I had the marvelous privilege this week to spend a few hours with some of the faithful brothers in our church, some of them who have come to the seminary and others who are part of our church congregation. These are young black men that gave up a chunk of their time to sit with me and talk through some of these issues. Thanks to Carl Hargrove for kind of leading that discussion, which was powerfully fruitful for me.
I have been talking the last couple of weeks from the Word of God, as I always do, to try to help people understand what is going on in our world from a biblical perspective. That falls to me to be the spokesman for the Lord. That is a humbling responsibility that I obviously don’t take lightly. James says, “Stop being so many teachers, for theirs is a greater condemnation.” Not wanting to fall into condemnation, and having used my mouth for so many years ostensibly to speak for God, I have come to understand the seriousness of this accountability. And so I have endeavored the last couple of weeks to give you a biblical perspective on the issues that we face in all that’s going on in the social discontent and distress that is happening in our country. But today, coming out of that meeting, I want to let you know that it’s time for us to move from the theology to the application.
We have people in this nation who feel profoundly disenfranchised, wounded, in many ways cheated; and we can talk to them about truth and reality, and we can talk about the Bible, and we can talk about statistics and all of that; but sooner or later, that conversation leads to the fact that we have been called to give them the gospel, right? This is why we are here, to give the gospel.
So the question that we discussed was, “How do we approach people with the gospel?” Now last Sunday morning we ended the message by saying our calling is to present the gospel. We are ambassadors for Christ, begging people to be reconciled to God through Christ. “How do we open that door?” because that is our calling. It’s not enough to stand and analyze something. It is only legitimate to do that if that becomes the foundation on which we act.
So I said to these men after about two hours plus of talking together - and it was a very gracious and loving communication - I said, “So give me five things that we need to do as believers in Jesus Christ to reach across racial lines and bring the gospel to these people and have it received.” So I said, “You get five shots, and I’ll have this as the introduction to my sermon.” So here we go. This is what they said to me.
Number One: “Tell people that racism is a sin.” Racism is a sin, isn’t it. Any kind of hate is a sin, and racism is an utterly irrational hate. Racism is what causes genocide, what caused the Holocaust, what causes ethnic battles all across the planet as long as there’s been human history. But then men in their natural state hate God, and the Bible says they hate each other. The first crime was a murder based upon anger, based upon hate, when Cain killed his brother.
Any kind of hate is a sin. Any kind of racial hate is an irrational, expanded form of hate coming from any human heart; it is reflective of the fallenness of that heart. And we also know in our society that there are some people who have received more of that than others. We need to make it very clear that to hate anyone on any basis or any group of people is a sin against God of monumental proportions.
Secondly: “We need to show compassion, compassion to those who’ve experienced this.” And lots of people have. We need to open our hearts and weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Jesus looked at the multitudes and had compassion. Even when He went to the grave of Lazarus, He wept; and He knew He was going to raise him from the dead, and He still wept. That’s the heart of Jesus.
Life is hard, and it has been especially hard for some groups of people; and that certainly speaks to the issue of the history of black people in America. For those of us who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, they don’t want to hear the statistics, but they would love to know you have compassion for them.
Thirdly, we talked about the fact that, “We need to listen.” And that’s pretty much a basic principle, isn’t it: slow to speak and quick to hear. We may have all the theological answers, we may have all the statistical answers, but can we keep our mouths closed long enough to hear the heart of someone else? Engaging someone with the gospel is so much more effective if that comes in the context of having heard their heart.
Number four they said: “Use these days as an opportunity to show the love of Christ.” This was really rich advice for me. Say racism is a sin, and it is. Any kind of hate coming from anybody in any direction, and you can see that it is tearing this culture to shreds.
Show compassion, listen, and use these opportunities as an occasion to show love. That’s four; got one more. And the final one was this: “The only thing that’s going to break the cycle of our problems in this country is godly fathers. Help us develop godly fathers.” Now you might say that was a providence of God that it happened the week of Father’s Day. Sure set me up for this morning because I want to talk about fathers.
