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Luke 13:20-21 - And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
A Kingdom Disciple is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The phrase, Kingdom Disciple, is my shorthand way of communicating what it means to live faithfully as Christ’s follower, under his Lordship, and for his Kingdom. This distinctive is not mine. It’s neither innovative nor original. However, my goal in emphasizing Kingdom Discipleship is to help men see more fully what God has revealed in and through his Word about following Christ.
Jesus Christ is Lord
By using the phrase, Kingdom Discipleship, I wish to remind disciples of Jesus Christ that our calling is to faithfully and obediently follow Christ in every sphere of life. This is imperative because Jesus Christ is Lord over every sphere of life. It was God who granted Jesus authority over heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18) and gave him the name above every name (Phil. 2:9). It would, therefore, run counter to the biblical witness regarding our Lord’s authority, for men to live compartmentalized lives as his followers. God doesn’t want us to submit to Christ for just 70 or even 95 percent of our lives. He wants all of us. To paraphrase Abraham Kuyper, there is not a square inch in all the universe Christ has not claimed for himself.
Therefore, our calling as his followers is to intentionally, faithfully, obediently, and joyfully extend his Kingdom – his rule, reign, will, and influence – into every sphere of our lives (in every area of responsibility, interest, relationship, and authority). Everything, the common and the uncommon, the sacred and the secular, is to be done for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and according to his will.
God’s Kingly Influence
The influence of the Kingdom of God and of his Christ must come through gracious, loving, and truthful persuasion, modeling, and witness, never through coercion or manipulation. The kind of transformed individual, family, church, state, society, and world God desires will not, indeed, must not, come through violent political revolution or rebellion but by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent “salt and light influence” of God’s people.
The Local Church
The primary means, humanly speaking, by which God’s Kingdom is extended in this way is through local assemblies of God’s people. It is in and through the life of the local church that the life-giving, life-transforming Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed, taught, and lived out. It is only as men, women, boys, and girls are reborn by the Spirit of God that they can enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-8). Then, as they grow in their faith, having their minds continually renewed and lives transformed, they become better educated, equipped, and encouraged to take this good news of the Kingdom into every sphere of their lives. And just as the woman’s yeast is mixed into the dough and worked until it permeates all of it (Luke 13:20-21), so too is the Kingdom of God extended into every sphere of life by his disciples.
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I once served a church that had a sweet group of widows who regularly sat in the same section of the sanctuary each week during worship. These women were a source of encouragement and fellowship to one another. Very often, after worship, they would enjoy having lunch together. They were inseparable. As their pastor, I was profoundly grateful that they had one another.
I was, however, shocked when I eventually learned that each one of these women was married. They weren’t widows at all. The truth was that their husbands would have nothing to do with the church. God used that revelation to set an important course in my ministry.
Over the last two-and-a-half decades of my ministry, I have seen the need for the church’s ministry to men. I’ve witnessed a variety of well-intentioned efforts that fall under the category of “men’s ministry” to meet those needs. Among the more popular are activities such as,
To be sure, there is a place for pancakes, spaghetti, service projects, campouts, going to sporting events, and the rest. Yet none of those can or should take the place of gathering together each week for the purpose of intentional discipleship.
Some of you will remember a secular men’s movement in the late 1980s called Iron John. It was all about men finding their “inner warrior” and letting him out. Men would camp out in the woods, beat drums, get in touch with their inner something-or-other, and cry around a campfire.
There are a lot of men’s ministries doing a baptized version of that today. It sounds cool. It’s edgy. It’s probably fun. But every time I read about another Christianized version of Iron John, I can’t help but think of the words of Saint Paul,
1 Corinthians 13:11 - When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child; I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
Gimmicks, fads and entertainment in men’s ministry appeal to some men’s desire to remain in adolescence, but they will not produce mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
The process of becoming a genuine and faithful disciple of Jesus Christ is tough. It takes hard work. It doesn’t happen overnight. It can’t be manipulated over the course of a weekend. It doesn’t materialize from a neatly wrapped program. It’s a day-in and day-out pursuit of Christ, through his Word and prayer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in a relational context.
While I am all for Bible studies and small groups for both genders, I think there must be a place for men to gather with other men, to study God’s Word and pray, in a context of accountability and encouragement. How many men do you know who would want to talk about lust in the presence of their wives? Or how many men would want to share how they struggle with pornography with other women in the room?
The Final Goal
The goal of ministry to men is not primarily about producing morally improved men. It’s not primarily about warm-fuzzy experiences; it’s not even about emotional or psychological cathartic breakthroughs.
