Where the world comes to study the Bible

Preface to Protestants and Catholicism

This workbook has been developed at the request of the Evangelism Task Force of CAM International. The task force met in April 1995 in Guatemala and storyboarded responses to the question, “What can CAM do to stimulate powerfully effective evangelism in CAM fields?” A workbook aimed at giving a better understanding of Post Vatican II Catholicism became an action item out of that meeting.

I initially accepted the task of preparing this workbook with some apprehension. There is no Roman Catholicism in my past experience, and I had only studied Catholicism briefly in a single course at Dallas Theological Seminary. This was hardly the background needed to provide expert guidance in such a complex subject.

My inexperience with Catholicism, however, soon gave me the guiding principle for this workbook. If I was going to write on Catholicism, integrity (and horse sense!) demanded that I gain as thorough an understanding as possible. I wanted to present Catholicism fairly. I didn’t want to be a Catholic basher! What this meant for me was that I wouldn’t learn Catholicism through the minds of Protestant writers, at least initially. Instead, I had to understand Catholic theology from Catholic documents and Catholic theologians. That, I believed, would make the work objective. As I began to prepare the workbook I determined to give you, the user, the same experience--to learn Catholicism from the Catholics themselves.

Part one of the workbook, then, amounts to a guided tour of what I think are the crucial elements of Catholic theology. The chapters are made up primarily of snippets from the new Catechism and Vatican II documents. The questions following each section are designed to help you interact with the Catholic content. Analysis and comparison with the Scriptures will cement your understanding of Catholicism, and will better inform you to minister to Catholics. Part two follows a similar format, but the focus is on contemporary issues related to Catholicism.

To become an effective speaker, Dale Carnegie advised, “Talk about something that you know and know that you know.” Our goal, of course, is not to speak to Catholics about Catholicism. But if we know Catholicism and know that we know Catholicism, then we are both equipped and confident to lead a Catholic to the Scriptures for a life-changing experience!

I challenge you to work carefully and prayerfully through the pages which follow. I believe you’ll be glad you did!

May God bless your study as He did mine.

Shawn Farneman
April 1996

Related Topics: Reformation, Catholicism

Bibliography on Protestants and Catholics

Books on Catholicism by Roman Catholics

Francis Schussler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, eds., Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.

Austin Flannery, ed., Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.

Adrian Hastings, ed., Modern Catholicism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988.

Libreria Editrice Vaticana, The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ligouri, MD: Ligouri Publications, 1994.

Books on Catholicism by Evangelicals

John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Protestants and Catholics: Do They Now Agree?. Eugene Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1995.

John Armstrong, ed., Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us. Chicago: Moody, 1994.

Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1962.

James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995.

Liberation Theology

Leonardo Boff and Clodovis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987.

Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation. MaryKnoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988.

Evangelical Theologies

Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago: Moody Press, 1989.

Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986.


F. F. Bruce, Tradition Old and New. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970.

Philip Wesley Comfort, ed., The Origin of the Bible. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992.

Norman L. Geisler, ed., Inerrancy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Other Books

Keith A. Fournier, A House United? Evangelicals and Catholics Together: A Winning Alliance for the 21st Century. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1994.

Related Topics: Reformation, Library and Resources, Catholicism, Cultural Issues

“Old Man” and “New Man” in Paul

Related Media


It has been argued that human language, as a vehicle for accurate communication, is reliable as long as you don’t plan on going very far. There is at least a half-truth in this, though the problem may exist more in the speaker than in the medium. In any case, as one famous linguist has quipped, “we can’t even describe the aroma of coffee.”

Misunderstandings do occur for a variety of reasons and sometimes communication seems hopeless. At other times the miscommunication is downright funny. We’ve all watched a sitcom where misunderstanding is woven beautifully into the tapestry of the lives of the actors, creating hilarious moments throughout the show. One struggles at times to know how the actors keep a straight face. Indeed, sometimes they fail! Usually the “misunderstanding” turns on different meanings of the same term, or different referents for the same word.

The following “church funnies” demonstrate the hilarious nature of miscommunication in print. Believe it or not the following announcements actually appeared in various church bulletins, or so we’re told. Regardless, they highlight misunderstanding and will undoubtedly give you a chuckle.

    1. Don't let worry kill you—let the church help.

    2. Thursday night—Potluck supper. Prayer and medication to follow.

    3. Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.

    4. For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

    5. The rosebud on the alter this morning is to announce the birth of David Alan Belzer, the sin of Rev. and Mrs. Julius Belzer.

    6. This afternoon there will be a meeting in the South and North ends of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends.

    7. This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the alter.

    8. The service will close with “Little Drops of Water.” One of the ladies will start quietly and the rest if the congregation will join in.

    9. Next Sunday a special collection will be taken to defray the cost of the new carpet. All those wishing to do something on the new carpet will come forward and do so.

    10. The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They can be seen in the church basement Saturday.

    11. A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

    12. At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.

We’re sure the list could be multiplied. If you know of more, do not hesitate to email us.

On a more serious note, however, the same basic problems of misunderstanding and confusion can exist in the interpretation of the Bible as well. One such misunderstanding persists with regard to Paul’s use of the “old man”/“new man” metaphor. The expression is somewhat ambiguous. The ambiguity is “super-sized” with the translational differences among popular versions.

The expressions “old man” and “new man” occur in basically four places in Paul’s letters, namely, Romans 6:6; Ephesians 2:15; 4:22-24; and Colossians 3:9-11. Observe the following chart displaying various translations and how they handle the phrase:


Romans 6:6

Ephesians 2:15

Ephesians 4:22-24

Colossians 3:9-11


our old man

(one) new man

old man/new man

old man/new man


our old self

(one) new man

(your) old self/new self

(your) old self/new self

NASB (1995)

our old self

(one) new man

old self/new self

old self/new self


our old man

(one) new man

old man/new man

old man/new man


our old man

(one) new man

old man/new man

old man/new man


our old self

(one) new man

old nature/new nature

old nature/new nature


our old self

(one) new humanity

old self/new self

old self/new self


our old self

one new person

old self/new self

old self/new self


our old selves

(one) new man

old way of living/new life

old nature/new nature


old country of sin

a new kind of human being

old way of life/a new way of life

old life/a new way of life


our old humanity

a single new humanity

old human nature/new nature

old human nature/new nature


our old sinful selves

one new person

old evil nature/a new nature

old evil nature/a brand-new nature

So, what does Paul mean when he refers to “old man” and “new man”? The apparent disparity between the translations undoubtedly fuels the misunderstanding of this expression current among many Christians. Does Paul mean “sinful self” (Rom 6:6) or “our old sinful selves” (Rom 6:6)? Both of these are fairly individualistic and stand quite apart from other translations such as “our old humanity” (Rom 6:6) which is more corporate in focus. What about “old evil nature” and “new nature”? But the word “nature” is extremely slippery and as David Dockery points out there are few terms in English that are as ambiguous as the word “nature.”6 Further, “old evil nature” suggests something of the immaterial aspect of man. But is this what Paul is referring to? Is the expression, then, somewhat synonymous with “flesh” as Paul sometimes uses that term? If so, does the crucifixion/putting off of the “old man” entail a form of Christian perfectionism and sinlessness in this life? Some have understood the “old man”/“new man” in just such a way. This study is directed at finding answers to these and related questions.

In order to get a better grasp on this important expression we will examine the four passages in some detail. In each passage the “old man” is the same expression in Greek, namely, oJ palaioV" a[nqrwpo" (ho palaios anthropos). The expression “new man” is the same in Ephesians 2:15 and 4:24, namely, oJ kainoV" a[nqrwpo" (ho kainos anthropos). In Colossians 3:10, however, the “new man” is rendered through the use of a different adjective, i.e., toVn nevon (ton neon).7 But since the expression is set in contrast to the oJ palaioV" a[nqrwpo" of the previous verse, this is only stylistic; ton neon also refers to the same entity or concept as oJ kainoV" a[nqrwpo".8

Biblical Analysis

Romans 6:6


tou'to ginwvskonte" o{ti oJ palaioV" hJmw'n a[nqrwpo" sunestaurwvqh, i{na katarghqh'/ toV sw'ma th'" aJmartiva", tou' mhkevti douleuvein hJma'" th'/ aJmartiva/

    New English Translation (NET Bible)

“We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”


Let us first remind ourselves of the broader context of Romans 6:6. Paul’s letter to the Romans concerns the gospel of God’s righteousness, with the quotation from Habakkuk 2:4 (1:17) providing a helpful outline of the first eight chapters: (1) the just by faith (chs. 1-5:11) shall live (5:12-8:39). In 5:12-21 Paul demonstrates that Christ has completely overturned the effects of Adam’s sin with the result that believers should no longer live in sin. It is to this point that 6:1-14 is primarily directed and it is in this context that we find Romans 6:6 and the comment about the crucifixion of “our old man.”

What, then, does Paul mean by our old man (oJ palaioV" hJmw'n a[nqrwpo", ho palaios hemon anthropos) in Romans 6:6?9,10 Well, we can say that whatever it is, it is not the body of sin (toV sw'ma th'" aJmartiva", to soma tes hamartias), for the crucifixion of “our old man” prevents the “body of sin” from dominating us. The two entities are not the same. If they were the same, the passage would be at best tautologous, making little, if any, sense.11 Now the expression “body of sin” refers to our physical bodies as vehicles through which sin expresses itself, that is, our whole selves as enslaved to sin and relating to others through our bodies.12 Thus “body of sin” is relational in focus.

So the “old man” is not to be strictly identified with the “body of sin.” Further, Paul says that our old man “was crucified with Christ.” But how can that be? We were not there at Golgotha and this is surely the time to which the past tense was crucified (sunestaurwvqh, sunestaurothe) points.13 Answer: the “with Christ” language relates us to Christ and his death in a legal or forensic way, not experientially.14 God reckoned us there as co-crucified with Christ: his death was our death. The passive voice suggests that it was something done to us (by God) and not something we did to ourselves (cf. Gal 5:24).

What does all this mean? It means that when Paul gets to Romans 6:6 he is still thinking of the two humanities (and their heads) he spoke about in Romans 5:12-21.15 The “old man,” then, must be who we were “in Adam,” that is, people in relationship to each other and our head in the realm of sin, death and judgment. The focus is corporate and stresses a realm in which unbelievers exist and relate. Thus, the “old man” is not our sinful nature per se, nor is it some part of my immaterial nature as a sinner. In short, the “old man” is the web of relationships we maintained in our former life “in Adam.” That 5:12-21 stands behind Paul’s thinking in 6:1-14 is further confirmed when one sees that Romans 6:1-14 is a logical inference (cf. the ou , oun in v. 1) drawn from the theology of Romans 5:12-21. It was there that Paul relied heavily on the forensic idea of Adam’s sin and our connection to him.16 Thus the crucifixion of “our old man” is our death to sin and life in Adam.

Further, though the crucifixion of “our old man” is portrayed in forensic language (i.e., language describing positional truth), there is nonetheless an ethic closely associated with it here in Romans 6 reflecting Paul’s traditional method of ethical argument: indicative first, then imperative.17 Recall that the paragraph begins with a rhetorical, yet very practical question: “Should we continue in sin?” The use of the subjunctive mood (ejpimevnwmen, epimenomen) in 6:1 denotes a question of moral “oughtness,” not fact.18 Paul is asking, “Should we or should we not continue in sin?” Also, the doctrine of “walking in new life” (v. 4) as well as the imperatives at the end of the paragraph (6:12-14) are built, in part, on the idea of the crucifixion of our old man.

In summarizing Romans 6:6 we can say at least three things. First, the “old man” is a metaphor describing corporate realities which existed for believers when they were “in Adam,” apart from Christ and those connected to him. Second, our release from the old man was definitive and reckoned to us by God himself. Third, the forensic idea of the crucifixion of “our old man” is the basis for Paul’s ethic of saying “no” to the reign of sin, and “yes” to life in God.

Ephesians 2:15


2:15 toVn novmon tw'n ejntolw'n ejn dovgmasin katarghvsa", i{na touV" duvo ktivsh/ ejn aujtw'/ eij" e{na kainoVn a[nqrwpon poiw'n eijrhvnhn

    New English Translation (NET Bible)

2:15 “when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace….”


Ephesians is a letter dedicated to unfolding the mystery of the gospel as it relates to the unification of Jew and Gentile in “one new man,” i.e., the church (3:5-6). The passage which unfolds this theme most clearly is 2:11-22. Thus, it is in a context of this new salvation-historical “structure” (cf. 1:10, 11) that Paul refers to the “new man.”

The individual focus in God’s creative work of salvation comes to expression in 2:10 where Paul refers to each person as “created in Christ Jesus.” The shift, however, toward a more corporate perspective comes in 2:11-22. There it is argued that Gentiles were “foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (v. 12). But God abolished the law, the dividing wall of hostility, through the death of Christ (i.e., his body), and has reconciled the two groups (i.e., Jew and Gentile) into “one new man” in Christ.

The Adam-Christ typology stands behind this passage as well. But the focus in Ephesians 2:15 is not so much on the individual’s position before God vis--vis their being “in Christ” as opposed to still being “in Adam,” but rather on the new relationships which exist on a human level for those “in Christ.” The Jew and the Gentile have been reconciled, and together in Christ they form this so-call “new man.” The “new man” is a new society in which all have free and equal access to God and are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (2:5-6). In God’s design of the “new man” there are no divisions or hostility among members, only peace (2:16). Thus the focus here is on the community God has brought into existence in Christ as a result of OT hope.19 This does not mean that Gentiles were grafted into Israel, but rather that “in Christ” the two become “one new man,” “one new humanity.”20

There are at least two important aspects to the expression “one new man.” The “one” implies singleness of divine purpose and unity in the new community. The “new man” evokes images related to the dawn of the “new” age of salvation inaugurated at Messiah’s first coming. It is an idea closely associated with God’s creative work (i.e., “to create in himself….”). Our salvation is described in Ephesians 2:10 as being “created in Christ Jesus” (2:10). According to 2 Cor 5:17 we are “new” creations in Christ Jesus. The focus in Ephesians 2:15 is on the newly created community in Christ—people who have been taken out of a realm where hatred and division were the order of the day, to form a new social reality in Christ. The estrangement and dislocation effected through Adam’s sin has been reversed through God’s creative power in the body of Christ (3:6). Thus the “new man” in Ephesians 2:15 is primarily a new structural or social reality. It is corporate in focus.21

Ephesians 4:22-24


4:22-24 ajpoqevsqai uJma'" kataV thVn protevran ajnastrofhVn toVn palaioVn a[nqrwpon toVn fqeirovmenon kataV taV" ejpiqumiva" th'" ajpavth", 23ajnaneou'sqai deV tw'/ pneuvmati tou' nooV" uJmw'n 24kaiV ejnduvsasqai toVn kainoVn a[nqrwpon toVn kataV qeoVn ktisqevnta ejn dikaiosuvnh/ kaiV oJsiovthti th'" ajlhqeiva"

    New English Translation (NET Bible)

4:22 “You were taught with reference to your former life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 4:24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image—in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.”


In Ephesians 4:22-24 Paul refers to “the old man” (v. 22) and “the new man” (v. 24). The context is obviously ethical. He urges the Ephesians (and all those who received the letter in Asia Minor), in light of the fact that they have received a certain calling (1:3-4; 4:1) and have come to participate in the body of Christ (4:14-16), to likewise walk or live in a way commensurate with their new calling and privilege (4:17).

In particular, believers are not to live as the Gentiles do, that is, in the futility of their thoughts as those who are separated from the life of God. But how is this futility expressed? It is expressed in ever increasing sensuality and lust. The Ephesians are not to live like that because they had been taught in him [Christ] just as the truth is in Jesus (kaqwv" ejstin ajlhvqeia ejn tw'/ jIhsou', kathos estin aletheia en to Iesou). The truth Paul refers to is teaching consistent with apostolic doctrine, especially that which concerns Christ and living a life honoring to him. Thus it is ethical truth with a Christological rationale.

Thus the expressions “old man” and “new man” here are particularly ethical in their focus. The “old man” refers to their former life as Gentiles and the sin that so pervaded their lives in that sphere of existence. They were taught to lay this aside and to put on the new man. The figure “putting on” and “putting off” is one of exchanging clothes and refers to a change in character in light of a change in identity, having moved from the old sphere of existence (without God) to a new sphere of existence (with God).22

There is some discussion in this passage as to the force of the infinitives: (1) to lay aside (ajpoqevsqai, apothesthai) and (2) to put on (ejnduvsasqai, endusasthai). They are in indirect discourse and one has to wonder whether they go back to indicatives in the original direct discourse or imperatives. In other words, were the Ephesians taught that they had already laid aside the old man at conversion (indicative; akin to Romans 6:6) or that they should lay aside the old man and put on the new as an ongoing reality in their Christian experience (imperative)?

