Men's Fraternity: The Quest for Authentic Manhood

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    THE QUEST FOR AUTHENTIC MANHOOD

    11. The Wounded Heart


    This is Session 11 of Men’s Fraternity where we’re going to be talking about a final wound. We have 2 more sessions before we take our Christmas break but, guys, here at the beginning as we talk about this final wound, I want you to know I think the next two messages are the most important messages a man could hear concerning Authentic Manhood. So these are very, very important truths that we’re going to be talking about.

    Up until this point, we’ve been talking mostly about wounds that have been inflicted upon us through our environment. You notice on your outline, I call them the ‘Nurture Wounds.’ Maybe you grew up in a difficult environment. You maybe grew up in very unique circumstances that you feel shaped or even warped, for a period of time, your life. Maybe it was the lack of friends or the lack of family. Maybe you identified real strongly with the fact that dad wasn’t there for me, and because he wasn’t, it left this huge open void in my soul. Or maybe it was the fact that mom moved in and overly bonded with you. Maybe it was the fact that you’ve never had people come along side of you who could point the way.

    So life has been just one series of disappointing guesses after another, and some of those guesses have hit some very serious dead-ends. Last week, when we talked about having a mentor, maybe there was something inside of you that said, ‘Man! I would’ve given anything in my life to have someone older than me, who admired me, come along side of me and point the way.’

    Maybe, as you thought about your life you said, ‘you know, those have been the kinds of wounds that have altered my social behavior, the same way a physical wound alters physical behavior.’ Those are what I call ‘Nurture Wounds.’

    But the wound we’re going to talk about this morning is a wound that goes beyond nurturing. It’s a profound wound that doesn’t have anything to do with environment at all. It’s the wound that’s stamped on our nature from birth, and my goal this morning is to convince each of you that you have this wound.

    Remember I said at the beginning that every man carries a suitcase. Do you remember the suitcase that was up here? I told you that how a man unpacks that suitcase will determine the character and the quality of his life later on? Unpacking our suitcase is a necessary first step in the quest for authentic manhood.

    We have been unpacking that suitcase but, maybe along the way as we did that, you’ve been making your checklist and you’ve said, ‘Listen, I had a good dad growing up. My mom wasn’t overly involved in my life at all. I had friends in my life, some really good friends – and we’re still friends. On top of that, I’ve even had a couple of mentors who have helped me along the way…’, so as we’ve been going through those wounds, you’ve been checking them off and said, ‘hey! My life has been pretty good. If some of these guys have been hurt like that – I haven’t.’

    So along the way, you’ve maybe excused yourself from all of that and said, ‘I’ve been a guy who’s had a rich background.’ Let’s just say you’re one of those few good men, all right? You don’t have a suitcase. All you’ve got is a briefcase. That’s all you carry. But if you’re one of those quality guys who had a rich background, I want you to know you still carry this wound. There may only be one wound in there – but it’s there, so we’re going to open it up and we’re going to pull it out.

    Here it is. This is what you carry within that small briefcase. Every man carries it. It’s this black heart and it represents a defective nature we’re all born with that can still corrupt our lives, no matter how good or how healthy our background. We’ve had it all: a good dad, a good mom, good friends, good mentors, but we still have a defective heart. A defective nature that Paul expressed this way in Romans 7. I want you to look on the screen and see if you can identify with this. Here’s what he says:

    “For that which I am doing, I do not understand. For I am practicing what
    I wouldn’t; I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I’m doing the
    very thing I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells in me – that is, in my
    flesh, for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me from the body of this death?”

    Now let me just ask you guys, man to man, have you had that experience? The good that you know you can’t do, the wishing is present in you, but the doing of the good is not! And the very thing that you don’t want to do, you end up doing, and you ask yourself ‘why?’ Deep within there’s a sinister force that we need to talk about, and every man must come to terms with that force if he’s going to be an authentic man in life.

    Years ago, in the 70s – I was doing graduate work at Lewis and Clark College. I was working on my Master’s Degree in Counseling/Psychology. And I was introduced there to a number of differing psychoanalytic approaches to human behavior. One of the things I came to understand as we looked at the different approaches to human behavior is that, many of the approaches I was being presented with at Lewis and Clark, all had a common root. They were all built on a common foundation and that common foundation was the basic goodness of man.

    I remember one particular textbook that we were given. On the front of it had this innocent looking little girl, standing at the beach with her arms outstretched. It was just really the picture of innocence. And the title of the book was Born to Win. It was a 70’s kind of book.

