Men at the Crossroads

Mark 8:34-38

You know, we men need to tender up a whole lot and we’re grateful for times when we can just listen to God to hear the still, small voice and respond in our hearts. You know, there’s a great deal of confusion today as to what a dad is to do…. what a man is to be. I mean are we to be the macho man, the Marlboro man, or are we supposed to be the mellow man… just the cool man… the cool dad. And so there’s a lot of confusion as to the identity of a man and what a man is and what a man is to do.

And I’m suggesting today that men are at the crossroads in our society. We’re at the crossroads as to the future of the family, the future of the nation; and how we decide and how we respond here and now and today will determine, not only the direction of our families, but because the family is the bedrock and the foundation of the nation and society; the very future of civilization as we know it (and I don’t overstate at all)… the very future of civilization as we know it is laid at the feet of families and in particular, dads. We’ve undergone the feminization of our society. And by that I don’t mean that dads have become effeminate but that men so often have advocated their role and responsibility as godly men… men leading their families and men taking responsibility with their homes. Books like “Fatherless America” have reminded us that we are living in a society without fathers. And today’s message is a simple clarion call to challenge men at the crossroads to follow completely the Lord Jesus Christ. And my text is from Mark’s Gospel, the 8th chapter… Mark chapter 8.

I say we’re at a crossroads. Many men sort of feel like Yogie Bera. There’s a lot of Yogisms. Yogi said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” And a lot men don’t know which way to go so they try to go both ways and end up miserable and distracted, But notice what Jesus said in verse 34 and following of Mark chapter 8:

                        34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

                        35 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

                        36 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

                        37 “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

                        38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Men today are looking for fulfillment in life, but so often find futility because they find themselves, not on the right road, but on the wrong road. Jesus said there are two roads in life: one is the broad road and is broad and expansive and the other is a narrow road and that narrow road is exclusive and very few are on it. He said many are on the broad road.

It’s sort of like the LBJ Freeway at rush hour. You’ve been there. I don’t know why they call it the freeway, cause it takes its toll every time you get on that thing at rush hour. And you’re on the LBJ Freeway and there are many lanes, and there are many cars, and you’re right in the middle of the summer trying to get home from the office. You’ve had a tough day, stressful day at the office and here you are stuck in this parking lot of a road jam. You would ram somebody from behind if you thought it would help. You move from lane to lane to lane. You’re getting nowhere fast. The heat is bearing down on you. You’re on this broad road. Yes, sometimes it does lead to destruction. You end up behind a wreck and it’s always in your lane and you can’t get anywhere very fast.

Jesus talked about a road like the LBJ Freeway, but it’s a road in the hearts and lives of men and women. It’s wide open, it’s broad, it’s expansive. There’s no confinement. And Jesus said, “You know, anything goes on this kind of a road. Anything can go and anyone can go. There are many on this road. Basically on this road are individuals who decided to live their lives their way. They ignore the road signs, they ignore the stop lights. Many who are running their own lives, living their own way. Men who have decided that they’re going to be their own boss and actually it all revolves around self and this broad road is an ego trip. That’s right. It’s an ego trip. What we have today is a generation of men who have decided to live for themselves, hear me, live for themselves. Self fulfillment… self centeredness… self serving. Again there are very few boundaries. Tolerance is the name of the game. After all, don’t all the lanes lead to the same place? Aren’t we all going in the same direction?

It doesn’t matter how you live or where you go or how you get there as long as you satisfy yourself. Just go with the flow. Like any dead fish that’s drifting down the stream. And this is a pursuit of this world with it’s pleasures and it’s power, but it is a pursuit that does not include God. Living for self. Living for personal fulfillment, rather than living for significance. Living for success and perhaps even enjoying the accolades of success. Many people look very good on this broad road. I mean the house is beautiful. The cars are waxed and clean in the driveway. The lawn is perfectly manicured, but the home is falling apart on the inside. And lives are being ruined. And men are living today like animals.

I don’t want to be too harsh here, but men today for so many men today, it’s like the jungle. Billy Graham said in the 1950’s we’ll either get back to the Bible or we’ll go back to the jungle. And we’re seeing that today. Men living like animals. It’s a jungle out there.

