A Fitting Title
A few years ago our church's men’s groups studied 1 Timothy and Titus, using a great study-guide by John Stott. Stott’s commentary on the same two epistles is entitled, Guard the Truth. It’s no mystery why the commentary is named that. Here are a few texts from Paul's two letters that support the choice of that title.
1 Timothy 1:3-4 - As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer  nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith.
1 Timothy 3:14-15 - Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,  if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 - The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 - If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,  he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions  and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
1 Timothy 6:20-21 - Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge,  which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.
Titus 1:9 - He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
These are just a few of the more obvious texts on the need (indeed, the command) for Christians to guard the truth.
Of Majors and Minors
Throughout the study the discussion kept coming around to the oft-cited observation that, like the culture, there doesn’t seem to be a high premium on truth in the Church today. While this may be a given outside the Church, it should not be so within her walls.
This isn’t to say we ought to appoint “thought police” within to start arresting folks who don’t “think like us.” Nor does it mean every issue is worth fighting and dividing over. There are some things, secondary things, that godly people can disagree over and still not reject the authority of God’s Word, the central doctrines of the faith, and the unity God desires for his Church.
I’ve often shared with folks that when I graduated from seminary I wanted to debate every last detail of every last doctrine. As I have gotten older, and hopefully matured some, I have found the list of things I care to debate has become shorter. However, the things I do hold dear are not only worth debating, but worth dying for.
United Methodist Ordination
The ordination service in my denomination declares and asks,
“Remember that you are called to serve rather than to be served, to proclaim the faith of the church and no other, to look after the concerns of God above all.
“Do you believe in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
“Are you persuaded that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and are the unique and authoritative standard for the church’s faith and life?
“Will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, and committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry.”
I’m proud to say that, at least on paper, my denomination cares about the truth of God’s Word, so much so, that ordained clergy are tasked with preaching, teaching, defending, and living it.
One of the best parts about attending the ordination service each year at my denomination’s Annual Conference is that God reminds me of my own calling. He reminds me that we in our day, as Jude pointed out in his day, are still heralds and guardians of the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
What’s true of me as an ordained pastor is true of every Christian. May we all faithfully guard and share the truth our Lord has entrusted to our care, not as arrogant fools, but as humble stewards of the God who so loved the world that he sent the Truth himself.
Make a list of the most important Christian beliefs you hold dear and explain why you chose them. What is it about them that qualifies them to make your “to die for” list? How does your list compare to the major historic creeds of the church or of your denomination? Jesus clearly desires the unity of his church. What role does truth play in that unity?
Grace and Truth,
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 this 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.
We easily think of Scripture’s sufficiency for things like salvation, doctrinal belief, prayer, and worship. But how might the Bible be sufficient for topics such as art and music, the environment, and your workplace? What are some ways you can start expanding your view of Scripture’s relevance in your life?
Grace and Truth,
The United Methodist View of Scripture
What is the United Methodist view of Scripture? Is there an official view? I know what the Discipline says, but how much latitude do we allow, one way or the other, before we say a particular view is out-of-bounds? Those are some of the questions we as a denomination have been wrestling with for quite a while now.
Several years ago, at my denomination’s Annual Conference, I heard a phrase (used by two different people) that got my attention. The phrase was, “We take the Bible seriously, but not literally.”
“Seriously, but not literally.” What does that even mean? Does that strike you as a slight of hand? What does it mean to take the Bible literally?
As a former member of the theology team of the Board of Ordained Ministry in my conference, I have been a part of many meaningful conversations about a candidate’s view of Scripture. However, my observation is, in some instances, suggesting a candidate takes the Bible literally is shorthand for saying the candidate takes the Bible a little too seriously.
Taking the Bible Literally
Yet, from everything I’ve read on the subject, taking the Bible literally means, quite simply, reading the Bible according to the literature-style in which it was written. We know there are many kinds of literature in the Bible. There is gospel, epistle, poetry, apocalyptic, wisdom, historical narrative, hymns, etc. They are not all to be read in the very same way. That would be folly. Furthermore, I have yet to read someone who holds a high view of Scripture who believes the Bible should be read in such a way.
