By Dan Sardinas
What do you really believe about yourself? One does not have to listen to culture for very long to see the redefinition of a man. Men are usually seen as lazy, stupid, inferior, childish, and sex-crazed. The sad thing is that for many men, some or all of these characteristics are true. What is worse is that these characteristics are sometimes praised and even encouraged. This doctrine is usually preached from the mediums of television, radio, movies, and advertising of all sorts. Over time, the outrageous becomes normal and what we thought was foolish becomes praiseworthy.
The astounding and sobering truth remains that everyone is a disciple. We all follow someone or something that we think is better or greater. Even the proudest man is following an image of who he really thinks he needs to be. This comes from a steady diet of being preached to by the voices that surround us every day. These voices are attempting to identify you and I by their standards and rules. Watch a typical sporting event and the messages that are preached are repetitious. Real men get drunk, score with beautiful women, and have lots of expensive toys. Many men attempt to live this life as if this identity is the longing they’ve been seeking.
The Pressure of False Identities
As a dad of three young children…I’ve digested my fair share of children’s movies. This weekend I took my children to see the movie about a cave family named the Croods. It was an entertaining movie about an overprotective father who is out of touch with reality. He cares for his family too much to let them “live” and shelters them – literally – in a cave. Eventually, everyone turns on the father and respects someone else worthy of his or her liking. The moral of the story is about how “anyone can change,” even an overbearing, dumb, and out of touch caveman. I believe this story is typical of today’s man. Many men fail to meet the standards of others and decide that they need to cave to the pressures of a false identity. Of course, all fathers need to change; there is no perfect earthly father. But are the voices we are allowing to influence us worthy of consideration?
What’s really at stake for men is a loss of identity. Many men have no idea who they are or what they are supposed to do. We have lost the distinctions and calling of God upon our lives. As we seek the answers to understand our true identity, it will be natural for us to run to anything that brings us pleasure. We are worshipers by design, but idolaters by nature. We seek to understand ourselves by anything that makes us feel good and may even give a temporary purpose. Don’t let culture define you, nor let yourself be defined by yourself. Instead, be defined by God and his Word. The One who gave you the breath of life and your existence is also the one to reveal your true identity. As believers in Jesus, our identity is rooted in him.
Preaching the Gospel to Yourself
Here is a classic example of how Paul was helping the Corinthians understand the art of personally preaching the gospel to oneself.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)
People reading this passage may be squirming until they come upon the six most beautiful words of the passage: “And such were some of you.” Wow. Paul is telling them that even though they were guilty of these specific sins, the gospel has freed them! Not only has the gospel freed them, but also they are no longer worthy of such identity! Why? They were cleaned, made holy, given right standing before God! The gospel changes everything.
This was a hard lesson that I desperately had to learn. I became a person who was greatly self absorbed with success. It was what motivated me in ministry. Even though I would never have admitted it…I preached for my own glory. My energy was fueled by the praise of others and making others happy. My purpose was to be respected, loved, and honored. I idolized ministry and my “career.” It had no real substance and foundation.
Eventually, my tired heart and soul awoke from gospel amnesia to the beauty of the gospel again. I wish I could give you a step-by-step plan to make this “work” in your life, but it is God’s work. However, here are three principles that I discovered that helped me preach the gospel to myself every day, remembering my true identity in Christ.
1. Real men maximize the Glory of God and minimize their own.
The pressure for men to succeed is overwhelming. Don’t be pressured to impress your wife, kids, or boss to feel like a true man. The very epitome of a man was Jesus. He was a servant who humbly loved his Father and others.
Preaching the gospel to yourself does not begin with you. It begins with God. John the Baptist said it perfectly when he proclaimed, “He must increase and I must decrease.” It begins by praising and worshiping a Holy God for who he is. By nature we are self-centered, glory-seeking idolaters. Nobody has to teach us this truth. Sin, by its very nature, is worship. It’s worship of me and my glory (Rom 3:23). As a prideful, self-absorbed pastor, the Lord showed me that I was attempting to take what rightfully belonged to him. The gospel became what was for me and my glory. Jesus died for ME; Jesus gave ME a purpose; Jesus gave ME hope. I must be a special dude – he did this all for me!
Wrong. God is for me, but the underlying truth to the reality is that God is for himself. The gospel is first and foremost for the Glory of God. I then began to see everything in this light. Pain, suffering, success, pleasure, joy… it only makes sense when I realize, like Matt Chandler says, “God is for God.”
2. Real men emphasize God’s story and establish their true identify from it.
Don’t be tempted to listen to the lies of the world and find hope there. Understand that the true longing that your heart craves is to be joyful in God. Preaching the gospel to yourself involves actually knowing the gospel message. You’d be surprised at how much you forget or even trivialize the gospel. Is the gospel you are proclaiming just a bunch of clichés? Does it hold any real substance? Is it truly biblical?
In my life, I was turning the gospel into a story of what I did for God instead of what God did for me. The gospel became all about sharing with others instead of what God was doing within me. I had allowed the gospel to become more about the good works of Jesus on earth and less about his substitutionary and wrath-absorbing death on the cross. We are lost and hell-worthy sinners, who have been saved by the sovereign grace of the Living God. He poured out his wrath on Jesus, because of our sin, so that he can redeem a people who he has been calling, through his Spirit, from all tribes, tongues, and ages for his Glory. Memorize it. Learn it. Surround yourself with it. Download podcasts and read books from godly, gospel-centered men.
3. Real men energize themselves in God’s victory and realize they don’t have anything to prove.
The bigger and the better things of life easily sway some men. Some strive for bigger houses, jobs, and paychecks. Others find their victory elsewhere by sexual conquests and achievements. Preaching the gospel to yourself involves resting in Christ’s victory over sin, hell, and death.
It was amazing to me as I looked over my life, my preaching, and my writing how self-centered I had become. I was focused on my victory and what I had done for God. The gospel is the announcement of God to a lost world that he has the final word. For the first time, I learned to rest my heart in what he had already done and not what I could do for him. I realized that I didn’t need to please others. I didn’t need others to accept or even love me. I didn’t need to prove anything to anybody. All that I needed I had already possessed. In the gospel I stand accepted, approved of, and delighted in. I don’t need to try to impress God. The victory of my life now stands not only in Jesus’ wrath absorbing death, but also in his law fulfilling life. Jesus pleased the Father for me. Jesus fulfilled God’s law completely for me. He is in me and I am in him. This is the hope of glory. This is why Jesus says, “Without me you can do nothing.”
Be Encouraged in Christ
This is why it’s extremely urgent to preach the gospel to yourself daily. We need to drown out the many voices around us that try to convince us of who we are or need to be. We need to constantly remind ourselves what God has done for us, to us and through us for his Glory. Even Paul said he had to “die daily”. In his letter to the Corinthians he had to “remind” them of the gospel. In all of his letters he preaches the gospel to the saints and encourages them in it. The gospel was not a ticket to an event for Paul; it was identification for life.
If your gospel is just somewhere you go when you die, you will forget it often on the journey. If your gospel is just an appointment on a calendar for when you die, you will struggle. However, if the gospel becomes the reality of who you are every day, because of God’s grace and goodness, it will be your strength! Preach the gospel to yourself daily! Everyday you are preached to by what the world thinks you need to become. Starting today, remind yourself everyday of who you are in Christ. You are a disciple.
May the voice of the gospel be louder to you than the voices of others.
Dan Sardinas is the author of Gospel Confusion: Confessions of a Pastor. He is married with three children and has served in ministry as a senior pastor, church planter, and youth pastor. Follow him on Twitter at @dansardinas.