Be Perfect

Christ commands us to be perfect (Mt_5:48); the Greek is teleios: complete, mature, flawless, morally perfect. This is an impossible standard, clearly, but it’s not surprising: God doesn’t tolerate imperfection, and He shouldn’t. (De 18:13) He requires perfection of us because it’s right for Him to do so (Re 3:2); our lack of ability is irrelevant. (Pr 20:9)

So, how should we respond to this demand for moral perfection? There are dangers here we do well to avoid.

Firstly, don’t complain about God being unfair: fair is giving us all what we deserve – eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. We’re all desperately wicked (Je 17:9), unbelievably sinful, even on our best day. (Is 64:6) There’s no requirement for God to lower the righteous standard simply because we’ve chosen to sin and corrupt our will. Borrowing more than we can ever repay, and gambling it all away, doesn’t mean we owe any less. Admit we’re guilty as charged, helpless: we need mercy. (Lk 18:13)

Secondly, don’t lower the standard (Mt 18:26); aiming for anything less than perfection is willful sin (He 10:26); it’s choosing a life pattern which is insolent, arrogant, disrespectful to God: it’s inexcusable. (vs 27) We must try our best, our very best, to be as perfect as possible (2Pe 1:5-17), as poor as that might be. (Php 3:12)

Thirdly, ground yourself in the unconditional love of God (Ep 3:19): God loves each of us because He made each of us uniquely in His image, with His own hands. (Ps 119:73) Real love isn’t conditioned on behavior (Mt 5:44-45): God loves the righteous and the sinner equivalently, because that is His holy nature.

But don’t think for a minute that God’s love gives us liberty to sin. Sin is a personal affront to God; He hates all who break His laws on purpose. (Ps 5:5) Hate is not the opposite of love, but its twin. Apathy is the opposite of both hate and love, and we won’t find a trace of it in God; He cares about everything intensely (Lk 12:7), including Himself.

We must be grounded in the goodness and love of God in order to remain sane before Him while we’re stained in our sin. (He 11:6) Our sin makes Him indignant (Mi 7:9) and must be dealt with firmly and justly, so while there’s any doubt about our standing before Him, we remain in peril. Yet even in His anger He is good – there isn’t a malicious bone in God’s body.

The only sane response to God’s demand for perfection is to find refuge in Christ through the gospel. The terror of God moves us to seek Him (2Co 5:11), to pursue salvation from our sin until we know we’re safe in Christ, absolutely sure. (1Jn 5:13) We can not afford to stand before God all on our own, and be judged according to our own works.

Strive to enter the kingdom (Lk 13:24), and labor to entered into His rest (He 4:11); diligently make your election sure. (2Pe 1:10) Work this out, your own salvation from both the penalty and power of sin in your life, with fear and trembling. (Php 2:12) If Christ Himself isn’t our own personal advocate, dying in our place for us, giving us His perfect righteousness (1Jn 2:1) and working righteousness in us (Ep 2:10), we don’t stand a chance.

In the safety of eternal rest, pursue perfection, not to be saved, but because this is right, aligned with your new nature to love and obey God. And as you pursue God, don’t let anyone deceive you by defining good and evil for you, telling you what holiness looks like – go back to God’s law for yourself and check every requirement against it. One of Satan’s devices is to impose such unhealthy, burdensome regulations on us that we either rebel or become hateful, proud and judgmental. (Mt 23:4) Religion invariably gets this wrong, both adding to the Word and taking away from it. (De 4:2) Don’t take anyone else’s word for it (Ac 17:11); search out the truth for yourself. (Ps 119:99)

Finally, and this is key, don’t focus overly much on yourself, on your own behavior and how you’re failing; stop trying in your own strength to be perfect. We grow in holiness through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit as we behold Jesus Christ. (2Co 3:18) Behold Him and rejoice in Him. (Php 4:4) Faith gives us access to grace, the power to live for God. (Ro 5:2)

Behold Christ through His Law, Torah, (Ps 119:18), which shows us where we need cleansing. (Ps 119:9) Grow in holiness by asking for help to obey (vs 10), hiding His Word in your heart so you won’t sin against Him. (vs 11)

As we receive with meekness the engrafted Word, beholding Him in it, the lies we believe, which keep us in bondage, are exposed and corrected through God’s gift of repentance. (2Ti 2:25-26) This is how Christ transforms us and delivers us from sin. (Ja 1:21) He Himself is the Word, giving us His life (Ps 119:50) through the scriptures (Jn 6:63), enabling us to live uprightly.

