Our True Rule
The United Methodist Church, by way of our denominational standard, addresses the sufficiency of Scripture. Our 2008 Book of Discipline reminds us, Scripture is “necessary for salvation” and is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
I’m assuming the “practice” referenced is the practice of our faith, the exercise of living one’s life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and preparing for the next. We believe God expects us to live such a life in accordance with Scripture’s direction, rules, laws, commands, examples, teachings, principles, and all the rest. That covers a great deal of ground.
United Methodists believe that what John Wesley called scriptural holiness relates to both our inward walk with Christ and the outward expression of that relationship with our neighbors. Our Doctrinal Statements, General Rules and Social Principles cover a lot of ground and an enormous variety of topics, such as economics, environment, bioethics, justice, marriage, parenting, politics, poverty, and yes, our precious Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes through him. In all these spheres and more, Scripture is our “true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
Our 2008 Disciplines says this about scriptural holiness,
We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing.
Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
This is what I mean when I say Scripture is sufficient for every sphere of life. This is what I take our Discipline to mean when it reminds us that Scripture is “necessary for salvation” and is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
So, while the Bible doesn’t, for example, teach me how to change the oil in my car, it still directs and guides me to do even something as mundane (and as important) as that to God’s glory. It teaches me to be a good steward of what God has provided.
The Apostle Paul teaches us,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Scripture is profitable for a bunch of stuff. He doesn’t use the same language here, but Paul is saying Scripture is sufficient for every sphere of life. Bishop Mack Stokes addressed this by writing,
Immediately following the “General Rules,” Wesley wrote, ‘These are the General Rules of our society; all which are taught of God to observe, even in his written Word, which is the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both of our faith and practice.’ (The Bible in the Wesleyan Heritage, p. 21)
Understanding that Scripture is sufficient for faith and practice is not the same as saying the Bible is a science textbook, a political constitution, or a manual for how to care for my car. But the Bible clearly does have something (and something important) to say about those areas of life and far more.
Wayne Grudem, (who is not United Methodist), shares this definition for the sufficiency of Scripture, which I believe is helpful. He writes,
The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (Systematic Theology, p. 127)
We want to submit to our Lord in every sphere of life and are guided in that pursuit in and through God’s Word. It is sufficient for such a pursuit.
Grace and Truth,
This booklet is the third in a series on basic discipleship principles for men.
The first booklet focused on God’s good gift, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By trusting in Christ alone, and repenting of our sin, we become new creatures in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second booklet emphasized that coming to faith in Christ is just the beginning of our walk with Christ, not the end of it. God wants us to increasingly become like his Son in the here and now. Through the process of sanctification, followers of Christ become more and more like their Savior and Lord.
In this booklet we will discover that following Christ as his disciple is not easy. It’s hard, which is why Jesus taught that before we agree to follow him, we must first count the cost of doing so. But the good news is, those who do follow Jesus are never asked to do so in their own strength, but in the grace, power, and wisdom he supplies.
This resource can be used for your personal devotional time with God. I hope, however, that you will also use it to disciple other men. It will also be helpful to use in your small group.
You can order it or learn more about it by clicking here, which will take you to the Lulu.com website.
This book offers short devotional chapters covering key principles for men who desire to walk the right path of godly manhood.
A godly man knows Christ, has a Christian worldview, lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is aware of the temptations in his life and fights hard against them, desires to grow in his faith, exercises biblical wisdom and discernment, and follows his Lord wherever he may lead. These are the themes that run throughout these devotions.
Before making it to this book, these chapters were sent out as devotional emails over the course of a year to encourage and equip men to walk the path of godly manhood.
Each of these 52 chapters contains a devotional based on Scripture, questions for reflection and next steps, a prayer, and prayer prompts to help guide you in your prayer life for that week.
This devotional can be used for personal time spent with God, as well as a resource for discipling other men, or to use in your small group.
You can learn more about it or buy it here, at Lulu.com.
Character Then Influence
In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott reminds his readers that if Matthew 5:3-12 (the Beatitudes) is about a Christian’s character, then Matthew 5:13-16 is about a Christian’s influence in this world. I have always loved the words of Matthew 5:13-16, which describe Christian influence as salt and light. These words of Jesus point us toward the right balance of inward piety and outward action.
It’s important to note, Jesus doesn’t tell us to go out and be salt and light. He declares we already are salt and light. As men who have experienced new birth, we are now new creatures in Christ whose character is increasingly reflected in the Beatitudes. To paraphrase the Apostle Peter, we are holy so we should go and be holy. We are to “go be who we already are,” Jesus and Peter teach us.
I love this text because it strikes an important connection and balance between inward piety and outward action. The inward and private pursuit of the devotional life, of spiritual introspection and reflection is vital, but if it never moves one forward to “live” the life of Christ in the world then it can become an empty and useless form of asceticism. A person can become quickly self-absorbed in their own stuff if their piety never leaves the prayer closet or Bible study. I hasten to add that, in my opinion, this is not the greatest threat to the church today. Would that more people spent greater time in the prayer closet and Bible study. That leads me to the other side of the coin.
As important as outward action (good works) is, if godly character is not undergirding and directing it, then it can become nothing more than the cause de jour. And that can morph into a self-centered, legalistic way for a man to build himself up, and become a judgmental, finger-wagging Pharisee. Not only that, without the knowledge of Christ and the godly character that comes from that relationship, such action can quickly lead to burnout and disillusionment because, to paraphrase Jesus in John 15, the branch was attempting to do all the work without being connected to the vine. Thus, the branch lacked sustenance, power, and direction.
