When I Became Mr. Cuevas

Reflections on my eight-year season at Legacy Christian School

“And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” ~Mark 1:17

Since early childhood, I’ve learned to respond to names and titles other than the one I naturally refer to myself as. I naturally identify and introduce myself as JR. That’s what my parents and siblings have called me since birth. But beginning from my elementary school years all the way through the end of high school, I was “Julian” to my classmates and teachers, as that’s the name that appeared on the official student roster (in case you care, “JR” is short for “Julian Raymund,” and I just didn’t want to be that “Oh, call me JR” new kid). When I launched into pastoral ministry, “Pastor JR” became the official call-name, at least for folks from the church even though I still introduce myself as JR till this day (for whatever reason, I never found “Pastor JR” to be smooth-sounding; “Pastor Julian” would’ve sounded better). When I married Kathy, I received the wonderful nickname “Hubby” – much to my delight (she hasn’t called me “JR” in over 12 years). When Jayden and Emma started talking, I learned to respond to “Daddy” and “Dad” with a pride and endearment that I still can’t fully describe. When I received my doctorate degree, some began to reference me as “Doctor JR Cuevas,” which I honestly don’t like. When I worked as a personal trainer and sports coach, “Coach” was the hat I’d put on. But I would’ve laughed early on in my career as a minister had you told me that I would ever have to get used being called “Mr. Cuevas.”

That’s exactly what would happen on August of 2013, when I began working at Legacy Christian School.

It wasn’t just that I didn’t expect to be called Mr. Cuevas; I didn’t want to be called that. I say this without any embarrassment or offense, but rather just simple short-sightedness in God’s providential orchestration of life history. I first began working at Legacy Christian School because I needed a job. That’s it. After a sudden traumatic fallout with the church where I was pastoring in the summer of 2013, I was desperate to financially provide for my family of four. During my interview with Legacy, I told them that I didn’t see myself at that time being involved in Christian education in the long-term, though I was open to the Lord’s leading. Thus, during our back-to-school night, I made sure that all of the students and parents knew (whether they cared or not) that I was previously a pastor. Frankly, after a hard-earned M.Div and 5 years in pastoral ministry, I wanted to be known as a pastor – not a teacher. I tried to limit my season as a teacher to 9 months by candidating for an out-of-state pastoral position toward the end of the academic year, which ended up falling through at the last minute. In May of 2015, upon being offered a full-time pastoral position at Grace Bible Fellowship (now Creekside Bible Church), I did resign from Legacy on wonderful terms (see my “Farewell, Legacy Christian School” entry from back then). The days of Mr. Cuevas had come to an end, I thought, and I was ready never to be called that again.

It’s now June of 2021, and I’m still called Mr. Cuevas till this day.

I may have planned to hang up that name in 2015, but the Lord once again directed my steps otherwise. I’m still a full-time pastoral minister at Creekside Bible Church today and yes, I still respond to “Pastor JR” (I still insist on introducing myself as JR, and I still refuse to be called “Doctor”). But in 2017, I accepted the opportunity to return to Legacy as part-time faculty. My initial resignation, it turns out, would be more of a 1.5 year hiatus. I would once again be called Mr. Cuevas by students and colleagues. This past Thursday, on May 27 of 2021, I had my final day as a Legacy employee in light of my family’s prospective plans to make our long-awaited move to Hawaii this summer for the gospel ministry. This time, the resignation is a resignation, and not a hiatus. Only, this time, I’m not ready to stop being called Mr. Cuevas.

Being Mr. Cuevas at Legacy meant a lot of things. From 2013 to 2014, it meant being the high school Math and Science teacher. From 2014 to 2015, it meant being the middle school Math, Science, and English teacher along with being the volleyball coach. From 2017 to 2019, it meant being the middle school Bible teacher. From 2019 to 2021, it meant being the middle school Bible teacher, Assistant Principal, boys counselor and mentor, and athletic director. Without a doubt, the Lord allowed me to fill a multi-dimensional niche that I thoroughly enjoyed, as I get easily bored with the monolithic. But at some point, I embraced the name “Mr. Cuevas” not because of the variety of duties, but because of the depth of ministry that was expected of me from the students of Legacy who have only known me as that.

As Mr. Cuevas, the students expected me to formally teach them in the classroom, and teach I did. From Bible to Chemistry to Biology to Geometry to SAT Prep to Algebra to Pre-Algebra to English to Physical Science to History, I had to teach whatever the students needed me to teach. From lectures to lesson plans to tests and quizzes to homework, I was your traditional classroom instructor. Nothing fancy; nothing innovative. Simplicity and strictness were my forehand and backhand. I worked hard to teach well, so that those in my class would come to expect nothing less than good quality teaching.

But I would quickly realize that the students would expect much more.

As Mr. Cuevas, the students expected me to set the parameters of what they were and weren’t allowed to do on school grounds, and expected me to enforce them justly without partiality. They expected me to spend breaks and lunches with them – always asking me to give an explanation whenever they would catch me leaving campus for another meeting (which I always found both hilarious and endearing). They expected me to help clean them up when their classmate spilled soda on their uniform. They expected me to have a backup plan when they would privately reveal to me that they were hungry because they had forgotten to pack a lunch. They expected me to explain to them whether certain phrases or gestures were inappropriate and the rationale behind such. They expected me to show excitement over the brand new sweater they were wearing or the new sports helmet that they had recently purchased. They expected me to watch them as they sported their newly developed half-court shot, and to play football or frisbee with them during recess, even if it was just for a few minutes. They expected me to be nurse them back to health when they would suffer from heat exhaustion or sprain their ankles during P.E. They expected me to explain to them whether I thought their suspensions were just and what they needed to do to move forward. They expected me to give my perspective on the person toward whom they were developing romantic feelings. They expected me to explain what it is that I saw that was good not just in them, but in their classmates. They expected me to open up my classroom or office for them to hang out when their parents were running late for pickup, and to have snacks and drinks available. They expected (with parental permission) me to take them out to lunch on special occasions or after special achievements. They expected me to shoulder their burdens didn’t feel comfortable sharing with anyone else but would share with me for no other reason than, “because you’re my teacher.” They expected me to remain next to them when they broke down in tears sharing struggles that they couldn’t quite figure out how to express or overcome. They expected me to communicate honestly when they would ask me what I believed were their strengths and weaknesses. They expected me to act when another classmate acted in such a way that assaulted their dignity. They expected me to give them a pat on the back and ask them how they were doing whenever they would approach me, stand next to me, and remain standing there. They expected me to teach them how to effectively communicate with their parents when conflicts at home would arise. They expected me to put down what I was doing, no matter what I was doing, whenever they came into my office and said, “Can I talk to you about something?” They expected me to chaperone their field trips – even the out of town trips – and would demand for an explanation from me during the times I couldn’t. They expected me to give them real, honest answers when they would ask me questions hard, pointed questions.

The students at Legacy expected me to care for their souls.

It is an endeavor of unsurpassed dignity, perhaps only by that of parenting your own children. I didn’t realize it at first. But at some point, I became cognizant of the dignity, and began to carry out the endeavor willingly. Then, at some point, I began to do it instinctively. And then, at some point, I realized I wanted to do it permanently.

When Jesus first called His disciples and told them that He would turn them from fishermen to fishers of men (cf Mark 1:17), those men had absolutely no idea what it would practically entail. They knew they’d be laboring for the souls of people and not for worldly profit, and that’s it. Over the next several decades, their individual ministries would take on a specific and definite shape. And that’s how it still works today with Christ’s ministers. He calls us to be fishers of men, and we respond to the call in faith. But He does not reveal what kind of boat we’ll be fishing from (the specific ministry institutions), what kind of fish we’ll be catching (the specific demographics of people), and what specific body of water we’ll be catching them from (the specific geographical regions where we’ll be ministering) at the time we respond to the call. Every faithful minister will testify that though their mind had planned their way, the Lord directed their steps and shaped their ministry in a manner they simply did not expect (cf Proverbs 16:9). This is precisely the case for my ministry as a Christian school educator and administrator.

It is for this reason that I am utterly thankful for my eight years as an employee, minister, and affiliate of Legacy Christian School. As Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning.” As my time here has come to an official close, I can’t even begin to express the depth of gratitude to the administration, faculty, parents, and students who make up this gem of an institution. But more important than how a man is blessed from a season is who a man becomes as a result of it. And it was during my season at Legacy Christian School when I became Mr. Cuevas.

And that isn’t ending anytime soon!

A Men’s Small Group Worth Your Time

Seven markers of a good quality men’s small group

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” ~2 Timothy 2:22

I led my first men’s small group consisting of four college students in 2007 as a 23-year old in my first full-time semester in seminary while serving as a pastoral intern in a San Diego church. I’ve led fourteen more since – from groups made up of pastoral interns to those consisting of 7th grade boys – and have learned much since about what makes a profitable small group. I’ve not only learned much; I’ve had to learn much. For one, they don’t teach you much on how to effectively lead small groups in seminary. But equally important is the fact that leading men’s small groups just isn’t an easy endeavor even for faithful, gifted, and biblically sound ministers. One particular good friend of mine, a faithful man of God in every respect who loves His Word and values fellowship, warned me before joining our group I was going to lead, “I’ve been a part of so many small groups that have just been a waste of my time.” 