    That was an audacious presupposition about life, because who says that we’re all born to win? And if we’re all born to win -- since we have this plethora of psychological facilitators in America constantly promoting self-esteem and self-awareness, and self-empowerment and self-understanding and self-fulfillment – if all that’s taking place in our culture and we’re born to win, then why aren’t we all winners? Isn’t that, at least, an honest question to ask?

    If we’re born to win, why is it we oftentimes lose? And why is it that I oftentimes screw up in life, because I actually find myself doing the very things I don’t want to do! And I’ve told myself over and over again, I need to stop doing that! I see these ugly things of life and yet, I’m pulled right into them. If I’m born to win, why do I do those kinds of things? Maybe – just maybe – it’s because we don’t know the real truth about ourselves.
    We haven’t looked deeply into our briefcase or suitcase and understood the most profound wound of all, that’s not of nurture – but is in our very nature. Today in America, we want answers about why we aren’t winning. Most of the answers being offered today on why we’re losing out in life, are what I call ‘half-truths.’ What I mean by ‘half-truths’ are answers offered to us that have some validity to them, but they don’t go all the way at explaining why we are the way we are.

    I want to give you four of the half-truths that affect life in America today. Here’s the first.

    1. Some say we’re losing out because of poor self-esteem. The self-esteem credo goes like this: “there are not bad people; only people who think badly about themselves. Winners feel good about themselves.” And so in schools, all across America, you have schoolchildren chanting the mantra: ‘I am somebody. I am somebody’, to help them feel good about themselves - and to feel good about themselves regardless of their circumstances. As a result, positive self-esteem is way up in America today.
    In a survey in 1940, 11% of women and 20% of men agreed with the statement: “I am an important person.” That was 1940. In 1995, 66% of all women and 62% of all men agree that “I am an important person.” So, we’re feeling good about ourselves, and personally, I’m okay with that. But here’s the point: does that mean we’re living better? The fact we’re feeling better; are we living better? Has it helped divorce in America? Or drug addiction? Or the crime problem? Or child abuse? Or spousal abuse, or racism – just to name a few? Is America better off morally today than it was in 1940? Are we living at a higher standard – winning more than people were winning in 1940? I don’t think so.

    Students from six different nations were asked to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question after they had taken a standardized math test. The question was: “’Yes’ or ‘no’: I am good at mathematics.” Six different nations participated in the survey -- young people – from 6 different nations. After they took the test, ‘I am good mathematics.’ American students scored the highest on that question. 68% of those American students said “I am good at mathematics,” even though they scored last in the actual mathematics test. Korean students, on the other hand, only 25% of the Korean students said “I am good at mathematics.” They scored first in the world in the actual test. Now here’s the point: Feeling good about yourself is no guarantee that you’re going to do good or that you’re going to be good.

    2. Secondly, some say we’re losing out because others are to blame. One of the big problems for men is they think their problems are all out there in life. Over the last 30 years, author Charles Sikes has called America “increasingly a nation of victims” where our national anthem is the whine. We like to whine, we like to blame; we like to say its other peoples’ faults. Blame is commonplace everywhere.

    I remember years ago when they had the great LA riots. Do you remember that? Do you remember the scene where we watched on TV as two men, Damian Williams and Henry Watson, pulled a young guy named Reginald Denny out of a truck? Then they took a brick and threw it at him, crushing his skull in. Then they did a victory dance over him? And everybody got to watch that on TV.

    It was not the fact that anybody lacked evidence, but when it went to court, the two guys who did that to Reginald Denny were dismissed and acquitted by a legal defense team that convinced the jury those 2 guys did that because they simply got over-stimulated during the riots. And then last night, I was watching NBC news, and watched a group of lawyers who are now suing McDonalds. In the court are a bunch of fat kids, saying that McDonalds caused them to be overweight. We’re a nation of victims who love to blame others for our problems and see that all our issues are out there.

    That’s why I’m losing. You know guys in particular whine a lot. They say, ‘if my wife could just be better’, ‘if my job could just be better’, ‘if I just had somebody who cared about me – more friends – or this or that. If all these things out here could just get right, then I would win!’ ‘It’s not my fault – it’s somebody else’s fault.’ ‘And that’s why I’m not the man that I should be. Is that true? Are you losing because of somebody else?

    3. Third, we’re offered the half-truth that we’re losing because of a lack of education. Now, I’ve always been somebody who has been a strong proponent of education, but somewhere in our past we began to assume that if we’re educated enough, we’ll act responsibly. So, let me ask you – Christmas is coming, and you know you shouldn’t overeat. Will you?

    I was at the waffle house the other day and a guy came in and sat down in a booth next to me and we struck up a conversation. We were the only ones in there and he began to tell me how he had lost his job. I was kind of empathizing with him, and as we talked, he said it was because he had heart problems. He had had a triple bypass and he looked pretty weak. He had just gotten out of the hospital. As he was talking the waitress came up and he ordered 3 eggs, a double order of hash browns, covered, scattered and smothered and a double order of bacon. I thought ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’

    Are we educated about the value of exercise? Do we do it? You see, most people don’t do it. We are the most out-of-shape generation in the history of America. High-risk groups are told all the time that their life is on the line with unprotected sex; with smoking; with drug abuse; with binge drinking. Does that stop students from doing it? No. Something deeper in us is the problem.

    Child experts tell us the healthiest and best environment for a child growing up is to have a parent in the home, nurturing that child, especially in the earliest years of life – ages 1 through 4. The reason for that is because most of a child’s emotional, social and intellectual health is set in the first 4 years of life and every child expert tells us it’s absolutely essential that that child in the first 4 years of life get maximum parental attention. I could give you volumes of information on that truth.

    And yet, with all of that coming out, more and more moms and dads are abandoning the home for the workplace. In the year 2010 over 80% of all mothers with children under 4 will be back in the workplace 6 weeks after they give birth, so all that education means nothing. And it doesn’t solve the problem about why we’re losing out on life. Could it be that there’s a deeper problem we’re uncomfortable talking about?

    4. Then some say today, we’re losing out because we are defective. That’s become a great, new revelation to Americans. Scientists tell us that we were born this way. The reason we act out the way we do is because of genetic issues. It gives us a reason to exonerate ourselves and say ‘it’s not my fault – I was born this way.’ Or when we are offered help we say, ‘the reason I can’t stop is because I was born this way.’

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    CONTINUED....


    I want you to listen very closely, because when we say ‘I was born this way’, we are starting to get real close to what theologians have been saying for 2,000 years. Your problem – your most fundamental problem, Augustine would have said, back in 400 AD, or Martin Luther would have said in 1500 AD, or John Calvin, or Charles Wesley in the 1700s, or any number of Popes through the centuries – or Billy Graham in our day. They would say, ‘you know, you’re getting close because your problem is in your birth.’
    Unfortunately, when people today say ‘I was born this way’ they’re not thinking like a theologian. They’re thinking a lot like my friend who wrote the following article. He said this:

    “The news arrived via the airwaves, just as I was devouring my second helping of spaghetti. Fighting back a smile, NBC’s Tom Brokaw made the announcement that millions of Americans like myself have been waiting years to hear. The details were startling. Scientists at Rockefeller University in New York City had discovered a fat gene. What joy those 2 words released in my soul. As one who struggles with his weight, I immediately put down my fork and listened attentively, ignoring the pile of food in front of me. With rapturous delight, I watched as Dr. Jeffrey Friedman explained this Copernican discovery. For 8 years, Dr. Friedman, who gets my vote for the Nobel Prize by the way, and his team studied some very fat mice. In the laboratory, these portly rodents ate everything in sight, and eventually weighed 3 times as much as normal mice. And Dr. Friedman and his team concluded that the difference between the
    Arnold Schwarzenegger mice and the Roseann Arnold mice was a single gene: the fat gene.
    The scientists believed that this same defective gene has a counterpart in the human population, and since 60 million Americans are obese -- 20% heavier that is than their ideal weight – the Rockefeller Study has given new hope to people like myself whose wardrobes consist of sweatpants and tight-fitting T-shirts. Of course, I’ve never tested myself to determine whether or not I actually have the fat gene, but I know I do. My experience confirms its presence. For example, when I eat the buffet at Shoney’s my entire DNA strand quivers with ecstasy. On top of this, I never once heard my brain say, ’it’s time to stop eating.’ In my case a test for the fat gene would be a complete waste of time, because some truths are self-evident. You are probably curious as to whether or not I exercise. I don’t. The fat gene is responsible for this as well. Now, if science could only discover a gene for TV addiction.”

    Now, you know, I share that -- and we kind of laugh at that, because half-truths like that allow us to escape the deeper truths about ourselves. The deeper truths about ourselves are that, now guys look at me, we have a spiritual problem. That’s something people don’t like to talk about. For some reason, they don’t like to go really deep and discover that deep within themselves there really is a heart wound. Bill Bennett has said recently there is disturbing reluctance in our time to talk seriously about spiritual matters. There is an aversion to spiritual language in our world today.

    What I want to do now is just take a moment and begin to introduce you to the background of this particular wound. It is fundamental to everything in life – social, moral, practical, and spiritual. Even though it may be uncomfortable to talk about and disturbing to contemplate, this wound alone provides the context for everything in our life. In the Bible it’s the principle that makes everything else in the Bible make sense. It’s the reason why we are the way we are much of the time. It is the hidden truth behind all of life’s trouble. So what is it?

    On your outline, it is that cursed condition known as the ‘depravity wound.’ Now that may be a new term for some of you here today. This black heart that I held up you can write over it “the depravity wound.” It’s something not talked about, even in churches. Yet, I find that surprising because it’s the backdrop from which, and to which, everything else in the Bible speaks. It’s like a running back who tears his ACL. If you’ve ever seen that happen in a game, the player doesn’t go over to the sideline and they tell him ‘it’s just a sprain.’ They don’t just put some tape on it and send him back into the game. Because when you tear your ACL, it‘s the absolute worst injury your knee can have. The knee is totaled, and something much more significant has to take place in order for him to be healed.

    I want you to know it’s the same way in society. Oftentimes we’re trying to heal society with tape and with a quick scope job, like self-esteem or blaming it on a gene, or build a better self-esteem. Somehow that’s going to get us back in the game because ‘we were born to win!’ But I want you to know, if the heart is torn – and I believe it is – a little tape and a scope job is not going to make us win.

    Here’s what the Scripture says about our heart. Look at what it says in Jeremiah 17. It says this:
    “The heart (now he’s speaking to each one of us; your could put in ‘my
    heart’) is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can
    understand it?”

    Ecclesiastes says it this way. This is the way King Solomon said it. He said, furthermore, as he had looked at the world, looked at life, and examined men, he said:

    “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts
    throughout their lives.”

    There’s a sickness deep within and it wasn’t given by mom or dad, or friends or the lack of friends, or in my environment, or circumstances. I was born with this sickness, a defective heart. Now for some of you guys this may come as a complete surprise, kind of like a glass of cold-water-in-the-face. Have you ever awakened in the morning and thought to yourself as you looked in the mirror and said, ‘you know, I’m depraved. There’s something wrong with my nature’? Probably not. And yet, it’s fundamental to all of what life is and to understanding what’s wrong with man.

    The Bible says that when mankind fell because of Adam, the whole human race was cursed by God. I want you to listen to what Martin Lloyd Jones, a great theologian, said in his book The Plight of Man. It’s still a classic. He said:

    “Man has fallen away from God and as a result his whole nature has become
    perverted. Man’s whole bias is away from God by nature. His god is himself.
    His own abilities and powers; his own desires are all for himself. He objects
    to the demands that God makes on him. Furthermore, man likes and covets
    the things which God prohibits and dislikes the things and the kind of life
    God calls him to. These are not mere dogmatic statements. These are facts,
    which alone can explain the moral muddle and ugliness that characterizes
    our life.”

    In other words, when I go through the day and interact with the situations that confront me, deep within myself is something that’s twisting everything and oftentimes bringing me into situations that fail for me. And I want to blame, I want to point in some direction and say ‘this is the problem’, but where the fingers need to be pointed is back to me – and to my very nature.
    Now some people have dismissed the wound of depravity because I’ve talked to them and they assume that depravity means you’re going to be as bad as you can possibly be. Since these people observe in themselves and in other people that they’re not bad --- that there’s some goodness in them; that they like to help people from time to time – then this principle must be in error.

    But here’s what I want you to hear guys, the doctrine of depravity never means that people will be as bad as they can possibly be. It just means that they are as bad off as they can possibly be because they are born without God, and they are born with a nature that is bent on self – not selflessness. And they have an inclination and bent towards evil – not towards goodness. When opportunities present themselves to indulge that nature, they are powerless oftentimes to choose anything but that. That’s what depravity means.

    Now, let me speak specifically to what this doctrine speaks to.

    1. First, it means that I’m separated from God and under His judgment. In the scripture of Ephesians 4:18 it says that I was born excluded from the life of God. We’re not born into the kingdom of God, we’re born excluded from the life of God. Depravity means that I’m under – in a sense – a death sentence. I was born without God at the start of this life and, unless in some way I find God in this life, I will die without God.

    2. Secondly, it means that I’ve inherited a corrupt nature that no human agency can cure. A good dad can’t cure it; a good mom can’t cure it; a good job can’t cure it. King David said it this way in Psalm 51:5; “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” In other words – now listen, this is a hard thing to say - in other words, I was born to lose. That’s how I was born – to lose – not to win.
    The famous Westminster Confession -- some of you maybe grew up quoting the Westminster Confession -- puts it this way:

    “Our first parents, that is Adam and Eve (and some people say, ‘now, you
    don’t believe in Adam and Eve?’ Oh, yeah, I do. I hope you know that
    recently the genetic research that we talked about has traced the whole
    human race to one man and one woman. That’s a fact; every one of us – red, yellow, black and white – we all come from one set of parents. The whole human race has one stock. The Westminster Confession, believed in that years before it could be proven.) “Our first parents fell and so became in sin and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They, being the root of all mankind, this same, corrupt nature was conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.”

    It means that our corrupt nature was inherited from our distant parents and was given to us at birth. It can’t be eradicated by education, or better environment, or better self-understanding, or counseling, or money or even willpower! It defies all these things, and that’s why we find ourselves saying, just like the apostle Paul said 2,000 years ago, ‘the very things I hate, I do. Even while the wishing for the good is in me, the doing of the good is not.’
    What is that? The Bible says it’s the depraved heart you were born with. It defies everything. Jesus came into the world and He looked at mankind and He said these words, “that’s why you must be born again.”

    3. Thirdly, my corrupt nature left unaddressed inevitably corrupts my life with sin. Now we get introduced to the word ‘sin’. Sin being those everyday acts of selfishness, greed, immorality, pride, anger, hatred, impurity, and so on that come into my life. They spoil my life, ruin my dreams, and hurt the people I love through me, and leave me with an empty life, full of guilt. It’s the hidden reality behind every life cut off from God.
    We sin – because we have this sinful nature that comes from this wounded heart, and we hurt ourselves. We do things we never intended and we wonder why we got there, and why we’ve hurt others in the process.

    All this goes back to the deepest wound of all -- not of nurture – it’s our nature. Now I want to mention two things before we go into our small groups about this fundamental flaw. Here’s the first one.

    1. We need to talk about this depravity wound that we’re introducing here today –– it requires a spiritual solution that only God can give. If it is, in fact, spiritual, it can only be handled spiritually. Only God can change this corrupt nature. Only He can bend what has been bent towards the wrong, back towards the right. I believe, only God can give the power necessary to move you away from evil. Only God can give you the power to do the things that you wish to do. And I stand as one who can testify of that in my own life.

    Previous generations understood that. That’s why previous generations would cry out to God, “God, have mercy on me!” Those were cries for deliverance –not from circumstances, but from myself. God, have mercy on me? Without you, I’m going to lose – not win. Which brings me to point two.

    2. Admitting my depravity wound is the essential first step to finding a real, authentic relationship with God – not just finding more religion. God save us from that. You see, what I’m giving you is the context for all spiritual life. Without it, we just go to church; we participate in spiritual exercises, thinking somehow it’s just going to give us a lift. But if you understand what I’m saying today, you’re not looking for a lift. You’re looking for deliverance -- what the Bible calls salvation from self - because this wound is so profound.

    It’s only when we recognize that we have that true condition that God even makes sense at all. Guys, did you know when Jesus Christ came to earth – when He preached His very first message; His very first sermon in front of people -- is very first words were these. Look at them on the screen -

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    Now, just look at the verse for a minute. We move by it so quickly. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Let’s put it this way: ‘happy are those who are poor in their heart’. What’s He talking about there? He’s saying the people who will really make it in life – the people who will become authentic in life; the people who will finally understand what it means to win - are those who first recognize that within each of us there’s poverty. Within each of us there’s woundedness. Within each of us there’s depravity. Once people recognize this, then they have a path to deal with it – but they’ve got to first recognize it first.

    In 1984, a Spanish Avianca Airlines jet crashed in Spain. Everybody on board was killed. The black box that was recovered revealed that several minutes before the impact, a computer went off in the pilot’s cabin. That shrill voice that began to speak to the pilot and the system cried out over and over again, “Pull up! Pull up! Pull up!” But the Spanish pilot didn’t know English, and for some reason he thought that the system was malfunctioning. And so as they replayed these final minutes before the crash, they heard the box say, “Pull up! Pull up!” and finally you heard the Spanish pilot say in his own native tongue, “Shut up, gringo!” and he turned the system off. Then a couple of minutes later, the plane slammed into a mountainside, and everybody was killed.

    Did you know God’s automatic warning system is the Bible? And it’s been faithfully warning every man since the beginning of time that our natural instinct is selfish and sinful. That our nature is contemptible, depraved, and wounded from birth. That our natural direction is down and it cries out, “Pull up! Pull up!” And you can say, “Shut up, God!” or you can say, “Tell me how to pull up.”

    We’re going into the Christmas season. It’s a very sacred time, and the next 2 weeks could possibly be the most important 2 weeks of your life, because in the next 2 weeks I’m going to tell you how.
    We’ll see you then.
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