“The Bondage Breaker” and “Every Man’s Battle”. Two of the more popular books in the christian arsenal on overcoming the strongholds of sin. If you’ve been a christian man long enough, you’ve either read these books or ones like it. For a group of people who are supposed to have victory over this darkness within us, books like these have really carved out quite the cottage industry. I know I’ve read plenty, and judging by the sales you have too. I wonder how many you picked up over the years.
When it’s not about overcoming sin, then the books are about being the man God has called you to be. We’ve got books for that too. Books like, “The Man in the Mirror” or “Wild at Heart”. These books teach us what masculinity is supposed to be. We’re taught to embrace some innate instinct, a sometimes guttural sense of what it means to be a man. Apparently, that’s why boys chew their bread into the shape of a gun.
Whatever “man-book of the month” club we are inclined to dig into, one thing is certain, work is involved. Striving to be better, stronger, and faster, and kudos to you if you get that archaic TV reference. We’ve all heard it, or something like it. Grace gets you in the door, but obedience keeps you from getting kicked out.
It’s sad to me that books about christian growth, especially for christian men, never start with “freer”. I suppose they probably wouldn’t sell well.
Still, what if there was a devotional that reminded you of the gospel for 365 days. No work, no striving. Just pure grace. Everyday grace washing over you each day. Reminding you of where you are rooted forever. What if the stories scattered throughout the scriptures were a reminder of our rescue, the one rescue we couldn’t earn. What if that was the impetus for better?
Look, I appreciate the desire for these men to write books that encourage men to be better husbands and fathers, better workers and bosses. But that’s never been the true gift of Christianity. The true gift of Christianity is always what God’s only Son has done for us, to save us. The true gift is not to get us to behave and feel better about ourselves, but reminding people of the first best gift, the gift of his Son.
That may come in the form of words at times, and it also may come in the form of our behavior towards others. This includes our families as well as other people in our lives, and even strangers. Some misguided people often see the good behavior as the point, in the same way they see any new encounters with people as an opportunity for a salvation project. Everything has to be a work, Everything has to have a moral-building purpose behind it. Everything is striving.
Yes, we want people to come to Jesus. Yes, we want to share the hope we have with them all. But we want to love everyone, regardless of them having a “come to Jesus” moment. I’ve seen Christians ready to make themselves available to serve their neighbors with the assorted odd jobs, be completely willing to pass over a house because they believe the Holy Spirit showed them that this person wouldn’t respond positively to the Gospel.
Do we stop operating food pantries or soup kitchens, or volunteer for yard work or home building because not everyone will accept the gospel?
In the same way God has showed no partiality in saving the lost, making His news good for all, we should be willing to be a good neighbor regardless of whether someone responds positively toward Christ.
The power behind any good work is grace. The power behind any self-improvement is grace. Grace is the wind at our backs pushing us with very little effort. We consider God in His kindness to us, showing us that same grace and mercy. We know where we’ve been. We know that the dirt may be washed away by the precious blood of the Lamb, but we rub our thumb and fingers together, even years later and swear we can still feel the gritty residue of old dirt, old sin hiding in the pores. We know we still struggle. Our wrestling match with sin and shame is never completely over.
In light of this, God still loves us, still calls us His. His Son still died for us. He stands in Heaven now interceding for us, whispering words to the Father, “He is washed. He is forgiven. He is cleansed. He is Ours. I am this one’s ‘well done.’”
God has given you a reward before you crossed the finish line. This is not like the present day participation trophies handed out in little league baseball games. We all come in first, and it’s still special.
The truth is if we actually had to run the race within our own ability, none of us would make it to the end. We are also not invigorated or empowered to cross the line by our obedience or good behavior. We are still slumped over on the ground five miles back. But here comes Jesus, still fresh from his win. He leans down and grabs our hand, helps us up and says, “Congrats, you won. I ran that race in your name.”
You stand up now, feeling a bit more life in your legs. You begin walking towards the goal. Maybe you even toss in a trot here and there. You’re making your way towards the end, but not because you have to…
You’re just catching up to the win.
Along the way, you help others up. It’s not a competition, you’re all just catching up to the win now. You just want to keep helping people up.
Christ wins for all of us. The good works we do, the better behavior we display sometimes, it’s all just catching up to the win. It’s helping others catch up to the win.
So slow down. Help a few more people.
It’s not going anywhere. I promise.
Don’t be hyper-worried if you’ve not totally broken the bondage of every man’s battle, and you don’t have to look at the man in the mirror to see if you’re wild at heart. The short answer is you haven’t, and you’re not. You still get the win.
Remember you’re forgiven, and then just get up when you fall. Along the way, try to help a few others up as well, and take your time.
You’ll get there.
Jesus made sure of it.
God Bless you.