We want to lead and be a part of small groups that are worth our time, not a waste of it. Over the course of the last fifteen years, I’ve learned that though every men’s small group will be unique in its own experience, there are some common markers in those that you can truly call profitable. Here are seven of them:

Marker #1: All of the men in the group are serious about their walk with Christ and serving His bride (cf 2 Tim 2:22)

Paul instructed Timothy to flee from youthful lusts and pursue godliness “with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (cf 2 Tim 2:22). Men who call upon the Lord with a pure heart (cf Matt 5:8) are men who also hunger and thirst for righteousness and are willing to endure hardship for it (cf Matt 5:6, 10). I’ve been in small groups with men who would’ve readily debated R.C. Sproul on the superiority of dispensationalism over covenant theology; I’ve met other men who would have honestly rather walked Sproul’s German Shepherd (yes, he did have one). But a good small group can have both such men, as both can be serious about their walk with Christ. Such men readily admit to their imperfections (cf Phil 3:12), have a sincere desire to honor Christ, obey His commandments (cf John 14:15), please Him in all that they do (cf 2 Cor 5:9), and minister in His church (cf 1 Peter 4:10-11). When you have a group consisting of such quality men, you have the making of a good small group. 

Marker #2: The men are consistent and punctual in their attendance (cf 1 Tim 4:7; 2 Tim 2:2; Heb 10:25)

Paul told Timothy to invest not just in fervent men, but in faithful men – men who function not only according to desire but also commitment (cf 2 Tim 2:2). Because of men’s tendencies toward flakiness and inconsistency, I’ve learned to open up all small group seasons by telling the men that, if they cannot commit to attending at least 70% of our meetings, that they should find another group to join. Just as it doesn’t benefit anyone to get a gym membership if you’re only going to attend once a month, it is simply not worthwhile being a part of the small group where you only show up half the time and show up late when you do. A worthwhile small group consists of men who are disciplined in their attendance and punctuality, as they understand the priority of godliness and the place of men’s small group accountability for such (1 Tim 4:7). 

Marker #3: The members of the group are held together by bonds of genuine affection (cf Phil 1:8; Col 2:2)

Worldly affection exists between people with common interests and personalities; godly affection exists between people with a common Savior from whom such affection flows (cf 1 Pet 1:22). I remember having a small group meeting where all nine adult men of the group – ranging from 17 to 39 years of age with everything in between – were in a somewhat meeting room in our church’s education building, squeezed shoulder to shoulder around a table that sat exactly nine. The room itself was small, with some of the arms and legs of the men – several of them were over 6 ft tall – seemed to be dangling out the windows of the room. I asked them if they wanted to move to a bigger room. They’re response: “No! We like being close to each other.” They were not only serious about studying the Bible; they loved each other, and loved being in each other’s presence. Such affection, evidence of the reality of Christ’s presence in individuals (cf Phil 1:8), is important for a worthwhile small group. No one wants to study the Bible with a spirit of aloofness or disdain toward the people with whom you study.

Marker #4: There is a commitment to honesty, transparency, and confession of sin (cf James 5:16; Prov 28:13; Gal 6:2-3)

Men want to think they’re something when, in fact, we’re nothing (cf Gal 6:3; John 15:5). Because of this, confession of sin and transparency about one’s struggles is difficult for men, because weakness and vulnerability aren’t part of the male jargon. I’ve been in enough small groups where, when it comes to the time designated for sharing prayer requests, the men share close to nothing other than, “Pray that I would manage my time well,” or “Pray that I would pray more.” There is no real confession of sin (cf James 5:16); there is no real bearing of one another’s burdens ( cf Galatians 6:2-3). Thus, there’s no true growth. And when there’s no growth, there is no profit. Only when a man can boast in his weakness will he be truly strong (2 Cor 12:10), and small groups with a culture of honesty and transparency – necessary elements for depth of accountability – are where men can strengthen their brothers.

Marker #5: There is a combination of serious Bible study and enjoyable activity (cf Matthew 28:19; Psalm 19:5; Ecclesiastes 9:7-8).

A church men’s small group falls under the umbrella of the ministry of the local church, and the local church exists to for the edification of the saints. Thus, discipleship must take place; Christ said to make disciples, and not simply form social circles. And in order for discipleship to happen, there must be a place for the study of the Word of God amongst the men (Matt 28:19). But the presence of serious Bible study can regularly take place in a group that also knows how to have plain old fun with one another (cf Psalm 19:5, Eccl 9:7-8). The two components need not to be mutually exclusive. If anything, I’ve observed that the more fun a group of men have together, the more effectively they can study the Bible together and the more substantial the conversations take place amongst one another. The strongest and most genuine of relationships are those where both depth and enjoyment are integrated. 

Marker #6: Progress is actually happening in their personal walks (cf 1 Tim 4:15; Col 1:19; Heb 10:24-25; Prov 26:11, 27:17)

Vulnerability about the past must be matched by accountability for the future. A men’s small group where everyone habitually returns to their own vomit (cf Prov 26:11) is not a group fleeing from sin and pursuing godliness (2 Tim 2:22). Thus, a good men’s group is one in which the men both agree to change, are held accountable to change, and actually change in a manner that is evident to all (cf 1 Tim 4:15). And when a man is either refusing to let go of certain sin habits or is slothful about them, the other men in the group must be willing to confront him and stir him up to love and good deeds (cf Heb 10:24-25). Only when there is such a commitment to progress can men truly sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron (cf Prov 27:17). No matter how deep the Bible studies or enjoyable the activities, and no matter how honestly sins are confessed, only when change is actually taking place as stimulated by the small group can the small group claim to have actual profit. 

Marker #7: They are active in the church and build relationships outside of the small group (cf 1 Corinthians 1:12-13, 12:26)

I’ve been a part of small groups where the men in the group only really spend time with each other in the church, and they become a kind of ingrown toe-nail in the church. They’re not only with each other during the small group hour of the week, but interact with just each other even during Sunday Services. I’ve been a part of Bible studies that are almost like their own underground churches; the rest of church never sees them! A good men’s group consists of men who, while existing in deep relationships with one another, are active in the life of the church as a whole and invest time in people outside of their small group. They rejoice when members of the church outside of their group are honored, and they suffer likewise (1 Corinthians 12:26). Such a group consists of men who are reputable both in the church and also in their community. 

Conclusion

God has designed for Christ to be formed in the men of the church (Gal 4:19), and He has provided the means for that to happen. One of those means is a good, worthwhile men’s small group. Let every man seek to join such a group, and let every men’s group seek to exhibit these markers for the glory of God and the good of the church. 

The Case for Verse-by-Verse Bible Exposition

“They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.” ~Nehemiah 8:8

When I first interviewed for a job at the Christian school where I’ve served for the last eight years in conjunction to my pastoral ministry, they asked me what grade I said I was not willing to teach. I answered without hesitation,

“Pre-school.”

The vice principal at the time, with a grin on her face, asked me to explain why so. Again, I answered without hesitation, 

“I have a pre-school aged son. I love him…and I have absolutely no idea what he’s saying! The majority of the time, my wife has to interpret for me!” Their grins turned immediately into laughter. Needless to say, I was hired three weeks later. 

Why is it that, at least during that season of life, my wife understood my 2-year old son much more precisely than I did? How was she able to interpret which cry that he makes indicates hunger, and which one indicates fatigue? The answer is simple: during his toddler years, she was with him all-day, everyday from morning to evening. From the moment he awoke to the moment he transitioned to dreamland, she was right by his side both tending to him and observing him. She didn’t have to figure him out by asking him questions (not like he would have been able to answer them anyway). She did so simply by studying him minute by minute, hour by hour, day by. Case in point: you truly learn about people not by asking them questions, but by observing the natural course of their life history that they live by their own agenda. That’s true for human beings. That’s true for the divine Being. 

If you want to understand God as He has intended, you need to understand His revelation that He has given to us. First, you need to know the source through which He now reveals Himself to humanity – the Scriptures (cf 2 Peter 1:19-21). But second, which is the point of this entry, you need to understand the method by which to study that source. To know God, you need to know the Scriptures. And to know the Scriptures, you need to study it in natural course – word by word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, section by section, book by book, genre by genre, testament by testament. 

I am making the case here not just for the vital importance of expository preaching, but for verse-by-verse exposition of Scripture as the primary diet for the flock of God. This entry is not intended for pastors and Bible teachers (though it surely applies), but for laymen. As a Christian, you have the responsibility to be a quick hearer of God’s Word (cf James 1:19). You have the responsibility of choosing the right kind of Bible preaching and teaching to which you submit your life for the salvation of your own soul (cf James 1:21). Thus, just as the preacher is accountable to preaching via exposition, so the hearer is accountable to searching for such kind of preaching. For the record, verse-by-verse exposition is not the only acceptable and needed form of teaching God’s church. Expository preaching can sometimes come in the form of topical or thematic sermons. But what I am saying is that verse-by-verse exposition must be the primary form of biblical teaching in God’s church, and it should be the main form of biblical teaching under which you as a Christian place yourself. In order for you to do this, you need to value verse-by-verse Bible exposition. And in order to value it, you need to know its value and vitality to the church. 