There is nothing in the grammar of the passage, nor in the choice of the verb “you were taught” that decides the question with certainty, though aorist infinitives of indirect discourse virtually always go back to imperatives in direct discourse in the NT. But this may be because they are connected to controlling verbs which imply a command.23 In any case, what is indecisive grammatically is made fairly certain by the immediate context. That the infinitives go back to imperatival ideas in the direct discourse is likely since the immediate context deals with exhortations not to walk as the Gentiles do (4:17), including putting off lying (4:25), unrighteous anger (4:26), stealing (4:28), etc. Also, since the corruption of the old man is a present reality, the need to lay it aside is a present reality (4:22). Further, the “new man” is described with ethical language, namely, “righteousness,” and “likeness of the truth.” Therefore, the infinitives go back to imperatives and should be read as such.

Also, we said that the verb “you were taught” cannot settle the question one way or another, but when seen in connection with the verb “learn” in 4:20 a different answer emerges. It seems that “what they learned was what they were taught.” But the learning Paul has in mind in v. 20 is certainly ethical. Therefore, the things they were taught were ethical and hortatory in nature. Thus, once again we see that the infinitives go back to imperatives in the direct discourse (cf. Col 3:8-9).

Therefore, Ephesians 4:22-24 utilizes the “old man” and “new man” concepts in primarily ethical ways. The “old man” refers to a lifestyle consistent with sin, but inconsistent with being in Christ, while the “new man” refers to a lifestyle (cf. “to walk” in 4:17) consistent with being in Christ and truth. We do note, however, that positional truth about the “new man” is spoken of briefly in 4:24 where Paul says the new man “has been created according to God,” referring to a definitive event in the past (probably at conversion). Note also that as the “new man” here is primarily ethical, so community or a corporate focus must remain inherent in the idea for there has to be some context for the living out of the “new man.”

Colossians 3:9-10


3:9 mhV yeuvdesqe eij" ajllhvlou", ajpekdusavmenoi toVn palaioVn a[nqrwpon suVn tai'" pravxesin aujtou' 3:10 kaiV ejndusavmenoi toVn nevon toVn ajnakainouvmenon eij" ejpivgnwsin kat* eijkovna tou' ktivsanto" aujtovn, 3:11 o{pou oujk e[ni {Ellhn kaiV jIoudai'o", peritomhV kaiV ajkrobustiva, bavrbaro", Skuvqh", dou'lo", ejleuvqero", ajllaV [taV] pavnta kaiV ejn pa'sin Cristov".

    New English Translation (NET Bible)

3:9 Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 3:10 and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. 3:11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.


Colossians 3:9-11 is clearly set in an ethical context, not altogether unlike that of Ephesians 4. In Colossians 3:1 Paul reminds his readers that they have been raised with Christ, and therefore should seek things above and set their minds on things above, not on earthly things. Since they have died with Christ, they are put to death “whatever in their nature belongs to the earth” (3:5), referring to such things as sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passions, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. The Colossian believers are to put off all such things commensurate with their former life (3:7)—e.g., evil such as anger, rage, malice…lying, etc. (3:8-9a).

The reason the Colossian believers are to do this is because they have put off “the old man” and have been clothed with “the new [man].” The adverbial aorist participles put off (ajpekdusavmenoi, apekdusamenoi) and clothed (ejndusavmenoi, endusamenoi) are clearly causal giving the rationale for the call to a new lifestyle.24 They have put off the old man and have been clothed with the new at conversion. Again, the ethical language of exchanging garments is used and God is the ultimate agent in bringing this about.

The “new man” in Colossians 3:10-11 is definitely corporate in nature and refers to the new community in which all racial distinctions are dissolved.25 It is a social structure where (o{pou, hopou) there is “neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.” Therefore, to “have been clothed with the new man” is to have been brought into a new community in a totally new sphere of existence and to have put on new clothing (i.e., a new way of conducting oneself in relationships) fit for the new community. The old man, then, by contrast, is the community still under its old head Adam, i.e., all those in him wherein the image of God is effaced, and the old clothing of sinful deeds is worn by all.

In the new community in which Christ dwells in all, however, the image of God is being renewed. Paul does not say here that all are “in Christ,” but rather that Christ is “in all.” This is because his focus is on the image of God developed by the indwelling Christ, not the position of believers (though both are true). The expression “image of God” refers to Christ himself so that the renewal involves progressive conformation in the pattern of Christ himself as head of the “new man/new humanity” (Col. 1:15; Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49; 2 Cor 4:4; Phil 2:6).26 In short, the new community is designed to express the image of God in human relationships and structures and the central reality for the “new man” is that Christ is in all! 27

Thus the “new man” in Colossians 3:10 is not something inside an individual, but rather the new community in Christ, the church, and together we reflect the image of God. It is for this reason, since we are the new man corporately, that we are not to live like we once did. Bock explains:

What this means is that the ‘new man,’ made up of peoples, refers to a social structure or community, not to an entity inside an individual…In other words, it is Christ conceived of as a corporate entity, that is Christ’s body…This means that the ‘old man’ is also a community that has certain practices associated with it. This would be the community of the world outside of Christ…The existence of this new community [the church] is why Paul said Christians should not lie and why they should put to death the practices of the old world they shed (like clothes) when they came to Christ.28

Theological Conclusions

So what are some conclusions that can be drawn from these passages. The first thing that can be said is that the “old man” refers to people in solidarity with Adam under the old age of sin, death, and judgment. It is corporate in focus.

Second, since it is corporate and relational in focus it should probably not be translated using the word “self” since this is too narrow and individualistic in its focus.29

Third, we saw that in every passage the expression “old man” is relational in character. Therefore, it should not be viewed as a synonym for fallen human “flesh” (cf. Rom 7:18; savrx, sarx). When reading the Scriptures, Christians should not view it as pointing directly to some immaterial aspect of man as a sinful human being. Thus, “sinful nature” is also a misleading translation. Again, the “old man” refers to fallen people in community “in Adam.” To read it individualistically as the “flesh” or “sinful nature” robs it off its corporate focus and a great insight to us as relational creatures is obscured. The best translation of ho palaios anthropos is probably “old man” or “old community” with a note explaining its corporate sense.

Fourth, the crucifixion of the “old man” refers to a definitive break with the past in Adam and is something God reckons to be true of us. The sinner is separated from the community of Adam and the relationships that exist there. But, there is also the sense in which the believer, having been decisively removed from that community is not to live as if he still belonged there. Thus the “old man” must be continually put off as well. We will say more about this below under our brief discussion of the “now/not-yet.”

There are some things we need to say about the “new man” as well. First, like “old man,” it too is corporate in focus. This is made clear in Ephesians 2:15 and Colossians 3:10-11. Here the new man is synonymous with the church—a sphere of existence in Christ, in which there are no racial boundaries and no divisions. It is not our new regenerate nature spoken of in Titus 3:5.

Second, there is a concomitant ethic in the new man/community. We are to live at peace and there is to be no sin in the “new man” in which we are being renewed according to the pattern of Christ himself.

Third, given the use of the “new man” concept in Ephesians 2:15; 4:24 and Colossians 3:10-11, the best translation of ho kainos anthropos is “new man” or “new community” with a note explaining its relational focus.

The last thing we want to say about the “old man” and the “new man” is that there is an eschatological tension involved in Paul’s use of the concept. What we mean by “eschatological tension” is that there is a sense in which Christians have been completely and decisively brought into this new community, but another sense in which we are still trying to escape the old community. We live in the “now” of God’s saving purposes, but there is a “not-yet”—there is more to come! This “configuration” of things will exist until God perfects us (i.e., the new man) in heaven. Therefore, when the Bible says we have put off the “old man,” it does not mean that we will exist in perfectly sinless relationships in this life. And, when it says to put on the “new man” it does not mean that living faithfully in the new community depends totally on us. All our efforts by faith are dependant on the antecedent work of God! For our part, we live at the crossroads of repentance and faith.

1 The New English Translation. Available at

2 New American Bible

3 The Message is difficult to analyze against the Greek text since it is so periphrastic.

4 The Revised English Bible

5 New Living Translation

6 David S. Dockery, “New Nature and Old Nature,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 628.

7 The adjective is substantized through the presence of the article. Thus toVn nevon means “the new man” in contrast to “the old man.”

8 The other term, namely, kainos may invoke covenantal images for Paul (cf. 2 Cor 3:6; 5:17)

9 The introductory term knowing (ginwvskonte", ginoskontes) refers not to experiential knowledge per se, but rather to a fact which Paul introduces in order to advance the argument that Christians shall live in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection (v. 5). It is a doctrine which his readers ought to have known, but may not have understood the implications thereof. See John Murray, Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 219; cf. James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word, 1988), 1:318; contra Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1886; reprint: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950).

10 The pronoun this (tou'to, touto) refers to what follows in the sentence, namely, to the fact of our co-crucifixion with Christ. As we suggested above, this may have been a teaching with which the Roman church was familiar, but Moo is correct to point out that the “with Christ” language (see the suvn [“with”] prefix on the verbs in vv. 4, 5, 6, 8) at least implies that Paul has his own version of it. Cf. Douglas Moo, Romans 1-8, Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, ed. Kenneth Barker (Chicago: Moody, 1991), 389.

11 John R. W. Stott, Men Made New: An Exposition of Romans 5-8 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966), 45: “This is the crucifixion of our ‘old man’ (AV) or our ‘old self’. What is this ‘old self’? Is it not the old nature. How can it be if the ‘body of sin’ means the old nature? The two expressions cannot mean the same thing or the verse makes nonsense. No. The ‘old self’ denotes, not our old unregenerate nature, but our old unregenerate life—what the NEB calls ‘the man we once were.’ Not my lower self, but my former self. So what was crucified with Christ was not a part of us called our old nature, but the whole of us as we were before we were converted. My ‘old self’ is my pre-conversion life, my unregenerate self. This should be plain because is in this chapter the phrase ‘our old self was crucified’ (verse 6) is equivalent to ‘we…died to sin (verse 2).”

12 Cf. Dunn, Romans, 1.319-20, who says, “Every time sw~ma [soma] appears in Paul modern readers need to be reminded that it does not denote the physical body as such, rather a fuller reality which includes the physical but is not reducible to it. It is man embodied in a particular environment, the body being that which constitutes him as a social being, a being that relates to and communicates with his environment…Hence in our present case, ‘body of sin’ is not to be designated as a Gnostic disparagement of the [physical] body, but denotes man as belonging to the age ruled by sin.” See also L. J. Kreitzer, “Body,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 73.

13 G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), 134.

14 G. B. Caird, New Testament Theology, completed and ed. L. D. Hurst (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 144: “These two sentences make it plain that, when Paul says, ‘I have been crucified with Christ,’ (Gal 2:20; cf. Rom 6:6), he is not referring to his conversion or to the subsequent experience which he variously describes as dying daily (1 Cor 15:31) or putting to death all that is earthly (Col. 3:5), but to an event which happened at Golgotha long before he himself was aware of it.”

15 The theme of 5:12-21 may be simply stated as: “Death through Adam, life through Christ.” The structure of Romans 5:12-21 is effected through an Adam-Christ typology where Paul is contrasting the effects of each man’s act, whether of disobedience in the case of Adam, resulting in death for all those connected to him, or obedience in the case of Christ, resulting in life for all those connected to him. Both men stand as representative heads of two different humanities. Adam represents sin and death and all that is under the old (former) order of sin (cf. Rev. 21:3-4). Christ, as the last Adam (cf. 1 Cor 15:21-22), stands as the new head over a new humanity connected to him by faith—a new era of existence for people in which righteousness and life reign.

16 L. J. Kreitzer, “Adam and Christ,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 11. Kreitzer suggests that “we could even summarize Paul’s understanding of Christian redemption as the transition from being ‘in Adam’ to being ‘in Christ’ as the saving movement from one sphere of life, one realm of existence, to another.”

17 George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, rev. ed., ed. Donald Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 516, 568. “Indicative” refers to what God has done for the believer and “imperative” refers to the reasonable response urged on the believer in light of the indicative.

18 What we mean is this: After Paul has shown that Christ has completely overturned the effects of Adam’s sin in 5:12-21, he does not ask, “Shall we remain in sin” as if to ask a question of positional fact. He is asking whether, in light of Christ’s work, we should continue in sin.

19 Gentiles were foreigners to the covenants, but now participate in them and thus were always regarded by God as fulfillment of those promises.

20 William Hendrickson, Galatians and Ephesians, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967), 135; pace Markus Barth, Ephesians, The Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman, vol. 34 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974), 309, who argues that the translation “one new humanity” is not to be recommended because it gives rise to the notion that out of two old things God made a new thing. Insofar as “humanity” connotes a thing, we agree, but feel that it need not do so. It is, therefore, acceptable. We do, however, agree that translations such as “one new nature” (J. Moffatt; RSV on 4:24) and “one new personality” are to be rejected, but not because they represent things as such, but rather because they denote an excessive individualism which obscures the corporate focus in the passage. A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 40, is also too individualistic when he says, “the Christian is no hybrid, but a new creation.”

21 Andrew Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, vol. 42 (Dallas: Word, 1990), 143-44.

22 Cf. Hendrickson, Ephesians, 215; Lincoln, Ephesians, 285.

23 See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 605.

24 It is highly unlikely that these participles are imperatival as some have contended, since this usage is rare and ought to be avoided if the participles can reasonably be seen to be connected to a finite verb. This is the case here. They express the cause for the action of the finite controlling verb, do not lie (mhV yeuvdesqe, me pseudesthe).

25 Cf. Curtis Vaughan, “Colossians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 213-14.

26 Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, vol. 44 (Waco: Word, 1982), 191.

27 The allusion to Genesis 1:27 in 3:10 is unmistakable and thus the corporate associations with Adam and his posterity, and Christ and His, rise to the surface (see Romans 6:6). Adam stands as the representative head of the old man—i.e., the world “in Adam.” Christ stands as the representative head of the new man—i.e., believers “in Christ.”

28 Darrell L. Bock, “The ‘New Man’ as Community in Colossians and Ephesians,” in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell, ed. Charles H. Dyer and Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 159-60.

29 Dockery, “New Nature and Old Nature,” 628.

Related Topics: Sanctification

Introduction to Maturity

It should be stressed at the outset that this subject is being addressed, not because this writer sees himself as the perfect example of a Christian leader or of maturity, but because this is one of the most lacking elements in the church today, and because the qualities of spiritual maturity are so determinative to the life of the church and society as a whole. This series of studies was originally developed because I recognized the need of these qualities in my own life and ministry as one in a position of leadership as a pastor or teaching elder and leader of men.

These studies were developed in a team training environment where men were being trained for their role as church leaders, as fathers, and as effective members of a society that desperately needs to see what authentic, biblical Christianity looks like. One of the motivations for this was a series of tapes I purchased called, Motivation/Leadership, by one of my former teachers at Dallas Seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks. One of the tapes was titled, “Characteristics of a Christian Leader.” And, as the title of the tape suggests, this was tremendously motivational to me and moved me to develop a series of studies on this very subject.

The qualities that should characterize Christian leaders are also the marks of spiritual maturity as described in the Bible. While all of the qualities that will be discussed in this series are not unique to Christianity and are often promoted and taught in the secular world, many of them are, by their very nature, distinctive to the Bible or biblical Christianity. Thus, the characteristics that should mark out a Christian leader are also the marks of biblical maturity which are in essence the product of true spirituality. In fact, biblical spirituality can be described by the term maturity since Christian maturity is the result of growth produced by the ministry of the Spirit in the light of the Word over time.1 It is this biblical/spiritual element, at least in part, that makes the marks of Christian leadership distinctively Christian.

However, as we consider these marks of maturity, we are confronted with the reality that they are qualities that should be found in the life of every believer—man or woman. So let it be emphasized that this study has application to all of us regardless of our particular roles in the church or in society. As members of the body of Christ, we are all potential leaders to some degree whether a husband or wife, a father or mother, or a fellow worker in an office. As Christian men and women, we have a leadership role as we seek to lead others to Christ and as we seek to function as salt and light within society. For men or women these are qualities which will enhance their capacity as husbands or wives, as fathers or mothers, or as co-laborers in the gospel of Christ whether in ministries like AWANA, Sunday school, or in a home Bible study.

A Primary Objective Personally and Corporately

One of Paul’s primary personal goals and ministry objectives was to reach greater and greater levels of spiritual maturity and to see all Christians do the same. The goal of evangelism is never just seeing people come to Christ. Indeed, the primary command of the Great Commission is not evangelism, but making disciples. Making disciples naturally includes evangelism, but it goes far beyond that.2

That spiritual maturity was a major concern and a key objective of Paul and other writers of the New Testament epistles is clearly seen in the following passages (see Eph. 4:12f; Phil. 3:12f; Col. 1:28; 4:12; 1 Cor. 2:6, 16f; Jam. 1:2; Rom. 8:28-29; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).

