Study 11: A Man of Integrity

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being…”

Psalm 51:6a

O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbour, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; he swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. 
He who does these things will never be shaken.

Psalm 15

We are continuing our study on the Character of a Godly Man.

Integrity is the character of man after God’s own heart. As David emphasized in his prayer of confession, “…behold, You desire truth in the innermost being…” A man who is not only undivided, not a hypocrite, not compromised, but a man who is honest to his very core and pours God’s truth into his heart.

Psalm 15 goes to the integrity and honesty of a man, the prerequisite for one who will enjoy an intimate walk with God, and be useful to Him. What David reveals about integrity is a man with a clear conscience (bound up in the very word, integrity) and the character that flows from truth spoken in the inner man.

One cannot address the issue of integrity without spending a significant amount of time on the conscience: sadly a topic often overlooked, misunderstood and abused by many. Though the conscience is immaterial – you can’t touch or measure it – it can drive a man to suicide, determine a life of joy or depression, marks the difference between a sociopath and a ‘normal person’.

1 – What is the Conscience?

  • “the one who stands alongside” either accusing or commending (Rom 2:15)
  • It is not God’s law, yet may reflect it
  • Think of it as the mechanism God intended to shine the truth of God’s Word into your inner life exposing it either to commendation or condemnation
  • It is like your spiritual nerve-endings indicating pain to warn you when something is wrong (and likewise, think of the lack of conscience as leprosy, where all feeling is lost)

2. The Conscience can be seared or sensitized

  • Paul warns of those who dull or sear their conscience (1 Tim 1:5-6)
    • “those who have strayed from a good conscience, a pure heart and a sincere faith”
    • this is a package deal – those who violate their conscience no longer have a pure heart and their faith is no longer sincere – the seeds of hypocrisy and apostasy have been sown
    • straying from a pure conscience results in fruitless discussion and pride (when you violate your conscience, things become murky)
  • The rule is: do not violate your conscience – even though it is not God’s law, and even if it is poorly informed. What is done in violation of conscience not only sears and defiles, it is sin (see Rom 14)
  • Instead we should be calibrating and informing our conscience with Truth

3. The Conscience must be trained in the truth

  • We always battle an ‘underbaked’ or ‘overbaked’ conscience
    • your conscience may warn you of things that don’t matter to God
    • your conscience may be silent when it should be warning you of violating God’s Word
    • these two often exist in the same person (self-righteous legalism, anyone?)
  • The greatest culprit in misinforming our conscience is a combination of worldliness and psychology
    • we get used to sin by exposure to it in the culture and entertainment
    • we are told by the authorities of psychology that guilt is always bad and we should discard it
    • psychology commends pride and tolerance of sin, ultimately inverting the conscience (calling what is good, evil and what is evil, good – Isaiah 5:20-21)
  • We must confront our conscience with God’s Word
    • Peter had his conscience confronted in Acts 10:9-16, where God commanded him to set aside his objections to non-kosher food and particularly, his separation from Gentiles
    • this was a serious issue to deal with in the early church, and Christians were urged to have patience and forbearance with one another while they matured to a better-informed conscience (Rom 14)
  • Dig into the Scriptures and cultivate conviction on its truth and emphasis, repent of guilt whether you feel it or not (guilt is first a fact, not a feeling) and this starts the process of sensitizing and cleansing your conscience

4. Love what God loves, hate what God hates

  • A calibrated is that which loves what God loves, and hates what God hates (Psalm 15:4)
  • As you act according to integrity and not hypocrisy, as you aim towards a conscience which commends rather than condemns, your life will be oriented towards and energized by good works (Eph 2:10) 
  • This is where the battle must be fought and won – where nobody else can see, but you and the Lord; the inner life

5. What defiles the Conscience

  • Psalm 15 contrasts the man of integrity against those things he despises
  • He does not slander
    • Slander is at its core hypocrisy: talking about someone what you would never say to his face
    • Deal with slander (notice how it is the prerequisite for a heart that loves God’s Word in 1 Peter 2:1)
  • He does no evil to his neighbor
    • Do you speak and act with integrity cleansed from malice?
    • Are your words and deeds aimed at building up and not tearing down (Eph 4:28-29)?
  • He doesn’t take up a reproach against his friend
    • We must clear our accounts and not hold grudges
    • When you hold something against someone and don’t deal with it, it loads your conscience and you cannot act with integrity towards them