What are the reasons why verse-by-verse Bible exposition is vital and valuable? 

Reason #1: It stays faithful to how the Bible is written.

Some theologians and scholars view the Bible as it appears as some kind of Ancient Near Eastern rough draft that needs to be refined into a ten-chapter systematic theology textbook. But the Bible is no rough draft. It is the inspired and inerrant Word of God in which every letter and stroke matters (cf Matthew 5:18). Not only this, but the Bible is literature in its form. It’s not a reference book for theological concepts; it is a revelation of a divine person – God Himself. It was written in the order that it is on purpose – so that we can read it in that order, because order and sequence matter. The books of the Bible were meant to be read, studied, understood, and taught from start to finish in the sequence and order in which they appear. We don’t get to pick and choose which parts of which books we want to know, in what order we want to know them. 

Reason #2: It is how the Bible was historically taught. 

Sound , orthodox biblical teaching consists not only of doctrine but methodology. We need to teach the Bible today the way the Bible has been taught throughout redemptive history. And surveying redemptive history reveals that verse-by-verse exposition was the primary method of teaching God’s Word to the people. In Old Testament Israel, God commanded for Law to be read to the people from beginning to end (cf Deuteronomy 31:11; Joshua 8:35). When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity, they were rebuilt into a worshipping people through Ezra’s exposition of the Word (cf Nehemiah 8:8). When the resurrected Christ revealed Himself to the men on the Emmaus road through the Scriptures, He did so beginning with Moses and with all the Scriptures (cf Luke 24:27); He went through the Scriptures both chronologically and comprehensively. Once the New Testament canon was recognized, church history reveals that verse-by-verse exposition was the primary method by which the Scriptures were taught by the stalwarts of the church from all generations and regions. Such was the primary method by which the flock of God was fed, and it needs to be kept that way. 

Reason #3: It exalts God’s agenda over man’s. 

In order for you to seek God’s truth as He intended, you must seek not just in what the Bible says about a certain topic. You must be seek what the Bible says, period. Christians must be discerning in how they study the Bible, but not selective. Christians must learn that they must listen to the Bible when it’s taught regardless of what topic or issue is being addressed by the text (cf Jeremiah 25:4). In other words, whenever God speaks, a person must listen, absorb, and apply. So when it comes to hearing the Word of God, it is God – not man – who sets the agenda of what needs to be heard (cf Joshua 8:35). Pastors must be wary of inadvertently training God’s people to think that they only time they need to listen to the Bible is when it addresses a topic of their interest, and that they can tune out or not show up otherwise.

Reason #4: It properly prioritizes biblical theology over systematic theology

For the record, biblical theology is not more important than systematic theology (both are equally important for biblical scholarship). But biblical theology (studying the Scriptures linearly) is the mother of systematic theology (studying the Scriptures categorically). In other words, you won’t get your systematic theology right if you don’t understand your biblical theology. A lot of false or defective doctrine comes from people who love studying certain verses and even the original languages, but don’t understand the whole revelation of Scripture on a particular topic and where those verses appear in Scripture’s larger context. Thus, all things being equal, if I had to choose between a saint who loved reading sound Christian books but didn’t spend a whole lot of time reading and studying the Bible expositionally (verse by verse, chapter by chapter) and a saint who isn’t as well-versed in Christian literature (obviously, some level of it is necessary) but spends a lot of time studying the Bible itself verse-by-verse, chapter by chapter, I’d almost always choose the latter. 

Reason #5: It trains people to accurately interpret Scripture

It’s been said that the three most vital principles of sound biblical hermeneutics is: context, context, and context! You have to interpret passages in the context of where a particular exists. And you’ll only know how to understand the context if you understand the book in which that passage is found. And you’ll only understand the book when you understand its place in the Scripture and its function within Scripture. So much bad teaching and faulty interpretation of passages comes from teaching something out of context. On the flip side, I’ve had 6th graders in Bible class who grew up in non-Christians with zero Bible teaching in their history, but who have proven themselves capable of interpreting difficult passages because they’ve had a whole semester’s worth of verse-by-verse exposition through the particular book in which those difficult passages were found. Really, such method of Bible teaching is an antidote to proof-texting for the Bible teacher. 

Reason #6: It results in true growth and change in God’s people.

People won’t grow and change spiritually when you give them a laundry list of spiritual growth items. People change toward Christ-likeness when they behold Christ in His glory as revealed in the Scriptures (cf 2 Corinthians 3:18). And the way God has chosen to reveal Christ today has been through the proclamation of the Word (cf Colossians 1:24-28). And the way Christ revealed Himself through the Word was through biblical exposition (cf Luke 24:27). In the same way that plants grow through continual exposure to sunlight, saints grow from continual beholding of the light of the Son. Show Christ to His people, and His people will become like Christ. They need to see not just parts of Christ, but the whole of Christ revealed in Scripture. I see this biblically and can testify of this experientially in my own life and ministry. I saw it with collegians when I took them through Hebrews. I saw it young parents when we worked through Ecclesiastes. I saw it with middle schoolers when we went through the gospels of Mark and John. When you take people through books of the Bible expositionally, change – true, lasting, and practical change – happens. 

Reason #7: It produces the expectation that every portion of Scripture is important.

I remember going through a Bible survey series – a jet tour through the story of redemption from Genesis to Revelation – with a group of middle school students. Because I only had a semester to finish the series, I decided to skip over the story of Ruth and went straight from the history of the judges to Israel’s monarchial period. It was at that point that a 7th grade boys raised his hand and said, “Hey, did you just skip Ruth? Why did you do that? We can’t skip it!” He had never read the book of Ruth before, but going through the Bible chronologically in class produced the expectation that every part needed to be covered (I honored his request by going through Ruth expositionally with the group two years later!). Expository preaching and teaching in a verse-by-verse manner develops a thirst in people for every portion of Scripture, and produces a yearning in people to be taught through every portion of Scripture.

Reason #8: It proves to people that every portion of Scripture is profitable

Most Christians who I know in my theological circles will not deny the words of 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. But what I’ve found is that most people don’t know how the majority of Scripture – especially the Old Testament – is profitable for them. Unfortunately, there are many saints for whom life would be no different if you ripped out the book of Haggai from their Bible, because they’ve never read it and they don’t intend to. If you feel this way as a Christian, you’re not alone. Hence, vital in the church is the ministry of biblical exposition. I remember clearly seeing the reality of this when I took a group of adults through – you guessed it – the book of Haggai Previously, most had never heard a sermon or less on Haggai (Hence, I called it the crispy portion of their Bible!). And quite frankly, Haggai isn’t quoted or referenced much in Christian living books. Yet, after going through the book together, several of these adults mentioned that it was this particular study that they found to be the most significant and impactful in the lives and the most applicable concerning the circumstances they were currently experiencing. Who would have known!   

Conclusion

Word by word. Verse by verse. Section by section. Chapter by chapter. Book by book. Genre by genre. Where do you find the gospel in the Bible? From Genesis to Revelation, and everything in between. Where do you find Christ? From Genesis to Revelation, and everything in between. Let biblical exposition be the way we preach. Let biblical exposition be the way you hear. 

Don’t Disdain what God has Approved

A biblical warning against legalism

“I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’” ~Acts 11:7-9

“Why is she wearing pants to church”?

“You smoke cigars? Seriously?”

“You seriously let your kids watch Disney movies?”

“You shouldn’t be working on Sundays, because it’s the Lord’s Day.”

“I saw a bottle of wine in her kitchen the other day. Best to stay away from her.”

“I can’t believe he’s an elder, and he let his son pierce his ear!”

“Did you know that he has a tattoo on his back? We need to confront him.”

“Why is it that you don’t give ten percent to the church?”

“Poor guy…his wife won’t homeschool their kids.”

You may have said these to others. You may have thought these about others. Others may have said these to you or about you. Whether you’re an agent or recipient, I’m certain that you’ve heard comments akin to those above – at least, if you’ve been a believer an active one in the church for more than a few weeks. And perhaps you’re part of a church where such comments tend to circulate at a high rate.

If so, it’s hardly surprising. For while the church is founded upon the truth of the gospel, it remains true that local churches often have difficulty with the practical application of the gospel. On one extreme is licentiousness, which confesses the gospel while neglecting God’s commandments. On the other extreme is legalism, which confesses the gospel while insisting on man’s traditions. The latter, in my experience, tends to be more prevalent in doctrinally sound and practically conservative churches. It’s a correlation, not a causation, and one to be aware of. In other words, you generally see more legalism than licentiousness in reformed conservative evangelical churches. So if you’re part of a church body that is not only evangelical but doctrinally in the reformed theological zip code (such as I), you must listen up.

