I have a good number of "raising sons" sort of books sitting on my bookshelves. While some are better than others, I have appreciated them all and am grateful for the effort being made by the authors to highlight the importance of raising sons in today's world.
As the father of three boys, the topic of raising sons to become godly men is very important to me. It’s more than that… it’s a passion of mine. If only I was better at it. If only I was more faithfully practicing what I’m learning in all the books I’m reading on the subject. If only I was more consistent. Well, like the rest of life, fathering sons is also a journey, one I pray that, by God’s grace, I will become better at traveling.
Many, if not most books on the subject, begin by communicating just how rough it is to be a boy (or man) these days. When you realize some of these books were written 15-20 years ago, you appreciate it has not gotten any better for boys or men. Here were three articles written a few years ago by Al Mohler to help make that case.
Other authors, such as Pat Morley, Steve Farrar, and Robert Lewis, who have written extensively on the subject of ministering to men, have all shared the same: Boys are growing up without any real understanding of what it means to be a man. There are even fewer who have an understanding of what biblical manhood is. When the default definition of manhood comes from movies and other forms of the entertainment industry, you know our culture is in trouble.
In addition to raising our three sons (and one awesome daughter) with my wife, I was also privileged to lead a small group of middle school boys for a few years. I jumped at the chance because I believe the church, (as a supplement to the home) is where boys have the greatest chance to learn what it means to become a godly man. I thank God for homes, churches, ministries to boys, scouting programs, etc., that are taking seriously the call to help boys navigate their way to manhood from a biblical perspective. Our culture will be lost without such boys who grow to become such men.
Where, how, and to whom is God calling you to invest your life in the lives of boys who need your godly influence? Pray about it today and then act on it as soon as possible. They need you. We need you.
Grace and Truth,
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,
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 our text above 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 prudent to listen to what he has to say. In fact, it would be an imperative.
True discipleship is not easy. Often a person's response to tough times and hard teachings reveals their actual motives in following Christ. Christian history is littered with those who could not or would not stay true to the end. But before we cast judgment on them we better take a long, hard look in the mirror and recognize the grace of God that stares back at us. It is only in his strength that we can stand firm. But stand firm we must, for God’s glory and for the good of our world.
While we become new creatures in Christ by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, following Jesus day in and day out is hard. That’s why Jesus said we must first count the cost before we begin our pilgrimage with him. This is an expositional study of key texts of Jesus’ teachings that remind us of what it truly means to follow him.
This study is ideal for Bible studies, small groups, one-to-one discipleship, or personal use.
You can buy it here, at Lulu.com.
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