Why am I singling out only guys? As young men, we are being attacked by Satan every day, even though we don’t usually realize it. He wants to attack us when we’re young in our faith and still closely attached to the things of this world. He attacks slyly, and we would be foolish to think that he wouldn’t attack the future leaders of our churches, homes, and schools. And he wants to attack us especially now because he knows his time is running out; he knows that Christ is coming, and coming quickly. Because Satan is especially attacking young men and because we can be so spiritually vulnerable at this time in our lives, I want to encourage young men at this crucial time in the battle.
Let’s first read together Romans 13:11-14. “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting (revelry) and drunkenness, not in chambering (licentiousness)1 and wantonness (lewdness)2, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Do we know what time it is? Paul is telling us here what the time is on God’s clock. God’s clock reads, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” We are living in the end times, and there are only a few final ticks before our Savior comes this last time. He prophesied of the signs that will point to His second coming, and some of those signs are occurring now. People have been telling us, “Lo here is Christ; or, lo, he is there,” and He is not (Mark 13:21). The world is failing to even show natural affection (II Tim. 3:3). Young men of the world, our peers with whom we rub shoulders with week in and week out, are taking much pleasure in unrighteousness because God is sending them a strong delusion so that they are believing the deadly lies of Satan (II Thess. 2:1-12). But really, “of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly…” (I Thess. 5:1) With all of the teeming wickedness of this world so close to us, weknow that God’s watch definitely reads “night.” And not only is it night-time, but the night-time is far spent. Just before the sun rises in the morning the night is at its darkest. So it is with the time right now on God’s clock, as we near the time when Christ comes. The black and dark night of wickedness is so dense around us that it is inky. These are the spiritually dangerous days that you and I, as young men, are living in before Christ returns.
Because these are the dark days of wickedness, and because the night is far spent, “it is high time to awake out of sleep” (Rom. 13:11). We, as young men, need to wake up. On this morning, with just a few ticks before the dawn of Christ’s second coming, we need to shake off our sleepiness and laziness. The night is at its darkest, and we really feel like sleeping more … but we need to get up! Christ is pulling at us, shaking our arm, even giving us a few good hard shoves and saying, “Your salvation is now nearer than when you first believed—the day is at hand! Get up!” We’ve been sleeping in the darkness by living and dying for sports, selfishly pursuing girls for our own satisfaction and lust, and seeking approval from our friends (and not from our Lord). And I’m guilty right there with you. We’ve stepped out on the court or field seeking for the praise of men. We’ve been more concerned about standing strong for ourselves and our own “image” in front of people than being concerned about standing strong for our Lord when His name is taken in vain or His glory is thrown into the dirt. We’ve been told by the world and we’ve even told ourselves that now is the time in our lives when we can live it up for ourselves. We’re in our prime, with few responsibilities, and we’re not “tied down” (as they sadly say) by marriage. So we foolishly think, “I’ll never get another chance at this kind of freedom,” and we put aside the thought of marriage for now because we’d like to avoid godly, honorable responsibilities. We’ll enjoy the single life as much as we can, gaining whatever pleasures our money and time can afford to fulfill our youthful lusts. We’ll devote our God-given talents and masculine energy towards ourselves. By doing all these things, we toss aside God and His church from its necessary central position in our lives and place the big ME there instead. By thinking this way, we’re sound asleep spiritually. We’re sleeping, ignoring the coming kingdom of Christ!
That is a sleep from which we’ve got to wake up; we’re not living as if Christ is coming soon! Rather, we’re living like we’re totally unaware of the imminent, grand marriage feast of Christ when He comes, almost as if we’re no longer invited to that celebration (Matt. 22:2-10). Or, even worse, we’re living as if we don’t even want that celebration to happen! We can say to ourselves, “I’ll get serious when I need to, when I get a little older,” and we can arrogantly toe the edge of the cliff, hoping to play with the fire of friendship with the world and not get burned. However, that’s exactly what Satan wants us to do and think. He wants us to think those things because then he knows that we don’t care about Christ’s coming marriage feast. Then Satan’s got us right where he wants us. Satan doesn’t have to get young men to leave the church outwardly by getting erased or excommunicated in order to destroy us. All he has to do is get us to think that the time is ours, that we have the time to live it up now for ourselves and seek to be men of God later. But there is no later with God when He demands obedience from us now. If we think we have the time for “later,” or if we think that our Lord delays His coming, then Satan will soon strike the death blow with the fiery darts of lies and temptations for which we’ll be unprepared. And even worse, Christ will come and find us unprepared and wrapped up in the pleasures of this earth (see Matt. 24:45-51).
Do you know how I know some of the specific areas in which young men can be so weak? I know because I have to struggle and struggle against all the temptations, too, and too often I’ve been tempted to quit struggling against them. Why? Because in those times and moments I haven’t put on the “armor of light.”
