This month we bring you a special message from Man in the Mirror's Vice President, Brett Clemmer.
The Apostle Paul had a problem.
He spent a year and a half in the town of Corinth, working, teaching in the synagogue, and building the church. But after he left, the culture started to seep into the church, and Paul, like a father of a wayward child, was unhappy.
When Paul writes 1 Corinthians, Corinth is dominated by a temple to Apollo, and it's dotted with numerous other pagan temples. It's a major center of commerce, and materialism is rampant.
From Corinth to current events...
The city of Corinth is not unlike society today. And the problems present in the church then are still with us. Men in particular are struggling. We are under assault in today's culture. We're bombarded by cultural commentary that tells men they're sex-crazed buffoons. Radical feminism, often masquerading as academic truth, tells men that they are at best a nuisance, and at worst totally unnecessary.
Paul gives the Corinthians--and us--a "roadmap" to withstand the lies of our culture. Toward the end of the letter, he says,
Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong. Do everything in love (16:13-14, NIV84).
These five phrases give us a firm foundation-solid footing. When confronted with cultural lies, the sinfulness of our own hearts, and the temptations of the evil one, we can stand firm. By relying on Christ, we can be Rock Solid Men.
Be on your guard.
Throughout his letter, Paul admonishes the Corinthians to be vigilant about temptation and sin. In 1 Corinthians 10:12-14, he says, "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."
Paul makes a promise and teaches a clear strategy for dealing with temptation: God will not let you be tested beyond your ability; He will provide a way of escape-so flee! Paul lumps all of the sin he's been talking about into "idolatry." He doesn't say that they need to merely avoid the pagan temples throughout Corinth. He's saying that all sin, at its heart, is worshipping something other than God.
There are some obvious areas of a man's life that can become idols, where he needs to be alert and vigilant, looking for the escape God provides, and fleeing. The two biggest areas for most men are the areas of sexual purity-specifically pornography-and materialism or greed. What are the idols you need to be on guard against?
If you have a family, protecting them is part of being vigilant. We need to shield our wives and children from these attacks. Practically speaking, this might mean putting a filter on all the electronic devices in the house (don't forget about phones and video games), talking with your kids about the shows and movies they watch, and making sure you know their friends--and they know you.
But being vigilant is not just about avoiding sin; it's about pursuing opportunities to build the Kingdom. We need to remain vigilant for openings as well as attacks. The Bible is full of men who relentlessly pursued the opportunities God put in front of them--Abraham, Joseph and Paul, to name a few.
What opportunities has God put in front of you to participate with Him in building the Kingdom? Start with your passions. Are you an avid sports fan? Many boys' lives are changed by coaches who take an interest in them and live out their faith in front of them.
Are you a good businessman? Many young men get caught up in the rat race, putting their careers above family and faith. They need a mentor to come alongside and show them how to live a balanced life with Christ at the center.
Do you have an empty nest? What will you fill up that time with--golf? TV? Why not invest that time in your church or local ministry? Or--buckle up--maybe He's calling you to be an overseas missionary in this new phase of life!
Stand firm in the faith.
To Paul, standing firm meant to place your hope and faith in Christ. He uses the phrase "in Christ" a dozen times in 1 Corinthians, and it's used almost 100 times in the New Testament.
Standing firm requires us to be certain of what we believe and then hold resolutely to those beliefs. In Ephesians 2:1-2, Paul describes how the world, the flesh and the devil are three forces that pull us toward death. To stand firm against these, we need a firm foundation.
In Matthew 7, Jesus describes two builders-one built his house on sand, the other on the rock. When the storms came, the house on the sand fell, but the house on the rock stood firm. Being in Christ means building your house on the rock. Believe what the Bible has to say about truth, not what the world says about it; make Jesus your top priority, not the things of the world; and then listen to the leadings of the Holy Spirit in your life and heart, as revealed in Scripture, not the misleading whispers of the evil one.
Be men of courage. Be strong.
In more literal translations, the phrase "be men of courage" is translated as "act like men." Where does courage come from?
I enjoy rock climbing. On many routes there comes a time when you have to make a particularly difficult move. The hold you want to grasp is just out of reach, but the only way to progress is to move up.
To make the move, you must leave the safety of secure hand and footholds and reach beyond your comfort zone--sometimes even jump. How do I have the confidence to do that? Because I have a harness around my waist, a rope connecting me to anchors, and a belayer on the ground, I know that even if I fail, I will not fall very far.
In life, we must be willing to dare great things for the Kingdom of God. We can do that knowing that our equipment--the Word of God--is solid. And the person on the other end of the rope? Well, that's God Himself! You can have great courage when you know Who's holding the other end of the rope.
But it would be senseless to take risks climbing if I never trained. To confront a difficult route, I first spend time building up my strength and technique.
This is why Paul also encourages the Corinthians to be strong. Strength only comes from training. Like a rock climber preparing for a difficult ascent, Christian men must prepare for the difficulties we will face in the world.
The best way to train--to grow strong--is to lock arms with other men who have the same goals. Spend time praying for each other. Confess your sins and exhort each other. Spend time in God's Word together. Live life in community.
Do everything in love.
Paul concludes with a reminder to the Corinthians to do everything in love. We know this was important to him, as he had just spent an entire section of his letter on this topic (1 Corinthians 13).
As men, we might more naturally connect with being on guard, standing firm, or being courageous and strong. But doing it all in love is the key to doing these things in Christ.
Look at God: His omniscience makes Him vigilant. His sovereignty means He stands firm. His omnipotence makes Him strong. But His love is what saves us from our own unrighteousness. His love is what makes God different from the Roman and Greek gods the Corinthians were worshiping.
Before you put this article aside, do a "Love Gut Check." Open your Bible to 1 Corinthians 13 and read through the description of love. Where are the areas that you fall short? Is there one specific attribute of love you need to pray for? Mine is "keeps no record of wrongs." I like to keep a scorecard of other people's wrongs to make me feel better when I'm frustrated. But that's not love.
And here's the key--we will never fully live up to that passage; instead, it describes God and His perfect love for you and me.
So, men of God: Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong. Do everything in love.