One of the key Greek words used here is teleios, “having attained the end, purpose, complete, perfect.” It was used of a full-grown, mature adult. A comparison of Hebrews 5:13 with 14 and 1 Corinthians 2:6 with 3:1 we find an instructive contrast. Teleios, “mature,” is contrasted with the word for “babe,” nepios in both of these passages. Thus, in a spiritual sense, teleios speaks of one who is fully developed, spiritually mature according to the spiritual qualities detailed in the New Testament.

Thus, spiritual growth and greater and greater levels of maturity are key objectives of Scripture and a key responsibility for church leaders (Eph. 4:11f) and for individuals to be concerned about in their own lives (1 Pet. 2:2; Jam. 1:2f).

The Agents God Uses for Growth

Growth and maturity do not occur by naturally. The babe in Christ requires sound and consistent ‘spiritual pediatrics’ and there are certain agents God uses to bring about spiritual growth to bring us to deeper and deeper maturity in Christ:

    1. The Word is obviously a key and necessary element for spiritual growth (1 Pet. 1:23-2:3; 2 Pet. 1:3-4; 3:18; John 17:17). In John 17:17 the Lord prayed for the church and said, “sanctify them through your word, your word is truth.” The reference to “sanctify” or sanctification is fundamentally a synonym for growth and maturity and expresses the Lord’s objective for all believers.

    2. Church leaders (Eph. 4:11ff; 1 Thess. 5:12; Jam. 5:14).3

    3. The care and concern of the body of Christ as a whole (Eph. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:11ff).

    4. Suffering or the trials of life (Jam. 1:2-5; 1 Pet. 1:6; Ps. 119:67, 71, 75, 92)

    5. Last, but not least, the indwelling and teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:16f; 1 Cor. 2:6-3:4)

But What Does a Mature Christian Look Like?

One Who is Becoming Christ-like in Character (Eph. 4:13)

So, exactly what does a mature Christian look like? A mature Christian is a believer whose life begins to take on the character of Christ-likeness. But what exactly is that? What are the specific qualities that mark out a person as Christ-like? This is the focus and point of this study, but before we begin to consider some of these qualities, there are a number of other things that we want to cover as a foundation before actually defining and looking at the qualities of maturity.

Defining the Marks of Maturity

In general, how may we define the marks of spiritual maturity? These marks, as used in this study, involve three things:

(1) They are goals and provide us with a target for which every Christian should earnestly aim. Here are goals for which—if we mean business with Jesus Christ—we will strive like an athlete reaching for the tape at the finish line. In essence this should encompass part of our purpose for living because as these marks are realized, we will also be attaining other goals God has for our lives.

As we have seen, spiritual growth and maturity are important themes of the New Testament, but there are two passages which approach spiritual growth and maturity from the standpoint of goals or targets for which we should aim.

    Philippians 3:12-16

12 Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which I also was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: forgetting the things behind and reaching out for the things ahead, 14 with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways. 16 Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained (Phil. 3:12-16).

In this passage the apostle describes his constant striving for growth toward spiritual perfection (spiritual maturity), and though we never arrive at total maturity as long as we are in this earthly body, this pursuit is presented as a goal (skopos, “a goal, a mark on which to fix the eye”). To stress his earnestness in this pursuit, the apostle used two picturesque words. The first is seen in 3:12 with the term “strive.” This is the Greek dioko, which means “to run after, pursue, hasten toward,” and so, “strive for, seek after.” The other word is found in verse 13, “reaching out.” This is the Greek ep-ek-teinomai, a triple compound word used in the middle voice which literally means, “to stretch oneself out toward something.” The metaphor behind the words used here is that of a foot race probably drawn from the Isthmian games of ancient Greece. The terms used portray a runner bent forward with his body and his hands outstretched toward the goal with his eye fastened on reaching it.

    1 Timothy 1:3-6

3 As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, 4 nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. These promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith. 5 But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion (1 Timothy 1:3-6).

Here we again see the idea of a goal, but verse 6 approaches this from a negative standpoint by showing what happens when one fails to keep focused on the right goals or aim. “But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion” (1 Tim. 1:5-6).

As a Christian leader, Timothy was charged with the responsibility to instruct the false teachers he was facing in Ephesus against being occupied with what amounts to man’s religious and futile speculations. Two reasons are given:

The first reason is that such speculations are useless and fail to promote the administration of God. This refers to God’s redemptive plan which includes spiritual growth and maturity which is by faith in the truth of the gospel, the Word (vs. 4).

But the second reason is a gross failure to both understand and pursue biblical goals. The goals mentioned in this text are two-fold: (a) that which promotes God’s redemptive plan or the stewardship of promoting the message of Christ and (b) that which is to be the result of accurate biblical teaching—authentic Christian (agape) love.

In relation to this aim, Paul asserts that these false teachers had strayed. In verse 6, “have strayed” is astocheo, “to fail to aim carefully,” and so, “to miss the mark.” Not only must we have biblical goals, but we need to stay focused on them, like a runner focusing and stretching toward the finish line. One of the greatest dangers we all face is that of failing to stay alert and focused on biblical goals. It is too easy to become sidetracked by the varied problems of life and by the allurements of the world.

(2) The marks of maturity are also marks of identification and confirmation. They identify and confirm the reality of Christ in one’s life. As such, they make us people marked with the brand of Christ emblazoned across our lives. Again, it should be stressed that no one ever totally arrives here; there will always be room for growth, so these are things that we must ever keep in focus (cf. 2 Pet. 1:12-15). Today, the church has, to a very large degree, lost its distinctiveness. It’s often very hard to tell believers from unbelievers from the standpoint of their character, values, priorities, and pursuits.

(3) As marks of identification and confirmation, they make the possessor of these qualities an example, a pattern to follow. These qualities demonstrate the reality of Christ and make believers truly influential in the right way. So one of the great goals and products of aiming at the marks of maturity is that these marks enable Christians to become examples of the Christian life and of the life-changing power that is available in the person and work of Jesus Christ. All Christians, but especially those involved in roles of leadership, must come to recognize that God has called them to become models of Christ-likeness. More will be said on this issue below.

1 See the article by Charles C. Ryrie, Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 126:503, July 69.

2 There is only one main verb in this verse, “make disciples” (matheteusate, an aorist imperative of matheteuo, “be or become a disciple,” “make a disciple, teach.” “Go…baptizing…teaching” are all participles. The first participle fits all the characteristics of an attendant circumstance participle which gets its mood from the main verb that follows. It has an imperatival emphasis, but the fact Jesus used the participle shows his main emphasis is on making disciples. The following participles, “baptizing…teaching” are adverbial participles of means and tell us how we are to make disciple, by baptizing (this includes evangelism) and by teaching. For a detailed explanation, see Daniel Wallace’s B. Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1996, pp. 640-645.

3 James 5:14 is used here because there is good evidence that this passage may refer not to physical sickness, but to those who are spiritually weak and need the encouragement, edification, and help of church leaders in their growth and victory over sin. For a detailed explanation of this view, see Daniel R. Hayden’s article in Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 138, # 551, July 1981, pp. 258f.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership

The Nature of Maturity as the Product of Spirituality

While this has already been briefly mentioned, the relationship of maturity to spirituality is important enough to warrant elaboration. Unless one recognizes the elements of spirituality and their role in biblical maturity, many of the qualities listed below will be sought by people in their own energy or strength. The result will not be true spirituality or maturity, but rather human reformation (see Luke 11:23-26 and Col. 2:20-23).4 As I hope the next point will make clear, many of these mature qualities which are also qualities of biblical leadership are unique because of the element of biblical spirituality and its role in bringing about Christ-like change and maturity. Biblical spirituality involves four distinct factors.5

(1) Biblical spirituality that leads to maturity first involves regeneration, being born anew by the Spirit of God through faith in the person and work of Christ. By the new birth, one is brought into a vital relationship with God. This new spiritual life provides the necessary spiritual foundation and spiritual equipment (a new nature, the indwelling Holy Spirit, united to Christ, etc.) for spiritual growth and change (see Eph. 1:15-19; 3:16-19; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; Jam. 1:18-21; 1 Pet. 1:22-2:3). In 1 Peter 1:23-2:2, Peter makes it clear that the new birth is foundational and necessary for spiritual growth to occur. Based on the reality of their conversion or their spiritual regeneration, Peter appeals to the expression of fervent love for one another. This regeneration purified their souls, it brought forgiveness of sin and a new spiritual nature or inner person, one with capacity to know and fellowship with God. However, this was the work of the living and abiding Word of God (vs. 23). So in this passage we are shown the vital role of the Word of God in both instances. This naturally leads to the next vital element in biblical spirituality so needed in Christ-like change, which Peter quickly moved to in 1 Peter 2:2, “…like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (spiritual grow and change).

(2) Biblical spirituality that leads to biblical maturity is also the result of biblical wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit and the study of the Word. It is this biblical wisdom that gives spiritual discernment because God’s Word enlightens the believer’s understanding with the spiritual principles and the moral directives of the mind of Christ to guide his or her life (see Col. 1:9, 28; 2:6-7; 1 Pet. 2:1-2; Ps. 119:105, 129-130). This is also evident from Paul’s comments about the spiritual man in 1 Corinthians 2:15-3:3. There he says, “the one who is spiritual discerns all things.” While some see the phrase “the one who is spiritual” (pneumatikos, “pertaining to the spirit, spiritual,” or “of that which belongs to or is activated by the divine Spirit.”)6 to simply refer to one who is saved in contrast to the purely soulish, unregenerate person (vs. 14), the context supports a different understanding of the word spiritual. The apostle is talking about a person who, through the control and teaching ministry of the Spirit, has grown beyond the basic ABCs of the milk of the Word (cf. 3:1-3) and is thus able to discern all things. Just being saved does not give one the capacity to have this kind of broad discernment. Such discernment is the product of spiritual growth in the knowledge and application of the Scripture which requires time (cf. Heb. 11:11-14).

(3) Biblical spirituality that leads to maturity involves the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. We hear a great deal today from the secular world about spirituality using such terms as “getting in touch with your spirit” or “getting in touch with a higher power,” but this is New Age thinking and is actually a part of Satan’s deceptions and false doctrine that seeks to promote human reformation in seeking to get man to become like gods himself. Satan’s methods always bypass the person and work of Christ. Biblical spirituality is the work of the Holy Spirit who comes to indwell every believer and only the believer in Jesus Christ at the moment of faith in Christ. Thus, the Holy Spirit is a prominent member of the Godhead who is involved in producing spirituality in every believer in Christ. As Ryrie comments,

This is not to say that the other persons of the Godhead do not have their particular work in this, nor that the believer himself has no responsibility, nor that there are not other means of grace; but it is to affirm His major role in spirituality. The ministries of the Spirit involve teaching (John 16:12-15), guiding (Rom 8:14), assuring (Rom 8:16), praying (Rom 8:26), the exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7), warring against the flesh (Gal 5:17), and all of these depend for their full manifestation on the filling of the Spirit (Eph 5:18). 7

Believers are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) and to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), which means to be controlled, led, and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit.8

(4) Biblical spirituality that leads to maturity involves time—time to grow and mature in one’s walk with the Savior.

If the spiritual person judges or examines or discerns all things (1 Cor. 2:15), this must involve time in order to gain knowledge and to acquire experience for discerning all things.… This could not be accomplished overnight; it is something which is true only of a mature Christian.

In that word maturity I think we have the key to the concept of spirituality, for Christian maturity is the growth which the Holy Spirit produces over a period of time in the believer. To be sure, the same amount of time is not required for each individual, but some time is necessary for all. It is not the time itself which is determinative of maturity; rather it is the progress made and growth achieved which is all-important. Rate multiplied by time equals distance, so that the distance to maturity may be covered in a shorter time if the rate of growth is accelerated. And it will be accelerated if none of the control which ought to be given to the Holy Spirit is retained by self.

Here is a proposed definition of spirituality which attempts to be concise and at the same time to keep these above-discussed factors in mind. Spiritually is a mature and maturing relation to the Holy Spirit. While this may simply be another way of saying that spirituality is Christian maturity, it tries to delineate more openly the factors of Spirit-control over a period of time. Certainly the definition satisfies the requirements of the description of a spiritual man in 1 Corinthians 2:15, for one who is experiencing a grown-up relation to the Holy Spirit will be able to discern all things and at the same time not be understood by others.9

The biblical characteristics needed in a Christian leader are only found in one who has reached a certain degree of maturity in Christ. It is no wonder that the apostle, when discussing the qualifications of elders in 1 Timothy 3, warned against choosing a recent convert (3:6). But the fact still remains,

Even though a Christian is mature, there is always room for further development… Spiritual maturity does not mean there is a cessation of spiritual growth. Full grown people develop in physical prowess; emotionally mature individuals grow emotionally; and the mentally mature expand intellectually. So it is in the spiritual life. Because of his discernment, a Christian may be considered to be spiritual, but he is never to cease his spiritual development. As Paul said: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14).10

4 The point of this story is that change brought about through any human means (like Jewish exorcism or human reformation) will fail. The only kind of change that is truly effective is through faith in Christ and growth in His life. The key is that there has been not faith in Christ which means the Holy Spirit has not come to indwell. If an exorcism or some other kind of human reformation occurs and there is no response to God through Jesus Christ, then the way is free for the demon to return or worldly patterns to dominate again.

5 This material is adapted from “What is Spirituality?” by Charles Ryrie, Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 126:503, July 69, Theological Journal Library CD, Galaxie Software.

6 Walter Bauer, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Fredrick W. Danker, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979, electronic media and G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, T. & T. Clark, 1973, p. 368.

7 Ryrie, Theological Electronic Library, Galaxie Software.

8 For more detail on this issue, see Part 2, Lessons 4 and 5 in the ABCs of Christian Growth: Laying the Foundation on our web site at /docs/splife/abc/toc.htm.

9 Ryrie, Theological Electronic Library, Galaxie Software.

10 Stanley D. Toussaint, “The Spiritual Man,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 125:498, April-June 1968, Theological Electronic Library, Galaxie Software.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life

The Distinctives of Christian Maturity and Leadership

Before actually considering the qualities that should characterize mature Christian and Christian leadership, it would be well to consider its uniqueness. It is hoped that in doing so it will focus us on the supernatural element involved and how Christian maturity and leadership is to find its source in a personal relationship with the living Christ through the Holy Spirit and in the light of the special revelation of God, the Holy Bible. The following is a summary of six distinctives.11

(1) Christian maturity and leadership is distinct because of the nature of a leader’s position as a servant, as opposed to the viewpoint of the secular world. Christ spoke emphatically of this on a couple of occasions (see Luke 22:24-27; Mark 10:35-45). Further, regardless of one’s position in the home or the church, the biblical principle is that there is only one who is “number one,” and that is Christ Himself. It is He who is to be preeminent in the life of the church (cf. John 13:13; Col. 1:18 with 3 John 9-11). Submission to Christ’s authority and leadership is one of the hallmarks of leadership.

(2) Christian maturity and leadership is distinct because of the nature of its character requirements. While the secular and corporate world may speak of the need of moral character, it will lack certain qualities of character that are strictly Christian in nature like submission to the Lordship of Christ, complete trust in the tenets of Scripture, and those characteristics listed in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:7-9.

(3) Christian maturity and leadership is distinctive as to its source. In Scripture, the special ability to be a Christian leader is explicitly declared to be the product of the gift of the Spirit. While all Christians have a responsibility to lead in certain capacities—as parents, Sunday teachers, and as members of society—the Holy Spirit, the giver of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7), gives a special gift of leadership as described in Romans 12:6-8.

12:6 And we have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. 12:7 If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; 12:8 if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness. (emphasis mine).

Leadership is a gift sovereignly bestowed by the Holy Spirit, as with all spiritual gifts, at the point of salvation when a person is joined to the body of Christ by the baptizing work of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13). This gifting of the Spirit equips each believer for service in the body. For some, this involves the gift of leadership.

Human beings can neither choose their gifts, take credit for their gifts, nor assume that their gifts make them superior people. “Gifts are shared out among Christians; all do not receive the same gifts but all the gifts come from the Spirit, so that there is no room for rivalry, discontent, or a feeling of superiority.”12 The fact that the Holy Spirit is the source of leadership capacity and that leaders are chosen sovereignly by Him produces freedom from pride and arrogance among those who are responsive to Him.

