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?

Study 4: Cultivating Conviction

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (sinful fear lacking conviction), but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God… for this reason I suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

2 Timothy 1:7-8,12

Consider the martyrs of old. How is it that they were willing to die – often horrifically painful and shameful deaths – for points of doctrine many who call themselves Christians today are unable to articulate? Were they just made of different stuff?

No. The difference is, they were men of profound conviction. And we are called to the same.

Conviction doesn’t happen automatically. It is cultivated. It is then tested in the crucible of trials and temptations. It is reinforced by brotherhood. It is lived in private long before it is tested in public.

We must be men of conviction, who stand on those conviction in our most private moments – and if the time comes, in the face of public opposition. Yes, we need conviction for times of persecution. But it is also conviction that preserves us through trials and makes us stand against temptation. Discipleship is where we cultivate conviction in one another.

Conviction as the Drive behind Ministry

Paul speaks of his conviction (2 Timothy 2:5-12). “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced…”

  • Conviction is that for which you are willing to live and die
  • Conviction is rooted in the character of God
  • Conviction is revealed & proven in suffering
  • Ultimately, we always live by our deepest convictions

Why was Paul enduring endless suffering? What was his drive?
“…for this reason I endure all things for the sake of the elect, so that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it, eternal glory.” 2 Timothy 2:10

That is the drive of ministry. What has God given you to do for the saving and sanctifying of His chosen people? Evaluate your life. How do you spend your time? How do you pray? How do you spend your resources? How do you organize your life?

Developing Convictions

The Apostle’s prayer in 1 Corinthians 15:58 “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Note the enduring, steady discipline, the unshakable and undeterred conviction with consistency.

This is what we do in discipleship – we help one another come to grips with the call of God on our lives, helping one another establish convictions, strengthen convictions and stand sure on convictions.

If we are to work on conviction, we must be sure that we don’t default to an external program or method. This must be deep and internal change. While habits can be adjusted, conviction is all about our heart. Our thinking.

  • Convictions must be rooted in and driven by doctrine
  • The truth of Scripture (doctrine) confronts the inner man
  • Before you jump to application, first consider implication
  • Truth must implicate you (your thoughts, motives, affections, will)
  • To be convicted is to be convinced

Allow Scripture to be the finger of Nathan pointed at David’s face saying “you are the man!” Allow Scripture to implicate you, convict you and convince you. Then the externals of your life are forced to match your new internal convictions.

Drawing out Implications from Scripture

When working out the implications of a truth Scripture teaches (for example, the Sovereignty of God), there are some large over-arching categories:

  1. Error in our thinking
    • What unbiblical teaching have you held on to?
    • Rooted in ignorance, poor instruction, or false teaching
    • You have to change what you believe to conform to Scripture
  2. Unholy motivations
    • What fleshly cravings must you uproot? (James 1:14-15)
    • Every motivation since the fall – apart from God’s grace – is tainted by selfishness and our corruption
  3. Idols of the heart (Ezekiel 14)
    • What are you willing to sin to get or hold on to?

The Sword of the Spirit exposes our motives, our intentions, our idolatries and our error. When you finally get to the propositional truth of a text, how do you work through its various implications in your personal life (or the life of someone you’re discipling)?

  1. Eternal vs Temporal
    • Colossians 3:1 “Keep seeking the things above, not the things on the earth”
    • If you are not considering eternity, but are locked in the temporal, you will have false doctrine, unholy cravings and idolatries driving your life
  2. God-centered vs Man-centered
    • Ask: how does this truth implicate my humanistic world-view?
    • Do you ever think that you deserve better than your current circumstance? Do you evaluate your trials from a man-centered, rather than God-centered perspective?
    • Evaluate at these things in your thinking, your motivations, your cravings
  3. Deep vs Shallow
    • Am I spending considerable time thinking through this issue?
    • Or do I just not want to put in the time?
    • Am I uncomfortable what this may implicate in my life?
    • Make sure you allow the truth to go all the way
  4. Inner Man vs Outer Man
    • Every thought must be captive (not merely our behavior)
  5. True Worship vs False Worship
    • What am I worshipping? (addressing idols & cravings of the heart)
    • How am I worshipping? (addressing true/false doctrine)

Going through these categories, it will be no problem to begin applying truth towards genuine internal convictions as the Scripture implicates your inner man. Press in to the truths of Scripture, until they are unshakable convictions that will not only prepare you for coming persecution, but will drive deep into your soul to face our most private temptations.

