What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 5)

Wow…that may have been the longest span yet that I have gone without posting. I am deeply sorry. I FINALLY have internet set up at my new place, but these past few weeks have been a whirl-wind. Now that I am settled in, you can expect more posts to start flooding in. I want to get back on a daily schedule of writing, and I have no excuse not to. I have missed you all! So let’s pick up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man.)

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife, temperate…

self-controlled…

Self-control.  In the past, every time I read through this verse, I subconsciously lumped together the neighboring terms, “temperate” and “self-controlled”. Afterall, from the surface definitions I knew of them, they were virtually the same term, and applied to the same principles.  However, as I’ve grown in my walk, I’ve learned more about the magnitude of the written Word.  The Bible does not repeat itself unnecessarily.  Its pages aren’t filled with synonyms in order to add density and depth.  Each word has been recorded with purpose and magnitude. My greatest growth in the Word has occurred when I have taken the time to break down verses piece-by-piece, and truly learn the complexity of the image that the words are painting. Each and every word can take on countless forms–that is the beauty in the living, breathing Word of God.

So, then, what does self-control mean with respect to how a Godly man is called to properly lead?  I think the first words that typically flood our minds when we hear that term are: restraint, discipline, and words synonymous with reigning ourselves in and holding back.  While there is some truth in those definitions, self-control is a much broader topic of character. When I think of self-control, the first word that comes to my mind is maturity. Think about it–from the moment we are born we are constantly, consciously and subconsciously, learning traits of self-control.  For example, we start in diapers, progress to pull-ups, and eventually underwear–that is learned self-control of our bodily functions. We begin life unable to hold our own heads up, eventually learn hand-eye coordination, and work to the point of exercise, training, and complete cognitive awareness of our bodies at all times–that is learned bodily control.  We begin life with emotional outbursts, progress to becoming aware of our feelings and triggers, and eventually grow to the point of being able to monitor, communicate, and alter our emotions–that is learned emotional control.  We begin making incoherent sounds, progress to learning written and spoken words and structures, and eventually progress to being capable of writing novels, speaking to groups, and communicating effectively–that is learned language control.

If you look at these four examples, there are similarities amongst all of them.  Primarily, there is a clear coddling period at the beginning of each cycle.  There is a time where we are fully reliant on the care of others.  We are unable to care for ourselves and constantly require the nurturing of another.  Secondarily, there is a phase where we are learning large sums of information and making significant strides in development.  This phase, too, is impacted by others.  We are taught by example, experience, and interaction.  The information is engrained in us by those who are further in their journey and more self-controlled.  And in the final phase of each cycle, there is refinement and progress still being made, but we are largely self-controlled, aware, and matured.  There is that word again–mature.  As we mature, in life, we gain discernment, judgement, discipline, and wisdom. So often the term “self-control” carries a negatively slanted connotation.  As if self-control specifically and independently applies to the ability to reign oneself back or inhibit oneself from doing something.  But in actuality, that term applies to a well-rounded definition of maturity, development, and awareness.  So how does this relate to being a Godly man? Here goes…

As believers, we begin our journey in raw form.  I don’t care if you have been attending church your whole life, or if you had never heard the Word of God and experienced a miraculous “coming to Jesus” moment that changed your life radically.  The moment that it “clicks”…the moment we are saved…the moment we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts…the moment we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are in raw form.  You see, there is nothing more powerful than the Holy Spirit, and there is nothing more powerful and capable than our King, but we, as humans, are weak. It goes back to the “Position .V. Condition in Christ” study that we did.  We are filled, but we still wear a heavy, fleshy coat that weighs us down with things of this world.  And when we are saved, we are born again; with rebirth–we are raw.  In that time, we are completely and whole-heartedly, dependent on the grace of God alone.  We are incapable of understanding even a hint of the magnitude of His power, and we are raw forms in His hands.  But He is the most fantastic nurturer.  He gives, abundantly–forgives, unceasingly–and loves, unconditionally.

As we grow in our walks, we begin to understand the tiniest hints of His grace with both our heads and our hearts.  We begin to study the Bible, learn of His Word, and change the way we live our lives.  In this time, we begin to make fantastic strides and progressions in our journey as believers.  We begin to speak with clarity and knowledge and we learn how to communicate the hope that we have with others.  We experience fellowship with other believers, we experience and witness the power of prayer, and we become increasingly aware of His presence around us and in this world.  We gain a sense of humility, discernment, conviction, and thankfulness.  This is such a fantastic period in our walks, because our eyes are truly opened, our hearts are powerfully changed, and we begin to learn that light we feel inside is starting to be noticed by others.

