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The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 4

Even if their parents and their homes are perfect, men still find it difficult to "act like men". We all have depraved hearts that turn away from God. Just like Adam and Eve, we do not trust that God has our best interests in mind and seek our own paths to happiness. Todd explains that one of the most prevalent ways men seek their own happiness today is through indulgence in pornography.

Todd WagnerOct 21, 2004

Messages In This Series (5)
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 5
Todd WagnerOct 28, 2004
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 4
Todd WagnerOct 21, 2004
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 3
Todd WagnerOct 14, 2004
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 2
Todd WagnerOct 7, 2004
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 1
Todd WagnerSep 30, 2004

Very good! Good morning, guys! Glad you are here. It looks like a few of our ranks are still recovering from four great nights of baseball in a row, and as a Cardinals fan, I encourage you to make it five. How many Houston Astros fans do we have in here? May you be comforted tomorrow. It's fun to watch. Who really cares? It's a good time.

Hey, I want to start by reading something. We'll watch a little bit, and then we'll dive in today. I really believe that what we're going to talk about today is at the root of what causes all of us to consistently struggle to be the real men that we want to be, and we're going to define that today better than we have any other week. We've been doing a lot of going back and talking about some of the things that are in our history and in our pasts that can affect us, that have affected us. There's no can about it.

We're going to explain maybe some root issues that cause not just us to be the way we are but have caused our society to be what it is and Mom and Dad to be the way they are. I want to start by this. This is a little thing that Paul Harvey wrote about four of five years ago that really starts to drive us in the direction I want us to focus this morning. He wrote this not long after Columbine, and this is what he said.

"For the life of me, I can't understand what could have gone wrong in Littleton, Colorado. If only the parents had kept their children away from the guns, we wouldn't have had such a tragedy. Yeah, it must have been the guns.

It couldn't have been because half of our children are being raised in broken homes. It couldn't have been because our children get to spend an average of 30 seconds in meaningful conversation with their parents each day. After all we give our children quality time.

It couldn't have been because we treat our children as pets and our pets as children. It couldn't have been because we place our children in day care centers where they learn their socialization skills among their peers under the law of the jungle, while employees who have no vested interest in the children look on and make sure that no blood is spilled.

It couldn't have been because we allow our children to watch, on average, seven hours of television a day filled with the glorification of sex and violence that isn't fit for adult consumption.

It couldn't have been because we allow (or even encourage) our children to enter into virtual worlds in which, to win the game, one must kill as many opponents as possible in the most sadistic way possible.

It couldn't have been because we have sterilized and contracepted our families down to sizes so small that the children we do have are so spoiled with material things that they come to equate the receiving of the material with love.

It couldn't have been because our children, who historically have been seen as a blessing from God, are now being viewed as either a mistake created when contraception fails or inconveniences that parents try to raise in their spare time.

It couldn't have been because our nation is the world leader in developing a culture of death in which 20 million to 30 million babies have been killed by abortion.

It couldn't have been because we give two-year prison sentences to teenagers who kill their newborns. It couldn't have been because our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial soup of mud by teaching evolution as fact and by handing out condoms as if they were candy."

He finishes by saying, "It couldn't have been because we teach our children that there are no laws of morality that transcend us, that everything is relative and that actions don't have consequences. What the heck, the president gets away with it. Nah, it must have been the guns."

That was Paul Harvey's attempt to kind of rationalize and deal with some of the folks who were saying, "Man, we have to just deal with this problem. If we just get rid of the guns, this stuff won't happen anymore." I want to tell you something. You know, some of us sometimes have the sense of, "If I just didn't have the past that I did, living in the society I did, I wouldn't feel the way I do."

What I want to make a case for is that, some of the reason our past is the way it is and some of the reason our families are the way they are is the same reason we struggle to be the men we want to be. It has to do with something that has pulled us all off course because there is a flaw in all of us, and we're going to address it this morning, and a solution to it.

Watch this little metaphor that we're going to put up there that talks about basically what it takes to get us to start running in a way that the world would look at us and say, "That's the way a man ought to run. That's the way an athlete participates. That's what a runner does." Watch this.

[Video]

Blaine: I love to run. It's what I do. It's what I am. People are always asking me, "Blaine, tell me why you run all the time." My response is always the same: "I run because I'm a runner." I haven't always been a runner. A couple of years ago, I decided I'd give it a try, so I did what I saw other runners do. I joined the track team, and I quickly learned that just being on the track team doesn't make you a runner.

I mean, I can get out there and run my heart out, but I always seem to veer. Running straight isn't as easy as it looks. I was about to give up, when I finally realized what was different about me. I was the only one wearing a watch. That's why I couldn't run. The watch was weighing me down. Though it was big and weighed a ton, I was kind of attached to my watch, literally. I couldn't get it off.

I have tried before. I tried to pull it off, tear it off, cut it off. I tried many things. I finally just got used to it. I mean, yeah, it hindered my running, but people thought it was cool. I actually made friends because of it. We all have crossroads in life. This was mine. I realized I had a choice: get rid of the watch somehow or get out of the race.