Here’s the current reality. Twenty-five million children in our country live without a biological father – one out of three. Grades 1 to 12, forty percent of children live without a biological father in the home. Over fifty percent currently of children are born outside marriage. Eighty-five percent of prisoners grew up in a fatherless home. Eighty-five percent of children with behavioral disorders came from fatherless homes. Ninety percent of youth who run away and become homeless come from fatherless homes. Children from fatherless homes are three hundred percent more likely to deal drugs and carry weapons.
This is a holocaust. And it’s not limited to any group of ethnic people; it is a national holocaust. The statistics I gave you are across the board for our country. Just that one statistic, eighty-five percent of prisoners grew up in a fatherless home, is a terrifying reality.
I used to hear when I was a kid that if you had a good mother you could have any ol’ schtick for a dad. That’s not true. I used to hear, when I was a kid, preachers say, “You men, it’s important how you live, you Christian men, because your children will get their view of God from you.” That’s ridiculous. They don’t get their view of God from me; they get their view of God from the Bible. That’s an insult to God. What they do get from me is their view of a man. Children will get their view of a man, and what a man is, from the father.
Sexual immorality, relentless assault of feminism, overexposure to perversion, complete collapse of homes has just produced generations of bad fathers. And the reality is nothing is more devastating to a society than that, nothing. And on the other hand, the only hope for stability and the only hope for sanity, the only hope for peace in a society is masculine, virtuous men.
Evil abounds absolutely everywhere. How men respond to its presence determines the survival and well-being of a society. Let me say that again: “Evil abounds everywhere. How men respond to its presence determines the survival and well-being of that society.” One psychologist said, “Masculinity is taking responsibility to reduce evil and produce good.”
No culture will ever rise above the character of its men: fathers. The feminist lie has been that patriarchy is bad. It is tyrannical. It is toxic. It needs to be destroyed. And they’ve been doing it for decades. To destroy masculinity, to destroy strong male leadership and character leads to the current disaster: irresponsible men running loose in the streets terrorizing a society. Weak men have given us this legacy. Weak men produce the death of society. And men are in a crisis today, they are being continually told to try to get in touch with their feminine side, so they have become defensive about their masculinity.
Women rise higher and higher and higher and more frequently into positions of leadership, as men feel overwhelmed and overpowered and unable to fight against the trend. Oh, there are lots of men at the gym, pretty buff, have some muscles, but they’re doing virtually nothing to stop the tide of evil in the world. And by the way, in case women haven’t begun to realize it, weak, immoral men abuse women, and they produce more weak, immoral sons. No, children don’t get their view of God from their father, but they do get their view of what a man is. And we are in some serious trouble because the current crop of men are infecting the children.
Listen to the Word of God, Exodus chapter 20 and verse 5: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.” Listen to Exodus 34:7, “God will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.” God says it again in Deuteronomy 5:9-10, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Repeatedly, God says corrupt fathers create in society a legacy of corruption that is generational. He’s not saying that a son would be punished for a father’s sin; clearly that is not the case. Deuteronomy 24:16 says, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone will be put to death for his own sin.” We’re not talking about an individual suffering punishment for another person’s sin. What we are saying is fathers – plural – who are corrupt leave a legacy that will not be overturned in three or four generations. And if the next generation is corrupt, it pushes that out another three or four, and the next generation, another three or four, and it becomes an impossible cycle.
In the words of the prophet Zechariah as he begins his prophecy, “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet, son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, ‘The Lord was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to Me,’ declares the Lord of hosts,” ‘that I may return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. “Do not be like your fathers.”’” Something has to break the cycle.
Clearly, a generation dominated by sinful fathers will bear the crushing consequence of their sinful progenitors. Their children will suffer. Their grandchildren will suffer. Their great-grandchildren will suffer. No generation exists in isolation or as an island. A wicked society defined as wicked by the behavior of the men won’t be rooted out for multiple generations. So it isn’t that people get their view of God from a father, but they do get their view of what a father is, and if it’s the wrong view, it’s just purposely repeated again and again and again.
