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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.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Chances are son, you like video games. And why not? Video games are electronic pathways to paradise, something fun to do for a few hours each day. When this Man Code entry was written the game capturing a nation of teen boys was Fortnite. When you’re reading this it will probably be something else. But there’s a dangerous side to video games, one that as a young man in Christ you need to be fully aware of. If you play video games on a regular basis then you’ve come face-to-face with addiction. If your mom constantly gets on you for playing so much, if a majority of your friends are ones you play with online, if the first thing you think about when you get up and the last thing you think about when you go to bed is video games, then you know what it’s like to struggle with addiction.

You may be thinking, “So what? Video games are harmless.” Perhaps so (other than messing with your eyesight, encouraging isolation and depression, keeping you in your parents’ home too long as a young adult and many other side effects). Video games may seem harmless, but addiction isn’t. When Paul spoke to Christians living in a first-century city where addiction was everywhere, Paul gave them a truth to live by that young Christian men need to embrace today, 1 Corinthians 6:12. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can stay up past midnight every night playing video games, that doesn’t mean you should. By spending all that time trying to master a video game, you’ll find out that the video game has actually mastered you, controlling your thoughts, your time, your emotions, your sleep.

And once you fall into addiction, you’re going to discover that it’s very difficult to fall out of it. Today the addiction may be video games, but tomorrow it might be alcohol, pornography, money or drugs. Some of the worst mistakes people make in life are made because they’ve allowed their addictions to control them and destroy their lives. You’re not anywhere close to that, yet. You’re not murdering anyone, you’re not stealing, you’re not going to jail. But if you’re addicted to something, even something as seemingly innocent as video games, then you’re at the beginning of a road that will ultimately take you some place you don’t want to go.

So don’t let video games control you. Don’t allow yourself to be mastered by anyone or anything. Set time limits for your game use and stick to them. If you need help, ask your parents to help you set and enforce limits. One of the only ways to break free from addiction is to ask for help, so go ahead and start practicing now. Video games may seem like harmless fun and games, but addiction is no laughing matter. Don’t allow video games to control you.

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

“Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

You don’t have as much control over the direction of your life as you might think you do. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “I’m my own person, I can do whatever you want!” And you’re right, you can do whatever you want. But I know what you’ll end up doing: whatever your friends decide to do. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have friends. We all need people to do life with. But your friends have an influence over you greater than you realize. Their language becomes your language, they way they dress becomes how you dress, the music they listen to becomes your music, their actions become your actions. Because your friends are such a strong influence in your life, you don’t have as much control over the direction of your life as you think you do. Your friends determine the direction of your life.

When King Solomon wrote to his son that if you walk with the wise you’ll become wise, he knew that if you surround yourself with smart people, you end up making smarter decisions. But if you are surrounded by fools, you’ll end up hurting yourself. No one intentionally goes out to hurt themselves, but when you’re with your friends, you want to be accepted by them. You want to be a part of their group. That’s natural. So, to be accepted, you’ll look like them, talk like them, dress like them, even act like them, all to be accepted. Your friends determine the direction of your life.

But you have the power to determine who your friends are. You have to make the choice about who you hang around with at school, who you play video games with or ride around with at night, who you want to be accepted by. That’s why your parents will sometimes freak out when they think you’re hanging around with the “bad crowd.” They’re not trying to make your life miserable. They’re concerned because they know you’re going to want to be accepted by those friends in the bad crowd, which will lead you to make bad decisions. A companion of fools really does suffer harm.

So, how do you know if you have good friends or bad friends? Look at how they talk about other people and treat other people when adults aren’t around. If they’re respectful, kind and helpful, then they’re good people. But if they’re mean, hurtful towards others, disrespectful towards adults, use bad language or other similar things, then you’re going to end up being the same way to try and be accepted by them. Finding new friends is never easy, but if you need better friends, it will always be worth it. Find friends who are awesome people, and you’ll become awesome yourself!

QUESTION: Have you ever done something to impress your friends that you wish you wouldn’t have done? Why did you do it? Are your current friends making wise choices or foolish choices? Are they good friends or bad friends?

This is the second entry for those looking to disciple and train their sons (or grandsons) who are still in the house and growing in their faith in Jesus. Use these Man Code entries as an opportunity to discuss deeper spiritual issues with your son! (Previous Man Code entries can be found here.)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

If you want to figure something out, it makes a ton of sense to look at the instruction manual. Now son, if you don’t know it already, you’ll figure out soon enough that guys have a tendency to want to try and figure out everything by themselves. They don’t like to look at the instructions! For simple things, instructions aren’t necessarily needed. If you buy a new baseball glove and it comes with instructions on how to use that glove, I’m pretty sure you can figure it out how a glove works. If you get a new video game and it comes with instructions on what buttons do certain things, you can probably figure it out on your own in two seconds.

But some things are too complicated to try without instructions. If you buy a huge Lego kit that will let you build something ginormous like a giant castle or the Millennium Falcon, but it comes with 1000 separate pieces you need to put together in a certain order, good luck trying to do that on your own! Or if it’s your first time in high school algebra or calculus and you try to solve end-of-the year complex math problems on your own the first day of class without sitting through all the lessons and working through your math textbook from the beginning, let me know how that works out for you.

As much as I would love it if the process of becoming a godly man were something simple like breaking in a new baseball glove or figuring out a new video game, growing into a true man is much more complicated than that. That’s why there are so many guys that miss it. That’s why so many adult males are incredibly poor examples of what it means to be a godly man. They tried to figure it out on their own without following the instructions.

God is our ultimate example of what it means to become a godly man because He made us. We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). And He left us an incredible set of instructions: the Bible. But it’s up to us to follow those instructions. When Solomon, who wrote the book of Proverbs to his own son, said that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” he wasn’t saying that we have to be scared of God. He’s saying that if we want to grow into who God created us to be, it starts by admitting we can’t do it on our own. We need to look at the instructions. We need God. If you try to do life on your own apart from God, you’ll never become the godly man you were designed to become. But if you start with God and look to Him first, then you’re on the right path.

QUESTION: Have you ever tried to put something complicated or difficult together without the instructions? How did that work out? Do you think you can become a godly man on your own without God and without the instructions of the Bible?

Take a moment and answer the following questions honestly. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, that’s an indication of spiritual warfare in your life. If you answer “yes” to multiple questions, well then, we’ve got some work to do.

    1. Do you feel defeated even though you’re a Christian and you know you’re going to heaven?
    2. Do you find yourself holding onto lies that society or other people say about you?
    3. Are there areas of your life where you’re knowingly sinning on an ongoing basis?
    4. Do you go days and sometimes weeks without actively sensing God’s presence in your life?
    5. Do you ever doubt God’s goodness, His love for you or His ability to provide your needs?
    6. Do you struggle with self-sufficiency and pride?
    7. Are there broken and dysfunctional relationships in your life?
    8. Do you struggle with guilt, shame, fear or anxiety?
    9. Do you have dark and destructive thoughts that you’re afraid to reveal to other people?
    10. Do you tend to live your life in isolation with little to no deep, life-giving relationships?

A “yes” to any of those questions is a faint but noticeable indication that there is something deeper going on underneath the surface of your life, just behind your line of sight. Think of each of these questions like a termite you’ve got running free in your house. Just like termites left unattended will erode the very foundation of your house, the spiritual forces of evil left unchecked will erode everything good in your life until there is nothing left. In fact, that’s been the enemy’s plan all along.

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.” John 10:10

If you want to begin to fight back, start by putting on the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). Read this post about how to practically put on the belt of truth every day.