At that moment, I made a decision. I chose to become a runner. Right then, I heard somebody say, "Do you want me to take the watch off?" This guy was standing next to me. It kind of freaked me out. I guess he knew what was going on. I told him I wanted to be a runner but couldn't do it with my watch. He asked me again, "Do you want me to take off the watch?" I said, "Yes." He smiled and somehow managed to take it right off.

My life since then has been all about running. I mean, I'm running now in a way I never thought I could before. I still stumble at times, but I never fall. I have a passion for running I never dreamed I would have. I owe a lot to that guy who freed me from my watch or shackles or whatever you want to call it. I sometimes wonder what he did with my watch. I do know this. What he did set me free. My name is Blaine, and I'm a runner.

[End of video]

That's a fun little metaphor that talks about the thing that I'm going to go at today. There's nothing too subtle about that. We're going to talk about the thing that gets us all off course, you know, when we want to be men. "I want to run. I want to be a man. I want to act like a man." We ought to know what that is and what it is in all of us that kind of corrupts us and pulls us off course.

Let me read you a little deal that one guy named Crabb wrote as he just was observing what had happened to men because they've gotten off course. This is what he says. You can follow along with me up there. He said:

"Men are easily threatened. And whenever a man is threatened, when he becomes uncomfortable in places within himself that he does not understand, he naturally retreats into an arena of comfort or competence, or he dominates someone or something in order to feel powerful. Men refuse to feel the paralyzing and humbling horror of uncertainty, a horror that could drive them to trust, a horror that could release in them the power to deeply give themselves in relationship.

As a result, most men feel close to no one, especially not to God, and no one feels close to them. Something good in men is stopped and needs to get moving. When good movement stops, bad movement (retreat or domination) reliably develops."

The idea here is, when we move away from what we were really created to be… By the way, the word real just means authentic. It means original, as intended, as designed. You cannot be a real man if you're not going to be an uncorrupted man, a man who lives as you were intended to live. What happens is, when we feel threatened, when we feel like we can't control the world that we're in or serve it or lead it or survive in it the way we want to and in our hearts were shaped to, then we're going to come up with some other alternative to manage it, or we're going to become broken.

We go, "Something in me is not able to do what I'm told I'm designed to do, which is to be a man." There are one or two extremes we always go to as a result of this sense of being overwhelmed. We either retreat and become overly passive, or we move forward in dominance and become abusive, dictatorial…something other people fear.

We show we're not weak by making others feel weak, or we show we're not weak by disappearing from a stage where there's accountability and opportunity to be a man. I'm going to make a case today that both of those are equal responses on different sides of the pendulum from what we were intended to be. You cannot be a real man without being a godly man or a man as God intended because God created man to live in his image.

When we say we don't need to live in his image in his ways, we become an unreal man who gets overwhelmed with trying to operate differently than we were created to operate in a world we were called to rule over, and we're going to either remove ourselves and slide into passivity, or we're going to assert ourselves to show we can make it a way that dominates, threatens, and is abusive to others. Let's take a look at what we want to go through today.

We are called to be and act like men. That's the idea right here. I'm going to tell you, to do it, you have to stand firm in faith in a belief that there is something that's gone terribly wrong and that there's a God who loves us enough to make things incredibly right again by his grace. Even if the condition or the circumstance of our homes was perfect… This is the case I'm going to make.

I mean, I've spent some time trying to identify with y'all some things that are in our world that make it hard for all of us as men. Our society is not only making it harder to become a man but to be a man. We know what's going on with Daddy. We know what happened with Mom when she stepped in and the effects of that, so we've tried to just say, "We understand what's going on out there."

I'm going to tell you, what's going on out there is a result of the fact that there's something going on in the hearts of those people in the world and not just in your dysfunctional home. Even if the circumstance of our home was perfect, we still have a problem, and that is that the condition of our hearts is not.

I've talked to some of y'all, and a number of you guys have come up and said, "Man, you have been describing my life to a T. You know, I've been identifying totally with what you're saying and the things you describe. That could be my story." Then, there are a few others of you who come up and just say, "Man, I am overwhelmed and humbled at the grace that was available to me and my home, yet I still, at times, struggle with being the man I know I want to be. What's up with that?"

Here's the answer to it that we're going to talk about today. Even if your home is perfect (nobody's home is perfect), your heart is always more corrupt than your home. We've all been wounded, as were going to make the case, by a common father and mother. The story as I'm going to relay it to you is that we were created, and we were created to live in relationship with God, and our initial father and mother…

I'm not going to read it, but I'm going to just flash it up to you. Recently, a number of years, there was an article in Nature magazine that U.S. News & World Report wrote that talks about how they go and get more advanced in studying the makeup of humankind through our DNA, the foundational structure of life… If you just kind of scroll through that, you'll see some things that'll pop up at you.

They've found a woman, a maternal mother. In other words, they've found in certain chromosomes that they know come from the female part of the species something that is common in all of humankind, and what the article is about is that they've now not just found the mother of creation or this trait that is in all of us that comes from the female. Recently, they found this Adam that goes with the Eve. The title of the story was, "Genetic Adam and Eve Did Not Live Too Far Apart in Time."

