, it presents a distorted picture of the truly complete man.
What is a "total" or "real" man? He is one who understands and accepts the responsibility for the development of his mental, emotional, and spiritual capacity and demonstrates this by his maturing attitude and actions in his personal life, his home life, his vocational life, his social life, and his spiritual life. Now read the definition again with yourself in mind and weigh the emphasis on the words understands, accepts the responsibility, development, and demonstrates.
Being a complete man does not depend on background, talent, education, skills, or achievement. It has little to do with looks, size, shape, or age. If these qualities were the criteria, most of us would be eliminated. Neither is a real man measured by how quickly he arrives at his goals or worldly measures of success. Rather, he is a man on a journey, in a process, forging an experience. It involves a journey the Father has planned for every man.
This journey, of course, begins with you acknowledging your need for a Savior. Have you done so? Have you asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and give you eternal life? You cannot be a true man of God without Him. This is because the moment you ask Christ to save you, He removes your sins, restores your relationship with the Father, and gives you the Holy Spirit to help you become all the Lord created you to be.
If you're unsure about your relationship with Jesus, the first step on your journey to becoming a true man of God involves trusting Christ to bridge the gap your sins have created between you and Him. He is willing to forgive and cleanse you, no matter what you've done. All you have to do is ask in faith, and He will save you right now (Rom. 10:9). You can use the following prayer or your own words:
Lord Jesus, I believe You are truly the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing, and let me live in relationship with You from now on. I receive You as my personal Savior, accepting the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross. Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You. Amen.
To find out what our Maker intended for us, we must go to His revelation, the Word of God. A glimpse there at the Lord's first perfect man will provide a focus for our understanding today.
According to Genesis 1:26, the Father created Adam for Himself—for His own glory, not man's. Scripture says, "God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'" (Gen. 1:26). The Lord could not have complimented us more than to make us like Himself. Humanity is the crown of God's creation. We need to recognize, therefore, that we were made for God and in His likeness (imago dei) so we can understand the reason for our existence.
We fulfill our eternal purpose when our lives honor the Lord and reflect His glory. What pleases a human father more than to hear, "That boy looks just like you; he even acts like you"? God takes pleasure in spiritual sons who reflect His character.
GOD'S COMMANDMENTS TO ADAM
After the Father created Adam, He gave him three commands. First, Adam was to rule over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and over all the earth (Gen. 1:26). Adam's domain was the garden of Eden, a perfect place for a perfect man and his perfect wife.
Second, Adam was to reproduce. God said to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it (1:28). Man was to bring forth children who likewise would glorify the Lord.
The third command the Creator gave to Adam was: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (2:24). That is, a man's wife is to be first in his earthly relationships. God has not repealed these commands. Today it is still a man's responsibility to be a good steward of what the Lord has given, to produce children and raise them to honor God, and to be faithful to his wife.
Psychologists generally agree that all of us are products of our homes. Many people think our past traumatic experiences dominate our present condition, but the general atmosphere of our homes has set the direction and pattern of our lives.
As I counsel people in my church study, one of the questions I invariably ask is, "How would you describe your home life when you were growing up?" Seldom, if ever, does the answer center in a single incident, but is rather an outpouring of the feelings they recall about the atmosphere of their homes. Often such words as critical, negative, loud, insensitive, unloving, or indifferent are mentioned. Every home has its atmosphere, made up of the combined moods and modes of expression of its members. While each family member contributes to the atmosphere, it is certain that the husband and father has the greatest influence—even when it's by default.
The Bible says, "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). The first man was made of dust—dust that is easily blown away. This fact by itself should protect us from overdeveloped male egos.
God also breathed into man the breath of life, and the dust took on eternal dimensions. Out of that handful of earth, the Lord created a living soul—not just mortal flesh and blood, but a life that is also spiritual in its essence.
The first two chapters of Genesis describe man as God made him to be. The Father placed in Adam's dust-core body a soul with the capacity to think, to rule his domain, to love his wife, and to rear his children. He was given emotions so he could recognize, respond to, and share the needs and desires of his companions. He was afforded the ability to discern the requirements of his family and make choices in their best interest. He was provided with a conscience to guide him to a basic understanding of right and wrong. And the Father gave Adam a spirit to keep him properly attuned to his Creator.
God's first man was neither holy nor unholy—he was innocent. Adam's was an untried holiness, and only he and Eve have ever lived in that condition. All people since then have been born with a sin-prone nature. We have to live with this carnal nature daily, but our Savior has provided victory over it. The innocence man lost in the garden of Eden—which made him less than whole—is offered to us in God's perfect Son, Jesus Christ.
A man may have a perfect body, but if his emotions, mind, and will are not under the control of the Holy Spirit he will fail regularly and tragically as the husband, father, and follower God intends him to be. The Lord designed us not only to cope successfully with the material environment but also to relate harmoniously with other living beings. This is why He endowed man with a spirit—so man can communicate with his Creator and receive wisdom for every interaction and situation. Any man whose body, soul, and spirit are not dedicated to God is fatally handicapped, sadly unable to be the adequate husband or father he longs to be. And no amount of money will make up for the absence of the Spirit of God in his life.
Adam had the right—and obligation—to claim total dependence on the Lord: "God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.' And it was so" (Gen. 1:29–30 ESV).