For the record, you can’t avoid tradition. Nor are we called to get rid of them necessarily. Every church that has endured past its budding plant stage and that has reached critical mass will have them. Traditions of men aren’t bad, because discipline isn’t bad. Discipline isn’t bad, because habits (which are the fruit of discipline) are necessary for the Christian faith. As Christians, it is healthy to have a rhythm about your life, and an element of predictability – a sense of faithfulness and firmness in the way we live. We can’t keep swerving and changing our minds on how we choose to live our lives for the Lord (cf Romans 14:5). In the same way that household rules and classroom procedures are necessary for the home and school respectively, traditions of men in and of themselves can be sweet for Christians who personally or corporately practice them.

But sweet turns sour when those traditions are forced upon other people, and when the violation of them becomes a point of division or disdain. The church is in trouble when its members choose to fellowship only with those who adhere to their same traditions. As Christians, we must be careful not to disdain those in the church who may genuinely confess the same gospel but differ in how they traditionally live out the gospel. If we aren’t, we may end up betraying two fundamental truths of the gospel itself – namely, that we are justified by faith apart from works of the Law and that Christ is the end of the Law.

The instinct to disdain

Against such disdain we must be warned, because it’s somewhat instinctive to exhibit it. When Jesus first told Peter to “kill and eat” upon showing him a vision of a variety of animals (cf Acts 10:13), Peter immediately reacted and refused. This situation deserves a deeper scope. Peter was raised as a Jewish man and in the ways of the Mosaic Law. Part of adhering to the Law was upholding dietary restrictions delineated in the Law (cf Leviticus 11). “Killing and eating” the kind of animals that he saw in this vision was something he never did during the entire three years he followed Jesus as an inner-circle apostle, even after Jesus declared all foods to be clean (cf Mark 7:19). And for several years after Christ ascended, he still abstained. When Jesus told him in the vision to kill and eat, he wasn’t ready. He wasn’t prepared. So he refused. Oh how so much of Christian living can be deduced from Jesus’ correction of some statement that Peter made! This time, there was no “Get behind Me, Satan!” rebuke. Jesus knew that Peter’s refusal to eat wasn’t coming out of a heart that was set on man’s interest versus God’s (cf Mark 8:33). Rather, it came out of a weak conscience and an incomplete theology. Peter’s heart wasn’t self-seeking; his desire was indeed to glorify God by remaining undefiled according to stipulations of a previous agreement. He had traditionally restricted his diet out of obedience to God and as was fitting to his conscience. And now that his diet no longer needed to be restricted for the glory of God…he wasn’t ready. And eventually, he would fall into the trap of hypocrisy when he withheld fellowship from Gentiles in the Galatian church whose cultural practices were non-Jewish. What was acceptable before God, he naturally disdained and refused to accept.

Like Peter, Christians – genuine, regenerate, Christ-loving, and practically conscientious disciples of Jesus – can fall into such disdain. The same Christians who preach justification by faith apart from works sometimes feel discomfort around other Christians who practice works that are acceptable to God but foreign to them. Whether it’s consuming alcohol (without getting drunk, of course), getting tattoos and piercings, wearing pants (for women), smoking cigars, sitting in a movie theater, going trick-or-treating on October 31st, or whatever the deed, it is easy to view another believer cynically and hold someone aloofly because how they live is alien to yours and what you’ve traditionally associated with Christian living.

The call to approve

But part of mature Christian living is obeying the call to approve what God has approved. For the record, it is necessary to clarify what God has approved today that the Mosaic Law previously prohibited. God doesn’t approve of idolatry, adultery, sexual immorality, murder, lying, stealing, dishonoring of parents, or coveting. He didn’t tell Peter in the vision to approve of such. It’s also necessary to point out that not all approved or permissible practices are helpful to every Christian or to his ministry (cf 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, 10:23-24). The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking (cf Romans 14:17), but your walk with Christ and ministry to others can still be affected by how you eat and drink. Thus, such “approval” discussed here is not an exhortation for every Christian in every part of the world to practice every conceivable liberty. All liberties must be selected and exercised with godly discipline and restraint (cf 1 Corinthians 9:23-27). But when it comes to accepting and embracing others who may differ in the detail of how they go about this, this is where Christians must be conscientious. Such is not a call to social tolerance; it is a call to protect the gospel from being adulterated. If we profess that we are justified by faith and not by the works of the Law (cf Galatians 2:16), then we must never be condescending to people out of self-righteousness. And if we profess that Christ is the end of the Law (cf Romans 10:4), then we must never be condemning of people out of legalism.

The need for discernment

Let Christians then be discerning about which things God allows and which things God forbids. What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy. Such is no small matter, for the purity of the gospel is at stake.

We are Just Men

A biblical insight into humanity’s tendency toward human-worship

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” 

~Acts 10:25-26

I didn’t know what kind of greeting to expect. Each culture has their own way of showing honor and hospitality to a visiting pastor, minister, or theologian who they’ve invite to speak at their church or fellowship. I’m on the younger end, but I’m not new to the guest keynote speaker ministry. Over the last ten years, I’ve received honorarium checks, gift baskets, dried mangoes, T-shirts, local-fabric-woven backpacks, soccer jerseys, signed poster boards, and more. So I didn’t think much of the beautiful, massive flower wreath that they placed around my neck when we stepped foot into a local church in Asia where I was invited as a keynote speaker for their regional pastor’s conference (the name of the country will remain anonymous). It was, after all, their way of showing honor and esteem to visiting minister. At least, that’s what I thought. Sitting next to me was a local pastor from that particular country (though he was not local to that particular region). He, too, was invited to speak at the conference. He, too, had a flower wreath placed around his neck. Only, he took it off shortly after – and kept it off through the entirety of the afternoon. The Americans, including myself, asked him why. We knew that, as a native of that country, he was well-versed in its culture and the meaning of particular gestures. He explained with the following (paraphrased):

“People here have a tendency to treat pastors like deity. It’s baggage from their polytheistic background. And one of the ways they indicate this is by putting this wreath around your neck.” 

A few months later, now back in America, I was watching a NetFlix documentary on the particular country mentioned above. Part of the documentary was an interview with a family that worshipped a particular animal that they considered sacred that they kept in their home. Once a year, they would throw a religious worship festival for that animal by putting around its neck – you guessed it – the same massive flower wreath that had been placed around neck at the pastor’s conference. 

Men have a tendency to make much of men

The truth is that man has a tendency to make much of men. To put it more pointedly, man has a tendency to make other human beings objects of worship. Cornelius, a reputable Gentile on his own right in both his ability  and his works of charity (cf Acts 10:1-2, 22) tried to worship Peter when the later entered his home. 

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshipped him.”

The irony can’t afford to be missed. That a Roman centurion of his societal stature and reputability vested – not to mention the amount of authority vested in him as a centurion (cf Luke 7:8) – would fall down to an uneducated (formally) Jewish ex-fisherman and worship him in the times of the Roman Empire when military soldiers were esteemed above all others is indicative of the natural tendency of humans, no matter how accomplished, to glorify other humans, and to ascribe to another human the worth and honor that is deserved only by God Himself. It would have been like watching Shaquille O’Neal walk into my home, getting on his knees, and kissing my feet (as I was trying to get his autograph!). What Cornelius tried to do to Peter may seem ironic, but it is revelatory of the natural tendency of the human heart to make other humans objects of worship. We American’s are the the furthest thing from the exception. Bowing down before statues, animal worship, pantheism, and ancestor worship may not be as prevalent in Western civilization and American society as it is in other parts of the world, but idolatry is every bit as rampant. And for Western culture – whose foundations of both politics and philosophy can be traced back to Greco-Roman culture and Europe’s post-medieval humanism – those idols take the form not of totem pole statues, but actual human beings based on perceived merit. If you’re not convinced, watch the way young boys respond when they see Stephen Curry; watch the way young girls react when they see Justin Bieber. I’ve often wondered why conferences try to capitalize on the so-called faith of many athletes and artists, and have them speak at their conferences. On one hand, it doesn’t make sense. Why grab an NBA player and have him speak at a conference where people are supposed to hear the preaching of the Word, when his craft is in shooting a basketball and not biblical exegesis?  On the other hand, it’s only too predictable. If you want people who on most days have no interest in the things of God to attend your conference where God is spoken of, then bring in a speaker who they treat as God. In America, it’s not that difficult to do. We’re a nation obsessed with the GOAT’s (Greatest of All Time), because we’re a nation obsessed with merit, accomplishments, feats, and record-breaking. Whether it’s our politicians, our stage artists, our musicians, our athletes, or our scholars, we instinctively like to make much of people and we ourselves desire to be made much of. 

Christians should not make much of men

Christians, however, shouldn’t make much of men, because there’s really nothing to be made much of. When Cornelius bowed down and worshipped Peter, Peter had the choice to receive it and embrace it. After all, he was the one who God spoke of in the vision to Cornelius. Instead, Peter responded in the way every man should when people try to worship him:

“But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up, I too am just a man.’”