How can we break the cycle of this generational, iniquitous masculinity? We can begin by understanding that this is natural to the human heart. The default position of every man is corruption, right? It’s the most natural thing they do is sin. The most accessible effect of that sin is on the women in their lives, and then on the children in their lives, and then it extends to everybody else.
The problem is, “There’s none righteous, no, not one. They’re all evil,” as we read in Romans 3. They don’t seek after God. They hate God, they hate others, and they’re influencing their children while they’re harming their wives. I understand why there’s a women’s movement. And even though it’s wrong and totally devastates a society, pushes women into places they were never intended to be and men out of the places they were intended to be; I understand it because of the corruption - men.
So where do we begin? We have to begin as believers who have new natures, right? We are new creations in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, and we start by breaking the cycle. It’s not going to be broken; look, it’s still around, right? What you’re seeing today in the chaos of this culture, what you see in the weakness and foolishness of people in high places, what you see is just the reality that corrupt fathers destroy society.
We talk about abortions. Abortions are another result of corrupt men. We can start as believers by understanding the most basic fundamental: virtue, the core virtue of manliness. The word I like to use is “fortitude.” Mark it down in your mind. You don’t need to write it down; I’m going to say it enough you won’t forget it.
“Fortitude.” What is fortitude? It’s a great word. Firmness, strength of soul that faces danger with courage and bears loss and pain without complaint. Fortitude: “Firmness and strength of soul that faces danger with courage and bears loss and pain without complaint.” That’s not a theological definition, that’s just a definition of the word.
When you say a man has fortitude, you’re talking about someone who doesn’t compromise, even when there’s danger, even when that danger escalates to fear and pain. Fortitude is a combination of conviction, courage, and endurance – conviction, courage, and endurance. It is the willingness – it is not just the willingness; I would say it’s even the desire to risk, to literally create challenges if they’re not already there, to attack difficulty, to challenge difficulty head on, to bear suffering with courage. This is what makes a man a man, and this is the kind of man in whom a woman finds her security, finds her protection; and in that kind of relationship, the woman’s femininity flourishes.
Men are those who should be the protectors, the purifiers, who secure their wives, who secure their children, who accomplish all that needs to be done to reduce evil in a society and produce good; and yet this society for years and decades has had men busy producing evil, and diminishing good. True manliness is bound up in the word “courage.” That is the virtue that marks a real man. Truth, conviction, courage.
Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 16, 1 Corinthians chapter 16. At the end of this wonderful letter, near the end, is tucked a very important verse, actually two verses: verses 13 and 14. Listen to what the apostle Paul says: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” “Be on the alert,” – danger is everywhere – “stand firm in the faith,” – don’t waver in your belief and convictions – “act like men” – What does that mean? Fortitude, uncompromising courage – “be strong.” The New King James actually says, “Be brave, be strong.” “Act like men” essentially means to conduct one’s self in a courageous way, to conduct one’s self in a courageous way.
Courage is the stock-in-trade of a man: courage in the face of danger, courage in the face of temptation, courage in the face of loss, courage in the face of suffering. This strength of verse 13, essentially four statements saying, one way or another, “be strong,” is then balanced in verse 14 by, “Let all that you do be done in love.” And how important is it to add that. There’s nothing more manly than a man with consummate conviction, courage, and endurance, who is marked by love. That’s a man – not weak, not vacillating, not fearful; and loving.
Real men face life with this kind of fortitude. They’re watchful of the dangers around them. They’re alert. They’re protectors of their wives and children, and of their friends and all the people over whom they have influence. They have convictions about what is true. They have courage to live out those convictions and the strength to be unwavering when those convictions will cost them everything. Your convictions, they’re only real convictions if they hold up under the most intense pressure.