Don’t dwell on your own sin, focusing on it constantly; there’s a specific season for this, in which we’re to afflict ourselves. (Ja 4:9) As a rule, meditate on Christ through His word (Php 4:8); He will point out things that are amiss, where we’re off the mark, imperfect (He 4:12), as He is pleased to work in us.

As He does reveal your sin to you, your imperfections, flaws and weaknesses, immediately confess and agree with Him, asking Him to quicken and enable you to obey Him (Ps 119:35), and to reveal specific scriptures to you which shed light on your darkness and lies. (Ps 119:130) Meditate on these texts until they become part of you, prayerfully quoting them whenever you feel tempted in that sin. (Mt 4:4) This is how we fight the good fight of faith (1Ti 6:12), abiding in Him, so we won’t be ashamed before Him when He comes. (1Jn 2:28)

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Women Keep Silence

Scriptures offending the progressive mindset challenge us profoundly; in receiving them we’re scorned — to align with the world we must corrupt the word and explain them away. Yet God is good, so His ways are eternally good (Ro 7:12); as we depart from them we grieve Him, harming ourselves and others.

One such command is that women keep silence in church. (1Co 14:34a, 35) We can dismiss this as cultural, for a distant time and place, yet within the command itself God affirms this as His timeless law, grounding it in Torah. (vs 34b)

God reinforces this in a separate context: women aren’t to teach men, or to be in authoritative roles over them; rather, they’re to learn in silence with all subjection. (1Ti 2:11-12) God grounds these principles in Creation itself, and also in the Fall (vs 13-14); it’s about transcendent reality, not local cultural trends.

In assigning different roles and responsibilities to each gender, God isn’t valuing one over the other: God values all human beings infinitely, and therefore equally; there are no gender-based value differences. (Ga 3:28) However, God has indeed designed the sexes differently, for different purposes in His kingdom, and assigned distinct responsibilities accordingly. (Ep 5:33)

God designed Woman as a perfect counterpart for Man (Ge 2:18) … physically  weaker and more vulnerable (1Pe 3:7), yet more intuitive, more subjective, and more emotionally aware. Female minds and souls process differently, giving them unique and precious perspective, but also rendering them more impulsive and emotional, so God provides for their protection through male authority. (Nu 30:13)

This design works as God intended when a man and woman are in a mutually interdependent relationship, husband and wife acting as one flesh rather than two (Mk 10:8), deferring to one another in love in matters of preference, yet where the male bears ultimate accountability for leadership (1Co 11:3), and the woman respects and honors this. (Ep 5:22-24) The man reasons through things, and the woman appeals when she’s concerned he might be overlooking something. Working together they have a powerful, resilient synergy. This is balance, and it is beautiful.

This isn’t to say women shouldn’t testify of their understanding of God’s revelation (Mt 28:5-7), or that they shouldn’t publicly exercise supernatural gifts (Ac 21:9), yet when it comes to public debate and problem solving, as men assemble for the purpose of deliberation (as in the Greek ecclesia), women should let the brothers hammer it out. Sisters should offer insights, concerns and questions privately and discretely with a husband or father, letting the men filter, frame and refine the public flow of ideas as they labor together to find unity. (1Co 1:10) This pattern isn’t new; it’s rooted in timeless precepts. (De 16:16)

As we pursue holiness, brothers and sisters meditating on these kinds of passages, it isn’t our place to correct those who’d rather not hear (Pr 23:9), imposing and enforcing our views on others. We must each obey our Lord as best we can: it’s before our own master we stand or fall. (Ro 14:4) Let’s each so run our own race, finishing our course, longing to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Mt 25:21)

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A Fearful Thing

Any basic misconception about the nature of God can be detrimental; to the degree that our expectations of God are misaligned with reality, we’re deceived, captive to the devil (2Ti 2:25-26), and prone to bitterness and resentment. (He 12:15)

As a simple test of our alignment, consider the following parable.