It reminds me of how seventeen-year old Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario responded when asked how she would deal with the intimidation and awe of having to play top-ranked Steffi Graf, who was on a five-grand slam win streak, on the eve of the French Open final: “I came to play her, not to pray to her,” she firmly said (she defeated Graf the next day). Maybe Sanchez-Vicario thought of the apostle Peter during her pre-match press-conference. Peter wasn’t being falsely humble or self-deprecating when he refused Cornelius’ worship. He was being sensible. To bow down and worship a man – a finite, created being – is senseless, in the same way that praying to the Mauna Kea volcano is senseless. Peter refused Cornelius’ worship not just internally, but formally – physically getting Cornelius out of his prostration – because it was worship he was unwarranted to receive. As humans, we don’t worship other humans because humans are not worthy of worship. And as humans, we don’t receive worship or anything even remotely resembling because we aren’t worthy of it. No matter how many 3-point buzzers you’ve made, no matter how many academic papers you’ve written, no matter how much you’ve proliferated your business product, no matter how much governing authority has been entrusted to you, you are not worthy of anyone bowing down to you and ascribing to you the glory and honor that ought to be given to God because, as Peter reminded Cornelius, you too are just a man. And the last time I checked, God is taking no applications for additional persons to the Trinity. 

Conclusion

Only one man ever rightfully received worship during His time on earth – Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ and the Son of God. In Him alone does the fullness of deity dwell in bodily form. He alone came down from heaven to die for sinners and pay the full penalty of our sins. He alone resurrected from the dead into a glorified body that is now the first fruits of all who believe in Him for eternal life. He alone is worthy of worship. For though He is a man, He is not just a man. He is God, and God Incarnate. Let it be Him – and Him alone – who we make much of as men. 

The Mission of the Church Now and Tomorrow

(An edited version of this article was published on withallwisdom.org on November 30, 2020)

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:18-20

Human beings were designed to be fueled by a true sense of commission. 

When we talk to little kids for instance, we ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When those same kids become high school seniors, we ask them, “What do you want to study in college?” And when those same college students become young professionals, they begin to express the sentiment, “I want to do something with my life.” When God created Adam and Eve, He told them to “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Creation was immediately followed by commission. The first human beings were designed to be fueled not by preservation, provision, or protection (even though God knew that they needed these things and would give instruction concerning them); they were designed to be fueled by commission. 

So what is your mission in life, and what is the ambition that drives your mission? What is the cause to which you are giving the entirety of your life to? What is it that God truly expects for you and I to do with our lives. As Christians, we are a part of the Church that Christ is building. And as a Church, we are indeed the “called out ones.” But called out to do what? Truth be told, you can’t build up the next generation by obsessing them about monetary provision, protection, and safety. You can’t raise up soldiers of Christ by entangling their minds in civilian affairs, but by rather helping them grasp the noble battle that they are are to fight. I’m not ignoring the reality of practical needs; even God knows we need them. But if the goal of life becomes about making sure we have enough to eat, drink, and clothe ourselves, then we are on the road to shrinking life to something far smaller than it was meant to be (Matthew 6:25)

But that is exactly what the Church today is being pressured to focus on today. Given what’s been happening with COVID-19 and the Shelter-in-Place orders, the Church has become focused on what we are and aren’t allowed to do. Can we have indoor services? Can we sing? Can we visit people in their homes? Do we have to wear masks? Can we hug? Can counseling still happen? The Church is obsessing herself with what the civil government is allowing and not allowing. But the Church must be driven not by compliance to the civil government, but by the commission of the King of Kings – Christ Himself. And He has given the Church a commission. It is the Great Commission, the most monumental task ever given to humanity. And it not about lowering the COVID-19 curve. It is about the endeavor of global disciple-making. Yes, it’s that simple and straightforward. What does Christ expect from us as Christians to be doing now and today? He expects us to be giving our lives to making disciples of Christ of all the people groups of our planet. Listen to Christ’s final words to His disciples before ascending to heaven:

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) 

Respecting the Authority Behind the Commission

Amidst all the noise coming from our civil governing authorities, one of the major questions that we’ve been asking is, “Who is in charge?” What do we do when our president directs us one way, our state governor directs us another way, and our local health officer throws in her two cents that differs from both? We are called, after all, to submit to our civil authorities (Romans 13:1), but what exactly is the “highest law of the land?” To put it simply, the highest law of the land is the edict of Jesus Christ for that land. Before He commissioned His disciple to a global task, Christ reminded them of the authority He has over the globe. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” All means all. Authority is the power to do something and the prerogative to command something. Thus, when Christ says that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, it implies that every square inch of the planet and everything that happens in our planet has been placed under the authority of Christ. Everywhere we go, in other words, belongs to Jesus. This is His planet, and all the nations in it belong to Him. That includes America, and every single one of her fifty states. That includes California, and every single one of her counties where I live. And so if Christ commissions His church to carry out the task of global disciple-making, there is no nation, state, county, or city that can rightfully say, “Ours is off limits.” And because Christ is not only the Lord of heaven and earth but also the head of the church, He and He alone has the authority to say what His church ought to be doing and not to be doing. I’ll put it simply; civil governing authorities have no say in how the Great Commission ought to carried out and administered in any part of the planet. This endeavor belongs to God, and not to Caesar. When Christ commissioned His disciples to make disciples of all nations, He didn’t ask them to ask for permission from Caesar; He reminded them of His authority. Amidst all the chaos and confusion being presented by our civil governors, let us be reminded of Christ’s ultimate and unchallenged authority over our land. 

Knowing the Essence of the Commission

So if the King of Kings Himself has commissioned His church to make disciples of all the nations, what does this entail? What exactly is the church’s “job description?” While global disciple-making requires a tremendous amount of wisdom – the church needs to understand how to become all things to all men – the essence of the commission has remained the same. A disciple is not a slave or a servant (though Christ does call all Christians to be both slaves and servants). Disciples are students – not ones who merely submit to the will of another, but rather who learn from another. Servants and slaves are bondage to your will; disciples imitate your ways. Christians are then to busy themselves with the task of making followers – learners – of Jesus Christ. They are to do it to every single people group and ethnic group on the planet – not a single one is to be left out. Jesus didn’t say, “All people groups are welcome.” Rather, He says, “make disciples of all the people groups.” It’s not about all being welcome; it’s about all being reached. And what is the disciple-making process? It is, as Christ instructed, baptism and teaching. 

Baptism is the formal declaration of one’s association and union with the Triune God, and formal renunciation of the idolatrous faith from which he previously came – whatever the cost. And once that decisive declaration has been made by a man – that He has placed His faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ for the full forgiveness of His sins – transformation needs to be happen; those who have formally declared union with Christ are to be taught to observe all of the commandments of Christ as found in the Scriptures. This act of teaching is the primary task of the church (Acts 6:4, Colossians 1:28-29). 

Though it is a monumental task that entails the instruction of the entirety of Scriptures for the transformation of the entire person, taken to the entire planet that is hostile to the name of Christ. But while the world hates Christ, in another sense the world has also been prepared by God to receive Him. In Acts 17:26-27, Paul says, “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” In His providence, God scattered humanity over the face of the earth and orchestrated the formation of distinct people groups so that they may find Him. And how would they find Him? Through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And who would bring that knowledge of Christ to them? None other than you and I, along with the rest of God’s Church. The world is ripe for global disciple-making. The people groups are there, prepared by God to find Him. The world has been set up by God for the Church to make disciples. And it is not to be suspended by the season. In season or out of season, the Great Commission must be carried out. 

The Church then needs to stay focused on her commission. It is not our primary calling to lower viral pandemic curves or to eradicate poverty. It doesn’t mean that Christians don’t show practical care to their community or shouldn’t care about these things. But at the end of the day, the answer to both pandemics and poverty is none other than the kingdom of God. In Christ’s kingdom, there will be neither poverty nor pandemic. And thus, there is no nobler commission that upholds the dignity of human life and the dignity of every ethnic group than to usher people into the kingdom of God through the making of disciples. It is a task that requires the participation of every single Christian – leaders and laymen, men and women, the youth and the seasoned. And it is a task that cannot be carried out to its fullness either from home or online. Hebrews 10:24-25 makes it clear that the physical assembling of people is needed in order to stimulate and encourage one another to engage in the love and good deeds that comes with disciple-making. 1 Thessalonians 3:10-11 makes it clear that in order to disciple people to maturity, there needs to be in-person interaction. Can parents raise their kids through Zoom? Can married couples carry out a marriage primarily through FaceTime? We all know that in-person interaction is needed to build a household. It is nothing short of absurd to think that the household of God can be built without in-person interaction.

Remembering the Promise for the Commission

And as was the case with every other commission that God has given His people, He promises His ever-abiding presence with the Church. “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The completion of the age will come when Christ returns to establish His Millennial Kingdom over the earth. Until then, the Church is to make disciples of all the nations of the earth. And she will not do it alone – never has, and never will have to. The presence of God is a thematic reality for the people of God who engage in the work of God. And He will not leave His people after giving Him this most monumental and noble of duties. His presence is needed, as this is indeed a dangerous commission. Doing this work of the gospel requires being willing to join in the suffering that comes with the work (2 Timothy 1:8, 3:12). The Great Commission will not fall into the hands of fearful men, for everyone who wishes to save his life and not lose it for Christ and His gospel is simply not fit for the kingdom of God. But for all those who continually and steadfastly abound in the work of Christ, they will also experience the true empowering presence of Christ.