Consider trials you may face. Are you prepared? You should be building your ship to weather the storm.

Study 3: Life in the Church

You have an indispensable role in the church: to use your spiritual gifts and pursuit of godliness for the growth and benefit of the body.

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. He gave some as… pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

Ephesians as a whole is about life in the church of Jesus Christ. The first three chapters lay out the theology, and from chapter 4 to the end is how this is to be lived out practically. These three chapters (4-6) contain more commands than any other book of the New Testament.

What we find through this chapter is that the Christian life is not only intensely practical, demanding vigorous application of doctrine to every-day living, the church is a body unified in truth and under the Lordship of Christ, where every member contributes to the growth and health of the whole.

The Argument of Ephesians 4

v1-6       live a life worthy of your calling into the Church of Jesus Christ
v7-11      gifts of grace have been given to the church and every Christian
v12-16   each must exercise his gift & position for the building of of the body
v17-23   this means we should live a renewed life coming from a renewed mind
v24-32   the principle of putting off – being renewed – putting on

Summed up:

  1. This is the life of the church: discipleship as each member contributes to the growth and maturity of the body as a whole.
  2. This growth is to be fiercely pursued in sanctification (the process of putting off sin, being renewed in our thinking, and putting on righteousness).
  3. The key is renovation of the mind (we are being taught in Christ, the source of Truth – in contrast to our former ignorance, darkened understanding and futile thinking).

The life of the church is in the personal discipleship relationships; as we help one another in this process, as we grow up together in a mature man (v13) where each person supplies that which is lacking in his sphere of influence.

Discipleship is about Imitation, Renovation, Cultivation, and Conformation (see Study 2). It’s about taking the doctrines of Scripture and making them convictions in your life that will transform the way you live.

The Discipleship Approach

1 – The Discipleship Relationship

  • Your family
  • A friend/relative in crisis
  • An immature believer needing confrontation
  • A person asking advice
  • Someone ‘assigned’ to you

Understand that your first priority is discipleship of your family. This is your responsibility. But God will – as you mature in your walk – bring others into your sphere of influence. Be in ‘discipleship mode’. How can I encourage, exhort, teach, pray for, learn from? In what way can I stir this person towards greater love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25)?

Remember the principle of imitation. This sobers us. It is self-purifying. Consider the responsibility of spiritual influence and tackle the issue of hypocrisy in your own heart.

2 – Identify Flawed Thinking (How do they think about…?)

  • God
  • Self/Man
  • Sin
  • Salvation
  • Sanctification

Don’t be tempted toward ‘behavioral change’, but understanding that the issue is always about the thinking (Eph 4:17-21, 1 Cor 10:3-6). Where are there doctrinal errors? Have they bought into the world’s way of thinking? Are they under the spell of false teaching?

Ask questions. Probe. “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” Prov 20:5

3 – Work on Renewal of the Mind

  • Lay down a doctrinal foundation
  • Get resources for the particular issue at hand (see Joel James A Quick Reference Guide for Counsellors and Disciplers)
  • Work out steps for moving from knowledge to experiential knowledge (Col 1:9-12)
  • Keep driving towards conviction
  • Pray together

We should be asking: “How does this doctrine work itself out by faith in these particular areas of your life?” That means you need to be in the disciplee’s life (and being discipled, you should be open and vulnerable enough to receive deep, probing questions). Remember, our relationships should never remain superficial.

Until When?