What you and I need to do is “cast off the works of darkness,” and “put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12b, from our opening passage, remember?). If we’re truly awake now, and we see the inky darkness of our sin to which our eyes had been closed, we’re going to want to hastily (and we mean hastily, too—fast and furiously!) cast off those works of darkness and put on Christ and His “armor of light.” This is the same armor that we learn about in Ephesians 6—the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the prepared gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. We could study in depth about what putting on each of those pieces of spiritual armor means for us as young men, but for now just imagine that you and I have put on a full suit of actual medieval armor. If we’ve got that clunky, protective armor on, there is no way we will be able to fall asleep! Even more, by putting that armor on consciously, we’re preparing and setting our minds to fight. So it is when we’ve put our spiritual armor on. We won’t fall asleep with our “armor of light” on because we’re busy battling our spiritual foes. That is how we must put on Christ—by putting on His armor of light.
With our eyes focused on Christ, we’re going to fight in the thick of the battle, and we’re going to put on this armor by being in the Word and in prayer. Before, we’ve been fooling around behind the battle lines like little boys, and by our selfishness and foolishness we’ve been hurting our brothers and sisters in Christ. We used to hear the quick warnings of the knights and soldiers (our pastors and parents) on the battle front shouting, “Watch out!” and we’ve barely managed to scramble out of the way of the arrows and cannon shot of our enemies just in time. But now we’re going to fight on the front lines. We’re going to be using our shield of faith to quench those fiery arrows of the devil. We’re going to go on the offensive with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” against our sins, learning how to use our sword effectively, not clumsily (Eph. 6:17). We’re going to live in the Word of God so that we can use it to witness and testify of our King Jesus, bringing others to join Christ’s camp of Truth. We’re going to be praying long and hard to lay hold of His spiritual agility and energy to battle long and hard for Christ like men of God.
First, however, we need to get our orders and training from the Captain of our salvation. We can put on our suits and look really nice to go to church, and we can totally look and act the part of a soldier of God, but if we don’t have real soldier hearts as men of God, then we won’t have a clue how to fight. We need to have a Christ-like mind in order to be real soldiers of God (see I Cor. 2:16, Phil. 2:5-8). Christ needs to transform our selfish minds into minds that deny ourselves in serving and washing feet. He says to young men, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men (i.e., be brave men), be strong.” And yet, in the very next breath, He says, “Let all your things be done with charity” (I Cor. 16:13-14). Christ is telling us to stand up, stand strong, be brave in Him; and yet in the same command He tells us to do all things “with love,” His love. We need to be praying for His strength to endure hardship, to be strong and firm for Him while at the same time being loving, gentle, and kind. He commands us to be courageous to love and to serve as men of God. We must seek to bless people and to encourage them, and not to seek to gain whatever we can get from them.
Christ next gives us the command to “untangle ourselves from the affairs of this life; that we may please him who hath chosen us to be soldiers” (II Tim. 2:4 paraphrase). In our modern world, we’re so distracted by the lights, sights, and sounds that flash at us: promises for fake and fleeting gratification for our flesh. Let’s pray that God’s powerful grace would untangle us from the world’s pursuit for more money for buying, better cars for driving, and an easier life for living. We can be filled with so many of the earthly affairs and desires during the week that they are still twirling around in our heads on Sunday, distracting us so that we hardly hear any of Christ’s words to us. We have to purify ourselves from these distracting desires so that we can be focused soldiers. I know that if I’m truly battling hard, I still have such a hard struggle to fight my own besetting sins (Heb. 12:1). I can’t be distracted with the extra weight of earthly pleasures and cares of this world, too! If I am distracted, I hinder my own struggle to fight and to pray seeking God’s strength against sin.
If we do put on Christ, we will be noticeably different than many other young guys. He will mark us and people will know that we belong to Him. We will stick out like strobe lights in this inky dark world of sin. But we don’t put Him on just to be different. We put Him on because we are determined that His work in and through us will not be hid. We are determined that His refreshing and renewing love for us will refresh and renew those around us. Let’s rely, then, upon His love in true humility, knowing that there is no way that we can even begin to be young men of godliness of ourselves. Listen to Psalm 119:74: “They that fear Thee will be glad when they see us; because we have hoped in Thy Word.” Our hope is in Him and His Word, and not in ourselves! Isn’t that exciting! When God’s people see a generation of godly young men whose lives are obvious testimonies to their sole reliance and hope in God, they are so encouraged and they praise God’s grace. What a testimony that is to the faithfulness of God!
God isn’t looking to use for His kingdom only the athletic, the popular, the self-confident, the extremely-smart. Some guys may think, “Well, I don’t have any talents to give. I just don’t have the smarts like ____, or the outgoing personality like ____, or the athletic abilities like ____.” However, God’s did not create us to have our chests out, chins up, and shoulders squared in order to put in a good showing, having only an outward aura of a man of confidence, purpose, and ability. God created us (and all His people) with talents with which to seek the kingdom. We can’t compare ourselves to others and conclude that because we don’t have the talents they have we don’t have any talents with which to serve the Lord. God did create each of us with certain gifts and abilities with this purpose in mind: that we would explore those talents and develop them to their fullest to serve Him and His kingdom. So let’s do that. We were created to seek His kingdom with all that we are and have.