The gift of leadership is not a matter of a certain personality type. Peter was a leader by virtue of personal strength (Acts 4:8–12), James by virtue of practical wisdom (Acts 15:12–21), Paul by virtue of intellectual capacity (as seen in his sermons and epistles), Timothy by virtue of sacrificial service (Phil 2:19–21), and John by virtue of his heart for God and man (as seen in his writings). All these leaders shared all these virtues, but each of them had a distinct personality strength that uniquely marked him. This demonstrates the fact that leadership is not a matter of human personality but of divine sovereignty. Just as the Spirit’s gifts are not reserved for a few outstanding people13 so the Spirit’s gift of leadership is not reserved for a particular kind of personality.

The gift of leadership is discovered and developed in the same way as other spiritual gifts, that is, through life experience, training, and the maturing process. Even though it is the product of the Spirit’s presence and God’s grace, this gift requires diligence, faithfulness, hard work, and commitment if it is to be exercised effectively.14

(4) Christian maturity and leadership is distinct as to its enablement. The Christian character required to be a godly leader, biblically speaking, has its source in a personal abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. It is to be the product of a Word-filled, Spirit-filled (controlled) life (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18) that results in the Christ-exchanged life. Writing to those who were seeking sanctification by law or legalism, Paul wrote,

2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 2:21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:20-21).

Leadership requires great wisdom and strength and endurance, but the Christian leader can always count on the presence and provision of the Spirit of God along with the abiding presence of the Savior.

Christians who possess this gift may exercise it in secular settings such as business, politics, or education, but non-Christian leaders in those areas cannot claim the Spirit’s power. This truth is one of the most unique elements in Christian leadership. Christian leaders have many things in common with non-Christian leaders: both must provide vision for their followers; both must earn the trust of their followers; both must communicate to their followers; both must use their abilities effectively in providing leadership.15 But only Christian leaders can count on the Holy Spirit to accomplish their purpose of affecting and changing others in the spiritual realm. The Spirit’s power will not make their leadership perfect,16 but it will guide them in a model of growing Christian maturity as well as enable them to have a spiritual impact that cannot be had in any other way or by any other kind of leader.17

(5) Christian maturity and leadership is distinctive as to its ambition and motivation. An ambition is a strong desire to accomplish something or reach a specific goal. The difference between a worldly or godly ambition is the nature of the ambition (fame, power, prestige, position, effective service, God’s glory, etc.) and the motives behind the ambition. In 1 Timothy 3:1, the apostle wrote, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine ( kalos, “beautiful, useful, noble, praise worthy, advantageous, etc.) work he desires ( epithumeo, “set one’s heart on, long for, desire”) to do” (emphasis mine). This aspiration (ambition) to be an elder, a position of leadership and responsibility in the church, is a desire for a fine, noble, or godly work. But the apostle defined this as a “fine work.” This takes the focus off the idea of position and places it on the function or responsibility that goes with the job. But as noble as it may be, if one’s motives are wrong (i.e., for prestige, to build up a sagging ego, for power and control over others rather than sacrificial servanthood, etc.), then the ambition becomes tainted and wrong. For a classic illustration of a good ambition that became tainted by selfish motives, compare Mark 10:35-45 and Luke 22:24-30.

Nothing could be uglier than the attitudes found here. But nothing could be more surprising than Christ’s response to these attitudes; He did not attack them for being ambitious, nor did He reject them for having drive and desire. Instead He redefined ambition and turned it into service for others without taking away any of its drive for achievement. Ambition is transformed into a humility directed toward serving others rather than a proud serving of self. Ambition is redefined from self-service to self-sacrifice (Mark 10:43–45), and included in this is instruction in how to be first. It is accomplished through the holy ambition of slavery in accord with the model of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He demonstrated ambition at its best as the One who willingly sacrificed Himself for the sake of others.18

Selfish motives (for dominance, personal agendas, control, praise, prestige), that do not truly spring from Spirit-produced love, lead to some of the most destructive behaviors in the body of Christ. Thus, a true mark of maturity that is needed in Christian leaders is purity of motives as is modeled for us in the life and ministry of Paul and his associates (see 1 Thess. 2:1ff).

(6) Christian maturity and leadership is distinctive as to its authority. A Christian leader’s authority comes from Christ, but in his responsibility as a leader, he is a servant in a two-fold way. (a) He is a servant of Christ and operates under the authority and leadership of Christ. Christ is the head of the church, the Chief Shepherd, and the One who is always to be preeminent and in charge. Christian leaders have no authority in themselves. (b) The Christian leader is to function as a servant to those he leads. This is beautifully expressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:5 “For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves [ doulos, “bond servants”] for Jesus’ sake.”

In the context of the nature of Christian maturity and the distinctiveness of Christian leadership, certain qualities have been briefly touched on like the leader as a model, the source of enablement, and the servant concept. Now a more detailed discussion will follow concerning the marks of spiritual maturity which are naturally also the marks or characteristics of Christian leadership.

11 For a full treatment of each of these disctinctives, see the article by William D. Lawrence in Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 144:575, July 1987, pp. 318f. Lawrence lists seven, but I have combined two of these because they are related so closely to each other. Also, where his focus is just on Christian leadership, I have included the concept of maturity in these distinctives.

12 Lawrence, quoting Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (New York: Harper & Row, 1985), p. 5.

13 Lawrence, taken from Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958, p. 170.

14 William D. Lawrence, Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 144:575, July 1987, pp. 320-321.

15 Lawrence, for a secular discussion of these elements see Bennis and Nanus, Leaders, pp. 19–86; for such thinking from a Christian perspective see Fred Smith, Learning to Lead (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1986), pp. 32–44.

16 Lawrence, taken from Sanders, Paul the Leader, p. 41.

17 Lawrence, pp. 321-322.

18 Lawrence, pp. 323-24.

Appendix: Discussion Questions for Marks of Maturity

MEN 7/52 is a men's ministry of  Our desire is to see all men become true followers of Jesus Christ 7 days a week/52 weeks a year.

These studies were developed in a team training environment where men were being trained for their role as church leaders, as fathers, and as effective members of a society that desperately needs to see what authentic, biblical Christianity looks like. So, exactly what does a mature Christian look like? A mature Christian is a believer whose life begins to take on the character of Christ-likeness. But what exactly is that? What are the specific qualities that mark out a person as Christ-like? This is the focus and point of this study.

The qualities that should characterize Christian leaders are also the marks of spiritual maturity as described in the Bible. While all of the qualities that will be discussed in this series are not unique to Christianity and are often promoted and taught in the secular world, many of them are, by their very nature, distinctive to the Bible or biblical Christianity. Thus, the characteristics that should mark out a Christian leader are also the marks of biblical maturity which are in essence the product of true spirituality. In fact, biblical spirituality can be described by the term maturity since Christian maturity is the result of growth produced by the ministry of the Spirit in the light of the Word over time. It is this biblical/spiritual element, at least in part, that makes the marks of Christian leadership distinctively Christian.

Session 1

Introduction (pg. 1 – 3)

1. What three elements are necessary to achieve spiritual maturity?

2. What was one of Paul’s primary personal goals?

3. How is the goal of evangelism described?

4. What are the five agents God uses for growth?

5. Describe the three defining marks of maturity.

6. In Philippians 3:12-16, Paul describes his constant pursuit of growth toward spiritual perfection. Please describe your pursuit of growth toward spiritual perfection and share with the group your successes and failures.

The Nature of Maturity as the Product of Spirituality (pg. 4 – 5)

1. List the four factors involved in biblical spirituality and describe them in your own words.

2. Which of these factors is strongest in your spiritual growth? Which is weakest?

3. How has each of these factors impacted your spirituality growth?

The Distinctives of Christian Maturity and Leadership

1. List the six distinctives of Christian maturity and leadership and describe them in your own words.

2. Describe how your motivation and ambition impacts your role as a leader in your family, church, and community. What are some of the changes you need to make in your heart? Please share with the group.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership

Mark #1: An Example for Others to Imitate


With this first mark of maturity we come to a study of the qualities that describe what Christ-like maturity looks like. Since becoming Christ-like makes one an example to follow, we will begin here. A mature Christian is someone who is a model, a pacesetter; someone who influences others in positive ways according to biblical standards! Modeling Christian virtues, virtues of true spirituality, is crucial to effective ministry in the world. Without biblical and godly models we are cast into a restless sea that can only toss up refuse and mud (Isa. 57:20). William J. Bennett recently said, “We—all of us, but especially the young—need around us individuals who possess a certain nobility, a largeness of soul, and qualities of human experience worth imitating and striving for.”19

People can never be biblical leaders and truly mature until they come to realize that God has called them to be examples to others. As the Lord Jesus pointed out, “A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone when fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). In this context, the Lord was showing that one’s true spirituality, or godliness (or lack thereof) is revealed in our actions and that such actions will of necessity influence others either for good or for evil. Students, sons, daughters, and the flock, tend to emulate their leaders, parents, guardians, teachers, or heroes. The tendency is for us to shy away from this responsibility and reality, but in order to be truly mature and a leader, one must accept this as a reality of leadership.

Principles Related to Being Examples

In regard to being examples to others, it is helpful to consider the following principles:

(1) Being a godly example is not an option, it is commanded in Scripture. Several passages dealing with this issue will be considered later in this study.

(2) We have no choice in being an example of some kind and having an impact on those around us, but we do have a choice in the kind of witness and impact we provide. Someone is going to follow us and be influenced by us. The questions are: Do we know where we are going? Are we providing the kind of example that will enhance their lives, or are we like the blind leading the blind?

I think it was Professor Hendricks who said in his tapes on leadership, “I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “don’t follow me, I’m lost too.” That’s the state of the world and, unfortunately, of many well-meaning Christians. They are like the commercial pilot who told his passengers, “I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is we are lost, but the good news is we are making good time.”

Motion in itself does not mean direction. Activity in itself never means effectiveness. We can be like the cowboy who rushed into the coral, bridled and saddled his horse and rode off in all directions. We need quality lives with quality motion aimed in the right direction with specific, biblical objectives.

(3) We need Christian maturity that provides people with real honest-to-God examples of authentic Christ-like living. Effective ministry to others is often equated with such things as dynamic personalities, with talent, giftedness, training, enthusiasm, and with charisma. But these things alone are inadequate, as is so evident by the leadership we have seen in the top government positions in our country the last few years. Much more is needed. In the Bible, the qualities that lead to effective ministry are found in the elements of spiritual character, in the character of Christ reproduced in us by the ministry of the Spirit (see Eph. 4:12f.; Gal. 5:22ff).

In his unique style, Dr. Hendricks used to tell the story of a student who came to him with a problem. The interchange went something like this as I recall:

Student, “Hey Prof, I have a problem.”
Hendricks, “Yea, What’s your problem?”
Student, “Why did the Lord choose Judas?”
Hendricks, “Ah, that’s no problem. I have a bigger problem than that.”
Student, “Yea, what’s that?”
Hendricks, “Why did the Lord choose you? Why did the Lord choose me?”

His point was—look at the disciples. How would you like to launch a worldwide campaign with the likes of Peter and his compadres? Yet, with these common, average, uneducated men, the Lord launched a campaign that has spanned the globe and turned the world upside down.

Was this because of their unique and imaginative methodology? No! It was because these common men knew the Lord and began to experience His life and His qualities of godliness. He took common men and made them into great men who became spiritual leaders because they were experiencing Him through the power of the Spirit of God.

(4) Mature Christians and leaders have a responsibility to maintain a consistent example. This is a constant theme of the Bible. Other than the raw power of the Word itself, nothing is so determinative for spiritual change in the lives of others as one’s own example. This truth is strongly taught in 1 Thessalonians 2:1ff where Paul recalls his manner of life and that of his team to the Thessalonians.20

Problems We Face in Being Examples

(1) The problem of distinctiveness or manifesting biblical character. This relates to the issue of living so we truly show that what we are, our character, is distinctively the result of knowing and walking with Christ. But, sometimes what Christian are speaks so loudly that it completely turns people off or puts them in reverse. If our lives are not what they should be, others not only will not want to follow us, they will become repelled by what we are. When a Christian’s life is contrary to what he or she says, it indicates either we are unreal or what we advocate and believe isn’t true and doesn’t work.

(2) The problem of direction or the wrong example. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Some people will follow us. In this case, not so much in what we say, but in the way we live—in our priorities, values, and attitudes as well as our actions. If our lives are not what they should be, we become inverted examples who take people away from the Lord and the life He has called them to. I have heard, and perhaps you have also, of children who have said, “Daddy, if the President can lie, why can’t I?”

If we teach our children about the priority of the Lord, of loving others, of the Word, and the importance of assembling ourselves with others believer to worship, grow, and minister to others (Heb. 10:24-25), do we demonstrate the reality of this by following the right priorities ourselves? Or do we find every possible excuse to stay home? Do we consistently allow our family to engage in pursuits that keep us and our families away from church or fellowship with believers? This sets a model that says these other pursuits are more important than the Lord or the assembling together with the body of Christ for Bible Study, prayer, or worship. Actions speak so much louder than words!

Do we teach our children the principles of being on time, of doing all things decently and in order? Then are we consistently late? Do our children often miss Sunday school or church because we are so disorganized that we are unable to make it? Again, Actions speak so much louder than words!

(3) The problem of definition. By definition we mean giving a clear reason for the way we live or the clear distinctives of our lives. As Christians, if our lives are different, as they should be, and we never let others know why we are different, we may have still failed in being examples. “But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess” (1 Peter 3:15).

Passages on Being Examples

Because of the power of our example and the way one’s life either negatively or positively influences others, the Scripture repeatedly addresses this vital responsibility. Leaders and Christians as a whole are to be models for others to imitate. In truth, every believer’s life is to become a source of motivation and direction for others. We are to be a picture of reality, a proof that Jesus Christ saves and changes lives so we can become a powerful magnet that draws others to Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 and 1 Thessalonians 1:6

“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1)

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, when you received the message with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, despite great affliction” (1 Thess. 1:6),

I don’t know about you, but the idea of telling someone to be an imitator of me is scary. What a responsibility! You mean people are supposed to follow me? That’s right. That’s the way it works whether we like it or not. As this passage points out, the issue is who are WE following? Paul said “be imitators of me,” (i.e. follow me). But then he quickly added, “… just as I also am of Christ.”

Obviously then, the issue here and the key to leadership and spiritual maturity is not how great we are, but how much we are following Jesus Christ who is our supreme example. How much are we allowing Jesus Christ to be the Lord of our lives? Are we in hot pursuit of knowing and experiencing the life of Christ as was the apostle Paul?

The verb “be” is a present imperative of ginomai, “to become.” Again, it emphasizes this is not an option. It is a command. The present tense and the meaning of this verb reminds us this is a process, a target, a goal to set our sights on and pursue daily. None of us ever arrive—but it should be a daily goal. A key question is, “Are we aiming at the target?”

“Imitate” is mimetes and refers to one who mimics another. It is an active noun which brings out the concept of an active responsibility, but we should not let the word “mimic” fool us. This is not a superficial mimicry or a mere imitation. According to New Testament truth, this involves the process of reproduction. The Lord Jesus seeks to reproduce Himself in us as we appropriate His life by faith through the knowledge of the Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Christ-likeness is the direct and exclusive consequence of God’s activity in us. It is not the consequence of our capacity to imitate God, but the result of God’s capacity to reproduce Himself in us through the Holy Spirit as we learn His Word and learn to walk by faith.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Thess. 1:6). The teaching and example of the missionaries (though only for a few weeks) and the afflictions they faced plus the ever-present ministry of the Spirit were the tools God used to produce spiritual growth and changed lives. As mentioned, our word imitate may lead to the wrong impression. Christian imitation has nothing to do with outward conformity where someone merely copies the actions, mannerisms, or speech of another. The Greek word mimetes is from mimeomai, “to imitate, emulate, use as a model.” The main idea here is to follow someone as an ideal model or example. But, as the New Testament context makes clear, this is not merely a matter of external conformity, but change from the inside out by means of the Spirit and the application of biblical truth as seen in the life of the mature Christian model.

Hebrews 13:7

“Remember your leaders, who spoke God’s message to you; reflect on the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith.”

This verse teaches us that the secret to leading others flows out of the recognition by others of the rightness of the life of the leader. The leader’s life becomes the ‘proof of the pudding,’ as they say.

The word, “result” is the Greek ekbasin, which refers to the outcome or product of something. In this context, it is the manner of life of the leader which has made him an example. It refers to the manner of the lives of their leaders that had been centered in the Word and the walk of faith. This had a specific outcome—Christlikeness or godliness.

Note the word “considering.” This is anatheoreo, which means “to scan, look closely.” The basic root of the word means to look at something, not indifferently but purposefully, in order to arrive at a conclusion. In other words, people are going to be watching us and to a certain degree, the example of our lives will affect the conclusions at which they arrive, not only about us, but about Jesus Christ and Christianity. In this context in Hebrews 13, we should perhaps also note verse 17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work.” The willingness of people to follow and be persuaded greatly depends of the kind of examples we become.