Many of the folks I’ve talked to who hold a certain disdain for the notion of biblical inerrancy, for example, have never read a single book by an inerrantist on the subject of inerrancy. Instead, it seems many critics of inerrancy are often reacting to the very worst caricatures that have been built into conference folklore over the years. And frankly, who would want any of those caricatures to come to life and serve a local church in our conference? Not me!
Your Stigma Against My Dogma
I’m not saying concerns about inerrancy (or, at least, folks who hold that view) are completely unjustified. I am saying few people in United Methodist circles have read much on the subject and thus have the worst possible view of it. That doesn’t strike me as very open-minded, something on which we United Methodists pride ourselves.
I would like to see an end to the negative stereotypes of folks who hold a high view of Scripture. I would like to hold a high view of Scripture without being accused of bibliolatry (the view that the Bible, and not God, is being worshiped).
Let me be clear: I’m not defending any and every bad interpretation that has come along in the name of Scriptural authority. Both sides of the debate have clearly misused and even abused the Bible. What I am for is a holy and reasonable discussion, free of character assassinations and straw men (or straw persons, if you prefer).
Let’s Actually Take the Bible Seriously
Let’s roll up our sleeves together and do the hard and responsible work of rightly interpreting the Bible, all the while, maintaining a grateful, joyful, and humble attitude toward the Bible’s inspiration, authority, and sufficiency in our lives. We won’t always agree, but we can still disagree with integrity. Text management (i.e., “I like this verse, so it’s authoritative for me; I don’t like that one, so it’s not.”) is not the reasonable, mature, wise, or godly way to go about it.
Our denomination will not thrive without truly taking the Bible seriously.
What are some ways you as an individual Christian can begin learning how to take the Bible seriously and literally? What are some ways a denomination can agree on the Bible’s authority and still disagree on various interpretations, with integrity? What are some ways a denomination (or individual Christian) should not interpret Scripture?
Grace and Truth,
John 18:36-37 - Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
An Audacious Claim
Truth is a very big deal in the Gospel of John. Jesus, in a good number of verses, begins his teachings with phrases like, “I tell you the truth.” In John 14:6, Jesus claims not only to speak the truth, but to actually be truth itself. In today’s text Jesus says he came into the world to testify to the truth. Furthermore, he says, if you are on the side of truth you will listen to him.
It’s an incredibly bold move to say you are truth itself and your purpose for coming into the world is to testify to the truth. In fact, it’s downright arrogant, unless your claim is true. And that’s where the rub is. If it is true that Jesus is the truth, (and that he came to testify to the truth), then it would be quite prudent to listen to what he has to say. In fact, it would be an imperative.
Just A Good Teacher?
The thrust of our text reminds us, rather loudly, Jesus was not simply an interesting teacher. He claimed to be much more. People who say Jesus was just a good teacher are actually revealing at least two things about themselves.
The first thing is there is a high probability they have never read the gospels for themselves. If they had, they could say they do not believe the things Jesus taught, but it would be intellectually dishonest to say his self-referential claims were not audacious. The “good teacher” response is evidence a person has not likely read what this “good teacher” taught.
The second revelation is they do not want to submit to Jesus’ Lordship nor trust in him as their Savior. Autonomous man still wants to be God. Even postmodern man, with his many “relative truths” – however contradictory they may all be – does not desire the One who claims to be the Truth (capital “T”). The sinful inclination of their hearts suppresses the truth they know (Romans 1:18).
Who Are You Listening To?
The words of verse 37 are powerful: Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.
You don’t have to be an expert in logic to understand the implications here. If you don’t listen to Jesus, then you are not on the side of truth. And if Jesus is the truth and his purpose in coming was to bear witness to the truth, then what Jesus says about every sphere of life matters. It matters a lot.
