God has placed within the heart, hands, and soul of men incredible power to heal or hurt, build up or tear down, comfort or crush, and serve or enslave. Throughout history we can see glaring examples of both extremes. When men decide to do something…for good or bad, something happens.
In Ezekiel’s day society was facing a crisis and the Lord looked for a man to stand in the gap and make a difference, but none was found. Turn to Ezekiel 22:23 and let’s begin reading there.
23Again the word of the LORD came to me: 24″Son of man, say to the land, ‘You are a land that has had no rain or showers in the day of wrath.’ 25There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. 26Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 28Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says’ –when the LORD has not spoken. 29The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice. 30″I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. (Ezekiel 22:24-30 NIV)
About one hundred years after Ezekiel spoke these disturbing words from God, the protective wall surrounding Jerusalem from her enemies had been torn down. The wall had been down for almost an entire century since the exiles had returned. Because of the breach in the wall the enemy came and went at will. As a result the people suffered greatly. The city suffered constantly. The glory of the Lord became clouded by the tragedies, turmoil, and seeming triumph of the enemy. Then one day, one man heard the call of God. One man was burdened by the Lord. One man took action. His name was Nehemiah. Because Nehemiah heard the call of God and was willing to step into the troubled city and rally the people — the city and its inhabitants were blessed! The wall that had been down for almost 100 years was rebuilt in 52 days!
The walls are down in America today. The enemy has made his way through the gap in the wall. While the enemy has been marching through the gap in the wall and taking prisoner millions of men, women, and children – we men have been resting smugly in the barracks, we’ve been nestled in our noxious, nebulous, castles of comfort and confidence, and we’ve been busied with busyness. It is time to rise up o’ men of God! Rise from our sleep, from our slumber, and allow God to use us to turn the hearts of this nation back to God!
” Men.” The simple utterance of the phrase use to bring to mind images of strength, courage, integrity, valor, character, and commitment. The models that were held before us in the media while I was a child were towering figures like John Wayne, Moses in the Ten Commandments, Martin Luther King Jr., Sir Lancelot, and Indiana Jones. My how times have changed! Today, we see weak, feeble, paltry, pathetic images of men paraded on the pages of magazines and on television. There’s Hank Hill the star of “King of the Hill” and everyone laughs at Ozzy Osbourne as the new media dad. These are not the men I know. The men I know, many of you men here at Britton Christian Church are men of substance, men of faith, and men who desire to make a difference!
We hear slogans suggesting that men are pigs and slobs shouted at radical feminist’s gatherings across the land. Men have become the butt of jokes instead of portrayed as being leaders of our people. Rather than being strong towers of strength, protection, and security men are being made fun of in unprecedented proportions. These are not the men that I know. The men I know are men who, like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32, “understand the times” and are willing to live their lives for the glory of God!
I do need to say that to some degree much of the degrading dialogue that has gone on in the public square concerning men has been earned. We men have committed far too much of our time and energy to turning TV channels rather than hearts. We have gotten excited about temporal, transient things like sports, cars, and climbing the ladder of success instead of passionately pursuing the things that will last long after we are gone. We have invested our efforts in being leaders in the work place while neglecting our homes, churches, and communities. All of this has been true, but in the words of that great American theologian of the 60′s, Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changing.”
Today is a brand new day. The Spirit of God is moving mightily all over this land upon the hearts of men. Those men who will surrender themselves and submit to the mighty Spirit of God are being changed in unprecedented numbers. Men of God are being raised up all over this nation to bring hope, healing, reconciliation, and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to their homes, churches, businesses, and communities. This is an exciting day and God’s timing is impeccable because we are in need of a heaven-sent revival to turn the hearts of our nation back to God.
The story is told by the late Dr. Edwin Louis Cole of three women who wanted to speak with him while he was speaking to a gathering of Christian men in Harare, Zimbabwe. The women said their country, Rhodesia, was in an armed conflict for fourteen years until it became Zimbabwe. During the war, the men spent six weeks in the bush fighting, then six weeks at home working before they returned to the bush. The tension and anxiety in the homes and the nation were thick.
During the fighting, godly women banded together to pray for their men and their nation. As time went by people began calling them, “Esthers,” named after the Queen who saved her nation from destruction. Rhodesian women, praying for their men and nation, believed they had come to their country for “such a time as this.”
After years of fighting, the war ended abruptly. As their men returned home, the women perceived that they had become passive, complacent, and lethargic. The “Esthers” saw the need for them to intercede for the men, just as in the days of war. As they prayed for the men, their families and their weight of responsibility they carried, answers came. The word was this: “There was a time for Esthers, but today is a time for Daniels.”
My brothers, God is raising up a new generation of Daniels who are going to impact this nation with the Gospel in a way never before seen in America. This movement of God that is taking place today is a movement, not orchestrated by the hand of man, but by the hand of Almighty God Himself. Teenagers and older men, men of all races, poor men and wealthy men, educated and uneducated men – all are being united for one common purpose – to rise to the occasion and turn the hearts of people back to God.