Philippians 3:17-18

3:17 Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example. 3:18 For many live (about whom I often told you, and now say even with tears) as enemies of the cross of Christ.

In the context of this passage, one clear sign of maturity is the pursuit of holiness, a heart set on heavenly treasures and divine objectives (see 3:8-14, 19-20). We might note two things here: (a) the mature man (and there are varying degrees of maturity) will aim at letting go of the past and his previous pursuits and treasures, and he will set his sight on reaching forth to the goal of growth in Christ-likeness. (b) If he thinks he has already arrived, or if his standards are different, then God will seek to expose this error in his life because anything else is contrary to the purpose of God.

In this pursuit, one must have his course fixed on the right beacon or have his radio tuned in to the right frequency, or he will arrive at the wrong destination. In other words he needs the right example and standard. He needs those who stir him on to higher and higher standards.

In this believers have a two-fold responsibility: (a) They must find mature believers, those who are truly following Christ and His Word, and use them as examples and seek to become imitators of them (vs. 17). But (b) they must also be on alert to the fact that there are those who are not walking after the pattern of godliness found in scripture as seen in the lives of Paul and his cohorts (cf. Phil. 3:18, 19 and Rom. 16:17-18).

Naturally, the Lord Jesus is our supreme example, goal, and authority, but Scripture does authorize the legitimacy of following godly people as examples. We need godly examples. Such people demonstrate the possibility and reality of following the Lord and of progress in Christ-like growth. They provide us with godly incentives. It is motivational to find men and women who have truly grown in their walk through the power of the Spirit of God.

In this pursuit and according to the emphasis of this passage in Philippians, the crucial test for being a biblical example and one for others to follow is found in one’s perspective of the person and work of Christ as epitomized by the cross. A biblical view and understanding of the finished work of the Savior on the cross and the believer’s union with Christ does three things:

(1) It provides a proper foundation and motivation for godly living and service It provides a protection against legalism and works done either to gain salvation or to keep it or to gain merit with God (Phil. 3:4-8).

(2) It promotes a commitment to God’s standards of behavior (Phil. 3:9). It recognizes that freedom does not mean license, but provides the power to serve God according to His standards through faith in a living Savior who has made us acceptable to God and provides us with the motivation and means for change (1 John 3:1f).

(3) It gives an eternal perspective. Understanding the finished work of Christ on the cross and our union with Him provides assurance of eternity. This reality of eternity should lead to an eternal perspective which in essence means a new set of values, controls, and pursuits (cf. 3:20-21 with 1 Pet.1:17f; 2 Cor. 4:15-18; 1 John 2:28-3:3).

In essence, then, a proper grasp of the person and work of Christ should produce a personal reevaluation that leads to a denunciation of our old attitudes, values, and priorities (see Phil. 3:3ff). But what we need in the church are men and women who demonstrate this as examples to their families and others.

1 Timothy 4:11-16

Command and teach these things. 4:12 Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 4:14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you. 4:15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress. 4:16 Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.

The apostle begins this section with the charge to “command and teach these things (a reference primarily to 4:1-5, a warning against legalistic doctrines which have their source in demonic influence).” But Timothy’s ability for this is dependent on two things contextually: (a) nourishing his own soul on the words of the faith, i.e., godly discipline in his own life (vss. 6-10), and (b) being an example for other believers (vs. 12).

Failure to be a solid example ruins or at least gravely hinders one’s credibility because it causes others to look down on and reject one’s ministry (vs. 12). “Look down” is kataphroneo from kata “down” and phroneo “to think, contemplate.” So this word means “to have contempt for, despise, disdain, think little or nothing of.”

“Youthfulness” suggests that Timothy was a young man and with youthfulness comes immaturity. But young men and women can, through spiritual maturity in the Lord, overcome their typical, youthful behavior and become examples and models even for older people.

The words “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity” warn us that to be an example, one needs Christ-like change in all areas of life. Failure in one area can harm our ability to be an example.

“Show yourself” (NASB), “set” (NIV), “be thou” (KJV), “set” (NET) represent various translations of the Greek word ginomai, which means “to become, come to pass, happen.” Paul’s use of this verb may suggest the idea of a process and progress, i.e., growth (cf. 4:14).

Paul adds the words, “for believers,” (NET) or “of those who believe” (NASB). Since the context is dealing with our ministry to the body of Christ, the emphasis is on our need to be an example to fellow believers, but this in no way exempts us from the responsibility of being an example to unbelievers (see Col. 4:5; 1 Pet. 3:15-17; 4:15-19).

In 1 Timothy 4:13-16 Paul gives six commands that are needed to be effective models of the Savior. Verses 13-14 deal primarily with public ministry and the stewardship of his spiritual gifts. Obedience to these commands would allow Timothy to become an example to follow in public ministry when the church is assembled. Verses 15-16 deal more with his private life and stresses the idea of dedication, diligence, endurance, and discipline, a fitting challenge against laziness and just going with the flow.

Titus 2:6-8

2:6 Encourage younger men likewise to be self-controlled, 2:7 showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, 2:8 and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us.

We should note that verse 7 flows out of the charge to encourage younger men to be self-controlled (vs. 6) because being an example to them is so important to their encouragement or motivation. We should also note the all-encompassing nature of this command as seen in the words, “an example of good works in every way.” This reminds us of the need to be well rounded in Christian character in every sphere of our lives.

The words, “showing yourself” is the middle voice of the Greek word parecho, which means “to offer, show or present one’s self to be something.”

1 Peter 5:3

“And do not lord it over those entrusted to you but be examples to the flock.”

Some people are what we might call “controllers.” These are people who seek to dominate or lord it over others as a means to get followers, but in doing so they ruin their capacity to be an example of Christ-like leadership. Thus, in this passage, Peter warns of the tendency to lead by dominating others, a characteristic that is typical in the world, but that should not exist in the body of Christ. To be a biblical and Christ-like example a believer must have the character of one who leads as a servant (Mark 10:45). This is one of the distinctive characteristics of Christian leadership and will be discussed below. In this, there is a note of warning: As we seek to be examples, we must learn to serve from godly motives. Too often people serve from neurotic reasons—to feel good about themselves, to be praised and accepted, or to be in control, etc. Some use their position of leadership as a way to get their own needs met outside of faith in Christ and the sufficiency of their new life in Him.

In order for mature Christians and leaders to become examples for others (i.e., a living evidence of the power of Jesus Christ to change lives), they must develop a number of Christ-like qualities that mark them out as examples to follow. Thus, the marks discussed in this study are the kind of qualities that enable one to become a biblical example of Christ-like maturity and leadership whether at home or in the office or in the church.

In summary, the biblical plan and order of modeling and following is as follows:

(1) With Christ and the heavenly Father as their own personal model (John 15:13; 1 Pet. 2:21; Eph. 5:1), mature Christian leaders need to recognize they have a vital responsibility to model the reality and character of Christ to those whom they teach and minister (1 Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7; 1 Pet. 5:3).

(2) Leaders may even encourage others to imitate or follow their example as long as they take heed to their own walk (1 Tim. 4:12-16) and are sure they are seeking to follow the example of the Savior themselves (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 2 Thess. 3:9).

(3) The ultimate goal of the leader must always be to help others become imitators of Christ. At first, disciples become imitators of their spiritual parents or teachers, which is the normal and natural pattern. But teacher and student alike must recognize that the ultimate goal is to become like the Savior who is our perfect model and objective (1 Pet. 2:21). Since Paul’s objective was to be like Christ, he could encourage his disciples to imitate his walk, but always with the goal in mind of imitating the character of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1)

(4) The basic order or process is: (a) Leaders are to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) that they might be models for others (1 Pet. 5:3); (b) new converts and the flock as a whole are to imitate their leaders, assuming of course their leaders are following Christ (Heb. 13:7); (c) other churches are to recognize their responsibility to be a model of godliness or Christ-likeness as the Thessalonians were to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thess. 1:7); (d) All believers are to become imitators of God who is revealed to us in Christ (Eph. 5:1).

Following the example of others has nothing to do with imitating the style or charismatic personalities of certain Christian leaders. What we are to provide as a model for others and imitate in others is Christian character as illustrated in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) or in Paul’s attitude and behavior as it pertained to some of the doubtful issues like eating meat offered to idols. Paul’s pattern was that of love, putting the needs of others above himself as Christ did for us. It is really this Paul had in mind contextually in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he said, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (for the immediate context see 1 Cor. 10:31). The same principle is seen in the context of 2 Thessalonians 3:9 as it pertained to working to support one’s self and one’s family (see 3:6-15).

19 Kindred Spirit, Vol. 23, No. 1, p. 10. Dr. Mennett served as President Reagan’s Secretary of Education and gained national acclaim as President Bush’s “drug czar.” He is the author of The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals, and he served as editor of The Book of Virtues.

20 See the author’s commentary on this passage on our web site.



Appendix: Discussion Questions for Marks of Maturity

MEN 7/52 is a men's ministry of Our desire is to see all men become true followers of Jesus Christ 7 days a week/52 weeks a year.

These studies were developed in a team training environment where men were being trained for their role as church leaders, as fathers, and as effective members of a society that desperately needs to see what authentic, biblical Christianity looks like. So, exactly what does a mature Christian look like? A mature Christian is a believer whose life begins to take on the character of Christ-likeness. But what exactly is that? What are the specific qualities that mark out a person as Christ-like? This is the focus and point of this study.

The qualities that should characterize Christian leaders are also the marks of spiritual maturity as described in the Bible. While all of the qualities that will be discussed in this series are not unique to Christianity and are often promoted and taught in the secular world, many of them are, by their very nature, distinctive to the Bible or biblical Christianity. Thus, the characteristics that should mark out a Christian leader are also the marks of biblical maturity which are in essence the product of true spirituality. In fact, biblical spirituality can be described by the term maturity since Christian maturity is the result of growth produced by the ministry of the Spirit in the light of the Word over time. It is this biblical/spiritual element, at least in part, that makes the marks of Christian leadership distinctively Christian.

Session 2

1. Describe the four principles related to being a true Christian example to others and discuss the roles these principles play in your life.

2. What problems do we face in being Christ-like examples to others?

3. What specific problems do you face in being an authentic Christian example to others?

  • In your home?
  • In your church?
  • In your workplace?
  • In your community?
  • With your non-Christian friends?

4. What conclusions about Christ and Christianity would others draw from watching you conduct your everyday life?

5. In Philippians 3:17-18, what two exhortations does Paul give us if we are to be mature follows of Christ?

6. What are the two responsibilities we must fulfill in order to heed Paul’s directive?

7. What three things does a biblical understanding of Christ’s finished work on the cross and our union with him produce?

8. In 1 Timothy 4:11-16, what is Paul’s directive to Timothy.

9. Describe how you nourish your soul.

10. What is the direct consequence when we become “controllers”, seeking people to follow us to fulfill our own motives?

11. What are the four components of the biblical plan and order for modeling and following?

12. What areas of your life would you like others to imitate? Why?

13. Are there parts of your life that you would not want others to imitate? Please describe?

14. What will you do to change?

15. Who will you ask to help you?

Group Discussion

  • Who are the personalities in the cultures that your children are imitating in their language, dress, and lifestyles?
  • Whose lifestyles do you find yourself imitating?

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership

Mark #2: Full of the Spirit and Wisdom

1:1 Now in these days, when the disciples were growing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the native Hebraic Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 1:2 So the twelve called the whole group of the disciples together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables. 1:3 But carefully select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well-attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task. 1:4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1-4, emphasis mine)

As pointed out previously, one of the distinctive characteristics of Christian maturity and leadership is its enablement. Vital to everything else as roots are to the fruit of a tree, the spiritual maturity needed in a Christian leader can be manifested only by Spirit-filled and Word-filled believers. The other qualities to be highlighted in this study are important and desirable, but to be filled with the Spirit and the Word (full of biblical wisdom and understanding) is absolutely indispensable for it is the ultimate source of spiritual maturity and godly leadership. In God’s plan for the Christian, all the qualities that will be discussed are to find their source in the power of the Spirit and the teaching of the Word—the tap root of spiritual growth, maturity, and leadership.

The book of Acts is a book marked by true spirituality and biblical leadership. In it we are constantly treated to men of great maturity and Christ-like character, but, as it has often been pointed out, rather than being a book of the Acts of men or the apostles, it is really the Acts of the Holy Spirit and Word-filled lives. It is the story of men who established the church and led its missionary enterprise, but without exception, these were men endowed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Everywhere you turn, you see the work and leadership of the Holy Spirit; you see men who are said to be full of the Spirit and acting by His directions and under His power. The Holy Spirit is referred to some 46 times in the book of Acts. In nearly every chapter there are references to the ministry of the Spirit.

In this book, we see God’s call to all kinds of ministries and, whether it is a call to witness or to serve tables or to solve a problem or the need of guidance, the work of the Spirit is essential. The indispensable requirement is for men and women who first are filled with the Spirit.

Unfortunately, we miss this. We think the first requirement is changed character or service or ministry. Men are called to witness (2:8), to serve others (6:1f), to preach the gospel (3:12f), etc., but Scripture first calls us to be filled with and to walk by the Holy Spirit because this constitutes God’s enablement so we can be the Christians we have become.

This principle is evident in Mark 3:13-15 and Luke 6:12. Following a whole night in prayer, the Lord (an evidence of His own dependence on the Father) called and appointed disciples. In this He commissioned them to two major responsibilities: (a) that they might be with Him and (b) that He might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. The nature of this commission and the order is significant. Being with Him, fellowship with the Savior, was foundational and the source of enablement for their task of preaching and power over demonic forces (cf. Acts 1:8). Another passage that points to this important quality of a word-filled, spirit-filled life is Acts 6:1-7.

The Problem (vs. 1)

Now in these days, when the disciples were growing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the native Hebraic Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

Wherever there are people, there will naturally be problems. This is a fact of life. There is no board of elders or deacons that is perfect. There are no perfect churches and no perfect families. Why? Because they are all made up of imperfect people, sinners saved by grace.

A lady complained to a well-known Bible teacher that she couldn’t find a church to her liking. She found fault with every church she visited. He said, “it sounds like you are looking for a perfect church, with perfect people. If you find such a church, let me know, but please don’t join it.” “Why,” she asked? “Because you would ruin it, and so would I!”

Dealing with problems is a necessary part of life, especially for leaders. It goes with the territory, but the most indispensable need is men who are filled with God’s Spirit manifesting God’s wisdom, patience, and loving character.

Problem Solving (vs. 2)

So the twelve called the whole group of the disciples together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables.

Problem solving includes: (a) identifying the problem, (b) evaluating it, and (c) solving it through investigation, study, prayer, and the wise application of information to the specifics of the problem. But for that we need the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we simply do not experience His leading, not because of any reluctance on the part of the Holy Spirit, but because there are spiritual rocks in the gas line—we haven’t met the requirements for the filling of the Spirit. But this was not the problem here in Acts (cf. Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31).

“So the twelve called the whole group of the disciples together” (vs. 2). The twelve, being the leaders at that time, took the leadership in seeking ways to solve the problem. But they summoned the people only after they had studied the problem, and as spiritual men acting on the principles of the Word, they came up with a solution that would not only solve the problem, but that was in accord with the principles of the Word. They refused to act out of expediency or as mere pragmatists, i.e., the end justifies the means, or by looking for whatever might work and that would get the people off of their backs. Rather, they demonstrated spiritual discernment. After studying the situation, they then declared to the people what they could not do and why. Ministry and leadership is a matter of identifying God’s priorities, knowing what God has called us to do, and then spending our time in those pursuits rather than in secondary issues no matter how important those things are. Secondary matters can render leaders ineffective in their primary responsibilities and will spread them so thin they become ineffective in everything. This means spiritually mature leaders must learn to train and recruit others to share in the work of the Lord. Thus, to solve their problem, they engaged in the process of selecting others who were qualified to serve. Note the following principles we learn from their action:

(1) The principle of biblical selectivity (vs. 3) “But carefully select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well-attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task.” The actions of the apostles highlight the importance of biblical selectivity in the recruitment process. The essential principle in recruitment no matter what the ministry need is to select people for ministry based on the principles of the Bible rather than expediency.

In order to find people to help or do the work of ministry, church leaders often become desperate and will take just about anyone if they are alive and moving. There is a great temptation here when they see needs and hear the complaints and criticism of others because needs aren’t being met. Naturally, problems are blamed on the leaders, so the tendency is to panic, jump the gun, and recruit people regardless of their qualifications. But the needs would be better left undone in many situations than for the leaders to select the wrong people or try to do everything themselves.