So you should be engaged in the lives of those in your sphere of influence – working through doctrine carefully, and seeking ways to apply it. You are being equipped for this work of ministry (Eph 4:12). Until? “…until we attain to the unity of the faith.” (v13) Unity happens, not when we sign off on some doctrinal statement, but when it becomes a shared conviction, put into practice in godly living. Until “…every man is complete (mature) in Christ,” Colossians 1:28.

Christ is the goal. We should strive to be like Him – pure, holy and righteous. Confessing sin, building spiritual friendships, sacrificing for one another, praying for one another, loving one another. This is the life of the church. This is discipleship.

With what kind of Attitude?

Galatians 6:1 “…you who are spiritual, restore (set right, align, reset)…” 

Spiritual is simply referring to 5:22-23 “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control…”

Study 2: Introduction to Discipleship

Consider how to stir one another up to greater love and good deeds in the assembly. Why? For the Day is drawing near.

“Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”

Philippians 3:17

“We proclaim Christ, warning every man and teaching every manwith all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (mature) in Christ. For this purpose I labor, striving according to His power which works mightily in me.”

Colossians 1:28-29

Matthew 28:18–20 is the mandate of every Christian. This is where we develop our doctrine of discipleship. Discipleship is not optional. All are called to disciple—that is, we must teach what Jesus taught and instruct them to obey Him.

Four reasons Christians struggle to get involved in discipleship

1. Ignorance

  • People don’t know it’s a mandate
  • People over-complicate their view of it
  • People think it’s a specialized area for ‘professionals’

2. Reticence

  • Selfish use of time
  • Hesitant (how would it work? where do I start?)
  • Fearful (to the vulnerability/awkwardness/humiliation)
  • Too self-aware to serve others
  • Busying their life with other things

3. Indifference

  • They just dont’ care
  • They’re not sure it really matters much

4. Disobedience

  • They have a sense of what to do, but simply choose not to do it
  • They have been taught it clearly from Scripture, but refuse to do it

The Foundation of Discipleship

Discipleship relationships often begin and flourish in a variety of circumstances, but all effective discipleship is undergirded by four essential elements:

1. Imitation—influencing others by the way you live and by the proactive teaching of the truth

  • What imitation means (Phil 3:17; 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1)
    • Imitation does not mean following a man as if he has inherent authority in and of himself.
    • It does mean imitating the teaching and living that aligns with Christ.
  • This requires that you have a credible life.
    • That the discipler is living a holy and compelling life worth following (1 Tim 4:12). The discipler is in the war against sin and gaining victory. This allows him to mentor others while having credibility (2 Tim 2:4).
    • You can never take them further or deeper than what you are willing to live.
    • The disciplee is not giving way to the temptation to be threatened, lazy, fearful, or resistant, but is willing to step out in faith and latch on to his discipler as a model for godly living (Phil 3:17).
  • Essentially, this means helping people become more like Christ and less like the world (Rom 14:19; 1 Tim 4:12; Titus 2:7).

2. Renovation—the passionate pursuit of answers

  • A complete overhaul of your reasoning (Rom 12:1; 1 Tim 4:6, 11; 2 Tim 2:2; Titus 2:1–6)
  • This simplifies discipleship—you are helping others find areas where their minds need to be renovated, and teach them to observe all that Jesus commands them (Matt 28:20).
  • Ask questions to see how people think about Christ, truth, ethics, the world, the kingdom, work, sin, marriage, etc. Then help them see what needs to change in their reasoning. (Ephesians 4:17ff)
  • Areas of flawed thinking needing change:
    • God
    • Man
    • Sin
    • Salvation
    • Sanctification
  • Help them:
    • develop new convictions as they learn how to reason.
    • grow in discernment.
    • identify lies they are believing.
  • We are “to teach” (didáskō, 2 Tim 2:2). We are not looking to opinionize or   philosophize, or else we would violate 1 Corinthians 2:5 where Paul warns us not to have people’s faith “rest on the wisdom of men.”
  • We are to instruct with propositional truth from the Word of God so that the mind of God is implanted into disciples’ thinking.
  • We are to do as Galatians 6:1 tells us: to restore and set people’s thinking back in place for godly living.