6. Hypocrisy is Cancer

  • Is there any part of your life, if it were exposed would shame you? Destroy you?
  • A hypocrite cannot hide it from his family and children
  • Note how much weight Paul puts on a sincere conscience, with the result being that he will not be ashamed (make a word study on conscience and shame sometime)
  • Conviction is impossible to cultivate in the soil of hypocrisy
  • Hypocrisy is the seed of apostasy – it will destroy faith
  • Our culture is designed for hypocrisy
    • we are highly individualistic with much privacy, especially online
    • business justifies so much compromise and legal wrangling, it is easy to begin to play with right and wrong
    • it is so easy to live a double life, especially between work, home, and church
  • We are not pragmatists, we do not have a price – we must be morally predictable
  • Aim towards a life internally regulated by God’s Word
    • accountability is good, but it is a means towards the end
    • it is so easy to hide and get around accountability
    • the goal is to be captive to God’s Word when nobody is around and you can get away with it

A man of integrity will not be shaken. Your yes is yes, your no is no. Your convictions go to your core and you will not be spiritually shaken. You will not lose your moorings. Your family will be secure under your leadership. You will be growing and progressing as you speak truth in your heart. 

This is not talking about perfection – a perfectly clear conscience will only happen when we are glorified and no longer fight sin – but this is about the work of integrity. Cleansing your conscience, maturing your conscience, building conviction, deepening your roots, working integrity. Then you will be able to teach and proclaim the truth with clarity and conviction. You will be steady and persevere to the end. “He who trusts in You will not be ashamed.”

To you who are still in your youth – start now! This is the time when you determine your course, and integrity must begin today. What God desires of you is integrity.

Study 10: A Man of Contentment

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:12-13

…godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

1 Timothy 6:6-11

We are continuing our study on the Character of a Godly Man.

A godly man is one who finds his true contentment in Christ and Him alone. That only comes when we find Christ is our only aim.

1 – A godly man is content with where God has placed him in life

  • The things of this world are not his primary concern
  • He earns them, yet is not focused on them
  • His mind is set on things above (Col 3:1-3)
    • Do not lose your eternal perspective
    • Live always ‘coram Deo‘ (in the conscious presence, authority, and glory of God)
    • Keep the main things the main thing (Prov 4)

2. A godly man pursues the things of God (2 Tim 2:20; Titus 2:11-14)

  • Faith
  • Righteousness
  • Godliness
  • Love
  • Patience
  • Gentleness
  • Humility
  • The Service of God’s people

3. A godly man flees earthly trappings

  • Know the danger of discontentment
  • Understand the temptations of wealth and its trappings

4. A godly man’s central goal is Christ and becoming more like Him (Eph 5:1; Phil 1:21; 2:5-11)

  • Test your contentment when you are alone (and perhaps checking your budget)
  • Keep your eternal perspective (all you have and all you are is grace, and God may at any moment, justly take it away – Job 1:21)
  • Christ must be our highest aim and ambition (John 17:3; 2 Cor 5:9; Rev 2:4)

5. A godly man’s family sees his deepest desires lived out

  • A wife needs a husband who leads her towards Christ
  • Children need a father who leads them towards Christ
    • they need to see their father with the courage stand up for Christ
    • they need to see a dependence on God for all things
    • they need to see an attitude of thankfulness
    • they need to see their father pushing away earthly desires

6. A godly man conforms his life to God’s will

  • A faith that will not be moved (Romans 4:18-21)
  • His convictions are unbending (Ps 15)
  • Faithful when trials come
  • Content with God’s Providence

The greatest gift a father can give his children is Christ, and show his love for Christ by living for Him every day.

Study 9: A Man of Humility

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-10

We are continuing our study on the Character of a Godly Man.

True biblical humility is absolutely counter-intuitive to everything the world will throw at you to tell you how to get what you want out of life. However, an honest look at who we are and who God is leaves absolutely no room for human pride. As Romans 12:3 says, we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but think as to have sound judgment.

Pride is where the heart elevates itself over another person, or a people group. This tendency is natural to the human heart and must be slain daily as we cultivate true humility.

The church is where humility should reign. It is here that we witness and are taught the grace of God, which confronts and demolishes human boasting. It is here that we find all of us equal at the foot of the cross. And yet, the church seems to be rife with pride and boasting. 