As the aircraft is pummeled by turbulence, thrashing violently up and down, back and forth, the poor man is more than distraught, taking drinks one after another, trying to calm himself.

From his first class seat, he notices a little girl back in coach playing with her doll, as calm as can be.

“Stewardess! Another drink, please!” He keeps trying to sedate himself … but it isn’t working. He’s terrified. Yet every time he looks back, the little girl is still playing happily with her doll. Her peacefulness is both an invitation and a rebuke, but he can’t translate, he’s just too upset.

Finally he can’t take it any more. Glaring back at her as the plane plummets again, he sputters: “Little Girl! Why aren’t you worried?” 

The little girl pauses, looks up sweetly and says: “Mister, see that cockpit up there? My daddy’s the pilot, and he knows I’m back here. He’s not going to let anything happen to me; he will get us home.” Then she goes back to playing with her doll.

How heartwarming! What a picture of divine love, of how we should rest in our Father’s care! (1Pe 5:7)

But isn’t something amiss? Isn’t this half-truth?

To be complete, she needs to add something like,

“But … even if he doesn’t get us home, Daddy doesn’t make mistakes. If this is my last day, or if I get hurt, that’s OK. I trust him, no matter what.” 

Moral of the story? Believing God will always keep us safe and protect us, that He’ll never let anything terrible happen to us, is unrealistic, deception, a false hope: it’s not what God promises.

When suffering does come and we don’t have the whole picture, we become bitter, cynical and resentful, turning from God as if He’s unfaithful or evil.

But the problem isn’t with God, it’s with our wrong perception of God: the problem is idolatry — the false, nice, safe little gods we’ve made up for ourselves, and that we’re still clinging to. (1Jn 5:21)

Not only does God not promise to keep us safe, what He does promise is quite the opposite, and so much better. He promises to scourge us (He 12:6) and chasten us; it’s for our good and we all need it. He afflicts us faithfully (Ps 119:75) to conform us to the image of His Son. (Ps 119:67) Though it seems awful to us at the time (He 12:11), it’s part of His plan to glorify Himself in us. (Ep 1:12)

What God promises is that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us (He 13:5); He will be suffering with us and in us through anything He allows in our lives. It’s a precious gift if we’re living for Him. (Php 1:29)

God promises that all things work together for good to those who love Him (Ro 8:28); He’s able give us grace to walk worthy of Him in every circumstance of life. (2Co 9:8)

God is faithful to establish us, to keep us from being overcome and destroyed by evil and suffering (2Th 3:3), and to present us faultless before Himself with exceeding joy. (Jud 1:24) We are His workmanship (Ep 2:10), and He will complete the work He has begun in us. (Php 1:6)

Rather than pleasure and convenience, God offers us something vastly superior: Himself. But we can’t receive and enjoy Him without holiness (He 12:14), so He will do the needful, whatever it takes, to produce His likeness in us.

God is good, but He isn’t nice: God is not safe. (He 12:29) It’s a fearful thing to fall into His hands (He 10:31), yet there’s no better place to be.

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As a Little Child

Christ tells us that to enter God’s kingdom we must receive it like a little child would. (Lk 18:17) Some manner of childlikeness is therefore intrinsic in regeneration, so it’s important to understand what this looks like: there’s no salvation without it.

Firstly, we note that God isn’t telling us to be childish (1Co 13:11), foolish (Pr 22:15), or childlike in our understanding (1Co 14:20a,c); God wants us to be mature in knowledge and wisdom. Rather, we’re to be as children in malice (vs 20b), not bitter, vengeful, jaded and resentful, wishing harm to others for the sake of it.

