The following contains notes from a Father's Day sermon I preached several years ago on the power of men who study God's Word together. Again, these are just notes from my sermon, not an article, so it may be a bit choppy and aggravating in that respect. However, I hope there might be some words of encouragement for you.
Men + Bible = Strength
2 Timothy 3:14-17
June 15, 2013
When we first began our 52 Promises we had several sessions where we attempted to identify things we wanted to focus on.
The title of this sermon came out of one of those brainstorming sessions. And yet the title and focus of this sermon could just as easily be…
Women + Bible = Strength ·
Youth + Bible = Strength ·
Children + Bible = Strength
And they would all be just as true.
However, It’s Father’s Day and our PROMISE this week relates to our Men’s Discipleship ministry. So that’s the reason for the title and focus of the sermon this morning.
Here are a few facts about our men's ministry here at Southside...
12 ½ years ago ·
6 or 7 men… my house ·
Saw need for men to be in Scripture with other men… sharing things they wouldn’t share in co-ed studies or even with men in other settings.
(Even JOHN WESLEY had men-only and women-only studies and small groups, which he called BANDS)
Within just a few months… we had 18 men crammed into my living room. The men were inviting other men… on their own. A need was being met.
Finally, we had to move to the Family Life Center.
About a year later we added the Monday night men’s group.
There are different kinds of men’s groups. Some have only 3-4 men and provide a safe place for men to share with each other… confess struggles, hold each other accountable, etc.
Our men's ministry has plenty of prayer and concern for one another. (What John Wesley called “Watching over one another in love.”)
But the main emphasis in our ministry, from the beginning, has been STUDYING God’s Word TOGETHER. Men + Bible = Strength
Now, as I often say, we don’t study the Bible just so we can just learn a lot of Bible information and win Jeff Foxworthy’s Bible Trivia TV show. We learn the information for transformation.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2…
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
A paraphrase of this verse is: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
If men are going to prevent being squeezed into the world’s mold, to be conformed to the world around us, then we have to renew our minds. And Paul says this mind-renewal will help to transform our lives into the likeness of Christ.
The King James Version of the Bible quotes Proverbs 23:7 as saying, “As a man thinks, so is he.” In other words, our “DOING” usually follows our “THINKING.”
So we’re encouraged to renew our minds. But how? With what? Well, the “What”… is God’s Word. And an important part of the “HOW” is… with other men.
Proverbs 27:17 says,
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
I can’t tell you how much wisdom flows on Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings as men sharpen one another through study, encouragement, challenging one another, etc. I have learned so much from our men.
But we’re not just meeting together to share our own wisdom. We’re there to hear a Word from God. To get God’s perspective on whatever topic we’re talking about.
Our Scripture this morning tells us why that’s so important.
Let’s look at our text again (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Scripture makes us wise for salvation through Christ Jesus (verse 15) ·
Scripture is God-breathed (verse 16) ·
Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training us in righteousness (verse 16) ·
Scripture equips the man of God thoroughly for every good work. (verse 17) Ephesians 2:10 says we’re created to do good works. Bible equips us.
That’s why we don’t just sit around and share our own opinions. We study God’s Word on our own… and then come together to hear from one another about what God taught us. And in the process, God takes that collective synergy and gives us even greater wisdom and understanding as his Spirit moves leads our discussion of his Word. To be sure, this takes humility and a teachable spirit, but we think it’s worth it.
What if there was a practical way a group of men could grow closer with God and become more and more the men God created, redeemed, and called them to be… in every sphere of their lives (Baxter)…
* In their private lives when no one else was looking
* At home with their families ·
* At work ·
* At church ·
* In the community
What could a man look like if his mind was renewed each week with a group of men who opened God’s Word together?
Men, we would love to have you come and join us… on MONDAY nights or WEDNESDAY mornings.
Our greatest desire is for you to know Christ and become all that God wants you to be, in every sphere of your lives.
We think our men's ministry here at Southside can be a great instrument in the hands of God to help make that happen.
In the same spirit as what I call, Kingdom Discipleship, this is Session 1, from Tony Evans' video series, Kingdom Man. I'm not sure if the other five sessions are available online, but I thought this was worth sharing as it is such a vital message for men today to hear and embrace. Our culture is in desperate need for Kingdom Men who will faithfully follow the Lord Jesus Christ into every sphere of life.
Every now and then God is particularly good. Of course he’s always good, but every now and then his goodness is lavished in our lives in such a way that we immediately sense how undeserving we really are.