3. Cultivation—staying in the process for the long haul

  • Be willing to cut personal time and your enjoyments to spend enough time with those you’re discipling.
    • Be someone who is willing to set aside personal time to meet needs.
    • Be willing to get involved in the process—even for the long haul when the messiness of sin is complicating everything.
  • When you are helping people, remember:
    • They likely don’t have a good sense of their spiritual maturity, stamina, or strength.
    • They are often blind to weakness, sin, laziness, pride, self-importance, and a host of other evil lusts (1 John 2:15–17). Hebrews 3:12–13 is clear that each person needs to   be   regularly   receiving   biblical   instruction   from   objective   sources outside themselves to keep them from unbelief and ultimate apostasy.
    • Whether or not you are an elder, you should  be  teachable.  First  Peter  5:5 carries the key principle that submission to those over you cultivates humility.
    • Resisting submission to a discipler when he is giving biblical counsel puts the disciplee in the camp of pride, and “God is opposed to the proud” (1 Pet 5:5). God does not look on the proud as someone who is interested in godly living (Isa 66:2).

4. Conformation—aiming to see Christ formed in them

  • The discipler should have goals in mind.
    • Not to recreate a ‘better version’ of himself
    • Not to cultivate convictions in his disciplee that he personally views as authoritative
    • The discipler should have the desire to admonish and teach every man until they are complete in Christ (Col 1:28–29; Phil 3:12–16).
    • The discipler should continually be faithful with the truth regardless of the response of the disciplee.
  • The discipler will be persuaded that only the Spirit of God can effect change in the disciplee (John 16:8). Any feeble attempt to manipulate change and push personal influence will only cause harm to the disciplee.

Study 1: Foundational Convictions


Never imagine that our relationships can ever be more important than genuine spiritual influence in each other’s lives. Though we may enjoy the good interactions of everyday life, we should be evaluating everything according to the Word and the illumination of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

The purpose of this series is to drive home foundational convictions. These convictions are what will give you the courage to stand on the truth and vigorously apply it in your life. Furthermore, this training is intended to help you build a stronger commitment to spiritual growth in you and those in your sphere of influence.

Have a working biblical literacy.

1. Understanding the broad categories of systematic and biblical theology: Bibliology, Theology Proper, Christology, Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Soteriology, Eschatology, Angelology, Apologetics, etc.

  • Suggested   resource: R. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2010).

2. Knowing in your Bible where specific passages speak to specific issues (2 Pet 1:3)

  • This is not merely an academic exercise. This is not merely data dissemination: the church must be continually grounded in a love for the truth so that they know how to put feet to their theology.
  • You must believe it (1 Pet 1:23).
  • You must know doctrine and be able to build others up with it. Someday your kids will need to know truth and you need to be able to give them truth (Eph 4:7– 12). “Your word is truth” (John 17:17; cf. 5:24; Ps 19).
  • Memorize it (Ps 119:11). Be ready to make a defense for it (1 Pet 3:15).
  • Meditate on it (Josh 1:8).

3. Be alert to the challenges of a digital age

  • Never in the history of the church has there been such an expectation for an immediate response to any kind of communication.
  • Text, email, and phone all demand our time.
  • We don’t sit and ponder truth as the Puritans once did.
  • Biblical insights and discernment are cultivated by pondering truth and its implications from every angle as to the implications for our heart and conduct. John MacArthur has said, “You need to be able to say things that are transcendent.”
  • As you ponder, meditate upon, and yield to truth, insights into the human heart and spiritual realities begin to emerge with piercing clarity.
  • You must be an expository listener on Sundays, pondering, confessing, yielding, and worshiping.
  • Do you sit down to think through the implications from sermons?
    • Look at a principle in Scripture and say, “How does this implicate my life?” “How must my inner life change in light of this principle?”
    • External change follows inner life change.

Apply the Word to life’s hardest questions.

