For many, spiritual discipline means putting oneself back under the Law with a series of Draconian rules which no one can live up to – and which spawn frustration and spiritual death.
This leads us to an inescapable conclusion: The contemporary evangelical Church, broadly considered, is “Corinthian” to the core.
Sensuality is easily the biggest obstacle to godliness among men today and is wreaking havoc in the Church. Godliness and sensuality are mutually exclusive, and those in the grasp of sensuality can never rise to godliness while in its sweaty grip.
We must understand that a progressive desensitization to sin and a consequent inner descent from holiness had taken root in David’s life. David’s collection of wives, thought it was “legal” and not considered adultery in the culture of the day, was nevertheless sin. King David’s sensual indulgence desensitized him to God’s holy call in his life, as well as to the danger and consequences of falling. In short, David’s embrace of socially permitted sensuality desensitized him to God’s call and made him easy prey for the fatal sin of his life.
May this lesson not be wasted on us, men. Just when we think we are the safest, when we feel no need to keep our guard up, to work on our inner integrity, to discipline ourselves for godliness – temptation will come!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the observation that when lust takes control, “At this moment God…loses all reality…Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.” What a world of wisdom there is in this statement! When we are in the grip of lust, the reality of God fades. The longer King David leered, the less real God became to him. Not only was his awareness of God diminished, but David lost awareness of who he himself was – his holy call, his frailty, and the certain consequences of sin. There is what lust does! It has done it millions of times. God disappears to lust-glazed eyes.
The mind controlled by lust has an infinite capacity for rationalization:
– How can something that has brought such enjoyment be wrong?
– God’s will for me is to be happy; certainly He would not deny me anything which is essential to my happiness – and this is it!
– My marriage was never God’s will in the first place.
I believe with all my heart that few, if any, would ever stray from God’s Word if they could see what would follow.
This sin is seen in its true light only when it is seen as preference for impurity rather than a Spirit who is holy.
How will the couple fare over the years? Will she reverence her husband? Will he love his beautiful bride as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her? Will he love her with an elevating, sanctifying love? Will he love her as he loves himself?
All my children are serious Christians and want to make their lives count for Christ. I say this humbly, because parents often take too much blame for their children’s problems and too much credit when they turn out well.
A boy wants the aura and armament of his father. It is a deep yearning, but sometimes a little sad – a common enough masculine trait that is also vaguely unmanly.
Our society is awash with millions of daughters pathetically seeking the affection their fathers never gave them – and some of these daughters are at the sunset of their lives. In the extreme, there are myriads of sons who were denied a healthy same-sex relationship with their father and are now spending the rest of their lives in search of their sexual identity via perversion and immorality.
Men, there are few places where sanctified sweat will show greater dividends than in fathering.
Not a few preacher’s kids have been catapulted into rebellion because their fathers squeezed their lives to fit their parishioner’s expectations.
We must be Biblical in regard to our no’s – and as our children grow, be prepared to discuss the rules Biblically and principally. We must learn to trust God with our children, realizing they must learn to make decisions for themselves.
Eli failed to confront his boys. He failed to instruct them about their sin. And because of this, they were destroyed.
I saw my parents working for their people, bearing their burdens. Day and night. They did not have to say a word to me about Christianity.
There has been an interesting development in suburban architecture. Long gone are the days when homes all had large front porches, with easy access to the front door, enabling one to become quickly acquainted with others in the neighborhood.
In the 1990s we have architecture which speaks more directly to our current values. The most prominent part of a house seems to be the two- or three- car garage. Inside are huge bathrooms with skylights and walk-in closets larger than the bedroom I grew up in. Modern architecture employs small living and dining rooms and now smaller kitchens as well, because entertaining is no longer a priority. Today’s homes boast smaller yards and an increasing incidence of high fences.
Today’s homes reflect our modern values of individualism, isolation, and privatization.
You also need Christian male friends who have a same-sex understanding of the serpentine passages of your heart, who will not only offer counsel and pray for you, but will also hold you accountable to your commitments and responsibilities when necessary. We will now consider a prime example of this kind of friend.
Do you have the great fortune to have such a deep friend? Men, are we kingmakers?
“Friendship…is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all others” – C.S. Lewis
If you are a regular church attender but do no more than attend morning worship, you are depriving yourself and the church of the friendship so desperately needed by all.
One thing I noticed about Evangelicals is that they do not read. They do not read the Bible, they do not read the great Christian thinkers, they have never heard of Aquinas.
Men, to deny ourselves the wealth of the accumulated saints of the centuries is to consciously embrace spiritual anorexia.
Also, more men are dominated by the time-crunching production ethic of the marketplace, which makes them feel galaxies away from meditation and prayer.
