The Picture of the Christ-like Man
So, someone just handed this article (or this issue of Faith in Focus) to you and asked you to read it. If that is the case, then I can probably guess a few things about you. You are one of three kinds of reader: (1) you are a young man who needs to read this and learn something, or (2) you are a father or friend of such a young man, or (3) you are an older man who never stopped being a young man.
If you belong to categories 1 or 3, you may or may not know what all the fuss is about, and you are probably asking yourself, “Why should I read this?” Well, let me answer that question for you, right at the outset. This article is intended to give you a picture of what the godly man should be. You are probably not what you should be, or perhaps your focus in life is wrong. Therefore, people who love you have given you this article to help you refocus on what is actually important in life.
If you belong to category number 2 (a father or friend of a young man who needs to read this), then this article is intended to help you begin those hard conversations about purpose and maturity. It is also intended to clarify what you are supposed to be as an example to the young men in your life. NONE of us have arrived at spiritual maturity – we all need to pursue it! Here is a summary of what is important, and the goal toward which we all should aim.
Firstly, and most importantly, the ultimate goal for all Christians is that we be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29 & 12:2). That means that we are supposed to think like Christ, speak like Christ, react in attitude like Christ, and do all our work and recreation to the glory of God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit – just as Christ did while He was on earth! Now, that is such a tall order that most of us want to give up before we begin! Too often we simply take the road of least resistance, and it isn’t long before we find ourselves and our young men being lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, uncontrolled, rough, lovers of evil, reckless, lustful, swollen with conceit, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. 1Some of you recognize yourself in that list, or at least you would if you took the time to actually think it through. Too many of our Christian young men are wasting their lives pursuing worthless hobbies, games, speed, fame or filth. They walk with a swagger and they talk with a sword, cutting and crushing others with their words. But that is not what God requires of you! There is much more to life than cars, power, girls, and games.
So, you might be thinking, “Okay, then – What am I supposed to do? We can’t all be preachers!” If that is what you are thinking (or something similar), I totally understand. When I was younger, I “struggled” in the same areas. But that doesn’t make it okay. Most men were stupid and foolish when they were younger, but the point is – you are supposed to grow out of that and stop being a child! In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul argues that temporary things are fine until permanent things arrive. He says, “...when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” Now, Paul isn’t talking about young men growing up here,2instead he was assuming that everyone knew that young men should eventually grow out of the games, thoughts and speech patterns of childhood. That leads us to our first element of our picture of the Christ-like young man: Christian young men recognize when it is time to put away childish things and become mature. Having said that, I believe adults are still allowed to play games/sport, or watch movies or have fun. Of course they can, once the work of daily life is done! The key being that the godly man recognizes that life isn’t only about games and entertainment.
To be a mature Christian man, you need to know that the only way you can balance the pressures of work, family, and your own desire for entertainment/fun is to keep your focus on God. You need to be daily in His Word, listening to Him and learning from Him. Think about it! If you wanted to be a great rugby player and you had the opportunity to talk to and hear from Richie McCaw or Jonah Lomu – you would be a fool to be “too busy” to talk to them! If you want to be a Christian, you can’t ignore talking to Christ in prayer or hearing from Him in His Word! The Bible tells you what you are supposed to be and do as a Christian man, therefore it must be a part of your daily life.
The goal for every Christian man is the description given in 1 Timothy 3. Every one of us should aspire to serve the Lord in His church and fit the description given for elders and deacons. Do you fit that description yet? That question isn’t just for the young men reading this, but for EVERY man reading this article – Do you fit this description? Are you even trying to do so? Too many of our fathers and elders fall short here – and that provides an excuse and a stumbling block to our young men. The first part of that description is the commendation of desiring to serve as an elder. Too often being an elder isn’t even on men’s radar – they don’t want to be one! But God says it is a noble task, a good desire. This kind of godly maturity demands you to be “above reproach” – that means, when people look at you they shouldn’t have any doubts about your faith or commitment to the Lord. They should be able to see your faithfulness in your attitude and actions, your clothes and character! Self-control is another major element of maturity. One that men all too often lack. Manliness is not being able to do whatever you want whenever you feel like it. The epitome of manliness is being ready and willing to do what is necessary when and how it is needed. The real man is willing to work hard all day, and then when he comes home he is ready to help cook or clean or play with the children and all with a kind and godly spirit of gentleness! We are normally too proud or selfish to serve others like that, which is why we need humility.
In 1 Peter 5:5, after telling elders/pastors to be humble servants under Christ, Peter specifically charges young men:
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’
So, what does that mean? Pastors and elders will one day give an account to Christ, the Chief Shepherd of God’s people, and Peter says that in the same way, young men are to be submissive to those who are older. A major part of being a mature Christian young man is to listen when older men and elders speak to you. Be humble enough to listen and take on board what others have to say. They might not know everything you are going through, but I would wager that they know more than you realize. I can’t tell you how many times young men have been surprised to hear what I went through when I was younger. In God’s providence I went through some highs and lows which helped me understand a great deal. And there are older men who have “been there and done that” in probably every congregation in our federation. Therefore, you need to learn to listen to them and obey their advice. Put away childish things and pursue maturity!
In order to do that, you need to love God more than this world. In 1 John 2:14b-17, John says,
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Recognize that while music and movies and games have their place – that place should be small in the life of the believer! Young men are strong, and they often want to be seen as strong – but indulging in the sexual pleasures of this life, or “got to have more” materialism, or proud boasting of accomplishments in sport, are not strengths, they are weaknesses! The greatest strength is found in the quiet, humble rejection of the evil one and all his subtle attacks. Strength is found in restraint and self-control.
Based on these ideas and principles, let me summarize some goals for our young men. They should aim to be as well-educated as they can be, both spiritually and scholastically (education and knowledge help them be good members of God’s church and influential Christians in society as well). They should be diligent and hard-working – ready to support a family and/or contribute generously to God’s kingdom at an early age. Being a husband and father is demanding on time/energy, and so young men should seek to be fit, healthy, and take care of themselves in diet and exercise. They should be active at church, helping where they are able, ready to serve, and desiring to be leaders in the church. Elders and deacons don’t start serving when they are elected and ordained. They should simply be those who were already serving and caring for others and whom the congregation recognizes for their gifts, electing them to the appropriate offices!
Young man, this has probably been a pretty intimidating article. If you have recognized your immaturity, you might not know where to begin. I would begin first by confessing your immaturity to the Lord in prayer, and then reading through 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Sit down with an older man or elder in your congregation and ask him what you need to work on first. Trust that the Lord will lead through His Word, Spirit and Church.