This book is a proposal and a protest. It protests all the books that reduce the life of a Christian man to a string of techniques and how-to lists. It proposes instead that the course of the Christian man is the course of his God. It protests all the lists of four steps for building lasting friendships, five techniques for raising obedient children, and seven methods of loving your wife. To avoid man-made lists, we will spend more time exploring Bible texts than typical men's books do. It also proposes that we focus on character over technique and law. God has renewed His sons and is remaking us in His image. Therefore, it is our heritage, our destiny, to become more like the Father and the Son. Men are most true to themselves when most like Christ.
That conviction shapes this book. Instead of starting with laws and guidelines for godly living, we will consider the nature of God first. For example: • Godly husbands follow the pattern of sacrificial love set by Jesus, whose love for His bride, the church, shows husbands how to love their wives.
• Good fathers are like God, their heavenly Father. His love, justice, faithfulness, and loving discipline are the pattern for godly fathers.
• Godly friends imitate God's friendship with Abraham and Moses and the friendship of Jesus and His disciples. Self-disclosure and helpful presence are the marks of friendship.
• Godly workers love to create because God, who delights in creation, made us in His image. We like to finish tasks because we resemble Jesus who exulted, " It is finished." His completed mission surpasses all others. But because of Him, we delight in completing our work.
•Even in our play, we imitate the playfulness of God evident throughout creation. His pattern of work and rest liberates us to rest and play as well.
There is more to godly masculinity than this, but nothing is more foundational. God created us in His image. By His grace, He restores us to that image day by day. For that reason I accent character over technique, being over doing.
This approach simply agrees with Jesus. He said, " Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit" (Matt. 7:17-18). Jesus says, " I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Talk of inability offends men who have a high estimate of their strength and resolve. So be it. Progress cannot begin until we know ourselves, weaknesses included. We must know that love, sacrifice, and service are alien to our relentlessly lazy and self-seeking souls. Left to ourselves, we have little desire to sacrifice. But Jesus renews His people.
In the language of Scripture, He gives us a new heart. We have a spiritual sensitivity, even passion. As much as Christian men care about their honor, they care for God's honor yet more. As much as they love their families, they yearn to love their heavenly Father even more. We each become, to borrow another phrase from Scripture, " a man after God's heart."
The phrase " a man after God's heart" was a potential title of this book because it captures the way a changed life radiates out from a renewed spirit. First Samuel 13 used that phrase, long before David became king, to describe him, and it suits him well. He longed for nothing more than God's presence (see Ps. 27). Zeal for God's house consumed him (Ps. 69). This passion of the heart transformed all David did. When a Philistine giant taunted God's people, David could not bear the insult to God's honor and fought him in the Lord's strength (1 Sam. 17). When David became king, his first act was to bring God's tabernacle, the sign of God's presence, into his capital city (2 Sam. 6). As king he showed mercy and protected the weak, such as Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9), because he knew that God " has regard for the weak [and] delivers him in times of trouble" (Ps. 41:1-2). In the course of his explosive affair with beautiful, reckless Bathsheba, David learned that he was weak too, a man who needed to "receive mercy and deliverance, not just "give it (2 Sam. 11). But as a man after God's heart, he eventually confessed his sin to God. Making no excuses, he threw himself on God's mercy, and received it (2 Sam. 12).
The life of David shows that, by themselves, techniques and to-do lists cannot lead anyone to become a man of God. Unless we have a heart for God, techniques only help us manage our lives a little better. Further, if we take our sin, inability, and resistance to repentance seriously, we must conclude that to-do lists will never suffice.
Why then do we act as if we can hand out rules and methods and expect any Joe to follow them? Why do Christian lessons and books sound as if we can solve every problem by following the right techniques? Do they think we can manage every sphere of life if we just have the proper instructions? If so, why are there so many self-help books?Wouldn't three or four be enough to cover most fields of Christian living? Cultures shape people more than the people living in those cultures realize. So I wonder: Do teachers focus on techniques because science, technology, and business dominate our culture? Has our fascination with technology seeped into our theological bones? Have management models led us to think we can govern our relationships by following a few easy steps?
Jesus appears fairly often in some Christian books for men. But He appears as our example more than our Savior. He illustrates the principles of the particular book--the " how-to" of whatever the current chapter requires. But those books say little about Jesus' grace. If they do mention it, it is probably the grace that forgives sins, not the deeper grace that transforms sinners. These books often speak of o