Neither are we to be voluntarily weak and vulnerable, inappropriately dependent on others. God commands us to be poor in spirit (Mt 5:3), not spiritually self-sufficient (2Co 3:5), but He also commands us to be strong (1Co 16:13)

Godly childlikeness seems to be primarily in the context of humility: small children don’t tend to think too highly of themselves. (Mt 18:4) They’re not preoccupied with status, with how they stack up against others, or in feeling certain tasks are beneath them. They aren’t envious or bitter.

Further, small children are generally very teachable, curious, wanting to learn, grow and understand. (1Pe 2:2) They tend to trust what adults tell them, depending on those who are older and wiser to guide and protect them. This isn’t the same as being gullible (Pr 14:15); children aren’t capable of understanding the world well enough to navigate it wisely (Lk 2:52), so they’re involuntarily dependent and vulnerable. (Mt 18:6) They aren’t locked into preconceived biases which blind them to the truth when they hear it. They are, in a sense, strong in faith. This is how we’re to respond to God, as a little child trusts a loving parent: God is infinitely beyond us in power and knowledge, so we should trust what He says implicitly, and without reservation.

Small children tend to repent when appropriately corrected, and to try to please those in authority when consistently and lovingly disciplined. Their hearts aren’t hard; they enjoy being loved and cared for, being in relationship with their father, being close to him and nurtured by him. Similarly, regeneration produces in us an obedient heart (1Pe 1:2), one that readily yields to correction and seeks to serve and obey our Heavenly Father.

Unless we’re transformed, and become as little children, we won’t enter His kingdom. (Mt 18:3) We must find God at work in us, transforming us in humility and holiness such that we’re unassuming, trusting in the goodness of our Father, not pretending to be worthy of the gift, simply joyful and grateful.

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I Will Exalt My Throne

Satan fell the instant he decided he didn’t need God, that he was sufficient in himself without God, that he was free to displace God and treat himself as if he was God. (Is 14:13) He’s been God’s enemy ever since.

Eve fell similarly, as she preferred being like God to being with God, discerning right and wrong for herself (Ge 3:6), knowing good and evil. (Ge 3:22)

The tragic Fall of Man, bringing ruin and misery upon the entire human race, was a single, simple step away from God, breaking a dietary law, the least of His commandments. (Ja 2:10) What seemed so small a step for man was in fact an infinite leap for all mankind; no willful sin is little.

The Fall continues in us whenever we doubt the goodness of God, or question His justice: we’re essentially presuming we know better than God. Our bitterness, discontent and resentment testify that we’d rather be in charge, that we’d be doing a better job than God in avenging evil and rewarding good. (Ps 119:75)

Similarly, whenever we sin willfully we’re putting our own will first, displacing God’s, putting ourselves in the epicenter of the universe and dishonoring Him. (He 10:26-27)

Put very simply, in every sense that we’re feeling independent of God, that we don’t need Him, that we can do without Him, live apart from Him … as we ignore and neglect Him … this is the pride of life, the very heart of wickedness. (1Jn 2:16)

These are the many shades of pride, self-exaltation exuding from the heart, spilling out continually on every side. The careless, carnal mind, that isn’t continually abiding in thankful, reverent fear, joying in God, and cares not for this, reveals a child of the wicked one, in and through whom the devil freely lives. (Ep 2:2)

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Save with Fear

Modern Evangelical Christians have dramatically shifted emphasis in presenting the Gospel, away from hellfire and brimstone as in earlier days, to focus almost entirely on God’s love.

The love of God is amazing, for sure, certainly less offensive than Hell fire; to comprehend it is to be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ep 3:19) But is this a good move? In other words, is this shift in focus a biblical one, or might it tend toward compromise, lukewarmness, and spiritual decay?

Putting it another way, should the unregenerate, those who don’t already deeply love Jesus Christ (1Co 16:22), be encouraged to meditate on God’s love? Or is this a topic which should generally be reserved for committed Christians?

If we consider the biblical emphasis, God’s universal love for Man is only explicitly highlighted twice in all of Scripture (Jn 3:16, Tit 3:4); entire gospel accounts – written to introduce the life and ministry of Christ to the world – don’t mention it, nether does the inspired history of the early Church, in showing us how to spread the Gospel to the nations.