1. Take the truth and work it out practically.

2. This begins by renewing the mind (Rom 12:1–2)

  • True change must happen at the heart level. Before we can make practical applications of truth to our conduct, we must look at how the truth implicates our unbiblical thoughts, desires, affections, emotions, and will.
  • When we rush to make outward applications, we undermine our spiritual renewal by focusing on changes in mere behavior. Moreover, one individual’s personal application of Scripture may be a necessary outward change for them but not for all others. In fact, our personal applications of biblical principles have no inherent authority. Only the truth is objective and divinely authoritative.
  • Some key “implication” questions are as follows:
    • How does the truth confront my will?
    • What idolatries of the heart (Ezek 14:1–8) must I confess and forsake?
    • Are there unholy motivations and affections ruling me?
    • Is there an unbiblical or heretical thought pattern?

This helps people see from the Scripture why they do what they do. And it helps people see God’s perspective in every situation.

The longer you confront your inner thoughts with truth and yield to it, the more the mind of Christ will become the foundation and fruit of your convictions.

Have a right perspective of longevity.

1. Teach others to stay at it. Be faithful for the long term (2 Tim 2:2ff.)!

“The only thing that really matters in what you do, is the spiritual influence you exert. Is it to the glory of God, the good of others, the expression of the Gospel’s power in your life? Or is it to your own glory?

Have a right perspective of influence.

1. Men must not measure influence in the church at a superficial level.
The growth of the church is to be measured not in numbers, but maturity and zeal for godliness.

2. All true spiritual influence flows from godly character.

  • Men must have integrity in their hearts (Ps 15:1–5). The force and credibility of a man’s influence is directly related to how consistently he strives after godliness when no one else is around.
    • Who you are when no one is watching but Christ is who you really are, and nothing more. Integrity means being the same person on the inside that we are on the outside.
  • We deserve nothing. Salvation is a gift. When we see ourselves rightly we respond rightly (Phil 2:5–8)!
  • God uses those who are cultivating particular character qualities on a consistent basis. He looks “to those who are humble, contrite of heart, and who tremble” when they learn the truth of His Word (Isa 66:2).
  • Genuine humility and faith are measured by faithfulness to Christ.
    • Perseverance in holy striving (Ps 31:23)
    • Loyalty to Christ in all circumstances (Phil 1:20)
    • Trustworthiness in the stewardship of serving the Lord (1 Cor 4:2)

3. What matters supremely is that men know the truth, live the truth, proclaim the truth, and disciple others in the truth.

  • True  ministries  are  committed  to   Bible   exposition,   leadership development, shepherding, discipleship, holy living, and a biblical philosophy of ministry.
  • Ezra 7:10 must be the mantra of a man’s heart. The order is deliberate: study; practice; teach.
  • In the development of leadership within the body of Christ, it is God alone who gives the influence (1 Cor 3:7), and He alone determines the scope and breadth.

Have a grasp of practical ministry.

1. Take a self-inventory:

  • Where do you serve, and how are you serving the body?
  • Are you involved in a Bible study?
  • Are you encouraging friendships?
  • Are you discipling anyone?
  • Are you being discipled?
  • Are you in the flow of ministry life learning about others’ lives?
  • Do you sacrifice you time, energy, and resources to serve others?
  • Do you pray for others?

2. You need to be using your gifts (even if you’re not completely sure how), and get busy about serving (1 Pet 4:9–11).

3. Be a student.

  • Be a student of the times.
  • Be a student of:
    • today’s prevailing error (2 Cor 10:5ff.; Eph 6:10–12; 1 Tim 4:1–2).
    • today’s place in church history.
    • today’s particular need (2 Tim 3:1ff.).
  • Be a student of the truth so that you are able to persuade men from Scripture (Acts 17:16–34).
  • Be a student of tested principles.
    • the principles of the fear of the Lord and of wisdom (Prov 1:1–7)
    • the principles in Ecclesiastes (“vanity,” chasing the wind)
    • the patterns of disciplined habits
    • the practice of critical thinking

“If your character determines the power of your ministry, then your knowledge determines the stability of it.”