The world as we know it is a mess. It is filled with unrighteousness and ungodliness, toward which the wrath of God is revealing itself. But in His grace and out of love for the world, God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to save sinners from every nation of the planet. He purchased them with His own blood, paid the penalty for all of their sins, and is now summoning all of them back to Him (John 10:16). The vehicle through which He will accomplish this is the Church, which you and I are a part of. 

The mission is clear. Let us fulfill it. Now and today, even to the end of the age. 

Men’s Fellowship and Why It’s Important

(an edited version of this article was published on With All Wisdom [withallwisdom.org] on February 1, 2021)

“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” ~Proverbs 27:17

For a long time, I was curious as to why nearly twenty years ago, when I was on the brink of leaving for college, the wife of my Bible study leader (also a mother of two children) prayed for me the way she did during our weekly Bible study.  That Sunday afternoon, she didn’t pray for a wife, for a church, or for a diploma on my behalf (she did pray for a wife upon my request, but on a different occasion).  Instead, without my asking, she prayed that God would provide for me a friend – a fellow like-minded brother of the same breed, same convictions, and same pursuits who would run alongside me as a peer in the race of faith.  Nearly twenty years later, I realize further the wisdom in her petition. It was wise, because I am a man. And men have a tendency to neglect fellowship with other men. 

For clarity’s sake, the distinction needs to be made between positional fellowship and practical fellowship. Positional fellowship is the state of fellowship that all men who are followers of Christ exist in (1 John 1:7). In other words, a man from Youngstown, Ohio who has truly professed Christ as his Lord and Savior has been baptized into the body of Christ and now exists in fellowship with the Christian man from Tenali, India who he has never met and of whose existence he is unaware but who has made the exact same profession of faith. All Christians exist in a state of fellowship with one another as followers of Jesus Christ, ministers of His gospel, and workers of His kingdom. Practical fellowship, on the other hand, is the actual of sharing life and ministry between Christians because of the gospel and for the cause of the gospel (cf Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35). Practical fellowship is the exercise of positional fellowship between believers. And historically in my experience, men tend to neglect it with other men. And, in my nearly 15 years in pastoral ministry, it is especially true with those men who are husbands and fathers. It’s for this reason that it no longer surprises me when men’s fellowship events – men’s breakfasts, men’s barbecues, men’s retreats, men’s discipleship, men’s small groups, men’s Bible studies, men’s outreach events, men’s prayer meetings, men’s anything – are the most sparsely attended events of a particular local church. It’s for this reason that it no longer surprises me when I hear a man mention that it had been 18 months since he’s had a lunch meeting with another man from his church. And it’s not that they don’t have the time; it’s that they won’t make the time. And men won’t make time for or spend money on things that they deem as unimportant. Men will go to Sunday service. They’ll work overtime. They’ll spend thousands of dollars on a family vacation, a new guitar, or an upgraded laptop. They’ll drive 500 miles to visit their parents. But they’ll neglect the regular exercise of men’s fellowship, because they deem it as unimportant. Good and encouraging, they’ll say, but not important. 

And my point in this article is to confront that very notion. Men’s fellowship must be prioritized by all men in the church – whatever the age, demographic, or life stage – because men’s fellowship is vital. Yes, vital. Those men who neglect it will be stunted in their growth and risk spiritual downfall. Did not Jesus tell Peter in Luke 22:32 to “strengthen your brothers.” Men who are strong in the faith are men who are strengthened in their faith by fellow brothers in the faith. As a man, you can’t be spiritually strong while neglecting the fellowship of other men at the same time. Below are five reasons why:

First, there are burdens in a man’s life that can only be carried by other men (Galatians 6:2). A professor of biblical counseling at my seminary once said regarding married men, “All of her problems are your problems…but not all of your problems are her problems.” He wasn’t advocating having a secret life; rather, he was speaking of 1 Peter 3:7 and what it means for a man to live with his wife as with a weaker vessel. You don’t put heavy objects in fragile vessels. Simply put, there are burdens in a man’s life that his wife can’t bear without breaking. A man ought not to hide his burdens, but rather cast them on other men as Galatians 6:2 instructs. It’s for this very reason why, though women may generally yearn for relationships (with other women) more than men do (with other men), men need these relationships as much if not more. 

Second, there is a sharpening that a man can only experience when in the presence and fellowship of other men, particularly his peers (Proverbs 27:17). As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. To sharpen a piece of iron, you don’t rub it against gold or silver; you rub it against another piece of iron. And so to sharpen a man, he needs to rub shoulders with another man. I distinctly remember seeing this played out when, during a church retreat, I decided to go for a morning run before breakfast. On the way back, I ran (literally) into a peer friend of mine who was also a distance runner, and was also making his way back to the retreat center. Because he had been training for a marathon, he was fast – faster than me. And as soon as we started running together back to to the campgrounds, he started picking up his pace. His legs were longer than mine, and I was struggling to keep up, but remained silent because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. All of a sudden, about ten minutes into the run, my friend said, “Dude, you’re going way too fast. I can’t keep up with you – I need to stop!” And he stopped and threw up. To my surprise (and relief), he felt like he was trying to keep up with me…all the while I felt like I was trying to keep up with him. Because of each other’s presence, we both ended up running faster than we normally do. That’s what happens in good peer relationships. It’s true in sports. And it’s true in the spiritual realm. A man is sharpened when he’s pursuing his endeavors right next to someone else who’s aiming to do the same thing. This is not to say that men can’t be sharpened by their wives. Obviously, they will. But consider this. There are many men who are convinced in and of themselves that they’re sacrificially loving their wives and children, until they see another man in the church in the same stage of life and the same set of circumstances who are more selfless with their wives and more patient with their children. A man who is only around his wife and children will be self-deceived and may quickly atrophy in several areas of his life, including his family endeavors. And so when I see a man who only spends time with his wife, children, and parents, I start to cringe. I can almost assume the spiritual flabbiness underneath the Christian lingo. For though biblical masculinity must be exhibited toward women and children (cf Ephesians 5:25-33, 6:4), it must be sharpened by men. 

Third, there is a mentoring that a man can only receive from another man and exercise toward another man. For the record, a man’s wife is his most effective and ongoing source of accountability in his life. A man’s wife will help him in a way that no other person can (cf Genesis 2:18). I testify of this both biblically and experientially. But ever wife will rejoice upon knowing that her husband is being mentored, counseled, and discipled by a more mature and seasoned godly man. A woman cannot train a man to be masculine. She can rightly insist on it, and can rightly demand it. She can admonish her husband to man-up. But she cannot show a man how to do it. The same is true for women. Hence, Paul himself told Timothy, “Now you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings,” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). It takes a man to train a man to be a man. Thus, one can assume that a man who is not surrounded by godly men is not becoming a godly man. 

Fourth, there is a kind of partnership in labor and ministry that a man can only truly share with another man. What I find interesting in the New Testament is that, although the apostle Peter was married, his wife’s name is never mentioned in Scripture. In fact, the only time she is referenced is when Paul reminds the Corinthians that Peter was able to take along his wife in his ministry with the financial support of the church (cf 1 Corinthians 9:5). I don’t doubt for a second that Peter’s wife was a true suitable helper who herself was a believer, as testified in church history. But the reason being is because it is Peter’s ministry as an apostle and pastor, not his personal life, that is highlighted and Scripture. And the people who shared in his particular ministry were fellow men – James, John, Paul, to name a few. A man cannot carry out his labor and ministry on your own; at least, that’s not how God instructs it when Scripture says “Two are better than one because they have good return for their labor” (cf Ecclesiastes 4:9). He needs other men to come alongside him in such endeavors. God designed men to labor in partnership – or fellowship – with other men. When Peter labored as a fisherman, he did so with fellow men (Mark 1). When he discussed the issue of circumcision in the church, he did so with fellow men (Acts 15). There is, indeed, a partnership that a man ought to exhibit with other men in their labor and ministry should they seek to maximize both. 

Fifth, there is a depth of friendship that a man was designed to experience with another man. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” A man who exhibits wisdom in his relationships is a man who has close relationships. And the relationship in Proverbs 18:24 is a reference not to a man’s marriage (every time Proverbs references a man’s relationship to his wife, it mentions the word “wife” or “woman,” both of which are translations of the same Hebrew word), but to a man’s close friendship with another man. In order for a man to navigate through this world skillfully, he needs to have a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This is not a sign of weakness; it’s simply part of God’s sociological design of men. It’s no wonder that so many men, even those who have wonderful wives and precious children, express feelings of loneliness. And whenever a man expresses such in the counseling room, I can almost always guess what he’s looking for. He’s looking for close friendships with a few good men. I’ve heard this sentiment expressed by male high school students, married men, and senior citizens. Men can be stereotypically terrible at developing close friendships with other men, but boy are they in need of it. 

As Christian men, we are not only saved by Christ, but we are saved into a fellowship men. In such a fellowship, men are unburdened. In such a fellowship, men are sharpened. In such a fellowship, men are mentored. In such a fellowship, men labor and minister. In such a fellowship, men find deep friendships. Through the fellowship of other men, men can work out their salvation in fear and trembling. Men’s fellowship is not only beneficial; it is vital.  

