Doing Friendship God’s Way

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

I have been studying Colossians with some men I know, and God has been using it to work me over the past couple of weeks!  Reading it through every day has been a real blessing; there is a treasure trove of truth in that short book that has really been changing me and making me reassess my commitment to being the man that God wants me to be.  He has led me as a husband and father, and shown me recently about my need to be grateful.  Lesson #1: reading a single book of Scripture many times in a month pays significant dividends in my heart and in my understanding of Scripture.

Case in point is the quote above of Colossians 1:28.  Paul tells us that his ministry is focused not just on teaching, but on “admonishing” every man.  This term (in Greek it’s the word noutheteo for you Bible scholars out there) refers “to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct.” (BDAG)  Paul doesn’t just show people the truth found in God’s Word; he is perfectly willing and ready to warn them when their course of action is headed toward disaster!  He is willing to tell guys where they are headed and also to tell them to knock it off.

I think of this like having a friend who is about to walk off a cliff.  If you saw a friend blithely heading toward a cliff, would you launch into a lesson on physics and the surety of their fall?  I sure hope not!  Hopefully you’d warn them strongly and even grab them if need be to stop them from heading to their doom.  That is, in my mind, the heart of the word “admonish.”  We do everything in our power to help our friend keep from going off the deep end.

These words were ringing in my ears the past week or two, as I had to have a couple of significant conversations with friends.  I have a good friend who was having a really hard time in his marriage, and as I was riding to see him for a get-together the Lord kept bringing Colossians 1:28 to mind.  I HATE confrontation and conflict, so much so that I get physically ill before I have to have a conflict.  But these words kept ringing in my ears, so I knew what I needed to do.  I couldn’t get away from them, so to be an obedient disciple I needed to listen and trust that God’s way was best.

Then I thought some more about this verse and the intent of the teaching and admonishing.  Paul wants to “present every man complete in Christ.”  The idea here is that Paul wants the people in his life to be mature; he wants them not only to know Christ, but to be mature in Him and committed to Him.  That really struck me because of my mission statement.  I have said for the past 4 or 5 years that my purpose in life is “to know Jesus Christ, to grow in Him, to serve Him, and to help others do the same.”  Well, that means helping them be the people that God wants them to be!  It means more than teaching; it means admonishing when I have to and being willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of my friend and for what Christ wants with my life and theirs.

I am a teacher and a preacher by calling and skill, so I have no problem there.  If living as a Christ follower for me was just teaching I would be all for it!  I am not, though.  I pastor a smaller church, which means that I can’t be the “preaching pastor” or whatever who buries himself in his study and comes out of hiding for 30 minutes on Sunday morning.  No, shepherding involves getting involved in people’s lives and being willing to get in the mix with them.

So I had that difficult conversation, and God blessed it.  I have had two since as well, one with a man I am mentoring and another with a lady who needed to be warned as much as taught about where her actions were taking her.  And even though I hate confrontation, God kept bringing this verse to mind over and over.  Teach and admonish, teach and admonish.  Don’t settle for the surface relationships, whether with God or with people.  It seems like He brought that verse into my life for this season to remind me to be willing to go the extra mile with people, helping them be who they should be in Christ.

Want to grow in Christ?  Surround yourself with people who are willing to admonish you when you need it.  I am so grateful for the couple of men I know who, when I am being an idiot, are perfectly willing to tell me I am being an idiot and that I need to stop being an idiot.  They help me see the truth of God by teaching me (usually by example) what godliness is and admonishing me when I ignore Him.  So get some friends like that; they are worth their weight in gold.  And be a friend like that too, who is willing to help others see the biblical issues in their life and love them enough to nudge them to choose to serve God.

That’s the way to be “complete in Christ.”  And from my perspective, that’s everything.

Becoming a Spiritual Leader

I have yet to see an arena of life where leadership is not absolutely critical. I was in the Navy for almost 8 years, and of course the direction and example provided by our officers and Chief Petty Officers was critical to an effective fleet. In my business experience, the company rose and fell on the leadership of our managers. In our church, in our schools, and especially in our homes leadership is absolutely critical for success.