However, the wrath of God is made plain several hundred times throughout the Word, and repeatedly emphasized by Christ Himself in the Gospels. John the Baptist introduces Christ by preaching repentance (Mt 3:2) and warning of eternal fire. (Mt 3:12) Paul is mindful of the terror of God as he’s persuading men (2Co 5:11), acutely aware that those who don’t know God are in real, eternal danger. (Php 3:18) Jude advises us to make an exception for certain kinds of people, compassionately entreating them with gentleness (22), but to generally use fear as a primary motivation in our witness. (23) Why might this be?

Telling those who don’t fear God how much He loves them isn’t actually a very loving thing to do; it tends to downplay the imminent danger they’re in, how urgently they must repent and turn to God. By the fear of the Lord we depart from evil (Pr 16:6); this is the first step in seeking God. (Is 55:7) Unless a lost soul is seriously going after God, seeking Him with all their heart (Je 29:13) and striving to enter the kingdom (Lk 13:24), they’re actually hardening their heart. (He 4:7) Focusing on love is simply inappropriate here.

As we prayerfully encourage souls to pursue the living God (Da 12:3), we must do so in love, being mindful of their peril, yet using discernment in how we engage. (Mt_7:6) Anyone in the West already has sufficient access to salvation truth to find God if they want to; shoving it in their face may actually do more harm than good. (2Pe 2:21) Christ only offers the gospel to those who are humbly seeking it (Lk 10:21), and the Apostle Paul does the same. (Act 17:31)

Let’s soberly contemplate the eternal, fiery torment of lost souls as we engage them in our witness. (He 10:31) May God melt our hearts until sinners feel our trembling (Php 2:12) and our tears (Ac 20:31), as God reaches out to them through us. (2Co 5:19) Our Lord, Man of sorrows (Is 53:3), lives in us, calling us to follow His steps. (1Pe 2:21)

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A Clean Heart

A clean heart isn’t merely forgiven, it’s also free of corruption, darkness and lies, inclined toward and aligned with its Creator, free to live according to His design. To the degree that our old man continues to dominate our lives, our heart isn’t clean, and we’re prisoners to sin (2Ti 2:25), which isn’t good. (He 12:14)

So, when King David found himself in a bad way with God, having sinned grevously, he asks God to create within him a clean heart (Ps 51:10); he wants a miracle, to be a new man.

God is certainly able to do this, yet one should know how God chooses to go about these things, to understand His methodology in such creative acts. It isn’t what we might think.

Our inclination may be to expect God to zap us such that we’re instantly holy, and all we need to do is sit back and enjoy the excitement. Yet this is a bit disingenuous; like claiming we desire physical cleanliness while neglecting to bathe.

So, while only God can perform miracles, He generally tends to work them through us as we engage with Him in His work. (Php 2:13) It’s no different here: He gives us instructions on how to clean our own hearts, and works the miracle of a clean heart in us as we obey Him, working through our obedience to cleanse us.

How then does God tell us to cleanse our own hearts, and put ourselves in order before God? By paying attention to our thoughts, feelings and motives and constantly holding them up against the Word of God as a plumb line. (Ps 119:9) We hide God’s Word in our heart, so we know it from memory and are constantly thinking about it, so we won’t disobey Him through forgetfulness (De 26:13) or carelessness (Ps 119:11), then we commit to obeying all of it that we can as well as we can. (Ps 119:6)

This makes perfect sense, if we think about it for a bit. How can we even desire a clean heart if we’re still carelessly toying with sin, willing to disobey God, unconcerned about the trajectory of our lives? If we aren’t alert, paying attention, looking for where we might be missing His Way, asking God to help us, we’re acting as if we love darkness, as if we have no real interest in a clean heart.

So, though it’s true no one can fully cleanse their own heart (Pr 20:9), we can’t say that we even want a clean heart unless we’re willing to try, to take the first step and do what God says to do. As we try to obey Him He enables us, and does things in us that we can’t do for ourselves.