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus enjoined His followers to prayerful tenacity: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The language is unusually compelling because the three verbs (“ask…seek…knock”) indicate an ascending intensity. “Ask” implies requesting assistance for a conscious need. It also suggest humility, for the Greek word here was commonly used by one approaching a superior. “Seek” involves asking, but adds action. The idea is not just to express need, but to get up and look around for help. “Knock” includes asking, plus seeking, plus persevering – for example, one who keeps pounding on a closed door.
What did you think of the service today? The real question ought to be What did God think of it and of those who worshipped?
Jesus’ famous statement in John 4:23 that the Father seeks worshipers is unparalleled, for nowhere in the entire corpus of Holy Scripture do we read of God’s seeking anything else from a child of God. God desires worship above all else.
Worshiping “in truth” means that we come informed by the objective revelation of God’s Word about the great God we serve and the precepts He has spoken. In this sense our worship is governed by what we know and believe of God. The better informed we are, the better we can worship.
The call [to worship], properly done, is a call from God who is inviting us corporately into His presence.
I have left for church with a great sense of expectancy because I know Christ will be there.
Worship is an act which develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God which is expressed in an act of worship.
But for the Christian, the most chilling fact is this: there is little statistical difference between the ethical practices of the religious and the nonreligious.
But the main reason for the integrity crisis is that we humans are fundamentally dishonest. We are congenital liars. Right smack in the middle of the Apostle Paul’s string of observations on the depravity of man in Romans 3, we read, “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit”
The story of Ananias and Sapphira shocks us because they suffered death for such a “small” infraction. So they misrepresented the percentage they gave of their profits – why death? After all, they did give – which is more than people do!
The answer is, the Church cannot prosper with deception among its members – and God wanted to make this clear for all time. Deception wounds the Body of Christ – makes it dysfunctional – and is a sin against God! This is why Peter cried to Ananias and Sapphira at the moment of their deaths, “You have not lied to men but to God”
Helmut Thielicke, the great German theologian and pastor who maintained his integrity all through Hitler’s Third Reich, said: “The avoidance of one small fib… may be a stronger confession of faith than a whole ‘Christian philosophy’ championed in lengthy, forceful discussion.
It is essential that we understand that the Biblical idea of integrity has the root idea of completeness, that a person of integrity is whole. The derivation of our English word integrity from the Latin emphasizes the same quality because integritas means “wholeness”, “entireness”, “completeness”.
Rather, we are never to deceive others by omission, or by using unclear talk to save face or avoid offending another. We are to be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Integrity demands that all speech be intentionally true.
Last, a man of integrity is a man of principle. We must understand that being a man of principle means more than having principles. It means having the courage to stand up for your convictions when it costs you.
If your heart does not condemn you, but affirms you, you can be a tower of strength. “The man of integrity walks securely” (Proverbs 10:9)
Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face. Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.
– To perpetually and lovingly speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15)
– To refrain from being party to or a conduit for gossip (Proverbs 16:28, 17:9, 26:20)
– To refrain from insincere flattery (Proverbs 26:28)
– To refrain from running down another (James 4:11)
– To refrain from degrading humor (Ephesians 5:4)
– To refrain from saracasm (Proverbs 26:24,25)
Each of us has an eternally designed work assignment which includes the task, the ability, and a place to serve.
I may not be able to run your course, and you may find mine impossible, but I can finish my race and you yours. Both of us can finish well if we choose and if we rely on Him who is our strength and our guide.
(Hebrews 12:2a) – The writer is very intentional in commanding us to focus on Jesus, rather than using His title Christ or Jesus Christ. We are to focus on Jesus the incarnate Son of God as He lived as a man here on earth. Jesus was the runner without parallel. Every obstacle was thrown in His way, but He never stumbled once – and He finished going away.
Since we need faith to run the race, we must “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” That is, as the Greek literally indicates, we must deliberately life our eyes from other distracting things and focus with utter concentration on Him – and continue doing so. We must not look away even for an instant. Such focus is indispensable to a life of faith and to finishing the race.
Those who look away from Christ – the end and goal of our race – will not finish well. And this was exactly what was happening to some treading the stormy waters mounting around the early church. They had begun to take their eyes off Christ and to fix them instead on the hardships challenging them. Some had begun to look elsewhere for answers.
Of course, we must wholeheartedly agree that without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ all is lost. But we must not mistakenly reason that one’s relationship with Christ minimizes the importance of His Church.
So today, at the end of the twentieth century, we have a phenomenon unthinkable in any other century: churchless Christians. There is a vast herd of professed Christians who exist as nomadic hitchhikers without accountability, without discipline, without discipleship, living apart from the regular benefits of the ordinances.
