Thursday, August 7, 2014

Outward fatherly success

During my morning devotion in Psalms as I was reading through chapter 17, a particular section struck me.  Verses 13 and 14 read "Arise, O Lord!  Confront him, subdue him!  Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O Lord, from men of the world whose portion is in this life.  You fill their womb and treasure; they are satisfied with children and they leave their abundance to their infants."

Here David is crying out to God to actively engage his personal enemies and restrain them from doing evil against him.  This was a common theme in the tumultuous times of David's life.  When his enemies surrounded him, David could be found in petition to God for deliverance.  But something in this Psalm seemed rather poignant and it had nothing to do with David.  It instead has to do with his enemies whom he calls "men of the world". 

David describes them prior to these verses as wicked and deadly enemies (9), calloused in their hearts and arrogant (10), and finally as murderers (11, 12).  Needless to say, they are not spoken of well.  These are attributes we ourselves may have carried prior to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) but they were the traits David uses to describe his enemies of that day as well.  A picture comes to mind of blood-thirsty men, wearing tattered clothing as they wait in the brush to pounce upon David and his men.  They snarl and cackle at the thought of David's blood on their hands gambling amongst themselves who would be the one to strike the first blow.  They are unruly, hateful men with no care for anyone but themselves.  Likely, if you visualize such descriptions, you have one such image in mind right now.  Perhaps a near Eastern BC era "pirate" of sorts.  Now hold that image for a moment and let me restate the rest of David's description of these men.

They are successful and prosper financially.  Their children likewise benefit from their fathers' wealth and live comfortably.  These men even have the gain and foresight to have enough to leave as an inheritance for their children.  All this is described in the latter half of verse 14 as quoted above.  Now rethink that image you had conjured in your mind of these men of the world.  They do not display the outward examples of what we may stereotypically think regarding God's enemies and the enemies of His people. 

These men of the world have stable income, stable homes, and may even outwardly display an example that many believers wish to adopt.  The first group of people that come to mind when I think of this is the cult known as the Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons.  The Mormon men who are fathers often have very well structured homes with polite children and secure business plans for growing prosperity both in their lives and the lives of their children.  Outwardly they display a model that many wish to copy, making their beliefs attractive to others.  We know the reality of what lies beneath this thin veneer though.  The cult of Mormonism is an enslavement to works righteousness, social and practical ostracizing of former or disobedient members, and a plethora of heretical teaching which space does not permit in detailing here (Christ is not God, God is one god among a multitude, faithful Mormon men can become gods, etc.) 

We can often become so caught up in the outward examples of men that we fail to truly examine the fruit.  I don't mean a mere cursory glance from a distance, but active examination of what hangs from their branches.  But in doing so we always remember that grace is to be extended, for no man is fully sanctified this side of Heaven. 

Maybe his finances are not in perfect order.  Maybe he is struggling just to get by, living from paycheck to paycheck.  He wants to get out of debt and tries yet his current situation makes it extremely difficult.  But he understands the enslavement of debt and seeks to break loose from its chains. 

Maybe he and his wife have no children or have a few. Perhaps their children are not sitting with their hands on their laps with smiles and clean pressed clothes.  Maybe they have to be told something more than once, or even be punished for not listening at all.  But he strives to train them to faithfulness (Titus 1:6) impressing upon them the commands of God and the Gospel of Christ.

It is possible that he struggles with catechism, family devotions, and/or family worship.  He desires to be a Deuteronomy 6 father and finds his inconsistency to be the only thing his is consistent in.  But he seeks guidance from his Elders and other godly men for practical examples of how to apply these vital aspects of biblical fatherhood.

Take this man and compare him to the man of the world in Psalm 17:13-14.  If you met both men and knew nothing of them aside from these outward definitions, who would you call faithful?  Who would you say is blessed by God?

A man may appear to have it all together in temporal measures but if he is without Christ, or worse still if he is a hypocrite who professes Christ yet dwells in unrepentant sin, he is still an enemy of God.  No matter how successful in his finances and in his own home this man may appear, he is spiritually bankrupt in regards to God.  He has nothing because his "portion is in this life". 

And yet another man may appear to not have it all together in temporal measures.  His home is not in complete disarray but his children are not the model of perfection which so many command of them.  He struggles everyday but his life is bathed in prayers laced with repentance, petition, and praise on behalf of himself, his wife, and his children.  His success is not measured in numbers but in humility and even the smallest of spiritual fruit which hangs newly on his branches.  He has everything because his portion is in Christ alone.

Maybe our outward measurements of a man need more reforming to Scripture.  Not that we should gloss over unfaithfulness but that we extend a little more grace particularly remembering that sanctification is not an overnight process.

In Christ,
Adam

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