Everyone Is A Theologian
Godly men know that, for good or ill, everyone is a theologian. We each think thoughts and imagine ideas about God, even if those thoughts and ideas are that God does not exist. Some have plumbed the depths of theology while others have only skimmed along the surface. Regardless of one's efforts or abilities, thinking theologically is unavoidable.
Far from being dry, boring, and stale, theology ought to be spirit-renewing, soul-forming, and life-transforming. It isn't (or, shouldn't) be merely for academic and intellectual pursuits, but instead, to draw us closer to God and conform us more to his likeness. Thinking more intentionally about God should lead us to know him better and love him more. Indeed, the more we learn of God's magnificence, the more worship, joy, and gratitude ought to break out among us. In fact, it will become impossible to contain our pleasure brought forth from our discoveries of the person and work of God.
Soli Deo Gloria
The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: "What is the chief end of man?"
The answer: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."
To increasingly know ("about" and "relationally") and love God leads men pursuing godliness to seek their Lord's glory in all aspects of their lives. They shift from self-centered to God-centered lives in which every sphere is integrated because each is connected to and empowered by God, who is at the center. And each part exists to bring God the glory due his name.
Studying textbooks about God alone won't accomplish all of this. But pursuing God more intentionally will move us in the right direction of knowing, loving, following, and trusting God, as well as seeking and submitting to his will. This is theology at its best.
Brothers, is God your chief pursuit and greatest desire?
Soli Deo Gloria,
Here are some brief thoughts on developing accountable relationships…
2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?”
Swimming Against the Current
Examining yourself a couple of times throughout each year isn’t a bad idea. In fact, some consider it a key to your Christian growth. It helps you assess whether or not you are moving forward in your relationship with Christ, standing still…or actually moving backward.
If we think of our spiritual life as swimming in the ocean, we can picture ourselves having to swim with all our might toward our goal (which is Christlikeness). For if we aren't intentionally and fiercely moving in that direction, then we are either swimming toward the wrong goal, (the wrong direction), or, thinking we're treading water, staying in one place, we actually discover (sometimes too late) that we've been drifting with current the whole time.
But rejoice, if you are truly in Christ then there is good news. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:6 that he was confident that God who began a good work in you would carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. In other words, God’s not going to give up on you.
So pray for a fresh filling of God’s Spirit in your life to help you can persevere in “swimming” the race set before you. And rejoice that you don’t have to swim it alone. It is vital to remember that it is the Spirit of God who gives you the power, desire, and direction to finish the race.
But Not Swimming Alone
And yet, there are also brothers and sisters in Christ who are invested in seeing you finish your journey with Christ well. An accountable relationship can be a faithful tool in the hands of a godly friend. But it often takes time to develop these trusting and open relationships with such people. Yet it’s worth the effort.
Below are a few links to some great articles on the subject of accountability as well as some pages of penetrating accountability questions for you to ponder regarding how you’re doing in your faith.
And, as always, let me know what I can do to help you. It’s why I’m here.
Accountability by Ken Boa – Great article on the subject. A must read.
Are You Leading A Hazardous Life? by Jeff Miller – These are the questions/statements that I read aloud this morning.
How to Conquer a Secret Thought Life by Pat Morley – Morley knows men. This is a great article on dealing with the garbage that’s already in your head…and how to keep more garbage from finding its way into your head.
How to Have an Accountable Relationship by Pat Morley – Good practical tools on how to gather with other men for the purpose of holding one another accountable in your faith…which includes every sphere of your life.
Accountability Questions by Ramesh Richard
ACCOUNTABILITY: Pursuing Vital Relationships, Part One: Getting Ready by Jim Clayton
ACCOUNTABILITY: Pursuing Vital Relationships, Part Two – Play Ball! by Jim Clayton
And, of course, I should mention the Spiritual Life Checkup that I put together.
I hope these resources will serve you well as you pursue the likeness of Christ in your life…for every sphere of your life.
Grace and Truth,
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
For over two decades I’ve been using some version of the phrase, “faith for every sphere of life.” I first started thinking about this as I began a deep study of 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 all. And if he is the Lord of all, then I must submit to him in every sphere of my life, or else I should stop calling him Lord.
This notion was 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. 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
Thankfully, I have observed that understanding the Christian faith, as a comprehensive view of life, is gaining some traction, at least by many people in the church. The secular world, however, would still prefer for the church to remain silent about anything not having to do with worship on Sunday mornings. Faith, they say, is private; You can practice it at home, but you shouldn’t bring it into the public square. But Jesus doesn't give us that option. The Christian faith certainly ought to be personal, but it should never be private. The Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, famously said something along the lines of, "there is not a square inch in all the universe about which Christ does declare, 'Mine!'"
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 (which, for him, was England). 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 – 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.
I encourage you to pray over what it would mean for you to understand that there is not even the smallest corner of your life over 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 and answer. More than that, we must live those answers out before a world in desperate need of men and women of God. Write 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 how you all can help one another in this pursuit.
Grace and Truth,
Psalm 11:7 – For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright man will see his face.
Proverbs 11:3 – The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
Proverbs 11:10-11 – When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.