The Role of the Church
To live as salt and light means disciples of Jesus Christ must exercise the godly influence of the Kingdom of God in the midst of the decay and darkness of the Kingdom of this world. A ministry of discipleship should include educating, equipping, and encouraging followers of Jesus Christ to take up his call to extend his Kingdom into every sphere of their lives as salt and light.
It's a both/and proposition: local churches should teach disciples how to build up their own faith and character so they can faithfully live as salt and light. So too should they equip and encourage their members to live out that faithfulness at home with their families, among friends, in the schools, at work, church, in their neighborhoods, communities, city or town, or even in the broader culture or world. A discipleship ministry should focus on both inward piety and outward action. This is how the church can faithfully minister as salt and light in today’s world.
* What are two ways you are growing in inward piety toward God and in the character of Christ?
* What are some ways your inward spiritual growth is showing up as salt and light in the various spheres of your life?
* What are three specific ways you can be more intentional about being a “Kingdom influence” where God has placed you? Share those ideas with a friend and pray together.
Grace and Truth,
Featuring Ken Boa
Check out more at KenBoa.org
from J. Oswald Sanders...
True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. True service is never without cost. …But the true spiritual leader is focused on the service he or she can render to God and other people, not on the residuals and perks of high office or holy title. We must aim to put more into life than we take out.
The genuine disciple of Christ earnestly desires a closer walk with God and a greater conformity to Christ. If these are absent, there is reason to doubt the genuineness of the discipleship.
…the goal of the Christian life is to attain in ever-increasing degree the standard of spiritual maturity which was seen in perfection in Christ.
Featuring Ken Boa
Check out more at KenBoa.org
Check out this great video lesson from Tony Evans on what it means to be a "Kingdom man." This video is based on Dr. Evans' book by the same title. You can click here to order it or learn more about it.
Matthew 28:18 - And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Philippians 2:9-11 - Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Compartmentalized Living Won't Do
I remember when I first started using the phrase, “faith for every sphere of life.” It began as I started studying the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It just made sense that if Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth, then he is Lord of everything. And if he is the Lord of all there is, then I must submit to him in every sphere of my life, or else I should stop calling him Lord. Jesus said as much in Luke 6:46,
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? (NRSV)
This notion is in marked contrast to the way many people think and live, including myself in the early days of my faith. I, like plenty of other folks, had long been an adherent of a compartmentalized faith. Men, you know the drill: the Christian faith is fine for Sunday mornings, but it has nothing to do with the rest of your life. It’s embarrassing to admit, but that’s where I was.
Personal, Not Private
Instead, the Christian faith should be understood as a comprehensive view of life. The secular world around us, however, still prefers the church to remain silent about anything not having to do with personal prayers and worship on Sunday mornings. Faith, they say, is private. Sure, you can practice it at home, or even with other Christians on Sunday mornings, but don’t you dare bring it into the public square. Jesus, however, doesn't give us that option. The Christian faith certainly ought to be personal, but it should never be private. To paraphrase the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, "there is not a square inch in all the universe about which the Lord Jesus Christ does not declare his own.”
As a United Methodist, I have rejoiced that John Wesley took just such a view of the Christian faith. He called it Scriptural Holiness and said it was his purpose in life to spread such Scriptural Holiness over the land. For Wesley, holiness was inward but also outward. It was personal and it was social. There was no picking and choosing. Faith must permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life – prayer, personal devotions, worship, marriage, parenting, work, economics, politics, education, the arts, personal morality, relationships, civic duty, and serving the community, just to name a few spheres of life.
This Includes Your Life
I encourage you to prayerfully ask yourself what it would mean for you to understand there is not even the smallest corner of your life about which Jesus Christ, as Lord, is unconcerned. How would acknowledging and submitting to that truth change your life? How would it bless your relationship with your family and friends? What consequences would it have for you in your workplace? Can you imagine the possibilities? Brothers, Christ is calling you to follow him in every sphere of your lives. Do you hear his voice? Will you follow him?
· Look again at those questions in the last paragraph. They are not rhetorical. They are questions Christ requires we ask ourselves, as well as answer. More than that, we must live out those answers before a world in desperate need of godly men.
· Write down as many “spheres” of your life as you can think of. Which of those spheres are you submitting to the Lord? Which ones are you keeping from him? Why?
· How would submitting to Christ’s lordship in those spheres of life change the way you are living your life in those areas? Be as specific as possible.
· Write your answers to each of those questions down in a journal or on an index card. Then pray over them, asking God to lead you to greater faithfulness. Meet with some accountability partners and discuss the questions and your answers and then pray about how each of you can help one another in this pursuit.
Lord of heaven and earth, remind me this day that there is not a square inch in all the universe about which you are unconcerned. While I rejoice that I have seen changes in my life through the gracious work of your Spirit, please show me those areas I am attempting to keep from you. Convict me of my sin and rebellion in those areas and turn my hard heart to flesh and joyful obedience. Please let my life faithfully bear witness to you as I serve as your ambassador to other men who are struggling with handing you the reigns in their lives. Together, may we extend your glorious Kingdom into every sphere of life here on earth, as it already is in heaven. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords I pray. Amen.
The Fellowship of Ailbe
Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
C.S. Lewis Institute
The Gospel Coalition
The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Every Square Inch Ministries
Gene Edward Veith
Center for Cultural Leadership
Church and Culture