God knows the needs and our responsibility is to rest in His sovereignty and stick to the principles of the Word (cf. our Lord in Mark 1:29-39; 3:12f; Luke 6:12). To select those whom God has not selected, those who are not willing to count the costs, who are carnal and full of the wisdom of the world, is to forfeit God’s blessing and power on our ministries.

The essential issue, regardless of the need, is not in the nature of the task whether it’s teaching the Word, ministering to the sick, or sweeping the church, or greeting people at the door. The great need is for spiritual people regardless of the task. Giftedness for a task or ministry is another matter and issue.

(2) The requirements of selection (vs. 3). “But carefully select from among you.” Normally, God wants us to go into our own ranks for people. This means the church needs to be training, building, and thus developing servants for ministry from among our own people. Here is a priority for leadership that is far sighted and provides for the future. “Select” is the Greek. episkeptomai from a root which “denotes the activity of looking at or paying attention to a person or thing.”21 The verb can mean, depending on the context, “to observe, review, superintend, watch over, inspect, examine, care for, and select” (i.e., after examination). This is clearly the opposite of “grabbing” someone who is not spiritually qualified. simply to fill a need.

For instance, apart from Acts 6:3, episkeptomai is used for the loving and seeking care of God.22 An important passage is Numbers 27:16, 17. Here it is used in the LXX in the sense of appoint, but it is used in connection with God’s loving care for the cares and needs of His people. In Acts 6:3, episkeptomai means “to select,” but obviously only after examination according to the standards given in the passage. Here it is used of an appointment that occurs after searching and finding those who had a heart for the care of others, of those who had come to realize that, as Christians, they did not exist for themselves alone, but for others.

It becomes evident that this word and its active form, episkopeo, “to oversee,” became important in the selection of these first servants and in the selection of the title, episkopos, “overseers,” for the leaders of the church. This word and its use in the rest of the New Testament suggests we are to look for men and women who possess an attitude of godly concern for the Christian community, an obvious work of the Holy Spirit.

“Seven men.” The number seven was not the issue though in Scripture seven is the number of completion. If the number seven means anything it simply means we are to survey the need and seek to select as many as are needed to fill the need. It could be five or twelve, but the number is never to exceed the number qualified.

“Men of good report.” The idea here is men who possess a good testimony among the congregation. It refers to men whose lives witnessed to the next two qualities as the proof of their authenticity.

“Full of the Spirit” is the most indispensable requirement. Men who are full of the Holy Spirit are men whom the Holy Spirit can control, lead, and work through. This means men who have God’s heart and concern for others, men who display the fruit of the Spirit.

A man may have a good reputation, but is it such that it is clearly the manifestation and work of the Spirit of God? We often see men who have good reputations, they are religious, moral, likable, talented, and genuinely nice guys, but this can be the product of their own activity produced from their own neurotic needs like the desire for recognition, position, power, applause, or even to soothe a guilty conscience.

God wants only those in places of leadership and responsibility who are controlled by His Spirit, because only these are in hearing distance of His voice; only these will have the capacity to care for others with the heart of God. Such are His selection and such must be the criterion for our selection. Those we select for leadership and places of responsibility should give unmistakable evidence of the power of the Spirit in their lives, i.e., His fruit in attitude, expression, and action.

“Full of wisdom.” Wisdom is sophia, which often includes two things: (1) content, the wisdom of the Word, Bible truth, but it also includes (2) the wise use or application of truth to the details of one’s life. This means the practical application of the Word so that it results in biblical and Christ-like change. Scripture is never an end in itself but it is God’s means to Spirit-produced results (cf. Eph. 4:20f; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

(3) The goal of the selection (vs. 3): The goal is seen in the words “whom we may put in charge of this task” (lit. need). But this appointment was dependent upon following the requirements. As is evident in the preceding chapters, behind the activity of the apostles was the executive ministry of the Holy Spirit. In the church, it is to be the Holy Spirit who puts men into ministries or places of responsibility. He is the heart and power of the church and its missionary activity and loving concern for the body as in the need here in Acts 6.

As Oswald Sanders so pointedly reminds us:

Behind the actions of the apostles, the executive activity of the Spirit is seen everywhere. As supreme Administrator of the church and chief Strategist of the missionary enterprise, He is everywhere prominent. It is abundantly evident in the record that the Holy Spirit is jealous of His prerogatives and will not delegate His poser or authority to secular or carnal hands. Even men whose duties would be largely in the temporal affairs of the church must be men mastered and controlled by Him. Their selection must not be influenced by considerations of worldly wisdom, financial acumen, or social acceptability; they should be chosen primarily because of their genuine spirituality. When a church or other Christian organization departs from that pattern, it amounts to a virtual ousting of the Spirit from His place of leadership. As a consequence He is grieved and quenched, with resulting spiritual dearth and death.”23

As the Holy Spirit controls a man, so He controls a body of men. If the leaders are not walking by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit can’t lead the body. If those appointed to various tasks are not controlled by the Spirit, then the tasks will be done in the energy of the flesh rather than by the Spirit’s enablement. Oswald continues:

The Holy Spirit does not take control of any man or body of men against their will. When He sees elected to positions of leadership men who lack spiritual fitness to cooperate with Him, He quietly withdraws and leaves them to implement their own policy according to their own standards, but without His aid. The inevitable issue is an unspiritual administration.

The church at Jerusalem was sensitive to the exhortation of the apostles and selected seven men possessing the requisite qualities. As a result of their Spirit-filled activity, the disaffection was quickly healed, the church was blessed, and the men selected to dispense earthly benefits were soon seen as the Spirit’s agents in dispensing heavenly blessings. Stephen became the first martyr for Christ, and his death played no small part in the conversion of Saul. Philip became the first lay evangelist and was used by the Spirit to lead the great revival in Samaria…24

The inevitable result of unspiritual leaders is spiritual failure. Why isn’t the body of Christ more effective today in truly following the principles and mandates of the New Testament? Why aren’t we seeing more ministries devoted to both evangelism and the equipping of the saints for service and ministry, the kind that reproduces itself in mature and serving believers. This is the mandate of the New Testament (Matt. 28:19-20; Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 2:1-2), but something is missing.

Could the answer be that a large percentage of the church is not walking by the Spirit and biblical wisdom? Could it be that by-in-large the church today is just religious, going through the motions, going to church, and even working in the church but often for selfish reasons? Does the church today exist for itself only? Let’s make this more personal. Do we worship God only for what we get out of it? Are we trying to use God rather than be used by God? The irony of this kind of worship is that such isn’t really the worship of God nor does it lead to genuine love for God. It is the worship and love of self, not God. When people truly love and worship God it results in the love of neighbors, in reaching out to the world around us, first in the body of Christ and then to the world (Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; 1 John 3:17-18; 4:7-8).

But why does this situation exist today? With so much in the Bible on the ministry of the Spirit as the believer’s enablement or power and the power and necessity of the Word in the life of the Christian, why do we see churches that are so weak, at least biblically speaking? Of course, there are mega-churches with mega-programs and mega-bucks, but are they producing mature believers and leaders who are multiplying themselves in the lives of others? Certainly this is one of the true evidences of the work of the Spirit!

May I suggest that part of the reason for anemic churches is because a large part of the church today has lost the evangelical essential. The evangelical essential is a renewed emphasis and commitment to the study of the Word and particularly the teachings of the epistles with their strong emphasis on sound doctrine. The key note of this sound doctrine is salvation (delivered from sin’s penalty) and sanctification (delivered from sin’s reign) by faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in Scripture. Too often today, the emphasis is more on deeds, especially social reform and political correctness, rather than on Bible doctrine. Such an emphasis is simply man’s continuing attempt to change the world by human effort as though we can have biblical, Spirit-produced works without sound doctrine. Granted that sound doctrine must never be considered an end in itself, it is nevertheless a vital means to Christ-like transformation. Even a casual study of Paul’s epistles, and especially his instructions to Timothy and Titus, should put such an idea to rest. Sound doctrine is the foundation for deeds of mature Christian growth that are the result of the ministry of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth who takes the truth of the Word and uses it to transform lives (cf. John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Thus, if churches want to produce godly and mature leaders who have the marks of maturity they must return to teaching what could be called the ABCs of Christian Growth (see 1 Cor. 3:1f; Heb. 5:11f). For instance, how many Christians today really know, understand, and live by the basic biblical truths of the Spirit-controlled life? I am afraid the answer to that question is overwhelmingly sad. Unfortunately today, many are being prodded and manipulated into doing good works and changing their lives, etc., but without understanding how to live the Christian life in the power of the Spirit in the light of the Word.

For studies on this aspect of New Testament doctrine, may I suggest the following:

ABCs for Christian Growth: Laying the Foundation especially Part 2: “The Transformed Life.” on our web site at /docs/splife/abc/toc.htm.

He That is Spiritual, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

True Spirituality, Francis A. Schaeffer, Tyndale House, Wheaton.

Growing Deep in the Christian Life, Charles R. Swindoll, Multomah Press, Portland.

Keep In Step With the Spirit, J. I. Packer, Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan.

The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life, Charles Stanley, Thomas Nelson, Nashville.

21 Colin Brown, General Editor, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, Vol. 1, p. 188.

22 Brown, p. 191.

23 Oswald J Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, Moody Press, Chicago, 1967, 1980, pp. 97-98.

24 Sanders, p. 98-99.



Appendix: Discussion Questions for Marks of Maturity

MEN 7/52 is a men's ministry of Our desire is to see all men become true followers of Jesus Christ 7 days a week/52 weeks a year.

These studies were developed in a team training environment where men were being trained for their role as church leaders, as fathers, and as effective members of a society that desperately needs to see what authentic, biblical Christianity looks like. So, exactly what does a mature Christian look like? A mature Christian is a believer whose life begins to take on the character of Christ-likeness. But what exactly is that? What are the specific qualities that mark out a person as Christ-like? This is the focus and point of this study.

The qualities that should characterize Christian leaders are also the marks of spiritual maturity as described in the Bible. While all of the qualities that will be discussed in this series are not unique to Christianity and are often promoted and taught in the secular world, many of them are, by their very nature, distinctive to the Bible or biblical Christianity. Thus, the characteristics that should mark out a Christian leader are also the marks of biblical maturity which are in essence the product of true spirituality. In fact, biblical spirituality can be described by the term maturity since Christian maturity is the result of growth produced by the ministry of the Spirit in the light of the Word over time. It is this biblical/spiritual element, at least in part, that makes the marks of Christian leadership distinctively Christian.

Session 3

1. What is indispensable, and the ultimate source, of spiritual maturity and godly leadership?

2. In calling His disciples, to what two major responsibilities did Christ commission them?

3. What do men manifest when they are filled with God’s Spirit?

4. In Acts 6, the apostles selected seven men of good report and full of the Spirit and wisdom to serve the needs of the widows and needy. What was the critical importance of the following?

  • Seven:
  • Men of good report:
  • Full of the Spirit:
  • Full of wisdom:

5. If a church has unmet needs, and no men who are full of God’s Spirit and wisdom, what must they do?

6. What is the consequence of selecting men who are not full of God’s Spirit and wisdom to serve these unmet needs?

7. Describe the criteria that Oswald Sanders identifies as necessary for choosing church leaders.

8. What happens when this criteria is ignored?

9. Using the definitions on page 17 of the article on Mark #2, how would you evaluate yourself in the following? Be specific.

  • A man of good report:
  • A man full of the Spirit:
  • A man full of wisdom:

10. Describe the obstacles in your life that prevent you from becoming full of the Spirit.

11. What must you do to change your willingness?

12. Describe the obstacles in your life that prevent you from being full of spiritual wisdom?

13. When men serve without having spiritual fitness, what does God do?

14. What is the inevitable result?

15. Describe, in your own words, the “evangelical essential”.

16. Explain the difference between spiritual wisdom and biblical knowledge.

17. What must you do, beginning today, to be filled with God’s Spirit and His spiritual wisdom?

Group Discussion

Who are the men that you rely on for biblical wisdom in your daily living?

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit), Spiritual Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership

Mark #3: A Powerful and Productive Private Life


There is a phenomenon that occurs in certain parts of the country known as a sink hole. A sink hole occurs when the ground underneath the surface gives way and everything collapses creating a huge whole in the ground. Sinkholes can swallow cars, entire buildings, or whatever is above the ground where the hole occurs.

Sinkholes occur, scientists say, when underground streams drain away during seasons of extreme drought, causing the ground at the surface to lose its underlying support. Suddenly everything simply caves in, leaving people with a frightening suspicion that nothing—not even the earth beneath their feet—is trustworthy.”25

The sinkhole phenomenon forms a parable of sorts for this mark of maturity. In fact, this mark is undoubtedly the bedrock upon which strong Christian character and spiritual maturity is built. Without it we become just like a sinkhole: the pubic life, that which people see, finally caves in because our streams of living water which are there to undergird us become dried up (or quenched, see 1 Thess. 5:19). That which is to form the foundation or resource of our spiritual life simply has no substance or is replaced by the underlying shallow waters of turmoil, fatigue, frustration, and self-management, and we begin to cave in from an inability to remain occupied with the Lord and His sufficiency. In the words of the psalmist, we need to get still (stop striving) and recognize that He is God (Ps. 46:10). Some consider this statement to be addressed to the hostile nations, indicating they should cease their efforts to destroy God’s people, but it's much more likely that the Psalmist was addressing Judah, calling on them to rest secure in God’s protection and sovereignty. For this to occur, however, they needed to stop their activity and quit trying to solve their own problems and focus their hearts and minds on the Lord—His presence and promises.

…Instead of choosing a negative option, the people of God distinguish themselves by the pursuit of godliness: “Know that I am God.” The “knowledge” of God includes a factual knowledge about him, his past acts, and his promises. But in this context the psalmist calls on them to commit themselves to the Lord and to seek his “refuge,” “strength,” and “fortress” (vv. 1, 7, 11). The life of faith is lived continually in commitment to God’s sovereignty, rule, and ultimate exaltation over all the nations (vs. 10; cf. Hab 2:13-14)…26

So what is this mark that provides a bedrock, the essential underlying strength necessary to sustain our lives? It is a powerful private life. Simply put, we can never know and focus on God as our strength and fortress and experience Him as the bedrock of life unless we take time to get still before Him in prayer and Bible study which allow us to focus the heart and mind on the Lord.

By a powerful private life I am referring to the believer’s inner life nourished up by the springs of the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and a life of prayer. This is a life made luxuriant and productive as believers spread their roots deep by the streams of the Word through quiet, meditative study and prayer. After extending their roots deep in private, they can become truly productive and authentic in public. To simply use the words of Isaiah, as the remnant would take root downward that they might bear fruit upward, so believers today need to do the same in their personal lives (Isa. 37:31).

This emphasis on one’s private life, sometimes referred to as one’s quiet time, is based on four truths of Scripture:

  • We simply do not possess in ourselves the spiritual resources we need to either direct our path or to find the strength and wisdom we need to handle life (Jer. 10:23; 2:12-13; 17:5f).
  • The indwelling Christ desires to be at home in our lives and desires to bring order into our private world—the world of our attitudes and thinking, our values, priorities and goals, and our sources of trust (Eph. 3:17).
  • The indwelling Holy Spirit was given by the Lord to strengthen and fortify our inner person with His might as a stream of living water (John 7:37-39; Eph. 3:16).
  • It is based on the marvelous life-changing power of the inspired Word of God with which we are to feed the inner man (Ps. 119:9-11; 1 Thess. 2:13).

It must become obvious to us, as Scripture everywhere makes clear, that if we neglect our private life with God, our inner man will simply not be able to sustain the weight and pressures of life. If the inner man is not supported by the bedrock of intimate fellowship with God wherein we come to know Him more and more deeply, it is going to be undermined by the shallow waters of the secular and destructive currents of the world and our inner life will simply not be able to sustain us in the pressures and dry periods of life.

But it is here we face an important question. What is a powerful private life? What needs to take place in one’s personal time with God? Obviously many things should be taking place, but may I suggest three things:

(1) It is the place of refocusing and renewal. It needs to become a place where we focus our lives upon the living God, a place where we, away from the hustle and bustle of life, get to know God more and more intimately, where we get still and know that God is God (Ps. 46:10; Heb. 12:1-2). It thus becomes a place where we get our eyes off of self, problems, conditions, circumstances and on the Lord. It becomes a place of refuge, not so we can run away from responsibilities, but to be strengthened to serve by a renewed awareness of God’s person, power, and purposes.

(2) It is the place of reevaluation and rearrangement. This is where we seek to reevaluate our lives and rearrange our values, motives, goals, attitudes, behavior patterns, and pursuits. It is also a place where we come to grips with our sources of self-trust and our self-management patterns. Included here is the principle of rejection. Have you ever noticed how we tend to evaluate and throw something away when we rearrange a garage or spring clean a house, etc.? So likewise, as we spend quality time alone with the Lord, we often find things, attitudes, fears, false sources of trust, etc., that need to be rejected and thrown out.