Of course, “listens to me” means much more than simply hearing what Jesus has to say. It implies “responding in obedience” to him as well. Submission is key here. Jesus is not suggesting he would be happy if you went to Starbucks, sat down with your favorite cup of coffee, and merely listened to someone tell you about Jesus. The person, work, and words of Jesus Christ demand a response. For centuries people recognized this and chose to either submit to him or reject him. But today some folk opt for patting him on the head and then moving on, ignoring him. But as the wise philosopher-theologian Geddy Lee, from the rock group Rush, sang, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”
Jesus will not be ignored, at least not with impunity. He will not be placed on the backburner of your life, only to be thought about at funerals and on Christmas mornings. He is the truth. He testifies to the truth. In fact, as Jesus put it in verse 37, he is a King.
Does all of that really describe a person you can blow off if you want to, without consequence?
The Right Side of Jesus
It’s popular today to talk about being on the right side of history. Jesus wants us to be on the right side of truth. And to be on the right side of truth is to be on the right side of Jesus. Therefore, let me encourage you to pick up your Bible today and begin listening to Jesus. Start with the Gospel of John. Then move to Matthew, Mark and Luke… then read John again. After that, you should start listening to Jesus as he speaks through his appointed apostles and prophets. God’s ordinary and significant means by which he has ordained his Son to be encountered and heard is through his Word – the Bible. So pick it up and side with him today.
Reading and studying the Bible on your own is profitable. However, when you are able to talk about it with others who are also reading it, it can be a real blessing. Ask a couple of friends if they’ll start reading the Gospel of John with you so your group can discuss it together. Give special attention to the claims Jesus makes about himself and the implications those claims have on your life.
Grace and Truth,
Where There is No King
There’s a prophetic and sobering verse at the end of the Book of Judges, one which speaks directly to us today. Judges 21:25 says, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Another translation puts it this way: “in those days Israel had no king, and everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.”
The Book of Judges, and that verse in particular, sets the context for the Book of 1 Samuel, which describes Israel’s sinful desire and demand for their first human king.
Judges 21:25 tells us there was no accepted authority over the people of Israel. They no longer submitted to the King they already had. They weren’t content with their invisible, yet divine, King. Thus, the people did whatever they wanted to. We too live in a culture that makes light of any authority outside ourselves. Many of us know parents who have abdicated their rightful authority in their own homes, schools where students do not recognize the authority of the teachers, and communities where citizens no longer respect police officers as authorities in their lives.
So too, the Church at large no longer commands the respect of authority it once did. How often we have heard words to the effect, “Well, my church believes such and such, but I don’t.” Perhaps most sadly, the Bible, the Holy Word of God, is no longer held up as the authority in the lives of many. How often have you heard someone dismiss something the Bible plainly teaches because, according to them, the Bible is nothing more than what ancient people wrote a long time ago, and therefore isn’t relevant to our day and age? That sentiment is so often expressed it’s practically a cliché.
We too might say, “There is no authority in our day, and each person does what is right in their own eyes.”
Our culture is confused and many in the church are following the culture’s lead.
When there is no recognized authority to govern and lead a people, then the people themselves become the measure for all things. You can imagine the chaos which would ensue if each person in a city, large or small, thought he or she was his or her only authority. Such a conclusion would lead us to ask the same question as the late Francis Schaeffer: “How should we then live?”
Rock or Sand?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of two builders who built two homes, which based on casual observation looked basically the same. Yet our Lord tells us there was a profound difference between them. One house was built upon the shaky foundation of sand. The other house was built upon the sure foundation of rock.
Jesus was teaching that we are all builders of lives. And, according to Jesus, we’re either building our lives on the sand or on the Rock. Furthermore, when Jesus spoke of the sure foundation which should undergird every sphere of our lives, he had something particular in mind. He said the only foundation that can give us the strength we need to withstand the raging storms of sin and crises is his Word – both hearing and obeying it.