Speak Confidently, and They’ll Live Seriously

The inextricable relationship between the character of preaching and the condition of the people.

“…and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.”

~Titus 3:8

I thought I was being humble; really, I was being timid. I had just turned 24, had just started a full-time load in seminary, and was preaching my first-ever Sunday sermon to a congregation where the majority of the saints were older than me. “What can I say to ensure that they don’t disregard me because of my age and lack of life experience?” I thought. And so, before I exposited the text, I apologized. I apologized to the people listening to me for being young, and that they had to listen to me. The sermon itself, from the feedback I received, apparently was fine. But that week, the pastor who was in charge of evaluating my sermon referred to the pre-exposition apology. “Don’t ever do that again,” he said straight-faced. “Just preach.” 

It was a rookie mistake on my end. Rookie, because it’s young preachers who tend to do it. Mistake, because you shouldn’t do it. For the man of God, the biblical commission from the Lord Jesus Christ to preach His Word with authority and boldness is both commanded and consequences. It is commanded in the Word of God; it has consequences on the people of God. And no one wants to disobey God’s Word or tamper with God’s people. 

Truthfully, it’s not easy to preach authoritatively and confidently nowadays. The post-modern relativism of the culture in which Christians find themselves makes it so. Truth, the culture says, is relative to the individual. How dare, the culture says, any man go behind a pulpit and preach as if what he is saying is truth absolute and truth absolute! Though there may be a resurgence (perhaps in a parallel universe) of young people seeking the truth and seeking teachers who believe what they say as truth, the majority isn’t quite like this. As a whole, at least in our nation, people don’t want to be corrected or confronted. They don’t want to be told that what they believe is wrong and how they’re living is wrong. And they especially don’t want it to be done from a pulpit. It’s not just that people don’t want to hear a man preach truth in a way that corrects and rebukes; they don’t want to hear people preach, period. Preaching is deemed by the culture as anachronistic. The sage from the stage is a massive brontosaurus in a land of springing gazelles and migrating wildebeest according to most so-called pedagogical experts. People today are seeking motivational speakers who are either conversationalist who replace the pulpit with a coffee table or story-tellers who can convert the message into a movie. 

But the reality that authoritative proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the instruction of the Scripture is no longer palatable to the culture because of both post-modernism and progressive education models does not change the fact that God commands it, and the man of God must do it. The Bible was meant to be preached, and preaching is thus a vital and non-negotiable element of a healthy biblical church. You can’t be a servant of God while concurrently trying to please people (Galatians 1:10). To preach Christ through the Scriptures – His person, His work, His commandments, His promises, His return – is no mere suggestion. It is a heavenly mandate from the Lord Jesus Himself (2 Tim 4:2). And God commands for the man of God not only to be biblical in His preaching, but to be confident in it. Paul tells Titus in Titus 3:8: 

“…and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently,” 

The English verse phrase “to speak confidently” is a translation of the Greek word which means “to state something with certainty and with confidence” or “to insist.” In other words, the character – not just the content – of a man’s preaching matters. These things – the call to good deeds in one’s community and the reality of justification by faith and regeneration upon which is founded – ought to be stated with certainty. Speak, in other words, as if what you are saying is right because it is right. Speak as a man who doesn’t question whether he’s the right person to preach. Speak with no apologies and leave no room for negotiation, because of the certainty of truth in your preaching. Exhort and rebuke them with all authority, allowing no one to disregard you (Titus 2:15). Don’t second guess yourself, and don’t allow others to second-guess you, because God Himself commissioned you. Speak then as someone who knows that God has called you to speak these exact words to these people. Speak with authority because the Bible is authoritative. Preach the Bible as if it is the truth because it is the truth. Proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior, because He alone is Lord of the earth and Savior to those who believe. Speak as a herald because Christ gave Himself up for us to purify for Himself a people of His own possession who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). 

The man of God must speak confidently not only because it is commanded by God but because of the consequences it will have upon God’s people. The command in Titus 3:8 to speak confidently the sound doctrine of the gospel and the living that necessarily flows from it is followed by the reason for the command: 

“…so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.”

The word “careful” in this verse is a translation of the Greek word that literally means “to give serious consideration to something.” Whether or not the culture admits it, authoritative, biblical, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting preaching results in saints who are serious about Christian living. The opposite is also true. Timid preaching produces timid Christians. Negotiable preaching produces compromising Christians. Story-telling produces a church filled with Peter Pan’s lost boys. Shirk into this kind of preaching, and your people won’t be serious. Not only will they not take you seriously; they won’t take their own lives seriously. Wishy-washy speaking produces wishy-washy saints. The reason why the man of God is called to speak confidently is because there is an inextricable link between the confidence with which he speaks of the Lord and the seriousness by which his people live for the Lord. Confident, biblical preaching produces saints who are serious about their faith and serious about their evangelistic function as salt and light in the world that so desperately needs Jesus Christ. Observe it yourself. Christians who are fervent and zealous about Christ, His gospel, and His ministry usually belong to a church whose pastor preaches the Bible like he means it.  

And so before you, o man of God, grow frustrated and discouraged that your people are not as committed to the work of God and ministry of the gospel as you’d hope, examine first your own preaching and teaching. For they’ll only live if you preach confidently.  

You’re Lonely because…You’re Godly?

When a zeal for God leads to estrangement from people

“I have become estranged from my brothers and an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.”

~Psalm 69:8-9

Sometimes, you’re lonely because you’re godly. 

For the record, loneliness is a problem. Even the most introverted of individuals was designed by God as a social being. From the very beginning, it was God – not man – who concluded, “It is not good for man to be alone” (cf Gen 2:18). Sustained loneliness is detrimental to a man’s soul, whether he recognizes it or not. It’s for this reason that God designed man to live in social institutions – with his wife and children in the family unit, with fellow country-men in his city and nation, and in the fellowship of other disciples in the church. 

Yet, loneliness is as prevalent as it is problematic. Interact with people enough at a high-enough volume, and it won’t take long to realize that someone expressing that they’re lonely is as common as someone expressing that they’re tired. To meet a man who is fully and truly satisfied with the social and relational structure that characterizes his life is somewhat of a rarity. The majority of individuals I know have expressed some degree of loneliness. I hear it both from seventy-year old widows and seventeen-year old jocks. I hear it from both married couples and middle-schoolers. I hear it from both pastors and parents. I hear it from both men and women. If I’m going strictly from my own experiential observations, the probably that you who are reading this are experiencing some degree of loneliness is fairly high.  

And there’s a chance that – if you are a true disciple of Christ genuinely seeking His kingdom and righteousness as as a priority in your life as Christ instructed (cf Matt 6:33) – your loneliness is the inevitable, though unintentional, result of your godly passion. 

Before you conclude this about yourself, it would benefit to realize that loneliness is caused by a number of different things that have nothing to do with godliness. The Bible is sufficient in endowing a man all that he needs for life and godliness – including understanding the causes of his loneliness. Gleaning the Scriptures reveals a multitude of  reasons that can result in an individual’s actual experience or feeling of loneliness. Sometimes, we’re lonely because of tragic experiences and people’s inability to understand our grief (cf Job 30-31; Prov 14:10). Sometimes, loneliness is caused by financial poverty (cf Prov 19:7). In some cases, we bring about our own loneliness because of our own wickedness (cf Prov 28:12, 28). Similarly, there are times where we find ourselves experiencing loneliness because of our own selfishness and arrogance (cf Prov 18:1). This is not a comprehensive list, but it does reveal that there are instances when loneliness is circumstantially inevitable (for which a person can’t be blamed) and there are instances when loneliness is self-induced. And when it is self-induced, it is often because of a person’s own wickedness or foolishness. Usually, when I bump into a person who has no friends, it’s not because he’s godly; it’s because he’s foolish, selfish, self-absorbed, arrogant, or flat-out wicked. And thus, when a man is without friends, I’ll usually encourage him to do some serious self-examination of his own character and the manner with which he treats people. For I personally find it rare to see a man who is lonely because he is godly.

But the fact that something is rare doesn’t mean it’s non-existent. There are those rare cases where a is indeed lonely because he is godly. There are indeed cases where it is a man’s increasing passion for God that inevitably (though unintentionally) leads to estrangement from people – including the people who he loves and serves. Such is revealed by the words of David in Psalm 69:9-10:

“I have become estranged from my brothers and as an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.” (Psalm 69:9-10, emphasis added)

Estranged. Alienated. Are these not synonyms for lonely? And the cause of such loneliness is not defective character or circumstantial tragedy, but rather a genuine zeal for the things of God. Genuine godliness will inevitably result in a certain degree of loneliness – estrangement and alienation from people, even those who claim to be followers of God. The words of the Psalm were written by David; its truth was reflected in the life of Elijah when he fled from persecution (cf 1 Kings 19:9-10) and most fully manifested in the life of Christ Himself (cf John 2:17). 