That was how I felt about 17 years ago when I stumbled upon a book that revolutionized my faith, ministry, and life. The book is entitled, The Micah Mandate, by George Grant. (Get this book!) It’s a marvelous, God-honoring study of what a biblical worldview is and how it should ignite those who hold it dear. Up to that point I had read every book around on the subject of Christian worldview, but those books seemed to only focus on the abstract and philosophical. Grant’s book expanded my world and broadened my horizons. He emphasized that worldview isn’t just something for the ivory towers of academia, but for all of life. Our worldview – our treasured faith – is for every sphere of life. I haven’t been the same since.
With that book's influence moving throughout my heart and mind, I began a weekly men’s discipleship ministry about a year later. My hope was that a few men would gather together around God’s Word and be saturated and transformed by it. I prayed that men would be renewed and revived. I deeply desired that biblical, God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled disciples would be born – men who would change the world – beginning with themselves, then in and through their families, workplaces, churches, communities, the culture, and then perhaps, one day, the world. God honors such efforts. Reformation and revival happens in such ways.
My hope for the men’s ministry way back then, as it is today, was for God to penetrate the hearts, minds, and souls of our men with his Word, so thoroughly, that he would cultivate in their lives a framework (worldview) for viewing, interpreting, and applying their faith in every sphere of life. God has been pleased to work mightily in the lives of many of our men in such a way. Soli Deo Gloria.
Grace and Truth,
This post is sort of a "part 2" to the post below on success.
Question: What is mediocrity? What examples of it have you witnessed recently? How do you prevent mediocrity from attacking you, your family, or your business?
Answer: I would say my definition of “mediocrity” is, not pursuing my God-given calling. Examples of mediocrity in my life would include: Not seeking to grow in my faith. Not learning about myself. Not learning how to develop myself so I can increasingly become who God made and called me to be. Not taking responsibility for my life. Not seeking to bear much, good, and lasting fruit for Christ and his Kingdom. General laziness and, sometimes, apathy. I guess with these examples I'm trying to point toward the direction of my life as opposed to results. While we participate in the process, results are ultimately up to God.
Some folks may be given five talents, some two, and some one. What counts is not how much you’re given, but what you do with what you’re given. Are you faithful with what you’ve been given, or do you tend to bury your talents in the ground? No effort – no risk – no trust in God. That describes too many of us. That has described me all too often.
I think we slow the influence mediocrity in our lives by obeying God, trusting him, staying close with him, continually seeking to be filled with his Spirit, staying in God’s Word, praying, praying, and praying some more, pursuing lifelong personal development and learning, etc. AND... traveling along this path with others is key.
The sanctifying process is more than learning how not to sin. While it obviously includes that, it also incorporates the positive act and attitude of conforming more and more to the likeness of Christ and renovating our lives under his Lordship so that we can grow toward our God-given potential…for his glory. Putting off sin and putting on righteousness. Dying to self and rising with Christ. We must continuously move forward, becoming progressively sanctified (i.e., becoming more like Christ, who perfectly fulfilled his calling). In all of this, God's grace is required. (I'm not endorsing a "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" mentality.)
I have experienced mediocrity in my own life. Every time I have daydreamed or surfed the net too long, watched too much TV, slept in too late, etc., I have embraced mediocrity.* But I think I’ve come to understand that I move toward overcoming mediocrity in my life only as I make the most of the time God has given me.
Very practically speaking, that means having a God-glorifying plan, (related to the various spheres of my life), and then faithfully, strategically, and consistently working that plan. There's certainly more to say about this, but this is a start.
By the way, I just started reading a great book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, entitled, Living Forward, which addresses these very ideas. Best of all, they provide a great road map (or action plan) for how to "live forward."
* Just a note to say I have not defined how much "too long, too much, or too late" is, regarding the things mentioned in this sentence. That's going to look different for each of us. I know the difference between "taking a break" versus "being lazy" in my life. You'll have to figure out the difference between the two in yours.
Just a quick thought for today.
Grace and Truth,
Far and away one of the best books I’ve ever read on child-rearing is Standing on the Promises, by Doug Wilson. If you were to ask to borrow my copy, I’m not sure it would do you any good because you probably wouldn’t be able to read the words from all my notes and markings.
However, if you are looking for a “how to” book to help you raise your children, this is not the book for you. While the book is not without practical application, Wilson is far less concerned with giving you twelve easy steps to parenting godly kids as he is with giving you a firm foundation upon which to do so. But, I hasten to add, the book is anything but abstract and impractical. It is encouraging, instructive, and even inspiring. I heartily recommend it to any and all parents who are seeking to raise godly children in this ungodly age.
Here are a few choice quotes from the first chapter that I think are worth passing on…
The Fountainhead of Culture
The biblical family is an instituted government, established by God at the very beginning of human history. The constitution for this government was written by him, and revealed to us in his Word.
