Next Steps

Man Code entries are designed for parents or adults seeking to mold young boys into strong Christian men. Previous entries can be found here.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8

Every guy wants to be ripped, to be so outwardly muscular that everyone stops and takes a look. Guys can spend hours a week pounding weights in the gym just to get the outward look they’re looking for. But the Apostle Paul told a younger Christian Timothy that as great as it is to be physically strong, it doesn’t come close to comparing with being spiritually strong. As much as you work to stay physically fit, you’ll one day grow old (and maybe fat) and die. Happens to the best of us. But those who are spiritually ripped make a difference in this life and the next. So how do you get spiritually ripped? Where’s the spiritual gym where you can go to lift some spiritual weights? Here are four things you can do to get started:

1). Read the Bible. If you don’t like to read, you need to get over it and learn to love reading. (Just like people who don’t like to go to the gym and workout need to get over it and start going to the gym). God recorded His words to us in what we call the Bible, and you need to read it as often as possible. Study it, watch sermons on it, start a Bible study, memorize it. The Bible is like a protein shake for your soul. The more you consume, the stronger you’ll become.

2). Talk with God. The more you talk with God, the more like Him you’ll become, and don’t forget God is the One who created the entire universe by simply saying a few words. That’s strong! Learn to pray not just at meals and at bedtime but throughout the day. Prayer doesn’t have to be formal with your head bowed and your eyes closed. Talk with God like you would talk to your best friend. The strength of your prayer life determines your spiritual strength.

3). Obey the Holy Spirit. You can’t stop at reading the Bible and praying if you want to get spiritually ripped. You’ve got to actually do something. All those things that you read in the Bible, those aren’t suggestions. Those are commands about how we should live our lives. As you obey what God tells you to do, it’s like adding more weights on the machine. Obedience will make you spiritually ripped.

4). Serve others. The true sign of spiritual maturity (being spiritually ripped) is when you don’t focus on yourself anymore. You serve others. When you obey the Holy Spirit, He will always lead you to other people that need Jesus. So in the end, the very best way to get spiritually ripped is to not just focus on yourself. Focus on serving others.

QUESTION: Which one of these four steps can you begin to do this week to start getting spiritually ripped? Make a plan and stick to it!

unsplash-logoAaron Burden

One of the things I started a few years back and recently picked back up is writing out the book of Proverbs by hand. Because everything is digitally available, I don’t necessarily need to write out the book of Proverbs, but it’s so incredibly beneficial! It forces me to slow down enough and digest the timeless wisdom found throughout the book. There are so many priceless gems in the book of Proverbs, but here are five that have impacted me recently:

The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5). This is such a needed reminder, one that is repeated throughout the New Testament as well: God hates pride. James quotes another proverb and states that God actively opposes the proud (James 4:6). There is absolutely no place for pride in the Christian life. When you sense it you need to kill it before it kills you. Unfortunately pride is very difficult to see in the mirror, so you need trusted friends and loved ones that have permission to speak into your life. But be sure of this: if you’re prideful, your downfall is coming.

He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding (Proverbs 15:32). This is just one of numerous proverbs that Solomon wrote about the need for correction and discipline. One of the biggest dangers that pride leads you to is the place where you don’t think you need to learn anything from anyone. It should mean something when Solomon (the wisest person to ever live) talked more about the need for seeking wise counsel than anyone else. If you walk with the wise you’ll grow wise, but that means you need to actually listen to them. If you think you’ve got it all figured out and don’t need to learn anything from anyone, well then that’s pride and we know how that will turn out.

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty (Proverbs 14:23). It’s amazing how much luck tends to look like hard work. The reason that people waste billions of dollars every year on the lottery is because people are looking for a quick fix. They want to solve their problems without doing any of the hard work. Whether it’s becoming financially successful, building a strong marriage or simply mastering a skill you’ve always wanted to master, talk is literally cheap. Roll up your sleeves and actually do something productive each day. You’ll be amazed at how much further you’ll go in life.