Proverbs 11:30 – The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.
God promises blessing to the upright (righteous) man; he will see God’s face. The integrity of the upright man guides him through this life. When the upright man prospers, the whole city rejoices for it knows his success is good for everyone. The fruit of the upright man is a tree of life. Such good news accompanies the upright man because, as such, he reflects the righteousness of his Lord and honors him in the process.
Any promise of blessing that God makes to those who live upright lives is purely due to his own gracious character. He doesn’t owe us a reward for doing what we ought to do. Yet he does promise to lavish blessing upon us when we do. More than that, it’s only by God’s power and guidance we’re even able to move in a righteous direction in the first place. Only the redeemed of the Lord may have confidence that his Spirit is doing such a work in their hearts, minds, and souls.
Yet, we have the responsibility to keep in step with the Spirit… to partner with God (never without him) in this grand pursuit. Thus, the godly man will daily seek God’s grace, strength and wisdom for the faithful and upright living of each day.
How are you doing with this? Is this the desire of your heart? Maybe it’s not, but you are beginning to realize it ought to be. Wherever you are, I want to help you move forward in your pursuit of godly manhood. Please let me know how I may direct or encourage you.
Rise up, O man of God and live the righteous life for which you were created, redeemed, and called to live.
Your Brother in Christ,
Well, I did it. For better or worse, I wrote a book (I'm not much of a marketer). It comes out of years of working with and discipling men.
And, according to my mother, who is a godly woman, it is an easy read. I'm pretty sure she meant that as a compliment. Here's a little bit about it...
Before men can live godly lives and go into all the world to make disciples for Christ, they must first have a firm foundation.
The foundation all men need is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only when a man becomes a new creature in Christ can he grow in Christlikeness.
This godly man will then follow his Lord into every sphere of his life, making a difference in his home, church, workplace, community, culture, and world. He does not pursue such godliness in isolation, but in the fellowship of other godly men. This is how God’s Kingdom transforms the world. But it must start with the Gospel.
Foundations for Godly Manhood encourages men to pursue all God created, redeemed, and calls them to be by building their lives upon the firm foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his life-giving, life-transforming truth revealed in Holy Scripture.
Share this with men you're witnessing to. It works for one-on-one discipleship, small groups, or read it devotionally for yourself.
You can click here to order it from Lulu.com.
As many years as “small groups” has been a buzz-phrase and been emphasized in countless books, seminars, conferences, etc., (perhaps even over-emphasized) I can’t help but be astonished when I learn of a church that doesn’t have any small groups or Bible studies up and running.
I know the Bible doesn’t say, “Go into all the world and create small groups,” and yet small groups are a powerful and effective way to help make disciples who will last for the long haul. Certainly John Wesley, in my own tradition, believed and practiced that. (Two great resources to check out on Wesley’s view of discipleship are Steve Manskar’s Accountable Discipleship and Kevin Watson’s Blueprint for Discipleship.)
Because my ministry-focus as Minister of Discipleship is… well… “discipleship,” I’ve been asked many times how to start a small group ministry, men’s ministry, or a Bible study, etc. There are many helpful suggestions that could be given (and, as I’ve mentioned, Manskar and Watson discuss many). However, my initial default answer to those questions is to always share what I think is most important: Stick to Scripture.
Groups that focus on fellowship and accountability absolutely have their place. There’s no such thing as Lone Ranger Christianity. We were created for community and we grow in community. Emphasizing prayer is, of course, vital. However, if we’re going to make disciples by teaching folks to obey everything Christ has commanded, then it is essential to teach who this “Commander” is, what he commanded, and how to carry out his commands.
An occasional topical study is fine, provided that Scripture is the primary source. (In my men’s ministry, for example, we have studied prayer, integrity, temptation, etc.) There are many useful topical Bible study-guides out there to be sure (I’ve used many). And yet, I have personally seen the most spiritual growth in those who are in the studies where we simply plow through
a particular book of the Bible – chapter by chapter, verse by verse. Nothing fancy. Nothing novel.
The Bible is, as the saying goes, timely and timeless. It already is more relevant than this morning’s news, so we don’t have to “make it relevant.” To be sure, we need to help folks see the truth and relevance of it, as well as how it applies to their lives. This takes faithful shepherding and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
God’s Word is the only thing God has said will accomplish what he has intended. It alone is God-breathed and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training God’s people in righteousness so
they will be equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). About God’s Word, the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes,
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 12:4)
Jesus chastises the religious leaders of his day by telling them that, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29)
We could add to this list many other texts in both the Old and New Testaments. The point is that God’s Word must be our primary tool in making disciples (of course, always in complete reliance upon God’s Spirit working in and through such efforts).
Paraphrasing Jesus, C.S. Lewis said that if you pursue the world first and God second, you end up getting neither. But if you pursue God first, you not only get God, but God also meets our earthly needs as well. To apply that to small groups, I believe it’s important to pursue God and our relationship with him through the study of his Word with others. And when we do, I believe God meets our real needs, our felt needs, and many other things besides. But we have to trust him enough to pursue him in and through his Word.
Grace and Truth,
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.
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