No person fails on purpose. Yet, spiritual, and moral failures abound. A few years ago, I taught a lesson to my church’s men’s group which focused on temptations men face. The workbook we were using quoted C.S. Lewis on this subject and was a turning point for many in the group. Lewis wrote,
“It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the person away from the light and out into the nothing… Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
The truth communicated by Lewis rang true. It reminded me of something a former mentor of mine once said. He emphasized repeatedly that compromise comes through the smallness of our daily surrenders.
It’s giving up that little bit of personal conviction each day. It’s the little piece of candy no one will ever know you ate. It’s watching that program or visiting that website when you are all alone. You get the picture.
Usually the first surrender to “small, insignificant sins” makes it easier to fall prey to them again and again. The damage comes from the “cumulative effect” Lewis was pointing to. Few people wake up in the morning planning to sin spectacularly later in the day. Yet those daily surrenders build up over time. Give a little ground here and there and before you know it, you’re in trouble. In fact, you become practically unrecognizable, even to yourself. You didn’t plan for this to happen, but those daily surrenders were enough to do the trick.
Therefore, we must be vigilant. We need to work from the foundation of knowing who we are in Christ. We need to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Those “daily surrenders” needn’t reign over us. The same Spirit who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead dwells in us as well.
Yet, we also need to exercise the self-awareness that recognizes those areas in our lives wherein we are weak. Every person ought to ask himself or herself: Am I being less watchful in some areas of my life than others? Even the small, seemingly insignificant areas? Am I overly confident I would never again fall prey to that particular temptation? A member of my church used to remind me often, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
If you want to avoid those small daily surrenders, then pray for God to deliver you from temptation. But don’t forget to do your part. Name those temptations in advance. Talk with a godly person you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Renew your mind daily in God’s Word. The Apostle Paul shared God’s wisdom on this point when he wrote in Philippians 4:8-9,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What are you thinking on?
Merciful and patient Lord, I don’t want to sin. I don’t want to “fail on purpose.” Yet I confess to you that I have not always put in place or practiced those wise spiritual disciplines that would draw me ever closer to you and protect me from the snares of the devil and my own fleshly weaknesses. Please forgive me and renew me. As David cried out, put a right spirit within me. Give me such a desire for you that turning away from you would be the last thing on my mind. Give me greater Spirit-enabled self-discipline and self-control to practice those means of grace you have given to your children to help us conform more and more to the likeness of your Son, our Lord and Savior. For it’s in his name and for his sake I pray. Amen.
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 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, social outings, service projects, campouts, going to sporting events, and the rest. In fact, I would say they are very important in building relationships. 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 confess how they struggle with pornography, while other women are 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.
Click image above to subscribe to my newsletter.
Thanks for stopping by. Learn more about me, my ministry, and this website by clicking here.
Please visit my bookstore
Click, Listen, and Subscribe to My Podcast
Connect and/or Follow for more content...
The Book of Acts
Click the image above to order this book and study guide about the most important person you will ever meet.
Click image above to learn more about and order this follow-up to "Lord of All."
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.