No aspect of leadership is more critical in a home than the spiritual leadership that a husband and father provide. I ask couples that I mentor for marriage (what most call premarital counseling) to read several books. His last book is Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker’s Every Man’s Marriage. It is not a wimpy book; it takes us men on a ride and demands that we consider our commitment to God and our wife as intertwined.

I am reading it as my summer marriage builder and cannot recommend it highly enough. In their chapter on “serving as a spiritual leader” (pages 200-212) they set out a model of what it takes to lead spiritually. Men, as you read these rate yourself in each area on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being you’re all over it and 0 being a colossal failure. For a man to lead spiritually, they argue, he must:

  1. Develop the deepest knowledge of God’s Word: He doesn’t need a Bible college degree, but he should be committed to reading, knowing, and understanding the Bible. It should be a daily commitment (even 5 minutes!), and when practiced brings security to your family and respect from them to you.
  2. Become the best at submitting to Scripture: Along with biblical knowledge must come biblical obedience. A true, biblical man leads in submission to God and to changing those areas that need changing in life. He puts his own goals and desires behind the desire to submit to what God says his life should be.
  3. Be the most comfortable with worshiping at home: God created humanity to worship, and a man must lead his family in that. This means prayer time, alone, with his wife, and with the family. It means spiritual conversations at the dinner table when appropriate. It means spending family time in the Word (and if 1 and 2 are getting done, it won’t be hard). It even means being willing to sing to God at home or in the car. When the man of the house worships all the time it opens the door for the family to worship all the time.
  4. Be the most consistent in your prayer and devotional life: Not only must he be comfortable, he must also be consistent. Consistency brings intimacy with God, and that intimacy with Him will impact every area of life.
  5. Be the quickest in the family to forgive and ask for forgiveness: Forgiveness is the cornerstone of Christianity. (see 1 John 1:8-10 for the model of forgiveness in the Christian life) When we come consistently to God and ask forgiveness for our sin, it frees us to offer forgiveness quickly to others and also makes us seek forgiveness from our spouse and children when we hurt them. A biblical leader is quick to forgive and quicker to ask for forgiveness.
  6. Set the spiritual thermostat in his home: A man must be the one to set the standard of holiness, conduct, and commitment in his home. If he sets the bar low, the spiritual chill in the home will affect other areas. If he turns up the heat, the whole family will be allowed to as well. If dad is cold, though, the whole family must shiver.

So how are you doing? This will only help if you are honest with yourself. If you decide that you want to just give yourself all 5s, no one will call your bluff.* If you put a score of 1-5 on each one, that would mean that your score would be somewhere between 0-30. Where are you? If you were back in high school or college the grading curve might look like this:

  • 27-30: A. You’re doing very, very well. No doubt your wife and kids are given every opportunity to live for Christ and your family life is at least moving in the right direction spiritually.
  • 24-26: B. You are definitely doing well. Your leadership shows and your family is blessed for it. While there is room for improvement, you are leading in a positive direction.
  • 21-23: C. You pass. You haven’t abandoned your post, and your wife and kids know that God is an important part of your life and should be in theirs as well. Perhaps you need to be more proactive in leading your family spiritually, but the foundation is there for you to do so.
  • 20 and less: F. Your family can’t see a significant commitment to godliness and it hurts them. When God is not important to you, He is not important to them either.

No man is perfect…we all need to get better. I am working on making devotions that are not part of my sermon prep a more consistent part of my life, so there is definite room for improvement for me. Take this inventory, though, and ask yourself if you are comfortable with Jesus doing the grading.

Ladies, you too can take this quiz and see where you stand. How would you grade yourself in these areas? Where can you improve to allow Christ to change you from the inside out and make a difference in your marriage, your kids, your work, and your ministry?

As the adage goes, leadership is everything. Spiritual leadership in the home truly is everything.

      *Today that is. One day, though, Jesus will!