Men, I want to invite you today, I want to urge you today, I want to counsel you today to not let this opportunity pass you by. Lift up your eyes and allow the Lord to give you eyes to see His mighty hand at work. Bow before the King and allow God to begin to use you in a way you have never before dreamed.
If there were ever a time when God needed to turn the hearts of men away from their extra-curricular activities so that they might seek His face and His will – the time is now! Our nation is in crisis. I’m not talking about wars and terrorism. I’m speaking of a decay that has set in on the hearts of our people. God has uniquely equipped men, men surrendered to God, to turn the hearts back to the Father.
Give me a moment to scan the horizon of our community and illustrate what I am speaking about.
· Homes are collapsing from within as husbands and wives smile at the world around them while sneering at one another.
· 93% of the homes in this community lack a father present in the home.
· Our schools are being plagued by violence, poor grades, drop-out rates are on the increase, and a proliferation of everything under the sun except for academic acumen, virtue, and character development.
· Young people, trying to navigate the high seas of life, are exploring alternative lifestyles rather than seeking the heart of God.
· Scandal ransacks our churches, communities, and country as men without morals fall to temptation and vice.
Has there ever been a time in our nation’s history when we have been so in need of men to stand in the gap? Men who will stand up and say, “No!” to the moral slide taking place and men who will say, “Yes!” to serving under the King’s command. Our time is not unlike that of Daniel’s day.
Daniel was a teenager when his country collapsed from sin and moral decay. The Hebrews had turned away from the power of God to their own power and the assurances made to them for protection by the surrounding nations. As a result of their turning away from God they were taken captive by the enemy.
The conquering king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, chose Daniel to be trained, tutored, and fitted for service as an adviser in his foreign court. It was Daniel’s integrity, character, and trust in God that enabled him to rise above the many challenges that confronted him. It was Daniel’s undying commitment to God that enabled him to resist temptation to bow down to the foreign gods that vied for his allegiance. In a foreign land that was opposed to God, Daniel became a statesman, rising to second-in-command under Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel repeated his performance under three different administrations. Few of us will ever gain the national stature of Daniel, but we can greatly learn from the components of his life that made him a useful tool in the hand of God.
In looking at Daniel’s life it is quite evident that every action, every thought, and every deed flowed from one source – Daniel’s unswerving belief in Almighty God and His sufficiency for every area of life. After Daniel was faced with the threat of being thrown to the lions what was it that kept him from compromising his faith, his standards for living, and willingly go to the lion’s den?
If Daniel had been living in the midst of modern-day Christians and attending one of our churches then we would have taught him about situational ethics and ethical expediency. Surely we could have convinced Daniel that God would not have wanted him thrown to the lions. Surely we could have convinced him to bow down so that he could preserve his life. Praise God for Daniel’s commitment to the true King and his unflinching faith. It was Daniel’s faith that secured in his mind, the reality that God was bigger than the king’s lions, and that he could never compromise his commitment.
I wish that we had all day to spend examining the life of Daniel as well as other great men like Josiah, David, and Paul – men whose lives reflected true manhood. For our time this morning I want us to look at some very important character traits that will enable us to be men who can have what it takes to stand in the gap for our wives, children, church, community, and businesses. The four character traits are: repentance, belief, strength, and fellowship.
Repentance. The most basic building block necessary for building godly character into our lives as men is repentance. It is not until we humble ourselves before God and confess with our mouths that we are not the makers of our own destiny, that we are not the captain of our own ships, that we do not have all the answers, and that we are not God – it is not until this happens that we can be used by God.
We need to recognize our own sin, the horror of our sin, and fall on our faces before God seeking His forgiveness and restoration. We must allow God’s holiness to break us so that His wondrous grace can lift us up to be used in His service.
To repent means, “to turn around.” Men, if you are walking in all of the wrong places this morning then I want to urge you to turn around and walk in the ways of Almighty God so we can be agents of His salvation, grace, and mercy. When we repent, reconciliation is free to flow through our lives.
We can no longer give lip service to God like the men of Isaiah’s day. God spoke about the people when, in Isaiah 29:13, He said,
13The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13 NIV)
Men, we need to repent of our lax, inattentive attitudes towards God, our families, our church, and community so that He can fill us with His power and use us to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Beliefs. The second area we need to look at is what we believe. Ed Cole wrote, “Men without an organized system of thought will always be at the mercy of men who have one.” In our day we are in great need of men who know why and what they believe. We need to be like the Berean believers who listened to Paul preach and went home to search the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. (Acts 17:11) The Bereans didn’t just accept whatever was spoken simply because it came out of a Christian’s mouth. Their desire was for the Word of God to shape their lives and they weren’t going to allow anything that would contradict God’s Word to slip in and take root. They poured over the Scriptures and we must do the same.