It's talking about how we all have common origin. If you'll fly to the very end of this, you'll see what it says in the conclusion of this article. "We are finding that humans have very, very shallow genetic roots which go back very recently to one ancestor," says Michael Hammer who studied this thing.

It goes on to say that, for a long time, people thought that humans evolved in different ways, you know, from all over the world, and now, they're saying, "No, science would indicate…" It's not true because Nature magazine says it and U.S. News & World Report says it, because Nature magazine has said the opposite at other times and U.S. News & World Report has put forward different ideas at different times.

What they're saying is that science no longer in any way supports the idea that we've just kind of evolved all over the place and are competing with one another and we are all just some product of chance, that there's a common origin to all of us that happened in one unique spot, which is the story that God has been trying to tell us all along.

He's trying to tell us, when God created humankind… By the way, again, let me just give you the greatest argument for the existence of God. It is not just creation, but specifically what he said was the culmination of his creation, which is the human body, which was humankind, the wonder of it.

It's what's called the teleological argument for the existence of God whenever you seen something that is put together in a way that shows order. We know that laws of physics and thermodynamics tell us that things go from order to disorder naturally. They don't move to structure and design and order.

In science, what's really amazing is they tell us, even as they look at the universe, the farther out they go, if this idea of a big bang is consistent, they would expect to see more chaos out there, but they're amazed because, the farther out they go, the more they see order. That's true when you go outward to the universe, and it's also true when you go inside of us down to microorganisms and microbiology and study. They see incredible structure and order there. Everywhere they go, they see the imprints of intelligent design.

You know, when I'm teaching this to kids and talking about this with my kids, what I do is I take like a basket of magazines, and I take it, and I just throw it down on the floor. I go, "What would you guys think if you walked in and you saw things like this. You know, it looks like, the wind came blowing through here. Doesn't it? What happens if I take these magazines and stack them from smallest to biggest, maybe order them according to kind, and put them neatly under this little table. What would you think?"

Most of them don't say, "Well, Mom got on me, and I cleaned up my mess." They say, "Well, the maid was here." That's what most of them say. What they say is that somebody with intelligence has come and taken what was chaotic and made it orderly. What folks are observing now and at least science is standing against is it takes more faith to believe that all this order that we see happens by chance than it takes to believe that there was an intelligent designer who spoke it into existence.

What God's story is that he reveals to us is that God designed us. He created this earth for us to live in. Eden, if you will, was good, not because God needed it and God was impressed by it. It was because it was perfectly suited for that which he created it for; therefore, it was good. It was perfectly designed for that which he created to live in his image, humankind, and God encouraged man to live in relationship with him and to rule over this earth in a way that is consistent with how he rules over all creation as a way to reveal his glory.

Let me just explain this. God did not create man and woman because he was lonely or needy. The Scriptures talk about the fact that God has forever dwelt in relationship with himself in a way we can't understand. God is three and yet one. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one in essence, yet they're three in person, and they relate to each other in a way there is community and there is submission and mutual love and exaltation.

God wasn't lonely. That's not why he created us but because God, among other things, is love and because the one thing love can't do is not love, in order to love he had to create those who could enjoy who he was and reveal his goodness, so he created humankind and invited us to live in relationship with him.

Because God is a God of love, he didn't force us to enjoy him because perfect creatures have to be able to love. It's not perfect if it can't love, but in order to love, it means you have to choose. You can't choose to love if you're a robot that is made to love. You can't choose to love if you're a stuffed animal that a little girl always makes do what she wants you to do, so God made something that was very good that was in his image which had some sense of freedom.

Our freedom was that was we could choose to stay in this relationship with God and to trust him and believe he was good and to live as he designed us to live and to rule as he designed us to rule and to lead as he designed us to lead and love as he designed us to love, or we could say, "I don't want to do it your way. I'm going to do it my way," and the story goes that our father and mother decided that maybe God wasn't good and maybe rebelling against him wasn't going to be that big a deal and maybe they could do it better on their own.

Let me just tell you, though, the Bible just sets it up like this. From the very beginning, God gave man and woman a chance to show him that they loved him, and the way he did it is he put them in a place that was perfectly suited for them. We call it Paradise or Eden. He put one tree in there, and he said, "Look, this tree right here, you don't need, but it's going to be a sign that you know that I love you and that I am good and that all your needs are met in me even as I said they were. You're going to live by faith. You can do whatever you want, but don't eat of that tree."

We know that the story is that man decided… The problem wasn't that he ate a pomegranate or an apple or whatever people think it was. The problem is that that act showed that we thought we would know better than God what was good for us, that real men don't live in relationship with God and humble themselves and love; real men are concerned and consumed with operating on their own agendas, not leading those who they're called to lead and loving those who they're called to love.