You know why an animal lives? An animal lives for 3 reasons: self-preservation, self-propagation, and self-gratification. And men have been made in the image of God, who were made to know God, to love God, to serve God, to experience fulfillment in God are living for self-preservation and self-propagation, and self-gratification. Living for money or knowledge, or popularity, or position, or power, and it becomes a mindless, maniacal, pursuit of the world system. We call it; this broad road, the rat race and the rats are winning.

On this broad road; the rat race, the rat pack, so many feel like failures, because success often means hollow victory. And many men are wondering what is life really all about. I’m supposed to get ahead. But men think, “What am I supposed to get ahead of? Am I supposed to get ahead of my neighbors? Am I supposed to get ahead of my creditors? Am I supposed to get ahead of the guy next door? The guy across the hall? And many men particularly at mid-life after they’ve climbed the ladder of success and achieved a measure of success are wondering, “Is this all there is?”

There was a man in the Old Testament by the name of Solomon who achieved much. He was king. He had all that money could buy, but he concluded, “Vanity of vanities… all is vanity.” Zero! It all adds up to nothing if you are not fulfilled. If you don’t find significance in life, no wonder Jesus said in our text, “What should it profit a man if he would gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”

Now you can’t gain the whole world. I guess some people try, but even if you could gain it all, even if you owned it all and had it all, it still wouldn’t satisfy the deepest longing of your heart for God, because you were made for so much more, and yet, on this crowded road that I’m talking about, rather than living in fulfillment, people are living in futility.

I picked up a new book by one of the good authors to men in our generation; Pat Moyer, and Pat has written a book entitled “Seasons of A Man’s Life” and in it he suggests an interesting exercise. He suggests that we take a piece of paper, men, and on one side of that paper write our birthdate. For me that would be 1950, the year of your birth. And then he said (stretching it a little bit, I guess, for some of us, especially the rat race that some are in.) He said add eighty years for a lifespan and put eighty years (and so for me that would be 2030; 1950 – 2030.)   And then he said put that dash in the middle. And he said what I want you to focus on (1950 – 2030 ). He said look at that dash, for that dash represents your life, all that goes in between your birth date and your death date. That little dash represents the shortness of the lifespan. That little dash represents the significance or the lack of significance of what you do with the eighty years, or the seventy years, or the fifty years, whatever God may give you. But with sobering, stark reality there it is staring us all in the face. And he said, “Men, is your life adding up to anything that’s eternal? What will they put on your tombstone? What will be in the dash? Will it be fulfillment or will it be futility?

It’s a crowded road. It’s jam-packed. Most are on it, your peers are on it, your neighbors are on it, your co-workers are on this broad road. Now, there are two kinds of rat-racers… wrong-roaders. Some are the men and the women who say, “I don’t need God. Thank you very much. I am doing perfectly well without God and they live their lives without God, they live their lives for themselves. They have no time for God, no time for spiritual things. They live for here and now. What you can taste, what you can touch, what you can feel, what you can see, and especially if it’s green. They don’t even think about heaven or the life beyond. Just living here and now, they’re face down, that’s one group on this broad road.

But you know, there’s another group that I would call the cultural believers, the cultural Christians, who are not Christian’s at all. Their on this broad road, but they’re Christians for the same reason someone living somewhere else besides America might be Islamic or Buddhist. No personal relationship with Christ, just a matter of cultural.

And you know, many men grow up without a personal relationship with Christ and they get squeezed, they’re sort of a hybrid, one foot in the world and one foot in heaven. Half in and half out.

You know in the Christian life coming to Jesus Christ is not only an addition. It’s a subtraction. Now we speak positively of the Christian life and if I had ever had a thousand, if I had a million lives to live, I’d give everyone of them to Jesus Christ. It’s an addition. And the cross is certainly a plus sign. But let me tell you something: The Christian life is also a subtraction. It’s turning from the world. It’s turning from self. It’s repenting of sin and responding in faith to Jesus Christ. It’s being willing to live for Him.

And I’m saying that men are at the crossroads today because there are people on this broad road who have been seduced by the world and their trying to live in 2 worlds at a time and their miserable at both. They’re miserable sitting in church and they’re miserable at the office. Why?