Then, as we progress and grow and strive for sanctification, we develop true spiritual maturity.  Now, don’t be mistaken, our walks with Christ are ever-growing, ever-humbling, and ever-changing.  It is not as if we reach a point where we finally “get it” all and have no progress left to make. HA! That would be an impossibility.  However, as we strive towards sanctification as Godly men and Godly women, we begin to notice true maturity in our walks.  This is often defined by unshakable conviction, startling humility, and pure, organic hope and joy in the Holy Spirit. Through adversity, through successes, through everything–there is an unshakable comfort.  Spiritual maturity is often marked by an abundant and faithful prayer life. An absolute faith. An overwhelming desire to continue to learn and grow.  We evolve into disciples.  Disciples who strive to live by the Word of God in its most literal form. Disciples who love, unconditionally, and teach, effortlessly, through their actions, their faith, and their purity.

Is there a time frame to this progression? Is there a specific age where we hit these points? Are there clear, discerning characteristics? Absolutely not.  No, no, and no.  Many would argue, in fact, that as we learn more and age, we lose a sense of childlike faith.  Faith untouched by the ways of this world. Faith unbridled by social norms.  But there is a great difference between literal knowledge and understanding, and true peace in our hearts and the understanding that we will never understand it all, but we strive to know and love Him more. In fact, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.” Spiritual maturity is not defined by age, it is defined by faith.

Self-control, in the sense of being a Godly man and a Godly leader, is defined by spiritual maturity.  Not simply by the ability to restrain oneself, but by the ability to control what you can control, and rest faith in all that you cannot.  The ability to lead others towards an unfaltering faith.  The ability to teach others and disciple in a way that is effective and hospitable.  The ability to show others the light of Christ through your actions, your words, your temperament, your decisions, and your values.  The ability to exercise humility, silence self-pride, and live simply.  The ability to exercise integrity and to step outside of you and live for God–whether you are comfortable in doing so or not.  The ability to live for Him, and be prepared to be steered the direction He leads you.  The ability to lead others with you, if need be.  Self-control truly means the exact opposite of what it says–because, in a Biblical sense, self-control is death to self and unshakable life in Him.

(to be continued…)

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What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 2)

Alright, swinging back to where we left off–let’s take a deeper look at what it means to be a Godly man. Men, you will likely be very convicted by the next few blog posts, if you weren’t already by the first of this series.  But that’s okay–that conviction is a good thing. Let these words stir your heart. Take a good, hard look at yourself. Evaluate the qualities you possess and evaluate the qualities you could stand to work on. What you think and feel while you are reading this is between you and God. Don’t slip into defensive denial or over-compensation. Grow from the inside, out. And women, learn from these posts, as well. Evaluate these fundamentals. Evaluate what is important to you and the standard you hold yourself to.  We, as women, could save ourselves a WORLD of heartbreak and empty tears if we could be patient enough to step back and wait. Step back and learn discernment–study what a REAL MAN looks like.

I think this society is coming close to losing, if it hasn’t already completely lost, perspective of the true roles we are called to as men and women.  We live in a world that has taken Truth and distorted it entirely to fit convenience, personal opinion, and circumstance. We live in a world that has made it “okay” to bend the Word however we each see fit in order to “work” with our specific circumstance. In fact, we live in a world that has made it “okay” to ignore the Word completely. We live in a world that feeds off of the opinions and examples of other PEOPLE, rather than feeding off of the Truth and example of GOD. We need to go back to the heart of it all–we need to go back to the TRUTH. No bells and whistles, no exceptions and conditions, no reasons as to why or why not. We need to simplify life and go back to what God taught us was sufficient and good and pure. But, in order to understand our perfect roles, we first have to zoom in and dissect the individual components the profile of Godly men and women.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at a few examples of great scripture in 1 Timothy and Titus that lay out the framework for what a Godly leader looks like.  We discussed, too, that men are called to leadership. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I am not trying to downgrade women here (after all, I am a woman!), but I am clearly and explicitly stating that men hold the utmost responsibility in our world. A man is held to a standard of integrity, character, and responsibility in God’s eyes. How do we know this? Take a snippet from Adam and Eve, for example–the very first people on this planet.  First and foremost, Eve was literally created from Adam (Gen.2:23). And she was created specifically with the purpose of helping Adam (Gen. 2:18).  The Bible clearly states that woman was formed secondary to man, as a helper for man. Does it say that Eve was formed in order to properly lead Adam? No. Does it say that Eve was formed to compete with Adam for superiority? No. Does it say that Eve was formed to show Adam how it’s all done? No. The Word of God clearly, purely, and beautifully states that Eve was created to help Adam–woman was created for the betterment of man, to support man, to assist man. With that said, Genesis goes on to say that Satan tempted Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the ONE TREE that Adam and Eve were instructed, by God, NOT to eat from.  After falling to temptation, Eve ate from the tree and gave the fruit to Adam and he ate it, as well. Why does this matter? What does this have to do with leadership? Eve is the one who made the ultimate mistake. Eve was weaker, she was easily tempted, and she was the one who was deceived. And she is the one who gave the fruit to Adam and led him to eat it. So really, Adam was just  follower in this situation. Want to know the kicker? When God called out to Adam and Eve after they had eaten from the tree, He specifically called out to the MAN (Gen. 3:9). The MAN was held responsible for both of their actions. Even though Eve was the first to eat, the MAN was called out by God for failing. It didn’t matter how it all played out, the MAN was intended to be the leader, and the MAN was ultimately held responsible.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because right there, from the beginning of time, was a simple and poignant example of the ways in which men and women were designed by God. Woman was made from man. Women were created to help men, not to lead them. Women are more vulnerable and susceptible to temptation and deception. Women are, by design, the weaker of the two. But men, don’t start pumping your chests and feeling high and mighty quite yet. This means that YOU bear even more responsibility and pressure and purpose than you can even imagine.  You were created to be leaders. You hold the assignment from our King to lead with integrity and character and passion and heart.  You have the responsibility to lead nations to Christ. You have the responsibility to lead Christ-centered friendships and relationships and marriages.  You have the responsibility to the added pressure of being the strongest. To many, that can likely seem like both a blessing and a curse. You may be wondering, how do I do it? How do I lead effectively? How do I lead as a Godly man and how does that leadership look different from what this society defines as leadership? How do I fill this role? In God’s eyes, you hold a noble position. As a leader, you take on a noble task. And with those words said, we are led back to 1 Timothy and Titus. I want to break down these two, simple scriptures into great detail because, as I said in the first part of this series, the provide amazing illustrations for what a Godly man looks like and is called to…