We may want each of those things to happen, but that should not be the primary target of men’s ministry. Instead, the purpose of ministry to men is to introduce men to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is God’s plan for transforming sinful men into redeemed sons of their heavenly Father. This transformation will produce men who passionately desire to become like Christ. They will want to know him better, love him more, and follow him more faithfully.
Such men will still battle sin, but as the Spirit works through the study of God’s Word, prayer, and accountable and encouraging fellowship, these men will become the men God has created, redeemed, and called them to be. And perhaps such men will turn the world upside down for God’s glory and the advancement of God’s Kingdom (Acts 17:6). But at the least, they will serve as “salt and light ambassadors” for Christ in their little corners of the world – their homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, and cities.
May God bless you toward that end.
A godly man…
“…is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3 ESV)
A godly man is like a fruitful tree because he is continually nourished by streams of fresh water. The water, Psalm 1:2 says, is the Law of God, which the man delights in and regularly meditates upon.
Unlike the seed in Jesus’ parable which is sown on hard ground or among thorns, this man’s faith does not dry up and wither away, nor is it choked out by the worries or distractions of this world. Instead, the godly man bears fruit, not for himself, but for others.
To slightly change the imagery, Jesus taught in John 15 that he is the vine, and we are the branches. As godly men, we must abide in him and he in us, otherwise, we cannot bear any fruit of Kingdom-significance. Our life-giving, life-transforming sustenance comes directly from him; thus, we must remain connected to him if we would have real life and bear fruit.
Why Focus on Men?
I’ve been serving the local church for a little over two-and-a-half decades. I didn’t start off thinking my ministry would one day concentrate so much on men. I didn’t sense the urgency or need when I first began. In fact, my “aha” moment didn’t happen until my sixth year. I still remember the day the lightbulb turned on for me. (I share that experience in the last chapter of the book.) Suffice it to say, I have been ministering to men ever since.
My epiphany could best be summarized by the words I once heard pastor and writer, Tony Evans, preach…
Men are not God’s only plan for making disciples who will transform the world for Christ. Yet they are an important part of that plan.
Purpose of This Book
This is not a “how to” book. I love “how to” books. I have many on my bookshelves and have read them with great profit. What I have observed, however, is many books written to help men live Christian lives lack the basic foundational principles to help them get there and flourish.
Just as we would not build a skyscraper without first making sure the foundation could support it, neither should we call men to pursue godly lives without first giving them the only means of success. Jesus said we must abide in him, because apart from him, we can do nothing. Telling a man how to live a godly life without first sharing with him the divine resources for doing so, is to set him up for failure.
There are five parts to this book. The first part focuses on the necessity of a changed heart. Before a man can live a godly life, something transformative and regenerative must first happen to him. He must become something he’s not, a new creature in Christ. That can only happen by God’s grace offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This section highlights the foundational components of becoming a new man in Christ.
This section emphasizes that our relationship with God does not end at our new birth but begins there. God wants to develop the character of Christ in our lives. Therefore, we must continue growing in grace, in and through God’s strength, using God’s resources, and keeping ever before us the goal of becoming more like our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Parts 3 & 4
Godly men follow Christ as his disciples. They no longer live for themselves, according to their own wisdom and agenda. Instead, godly men sit at the feet of their Teacher and Lord and follow him wherever he leads. Christ calls each man to take his faith into every sphere of his life, at home, church, work, neighborhood and community, city, culture, nation, and world. In each sphere he is to bear witness to the King and make new disciples of his Kingdom.
On their own, men cannot become the kind of men God created, redeemed, and called them to be. This last section stresses the need men have to grow in community as they study God’s Word together. It is in this context men are encouraged and equipped to pass the baton of faith to new generations of godly men, young and old. Building up godly men works best in the local church, which is why the last chapter looks at the importance of intentionally-focused ministry to men. The good and lasting fruit produced by such ministries will be more than worth the effort.
How to Use This Book
The chapters that comprise this book were originally sermons or talks addressed to men’s groups. I hope these same messages will now be profitably read, meditated upon, and discussed in personal devotions, one-on-one discipling settings, and in men’s small groups.
At the end of each chapter, I have provided a few questions for reflection and an action point or two. I call these “walking points” because Christians ought to do more than echo “talking points.” We must also put our talk into action. The Walking Points at the end of each chapter are designed to help you reflect on the key ideas of that chapter and turn them into action steps to put into practice in your life, as well as to share with others.
May God be glorified as we pursue godly manhood together.
Soli Deo Gloria
This week we studied the first part of Acts 1, in which Jesus said farewell to his followers, told them to await the Spirit's coming, and ascended into heaven.
Join us as we begin a series on why we ought to think Christianly and how to cultivate a Christian mind.
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.