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Pulling Together In A World Tearing Apart

Making Sense Of Sexuality

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | October 11, 1992

Selected highlights from this sermon

Across our country, families are eroding. Part of the blame must fall on men because they aren’t the leaders, protectors, and providers they were created to be. Worse yet, some respond with extremes of passivity or harsh dominance. 

Men must look to Christ as their model of biblical masculinity. He led by serving.  He submitted to the Father in all things, and He even displayed emotions—including righteous anger and sadness.

Let us pray one more time.

Father, in the moments that are before us, transform these moments, and change this building into a cathedral in which we are confronting the living and the true God. We pray that years of pain and hurt that exists in some hearts may be resolved in the presence of a God who can handle our emotions, our hurts, and all we bring to you. We are yours now, Lord. We don’t deserve it, but we expect great things today because of Christ, Amen.

As many of you know, this is the second in a series of messages on human relationships, specifically Pulling Together In A World Tearing Apart. I intended to begin by delineating once again the trouble the American family is in, but I will skip that because I’ve got more to say today than I have time to say it. I don’t need to convince you we are in trouble. All we need to do is to look around us and to read even today’s Trib that talks about family values as something of the past, and you understand the emotional and spiritual devastation that exists in the lives of children that are growing up, and in the lives of many of you who are listening to this message.

There are many different reasons why the family is coming apart, and I certainly don’t want to list them all, but I do want to very quickly name two. First of all, there is the cult of self-development. We live in an era, and you can see it on talk shows, and you can see it in best sellers, when people are absolutely totally determined that no matter what else happens, they are entitled to happiness, to a career, to money, to wealth, to anything that is pursuable. I hope there’s a word like that. If not, there is now. They are willing to sacrifice anything on that altar. Commitments, promises, marriage vows—all of these are up for grabs in order that you might get what number one really needs. The cult of self-development.

Secondly, there is also the cult of equality. Now Lutzer is walking through a minefield. The cult of equality. Everybody is equal. Of course, we are all equal. Men and women are equal in value. They are equal in intelligence, maybe even a little superior at times. They should receive equal pay for equal work. We’re not arguing that. But is it really true that the roles of men and women are completely interchangeable? Are they equal so far as their aptitudes, desires, abilities, and their wiring by God is concerned? I don’t think so.

And the problem with that view of equality is there are many men who no longer know what it is they’re supposed to be doing. And that’s why Newsweek Magazine says men today are living lives of quiet desperation. Quiet desperation. There are two books that have fueled the men’s movement, one is entitled Iron John and the other is Fire in the Belly. And men are going into the forest, and they are chanting. One says, “Sweating and screaming and hollering! It was fun and uplifting because it involved prayers and a lot of affirmation. People talked about pain.” Men don’t know what in the world they’re supposed to be doing.

Newsweek again says this movement looks inward to try to resolve the spiritual crisis within men. Larry Lima is a man quoted as having made $100,000 a year, but then he had surgery, his father died, he lost his job, he got divorced. He said, “I went into the forest, and I danced by the dim firelight.” In the process, as he was with other men, he says, “I felt myself cleansed and reborn.” He says, “We, as men, need one another,” and now I’m quoting his words exactly, “because alone we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.” Now you understand, of course, a minister would have said that very differently, but if you can look beyond the word, you can see here the pain of someone who is reaching out and saying, “We don’t know what it is we’re supposed to be doing.” Why this confusion?

Why this confusion? I think it’s because we’ve thrown away the manual. When God created us, God gave us a manual and says, “Here is insight. Here is help and hope for the family. Here is a blueprint that, if followed, will give children a sense of stability and emotional wholeness.” But we’ve thrown it away, and we’ve done our own thing.

Now, when I began this message, it was my intention to speak about femininity and masculinity. But you know I began to get into this sometime last week and I realized I don’t have any time for the femininity side, that is, anytime in this message for it. I don’t want to be so presumptuous to assume women are going to be interested in a message on men. I won’t presume that except to say if you listen carefully you may end up understanding yourself and your family much better, particularly as I speak about men and their role and as it relates to fatherhood and the impact of fathers on their daughters and on their sons.