As we’re meditating on His word, as we find gaps between our behavior and God’s standard, we ask Him to quicken and enable us to align with Him (Ps 119:25), to make us go in the path of His commandments. (Ps 119:35) We ask Him to expose and correct the lies within us (Ps 119:29), asking Him for enabling grace whenever we need it. (He 4:16)

Since we’re seeking strength to do God’s will, we can be sure He hears us. (1Jn 5:14-15) We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice that He is transforming our character, step by step into the image of Christ. (Ro 5:2) This is how grace reigns in us through righteousness unto eternal life (Ro 5:21), enabling us to overcome sin. (1Jn 5:4)

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That Which Pertaineth

The ability to reliably distinguish between male and female is critical for healthy community; we’re to treat older men like fathers and younger men as brothers (1Ti 5:1), and women distinctly differently as mothers and sisters (2), so gender should be evident by appearance.

To ensure this, God tells women not to wear clothing which pertains to men, and men not to wear women’s clothing (De 22:5a); this requires us to design gender-specific clothing to help us easily determine gender. As we resist this principle we’re an abomination to God (b), so it’s evidently quite important to get gender-distinction right.

In light of this, how do we relate with men claiming to be women, and women claiming to be men? Acknowledging that God makes us male and female, and that He makes no mistakes, is a good place to begin. (Ge 5:2) Sharing this understanding with those who are interested is certainly also appropriate. (1Pe 3:15) But is it consistent with the law of love to refer to a woman as he, or to a man as she? (Ro 13:10)

We must be very careful here: our speech should always reflect the nature of God in us (Co 4:6); we ought to say what we mean and mean what we say (Ja 5:12), speaking always in His name (Col 3:17), walking in His steps (1Pe 2:21), doing what He is doing as He lives in us. (Ga 2:20) We shouldn’t compromise in fear (Pr 29:25), nor align our walk with ungodliness (Ep 4:17), but always speak the truth in love. (Ep 4:15)

This doesn’t mean we say whatever we think to everyone we know, without any filter or consideration; not only is this impossible, it’s generally unloving and unwise. We shouldn’t correct those who’re unreceptive (Pr 9:8): give that which is holy only to seekers. (Mt 7:6) We should carefully weigh our words (Ps 39:1), and be more prone to listen than to preach. (Ja 1:19)

Yet when it comes to choosing our words we must own them, and be very deliberate and precise. (Mt 12:36) Using a word pertaining to a female to refer to a male is to expressly violate this basic principle of gender-distinction, akin to providing him a dress, heels, lipstick and jewelry, and helping him put it all on. It is explicitly conforming our behavior to support and encourage perversion, a mindset diametrically opposed to God’s design.

It is inconsistent with the law of love to encourage or enable a person in their own deception, comforting them in a lie they insist on believing. Every man and woman is so by God’s design, a design that’s perfect and good. To actively align our speech with a rejection of this design is to violate the dignity God has bestowed on us, which cannot be consistent with love. To be a friend of the world by conforming ourselves to it’s rebellion to avoid upsetting or offending with the truth is to be an enemy of God, if anything at all is. (Ja 4:4)

Looking for a gender-neutral way* to communicate is perhaps one way to avoid direct conflict; failing to express an opposing view via a neutral expression seems better than actually aligning with perversion. Yet, even this might be viewed as a compromise: when perversion cannot actually be entirely ignored and must be addressed in some way, would Jesus confront it or modify His behavior to accommodate it?

These matters are not easy to sort through, and every situation can be uniquely challenging. God help us navigate these complex issues, and give us wisdom, humility and grace to honor Him!

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Six Days Shalt Thou Labor

The sabbath law includes a command to work six days a week (Ex 20:9), so we should be looking to be productive every day except Saturday.

Working is therefore good for us on every other day, even if we live in a culture mistaking Sunday for sabbath, unless we’re causing weaker saints to stumble, to violate what they mistake to be the sabbath, thus wounding their conscience. (1Co 8:12) In that case we might need to be discrete about it; if we’re a bit creative we can likely figure out a way to worship and fellowship with others and also get some work done on Sunday, resting on Saturday as God commands.