So many men today get caught up in the philosophy of our day and get sucked under by immorality and apathy. When this happens we are quick to blame our immoral society for our collapse. Daniel would have none of that. He grew up in a foreign land, a pagan land, and yet he knew God, He submitted to God’s Word, and He lived without compromise.
There was a time in Daniel’s life when he had received a promotion and those around him were jealous of the foreigner’s rise to power. They got together to see if there was any “dirt” they could dig up on him. Turn with me to Daniel 6 and let’s see what kind of dirt they found.
4At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:4-5 NIV)
Daniel’s beliefs were the only charge they could bring against him. Men, what do you believe? What is it that shapes your life? You can tell what shapes a man’s life simply by following him around all day, listening to him talk, and watching his actions. You and I will commit our time and money to that which is most important to us. We will seek to learn more and more about that which is important to us.
Strength. The third area that we need to allow the Lord to shape is our strength. The strength of a man is his passionate commitment to the Lord. The strength of a man is the moral fiber developed by walking with God day after day. Barry Tramel wrote in an article about Billy Graham in the Daily Oklahoman when Dr. Graham was here in town for his crusade a few years ago. Listen to these words.
For 60 years, Graham has walked upright through the briar patch of public scrutiny. In this day of media ready to devour all who even barely stumble, Graham remains unscathed by scandal. He has not succumbed to sins of the finances or the flesh, which have taken down many a man of God. (Daily Oklahoman, Thursday, June 12, 2003)
People wonder why folks turn out to hear Billy Graham preach such a simple message of surrender to Jesus when so many others are preaching the same simple message? With Billy Graham there is a moral stability, a long-standing consistency of faithfulness to the Lord, his wife, Ruth, his children, and his brothers and sisters in Christ that has been present for more than sixty years that has built a platform for Dr. Graham to deliver his message with absolute clarity.
In our society strength is gauged by the size of your biceps. We see huge specimens of manhood on television as they suit up to play the enemy on Sunday afternoon and we think, “Now that’s a real man!” Six foot five and three hundred pounds. Now that’s a man right? Not necessarily. I played football in college with some guys who were as big as Mount Rushmore. I mean these guys were so big that when they walked down the street they had to wear t-shirts that said, “Caution: Wide Load.” The guys were huge, but for many of them, when the gale force winds of temptation came they crumbled like 95 lb weaklings. Strength is always proved by resistance. To prove how strong glue is, you take two pieces of wood, glue them together, and find out how much resistance it takes to pull it apart.
The same is true for a man. A man’s inner strength determines his ability to withstand temptations, accusations, persecutions, seductions, lies and other pressures that work to crumble his manhood. We must have strength to stand against wrong and for right and it is impossible to stand without the Lord holding us up. Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Psalm 28:7 NIV)
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:19 NIV)
13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NIV)
One man perfectly exemplified the traits of manhood that are so elusive to us today. He retained them all even as He laid down His life. He accepted responsibility not just for His own actions, but also for the actions of the entire world. He taught men that only by losing one’s life would one truly gain it. By the example Jesus set by the life He lived and His teachings, He left us a model for what it means to be a real man, a strong man. When those around us want to know how strong we are they need not look at our triceps or biceps, but at the way we walk in His steps with consistency, integrity, and humility.
Fellowship. The fourth area that we need to be attentive to is fellowship. In Proverbs 27:17 we read, 17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 NIV) Men, we need the fellowship of other men. It is vitally important in this day that all of God’s men join together to encourage one another, pray for one another, and hold one another accountable in our walk with God.
This is one of the most exciting aspects of what is happening here at BCC for me. Every Tuesday morning there is a group of men who come together to pray for one another’s needs, study God’s Word, and encourage one another as men of God. The fellowship that is taking place is rich and powerful for my own life and for the other men who are involved. I have come to realize that I desperately need my brothers. We need one another; we need to regularly come together to seek God’s heart, to share our stories of struggle, hope, and pain. We need to unite together as Christian brothers.
A few years ago there were some men in our Promise Keepers Bible study who got real honest with one another one morning. One man confessed that he struggled intensely with lust even though he was a married man. Another man in the group listened to him speak of his struggle with intensity because he shared the same struggle. After the meeting the man listening went up to the man who was talking and confessed his own struggle. He said, “I want to make a covenant with you. Whenever I find myself gazing with lustful eyes at a woman I will pray for you and whenever you find yourself lusting you pray for me.” The two men would talk often about how it was going and they found that their prayers for one another were making a difference in each other’s lives. Men, we need the fellowship of our brothers in Christ.
As I said in the beginning of our study, God has placed within the heart, hands, and souls of men incredible power. Power to shape the hearts of our children, power to bless our wives, power to restore our communities, power to strengthen God’s Church, power to glorify God in an unbelieving world. This power is not unleashed when we decide that we will dig in and try a little harder — It all begins by coming to the Cross. Will you surrender your life to Jesus Christ this morning?