Well, we’re going to do what we always do here at The Moody Church, and that is to turn in our Bibles, and today we’re going to turn to Genesis once again and see where this whole mess began. Genesis, chapter 2. What is it men are supposed to be doing if their roles are distinct? Get this now. Don’t throw any rotten tomatoes, but they’re supposed to be leaders, protectors, providers, and they’re supposed to have responsibility. 

Now you don’t have to come up to me later and remind me of Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meier and Deborah in the Old Testament. Certainly, there have been women who have been very strong and capable leaders, but within the marriage relationship the man is to be the leader, the provider, the protector, and have basic responsibility for his family unit.

Let me very quickly show you how this comes out in Scripture. First of all, we even get that hint because Adam was created before Eve. It says in Genesis 2:7, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground.” You remember I explained to you a year or two ago he was the first “mud man.” Somebody sarcastically said, “The first dirty old man,” but that can’t be right. [laughter]

“And the Lord God created him from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils,” and then it says, “The Lord God asked all of the birds and the cattle and the beasts to come before Adam, and there was not found a helper suitable for him until the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him.”

Now, by the way, that little Sunday school girl was dead wrong, you know, the one who went home and told her mother “Our Sunday school teacher said that God put Adam asleep, and when he was asleep God took out his brains and made a woman.” [laughter] That little girl did not learn that in Mr. Moody’s Sunday school. That came from somewhere else.

So, the Lord God caused this deep sleep to fall upon the man, and then of course, woman came out of that, and you have the femininity coming out of the masculinity, and as I explained one time, the desire now to come together is incredibly strong. But first of all, man is created first, and given these responsibilities. Notice also, only to man is the command given in Genesis 2:24, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Why only to the man? It is because the man—I hate to say this but, you know, we have to be biblical—actually holds the key to the marriage relationship. If he has not left his father and his mother and if he does not cleave to his wife, no matter what she does, there is never going to be maximum fulfillment. And almost always, not always but almost always, the wife will take the lead from her husband.

Now there are some men who have moved a thousand miles away from their fathers. Others have fathers who have already died, and the man has not left yet his father and possibly also not his mother. His entire life is lived responding, reacting, compensating for his father with whom he did not have a healthy relationship.

But notice, first of all, Adam was created before Eve. Secondly, notice, only to Adam was the responsibility given to leave his father and his mother and to cleave to his wife. Also, in 1 Corinthians 11:13, the Apostle Paul makes this statement. He says, “Christ is the head of every man.” Oh, I know there are many people listening on the radio, and not to mention in this congregation today, who say, “That sure isn’t true of my dad.” Christ his head? He used the name Christ as a swear word. Wait a moment. The text says Christ is the head of every man.

Maybe your father didn’t acknowledge that. Maybe he didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus or God or anything else, but it is Christ to whom he is responsible, and also, he reflects Christ to his wife and to his children. Maybe he does a very bad, poor job, but that does not in any way take away his responsibility to do just that. People who tell us the first conception a child has of God is based on that child’s conception of his father are absolutely right.

Let me tell you something. If you had a father that made all kinds of promises to you, and then didn’t keep those promises— If you had a father who abused you, who didn’t protect you, who was distant and cold, you are going to struggle in your relationship with God, because there is something within you that says if the daddy that should have protected me and cared about me and loved me, if he didn’t do that, what makes me think my daddy in heaven is any different?

Oh, the awesome power of a father.

Well, if you buy for the moment that Adam was to have the responsibility of headship, leadership, protection, all of these things.  Let me ask you a question, how well did man do? How well have we done in the past, you guys? Well, I need to give you the sad news. Not very well.