Paul admonishes the Corinthian church that their pride was dismantling the unity in the body of Christ, and his reminder is that all of us are merely men. Servants. Slaves of our Master. (1 Corinthians 3:1-7)

The only way to truly serve the church is in humility. As we serve, we should do so without any expectation of favors returned, or even thanks. To cultivate this level of humility, we offer our best work as a privilege to serve and model Jesus Christ, in whose footsteps we walk. Remember, He ‘did not come to be served, but to serve’ (Matt 20:28).

1 – Understand that the attitude of Humility brings unity (Eph 4:1-3

  1. What promotes unity?
    • Humility
    • Gentleness
    • Patience
    • Tolerance (forbearance in love)
    • Be diligent to grow in these characteristics
    • We are not our own, we are slaves of Christ (2 Cor 4:5, 5:15)
  2. Understand what true humility is
    • Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less (He must increase, I must decrease)
    • The opposite of self-awareness and self-promotion
    • Regarding others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:1-8)
      • Everyone around you is an opportunity for service
      • Be lost in the needs of others (1 John 3:16-18)
      • Walk alongside them, bear their burdens, serve regardless of social strata and personal differences
  3. Understand why humility is so important
    • Men are called to lead their families
    • Men are to lead the church (1 Peter 5:3)
    • Young men are to be subject to elders
    • Everyone is called to humility (1 Peter 5:5)
      • Nobody is excluded
      • It exhibits trust in God
      • It is seen in thankfulness
      • The absence of humility is pride and God hates pride
  4. Understand true humility comes from a right view of God and self (Ps 8)
    • We should have no sense of personal significance
    • Before God’s glory, all sense of personal greatness is eradicated
    • Our only significance comes from how well we reflect Christ
    • Keep thinking on the character of God, this produces humility
  5. Manifestations of humility
    • submission to God’s will
    • sensitivity to others
    • slow to anger; a willingness to wait
    • perseverance in doing right
    • not pushy
    • trusting God’s promises
    • trusting God’s Sovereignty
    • loving without expectations
    • thankfulness
  6. Manifestations of pride
    • hostility toward others
    • harsh responses when expectations aren’t met
    • the fear of man
    • self-dependence
    • anxiety
    • jealousy
    • insisting on having your own way
    • refusal to wait
    • not suffering under the purposes of God

If you want God’s favour, cultivate humility because it draws God’ gaze (Isaiah 66:2) and crush pride because it brings God’s swift hand (Dan 4, 1 Peter 5:5).

Study 8: A Man who Fears the LORD

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Proverbs 9:10, Psalm 111:10

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth…

1 Peter 1:17

We are continuing our study on the Character of a Godly Man.

The subject we’ll consider is one that is often overlooked today, but is a vital ingredient to your sanctification, a motivation to flee temptation, and will bring urgency to your evangelism. It is the fear of the Lord. It is the fear that drives out all other fears.

First and foremost, we should consider that God is infinite and we are very finite. He is Creator, we are creature. He is perfectly righteous, holy and just. We are not.

Too much of what is called “Christianity” today is marked by a casual and lighthearted attitude, if not downright flippant. Yet there should be a genuine holy reverence, a humility, a worshipful attitude that makes us see God for who He is, and makes us evaluate ourselves for who we are. 

Although a Christian has been saved from judgment, He still acknowledges that God is the righteous judge, and our sinfulness in this life should rightly keep us in reverent awe of Him, and instill a very real fear for those still under His wrath.

The fear of the Lord makes grace amazing.

1 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10, Ps 111:10)

  1. The fear of God always begins with the understanding of judgment (1 Peter 1:17)
    • God has the right to judge
    • Our judgment is warranted (Ps 51:5)
  2. The fear of God means an understanding of our finiteness
    • God is infinite, transcendent, all-knowing (Ps 145:3)
    • He is always beyond our understanding
    • We are His creatures, and we should be in awe (Ps 139)
  3. The fear of God should be passed on to our children (Ps 78:1-8)
    • Fathers must be telling of God’s greatness
    • This is the continuous practice in the home (Deut 6:7-9)
    • Make it the legacy you strive to pass on (do your children know the works of God? Have you given them an awe of Christ?)
  4. Practical aspects to the fear of the Lord
    • an urgency never to displease God
    • searching for ways to always please Him (Eph 5:10)
    • see the example of a man who fears God in Ps 15