How important was this? Let me take you back to the book of Deuteronomy. We’ll do a little exercise together in looking at this idea of strength, fortitude.
In Deuteronomy 31, Moses is passing the mantle on to Joshua, and in verse 6, Deuteronomy 31, he says this: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them,” – meaning your enemies – “for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’” That’s the greatest transitional leadership speech ever.
Look at 1 Samuel chapter 10. I’m sorry, 2 Samuel – I knew there was something wrong about that – 2 Samuel chapter 10 and verse 12. This is Joab to the Israelites who were facing opposition, strong opposition, tremendously strong opposition. Back in verse 6, it lays out the forces that were coming against them. But in verse 12, Joab says to the Israelites, “Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”
First Kings chapter 2. In 1 Kings chapter 2, David addresses Solomon his son. “David’s time to die drew near. He charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I’m going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke.’” Moses to Joshua, Joab to the Israelites, David to Solomon.
For another view of David’s speech to his son Solomon, look at 1 Chronicles chapter 22. I’m showing you these because I want you to see how common this is. First Chronicles 22, David calls for his son to build the house of God, and we can pick it up in verse 11: “Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper, if you’re careful to observe the statues and ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.” All of these declarations assume that your devotion to God is going to be tested, and you’re going to have to be strong. It’s going to be tested, no way around it.
David says again, 1 Chronicles 28:20, to his son Solomon, he gives this speech another time: “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.”
Just a couple more. Toward the end of 2 Chronicles, Hezekiah is speaking to men in positions of leadership. Hezekiah, chapter 32 of 2 Chronicles, the first verse: “After these acts of faithfulness Sennacherib king of Assyria came, invaded Judah, besieged the fortified cities, and thought to break into them for himself. Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come invading Judah and he intended to make war on Jerusalem; he decided with his officers and warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs” – this was a siege – “which were outside the city, and they helped him. So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and streams which flowed through the region, saying, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?’ And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, built another outside wall, strengthened the Millo in the city of David, made weapons and shields in great number, appointed military officers over the people and gathered them in the square of the city gate, and spoke encouragingly to them, and this is what he said: ‘Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.’” That’s a great pep talk, isn’t it, for an army. Psalm 27:14 says, “Be strong and let your heart take courage.”
Men don’t give in to fear. Men don’t give in to pressure. Men don’t give in to intimidation, and they don’t give in to temptation. They don’t seek the easy way. They will take the pain, they will invite the risk, they will confront the challenge, and they will not bow to the pressure to compromise the commandments of God. Strength of a man is that he lives on principle, that he lives on conviction, that he has the courage of those convictions, stands strong against everything that comes at those convictions, bravely faces the challenges in a fortified way. Manly fortitude means contending with difficulty, facing every enemy, meeting the enemy head on, bearing the pain, maintaining self-discipline, upholding truth, pressing on to the goal. That’s what defines a man.
I want to show you another passage back in Joshua, right at the beginning of Joshua. Moses gives this speech again as he passes the baton, as it were, to Joshua. He says to him in chapter 1 of Joshua, verse 5, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.” This is God now speaking; God is the one speaking. “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.”
So here it comes not from Moses to Joshua, but from God to Joshua in the presence of Moses. And here’s what God says to Joshua, verse 6: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”
And here comes the key to that. How do you live like that? How do you live with that strength and courage? How do you live without ever compromising? Verse 8: “This book of the law” – the Word of God – “shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” It's an incredible speech from God.
“Be strong,” verse 5, “because God will be with you,” verse 6, “because you’re fulfilling a divine cause, a promise from God.” Verses 7-8, “The only way you can do this is to submit to the Word of God so that it constantly is in your mind and you live out its truths.” You will be able to be obedient if you’re saturated by the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God.
Can you see why this speech is repeated so many, many times? This is the mark of a man. It takes a father like that to raise a son like that. Spiritual men are courageous, strong, principled, uncompromising, and bold. This is God’s role for men to play in a society, but it is also God’s role for the men to play who are the leaders of His people Israel. And this is God’s standard for the men who lead His church.