We're going to talk specifically about what happened in that garden because we all know who ate the apple first…Eve. You're going to find this. There was something else there when Eve ate that apple that showed right away that man was abandoning his post, that he wasn't living in faith with God, that he wasn't living in relationship as a real man with God as God intended him. The story goes that all of us have been flawed from that moment forward.

Now this is what is called the federal view of the sin of Adam. He wasn't just a representative of us, but lest you are concerned that you are being judged by something that some guy did thousands of years ago, let me just make it very clear to you. If you want to say, "I wouldn't have done what Adam did," then we'll go ahead and let you decipher and decide if you are living as you should separate and apart from Adam.

My point is going to be that you're going to find that you yourself are making decisions on a continual basis that show that you don't believe that God's way is the right way for you. What I'm going to tell you today is it's because you have in your heart a wound, and it is called the depravity wound, and it is the wound of a heart that is bent toward evil.

Let's look at the next blank right there. "My heritage dysfunction is a product of my heart more than my home. My heart has been blackened. My heart has been touched. My heart has been affected." This is the story that God tells us that starts to explain why we cannot act like men, but we act like animals, or we act like women. That's the problem, and here's the result.

The wound of depravity is total in its effect on our lives and the lives of others whom we are to love and lead. In other words, because of this thing that is in us, there is a consequence and a problem that has a ripple effect that goes beyond anything we can imagine. Now there's this idea, and this wound is so total in our lives that I want to explain it to you.

What total depravity means… It doesn't mean that everything that man does is weak and wrong, and it also doesn't mean that we can't do anything that is right and what a man should do, but it does mean that we have so totally moved off what we were created to be that there is nothing we can do to ever put ourselves back in a place where we are as we should be. There can be glimpses of it, flashes of it, but we are totally flawed to the point that we are not able to put ourselves back rightly where we belong.

As a result of this, there are incredible horrors and effects. You know, I was just looking this week at a number of different things. One of the things I looked at was a guy who we look at, and it's told that he was a great man, in fact a man after God's own heart, a guy historically who served as king of a nation.

The guy's name is David, and David made a decision at one point to go ahead and act like he thought a man in his position with his power would act, which is to take a look out over what was there and, for whatever reason, not be satisfied with what he already had, which was out of step with what God wanted, but he wanted more. He wasn't satisfied with what he had. He saw something he liked and brought it into him.

You can trace the destruction that came out of that to about 85 names directly in Scripture who were affected in severe ways by his choice, not just Bathsheba, not just Uriah, but his own kids, the mighty men who are identified as serving with him, and then you go out and ripple out to the entire nation and what happened with them.

It's not just his own life that was affected by his decision but the ripple effect of his choosing to say, "I will act and take what I think I want because it looks good to me, tastes good to me, and it promises me satisfaction and pleasure that I think is right apart from what God said will bring me satisfaction and joy. I'll go and run for it," and the ripple effects are unspeakable.

That's what we talked about the very first week. Our society is in chaos, and I'm going to tell you that there is no contributor to chaos in society as much as men vacating their roles because it forces others to either fight against the abusive authority that has shown up when men don't lead like they should or to take roles that they weren't designed to take and to resent it and, therefore, also maybe sometimes to lead in ways in which they are incapable of leading well.

We are separated… This is what it does. This is some of the ripple effects that just are out there. We are separated from God. We're deserving of judgment because of this flaw. God said, "I want you to live this way." Because of the corruption and influence in our lives, God says, "Hey, I don't want that associated with me. There's going to be consequence to it."

We are bent toward rebellion. It is easy for us, and we're bothered by rebuke. It is our natural tendency to go our own way and to be offended when folks say, "That's not the way you should go." We want to believe, "Hey, I'm king. I can do whatever I want." Now a lot of guys go, "I don't like when I'm caught. You know, I don't like when society even puts rules and mores on me that tell me I can't do what I do. I have the right to choose how I live."

Now there is still a remnant of what is good. We know that we can't rebel completely against God, so we have kept a remnant that seems right to us of what is moral and what we cannot allow, and that is why we still, even in our day, kill certain people for certain activities. We have so dumbed down that standard that is about to be that we can't control the anarchy that is rising up within us because we have inserted ourselves as the moral standards of what seems right to us.

Thankfully, we still say that you can't kill children out of the womb, or you can't just go and kill a man because his wife is more beautiful to you than yours, but don't be shocked where we're going to keep sliding. Now what you're starting to see is folks start to say, "There are certain kids who are out of the womb who aren't worth preserving either."

It won't be long before we go there, and then there's going to be, "Well, there are certain men who are so weak or certain men who aren't as powerful as I am. Let's get them out of the way so we can continue to live the way we want." This thing in our hearts called depravity is never satisfied. We are corrupted in our core to the point that no human agency can provide for us a cure. This is what I want to tell you guys.

There are lots of different movements and ideas that are out there: that men need to identify with just this wildness that's in their hearts, that men need to get together with other men and sing. There are some great things that have come out of certain movements, but at the end of the day, we're not as much in need of a movement as we are in need of a reformation.

