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The masculine mandate

The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men
Richard Phillips
Reformation Trust Publishing, Florida, 2010, 175pp.

The Christian world needs a collection of good books for men, so that we can work out how to be God’s men in a fallen world that seems hell-bent on confusing us. The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips should be one of these books.

If you talk to any Christian man today, you will note a real lack of clarity when it comes to ‘how’ to live as a follower of Jesus. The questions men ask themselves include: Where should I work, and for how long? Should I get married; if so, why? Am I meant to be the breadwinner who focuses on bringing money into the house, and who occasionally yells at the kids? Or am I meant to be the modern metrosexual man who puts gel in his hair, brings home half of the money, and who does exactly half of the child-rearing and home-duties? Or am I meant to be some combination of those two with a touch of ‘tough guy’ thrown in to impress the wife? Should I have kids, and how am I meant to contribute to their lives whilst also being a good worker, a good husband and a good church member?

How a man is meant to ‘be’, and what he is meant to ‘do’ are questions that we continually ask ourselves. Helpfully, Phillips answers these questions in a very clear and confronting way that men will like. Early on in the book he states his purpose: “my aim in writing this book is to help men to know and fulfill the Lord’s calling as it is presented so clearly to us in God’s Word” (p. xiii). And he does a very good job of it.

He begins by looking to God’s command to the first man in the Garden of Eden, and he states that men are to focus on two key things: they are to work and they are to keep. “To work it and to keep it: here is the how of biblical masculinity, the mandate of Scripture for males” (p. 8). To work means to get a job and contribute to society, to make things grow, to nurture, cultivate, tend, build up, guide and rule. To keep means to protect what God has given you and to sustain progress that has already been achieved. It involves guarding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for, maintaining. He reminds men that our lives are about service and leadership, and we are to exercise this service and leadership the way God does, whilst happily submitting to his authority over us.

The first quarter of the book provides the doctrinal underpinning for this mandate. The next three-quarters of the book provide wisdom on living out that mandate. Since a lot of men are married (or are hoping to be), Phillips spends three chapters dealing with the design of marriage, the redemption of marriage, and the way to live out both principles of working and keeping within that relationship. He spends two chapters looking at discipling and disciplining children, and then shows how we need to work hard at being ‘mates’ with other men, so that together we can make a big impact at our local churches.

Phillips concludes with this simple yet powerful statement to all Christian men:

To be a Christian means not merely that I am saved from my sins, but also that I am saved to be His disciple. That is what Christian men are: followers, disciples, and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. (p. 144)

By the end of the book you will be very clear on exactly what God expects from his men. God wants men who work hard at contributing to life in the specific ways God has gifted them and situated them in. You are where you are for God’s glory and purpose, therefore get on with it!

The only weakness in the book is that Phillips does not clearly state how men are to be disciples who go and make disciples of other men. He helps us to make disciples of our kids, and he helps us to know how to become good friends with other men, but a chapter on making disciples of other men would have made this the ‘complete’ men’s book.

I really enjoyed The Masculine Mandate; it is short and easy to read, uses the Bible clearly to life-changing effect, and has plenty of good answers to those big questions mentioned earlier. He does not overplay the role of marriage in the life of a man, as he acknowledges that many men will not get married or have kids. But he also issues a warning to young men not to be influenced by what the world says about marriage. He reminds us that most men will and should get married.

You will be a better man for reading this book, I highly recommend it.

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