Let me show you this isn’t a new phenomenon even. It actually comes even with Adam himself. Many people miss this when they read Genesis 3:6. We always focus in on the woman. Sometimes people say, you know, “Could Satan have anything with overeating?” I always smile and say, “What do you mean? Of course. The first sin committed was Eve who didn’t close the door of the refrigerator.” That’s what it says in a footnote in my Bible right here. [laughter] “She saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate.” Have you missed this? I’m not making this up. “She gave also to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Adam was standing there, watching the whole thing, and he participated, abdicating leadership, passivity, just watching it happen instead of saying, “Eve, do you remember God’s command? We’re not supposed to be eating of this tree.” And beginning to be the protector and the leader, what does he do? He stands there doing nothing and actually ends up participating with her and seeing the whole thing and not taking any leadership at all. 

Has that ever happened before in homes? Our homes are strewn with passive men. The children are growing up. The teenagers are going through times of conflict. They are screaming for guidance. They want somebody to impact them, somebody to help them through the maze of temptations and the awesome incredible choices they face, and where in the world is dad? He’s nowhere to be found. Even if he lives in that home, he is passive, uncaring, shirking duty, and if they get any guidance at all it is from their dear blessed mother who is doing the best she can with this guy who may be a fantastic man at work, earning a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, but totally uninvolved in the lives of his wife and his children. Passivity.

There’s a second way we know in which men have failed, and that is the opposite extreme, and that is harsh dominance. You’ll notice when the Lord is giving the curse as the result of the fall, He says in verse 16 of Genesis 3, “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you shall bring forth children,” and here must be the origin of that old phrase that women sometimes use, “Men? Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.” Here it is, “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

One of the curses that has come to the human relationship is men who rule in an uncaring, unfair, hard-hearted, harsh way. Sometimes Christian men quote verses of Scripture while they are doing it, ruling over their wives.

It is a cause to me of actual physical pain when I think of such things as a father abusing his children, whether it’s sexual, physical, or verbal. I remember a woman saying to me she was going to go to the tomb of her father to at least lay some flowers at his gravestone, and she invited her brother to come along, and he said, “No way. I will never go there because while I’m there, maybe my dad’s hand will reach up and beat me one more time.” Tragic.

One of the good things about the women’s movement is the new emphasis there has been on the fact men have unfairly dominated women. And by the way, it’s bad in America, but you should be in some of the countries of the world I have been in where women are indeed treated like servants and treated like cattle. It is terrible. And then sexual harassment. That also I think is a good thing to give some exposure so men might realize they cannot say and do whatever they want to a woman. I need to say to the women that are listening, if you are still with me this far— I need to say to you there have been times when I have been ashamed about the fact that I am a man, but I’m sorry.

And so, what you have is passivity on the one hand, and then the pendulum goes to the other, and you have irrational control and anger on the other hand. That’s the way some men live. Now because of the fact many things are happening in our culture to expose them, they don’t know what in the world to do. They really do not know what in the world to do. And when a man feels emasculated, when he feels as if his masculinity has been taken from him because of all the emphases of the culture, he really truly does not know his role, so the most convenient thing is escape.

You escape through alcoholism, drugs, sexual addictions. You go into all kinds of things, why? To somehow find out who you are, or maybe you go to the forest, and you do beat drums by candlelight trying to figure out who in the world you really are.

Now, let me say very quickly, as a result of fathers like that, you have two things in the home. One is denial. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You were brought up in homes where you had to pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t okay at all. Alcoholism. Your home was in disarray, but you had to put on a smiley face and pretend. Pretend.

Look at what one person told me. He says, quote, “I haven’t had a heart-to-heart talk with my father since I was three-years old. We were told we should not have feelings or emotions, and now my mother says, ‘Well, why haven’t you outgrown your problem?’ We were falsely accused of sexual matters.” 

Many of you, by the way, can relate to that because your parents had some hang-ups they brought to their situation, and you were falsely accused, and to this day you know the pain and the shame and the hurt that has never been resolved possibly.

At all costs we were to pretend everything was okay. Now he says, “As an adult I fail at everything. I run from one thing to another. I fear failure but I also fear success.” Denial.

The second thing is anger. Remember angry fathers and any father that withdraws from responsibility is angry. Remember angry fathers generally produce angry children. 