You see, you don't need to just move out of this home that is dysfunctional. You need to be re-parented. Some guys don't know how to act like a man because they've never had a dad model for them what it means to be a man or they've always had a mom who has enabled them or just barked them down or made them think being man is an awful thing. You don't need to just move out of that home because that home goes with you. Doesn't it?

What you need is a reformation. You need to be re-parented. You need a Father who can show you what it means to be a man, a loving presence that cannot enable you but can convict you in a loving way and call you to greatness. Too many of us look for a human agency, some movement or some seminar, some speech, some idea, some book that promises the stuff that the Scripture says that we won't ultimately experience until we're in heaven.

God is saying, "Let me just tell you something. Do you want to know how to experience what it means to be a real man? It's going to take a rebirth." There was a guy who walked up to Jesus and just asked like that. "We watched your life. Your life is different than everybody else's lives." What he's saying in effect is, "You're a real man. Can you explain to me how I can be that kind of man?"

Jesus' response is, "You're not going to like my answer. I'm not going to give you a bunch of tips and techniques, but you have to deal with your heart. You have to be born again because there is a flaw in your design because of what you have done in relationship to your Designer." The guy said, "How in the world am I going to do that? I'm supposed to crawl back in my mom's womb?" That's literally what he said. Jesus, this man who others were attracted to, said, "No, that's not it at all. Let me explain it to you." We're going to do that today.

We are alienated from God and subject to futility. We are enslaved to sin and sentenced to death. This is what's going on. When you see a group of leaders who are enslaved to something that is corrupt and the sentence from corruption is death, you go, "Well, it's amazing this society is functioning at all, that families have even a chance to survive, that relationships work in any form or fashion."

Let me just roll out for you one example of this. If there's something that is affecting more men in this room than anything else, that something is pornography. I'm going to explain to you pornography I think in a way that will put it in a category that maybe it's never been before. I mean statistics tell us that, in a room of guys like this, more than a majority of you are really getting your rear-ends kicked by this stuff, and it's getting easier and easier the more you can do it with privacy in your own home with the advent of the computer.

Let me tell you what's going on in this whole idea of pornography. It isn't just about the pleasure. It is a response to a group of men who realize that this world is not providing for them what they want it to provide. It is one expression of finding a place they can go and get, even for a moment, some pleasure, some sense of feeling the way they want to feel as men, and I'm not just talking about the ejaculation.

I'm talking about living in a context where things are as we think, and we say, "If they were just this way, my life would be full." Guys have a sense of powerlessness in their lives because this world we're supposed to live in to influence and bring hope and encouragement and leadership to we see spinning out of control. We see people dissatisfied with us. We don't see ourselves attaining enough in industry or profession or in the field of performance.

We don't see our relationships, and when we finally have the courage to go ahead and say, "I'm going to share my life with somebody else," we see the incredible work that it takes, and we see that relationship at times drifting off, and we see the incredible work it takes to have sex be successful in marriage.

There are lots of times where a wife goes, "Look, man, I'm not against sex, but I am right now against sex with you." We kind of go, "Well, that's the problem because, word is, you're the only one I'm supposed to have sex with." The woman is saying, "Well, that's fine, but let me just tell you something. I'm not just going to lie here and shut up for you while I service you. You may as well just slap the $20 on the bedside table. I'd like to have a relationship with you. I want to give myself to you."

You know, I tell guys who are single all the time that one of the reasons that masturbation is not a single man's problem is because there are a lot of guys who are single who go, "Are you kidding me? Once I'm married, I'll never masturbate. Man, I'll be… You know, my wife and I, we'll just… You know, I'll come home early from work every day. I won't eat lunch three days a week out because I'll be in."

What you need to realize is that your wife will want to experience that great gift of sex with you only when she is in context of a relationship with you, where giving herself to you physically is a natural response to the way she is experiencing oneness with you emotionally in every other way, and it takes a lot of work to keep a woman in a place where she is delighted in exposing herself and giving herself to you where she feels secure and lovely and cherished and desirable and sees the same things in you.

I tell guys, "Let me just tell you something, boys. It's a whole lot easier to go to Kroger and buy a gallon of milk than it is to milk that cow. When you get married, you have to go, 'You know what? I'll just go over here and get what I want, get the calcium and satisfaction I need by just walking in here and grabbing it really quickly, or I have to go out there and make sure Bessie's okay, steady, and get under her and slowly work them udders…process it." I want to just tell you, it takes a whole lot more work to milk the cow than it does just to buy the milk.

There are some guys who, in marriage, just checked out and go, "I'm not sure I want to do the hard work of milking Bessie today, loving her like I should, being tender with her like I should, owning my sin like I should, asking forgiveness like I should and then getting some dadgum milk, when I can walk right over here and have it in a minute." It isn't just a single man's problem.

Let me tell you what happens with pornography. Our world is often so out of control. I have had a young man who I have been trying to encourage. I say he's a young man, but the guy's 30-something years old, and he has just absolutely had his butt kicked by pornography, and he kept saying, "Man, I'm doing everything I should do. I don't understand why I keep going back over here." I said, "It's because you're missing it. Pornography is not your problem."

