Seek and Thank God for Strong Men in Family, Church (and State)

For Lord’s Day, June 13, 2021

Dear Saints,

Last week I said to one of our elders, “Thanks for being a real man.  A real elder. For doing the hard work on Session that most men fearfully serving in church office really don’t want to do and so they don’t.”  It’s hard to find such men these days who are willing to hold up the arms of the minister and lift up the hearts of the saints for spiritual battle within and without the camp.

The church needs strong men.  Indeed, meek like Moses and the Messiah, but with a meekness that fears God and not men and so when necessary brings strong correction even to the point of making a molten metal drink for those who make idols and call them Jehovah their Deliver or a whip to apply to those whose tables need to be overturned in the Temple.

I thought of the kind of men that we should pray God sustains as leaders in our families and Church family while reading, “John Knox — The Founder of Puritanism”, in, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, by D. M. Lloyd-Jones (a gem to treasure in our library).  Please allow me to share this string of quotes about Knox by Dr. Jones and pray that your husbands, fathers, and church officers would follow in this man’s intrepid footsteps:

“No man has ever been more maligned than John Knox.  This happened to Calvin also; but it is much more true of Knox … Inevitably in these days of ecumenicity a man like John Knox becomes the target of vitriolic attacks … 

“… He was a strong man, a rugged man … there was something that came into his eyes now and again that literally put the fear of God into people.  The most striking thing about him was his ability … his sense of discrimination … astounding energy … generally a characteristic of great preachers also … his shrewdness … Several times he saved the Reformation simply because of this shrewdness … his wisdom … He seemed to know exactly how far he could go at every stage, and he never tried to go beyond that point … 

“ … a model of moderation … his originality …his courage … His great characteristic as a preacher was vehemency.  Great preachers are generally vehement … it arises from the feeling of the power of the gospel.  Vehemence is, of course, characterized by power … 

“According to … Roman Catholics John Knox was more responsible for the abolition of the idolatry of ‘worshipping the host’ in the Communion Service than anyone else.  That illustrates the power of his preaching …

“… his originality of thought, his independence …

“He was a man for his age; a man for his times.  Special men are needed for special times; and God always produces such men.  A mild man would have been useless in the Scotland of the 16th century, and in many other parts of this country.  A strong man was needed, a stern man, a courageous man; and such a man was John Knox.  Martin Luther was of the same mould …  Different men are needed at different times.  In those times an heroic, rugged character was needed; and God produced the man.”

Note that just as with Moses and Jesus, stern strength is not incompatible with meekness as each occasion calls for different responses from godly men per their circumstances and context.  So Paul writes to the unruly Corinthians that they must choose how to be pastored by him at his arrival depending on how they respond to his imperative instructions to repent and discipline someone in the church in 1 Cor. 4:21: What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

Lloyd-Jones continues with qualification to appropriately understand the varying strengths of John Knox:

“He was a most humble man.  The fact that a man stands boldly for the Truth, and does not yield, does not mean that he is not humble.  He is not standing for himself, he is standing for the Truth …

“ … in St Andrews … He would not preach, alleging, and these are his words, ‘that he would not run where God had not called him’ … A chaplain … turned to Knox on a certain day, and called on him to preach and not refuse the burden … the congregation called out that this was so.  Here was a whole congregation calling upon Knox to preach.  What was his response?  ‘At this Knox burst into tears and withdrew to his room.’  He remained in a state of deep depression and anxiety until the day of his first sermon came.  ‘Everyone could see how gloomy he was, for he never smiled, avoided company as much as possible, and spent all his time by himself.’ …

“What a contrast to men who are always ready to run up pulpit steps to preach!  This is true humility, and also the Puritan spirit.  It is ‘the fear of the Lord’, the dread of standing between God and man, and proclaiming ‘the unreachable riches of Christ.’ …

“Knox is generally regarded as being an arrogant man, and one who was rude in the presence of Mary, Queen of Scots.  But that is all based on the fallacy of what makes a man a ‘ladies man’.  It is based also on a misunderstanding of true womanhood, and what a true woman really likes … A true woman likes a strong man; and as you read the life of this man you find that many of his correspondents were women …

“When he was in Geneva two women took a dangerous journey over land and sea in order to be near him and to partake of his ministry.  His correspondence with his mother-in-law, Mrs Bowes, and also Mrs Ann Locke, over many years is proof positive that this man had a most tender spirit when you really got to know him, and when he knew he was dealing with a true and honest and genuine soul …”

Also on my mind thinking about our need for manly ministers, elders, deacons, husbands, fathers, and brothers is what one friend and visitor to our church recently wrote to us: 

“… men struggle to face the reality of their own incompetence when it comes to leadership and we often times, instead of repentance, abdicate our own role by giving our time to other things besides family. And that’s when satan steps in and the women step up and the men take a seat, so to speak. I can hardly point to an example of men over-exercising their authority … because society in general is just that weak and effeminate. Personally, my wife and I have to actively work against the world’s false idea of toxic masculinity even in our own lives because all we have ever known and have been taught was from a feministic egalitarian point of view.”