When we come into the New Testament, and we are introduced to the kind of men that the Lord commands to lead His church, this is how He describes them in 1 Timothy 3: “This man must be above reproach, a one-woman man, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (if a man doesn’t know how to manage his own children, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” High standards for a pastor, an elder.
To Titus, Paul says similarly, “Appoint elders. If a man is above reproach, one-woman man, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion; for the overseer” – or the shepherd, pastor, bishop – “must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he’ll be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.” This is the kind of men who lead the church.
Why is the standard so high for the leaders of the church? Because the leaders of the church have the responsibility to set the pattern for what manliness looks like in a godly environment. It’s not that they alone should be like this, it is that they should be like this so the others can see what a man should be. It isn’t that the Lord wants to pick up all the pastors and elders and take them to another level of spirituality which no one could attain, it is rather that this is what God expects from every man. But it’s got to be modeled. Men like that, and men, as Ephesians 5 said, who love their wives like Christ loved the church, and who are protectors of their wives and who literally are the saviors of their wives, are the kind of men who become a haven for the wife, who make her feel secure and protected, nourished, cherished. And when children grow up in a home where the man secures the woman and the children, there’s peace.
Sometimes you hear silly things about how fathers should connect with their children, superficial things. What you need to show your children is fortitude, spiritual fortitude – strong, courageous, secure, love for the Lord and for the family. The legacy of man to his wife and children is strength, spiritual strength and spiritual courage. Anything but cowardice. Means to resist the temptation to compromise biblical convictions, to resist the temptation to tolerate behaviors in others that dishonor God.
That’s why there’s discipline in the church. There’s discipline in the church so that the church can maintain the necessary reality of what men and women should be before God for the sake of the glory of God and the next generation. Being a good father, far more than spending time with your children, playing with your children, hauling them around to events; it’s showing them what an uncompromising, courageous, godly life looks like.
This culture has turned on God, eliminated His Word. The Bible and the gospel is an enemy. The leaders of this nation have no interest in God or in His Word, and they are basically running this country right into hell as fast as they can. The only thing that’s going to stop this is not a group of feminized men who thinks God just wants to give them what they want so they can be happy. What this world needs is not sensitive men; it needs strong men. We live in a world of compromise, more than compromise. You could barely call it compromise because there’s nothing left of that which is good. So what are they compromising with?
To add another word to your thoughts about this, I would say that people who have no price have “integrity,” “integrity.” So we talk about fortitude. Let me talk about integrity. “People who have no price have integrity.”
What is integrity? It is essentially unbreakable fortitude. Integrity is defined as steadfast adherence to a moral code. It comes from “integer,” which means “whole” or “complete.” Its synonyms are “honesty,” “sincerity,” “simplicity,” “incorruptibility.” It’s antonym is “duplicity” or “hypocrisy.” A person who lacks integrity is a hypocrite. Integrity means that you live by your convictions: you say what you believe; you hold to what you believe; you’re immoveable. That’s wholeness. That’s integrity. You are one. It was said long ago of a preacher that he preached very well, but he lived better. The world is a seducer, and Satan is a seducing deceiver, pushing us into compromise, and therefore into hypocrisy.
When our Lord indicted the scribes and Pharisees who were the frequent objects of His blistering attacks, inevitably it was on their integrity that He assaulted them. For example, in Matthew 23:3, He said, “They say things and do not do them.”
When Solomon did finish building the house of the Lord, the Lord appeared to him, 1 Kings 9: “I’ve heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I’ve consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. And as for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statues and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” “You be faithful to Me; I’ll be faithful to you.”
“O Lord,” says Psalm 15, “who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.” This kind of uncompromising spiritual manhood is severely lacking. We watch spiritual leaders in one form or another of collapse all the time. They abandon conviction when compromise is more beneficial. Men say they believe the Bible, yet don’t faithfully preach it. Men say that sin should be punished and eliminated, but not if it’s committed by their children. Men oppose dishonesty and corruption until they must confront somebody in their lives and could cost them a job. Men maintain high moral standards until their lusts are kindled by some illicit impulse. Men are honest until a little dishonesty will save them money. Men hold convictions until they’re challenged by someone they fear or admire.
Adam compromised God’s law, followed his wife’s sin, lost paradise. Abraham compromised the truth, lied about Sarah’s relationship to him and nearly lost his wife. Moses compromised God’s command and lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land. Samson compromised his devotion as a Nazarite, lost his strength, his eyesight, and his life. Israel compromised the commands of the Lord, lived in sin, and when fighting the Philistines, lost the Ark of God. Israel also compromised the law of God with sin and idolatry, and lost her land. Saul compromised God’s divine word by not slaying the animals of blasphemy, and lost his kingdom. David compromised God’s standard, committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered Uriah, and lost an infant son. Solomon compromised his convictions, married foreign wives, and lost the united kingdom. Judas compromised his supposed devotion for Christ for thirty pieces of silver and was separated from Christ forever.
Couple of observations. In every case of compromise, the compromiser thought there was something to gain; but in every case of compromise, something priceless was lost for something temporary, unfulfilling, and sinful. What was compromised in each of these cases is either a command from God or a conviction about Him and His will.
So lack of fortitude; that is the failure of men, of fathers. And they have been pounded by the feminist movement to give up leadership, and they have succumbed. They have fallen to their lusts and weakness. And you have a society of men who do not fight to produce good and to eliminate evil. How do you break that? We need a generation of men who are alert to danger, who stand firm in the faith, who are courageous with the Word of God, uncompromising and strong.
And, listen, everything about this that I’ve said indicates they will be tested. Manliness will be tested. Conviction will be tested. Courage will be tested. Strength will be tested. The pressure will come; it’ll come in unexpected ways, but it’ll come. You may get away with your statement of conviction for years, but there will come a test, and many men will shock the people who knew them by selling out, compromising, abandoning their integrity, playing the hypocrite out of cowardice. This falls into a translation of Romans 12:2. “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
I think about Daniel, and I want to close with this, Daniel chapter 1. And there’s not much to say, it’s enough really to read this passage, Daniel chapter 1. The year was 605 BC, northern kingdom, Israel had gone into captivity 120 years earlier. And now Judah was going to be taken captive by the Babylonians in three separate deportations: 605, 597, 586. The first deportation, the Babylonians take the leading young men.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.” So basically, he raided the temple and took all that was valuable and put it in the idol temples of Babylon.
“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz,” – which may be a title of the one who was over all the eunuchs, or it might be a proper name – “but he ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials,” – or chief of his eunuchs – “to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had the ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.”
So they now have an enemy people essentially brought into their nation. As fast as they can, they need to take the youngest and the brightest and the best and transform them into Babylonians, so that they don’t have a perpetual revolution on their hands by these alien people. So they choose the best of the young – no defect, good-looking, intelligent, wise, understanding, discerning knowledge, the kind that had what it takes to serve in the king’s court – and they were to be brainwashed. “Teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans,” which essentially was a complex system of idolatry.
And then, added to that intellectual training was seduction from the physical side, fleshly side. “The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank,” – so he basically introduced them to the best food in the whole nation, the king’s food and drink, to seduce them on that level – “and that they should be educated three years,” – a three-year program, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. So this was a three-year-long basically brainwashing effort to turn these young men into Chaldeans, into Babylonians – young men, yeladim, teenagers. These are teenagers.
“Now among them,” verse 6, “from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” Those are their Hebrew names. “The commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar,” – which has to do with the god Bel – “to Hananiah, Shadrach; and to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-nego.” Either the name Bel – one of their gods was in the new name – or a form of Aku. So now they are educated in Babylonian culture, they are fed Babylonian food at the highest level, and their names are changed so that they would begin to kind of become comfortable with a new identity.