It's just like alcohol is never the problem. It's a symptom of a greater problem. It's a depraved heart that chooses to say, "I will live and manage my life my own way. I will control my life and bring things in order in such a way that I won't have a need to depend on something greater than me or deal with the problem that is in me." As you try and create your own security, your own significance, you always find your world still at times spinning out of control. There are always trigger events. There's a loneliness. There's a hopelessness. There's a despair.

There's a terror, a sense of powerlessness. What you do is go someplace where, because the story that you live in that is reality is too big and you can't figure it out and be the hero and man in it that you want to be, you have to create a smaller story that you can be the hero of. You write yourself into this story, and you fantasize that you are the star of this story and that everybody in it desires you. It isn't just the physical act of being pleasured through masturbation that gets men trapped. It's that they go to this place where there is this beautiful woman.

The world says, "If that woman would desire you and make herself vulnerable to you (do you get the picture?) and throw herself wide open to you and say, 'Come on, man!' and always wants you and, in the midst of that, give you physical pleasure and talk about you in a way you want to be talked about and make sounds that tell you that you are satisfying her as a man wants to satisfy a woman, not just physically but in all areas of life, you write yourself into that story in a way you can control, that makes you feel for a moment like a man."

Now the problem is that, every time you get done, you realize that's not the real story, and you feel dirty and disgusted and hopeless all over again. Then you go back and face the people who are hungry and thirsty because you're not living like a man in the real story, and then you return to other forms of addiction and other places of escape where you can make yourself a hero of a story for a moment that gives you a sense of respite from the terror in your heart that you're not a man.

The problem is that too many men keep escaping over to these supposed stories that we create instead of living like men in the story that God created, taking the ground and leading like we want and like he intends us to. We lead a life of futility. We are heroes in small stories we create, and it's leading us to places of hopelessness and despair and death that make men go, "What is this world all about?"

What's the solution? Well, I'll give you that one blank, that the wound of depravity demands that we dare not trust in self alone. There's something else that has to come in. We can't figure out how to make the story that is real that we live in work because there's always a darkness in our hearts that moves us to a bad place.

There's a way which seems right to man (create these stories or be abusive in the real story or desert ourselves from the real post), but in the end, it's the way of death and futility. The solution is this. It is spiritual. It is not psychological or societal. The depraved condition will not be eradicated by education. This is not a learning problem. In other words, we don't need to be smarter sinners. It's not going to change with environment. You can move from where you are, but if you're not reformed, your movement won't change the primary depravity and wound in it.

It's not going to change through self-enlightenment, in other words through discovering some aspect of who we are that will help us actualize to a different state. It will not be cured by willpower, but the God who created you to be a man says it can only be cured by the grace of the will of God, that he will take you as a man and remake you and allow you to be born again to deal with this wound that corrupts all of us.

Admitting our need is the first step toward healing and restoring our relationship with God. It's admitting that we're broken men, that we're rebels who like to choose our own paths and trust in our own reason, that we don't want to rely on any revelation somebody else would give to us. We can hide behind our wounds, or we can humble ourselves before our Creator.

In other words, we can make excuses because of society and Mama and Daddy and anything else you want to throw in there. Let me just tell you something. I'm not saying that it's not real pain. I hope I've identified with you and let you know there are some lousy truths and lousy facts in some of your histories and some abuse that is unspeakable.

I know that, but you can say, "Therefore, I am deserving to live as a rebel myself and bring more death and futility to my own life, or I'm going to step into and say, 'God, I am sick of pain coming into lives of children like me who are then living lives of more futility because of the abuse and the hopelessness they experienced and pass that on.'"

You're going to step up and say, "Lord, I want to just say, 'This is a broken world, and if you can bring healing to my hurt and my past, I'll take it, and if you can make me a man who doesn't continue this chain of futility and destruction and death, I want to be that man who can bring hope. I don't want others to experience what I've experienced. How can I be a man who can stand against this force of depravity that's in this world?'"

He has a solution. We can follow in the steps of our earthly father, this Adam who is bent on destruction and death and rebellion, or we can follow in the steps of our heavenly Father. Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." He said, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. If you know me, you know the Father. If you love me, you love the Father." Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. I want to read to you some Scripture here in Romans, chapter 5.

"When Adam sinned…" This is talking about our earthly father. "…sin entered the [entire human race] . Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died…"

The idea here is that, when men sinned, God then put them into a place of conscience. We did have the ability to know between good and evil, but because we were not in and of ourselves intrinsically good, we didn't always choose what was good as God would, so even before God said, "This is right, and this is wrong," there was judgment because he instilled in us a sense of right and wrong.

Between Adam and the law being given through Moses and the Jewish people, there was still sin and death, meaning man still chose to do what they wanted to do even though, now, they had the ability to know good and evil before we knew good and evil in this way. God was good. He said, "Trust in me." He said, "I don't want you to have to figure out what is right and what is wrong. I'll tell you what is right and what is wrong."