Recently, Rev. Benjamin Glazer’s article, “No Time for Weak Men”, came across my desktop and it further imports the importance of this devotion.  He is lamenting the influence of “gaslighting”, which he explains is:

“… the attempt to create a false reality which forces another person to accept or do something that they under normal psychological circumstances would never do … this is the way much discourse in the church and society at-large operates. Sometimes this shows up in passive aggressive attempts to motivate decision makers to move in the direction desired by the instigator, but usually it is a reactive action of a party trying to appease the ghosts of societal influence and boogie-men who neither care about nor desire appeasement. The hope is if one gives on this debatable point, which the gaslighted think is the actual lightning rod of grievance, that the gaslighters will then leave them alone to do whatever it is they have decided is more important … Many have thought that was enough, but the mollifiers were soon forced to give up even more. The people who engage in this kind of manipulative behavior really aren’t concerned about the particulars. That is not the goal or purpose of their behavior.

“They want power, and fearful men give it to them by their weakness.

“When it comes to the body of Christ and the mission given to her, the witness to these attempts at gaslighting are undeniably in the Book of Acts and they are the main tool of Satan and his minions throughout the book of Revelation. Whether it was Jewish or Roman authorities there are multiple attempts, either through bribery and threats or the enticements of men’s words, to move the disciples away from the hard edges of gospel truth into soft, weak accommodationists. This is of course the method of theological liberalism. Take away the mean words of Paul and Moses and leave the red words of Christ, yet the culture is not satisfied. We’ll take Jesus, but not too much. Just get rid of that supernatural stuff, or the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality, open-marriage, sexual intercourse at any time of life, etc… There is always an attempt by this line of thought to try and make Jesus safe for the world. If we only give in on this issue they will listen about Christianity. However, this is not possible.

“The Lion of Judah is voracious and powerful. There is no bargaining with Jehovah.

“Christ the Destroyer (1 Cor. 10:9-10) demands whole obedience unto Himself. There is no friendship with the world, nor can there be. The leaders of His church fool themselves if they believe one can have influence with those whose philosophies are founded in order to deny the sovereign and almighty power of God by playing games and cooperating with the world. Light and darkness have nothing in common. 

“The Church must stand convinced of the rightness of its work and the indefatigable nature of its call.

“In John 10 our Lord describes hirelings who run at the first sign of danger. As long as the pay is good and the trouble light, they are content and happy. When the wolf appears they skedaddle … The wolf wins and the sheep are dead, but the shepherd is safe to ply his trade in the midst of another flock. He writes to his friends about his near escape and wonders at the weakness of his ewes. All are complimentary of his temerity. But the sheep are still dead, the wolves received their pound of flesh, and are encouraged to continue wandering to and fro seeking the next gathering to devour.  [See Ezekiel 34:1-4, which he quotes].

“This is not a time for jobholders seeking peace and quietude, to be gaslighted into ever surrender.

“Ministers of the gospel in this age need to be ready and willing to lose their place in polite society to boldly proclaim the whole counsel of God and defend the witness of the church towards the good news of salvation in Christ Alone, and the biblical holiness without which no man will see the Lord. When the people of God cannot even stand up … and bring a defense for the sanctification of sinners one wonders as to why that reason is? The enemies of Christ are never going to be at comity with the purveyors of truth. They hate truth, and want to see it destroyed. 

“One cannot serve both God and mammon, the State, the popular culture, and the King of Kings …”

Thank God for your manly elders.  And pray for them, against the permeating leaven of the spirit of this age, to heed 1 Cor. 16:13: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. [I remind you that the bolded words are actually one word in Greek that means, “act like a man”.]  For today, more and more, even the basic line between masculinity and femininity is being essentially and literally severed.

May you be thankful to have such strong men leading this subsection of the household of God.  And pray that the Lord sends us more of their kind that we would stand as the pillar and ground of the truth.  For such a time as this.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant