Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13(NAS)
Manhood does not simply mean malehood. To be a man means more than to
simply be born a male, more than not being a woman. In common English
usage, the term manhood implies a degree of maturity, a certain type of
acceptable behavior. A punk is not a man—he’s a punk. A temperamental
teenager is not a man—he’s immature, not worthy of the label. And many
men who are older in years still do not act like men, at least according
to the accepted usage of the term in our culture.
Apparently this was also the case in Corinth or the Apostle Paul
wouldn’t have felt the need to remind the men to "act like men."
In Jewish culture, one didn’t become a true man until he was thirty
years old. At that point, if a son met his father’s approval, there
would be a ceremony in which a mantle was laid on the younger man’s
shoulders, and perhaps the business seal or stamp of the father
presented to him (giving him power of attorney). The son then became the
executor of the father’s estate—"the right hand of the father" was how
the Jew might have expressed it. He was now a real man: mature, capable,
trusted, able to conduct business in his father’s name.
Just what constitutes manhood, or maturity? What did the Jewish
father look for in his son in order to feel comfortable in handing the
mantle down? Just what is it that separates the men from the boys?
First let’s look at adolescence.
This period of life, normally
passed through in the early teen years, is characterized by a rather
swift transition from childhood into adulthood. A boy starts to get
bigger and stronger, his body starts to change and soon he needs to
shave. His voice changes and he no longer sounds like a child when he
speaks. His emotional responses are often confused, because his raging
hormones are making him into somebody he has not known before! He gets
moody, irritable, and starts taking an interest in girls. He develops a
tremendous appetite overnight and wants to eat three Big Macs instead of
Perhaps the girls are also attracted to him, or he’s strong and
athletic. Almost overnight he’s gone from being a little boy to a
powerful adult. But he’s not truly a man yet, though he may be as tall
as his father. His body has grown up before his character can catch
up—being a man is much more than being six feet tall and having to shave
every day. It is this very stage of life that provoked the saying,
"that’s what separates the men from the boys."
The difference between a man and a boy is maturity, steady
reliability, character—not the size of one’s muscles or the ability to
eat spicy food, down a six-pack of beer, or whatever passes as macho and
manly in your particular circle of friends.
Okay, I’ll dispense with further introductory remarks and cut to the
chase. What separates the men and the boys is self-discipline,
self-control. This is so important that the Apostle Paul put it
right up there with such weighty subjects as salvation and eternal
judgment. Look what the Bible says in Acts chapter 24…
Now as [Paul] reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the
judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when
I have a convenient time I will call for you."
Peter seems to have been in agreement. He declared self-control to be
one of the qualities needed to secure an entrance into heaven…
…giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
to knowledge self-control… For if these things are yours and
abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of
our Lord Jesus Christ...be even more diligent to make your call and
election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so
an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting
kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-6, 8-11
It would seem that we don’t place enough emphasis on self-control
these days.. We certainly don’t equate it with salvation, but both Peter
and Paul did. After all, how successful a Christian can you be if you
have no ability to control your own life, your own thoughts, your own
emotions? How will you say "no" to sin and "yes" to God if you don’t
have the self-control to deliver on your decision?
This quality seems to be in great demand and short supply in the
American church today. It’s why so many preachers are flash-in-the-pan
sensations, instead of men who are steady and reliable over a period of
many years. It’s why Christian young men impregnate their girlfriends,
and why men of God fall into sin.
Man is the most powerful denizen of this planet. You might think the
tiger or grizzly bear are more lethal, but think again. They don’t
threaten to drive us to extinction, do they? No, but we’ve endangered
them. The truth is, humans, and men in particular—with their combination
of intelligence and strength and testosterone—are more formidable than
the most ferocious animals.
God wants us to keep that power under control, like the quiet throb
of a Corvette waiting at a stoplight. When you’ve got it you don’t have
to flaunt it. You never see guys with a ’Vette or Ferrari pealing out,
burning rubber—that would be beneath the dignity of a truly powerful
car. That’s how a real man should be. Disciplined, under control.
Self Control is the ability to rule your mind,
to take authority
over your thoughts, and thus over your whole life—for every action
begins with a thought. Look what Paul told Timothy…
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love
2 Timothy 1:7 (NAS)
The King James Bible renders the last word, " a sound mind." Put the
two together—discipline and a sound mind—and you start to understand
what the apostle is saying here. God has given us the ability, by His
Spirit, to discipline our minds, to keep the power and the love under
control. The Greek word literally means "saving the mind" reining it in,
bringing it under control.
The mind is the great battlefield of Christian life—it’s where Satan
attacks you, and where he most often gains the victory. The mature man
knows how to bring his mind under control. The immature, on the other
hand is controlled by stray thoughts and passing emotions—he can’t even
imagine the possibility of actually taking authority over his mind.
Being able to control your mind is what separates the men from the boys.
"Boys" think they have no ability to control the thoughts and moods
that come, seemingly unbidden, into their minds. Picture the man that
commits adultery… "I couldn’t help it… I was so attracted to her… it
was love, what can I say?" That’s why people sin—the thought crosses
their mind and instead of taking control over it, they submit to it.
It is possible to take control over your thoughts, to bring them
under the dominion of your will. In fact, the Bible commands us to do
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for
pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments [imaginations] and
every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,
bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
You have the ability to take control over your thoughts—to just
refuse to think ungodly thoughts, drive them out of your mind. And
replace them, purposefully with thoughts that are
true… noble… just…
pure… lovely… of good report… virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8)
Don’t be ruled by every passing thought—be the ruler of your own
mind! If you can’t control your own mind, who is controlling it? If you
can’t keep yourself from thinking evil thoughts, what can you do? Abuse
someone else? act tough? flex your muscles? You’re not a man if you
can’t control your thought life, and if you’re serious about being a
man, the man that God intended you to be, then start disciplining your
mind right now.
Sin begins in the mind and works its way out to the rest of your
life. First you conceive a sinful thought, then you commit a sinful
deed. On the other hand, righteousness also begins in the mind. You
think about something good then you go out and do it.
Do you think good or evil thoughts? Someone said that the true
measure of a man is what he thinks about or does when no one else is
around, when there’s little chance of getting observed or caught by
others. Whatever you do at such times, you can bet it begins in your
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such
there is no law.
Self-control, or as the King James calls it, temperance, is a fruit
of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. Moderation is another way of
putting it. In other words a man with self-control is a moderate man,
not prone to extremes but living within boundaries, staying on course. A
moderate person is balanced, controlled by his will, not by his
emotions. When you see a so-called tough guy picking a fight, he’s
establishing beyond any shadow of doubt that he’s not a real man, that
he has no control over his emotions, his temper; he can’t keep himself
from flying off the handle.
In conclusion, you need to understand that I’m not advocating a wussy,
wimpy kind of manhood. I’m a converted tough guy myself. There was a
time when I ran around with a gang of punks, picking fights with anybody
who looked cross-eyed at us. As a teenager, my dream was to grow up to
be a motorcycle outlaw—which most of my buddies did—but, Hallelujah, the
Lord got ahold of me. I still drive a big motorcycle. My personality
leans towards the wild side—that’s why I became a missionary in a third
world country. In all honesty, the traditional American ideal of manhood
isn’t that far off—but it does need some fixing up around the edges.
A boy can be out of control, emotionally and mentally: one day he’s
totally consumed by one thing and the next he’s forgotten completely
about it. A boy almost never finishes a job—or if he does, he fails to
clean up after himself. A boy can be excited today and depressed
tomorrow. You never know what to expect with the immature and unstable.
But a man is under control, dependable, trustworthy, moderate.
There’s another word that goes along with this, too, by the
way—longsuffering. It is the ability to wait, to put yourself on hold…
but I’m getting ahead of myself there—you’ll have to hear about that in
our next segment.
2003, Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder
Ministries. All rights reserved
Scripture quotations from the New King James Version, unless otherwise
Go to Part I of this
Article: Provider & Protector
Go to Part II of this Article: Adam Means Man
series of messages is also available on six audio cassettes.
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