Francis Schaeffer compared this idea to the small bridges throughout Europe built by the Romans 2,000 years ago. He said those small bridges have lasted centuries and centuries because they were strong enough to support people and even horses and carriages. Yet, he pointed out they would immediately crumble if a modern-day 18-wheeler were to drive across one of them. They are strong enough for the light load, but the heavy load would destroy them.
God’s Word is the sure foundation we need for every sphere, season, and circumstance of our lives, for the light and heavy loads.
Continue in What You Have Learned
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith, to make this very point. Paul reminded Timothy that he knew Paul’s teachings and his way of life. Timothy knew how greatly Paul was persecuted and suffered for the faith. Timothy knew how God rescued Paul from all of that. He then reminded Timothy all Christians would be persecuted, and false teachers would run rampant, and even become more blatant in their deception.
It was in that context Paul encouraged Timothy to continue in what he had learned from the Holy Scriptures. He then explained to Timothy why the Holy Scriptures should be Timothy’s authority for his salvation, faith and life. “The holy Scriptures,” Paul wrote, “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).
Every culture in every age is in desperate need of a transcendent authority that does not blow with every wind of change. Every person needs a clear and true Word from God to guide them through this life and safely into the next. God’s word provides all that and more.
John Wesley beautifully expressed this idea. He wrote,
“I want to know one thing – the way to heaven, how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Only God is here.”
God’s God-Breathed Book
The Bible is authoritative and sufficient for us, Paul says, because it is God’s book. It is God-breathed. Some translations say “inspired,” but the N.I.V. gets it right. The idea is not that the Bible is inspired in the way we might say, “The actor in the play gave us an inspired performance.” Instead, the meaning of the phrase, “God-breathed,” literally means words breathed out by God. Paul is teaching us the words of Scripture are literally God’s words to us. We have in Scripture precisely what God wants us to have, the way he wants us to have it.
What did God, as John Wesley put it, condescend to teach us? In addition to the way to heaven through Christ, Paul indicated all Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. We have been given Scripture for a reason. Paul reminds us that Scripture is sufficient for all our needs and should be our comprehensive guide and authority for every sphere of faith and life.
Reformed writer, R.C. Sproul, once shared the story of a time when he was preaching on the authority of Scripture. After the service was over he saw a familiar face walking toward him. It turned out to be his college roommate. Sproul had not seen him for many years. His friend had gone to the mission field for three years after college and then came back to the U.S. to attend seminary in New York. Sproul had attended seminary in Pittsburgh and then went to Europe for doctoral studies. They had lost contact over the years.
Their reunion was a happy one, and they decided to catch up over dinner. During dinner, Sproul’s friend said to him,
“R.C., before we begin visiting, I want to tell you that I heard your sermon tonight where you affirmed your confidence in Scripture as our authority for life. But I have to tell you, after having been a missionary for three years where I learned about many other religious books, and after going to Seminary in New York and learning about biblical criticism, I don’t believe in the authority of Scripture anymore.”
Sproul said he was a bit surprised to hear his old friend say this, and so he asked him, “Well, what do you still believe?” His friend said, “Oh, I still believe that Jesus is my Savior and my Lord.” Sproul said he was delighted, of course, to hear that. However, his friend’s answer led Sproul to ask a follow-up question. “You say that Jesus is your Lord. Can you tell me how Jesus expresses his Lordship over you? That is, a Lord is someone who issues commands. How does Jesus, as your Lord, give you your marching orders?”
His friend said that it was through the church. Sproul responded by asking, “What church? The Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Lutheran church – what church?” His friend answered, “through the Presbyterian church.”
“Which Presbyterian church?” Sproul asked. “The one in New York or the one in Dallas or the one in Atlanta?” “The General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church,” his friend responded. Sproul followed by asking, “Which General Assembly, the one that voted one way last year, or the one that voted a different way this year?”. “Well, I guess I have a problem,” his friend conceded. “Yes,” Sproul said, “You have a Lord who is unable to exercise Lordship over you.” (from Sproul’s video: “Hath God Spoken?”)