2 – A man is blessed if he fears the Lord (Ps 128)

  1. To know God is to fear Him
  2. A blessed man flees evil influences (Ps 1:1)
  3. God looks to a particular kind of man
    • humble, contrite, trembling at His Word (Isa 66:2)
    • a man who’s convictions are based on the character of God
    • believes and lives the truth (Ezra 7:10)

In our current condition (saved, but yet not glorified) an encounter with God would leave us in utter terror (remember John’s reaction when he saw Christ in Revelation 1?). A simple evaluation of who God is, and then a simple evaluation of who we are should bring us low before His majesty. It should make us reel at how amazing God’s saving grace is. It should make us tremble at what awaits unbelievers, and stir us to evangelism. It should cause our prayers to be marked by reverent awe.

This is why Peter says “If you address as Father (yes, there is an intimate, familial relationship) the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work (and yes, He the Holy Judge), conduct yourselves in fear (a healthy reverence and awe) during the time of your stay on earth.”

There is the promise held out in that last line, that one day – when indwelling sin is finally removed and all things are made new – we will be in His presence without fear, and instead, He will come to us with comfort and dwell with us in eternal joy.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” 

Revelation 21:3-4

Study 7: A Man who Flees Temptation

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after having preached to others, I myself would not be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

We are continuing our study on the Character of a Godly Man.

Having discussed much about discipleship and personal pursuit of growth, what is the goal? That we would be men of the Word, men who are spiritually mature. In a word: godly. When it is holiness that we are pursuing, we must be men who flee temptation.

While you may immediately think of Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife, this is not about running from sin in a moment of sudden and unexpected temptation. Instead, our whole life should be oriented away from sin, and even its temptation. John MacArthur has noted that “when a man falls in ministry, he usually doesn’t fall very far”. Which is to say that a big public sin has long been foreshadowed by small secret sins and temptations that he has long entertained.

Do not imagine that temptation is safe. Today, temptation has become entertainment. We no longer flee temptation, but play with it and enjoy it. We should be praying “Lord, lead me not into temptation – deliver me from evil.”

Always remember that in your heart – in embryo form – is every kind of evil (Mark 7:20-23), just waiting for the right provocation, the right situation to emerge. Don’t underestimate indwelling sin! Mankind, left to himself, quickly will be described as “every thought and intention of his heart is evil, continually”. So we need to be blocking every possible entrance of temptation in our lives.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul describes the Christian life with the athletic games metaphor – we’re in a race to stay faithful and glorify God. We should be running with the attitude of one that is determined to win. Olympic athletes display years of staggering self-control and discipline – and for what? A perishable prize. We won’t even remember their names in a generation. What about us, who run for an imperishable prize!

Remember, sin in your life is like a web. Everything is interconnected on some level. Not dealing with anxiety, for example, often leads to temptation in private sexual sin. We must have self control in all things. Let’s consider five general areas – portals and gateways – where temptation gains entrance into our lives.

Order you life to close off these areas of danger:

1 – Be aware of our tendency to fear and worry

  1. Fear is connected to idolatries of time and personal gain
  2. Fear is self-preservation (Matt 6:25-34)
    • it can be life-consuming
    • this results in pursing earthly security in your own strength
    • spiritual priorities become muddied
  3. Fear is a lack of trust in God’s provision (Col 3:1-4)
  4. Fear leads to selfishness resulting in lack of concern for others (Phil 4) 

2 – Be aware of our tendency to be inordinately attached to ‘things’

  1. This is the other side of what produces fear and anxiety in your life
  2. We must guard against being weighed down with earthly concerns that begin to rule our affections
    • this is particularly challenging as our comfort and security is challenged by the political climate
    • we live in great luxury, but we must be discerning with our freedoms and resources
    • The ruling affection in our hearts must be “the Lord can give and take”
  3. Failure to guard against this inhibits wise decision-making
  4. We must consider Job “shall we accept good from God, and not adversity?” (Job 2:10)
  5. Christ must be our controlling affection (Luke 9:57-62)
  6. Relational affections may not rival Christ (Luke 14:26)