Parents bring up their children to be colonists at the proper time, planting families of their own.
Consequently, each family is designed to be a culture – with a language, customs, traditions, and countless unspoken assumptions. God has made the world in such a way that children who grow up in the culture of the family are to be shaped and molded by it. The duty of the husband and father is to ensure that the shaping is done according tot he standards of the Word of God.
[A common problem among modern Christians] is that of forgetting the family is a culture at all, and allowing, by default, outside cultural influences to take primacy in how the children are shaped. When the biblical cultural mandate for the home is abandoned in the home, the vacuum will not be there for long.
By nature, children are malleable. They will either be shaped lawfully, by those commanded by God to perform the task, or they will be shaped unlawfully, by outsiders. But as children, they will be shaped.
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:7)
You have probably heard the definition of character as, “who you are when no one is looking.” You could also say that character is who you are when those who know you best are looking.
In the second chapter of The Measure of a Man, Gene Getz looks at what it takes to build a good reputation. This is rather a tricky area because some folks may enjoy a good reputation superficially because they’re able to reasonably fake it before people they don’t know well and with whom they associate only on an occasional basis. But living a life that builds a good reputation is hard to fake on a regular basis with those who know you best… such as the members of your family who know you most intimately.
Let me hasten to add that the expectation here is not that you’re expected to walk on water. As one person I recently read put it, the idea here is direction, not perfection. The question is: Are you moving in a godly, Christlike direction in your life?
In the Scripture at the top of this devotion, Paul tells Timothy the kind of person he should be looking for to exercise leadership in the church needs to have a good reputation. Christians are charged with hypocrisy enough as it is. And even if the charge isn’t always accurate, the mere perception can derail a life or a ministry. Worse still, we don’t want to misrepresent our Lord before a watching world.
Getz suggests that Timothy was such a person… a man with a good reputation. He highlights these three indicators…
1. People were saying positive things about Timothy.
2. More than one person was saying these positive things about Timothy.
3. People in more than one location were saying these positive things about Timothy.
It seems that wherever Timothy was and whomever he was with, he was a godly man living above reproach. Thus, he enjoyed a good reputation.
Getz recommends that if you want to really know your reputation (as it relates to your genuine character) ask someone who knows you best. This might sting a little, but it’s a good way to get to the truth of who you are… and to serve you in becoming the godly man you want to become.
Just as important, we occasionally need to conduct a personal assessment of who we are and what we’re about. Getz suggests asking yourself the following questions (these are great questions, by the way)
1. Do more and more people select me as a person to share their lives with?
2. Do people trust me with confidential information?
3. Do my relationships with people grow deeper and more significant the longer they know me and the closer they get to me? Or do my friendships grow strained and shallow as people learn to know what I am really like?
4. Does my circle of friends grow continually wider and larger? Do an increasing number of people trust me?
5. Do people recommend me for significant or difficult tasks without fear of my letting them down?
The point in all of this is not to build a reputation by duplicity and manipulation. To be sure, there are plenty of people doing that. Instead, our goal should be as we grow in godliness, the authenticity of our increasingly Christlike character will be made evident to all. And that’s how we can represent our Lord well in this world.
Have a great rest of the week.
Grace and Truth,
While I'm sharing excerpts from Packer, I thought I should also share this snippet from one of Packer's books that I have read a number of times, A Quest for Godliness. I've been listening to an audio course of Packer's lectures (from 1988) on the Puritans, and it inspired me to share this little list from Packer on why the church really does need to sit at the feet of the Puritans and learn from them. Here's a little from his list...
1.) There are lessons for us in the integration of their daily lives. As their Christianity was all-embracing, so their living was all of a piece. There was for them no disjunction between sacred and secular; all creation, so far as they were concerned, was sacred, and all activities, of whatever kind, must be sanctified, that is, done to the glory of God.
2.) There are lessons for us in the quality of their spiritual experience. In the Puritans’ communion with God, as Jesus Christ was central, so Holy Scripture was supreme.
3.) There are lessons for us in their passion for effective action. They had no time for idleness of the lazy or passive person who leaves it to others to change the world.
4.) There are lessons for us in their program for family stability. It is hardly too much to say that the Puritans created the Christian family in the English-speaking world.
5.) There are lessons to be learned from their sense of human worth. Through believing in a great God, they gained a vivid awareness of the greatness of moral issues, of eternity, and of the human soul.
6.) There are lessons to be learned from the Puritans’ ideal of church renewal. The essence of this kind of renewal (what they called “reformation”) was enrichment of understanding of God’s truth, arousal of affections Godward, increase of ardour in one’s devotions, and more love, joy, and firmness of Christian purpose in one’s calling and personal life.