We know work is good because God is good, He designed us to work before the Fall (Ge 2:15), and He proclaimed it to be good. (Ge 1:31)

We can also see in this command that God has a particular job for each one of us: He says, “do all thy work.” There is work that is ours, and work that is not. A large part of being successful in life is figuring out what we’re designed for, finding our calling, identifying the work God has given each of us uniquely to do. It is then that we can apply ourselves, training, equipping, disciplining and preparing ourselves (2Ti_2:21), honing our skills and talents to serve Him with confidence and joy, trusting Him for strength to overcome, and to accomplish (2Co 9:8) what He’s granted us to do. (Eph 6:6)

When we’re living according to our design, obeying and honoring God as well as we can, we’re free, satisfied as we fulfill our purpose, complete in Him. (Col 2:10) It is here that we find meaning and fulfillment. (Php 1:21)

Day after day, as we prayerfully seek to labor for our Lord, working as unto Him (Col 3:23-24), we pursue our destiny: to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Mt 25:23) There is no higher calling than to please the One Who made us. (Col 1:10)

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Give Not Thy Strength

The first principle king Lemuel’s mother teaches him is: “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” (Pr 31:3) A man devoting a disproportionate amount of strength to pursuing women is one thing; giving away his strength in the process is quite another, and seems to be the larger point in the instruction.

A strong, confident man is naturally attractive to women, and this is a good thing, encouraging men to be strong in body, soul and spirit. (1Co 16:13) God has designed men with this capability and tendency so they can protect and bless women, since women are the weaker gender. (1Pe 3:7) God commands men to pursue strength and develop it (1Co 16:13), so men ought not neglect, compromise or relinquish their strength. (Ps 84:7)

Men should bring their strength to any relationship, especially with a woman, rather than looking to women to strengthen them. Women want to draw strength from men, to sense their confidence and capability, to be able to depend on them, to be supported, defended and protected.

A weak, frail, incompetent man who refuses to strengthen himself as well as he can, sabotaging himself such that he depends on women for validation, does no one any favors in this; it is a perversion of God’s design. In looking for his strength, a woman may quickly sap what little he has, and find him unable to support and stabilize her in a crisis, or worse, find herself dominating and disrespecting him … causing the Word of God to be blasphemed (Tit 2:5) and frustrating them both. (Est 1:17-18)

When a man believes he’s weak without a woman’s affirmation, he buys into the lie that he’s not uniquely fashioned in the likeness of God, made directly in His image for a unique and significant purpose. This undermines his confidence, such that he becomes more fearful of women, more easily threatened and intimidated by them, and dependent on their acceptance in a way that defrauds them both of what God has designed him to be.

The truth is that Man is made in the image and glory of God differently than Woman, and this is good for both men and women. Man is made directly in the image of God (Ge 1:27); Woman is made in the image and glory of Man, in the image of God in Man: she is an image of an image of God. (1Co 11:7) This is intrinsic to God’s design, empowering a synergistic, interdependent one-flesh relationship between husband and wife which enables them to fulfill their mutual destiny together. (Ge 1:28) A man should respect this design, and guard his dignity here for both their sakes. (1Ti 2:11)

In pursuing strength, a wise man looks to God to strengthen him (Ps 18:32); he does not look to women. He is unashamed of involuntary weakness, and will routinely take stock of his particular aptitudes and capabilities, asking God to enable and quicken him (Ps 143:11), always growing stronger. (Pr 24:5) As he pursues God he finds dignity in God’s design, sufficiency in God’s grace (2Co 12:9), and power for his journey in Christ. (Php 4:13)

Though unafraid to face his own weaknesses, a man ought not to seek weakness, voluntarily weakening himself, either by speaking so as to make himself appear inappropriately vulnerable or deficient, or by neglecting to discipline and exercise himself physically, mentally and emotionally. He should always act in a manner that engenders respect (Ec 10:1), both for himself and for others. (1Pe 2:17)

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2Ti 1:7) This is true for all of us, for both men and women, but in a day of role-reversal corruption and proliferating anti-male sentiment, this reminder is particularly needful for men.

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