Verse 8 is just amazing. “But Daniel made up his mind he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” He didn’t want to go down that path at all; he stopped before it started.
“And God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials, and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.’” The commander Ashpenaz is worried because if Daniel doesn’t look good when the king takes a look at him because he hasn’t been eating all this good food, he’s going to lose his head.
“Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.’” And you know the rest of the story.
“At the end of ten days,” verse 15, “they seemed better and fatter than all the youths who’d been eating the choice food. The overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, kept giving them vegetables. And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.” And you know what happened to Daniel, right? He became the prime minister, the prime minister of that pagan nation.
It’s an amazing story about Daniel: unlimited influence, unlimited influence because he would not compromise. Verse 20 actually says, “As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.” Why? Because they were giving him the wisdom of God from the Scripture. “And Daniel continued into the first year of Cyrus the king.” Seventy years. Seventy years.
I had an occasion a few years back to be invited to West Point military academy. Spent a week there preaching in the beautiful chapel and getting to meet the leadership. And the chaplain at West Point, the lead chaplain, was a graduate of The Master’s Seminary. It was a wonderful opportunity to speak to the leaders of the academy as well as the cadets. I was there on Bible Sunday. That was amazing.
Every year on one Sunday, every cadet is presented with a copy of the Scriptures; has their name on a little silver plate on the front. That particular Sunday is given to the honoring of the Word of God. It was an amazing thing. The chapel is a spectacular place; it was packed with all the cadets. And a parade begins, and they come in essentially uniforms that are kind of a replica of some of the older uniforms from back a hundred years or so. They march down the middle aisle, a beautiful organ is playing, and there’s one of the cadets holding a Bible. Comes all the way to the front and places the Bible down on the desk in the front of the chapel. It was my wonderful privilege on that Sunday to preach on the authority and power of the Word of God to those cadets. Really a great experience for me. And to know that Christ is being proclaimed there through one of our graduates and others who know and love the Lord was also encouraging.
There’s an effort even in that place to make those men and the few women who were there everything they should be. Every Sunday it used to be at West Point that in the chapel services all the cadets would say this: “Make us choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. Never be content with half truth when whole truth can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when right and truth are in jeopardy.”
For years, every Sunday they said that. They said that for the sake of the United States. We need a generation of men who will say that and much more for the sake of Christ. If they can do it for love of country, what can we do for love of Christ?
Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for its power, its truth. We thank You that it lives. It is a living book, it gives life. And we pray, Lord, that it would quicken the hearts of some who are dead, even today, dead in trespasses and sins, and need life, need to be rescued and delivered from sin and death and judgment and hell. May they put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the man of all men, the One who lived perfectly righteous, virtuous, every second of His life, the One who never compromised the truth, the One who is the model of strength, and at the same time, love.
Raise up a generation of strong and godly and courageous men who follow Christ. This is the only hope. And as we said at the beginning, give us opportunity to demonstrate our hatred of sin, our compassion, our willingness to listen. May we use all the opportunities that confront us in these trying times as an opportunity to express genuine love – strength, courage, love. And we would pray, Lord, that You would be gracious to raise up in the church, true church, godly men who act like men, are strong and loving. Protect Your church and Your people through those men. That’s our prayer.
We thank You that You have not only called us as men to this, but You have enabled us to be the kind of men we ought to be, because You have placed Your Holy Spirit within us. We, in His strength, are strengthened with all might and all power to live as You have called us to live. May that testimony be a shining light in the darkness of this world. We pray that You would do a gracious work of saving men, fathers, sons, for the sake of this generation and the ones to come.
And we love You. We thank You again for calling us to Yourself. We are so overwhelmed by Your grace and the privileges that are ours, of which we are and always will be unworthy. Thank You for graciously making us Your sons and daughters. May we be faithful to represent You in the world, we pray, all for Your glory. Amen.
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