At the end of Sherwood’s “Courageous” (2011), in a scene resembling an altar call Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick) asks the congregation, “Where are you, men of courage?” As a young woman, I keep asking myself the same question. Only mine emphasizes, “Where are you, men?”
The world today doesn’t know what a real man looks like. How could she, when she ridicules the male gender decade after decade? Today, everywhere I look, I can’t find a single Robin Hood, John Maynard (look up Blackbeard), Horatio Hornblower, John Wayne, McClintock, Shane, or Indiana Jones. All that’s left are weak-willed wimps. Straight or gay doesn’t matter anymore.
The Bible is full of real men: Abraham, Moses, Boaz, Samuel, David, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen, Paul, John the Revelator – the list goes on and on. Church history has real men too. John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, William Wilberforce, George Whitefield, D. L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and others served Christ with courage. But the church today is as absent of masculinity as the world. She’s being fed leftovers by weak-willed wimps. The church has forgotten her spiritual and cultural past.
Why does the world need real men? Why does the church seek “men of courage”? Abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage, human and sex trafficking, evolution and atheism, church sin and apathy – the moral and spiritual outlook worldwide is bleak. I un-friended two Christians on Facebook this week who believe in gay marriage and marriage equality. They weren’t really friends, more like acquaintances, one of them an old high school classmate. Yet for the sake of the gospel, I wasn’t going to be even Facebook friends with them anymore. I consider them hypocrites.
A third person I un-friended just didn’t like my preaching style: God’s judgment on sinners (hell), conviction, shame, and repentance – you know, old-school salvation. He accused me of making people run from Jesus with “my gospel.” He’s right. The authentic gospel of Jesus Christ always makes people run away, for a while. If they don’t, they’re not hearing truth. But I didn’t like this young man’s watered-down message of love, as though sinners shouldn’t hear about sin and judgment. He didn’t even think people should feel shame and conviction or repent of sin until after they know Jesus. Huh? He has it all backward!
For years now, I’ve been looking for someone to “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30), to effect real salvation for lost people, cities, cultures, and nations. This expectation is millennia old. At various times in Israel’s history Moses, Phinehas, Samuel, Elijah, Nehemiah, and Daniel all “stood in the gap.” They effected salvation through either righteous judgment of sin or repentant prayer, when most had nothing to repent of. Yet they stood with their beloved Israel and asked God for mercy.
But I haven’t found anyone like these men in the church today. Francis Chan, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, Louie Giglio, Ravi Zacharias, and countless others are all doing their part. But none have spiritual power. They don’t burn with the pure fire of the Holy Spirit. Their words aren’t like fire that brings conviction to the lost, or hammers that bring damnation to the scoffers (Jeremiah 23:29).
Sadly, when sinners meet us in the marketplaces and on the streets, they aren’t changed. Few have authentic spiritual savor or anointing. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:16, “To some we are the savor (aroma) of death unto death, and to the other the savor (aroma) of life unto life.” But salt without savor is good for nothing; it must be thrown out (Matthew 5:13). Must the whole church today be thrown out? The Christian banner of “truth has fallen in the street” (Isaiah 59:14) and there is no one to pick it up. The world and the church are going to hell at break-neck speed if someone doesn’t intervene soon.
I keep looking in the church for a “super Christian” and in the culture for a potential one (currently unsaved), the way some schools are “waiting for Superman.” But the church today has no Wilberforce, no Shane, and no Superman. I fear she doesn’t even know what such a man would look like if she found one. The world today wants a savior. With all her problems, she’s ripe for an anti-Christ. Is the church ripe too?
Everywhere I go, I see the church laughing and playing while lost sinners sigh and cry all the way to hell. Pageants, cruises, movie theaters, banquets, conferences, and innocent relaxation – they’re all evidence of the church entertaining itself to death. Compared to evangelists of the past, she’s fat and lazy. I heard one well-respected preacher say, “We rest before we’re tired.”
In Ridley Scott’s adaptation Robin Hood (2011), the main character rehearses the slogan: “Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.” Where are the lambs rising? Where are the lions? Where are the men (and women) of courage who will say no to the culture, no to themselves, no to church entertainment, and yes to Jesus Christ? Now isn’t the time to play. Now is the time to fight.
Last night at church I cried out to God (literally), telling him I was sorry I had looked to the world for a savior. I was sick of human nature and sick of the evil in people’s hearts, both Christian and not. Then I heard a wise old man pray Psalm 24:8: “The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, mighty in battle, He is the king of glory.” God told Israel many times that he looked for a man to stand in the gap but found no one. Then his own mighty arm saved him as he judged his enemies.
Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD. … And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD. ~ Ezekiel 13:15, 22:30, KJV
So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; the coastlands He will fully repay. ~ Isaiah 59:15-18, NKJV
I must look to Jesus alone to save people from the hell they’re bent on producing in this life, and falling into in the next. I must look to Jesus alone to purify and strengthen the church. The Lord, the righteous judge, is a “man of war” (Exodus 15:3). This great battle belongs to him (1 Samuel 17:47, 2 Chronicles 20:15-17). Jesus Christ will soon return to earth as an avenger to punish all evildoers. I can’t wait!
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. … And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. ~ Revelation 19:11-13, 15-16, KJV