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:8). We live in a society today that is perpetually offended. Just get on social media or listen to the cable news network and you’ll find ample reasons to be offended about something. But wisdom yields patience. Be better than society. Don’t yield to anger and allow yourself to become offended by everything. Be better than that.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30). At the end of the day, we are all looking for peace. Envy leads to the opposite of peace. So if you spend your days looking at everyone else’s perfect life (whether in real life or online) and secretly wishing for more, you’ll end up being discontent and bitter. Rather than envy, cultivate strategic thanksgiving into your life. Thank God and others often for anything and everything. Thanksgiving leads to contentment which leads to peace, and peace is what we’re all looking for.

Man Code entries are designed for parents or adults seeking to mold young boys into strong Christian men. Previous entries can be found here.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1

Son, I’ve got some bad news for you. Do you know that part of life where you don’t like others telling you what to do? Maybe it’s an older sibling who think he or she is an extra parent. It’s definitely your parents who tell you what to do all the time. Or maybe it’s a teacher or a coach who is always giving you instructions. If you’re a normal adolescent boy, then you’ve probably dreamt of the day when you can finally grow up, move out of the house, and never have to take orders again!

Well, that’s the bad news. The truth is, you’ll always be under authority. If you spend your entire life trying to run away from all authority and only doing whatever you want to do all the time, there’s a special place in society for people like that, it’s called prison. As much as you might not like taking orders from other people, you’re going to have to get used to it. The benefit you have right now is that the people in authority over you have your concerns in mind. Some day it won’t always be like that. When you finally leave the house and live on your own, your new authorities will be the bank that own your house, the government that wants their taxes and the boss at work that may or may not like you. And for your entire life, you’ll always be under the authority of God.

So, the key isn’t to try and get to a place where no one tells you what to do, because that place doesn’t exist. There’s a part of every young man that wants to rebel and be their own master, to not take orders from anyone. But that desire is not from God, it’s what the Bible calls the ‘flesh,’ the sinful part of you that needs to be defeated inside of you. The key is to learn how to live under authority now, while your authorities (parents, teachers, coaches) love you and have your best interests in mind.

As Romans 13:1 says every authority over you ultimately comes from God Himself, so when you rebel against your parents, you’re ultimately rebelling against God. And trust me, son, that won’t work out well for you in the end. I’m not saying that submitting to the authorities in your life will be easy or even enjoyable, but it’s necessary. It’s how the world has been established by God, and the sooner you can learn to properly and respectfully live under authority, the farther along in life you’ll go. If you want to talk to folks who never listened to authority and always did whatever they wanted, go talk to the men stuck in prison.

QUESTION: Who’s an authority in your life that you’ve been struggling to obey? What’s something you can do today to start living under authority?

For the Apostle Paul, he knew that every natural battle we face has a spiritual source behind it because he knew what his Scriptures (our Old Testament) taught about the reality of spiritual warfare. Satan was an angel created by God (Job 1:3) who is described as a cherub and the highest of all created beings (Ezekiel 28:14). Satan was not your garden variety angel, he held a very prominent position in God’s hierarchy, and with references to musical instruments made in Ezekiel 28 most scholars believe that Satan was in charge of the worship in heaven, a very prominent position indeed. Yet pride (Ezekiel 28:17) led him to lead an unsuccessful rebellion against God Almighty and the devil and his minions were cast out of heaven. Satan’s ultimate defeat has already been decided but time still remains on the clock because Jesus’ second coming has not yet happened. We’re now in the in between, battling against an enemy who knows his doom is sealed but isn’t going down without a fight. As the book of Revelation puts it,

“Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:12

Those are the forces arrayed against us, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms that Paul describes in Ephesians 6:12. Why does Satan attack us if his fight is against God? For the same reason divorced couples will use their children as pawns to hurt one another. The best way to hurt someone is to hurt someone they love. Humankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation (Psalm 8:5), His crown jewel of creation, being formed in His image (Genesis 1:27). God proved His love for us once and for all when He sent His son Jesus as a sacrifice to reconcile us to Himself. Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that Satan in his furious rage tries his best to destroy humankind with every weapon available to him. To hurt us is to hurt the heart of God. So we are caught in the crossfire of a war that has raged since the beginning of time. But as Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10-18, we are not left defenseless. But defending yourself against the attacks of the enemy will only be as successful as your ability to see those attacks coming. The first step to spiritual warfare is to see the spiritual behind the natural, to see the attacks of the enemy coming so you can successfully defend yourself and those you love.