3 – Guard against the temptation to become bitter or easily offended 

  1. The Christian must be ready to forgive (Proverbs 19:11)
  2. When we don’t forgive, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in our own spiritual life
  3. Bitterness as a Christian is like saying to Christ “I will take all your benefits and blessings, but I refuse to offer that to someone else”
  4. Not only forgive, but give a blessing to those who offend you (1 Peter 3:9)
  5. Carrying bitterness invites Satanic deception and folly
  6. Carrying bitterness steals joy and peace (1 Peter 3:10-12)
    • our focus dwells on human justice
    • we lose focus on God
  7. Bitterness not dealt with erodes conviction in other areas
  8. Bitterness causes unnecessary battles in sanctification
  9. Being easily offended turns into personal baggage

4 – Guard against a strong appetite for amusement (a love of pleasure)

  1. This is a massive issue for young men (Prov 6:6–11; 19:15; 1 Tim 5:11–13; 2 Thess 3:6–8)
  2. Enjoying leisure is not inherently wrong
  3. The problem comes when you love it (Eccl 3:10; 4:5; 5:12; 10:18; 1 Cor 6:12)
    • It steals from your ministry of service
    • It erodes sober-mindedness
  4. Real life is a spiritual war and it is serious (1 Pet 1:13)
  5. Unguarded pleasure and leisure is a floodgate of temptation

5 – Guard against the fear of man (Prov 29:25; Gal 2:11-13; James 1:9-11)

  1. This is not a concern over your life, but your reputation
    • This is the opposite of Proverbs 3:6
    • Our great concern must be the reputation of God
  2. There are times that your reputation may be criticized and it may be unjust, but there are plenty of other things they could have criticized and been right. They just picked the wrong thing.
  3. This is an idolatry of your own significance
  4. Be honest with God and ask “What am I trying to portray to others? Is it even remotely connected to who I am on the inside? Am I a spiritual hypocrite?”
  5. Nothing will plague your godliness and ministry as a man and discipler of other men more than wanting to be “somebody” (James 3:16)
  6. Can God shelve your ministry and you be okay with that?

Let us order our lives toward holiness, understanding the weakness of our flesh, the provision of the Holy Spirit and the eternal prize before us!

Study 6: A Man of Prayer

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf… that I will make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel.

Ephesians 6:18-19

We now begin a new study: The Character of a Godly Man.

While we have spoken much about discipleship and personal pursuit of growth, what is the aim? That we would be men of the Word, men who are spiritually mature. In a word: godly.

So why should we begin with prayer? John Calvin, in his excellent chapter on prayer in The Institutes has this as his subtitle: Prayer is the Chief Exercise of Faith. As believers in Jesus Christ, prayer is the primary way in which true faith expresses itself.

Consider: prayerlessness is practical atheism, and personal prayerlessness will always be a mark of hypocrisy. If we neglect prayer and do not enjoy communion with God, we are selling a product we do not believe in. Your prayer life shows who you truly are.

What does prayer represent?

  1. Dependence (“…apart from Me, you can do nothing…”)
  2. Submission (“…not My will, but Thine…”)
  3. Worship (see the entire prayer found in Acts 4:24-31)

In prayer we have a growing understanding of our need to rely on the Lord for even the most ‘mundane’ things. We can be quick to forget our need for His grace and think we can handle the day in our own strength. We become self-reliant and our prayer life suffers.

Let us consider several hindrances that lead to a life that lacks prayer, followed by positive dispositions that cultivate a healthy prayer life.


Be aware of hindrances to a life of dependent prayer (spoiler alert: they all have to do with you!)

  1. Lack of belief (prayer must always be an act of faith)
    • believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6)
    • believe that God is there and is interested in your prayer (Psalm 62:8)
    • understand that His answer may not be whatwhen, or how you expect
    • believe that His answer is always best
    • do not depend on getting answers to every question you have, but cling to Him in faith (move from why? to how? – how do I grow through this, how do I glorify You in this trial?)
  2. Lack of persistence 
    • we are so used to instant responses in day-to-day life, conditioned by our culture (if we don’t hear an immediate response, we cut off communication)
    • not receiving immediate answers forces us to long-term needs to pray about
    • God draws us to Himself in communion through those needs over which we must pray about continually
    • sometimes we do not get what we ask for because we ask for selfish motives (James 4:3)
  3. Lack of preparedness
    • we live in a culture of distractions
      • our life is so fast-paced with literally thousands of demands on our attention every day
      • this is worse today than ever before
      • tech, hobbies, advertising, etc… these are not the problem – our hearts are!
      • we love to be exposed to the endless stream of distractions and this does not help our devotion
      • we have altogether given up on considered meditation (Ps 1:2)
    • make time you need
      • Christ is our model (secluding Himself at times to pray, Luke 5:16)

Cultivating a Healthy Prayer Life

Work towards these dispositions towards God in prayer.