This is God's promise of provision for man. The Lord declared Himself the source of everything the first man would ever need. His habitation was a gift—the utopian garden of Eden. Good blessings were plentiful and varied. Beauty enveloped him. Man was to be totally dependent upon God.
So it is with the new man—even in not-so-idyllic surroundings. The Father intends for us to live in dependence upon Him, looking to Him for every need. And we can instill in our children the truth of Philippians 4:19: "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." What He did for His first man, He will do through Christ despite our polluted environment.
Not only did Adam have the right to claim provision, he had the right to claim guidance for his life. Scripture says, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'" (Gen. 2:15–17 ESV).
What kind of home would you have if you looked to God as the source of every provision? If you looked to the Lord for divine direction of your family? If we could see ourselves as channels through whom God will bless our families with divine resources and direction—if we could be the men He created us to be—we would have homes full of harmony, peace, and happiness such as the world has never known. If we could grasp what God intended for Adam in the beginning and know that His desire for us is the same, each of us would be well on his way toward becoming a complete man.
ADAM'S GOD-GIVEN COMPANION
You may think God would not create anything that was incomplete, but He did. After He created Adam, He looked at His flawless man and saw a deficiency, though not a defect. The lack was a woman.
"The Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'" (Gen. 2:18 ESV). Adam needed someone with whom he could share all that the Father had placed in and around him. He needed someone to love. Adam was made in the likeness of God with untried innocence, the totality of what man can be, yet there was no other human being with whom he could share his life. So "the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man" (Gen. 2:22 ESV). Only then did God declare His whole creation "very good" (Gen. 1:31).
Scripture says a wife is a gift from God (Prov. 18:22)—one that is to be received with gratitude and care. If you are single and looking for a wife, be careful that you wait for the one the Father created specifically for you. Some men feel they got someone else's gift, while others do not feel they got a gift at all. God did not intend marriage to be that way—He wants each spouse to be a joyful blessing to the other. A husband should look at his wife as God's gift to complete him, not to "finish him off." The Lord gave Adam a woman to complement him, not to compete with him. Sadly, when spiritual harmony is missing, home life can be a terrible, disruptive battle.
Scripture also says that God gave Adam a woman who was part of himself—she came from his side. It is then no wonder that the apostle Paul said a man should love his wife as he loves his own body. No man ever hated his body, but cares for it, making sure it has all it needs to be healthy (Eph. 5:28–29). The same is true for your marriage. This is why when you said your marriage vows, you promised to have and to hold your wife for better, for worse, until death parts you (if you spoke the traditional pledges). And those promises were made not only before friends but in the presence of God and are registered in the heavenly records.
Your wife is part of you. The physical consummation made the two of you one. And God intends for you to have the same relationship with your spouse that Adam had with Eve. The first man was a part of his wife, and she a part of him. If you are not willing to live as a part of the woman you married, your attitude needs to change because you are part of your wife and responsible to God for her. When separation divides you, both partners suffer; each is torn apart.
God gave you a mind, a will, and a conscience to guide you in making the right decisions. Therefore, you are accountable for your choices. "Incompatibility" between partners is not an acceptable excuse to Him. Sadly, many couples seek divorce on the grounds of this polite expression. What does incompatibility mean? Many say simply, "We just don't like each other." But differences in personality are never valid reasons for tearing asunder what God has joined.
Scripture says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). God's pattern for His man and His woman is togetherness forever. That means divorce and separation were not the will of God for Adam and his descendants. I say this from experience, and so would many other brokenhearted people who have endured the torment of divorce—it is never a path one wants to take.
In marriage there will be trials that threaten to tear you apart. God's design for marriage is that it be so tightly knit that nothing can pull it apart. I cannot say that firmly enough to people who are still unmarried. Divorce is one of the most tragic experiences in life. So think long and hard in choosing a partner; be sure that you are getting God's gift for your life.
The best description of a man's responsibility for his companion is a four-letter word: care. Ask any woman what she wants from her husband above everything else, and she will probably say, "I just want him to care for me."
Care says much that love does not say, because today the word love does not have the same meaning it once had. To a wife, care says, "Whatever your needs are, I am interested in them and am going to do my best to honor them." That is what God intended for His first man. When God said, "Cleave unto her," He meant for Adam to separate himself from everyone else, if necessary, but not to separate himself from Eve. A wife is an integral part of her husband.
One hears many differences of opinion concerning the responsibility of husband and wife. Some people say, "I believe marriage is a fifty-fifty partnership." But the Bible says the man is responsible for what happens in his home (1 Cor. 11:3). The husband is the head, or leader, of the wife. How is he to lead? With tender, loving care (see Eph. 5:23–25, 28–29).
God said to Adam, "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17 ESV). God had provided everything that man needed, but there was one thing in the garden man did not need—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Amid all the beauty and perfection of Eden, one thing was off limits. We are all familiar with what happened. Satan intruded, Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and man fell to sin (see Gen. 3).
What should this say to fathers? It clearly teaches that some things are off limits. There are some activities and events in which our families must not participate. Our focus must be on activities that exalt the Father and produce godly joy, fruitfulness, and growth.
God wants to protect us from the painful consequences of evil. Some fathers may say, "Well, we have to learn somehow." But the Bible instructs us that as fathers we are responsible to teach our families to obey the Lord and avoid sin.
Excerpted from MAN OF GOD by Charles F. Stanley. Copyright © 2013 Charles F. Stanley. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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Posted June 2, 2013
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