On the most elementary level, you do not have to go to church to be a Christian. You do not have to go home to be married either. But in both cases if you do not, you will have a very poor relationship.
The lessons for Joshua were clearly manifest. He learned that that he real power was not in his sword, but in God. The victory undoubtedly tempted him to forget that. He was an instant hero, and that night all the campfires sang the name of Joshua. But forever fixed in Joshua’s mind was the image of Aaron and Hur coming to Moses’ side and lifting his hands up to God.
The Christian leader’s vision of God makes all the difference in his life.
There is no spiritual leadership apart from the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it follows that if we aspire to leadership in the Church, we must be full of the Holy Spirit. Practically, this means that we must continually confess our sins, keep ourselves in God’s Word, and continually submit to God, asking the Spirit to fill us.
What a truth for all leaders to grasp. God does not need us. He has used donkeys to proclaim His Word! He is perfectly capable of carrying out His plans without our leadership. But wonder of wonders, joy of joys, He has chose to use us. We must take our call to leadership seriously. We must glory in the work, but never in ourselves.
The abiding spiritual fact is, there is no way to grow into spiritual maturity without committing one’s giving to the Lord. God can have our money and not have our hearts, but He cannot have our hearts without having all our money. (Matthew 6:21)
The key to liberation from the power of materialism is not an exodus from culture – abandoning Wall Street or leaving the wealth of nation to others – but the grace of giving.
In retrospect, my family’s most enduring spiritual joys have come through everyday personal witness to people like Susie, our daughter Holly’s kindergarten teacher who weekly promised Holly she would come to church – and finally came – and returned again and again, becoming our good friend and finding Christ.
It has been an increasing revelation to my wife and me that the greatest joys in pastoral ministry have come not in the extraordinary events (such as an exceptional worhsip service or ground-breaking on a great building project), but in the normal, “average” avenues of everyday person-to-person witness – the things any Christian can do, regardless of gifts or calling.
the more immediate and personal one’s knowledge of Christ, the more natural it is to share Him with others. This is why those who have newly met Christ are often so verbal and successful in leading others to Him, despite the absence of learned arguments.
For unlike the caricatures of Christ, the Christ of Scripture is so winsome, so radically different, so utterly unlike the stereotypes, that when He is truly seen, He draws the most resistant to Himself.
There are men who join the army only if they can be officers, who will do evangelism if they are the evangelists. But the true evangelist’s heart is a selfless heart. Andrew’s heart was ordinary perhaps, but extraordinary in its selflessness.
Everyone we encounter is an eternal soul of immense value whom we ought to regard with the same weight with which God regards them.
If you know Christ, you… have the essential heart qualifications to share him – even if you do not have all the answers.
If our ambition is to dodge the troubles of human existence, the formula is simple: avoid entangling relationships, do not give yourself to others, and be sure not to seriously embrace elevated and noble ideals. If we do this, we will escape a host of afflictions.
This life principle bears out in other logics of life as well. Cultivate deafness and we will be spared hearing the discords of life. Cultivate blindness and we will be shielded from seeing ugliness. If we want to get through life with a minimum of trouble, all we have to do is wear blinders. This is how so many people, even those who profess to be Christians, get through life with such easy they have successfully nurtured smallness of heart.
The other path is to cultivate a ministering heart. Open yourself to others, and you will become susceptible to an index of sorrows scarcely imaginable to a shriveled heart. Enlarge and ennoble your ideals, and your vulnerability will increase proportionately.
No one has ever cultivated a ministering heart and live to tell of a life of ease.
Little hearts, though safe and protected, never contribute anything. No one benefits from their restricted sympathies and vision. On the other hand, hearts that have embraced the disciplines of ministry – though they are vulnerable – are also the hearts which possess the most joy and leave their heartprint on the world.
A holy sobering takes place as we realize that none of our appointments are with mere mortals, but that everyone (the woman at the well and at the laundromat, the religious leader and the pizza delivery boy) will continue eternally as glorious beings or lost souls. The ministering heart, like Jesus’ heart, senses this and treats all souls accordingly.
Third, the heart God uses is disciplined in perspective, seeing all its human relationships as sovereignly ordered encounters with eternal beings. To this heart, all life’s relationships are shrouded with the numinous – pulsating with spiritual potential – part of an eternal drama in which each Christian has a special part to play.
How then are we to respond? Certainly not with the “do nothing” passivity which has become increasingly characteristic of the American male. For many men, a challenge is an opportunity to duck – to pull up the covers and stay in bed – “There is so much to do… I don’t know where to begin…” – the paralysis of analysis.