Give Me That Book
Is Jesus your Lord? In truth, Jesus is Lord whether you recognize him as so or not. Yet, he exercises his Lordship through his Spirit working through his Word. Thus, we must hear his voice in the pages of Scripture and obey them. Let us say with John Wesley, “O give me that book! At any price, give the book of God! Here is knowledge enough for me.”
Only the Spirit of God working through that book, the Bible, will lead you to Christ and the real, abundant, and eternal life that comes through faith in him. Only God’s Spirit working through God’s Word will sanctify you, making you more and more like Jesus. In a world full of people, ideas, and activities competing for your allegiance, there’s only one standard worthy to be your sure foundation. May it be for you the Word of God.
How often do you study the Bible each week? How has the study of it taught, rebuked, corrected and trained you in righteousness? What are other authorities in your life competing for your allegiance? When do you find they have the most influence over you? Today, prayerfully recommit your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and bow to his authority found in his Word.
Grace and Truth,
Peter Making A Point
Five times in the first chapter of 2 Peter, we find a form of the word knowledge. Five times! That alone should at least grab our attention.
More than likely, Peter’s letter was a response to the “secret knowledge cults” and the Gnostic heresies of his day. For them, knowledge wasn’t available to all, but only to those who had “the inward spark” of divinity and who attended the secret and sacred initiation rites.
Knowledge for Christians, however, is public knowledge. Specifically, it is knowledge of God and his Son Jesus Christ, which is eternal life (John 17:3). It is in Christ that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col. 2:3). This is how we gain grace and peace. Peter writes,
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)
It is by God, through God, and for God that we are given everything we need for life and godliness. Our access to this comes through knowing him (v. 3). Peter encourages us to add knowledge to our faith (v. 5). Furthermore, he beckons us to seek godly qualities in increasing measure because they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But Not Just Any Knowledge
What all of this means is, knowledge matters. But not just any knowledge.
It is true Paul cautions us about knowledge which puffs us up with pride. But that’s only if we value knowledge as an end in itself. Instead, knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ gives us eternal life, grace and peace, and affects the way we live. In short, knowing God influences every sphere of life.
It is in and through the revealed Word of God that true, life-giving, life-transforming knowledge resides. Let us rejoice that our Lord has not left us alone to grope in the dark but has given us the light of knowledge – the light of his Word – which impacts every sphere of a godly man's life. This is surely why Peter closes his letter with these words,
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
Based on this devotional, what does it mean to know God? What are three ways in which that knowledge makes a difference in your daily life? What are three ways you can grow in that knowledge? Are you presently meeting with other Christian men to study God's Word and pray together? If not, prayerfully consider two or three other men you might begin meeting with to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Pray about that today and contact them tomorrow. Get started before this time next week.
Grace and Truth,
A Transforming Truth
One of the most powerful biblical truths that has transformed both my life and ministry is the touchstone proposition that Jesus Christ is Lord over both the temporal and the eternal. To paraphrase Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, there is not a square inch in all the universe that Jesus Christ doesn’t claim as his own.
That means Jesus Christ is Lord over our salvation, theological, philosophical and ethical views, our thoughts, words, behaviors, attitudes, values, family life, work, checking account, priorities, political views, what we watch on TV and the Internet, what we read, our friendships, our service and witness, and so on. He is Lord over it all. That means he has the right to exercise authority over all of it and may properly expect our obedience in every sphere of our lives. In fact, Jesus asks us what’s the use of calling him Lord if we’re not going to do what he commands (Luke 6:46).
The Pathway to Freedom
To be sure, he is a loving, gracious, good, patient, compassionate, and merciful Lord, but he is Lord nonetheless and we may not rebel against him with impunity. Amazingly, once we come to know him and relate to him as our Lord, he invites us to go deeper in our relationship and know him as brother and friend. The paradox is only as we submit to his Lordship in every sphere of our lives do we become free enough to pursue all he has created, redeemed and called us to be.
A New Worldview
This view of Christ’s Lordship ought to inform the way we see the world in which we live. Like a pair of eye-glasses with the proper prescription, we can only see things aright as we look at the world around us through the lens of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I love the way C.S. Lewis put it. He wrote,
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
Our fallen nature prevents us from seeing everything perfectly, but we should know because Jesus is Lord, we are able to see the world much closer to the way he desires us to see it.
Whether We Recognize Him or Not
The truth is, Jesus is Lord over heaven and earth whether or not we choose to recognize his Lordship. However, we are able to live far more faithfully when we are living in harmony with who he is. Things don’t work well when we’re trying to be our own Lord. Have you noticed?
Is He Your Lord?
Part of my own calling is to serve others by helping them come to a place where they too will bow before Christ, confess him as their Lord, and live in joyfully harmonious submission with that reality. I deeply desire to help folks understand what it means to submit to Christ’s Lordship in every sphere of their lives, beginning with their salvation. It’s vital to realize the Christian faith is not a self-help program that will be of use to anyone (or even make sense) apart from a person dying to self and becoming a new creature in Christ. Only then can a person live the life God calls them to live. Only then is Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, living in and through them by his Spirit (Romans 14:9).
In what areas of your life do you find it easy to submit to Christ’s Lordship? What makes it easy to do so? In what areas of your life do you find it difficult to accept Christ’s Lordship and obey him? Why? What can you start doing today to help you grow in your obedience to Christ in these difficult areas?
Grace and Truth,
What Is A Worldview?
Everyone has a worldview. It may be well thought-out, logical and coherent or it may be loosely thrown together and disorganized, but everyone has one. Quite simply, a worldview is your philosophy or view of life – a way of looking at the world around you.
Puzzle Pieces and Movie Scripts
Think of the cover of a puzzle box. If you were to dump all the puzzle pieces on the ground without seeing what the picture on the cover looked like, you would have a pretty hard time putting the puzzle together. Similarly, life presents us with thousands of questions and issues which are like pieces to a puzzle. Without the right worldview to follow, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to know where and how all the pieces fit.
Or, think of a worldview as a movie script. The late Francis Schaeffer said that life is like entering a very long movie that has already started and then learning that you have to leave before it ends. In such a situation we would be significantly lost without some outside help. Schaeffer suggested that the Bible gives us the script of the whole movie. Therefore, even if we have missed the first part of it, and even though we will have to leave before it is over, we can still see how we fit into the big picture. A godly man will want to have a biblical worldview because that will be the view of life that will most closely correspond to reality.
Elements of a Worldview
What are the key components that comprise a person’s worldview? Let me briefly mention five of the most important elements that shape a man’s view of life.
1.) The first aspect of a worldview is your view of God: Does God exist? Is God personal or impersonal? Is there only one God or many? Does God require anything from us? What is the nature of God? It has been rightly observed that a person’s answers to these questions will be the greatest influence on the way a person thinks and lives.
2.) Secondly, a worldview focuses on the issues of purpose, value, and ultimate questions, such as: Are miracles possible? Is the universe all there is? Why are we here? Why does something exist rather than nothing? Is there objective meaning to life?
3.) The third area a worldview addresses is the question of knowledge. It seeks to answer how we know what we know. What is the authority upon which a person should base his claim to truth or morality? Is man the measure for right and wrong or is there an objective standard? A man lives each day according to the way he views knowledge – whether he recognizes it or not.
4.) Fourth is the issue of ethics. How do you make moral decisions? Are you bound by what God has revealed or by cultural convention or laws? Are some acts really wrong or merely inconvenient?
5.) The last major element of a worldview has to do with the nature of humankind. How do you view human beings? Are we basically good? Are we basically sinful? Is there such a thing as sin? Are we grown-up germs caused by evolution or do we have real purpose and design?
These are the significant elements which make up one’s worldview – and again – we all have a worldview whether or not we are conscious of it.
A Christian man ought to prayerfully and intentionally put together a biblical world and life view. To live a life of love for God and neighbor will require a life that is lived faithfully according to that worldview. Furthermore, a godly man will also want to pass that view of life on to the members of his family, as well as to the men he is discipling.
I once read that a man’s worldview is as practical as potatoes. Far from being purely an academic or philosophical pursuit, a man’s view of life has a “real life” shaping effect. Only as he interprets the world around him through the lens of his biblical worldview, will he be better able to see how he ought to live and bear a faithful witness to it. Writer George Barna has written for years on the sad news that there is virtually no difference between Christians and unbelievers in what they believe and how they live their lives. The one exception, he notes, are those believes who consciously hold a biblical worldview.
Political operatives and media personalities often speak of the “talking points” of a political campaign or administration. As Christians, we want to do more than “talk the talk” we want to also “walk the walk.” Thus, I’ve entitled this section, “Walking Points.”
Have you ever thought thoroughly about what you believe as a Christian and how it plays out in your daily life? Of the five elements of a godly man’s worldview, which one are you most familiar with? Least familiar with? Talk with one or two men this week about the five key elements of a worldview to discover more about how you view life. Then, pray about getting together regularly with these men in order to grow in your understanding and application of God’s Word.
Grace and Truth,
Fear and Trembling
What is family worship? What does it look like in practice? I’m often asked questions like these. Family worship is one of my favorite things to talk about, and yet, there’s a danger in writing on topics like this, or parenting, or marriage, or any other topic in the same neighborhood. The danger is that the reader may begin thinking the writer has: 1.) Figured all this stuff out and, 2.) Is executing it perfectly. In my case, both assumptions would be a mistake. I’m learning with each and every new day. But I feel I have learned enough to add some value to other parents just starting out. And so I prayerfully pass it along.
Three Forms of Worship
The puritans used to distinguish three forms of worship: Private, Family, and Corporate. Private worship would include your “alone time” with God – in prayer, reading his Word, reading devotional literature, singing hymns, etc. Corporate worship takes place when a local congregation gathers together (usually on the Lord’s Day or perhaps a Wednesday evening) to sing, pray, receive the sacraments, and hear God’s Word read and exposited. Family worship, as you have no doubt guessed by now, is a combination of the two, (minus the sacraments), done in the context of the family.
How We Do It
My family typically has family worship during our breakfast time together. It’s a process that seems to be ever-evolving, but I’ll give you a sample of what we typically do.
Prayer and Scripture
Usually my wife or I open in prayer, thanking God for blessing us through the night, giving us life for another day, and bringing us together to worship him. We are presently reading through the Gospel of John, so I will read about half a chapter of that. John’s chapters are pretty long, so I have been hesitant to attempt to take on a whole chapter. When we have read Paul’s epistles, a whole chapter isn’t as demanding. An accompanying reason I don’t read a whole chapter at a time is because there’s so much rich content in each chapter. Just like a sermon, each chapter needs to be broken down into smaller bite-sized portions so that the family can talk in greater depth about what has just been read.
After I read the text, I try to lift one or two thoughts from it and share those with the children. Or, more often than not, I’ll ask them questions to make sure they got the key points. I once heard R.C. Sproul, Jr. say he always preached sermons to his children during their family worship time and that his sermons were generally 30…(long pause for effect)…seconds. Our “sermon” is not much longer.
After our Bible reading we move to a catechism. A catechism is simply a way to learn the Christian faith in a question-and-answer format. For example, the first question of our catechism asks, “What’s our primary purpose for being here?” Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We spend one week (in theory) on each question. There is a very brief devotional explanation of the question and answer for each day of the week. Before I ask a new catechism question, I review the last few questions, just to make sure the kids (as well as mom and dad) remember what we’ve already learned.
After our catechism question, we move to a devotional that “hits the kids where they live” in a more obvious way. I qualified that statement the way I did because I believe reading Scripture and studying catechism questions are essential for discipling our children. But in our day and age, those two things are often seen as “irrelevant for life.” I think it’s all in the delivery.
After that, depending on our time, we may sing a hymn or the Gloria Patria, recite the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer, and lastly, pray for our day and any prayer concerns we know about.
That may sound like a lot, but actually 15 minutes would be our absolute longest. And even that would have sporadic intermissions of telling my youngest son to get back in his chair or to quit stealing his sibling’s bacon.
When you first begin family worship, it may feel a little mechanical and awkward. Trying new things usually feels that way. But trust me, you do get into the groove after a while. And best of all, the kids love doing it. Ours even remind us if we forget. You can’t beat that!
First of all, you will need to figure out a pattern of family worship that fits your family. Our way isn't the "right" way. It’s our way. Besides that, it changes from time to time to fit the needs and/or demands of our family. There's an old saying that goes, “the one you use is the one that works.” That's true with family worship.
Secondly, family worship isn't the only way to disciple your children. In fact, it shouldn't be. However, if you want to take the Bible’s admonition seriously to disciple your children, then I believe this is a wonderful and effective way to do it. Besides that, it's fun! And, it’s the best investment in eternity you can make.
Did your family have family worship when you were growing up or is this a new concept for you? If you did, what were some of the things you did together as a family during that time? Do you have a favorite memory from that time? If you are now a parent, do you practice family worship with your child(ren)? If not, why not? If so, what are some things you do as a family? There are many parents who would like to start doing family worship together but don’t know how to get started. If your family does family worship, perhaps you could share your experiences and ideas with someone who would like to start it with their family.
Grace and Truth,
Every Father's Calling
I love my kids. I love being with them, reading, wrestling, talking to and listening to them. I like beating them at Boggle. I love being beat by them at Boggle. One thing I really love is discipling my kids – teaching them every day, all day (Deut. 6:4ff) the things of God. This is every father's greatest calling, joy, and responsibility.
Faithfulness in this will bring about covenantal succession that could last a thousand generations. If you are a father, you should know that whether or not you are evangelizing and discipling anyone else (and, of course, you should be), you surely ought to be evangelizing and discipling your children. God commands it.
By the very nature of things, this will be a 24/7/365 task. There are at least two reasons why this is the case.
First, you can’t just pass along a platitude once and expect it to take root. The lessons of our faith must be repeated over and over again in a variety of ways – when you sit down for breakfast or dinner, tuck them in at night, drive them around town, have family worship, do chores together, and so on. No one gets it right all the time, but even in our parental blunders, our mistakes and shortcomings are opportunities to teach lessons such as forgiveness, repentance, humility, and perseverance. But, we are indeed called to practice what we preach, for our own sakes as well as to model godly behavior before the wee “watching eyes” in our homes.
Going Against the Cultural Grain
The second reason we must devote so much prayerful time and effort to discipling our children is because we live in a culture that does not cultivate Christian character. Our world’s default key is stuck on depravity, wickedness and evil. If I want to change the font on my computer, I have to consciously make the effort to find and select the one I want. So too, if we want to nurture our children in the things of God, we have to make an intentional and considerable effort, for such effort will go against the grain of the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is simply the way it is.
Let’s Be Faithful Stewards
Let’s join together in the cause of stamping out the nominal Christian home. Let’s raise kids whose faith flows through their bloodstream. Let’s produce and reproduce warriors for Christ who will take the gospel and extend it into every sphere of life. Such children will not arise accidentally. But they will become such as they are educated, equipped, encouraged, and nurtured by loving parents who seek to honor God by being faithful stewards of the most precious treasure entrusted to their care.
What are two or three of the hardest areas of being a father for you? Why do you think that is? What’s your favorite part about being a dad? Find two other Christian fathers and share with them your struggles as a dad, as well as your hopes and dreams for your children. Then, begin regularly meeting and praying together for your children, as well as for yourselves as Christian fathers living in today’s world.
Grace and Truth,
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