So let’s not worry about what others think, worry about what will be accepted, worry about what is in and cool, worry about what we look like in the eyes of men. Rather, let’s despise the gaining of attention to ourselves, and be concerned that our life is always a testimony to God and His glory, especially with the talents that He has created in us. Let’s forget about relegating ourselves to our culture’s “manly” mold, having an attitude of stoic indifference towards the well-being of church, family, friends, girlfriend, and women in general. If we put on Christ, we’d much rather show loving concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for our siblings’ and friends’ welfare. We’d much rather serve God and His Church (and therefore supposedly look “unmanly” and “soft” to the world) than conform ourselves to the world’s idiotic definition of manliness.
God desires to make us to be faithful, not unmanly and soft. Faithful men are men who are solid. These men are solid because they know their Lord, and they pattern their “manliness” after the example of Christ. Faithful men are strong in heart because they are strong in Christ. These faithful men stand for the Truth no matter the cost, following His will from the heart even though they will be despised by others, even within their church. They learn obedience by enduring suffering and pain (Heb. 5:8), and their minds are blessed with a continual emptying of self and a “full-filling” with Christ that gives and serves others. Godly men find their confidence and strength in knowing the loving will of God for themselves and for others, and they have learned thankful obedience through prayer. These are guys who watch, guard, and protect their brothers in Christ, their sisters in Christ, and their own hearts. They stand fast in the faith, brave and strong in the Lord (I Cor. 16:13). And they do this all because they love God and their Savior so much; He is everything to them.
Finally, (and this subject is part of faithfulness, too!) … we like the ladies, don’t we? It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? That’s a good thing, but what is not good is that too often we’re trying to be ladies’ men around whom the ladies love to flock. We’re trying to get whatever we want from them. Too easily do we put on an impressive (and really a not-so-impressive-at-all) show of the world’s version of manliness by saying and doing all the “right” things. Let’s forget that and put on the only perfect, real man that ever lived. Let’s put on Jesus Christ and seek to follow His example of godliness, even in our dating. Let’s put on Him and be looking (not for all the girls we could date, but) for the right one to marry and love in Christ. Any girl that isn’t really attracted to you because you’ve put on Christ isn’t worth your time anyway. Besides, putting on Him makes it easier for you to pick out the right one, and you won’t have to worry about whether you’ve made the right choice either! This doesn’t guarantee that God will give you “the perfect girl” really soon. But if God did create one for you, then your putting on Christ will be really attractive to her.
We’ve got a long way to go in following after Christ as young men of God, don’t we? I know I do; I’m still just a little boy stumbling after Christ, falling flat on my face again and again. Really, that’s what we’ll be and be doing the rest of our life (when we’re 15, 50, and 93)—little boys stumbling after Christ. But the Savior who saved us from our sins and selfishness, and who is now ruling at God’s right hand in sovereign power, is the same King who walked His whole earthly life as the only One Who lived as the perfect real man of God. He has been our age and has faced the same temptations and struggles that we face now as young men, but He never failed His Lord! Now He fights for us against our enemies of lust and selfishness, and He doesn’t leave us to our own ideas and strength to figure out what it means for us to be faithful young men. He says, “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (I John 2:13b). He’s given us Himself for an example, and He’s given us grace that now strengthens us for our nearly impossible calling. He’s already gained the victory, and now He’s making us to be the men He desires for His kingdom now and in heaven. So let’s focus our eyes on our Captain with hearts full of confidence that He will lead us to His victory over our sinfulness. “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (I Thess. 5:24, check out vs. 23, too). In that confidence, then, “Rise up O men of God.”3 We don’t rise up, from our sleep with some fleeting feeling of revival or in hasty foolishness, but in loving obedience and focused reliance on Him… “for the Lord is calling faithful men.”4
1 Youngblood, Ronald F. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 765. “Licentiousness—undisciplined and unrestrained behavior, especially a flagrant disregard of sexual restraints (Mark 7:22, II Cor. 12:21, KJV). The Greek word translated as licentiousness means “outrageous conduct,” showing that licentious behavior goes beyond sin to include a disregard for what is right.”
2 Youngblood, Ronald F. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 766. “Lewdness—preoccupation with sex and sexual desire; lust (Judg. 20:6; Hos. 2:10; 6:9; Rom. 13:13). The Hebrew word translated as lewdness means an evil plan, purpose, or scheme; a wicked thought, especially with reference to sexual unchastity; ideas and practices that are indecent and disgraceful.”
3 Merrill, William P.. Rise Up, O Men of God. Music by William H. Walter.
4 Paris, Twila. Faithful Men. “Perennial: Songs for the Seasons of Life.” Sparrow Recordings. Online streaming.