On that broad road, just like being in a traffic jam, getting nowhere fast. And you know, Jesus said this broad road leads to destruction. It’s deadly. It not only leads to distraction, it leads to destruction. It ruins everything. Everything that is precious… everything that is valuable. It’s like a living death. It’s like a living death and they have all these beautiful things…these on the crowded …. so many on the crowded road, but they have embittered relationships, broken homes, alienated children, broken dreams, and they’re wondering what happened. And ultimately it all ends in hell. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There’s a way that seems right unto man, but the end is death… the end is death.” Some of you today are at the very crossroads and you’re on the way… on that broad expansive, inclusive road and you’re getting nowhere.

But then there’s the right road. And in the moments that we have, I want to talk to you about that right road; the road that you need, that I need to be on today. Jesus said, “It’s the crossroad. Pick up your cross and follow after Me daily. There’s the crowded road and there’s the crossroad. And the crossroad is narrow and tight. It can be constricting. There are boundaries on the crossroad. There’s a narrow purpose. It’s picking up your cross and following Christ.

You say, “Okay, what does that mean?” It means surrender. It means sacrifice. Don’t think that your cross is just something that you have to bear. Some people think, “Well you know my wife, she’s a cross. I guess she’s the cross that I have to bear.” Or the gout in my big toe. “Oh, I guess that’s just the cross that I have to bear.”

No. Your cross is something you take up. You pick it up and voluntarily keep it. And Jesus said you do it everyday. It’s the cross of surrender. It’s giving up self. Rather than living for self, we live for Jesus Christ. That’s what He’s talking about here. He said, “You try to keep your life and you’re going to lose it. Sure as the world, you’re going to lose it. But you give your life away, you identify with Christ, you pick up your cross, Jesus said, “You’re not ashamed of Me. You stand for Me. You live for Me.” You dare to lead your family and provide. You seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And this road, though it is narrow, it leads to incredible freedom. The soul is free!

We had a saying growing up: finders keepers, losers weepers. Many people still live by that philosophy. Just in different ways. But Jesus said, “Keepers weepers, losers finders.” When we lose our life in surrender and sacrifice, it means accepting Christ, but it also means following Christ. And so many, men in particular, have walked down an aisle and they think that’s what it means to be a Christian. They’ve gone forward… or joined the church… or got dunked in water and that’s where it began… that’s where it ended. And that’s the broad road. That’s not the narrow road.

He said, “Follow Me.” Jesus went to the cross, and bathed the earth in blood, so that we might be forgiven and might be saved. Not so we could spend our salvation and the rest of our lives living for ourselves, but rather that we might live our lives for Him.

You know, it doesn’t take much of a man to be a Christian, but I’ll tell you it takes all the man there is of you to follow Jesus Christ. Too many men think, “Well, you know religion; that’s for women and children. It’s one thing to be a man, but my how difficult it is to be a man of God. What we need today is men on the crossroads, not on that crowded road of the culture squeezed by the system. We need men to step out of the crowd and pick up the cross and carry the cross.

You say, “Okay, pastor. I’m willing to do that. What does that mean?” Number one, it means that you will be a promise keeper. I’m grateful for this great movement across the nation where men are discovering life in Jesus Christ and are taking up the cross and becoming promise keepers. To keep promises, that’s what it means. To honor God through worship, and prayer and obedience. To fulfill your promises to your family. What’s wrong with America? We’ve got dads who have broken their promises to their kids. Broken their promises to their wives. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to be a promise keeper… to fulfill your commitment to your family, to commit yourself, sir, to moral purity, to support the mission of your church and the purpose of Jesus Christ on this earth through His body, to share the good news of Jesus Christ and the love of God with others, to be a promise keeper, to commit yourself to be different, to live a changed life, not a conformed life. Be a promise keeper. That’s what it means to pick up your cross.

But it also means to pick up your cross; it means to be a pacesetter. What our friend, Steve Farrar calls a point man. Someone who’s willing to get out in front, and lead, and take responsibility. To step up to the plate and hit the ball. We’re losing our families and we’re losing our families, men, because we haven’t been there. We’ve been at the office or we’ve been somewhere else. We’ve let our wives assume the responsibility of the spiritual leadership of our household and that is not God’s plan. Thank God for the women who will take leadership, but let me tell you something. Some of you men need to go home and you need to apologize to your wife and apologize to your children and say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I have not been the spiritual leader of this family, but by God’s grace and God’s help and by the power of His Holy Spirit from this day forward, I’m going to start leading this family spiritually and be a pacesetter.”