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task…

Boom. Right off the bat, the Bible is telling you that these following verses are trustworthy. That’s not a word to be taken lightly. This is the real deal. We are being called to takes these words with great weight. They are important, and they are True. All men should aspire to be leaders. As we just talked about, it is your position in your perfect design.  If you are willing to accept this responsibility, your heart is desiring a noble task. What, exactly, does noble mean? My good friend Miriam Webster says that the definition of noble is: having or showing high moral character such as courage, generosity, and honor. Are any of those words easy? Absolutely not. If it were easy to have high moral character, you wouldn’t see this society in such a state of filth. You wouldn’t see people glorifying fools and living in absolute sin. To have character requires taking the higher road, humbling yourself often, and recognizing the necessity of constant betterment and growth.  Being a Godly leader is NOT easy. It is a NOBLE task. A task of character, of courage, of honor. The Word of God is calling you step up and step out of your own tendencies and desires. The Word of God is calling you to be different.

2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach…

What does it mean to live above reproach? (I could write countless pages on this simple verse alone. Understand, for the sake of time, that all I am explaining is greatly simplified. I would challenge you to dig into the Word and grow in your understanding independently.) The word ‘reproach’ means blame, rebuke, disgrace, or shame. As Christians, we are all called to live above reproach. Afterall, that is what Jesus Christ did so perfectly. That is the example He set for us all.  Jesus lived over such reproach that, in His final days, when the Pharisees were trying to find any reason, whatsoever, to hang Him from the cross, they could find nothing.  If you read through the gospels, it is fascinating to see just how desperately the officials tried to find one single thing to pin on Him or use against Him. They couldn’t find a thing. Christ lived above such reproach that they eventually had to charge Him falsely with blasphemy because He truthfully told them He was the Son of God. Now is it possible for any of us to live as far above reproach as Jesus Christ? Absolutely not. Afterall, we are simply human. He was God. But we CAN strive to better ourselves and hold ourselves responsible for our actions and our words.  Let me hit you with a great, modern-day example of a guy that does a beautiful job of living above reproach.  Whether you’re a Tim Tebow fan or not, you cannot help but respect him for the example that he sets and the way that he lives his life.  Throughout his young life, throughout his college career, and now throughout his professional career, Tebow has done something that 99% of individuals can’t say for themselves–he has never given anyone a reason to say “I told you so.” or “I told you he would.” or “I knew he would, eventually…” The man was blessed with a platform bigger than any other college athlete has ever had, and with all the world waiting for him to fail or to slip up or to stumble, he proudly discipled. He remains conscious of every single decision he makes and every word that comes out of his mouth.  He lives with an enormous amount of worldly pressure, but he carries himself with that pressure alleviated by a gracious King.  That is something to respect. That is something you HAVE to admire.  Living above reproach is essentially “walking the walk” while your “talking the talk”.  Humbling yourself, at times, admitting your wrongs, and striving to purify your ways.  Men are called to live above shame, live above disgrace, live above blame. Be a MAN. Don’t give people ammunition to use against you by being your own biggest handicap.  Be accountable. Strive to live in truth.

(to be continued…check back in for the rest of 1 Timothy…)