Now, these two things, denial and anger, are so important that if you have looked at this series of messages I’m going to preach, you know I’m going to be preaching an entire message just on denial, and an entire message also just on anger. But let me ask today, where do we go if we’re not going to go into the forest and beat drums? What in the world is masculinity all about? Where are the models and where is the power to live up to the model? Where are the fathers? Where are the husbands? Where are they? Wives and children screaming for some kind of attention and leadership, and they’re nowhere to be found. A slight exaggeration, of course. Thank God for all the good ones, but the family as a whole, where are they? Where do we turn?

I was thinking about this, and it just dawned on me. Now, you know, has it ever dawned on you that nothing has ever dawned on God? But I’m not God so I have things dawn on me. There is hope, because I can both point to a model of masculinity and also someone who can give us the strength to pull it off, the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason He is such a good model is because He was not married, proof, if proof were needed, that it is possible to mightily fulfill the will of God in your life, completely fulfill it without being married, to do the will of God from beginning to end without being involved in marriage. Jesus.

And I began to jot down some of the characteristics of Christ in His masculinity, and then I began to see that we as men can experience a whole new freedom if we understand what He is about.

First of all, I need to tell you the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:45, he says Jesus is the last Adam. What he’s saying is Christ is the one who picked up the pieces after the devastation of that first Adam who blew it, and who had to take responsibility for blowing it. By the way, in the New Testament Eve is not blamed, Adam is blamed. So, what we have in Jesus is somebody who lived like the first Adam was supposed to have lived but didn’t. And then we have something else, the invitation that there is strength to begin to at least in some way approximate what masculinity is all about.

But now I must hurry. I told you I had more to say than you have time to listen. First of all, Jesus lived in total dependence on God the Father. He said, “I do nothing of myself. It is the Father that dwells in me. He does the works.” That’s the way the first Adam was supposed to live but didn’t. Jesus says, “the very words that come out of my mouth, the teachings that I have and even the miracles that I do are done in dependence.” And that’s the way you and I should live. Everything we do—dependence. Praying without ceasing because God knows we need the strength.

Secondly, Jesus spent all of His life serving people. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. You see, Jesus didn’t come here saying, “Now I’m king and I’m going to begin to bark out the orders and you guys hop.” That’s the way Christian men sometimes interpret Ephesians where the Bible talks about the submission of the wife. “I’m your husband. Do this. Do this. Jump.” Is that the picture you get of Jesus?

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I began to realize Jesus does want us to submit to Him. I’m not arguing that but notice how He does it. He does it by winning our hearts. He does it by showing us love. He did it by dying for us. Well, that’s pretty easy to submit to somebody who has that wonderful balance of love and strength and authority. But oh, how He manifested humanity with that delicate balance.


Thirdly, He showed all the emotions we as men were sometimes brought up to think should not be a part of our experience because it isn’t manly. Where in the world did that nonsense come from, except because of the fall? Here is Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus and tears fall down his cheeks. And Jesus weeps. And He’s looking over the city of Jerusalem, and He weeps because He’s a man, and grown men weep when they see pain. That’s why. 

Here is Jesus in the third chapter of Mark, and people are criticizing Him for healing somebody on the Sabbath day, and He becomes so angry. It says in Mark, chapter 3, verse 5, “He looked about in anger.” The Greek text is very strong. It is, “He was livid with anger.” So, who says anger is sinful? Destructive anger is, as we’ll point out when we get to that message on the topic, but who says you shouldn’t be angry? When we see abuse, and when we see heartache and brokenness and injustice, and the world is inflicted with it, God help us if we’re not angry. Jesus was.

And then, folks, come with me to Gethsemane, and let’s look in. Here is Jesus in all of His agony before God the Father as He anticipates the cross, and suddenly becoming identified with the sins of the world, and the emotional distress of spirit was so great that He said, “My soul is sorrowful even to the point of death.” How did Jesus handle that trauma? He didn’t even say, “Now, I’m going through this time that is so difficult, but I know My Father well enough to know that He and I can handle it alone.” No, he was man. And so, He says to Peter, James, and John, “Come with Me and watch with Me. Be with Me. I need you at my side.” Everlasting proof that those of you who are going through all that emotional trauma because of the heartaches that have been brought to your families sometimes cannot deal with those things only with God, though His help is indispensable. You need the body of Jesus Christ. There are people who must see your tears and help you bear your tormented load. And Jesus reminds us of that.