You know, we talk about teaching the children and training the children. Children learn values, your values and God’s values, not so much by what they’re taught, but by how it’s caught. They catch it in the atmosphere and the environment. Not so much in our words, but by our example, by setting the pace. You know, I believe there are 3 primary values: you could put all the values, I think, under these 3; of all the important things in life, honesty and courage. I want to teach my children character. I want to teach my children compassion. And I want to teach my children conviction. Compassion, conviction and character. We’re raising characters but not too many people of character today. Be a pacesetter, Dad.

And the good news is, I believe for those of you who are hearing me today, you want to do that. I’m not talking to hard hearts here today. I’m talking to men at the crossroads who are ready and willing and just need to be challenged; you just need to be encouraged. I’m telling you as your pastor, as your friend, I believe in you. But, guys, it’s time to do it. It’s time to set the pace.

Be a promise keeper, be a pacesetter, be a prayer warrior. Men, if you’re too busy to pray, you’re just too busy. Do you take time to pray? Are you a man of prayer? Will your children remember you as a man of prayer?

And then be a peacemaker. We are reconcilers and we are to be making peace in our society. I think it starts in the community. I’m grateful for so many men in our church who are involved in our community. We’ve got the problems of the inner cities. We need men who will be willing to get involved in prison ministries and working with young men in prison. We need men who’ll get involved in the intercity and adopt a child. Be a dad to someone who doesn’t have a dad. We need racial reconciliation in this country. I’m grateful that we’re a part of that. If you don’t think the racial divisions in this country are deep, you haven’t been paying attention. These fires that we’ve been seeing this week, it’s like the 60’s all over again. Nobody knows where this is coming from but it has surfaced the depth of the feelings of the various communities of our nation and the problems that we feel.

Interestingly enough, John Criswell told me before this service that one of the reporters for channel 4 has been doing a study on the burning of these churches. What they’ve discovered in the same period in which 33 black churches have been burned down, there have been 25 white churches burned down. And there’s some sense of feeling now that this isn’t a matter of racism, but this is just hatred and meanness and attacks against the Christian faith. I don’t know about that.

But I do know that the hatred and the violence and the meanness and the brokenness in people’s lives is spilling over everywhere and we need to wake up and get involved in being a part of the answer and not a part of the problem. And if you’re a racist, you need to get on your face before God and ask God to get that out of your life.

But the greatest reconciliation takes place when we tell people about Jesus Christ. We’re ambassadors of reconciliation and the harvest is plentiful. And men, if you want to take up the cross, that means not being ashamed of Jesus. That’s what He said here. It doesn’t mean just walking down an aisle and signing up like we joined some kind of a club. It means being a faithful witness to Jesus Christ, in your community, on your job, in your family. Starting with your own children. Be a peacemaker for Jesus Christ.

I close with this: in 1993 they were remodeling the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. And as they were moving some things around, they moved a cabinet and something fell out and it was a photograph of a middle age man with a pot belly in a baseball uniform that was too tight and written across his shirt it said Sinclair Oil. And attached to this photograph was a note that had been scribbled by someone. And here’s what the note said: “You were never too tired to play ball. On your days off you helped build the little league field. You always came to watch me play. You were a Hall of Fame dad. I wish I could share this moment with you.” They looked at that and, of course, did not have an idea, they didn’t have a clue as to who wrote that, but a national sports magazine picked it up and ran the article and a man came forth who had written the note. Now himself a middle aged man. And it seems that this man had come to Cooperstown and he’d seen all the legends of the game and he walked around and he had his own private little ceremony in which he inducted his dad into the Hall of Fame.

Men, I want to be a Hall of Fame dad, don’t you? I want to be the kind of dad that will be in God’s Hall of Fame and in my kid’s Hall of Fame. And the way I believe I can do it and the way I believe you can do it is getting off that crowded road and getting on the crossroad by being a promise keeper and a pacesetter and a prayer warrior and a peacemaker.

Men, you’re at the crossroad today and what you do with Jesus Christ will determine, not only your destiny, but the destiny of your kids and your grandkids and their kids. I invite you to pick up your cross and follow Jesus today.