Men said, "No, we'll decide what's right and wrong," so God said, "Fine. Live underneath your own conscience." As we even reject and rebel and don't sustain the standard of righteousness that our own consciences demands of us, we bring judgment upon ourselves. That's why folks who have no Bible and have never heard of Jesus by name are condemned. It's not because they reject the Jesus Christ in whom they have never heard but because they violate the own standard of consciences in their own hearts.

This is what it says. "…even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did." What a contrast between Adam and Christ, who was yet to come! What a difference between our sin and God's generous gift of forgiveness. "For the sin of this one man, Adam [our earthly father] brought death to many [through his sin] ." That's the destruction that man brings, but this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's bountiful gift.

"And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but God's free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins." In other words, this man's one sin brought multitudes of death. This man's one life has covered a multitude of sin. We'll read it again.

"For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but God's free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam's one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous."

Here's what it takes, men. It takes acknowledging that we are not the men we need to be in the story that God has called us to live in and admitting…admitting…that we've abandoned our posts, admitting that we reject what God has called us to be as lovers and leaders and moving into passivity so we can't screw it up because we're scared and terrorized or we live in abusive ways over those we're called to lead.

A real man, then, is a man who lives as God really intended. That's what a real man is. We go back to the original calling. Real means authentic, original, not corrupted. It's the real thing, and if you want to be a real man, you need to be living a life that is not focused on your own self-satisfaction, pleasures, and program. A real man is a man who is really intentionally focused on Jesus Christ and seeks to be like him by the grace of God. You cannot be a real man without being a godly man. You are always some perversion of what you were meant to be.

Real men reject passivity. Let me prove it to you. Here's your earthly daddy. Watch this. Genesis, chapter 3, verse 6. "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise…" She went shopping. That's their initial sin right there. "…she took from its fruit and ate…" Now look at this little word that's up there. "…and she gave also to her husband…" Who was where? Right there, rejecting his role as God intended.

"Lead this woman. Protect this woman from the vulnerability of seduction. Know that I am good. Express to her your confidence in me. Hold her in relationship with me. Lead her. Don't let her out there to fight these battles on her own." You hear the dialogue that's going on between her and those who say that God isn't good, that death isn't that big a deal and that you can do it better. The silence of Adam was the original sin, not the snap of the apple of Eve. Real men are not passive.

You look at Jesus Christ in contrast to this, and you see him become obedient even to the point of death. If you had not seen Gibson's portrayal of what Christ did in the movie The Passion of the Christ, I'm going to tell you what. We've seen some incredible things that men have done, but you watch that scene and that progression of that cross up that hill, and it's the closest I think we've ever come to watching what a man does.

You talk about a guy who stepped up, filled the gap, plugged the hole, broke the wedge. That's the man. You watch him with just incredible power and strength and endurance and yet love and humility right down to the very end, saying, "Man, these folks don't know what they do." I love the guard, and I love when I see Jesus kind of pull the veil back. I love being there. It says that a cohort came before him. He was in the temple all the time, but they were too scared of this man's popularity and greatness that they didn't get him when he was in public.

They went and got him when he was in the woods on his knees saying, "God, not my will but your will be done!" They came up, and they said, "Who is this Jesus?" He said, "I am he." When he said, "I am the one," it says that all of them, 600-plus, some say even more, fell flat on their faces before him. Then he said, "Get up." I don't know if you know much about negotiation, but typically, the army with weapons tells the one man what to do. That's not what happened in this instance because Jesus wanted to make it very clear.

He said, "Let me tell you what we're going to do. We're going to turn around, and you're going to take me there. Why'd you come out with weapons? If I didn't want you to take me, there would be no taking." Like he told his boys, he said, "Look, they're not going to take my life from me. I will gladly deliver it up. Now let these guys go. Let's turn around and get this show going." Then you watch what the brother endures, and I go, "That's a man."

You have to decide if you want to be a real man. Do you want to be like Adam, who keeps vacating your role, or one who steps up? The world will marvel at a man who loves that way and serves that way. It says that this Jesus became obedient even to the point of death. You go rent that movie and you watch it if you want to see a picture of man.

Real men embrace their roles and are courageous in the face of challenges to their tasks. What we're looking at right here is again the idea that you can be like your earthly model of a father, or you can get a new Father who's going to make you a man like you've never imagined, but you have to deal with the fact that what pulled your earthly father away from being a man is what is continually keeping you from being a man, and it's humility before God. It is what Christ exhibited, a sense of, "It's not about me. It's about what you want."

You see, Genesis 2:15 has this idea where, you know, he was called and told to be a man who lived in obedience who did whatever he wanted to do except this one thing. His task was to rule in the garden. It says, "… [he] took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.""You keep watch over it like you should." Then in 3:6, we saw what he did already. He abandoned his post.

Adam, in one sense, said, "It looks good to me. We'll go this way." Jesus, on the other hand, in Matthew 26, verse 42, says, "[Not my will but] …Your will be done.""I don't want to do this, but I will step up and take my job, do my role." In John 17, verse 4, Jesus says this. "…having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do." He has accomplished everything that God said that he should do. He said, "I'll step up and get it done."