  1. Readiness
    • pray ‘at all times in the Spirit’ (Eph 6:18)
    • there is great readiness implied
    • a submissiveness towards the Holy Spirit
    • relying on Him as we ‘don’t know how to pray as we should’ (Rom 8:26)
    • our weakest (yet believing) prayers are perfectly translated by the Holy Spirit (and are thus made effectual)
    • the Holy Spirit knows our hearts and weaknesses
  2. Devotion and Alertness in Prayer (Col 4:2)
    • we are too often self-reliant
    • we must be spiritually desperate
    • we depend on (aware or not) God’s power, grace and strength daily (Col 1:9)
    • we need God’s wisdom for our daily walk
  3. Submission and Surrender
    • this is prayer that is consistent with what you know about God and His will
    • prayer that seeks to be obedient to God (remember, abiding in the Vine)
      • you must be yielded towards Christ (Eph 6:18)
      • you cannot be self-centered in your praying
      • you cannot pray in the Spirit and be submissive if you are stubborn against the truth
      • God wants our pride demolished
      • He is patient, but persistent
      • He may use trials and circumstances to bring about submissiveness:
        • Trials test our theology regarding God’s Sovereignty
        • Trials drive us to prayer
        • Trials give us great opportunity to grow in faith and prayer
  4. Spiritual Concern
    • We must cultivate a concern for what ultimately matters: spiritual growth
      • pray for others to ‘stand complete’ (Col 1:28, 4:12-13)
      • pray with Paul’s intense concern (Col 2:1-10)
      • don’t always pray for relief from the trial, but how you may grow through it (trials produce endurance and fruit intended by the pruning)

What is it that stirs faith and prayer? The Word of God. See how Daniel was moved to prayer (not inaction) when seeing the promise of God to restore Israel in the writings of Jeremiah approaching.

Many Christians use “in Jesus’ name” as some kind of legitimizing stamp to their (often self-centered) prayer. Calvin said that we pray, as it were, through Jesus’ mouth. The Son has given us His Name – and so we pray as Him. We have been brought into the fellowship and communion of the Trinity, and in prayer, that is what we enter. So, again, prayer is exercising faith and stirring faith – believing the incredible promise that we can come to the throne of grace with the boldness that we will receive.

We should perhaps ‘pray backwards’. Start with the understanding that we pray ‘in His Name’ and so we should work hard to shape our prayers to conform to His will and to see Him glorified.

Study 5: Being in the Vine

I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes itso that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing…
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that you joy may be made full.

John 15:1-5, 8-11

We have laid the foundation for what it means to be a man in the church of Jesus Christ: you are subject to your Lord’s Word and you are responsible not only for your growth and maturity, but helping those in your sphere of influence. 

Genuine growth in Christ occurs when the Truths of His Word become our convictions: that for which we are willing to live, and if necessary, die. For that, we need the Scripture to convict us and renew our thinking. It is then that we are assured that what is produced in our lives is genuine and eternal spiritual fruit.

John 15:1-11 is a crucial passage for the believer – here we find the source of our Christian life and the purpose of our Christian life:

  1. The Source – Jesus Christ
    • “I am the Vine, you are the branches…”
    • “…apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
    • You cannot manipulate growth (in yourself or a disciple), no one will truly grow apart from Christ’s work through the Holy Spirit.
  2. The Purpose – Bearing Fruit
    • “…you did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear much fruit, and that your fruit would remain…” (v16)
    • Every true believer utterly dependent on Christ for both salvation (He chose us) and sanctification, and God’s purpose will be fulfilled – every branch that is genuinely in the vine will bear fruit
    • This fruit is not an external human work, it is genuine godliness (true mind renewal, victory over sin, Gal 5:22-23)
    • Genuine Spiritual fruit is eternal (it ‘remains‘)

Christian growth is a mandate, not an option. In fact, the result of Christian growth (bearing spiritual fruit) is the evidence that we are genuine Christians.