(3) It is the place of restraint and resistance. It is where we must learn to deal with our ourselves to restrain and resist, by God’s enablement of course, anything that might hinder our personal walk with God as well as our relationships with others. The goal is God’s control of more and more of our lives.

One’s public life naturally consists of various works, service, labor, ministry, and leisure activities, but it is our private world which becomes the fountain of supply and the foundation of support (cf. Ps. 36:9 and Prov. 4:23 with Jer. 2:12-13). It is our private time alone with God in His Word, that nourishes the inner world of our spiritual lives, which in turn governs the outer world of our activities.

The principle is simply that no one can do enough for others if he or she is always surrounded by others. THE EMPHASIS HERE IS NOT ON DOING, BUT ON BEING. Gordon MacDonald writes, “if my private world is in order, it will be because I am convinced that the inner world of the spiritual must govern the outer world of activity.”27 In the atmosphere of hurry and business with such a multitude of interests vying for attention, we can easily lose God’s power and hand on our lives and ministries as well as our courage and vision for what God wants to be doing both in us and through us.

The majority of us spend our lives working on surface issues while ignoring the foundations. We get an education, learn a trade, work in the home or at our jobs, build houses, buy furniture, and accumulate things. We work in the church, teach the Word, or serve in a dozen different ways. We may have a certain amount of time set aside for preparation for a Sunday school class or a home Bible class, and we may, for personal devotions, grab a few minutes with our Bibles and quickly run through a prayer list, but if we are not very careful, this can be done in the spirit of legalism or, as one friend used to say, “Doing a little nod-to-God routine.”

Why does this become just surface activity or merely routine? Because what we really are on the inside, our goals, aspirations, motives, frustrations, attitudes, phobias, and our self-dependent strategies for living all go untouched and unchanged. We remain the same people today that we were five years ago, though very religious in many ways.

We may hear sound Bible teaching, be encouraged or exhorted by a brother or sister in Christ, but if this is not reinforced through a personal private life with God, much of the impact of this sound teaching and exhortation will be lost; it will be like water over a ducks back. The result? Our hearts will grow hard and become lukewarm, if not down right cold.

With this in mind, let’s look at a number of passages that address our need of a powerful private live alone with the living God.

Key Passages on Getting Alone With God

1 Kings 17:2-3—God’s Command to Elijah

2 And the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.

Following the prophet Elijah’s public confrontation with King Ahab and in preparation for his ministry that would follow, especially the confrontation on Mount Carmel, what was the word of the Lord to Elijah? It was simply, “Go away from here,… and hide yourself.”

People often complain about how hard it is to know God’s leading, but the biggest difficulty is not God’s leading. It’s our listening, and too often, our listening is colored by our false expectations. We want the Lord to answer us and use us in our own way. We want God’s blessing on our will rather than seeking God’s will. We tend to make up a list of what we would like to do for the Lord, and then present it to the Lord for His approval.

But what the Lord would now tell Elijah was most likely contrary to what he was expecting. After all was he not a prophet, and had he not come to proclaim the Word to Israel? Was he not there to serve, to preach, to perform miracles, and to be active for the Lord? But please note that the Lord didn’t tell Elijah to do any of these things. In view of this, the command that follows is very interesting and illuminating. It reveals one of the great insights and priorities of the Word, one that busy, self-sufficient, workaholic people who have been bitten by the bug of activism and/or materialism have a hard time grasping. So, why is Elijah commanded to go and hide himself? Some think for protection from Ahab. Perhaps that was part of it, but it was certainly not the primary reason. Later, when the Lord was ready, He would send Elijah to face the king, and when next Elijah met Ahab, the king made no attempt to slay him (1 Kings 18:17-20). Rather, it seems to me, the reason was seclusion or concealment.

The Hebrew word for “hide” is sathar. It means “to hide conceal, cover,” and in the Hebrew text it is a reflexive stem and refers to what one does to and for himself. So it means “to hide, conceal yourself.” It refers to a deliberate and decisive choice. A main idea of the verb is “to be absent, out of sight.” So literally it means “absent yourself.” The noun form, sether, is used of the womb as a secret place and a place of shelter (Ps. 139:15). Finally, the verb form is used in relation to God’s presence as the omniscient One who becomes like “a hiding place, a shelter for His people.” Psalm 17:8 says, “keep me as the apple of the eye; hide (sathar) me in the shadow of Thy wings.” Psalm 31:20 says, “Thou dost hide (sathar) them in the secret (sether) place of Thy presence from the conspiracies of man; Thou dost keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.”

Elijah faced a number of tests or challenges in 1 Kings 17:3-7, but the first one came from this command to go and hide himself. This was a test of Elijah’s basic orientation and attitude toward life. The question that Elijah faced was “why does God want me to go and hide?” In the answer he was faced with a fundamental need of life.

This time by the ravine was designed to maintain Elijah’s inner life with God, the life of faith and occupation with the Lord that would allow God to become his hiding place. The test comes in Elijah’s faith, particularly as it pertained to the need of seclusion when there was so much that needed to be done. Because we tend to be so self-dependent and so neurotic about staying busy, we don’t see the need to get alone with the Lord for extended times. We have come to equate spirituality and character with business or activity. This time by the brook was to further prepare Elijah for the testing and the ministry that would follow. It would become a place of testing and growth for him.

Elijah needed, as we all do, a time of seclusion. We need time alone—away from the hustle and bustle and the comings and goings of the rest of society—even from our own family, church, and friends.

To be used of God. Is there anything more encouraging, more fulfilling? Perhaps not, but there is something more basic: to meet with God. To linger in His presence, to shut out the noise of the city and, in quietness, give Him the praise He deserves. Before we engage ourselves in His work, let’s meet Him in His Word…in prayer…in Worship.28

How many of us truly hear the inaudible or see the invisible realities of God. What does it means to have ears to hear? Let me share a story that illustrates the point:

An Indian was walking in downtown New York City alongside a friend who was a resident of the city. Right in the center of Manhattan, the Indian seized his friend’s arm and whispered, “Wait. I hear a cricket.”

His friend said, “Come on! Cricket? Man, this is downtown New York!”

He persisted, “No, seriously, I really do.”

“It’s impossible!” was the response. “You can’t hear a cricket! Taxis going by. Horns honking. People screaming at each other. Brakes screeching. Both sides of the street filled with people. Cash registers clanging away. Subways roaring beneath us. You can’t possibly hear a cricket!”

The Indian insisted, “Wait a minute!” He led his friend along, slowly. They stopped, and the Indian walked down to the end of the block, went across the street, looked around, cocked his head to one side, but couldn’t find it. He went across another street, and there in a large cement planter where a tree was growing, he dug into the mulch and found the cricket. “See!” he yelled, as he held the insect high above his head. His friend walked across the street, marveling, “How in the world could it be that you heard a cricket in the middle of downtown, busy Manhattan?”

The Indian said, “Well, my ears are different from yours. It simply depends on what you’re listening for. Here let me show you.” And he reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of change—a couple of quarters, three or four nickels, and some dimes and pennies. Then he said, “Now watch.” He held the coins waist high and dropped them to the sidewalk. Every head within a block turned around and looked in the direction of the Indian.

It all depends on what you’re listening for. We don’t have enough crickets in our heads. We don’t listen for them. Perhaps, like that crowed street full of people, you have spent all your life searching for a handful of coins and you’ve missed the real sounds of life? 29

You see, there is no life in any one of those coins, nor can they really buy life or happiness even if you have millions of them. The only way we find true satisfaction or meaning in life is to hear the invisible, the inaudible voice of the living God, the Lord Jesus through developing our capacity to hear and see Him by getting alone with Him.

So then, spiritually speaking, time alone with God where we can drink and feed on His Word and think on the Lord becomes a kerith to us, a place of cutting, a place where God can chisel away on our character and cut the world away from our hearts. It enables us to divorce ourselves from the world and its pulls. Without it we become married to the world. We need this that we might draw upon and use our supernatural resources in the Lord, His Word and prayer. We get alone with God, first to just know and love Him, and then to bring order and strength to our inner life. We do this to bring the Savior’s control over every area of our lives, over our motivations, what moves us, the things that pull us to conform or to compete; over our perspective of life, why we are here and what are we seeking, over our priorities and values, the use of our time, talents, treasures, and truth, and over our thought processes (2 Cor. 10:4,5).

My friends, getting alone with our God is not optional. If we want true spiritual success it is fundamental. It’s a key part of God’s plan by which His people are first strengthened by the underground spiritual streams of life in Christ and changed and cut into the ravine that God wants to use to make us a channel for the blessings of Christ to others.

Here is the key to power or weakness. While this has varied as a problem from age to age, one of the battlegrounds of life and especially of this age is the inner, private world of the individual and the need to slow down and to hide oneself alone with his God.

It is here that we either experience the power of God or the defeat of Satan and his world system.

To put it bluntly, life on planet Earth without God is the pits. And if I may repeat my point (Solomon does numerous times), that’s the way God designed it. He made it like that. He placed within us that God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill. Until He is there, nothing satisfies. NOTHING (my emphasis).30

And I might add, that is why so many people stay so eternally busy and become workaholics or preoccupied with pleasure. They are bored and empty and seek to fill their lives with activity.

We who “worship our work and play at our worship” need to wake up to reality. The preacher of Ecclesiastes warns us about the stark reality of the nothingness that exists in a life lived primarily “under the sun.”

Commenting on Solomon’s “futility of futilities” expressed in Ecclesiastes, Allan Hubbard, president of Fuller Theological Seminary wrote: “This futility is akin to irony, because it is full of surprises…Values that we treasure prove false; efforts that should succeed come to failure; pleasures that should satisfy increase our thirst. Ironic futility, futile irony--that is the color of life.”31

We dare not forget that Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes was a man who had everything, indeed, he had everything in luxurious abundance. The issue here is not more, or a great society, or the removal of all the problems of society. When you add the conditions of a society like Elijah faced or like we face in the world today, then the feelings of futility, the pain, the frustration, the troubled hearts, the dashed expectations, the sense of chasing the wind are magnified many times over.

Here, then, is one of the key themes of Scripture. God has designed it this way in a fallen world. You see, the brilliance of our hope in the Lord needs the stark, black backdrop of the utter futility of life under the sun to cause us to see our need and drive us to our knees. Indeed, the word of the Lord which came to Elijah, “go hide yourself,” needs desperately to be heard by every one of us.

Mark 1:35-39—Christ Withdraws for Prayer

35 And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for Him; 37 and they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 And He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also; for that is what I came out for.” 39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.

This passage in Mark gives us another example of the importance of our private world through the life and priorities of the Savior Himself. But the context of this passage makes its instruction even stronger. This time that Christ sought alone with the Father was very early in the morning. It occurred in the midst of great popularity when people were clamoring for the Lord’s attention and when there were needs all around Him. He could have become enamored with His popularity, or preoccupied by the needs pressing against Him. But what does the Lord do? He protected His private time alone with the Father so that he might be and do what God called Him to do. Again we see how one’s being precedes doing! The Lord Jesus was driven neither by His own impulses nor by the needs of people. Rather, he was guided from the hidden resources of His intimacy with the Father. Thus, He could do what God had called Him to do. He was not seeking from others or from activity what He could find only in the Father.

Mark 6:30-32—Christ Calls His Disciples to a Remote Place

30 And the apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.

Another beautiful illustration is found in this passage of our need to be alone with the Savior to focus on Him. Here again the context is one of activity. In this case, the disciples had been preoccupied with “all they had done and taught,” but the Lord called them to come away to a lonely and quiet place. They were to learn the lesson of the dailies, of the need of daily time alone with the Lord because service and ministry must flow out of fellowship with the Savior as the source and resource of one’s life and ministry. In this endeavor, they were interrupted by the large crowd that ran ahead and were waiting on the shore when the Lord and His disciples arrived. But the Lord used this interruption place as an opportunity. Through the feeding of the 5000, the Lord sought to teach His disciples that if they were to be effective in ministering and see their ministry effectively multiplied, they must learn to first draw from His resources which required times of pulling aside from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind to spend time alone with the Lord in the Word and in prayer.

Psalm 1:1-3—Planted by Streams of Water

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Again, in this wonderful Psalm, we see the principle that our fruit (vss. 1 and 3b-c) is always based on the proper root system, which, by the analogy of the context, is one’s private life with God in His Word (vss. 2- 3). One of the great battles we all face daily is the battle for our private world wherein we feed and draw upon the living Christ, where our minds are fortified and focused on the Lord. MacDonald writes:

There is a contest that must be fought particularly by those who call themselves practicing Christians. Among them are those who work hard, shouldering massive responsibilities at home, at work, and at church. They are good people, but they are very, very tired! And thus they too often live on the verge of a sinkhole-like collapse. Why? Because…they become too public-world oriented, ignoring the private side until it is almost too late.32

We live in a society of secular humanism that seeks to live life apart from God through dependence on man alone. This evil mentality has emptied over into the mind-set of the Christian community. While giving lip service to God in various religious ways, we too often forsake the Lord to build our own cisterns, but they turn out to be broken cisterns that hold no water (Jer. 2:13). As the Savior points out in Matthew 6, the unbelieving world worries about what it eats, drinks, and wears in its search for security, safety, and even significance. This amounts to depending on one’s own wisdom and solutions to life rather than in the living God (Matt. 6:25f). Such thinking invariably leads to a search for happiness in the details of life like possessions, power, and pleasure. But the Christian is certainly not exempt from this mentality as the admonitions of Matthew 6:19f make clear. Thus, the Christian’s first priority must be to seek to know the Lord more deeply and to rest in the Lord more completely (Matt. 6:33-34). Vital to that is time alone with the Lord in the Word and in prayer as Psalm 1:2 stresses.

In speaking about the important role of Scripture meditation, Paul Meier writes:

Because man is a holistic being, his spiritual, psychological, and physical faculties are complexly intertwined. Every aspect of man’s nature affects him as a whole being. Daily meditation on the principles of life passed on from man’s loving Creator is more important for his health than food or sex or any other factor.

A primary reason Scripture meditation is vital for holistic health is that God’s thought patterns and values are in sharp contrast to mankind’s. Man is totally depraved being, possessing selfish and ultimately self-destructive thought patterns and behavior. Show me a natural man, untaught in God’s principles, and I’ll show you a natural man who suffers from emotional pain. I’ll show you a man who experiences the guilt and discomfort of a God-vacuum. I’ll show you a man who is unconsciously fighting and struggling for a sense of significance, using world ways (e.g., sexual fantasy, materialism, power struggles, and prestige) in s vain attempt to attain significance, all of which will fail. The ways of the world bring temporary relief, like bandaids on open flesh wounds, but not ultimate relief from man’s inner awareness of his insignificance apart from God.…

Ultimately, man’s sense of holistic well-being can come only from a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But man needs more than salvation for joy and peace in his daily existence. Many of my anxious, depressed, and even suicidal patients are born-again believers who have not yet been taught how to appropriate personally God’s thought patterns and behavioral principles, as outlined in the Bible. Instead, they have been misinformed by their parents, their peers, and frequently even by their churches. They have learned to think negative, self-critical, other-critical, destructive thoughts. They have become accustomed to behavior patterns that result in increased guilt, insecurity, and feelings of insignificance.33

In the paragraphs that followed these comments by Meier, he described the results of an extensive research study on the mental health (i.e., true spiritual maturity) of seminary students. The study showed that “Students who practiced almost daily Scripture meditation for three years or longer were significantly healthier and happier than students who did not meditate on Scripture daily.34

25 Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, Oliver Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 13.

26 Willem A. VanGemeren, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Old Testament, Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, 1976-1992. Zondervan Publishing House. Electronic edition, 1998.

27 MacDonald, p. 19.

28 Charles Swindoll, Quest For Character, Multonomah, Portland, 1987, p. 38.

29 Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, Word Books, Waco, 1985, p. 37f.

30 Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, p. 85f.

31 David Allan Hubbard, Beyond Futility, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1976, pp. 13-14, Quoted by Swindoll in Living on the Ragged Edge, p. 27.

32 MacDonald, pp. 15-16.

33 Paul Meier, Renewing Your Mind in a Secular World, Edited by John D. Woodbridge, Moody Press, Chicago, 1985, pp. 25-26.

34 Meier, p. 27.



Appendix: Discussion Questions for Marks of Maturity

MEN 7/52 is a men's ministry of Our desire is to see all men become true followers of Jesus Christ 7 days a week/52 weeks a year.

These studies were developed in a team training environment where men were being trained for their role as church leaders, as fathers, and as effective members of a society that desperately needs to see what authentic, biblical Christianity looks like. So, exactly what does a mature Christian look like? A mature Christian is a believer whose life begins to take on the character of Christ-likeness. But what exactly is that? What are the specific qualities that mark out a person as Christ-like? This is the focus and point of this study.