Real men embrace their roles and are courageous in the face of challenges to their tasks. They live for something greater than themselves. They have a transcendent cause. That is to honor and please God in a way that the world will look at and go, "That's a man." Real men love those given to them. Adam was told to leave his mother and father, to cleave to his wife, and the two will become one.

We find out that Adam did not cleave to his wife in a way that he should've but left her vacant and available. Jesus, on the other hand, in John 15: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." He loved to the point of death, even death on the cross. Real men lead those given to them. We already saw in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 6, where Adam didn't lead like he was supposed to.

Real men aren't passive. They assert themselves in the role they should be asserted in, which is the plan that God gave them. They have a cause that is greater than themselves. They are loving in their leadership. They do not desert or dominate. They dwell and cultivate faithfulness just like Jesus did, and they love well.

Real men lead those who are given to them. Adam didn't lead. Jesus did. Jesus said, "Follow me. I'll give you direction and purpose. I'll make you something more than just somebody who is successful in the industry. I'll make you successful in reclaiming what God says ought to be reclaimed." They give protection and security. "I am the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. The sheep don't need to freak out."

Real men lead well. They give life and hope. "I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly." Let me say something. If you look at this and you asked your wife and your kids and those whom you work with and friends you have to write down adjectives that describe your life, if you don't see words like, "Man, I tell you what. You give me a sense of leadership and followership. I look at your life, and I know where to go. There's direction and purpose that comes from you. There's a strength of calling that I see in your life," then you're not a real man.

That's what real men do. That's what Jesus did. If folks don't say, "I feel secure and loved and cherished and honored by you. I am secure under your love. I'm not wondering if somebody is going to leave me or attack me or hurt me, leave me vulnerable," you're not a real man. If you don't have your kids saying, "Daddy, when you're around, there's life…" How many of us have heard our wives say, "You know, it's a lot easier when you're not here. It's a lot less chaotic in this home when you're not here." That's because we're not being real men.

Real men don't bed a bunch of women. Real men love women in such a way that they can't imagine living life without them. This is the kind of man that Jesus was, and this is the kind of man that he has offered us to be as we humble ourselves and come to him. Now, men, next week, we're going to talk about what God has given us to help us be successful in that process, including others we are to lock arms with, and that's where we're headed.

It was there last week on your seat, and you can grab them in the back, an opportunity to connect with some other men, if you want, in groups that go forward from here. We're going talk about the things. Every week, we've written down questions that go with the sessions that we've talked about that can help you wrestle with these things in the context of a safe, small group as you look at each other and say, "How can we be these men?"

You can grab those at any of the doors as you walk out. Let me not let you leave here today without asking you this. Who's your model? Who's your daddy? Are you trying to make it in this story by being abusive or being absent, by being passive and saying, "I won't fail because I won't step up like I should?"

Are you trying by being aggressive and dominant in a way that leaves others hurt around you, or are you dwelling in places that make others feel blessed to be in your presence because you're following after a heavenly Father who has modeled for you what it means to be a man? You can't do that unless you deal with the depravity in your heart, and you are born again, and you confess that you have a problem, which is self-will and rebellion that leads to a life of futility.

You can't do that unless you deal with the fact that if God didn't by grace step up and love you and provide for you what you could never provide for yourself, you'd be left alone, hopeless and futile in judgment. You have to come to the place that you say, "I need Jesus to step up and do for me what I couldn't do for myself because he's the perfect man. He is my God. He is who he claimed to be as is evidenced by his works, and I trust him."

You have to say, "Father, I pray that you'd take this corrupt, depraved heart that's been hurt by a depraved society a depraved dad and depraved mom and that you make me the man you want me to be and let me break the chain and be a source of present, powerful obedience and love that provides leadership that the world will say, 'There's something divine about that,' that will draw others to this King." That's what a real man does, and if we can help you specifically understand how to do that, there's nothing else we'd rather do with our day.

Father, I pray for these men, that they would deal with the depravity wound that is in their hearts not by their own willpower but, Father, by the grace of the will of God, that they would today have heard the message that you're not mad at us but that you will move against sin and today you're calling us to a place that we can deal with the sin that is in our hearts that will enable us to be what a real man is, a lover, a leader who is present, who lives for a cause greater than himself.

May we be that kind of man that gives our lives for others in the context of responding to the life you've given for us. Don't let us shake this one easily, Lord. Help us to consider the story that we are written in and the way we have failed you and failed others in it, and thank you for, by grace, giving us a means to be written back into it in a powerful way that makes us heroes, as you designed us to be. We thank you for our hero, Jesus Christ, who has made that possible, and I pray that we would deal with him and be real men. Amen.


About 'The Real Men's Club, Volume 1'

(Fall 2004) There is a different Men's Club in town - a place where men of strength and integrity are willing to face the truth even if it involves pain from present or past troubled relationships or circumstances. At this club there are men who are willing to live their lives with honor. Men who are responding to a noble call. A call to live for a something greater than their own pleasure, prominence or gain.