The goal of God’s Sovereign choosing, saving and sanctifying work in every believer is to produce much fruit. And for that, we (the branches) must abide in the Vine, and the Vinedresser will prune us. This is the believer’s life – we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (abiding) for good works (fruit-bearing), which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them, Ephesians 2:10. 

What a wonderful thought! In all that we do, in all that we encounter – from the most sublime to the mundane – all of it is part of God’s plan for me, to bear fruit.

Abide in Me

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…”

  1. “Abide in Me” is not saying “get attached/get saved”. The branches that are cut off and burned are those who only had a superficial connection to the Vine, they were never saved to begin with. Particularly in this context, Jesus would be referring to Judas.
  2. To ‘abide’ is about ‘steadfastly remaining’, ‘to stay’, ‘to be immersed in the resource of the Vine’. This is to live every moment in intimate fellowship with Christ, without hindrances, without disruption of the vital nutrients of our salvation.
  3. A Christian can bear less fruit that he should when they do not “live in the conscious presence of the ever-near Christ” as John MacArthur puts it.
  4. How do we “abide in His love” (v9)? “If you keep My commandments, you abide in My love.”
  5. Glory in submitting to the Lordship of Christ. Submission is the mechanism of abiding in His love. It’s not mystical or emotional (though emotions may, and should follow). First and foremost, it is a humble submission to our Master – Jesus Christ and His Word.
  6. The fruit of the Spirit is not the outworking of your feelings, it is the outworking of your glad submission to your Slave-Master’s commands. He chose us, bought us with a price, and we belong to Him. 
  7. To abide is to submit wholeheartedly to our Lord. This is not cold orthodoxy, it is the sweetest act of love towards Christ. And His yoke is easy, His burden is light.

This is the goal of our discipleship. We’re helping each other to soften and submit to the Truth. As we grow in this, our relationship with Christ grows more intimate, with all the nutrients flowing unhindered towards maximum productivity in bearing fruit.

He Prunes

“…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

  1. The word used for “pruning” has at its root the meaning “cleanse”. Jesus illustrated this in washing Peter’s feet “you are already clean (saved), but you have need for daily cleansing of your feet”. Repeated in v3. You need daily cleansing, daily ‘pruning’. 
  2. The purpose of pruning is directing growth so that every ounce of nutrient goes towards maximum productivity. 
  3. Pruning involves:
    • pinching, where a juvenile branch needs to be slowed down and matured or it will be vulnerable to the elements and bear premature fruit
    • topping, where a section of a rapidly growing branch is removed so growth is concentrated, rather than rapid
    • thinning, where all superfluous clutter and twigs that waste resources are cut away and removed
  4. God may see where you are in over your head – you may want a privilege, a freedom, a responsibility, a ministry – but you’re interrupted, redirected. You are being pinched so that you first mature in that area.
  5. Perhaps God may cut off an area of your life, usually something you enjoy or would find hard to remove yourself. He sees that you’re spread out too thin. He wants you to focus resources.
  6. Of course, the excess should constantly be trimmed away. All the unnecessary, unhelpful stuff. Things that slow us down (Hebrews 12).
  7. Every one of us must admit – we need pruning.

A Swiss team of climbers were preparing to climb Mont Blanc when a feisty Frenchman came by with a camera over his shoulder with extra lenses, a bottle of wine, half a wheel of cheese. The team leader said, “you can’t take that stuff with you”. He answered, “I am going to, and I’ll beat you to the top!” and off he went. Finally the team got going, and before long they came across some cheese, a bottle of wine, a couple camera lenses discarded by the trail. When they reached the summit, there he was. But he had to jettison everything to get to the top.

Commenting on this, a pastor said “Most people, when faced with the loss of their goods to make it to the summit, will rather let the top go and pitch their tents in the plain. And the plain is full of tents.”

When men prepare for an expository sermon, they may take upwards of 20 hours to work through the meaning, the implications, and the application of just a few verses. How much time have you spent in the Word dealing with an issue in your own life? On developing integrity? On cultivating a deep assurance of your salvation? On wrestling through the implications of God’s Sovereignty? 

What parts of your life need pruning to maximize the resources God has given you towards your spiritual growth and influence?