Jesus also took care of the sin question. He took care of it by dying on the cross for us. For becoming our substitute which we, of course, never have to do for ourselves, but do you know that He becomes our example of how to forgive others. You see, Jesus said, “I’m innocent, and yet I forgive you.” And some of you have had a dad who wasn’t there for you. Some of you have had a mother who didn’t protect you from the awful things your dad did to you. How do you live with all that bitterness? What you must do is to say, “As I’ve been forgiven by Jesus who took the stain of sin for me, I now speak others free. Having been pardoned by Him, I now pardon others.” It’s both an act and a process.

And then I think of Jesus who, of course, did something else for us in our misery as fallen humanity. That is He pointed us to another Father, the Father all of us need. Even those of us who were brought up in good stable homes, we need a Father too, a heavenly Father. Jesus said, “When you pray, why don’t you just look into His eyes (figuratively speaking) and say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come.’” Jesus is saying, “You have that Father.”

You know, psychiatrists are finally telling us there are many people in this world who are going through struggles because they have some unfinished business, and the unfinished business is to find their father. But some of you can’t find your father. You never knew him. Others of you have bad memories of him. I’ll tell you what you can do. You can write him a letter. Some people do that and find help as to what you would say to him if you had the chance. But the ultimate help comes to you from your Father in heaven who has strength, stability. He can handle your tears. He can handle your anger that you can spill out to him. He can handle it. He can take it. He’s not going to say, “Pretend everything’s okay.” None of that, “Pretend, put a smile on your face, you’re a Christian, Pretend!” No. He knows the whole story anyway, so you come just as you are with all of your pain, and you receive grace to help in time of need.

Let me tell you there are some of you listening to this message who have been keeping God at a distance. You don’t pray much. You don’t approach Him much because there’s too much distrust and pain. I want you to know today if you ever cut out your heavenly father, you are actually turning against the very thing that can heal you.

Do you know why Jesus came? Jesus came to repair the irreparable. He came to repair the irreparable. The devastation of a tornado that may hit Florida or some other place leaves this whirlwind of haphazard destruction and some of you have been a product of that whirlwind, family destruction. I want you to know that’s precisely why Christ came, to make hopeless cases filled with hope. You can cry in His presence, and you can be real in His presence, and you can invite other of God’s people in His presence.

Like that girl who was slapped and beaten and pushed down the stairs, whose father committed suicide. She could not cry at his funeral, and lived on sleeping pills from about age 16 to age 33. Until someone told her there was a Christ who could meet her deep need, and there was another Father who really loved her and in whom she could trust. And that’s what I offer you today.

What is the answer to masculinity? It’s to look at Jesus and look to the Father to which He introduces us. 

Some of you don’t know Him personally because you’ve never received Christ as your Savior, and this is somewhat distant to you. Others know Him but you’ve been keeping Him at a distance. Today I invite you to take your arms and to stretch them wide and to say, “Jesus, Father, who I am with my need, heal me.” Let Him love you because He cares and can be what no one else can be to us.

Let’s pray together. 

Now, Father, we pray you will take these words and help us to understand in the midst of our own pain and need there is a Savior who can help us. We pray today for the transformation of heart of those who grieve, and those, Lord, who have not come to receive the fullness of your forgiveness and acceptance.

Why don’t you pray now, by the way? I’ll give you a moment. Tell God whatever you need to tell Him in light of what you’ve heard. If you need to be saved, at this moment believe on Jesus and be saved. If you need to cry, cry. Give Him that last piece of pain that is so great. Whatever God talks to you about, you do.

Father, we want to thank you today that you are indeed a Father, and we think of those who hurt today because they did not have a caring earthly father, but thank you, Father, that there is hope. Help us to turn to you without reservation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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