Why does the exhibition of godliness result in the experience of loneliness? It results from the reality that the visible church – the community of people who verbally claim to be Christians – is filled with people who are not passionate about God. This is especially true in a church that exists in a region that is largely free from governmental persecution. It’s a biblically accurate statement that the persecution of the Church always results in the purification of the church, as it purges the church of those who masquerade as lovers of God but who in actuality are in love with this present world and have no passion for God Himself. Remember Christ’s parable of the four soils in Mark 4:1-25. The visible population of those who claim to be followers of Jesus contains plenty of people whose hearts are rocky and thorny soils – those who appear to receive the Word but abandon Christ due to the persecution or pleasures of this world. How many people have we seen walk through the doors of the church who state that they’re looking for a church with good teaching and that they love the biblical preaching they hear from the pulpit, but who make no real sacrifices to do the work of God? There are plenty of individuals in the church – including your church – who call themselves Christians but in whom a passion for Christ is absent (cf Revelation 2:4). And such apathy will naturally distance itself from godly zeal. People who don’t have a passion for God don’t want to be around those who do. Lukewarm people don’t want to be reminded by their lukewarm, which happens when they’re around those who are fiery about God, His name, His work, and His things. They show up on Sunday morning, say a few polite words to the pastor, engage in some small talk with people in their demographic…and that’s it. There’s no zeal for the proclamation of Christ, the furtherance of the gospel to the world, the building up of the church, and the coming of Christ’s kingdom. And such people naturally feel threatened when in the presence of those who do indeed have a passion for godly things and who, with integrity and earnestness, give their lives to such. All this to say, genuine passion for God may inevitably result in estrangement and alienation from people. And the more passionate you are – the more such zeal consumes your being and your life – the more estranged and alienated you become as Psalm 69:9-10 reveals. It could really be, then, that you are lonely because you are godly. 

Again, a person who is experiencing loneliness should not automatically assume that it’s a result of his passion for God. Don’t automatically assume yourself a martyr. A good doctor once told me of a saying in medical school: “When you see hooves, think horses and not zebras.” When experiencing a certain condition, look for the simplest and most probable explanation for it. That’s the law of parsimony. Because loneliness is much more frequently effected by a host of causes other than godliness, you who are lonely ought to truly examine your life for the presence of such elements first. But if, after genuinely searching yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit, you see no indication of the presence of those other elements, then perhaps you can conclude that you are lonely because you are godly. And if such is the case, fret not; you are in the company of many godly men!

Humble Confrontation

Biblical instructions for confronting sin in others

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

~Galatians 6:1

Introduction

Jesus said He was going to build His church. That He is, and the gates of hell will never overcome this endeavor. That doesn’t negate the reality that the church must internally deal with sin. The church must deal with sin, because every Christian will struggle with sin on this side of eternity. Sin needs to be dealt with individually, as every believer is called to wage war against his own flesh (Galatians 5:16). But it also needs to be dealt with relationally; believers need to help each other wage that war. Christians have the responsibility not only to deal with personal sin, but at times to faithfully confront others who are in sin. 

There is, however, no doubt that confronting the sins of others is a difficult task for many. People are quicker to give opinions on preferential matters than to faithfully confront the sins of a brother or sister. People are quick to express how they don’t like certain songs selected by the music team, how pastor’s sermon was too long, how the children’s ministry doesn’t have leave enough time for crafts, and how the chairs should be green instead of brown. Expressing opinions is, by enlarge, far easier than confronting sin. And yet confronting sin is far more vital to the life of the church. Every believer, then, ought to seriously consider the responsibility to confront the sin of a transgressing brother or sister, and to do it humbly. Thankfully, we are not left alone to figure out how to do this. Just like every other matter that deals with the edification of Christ’s Church, the Word of God gives us instruction as to how to go about the discipline of humble confrontation. Consider the instruction in Galatians 6:1:

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” 

Packed in this verse are five considerations for the believer to have in order to humbly confront a sinning brother.

First, consider the nature of the sinner and his sin. The first part of the verse says “If anyone is caught in any trespass.” This is the condition of a particular sinner that warrants confrontation. While every person is a sinner and everyone sins everyday whether in thought or deed, not every sin – either of commission or omission – requires a direct confrontation from another brother. In fact, Proverbs 19:11 states that it it is the glory of a man to overlook transgression. So when are we called to actually confront rather than overlook? It is when a brother or sister is caught in sin. To stumble into sin is different than being caught in sin, in the same way that a feeling gazelle that trips while trying to escape a pursuing cheetah is a far different picture than a gazelle that is caught by one and is struggling to free itself from the latter’s chokehold. The Greek word for caught means “to be detected, to be caught by surprise, to be overtaken.” This speaks of a believer who is unaware that he has fallen into sin (such as these Galatians who were straying from the true gospel unknowingly) and thus continues to walk in it. Ask yourself, first, if the person you are seeking to confront has merely stumbled into sin or if he is ensnared in it.

Second, consider the condition of your own soul before confronting. Those trapped in their sin ought to be confronted, but not everyone is fit to confront them. Galatians 6:1 identifies those who are: “you who are spiritual.” Paul isn’t referring to some artificial, prudish form of spirituality so often characteristic of legalistic circles. He’s referring to those who are walking in the Spirit and consistently bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). He’s speaking of those who are indeed consistently putting to death the deeds of the flesh and who consistently tread the path directed by the Spirit. While your sinning brother needs to be confronted, only when you are consistently walking in the influence of the Spirit are you fit and qualified to confront him. I’ve seen it too many times, where a person who himself isn’t really walking in the Spirit and who himself has been confronted for sinful habits, takes it upon himself to – possibly in an effort to redeem himself or draw attention away from his own issues – confront another brother for his sin. It’s not that the sin isn’t worth confronting; rather, it’s that he isn’t the right person to do it. In other words, you can’t even start to take the speck out of your brother’s eye when you have the entire redwood sequoia national forest lodged in yours! Have you, in your honest examination and with the affirmation of those with whom you are held accountable, walking in the Spirit daily? If so, you have been entrusted with the responsibility to confront those ensnared in sin. 

Third, consider the goal of your confrontation. Galatians 6:1 says that the spiritual man ought to “restore” the one caught in any trespass. Confrontation, then, is not the goal; restoration is. Whenever someone seeks counsel as to how to deal with a loved one who is sinning – be it a spouse, a child, a parent, or a friend – I’ll often ask the question, “Is your goal to be right? Or is your goal to get them to do what’s right?” There’s a difference between the two. There’s a difference between confronting to prove your righteousness, or confronting in order get someone to walk in righteousness. Having the proper goal will indeed shape the spirit with which you confront. Arrogant confrontation focuses on self-righteousness. Humble confrontation is genuiinely focused on the welfare of others. Think of a nursing mother trying to help her newborn who’s resisting milk and refusing to sleep. She can lecture that newborn all she wants about the physical benefits of feeding and sleeping, and she’ll be right. But you don’t see loving mothers lecturing their babies; you see them cradling, stroking, singing, and swaddling them. Why? Because gentleness, nor harshness, carries the power of persuasion. And that leads to the next consideration. 

Fourth, consider the manner of your confrontation. Galatians 6:1 instructs us to restore “in a spirit of gentleness.” I’ve often heard people say that gentle confrontation means sandwiching your meat of rebuke with bread slices of encouragement. Honestly, I think this is bogus, and all this does is produce artificial encouragements. After a while, people start to pick up that the only time you ever encourage is when you have to confront! To confront and restore with a spirit of gentleness is not merely talking about your method, but about your actual spirit. It speaks of the genuineness of your own soul. Personally, I have never been accused of harshness by those who I have confronted who, in my heart of hearts, I genuinely cared about and over whom my heart truly broke with compassion. Gentleness (or meekness, a translated by some). As much as I’d love to walk you through a five-step process of how to be gentle with people, the reality is that true gentleness resides in the spirit of a man. It’s what’s often referred to as a man’s “soft spot.” Do you truly have a soft spot for the person you are confronting? Are you truly concerned about breaking the bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3)? If so, you are in position to confront. If you are excited about confronting, if you can’t wait to confront, and if you feel yourself loading for bear in your preparation to confront, it would behoove you to refrain. To humbly confront is to gently confront. 

Fifth and finally, consider your own susceptibility to the sin you’re confronting. Galatians modifies the command to restore with the words, “looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” When confronting an erring brother, saying things like “How could you have done that?” or “I would never do that!” or “I can’t believe you did that!” or “You seriously did that?” may emphatically drive in the heinousness of a sin, but it wrongly betrays the reality of your own susceptibility to the same sin. The mature, spiritual saint understands that while there is no temptation that you cannot bear and from which there is no escape through the grace of God (1 Corinthians 10:13), there is also no sin that he is above falling into (1 Corinthians 10:12). You cannot humbly confront a brother is you yourself are not a humble man. And the humble man has both a hatred for sin and right understanding of the sinful flesh that remains in him that is so easily enticed by sin. Be watchful, then, when you confront others of sin, and examine yourself carefully lest you fall into the same sin. 

Conclusion

Let us consider our responsibility to deal with sin in the church. May we be clothed with a spirit of humility. May we be empowered to courageously confront. For humble confrontation is truly a powerful weapon in the hands of God to sanctify His Bride progressively for that final day!