The qualities that should characterize Christian leaders are also the marks of spiritual maturity as described in the Bible. While all of the qualities that will be discussed in this series are not unique to Christianity and are often promoted and taught in the secular world, many of them are, by their very nature, distinctive to the Bible or biblical Christianity. Thus, the characteristics that should mark out a Christian leader are also the marks of biblical maturity which are in essence the product of true spirituality. In fact, biblical spirituality can be described by the term maturity since Christian maturity is the result of growth produced by the ministry of the Spirit in the light of the Word over time. It is this biblical/spiritual element, at least in part, that makes the marks of Christian leadership distinctively Christian.

Session 4

1. Describe the “sinkhole phenomenon”.

2. What is the definition of a powerful private life?

3. What are the four truths of Scripture that pertain to private life?

4. List the three things that must take place in one’s personal time with God and describe their presence in your life.

5. Which of these areas is weakest in your life? Why?

6. How does this weakness affect your life and the lives of your family?

7. Which one is strongest and how does it impact your life? Please be specific.

8. In 1 Kings 17:2-3, why did God tell Elijah to “go away from here . . . and hide yourself”?

9. Why is it important to have extended periods of seclusion?

10. What obstacles keep you from setting aside regular time each day, other than bible study and reading, for quiet time with God?

11. How often do you spend quiet time with God?

12. How long is that time?

13. When you spend time with God, who is doing most of the talking?

14. On the days when you do not spend extended periods of time with God, who and what govern your thoughts and behavior?

15. What happens to our inner life when we truly get alone with God?

16. What needs to change or be strengthened in your inner life?

17. In Mark 1:35-39, why was it important for Jesus to rise early in the morning and depart for a lonely place for prayer?

18. In Mark 6:30-32, why did Jesus take his disciples to a remote place?

19. What do you think would happen to you if you did the same each day?

Group Exercise

Beginning today, intentionally set aside an extended period of time each day for time with God. After each period, write your experiences in a journal. At the end of the week, describe the impact this daily time has had on you. Please share this with your group.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership

Mark #4: A Biblical Concept of Oneself


Every age has its own special characteristics and our age is no different. The apostle Paul warns that in the last days, men would be “lovers of self…rather that lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:2, 4). In our day the concept of self image, self esteem and self love has become a hot topic and the subject of much discussion.

One of the big debates going on today is the place of psychology in Christianity. A host of writers and theologians have criticized psychology for being self-centered, humanistic, ineffective, and anti-biblical. Others argue for the legitimate use of psychology maintaining it is a science and thus legitimate. In a recent article in Christianity Today entitled, “The Mind Doctors,” the author, a Christian psychologist, writes, “Few Christians today would say we need know nothing more about chemistry or physics than the Bible teaches. The same holds true for psychology, itself a science (p. 19, Christianity Today, April 8, 1988).

Without getting into that debate, one thing is clear and I believe true. As Paul warns us, we are living in a day in which we have become lovers of self and our society has become self-centered and satiated with self and self-hyphenated, self-fixated words like self-actualization, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-fulfillment.

Christian books also reflect this. Some examples are: Love Yourself, The Art of Learning to Love Yourself, Loving Yourselves, Celebrate Yourself, You’re Someone Special, Self Esteem: You’re Better than You Think, and probably the best known of all, Self Esteem: The New Reformation, by Robert Schuler.

A leading Christian psychologist has said, if a prescription could be written for the women of the world that would provide each one of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and personal worth (taken three times a day until the symptoms disappear) this would fill their greatest need. But is this statement really true? Part of the problem here is semantics and there is no doubt that wrong thinking about ourselves is at the heart of a lot of misery, fear, doubt, loneliness, and withdrawal. But we do need to be careful here. Is the problem one of low self-esteem or a collection, indeed, a barrage of self-centered thoughts rather than biblical God-centered thoughts about who we are and how we fit into the plan of God? Is the issue one of exalting, lifting up ourselves, or one of exalting God and His plan and revelation concerning who we are?

What is the solution? What do we need? Well first, we must not attempt to scripturalize some psychological fad or world viewpoint, nor should we allow ourselves to become self-centered and caught up in the ‘selfism’ of the world. But it is true that having a right (biblical) self-concept or thinking properly about ourselves in the light of God’s grace is important to spiritual maturity, to healthy spiritual lives, and effective ministry. This is an issue that is addressed in Scripture as is evident in a number of passages (Rom. 12: 3f; 2 Tim. 1:7-8; 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:12-15; 1 Cor. 16:10).

The subject of our self-concept or self-image creates a kind of paradox. The Bible-believing Christian knows that he is a sinner, that in himself dwells no good thing, and that in himself he has no merit with God; yet, like a paradox, at the same time, he also knows, as a creation of God, created in God’s image and redeemed by His grace, he has value and purpose in life.

So how do we hit a proper balance? How do we avoid the self-centered approach and focus of the world and at the same time have a biblical concept of self, a proper viewpoint of our own value and purpose that sets us free to serve the living God, that sets us free from those thoughts and feelings that tie us in knots and ruin our personalities, create false agendas and motives that so people are incapacitated for ministry?

That we think properly about ourselves is important and is even commanded in Scripture. In Romans 12:3, the apostle wrote, “For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.”

The basic word for “think” in this passage is proneo, which means “think, form or hold an opinion, judge.” “Sober discernment,” is sophroneo, “be of sound mind.” It means “to be in one’s right mind, be reasonable, keep one’s head.” But first, the apostle warns us against thinking more highly of ourselves than we should.” The Greek word here is huperphroneo, “to think too highly of oneself, to be haughty.” Ironically, quite contrary to our society today, the apostle does not warn against thinking too little of ourselves. Regardless, the sound thinking Paul is calling for is grounded in biblical revelation and faith in the work of God for us in Christ. Paul is calling for thinking and personal evaluation based on the authority of God’s revelation and on the facts of God and His grace. It means we are to look at ourselves through the lenses of Scripture.

To Timothy, whom some expositors have nick named “Timid Tim” because he seems to have been having problems with his self-confidence (or confidence in God’s gifts and ministry for his life), Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a Spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (or sound-mind thinking). The Greek word for “discipline” here is related to the word used for thinking in Romans 12:3. It is sophronismos from sophron, “sensible, prudent.” It comes from sos, “safe, sound, and phren, “the heart, the mind, or the inner man.” Sophronismos refers to “control, self-discipline, prudence” that stems from right thinking. A controlled life, one that demonstrates self-discipline stems from soundness of mind, from knowing and acting on the truth of Scripture in the light of God’s grace in Christ. In both passages, Romans 12:3 and 2 Timothy 1:7, the context deals with God’s gifts to us and the bold expression of those gifts in loving ministry for the sake of the body of Christ.

Thinking properly about ourselves stems from right thinking about God, but then that extends to right thinking about others so that it results in a freedom to serve according to the grace of God.

Now, let’s ask some questions: What am I worth as a person? Do I feel good about who I am or do I wish I was someone else? Have I accepted who I am as a person, not my sin or sinful habits, but the uniqueness God has created in me as a person (Ps. 139:13-14)? How we answer these questions may play a key role in what we do with our lives, how we live our lives, in the joy we experience in life, in the way we treat others, and in how we respond to people and to God.35 “Research has shown that we tend to act in harmony with our mental self-portrait. If we don’t like the kind of person we are, we think no one else likes us either. And that influences our social life, our job performance, our relationships with others.”36

A biblical concept of self developed out of our concept of God and His grace is important to solid spiritual maturity, to ministry, to our ability to lead others, and especially to our ability to be servants. Without a biblical concept of self, we end up playing spiritual king-of-the-mountain and engage in promoting personal agendas to build up a sagging ego. We seek from position, power, and praise what we should get from resting in God’s grace.

Thus, in order to effectively lead or minister to others we must think biblically about who we are. This means two key things: (a) we need to know our abilities and limitations while (b) always keeping in mind a biblical view of God, His grace to us in Christ, and knowing our sufficiency is always in God regardless of our abilities or weaknesses (see 2 Cor. 2:16-3:6).

Why is thinking in these terms so important? Because without it we will vacillate between fear and pride or between insecurity and overconfidence. Without this we will become either withdrawn and introverted or we will find ourselves running around in a hubbub of activity trying to feel good about ourselves because of our achievements. Paul’s spiritual maturity and qualification as a leader is seen in his freedom to serve others because, resting in who he was in Christ as a servant called of God by grace, he was not seeking to protect a poor self-image or to impress men with his greatness (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1ff; 1 Thess. 2:1-6).

An inadequate self-image robs us of the energy and powers of attention to relate to others because we are absorbed with our own inadequacies. That is especially true when we’re in the presence of people who remind us of our shortcomings or whose judgment about ourselves we value and want to influence. In such situations we are so self-conscious that we cannot give sufficient attention to others. As a result we may be regarded as being either uncaring or proud. Our feelings of inadequacy prevent us from reaching out to love and care for others…

Persons with an inadequate self-image look to other people’s opinions, praise or criticisms as determining factors in how they feel or think about themselves at a particular moment. Persons with a poor sense of self-worth are slaves to the opinions of others. They are not free to be themselves.37

What we need is a holy boldness and a relaxed confidence based on knowing God and resting in Him while also knowing that we are each His unique creation both physically and spiritually.

But how can we arrive at a state of mature spiritual equilibrium? May I suggest that this involves a number of things that we need to know, apply, and relate to. There are at least five biblical truths that are needed for a mature concept of one’s self-image. Understanding and relating to these five concepts will enable a person to relax in who they are without fear or pride, or without insecurity or a false sense of pride or arrogance.

Mature Believers have a Biblical Concept of Their Self-Image

Mature believers derive their sense of self-worth and value from their union and co-identification with Jesus Christ in all His fullness, personal gifts, and provision, and from knowing He has a will and purpose for each believer (cf. Rom. 12:3f; Eph. 1:3; 2:10; Col. 2:10 with 1 Tim. 1:12-15; 1 Cor. 15:9-11). Unfortunately, many people perceive themselves according to a portrait they developed early in life from the messages they received from their environment—parents, friends, teachers, etc. These may be good or bad, true or false, but it is this perception that forms the basis of how most people feel about themselves. Part of the maturing process as believers is the ability to see ourselves anew according to our new life in Christ, having been recreated according to and in God’s image for a new kind of life.

4:21 if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him just as the truth is in Jesus. 4:22 You were taught with reference to your former life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 4:24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image—in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth (Eph. 4:21-24).

3:9 Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 3:10 and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. 3:11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all (Col. 3:9-11).

(1) The alternative to the self-love of the world or a self-image based on religious or ethnic background or social status is not self-hate or rejection of one’s worth or value, but a recognition of where and how that value is to be derived through God’s grace to us in Christ.

(2) The alternative to the world’s kind of self-esteem (one based on social status, performance, appearance, religious background, etc.) is not self-negation, but an understanding and acceptance of God’s grace and provision for us in Christ which alone gives us true meaning and value.

(3) The alternative to the self-fulfillment of the world is not a life of meaninglessness or aimlessness, but a life totally engrossed in God and His purposes so that fulfillment is experienced naturally (or spiritually) through relationship and involvement with God rather than through preoccupation with self.

Note the following verses:

  • Romans 12:3 teaches the responsibility to discover, know, and think rightly with faith about who we are based on the gracious work of God in Christ.
  • Genesis 1:26-27 teaches that we are all created in the image of God. This means our lives have special value even though the image has been marred by the fall and sin.
  • Psalm 139:12f teaches us we are each uniquely created according to God’s own purpose—warts and all.
  • Proverbs 16:1-4, 8 teaches us about God’s sovereign and providential hand in each person’s life to work out His purposes.
  • Ephesians 1:3, 6; 2:10; and Colossians 2:10 teach the fact of God’s spiritual re-creative work in us and for us in Christ, which includes His complete provision, our spiritual union with Christ, and a special purpose in God’s plan.
  • Romans 12:4f; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:7; and 1 Peter 4:10 teach the fact of our giftedness and capacity to serve as members of the body of Christ. This means each believer is needed and has great value.
  • Colossians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 teach the responsibility and the potential as new creations in Christ to be conformed bit-by-bit to the image of God as revealed in the person of Christ through the Word and the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit. This means we are each earthen vessels, instruments for the glory of God with purpose.

What does all this mean? It means these spiritual truths should give every believer a sense of special purpose, a sense of destiny and conviction of God’s hand on his or her life. Such a sense of destiny can drive men or women to unbelievable lengths and enable them to achieve unprecedented things for God if they will just grasp and act on these facts of Scripture rather than focus on mankind’s standards for success or meaning.

But the problem is that people tend to look at others and their gifts, achievements, and popularity and measure themselves by what they see in others. We compare people with people. This not only gets our eyes on men and off God and His grace and plan, but it creates feelings of inferiority, jealousy, pride, and factions. This leads to a second important principle in thinking biblically about ourselves.

Mature Believers Use the Right Standard (Yardstick) for Judging Success

The Lord Jesus and the principles of Scripture must become our yardstick or the means by which we measure our value and self-image (cf. 1 Cor. 3:4-7; 4:1-5; 15:9-11; 2 Cor. 10:12; Eph. 4:13). The following set forth a few of the biblical reasons why this is so necessary to have a right tool of measurement.

(1) We are instruments of God. Effectiveness is always a product of God’s activity regardless of our labor or methods or cleverness or wisdom (1 Cor. 3:4-7).

(2) What counts with God is faithfulness to His grace! What counts with God is faithfulness in the use of the opportunities, abilities, and ministries that He gives us and not success as it is so often measured by men (Luke 12:42; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Cor. 4:1-2).

(3) All that we have is the product of God’s Grace. Whatever we have by way of abilities, talents, ministries, and even opportunities are gifts of God’s grace, even the very breath we draw (Rom. 12:3a; 1 Cor. 15:9-11).

(4) Jesus Christ is our standard and goal, not men. As mentioned previously, men may become examples of Christ-likeness, but even then, they become examples only as they point us to the Savior as they themselves become like Him (1 Cor. 11:1). Christ, as our standard, is the standard of excellence, but we don’t measure this by the opinions and standards of measurement used by the world or men. We measure it by the precepts of Scripture, the mature moral characteristics of Christ-likeness. Let’s note two key scriptures in this regard:

Ephesians 4:13 “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.”

Church leaders are to equip the saints (vs. 12) with a view to spiritual maturity in Christ. But this also points us to the standard, the measure by which we judge true biblical maturity and effectiveness. Note the three goals here of the edification process of the equipping of the saints. God wants unity and He wants maturity, i.e., spiritually-mature people, but the measure of that unity and maturity is nothing less than the very fullness of the stature of Christ. “Measure” is the Greek metron. It was used of “a standard of measurement, the gauge by which something was measured,” and “of what was measured out, the portion.” For the Christian life, Christ is in essence both our standard for growth and maturity and the portion we experience as we grow in Him and become like Him by the grace provisions of God.

1 Corinthians 4:1-3 “People should think about us this way—as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 4:2 Now what is sought in stewards is that one be found faithful. So for me, it is a minor matter that I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.”

We should desire to be thought of as simply faithful servants and stewards of God. This means we are not to measure ourselves nor allow ourselves to be measured by the standards men so often use as was the case with Corinth. God may use others in various ways to help us learn and grow in Christ-like standards, but the final test is Scripture, not the opinions of men.

(5) A right standard is important to spiritual stability. Having and using a right standard for effectiveness or success is important to sound spiritual growth, maturity, and effective leadership or ministry. Why? Because without it you will be measuring yourself, your value, your progress, and success by the standards of men and their response to you. Typically, man’s standards are such things as numbers, names, personality, charisma, and the like. This is wrong, it is pure folly. Paul wrote, “For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding (unwise)” (2 Cor. 10:12). Why is it unwise? Because wrong standards of measurement will harm to our ability to serve and do our job as unto the Lord for the blessing of others according to the purpose of God (cf. Jer. 1:17-19; 1 Cor. 4:1-5; with 2 Cor. 10:10 and 6:11-13). The simple principle is that false standards for success always lead to a number of problems that are detrimental to effective ministry and spiritual well being.

The following illustrate a few of the problems created by false standards of measurement:

  • False standards lead to false motives like selfish ambition and to a spirit of competition wherein we view others as opponents to beat rather than friends to enjoy or fellow workers with whom we share work as co-laborers in Christ (Phil. 1:17).
  • False standards lead to guilt, frustration, depression, and feelings of failure because we think we haven’t measured up to these man-made standards. We end up working to please men rather than God (1 Thess. 2:4-6). False standards can also lead to the opposite—feelings of pride and often a false sense of success (1 Tim. 3:6).
  • Trying to measure up to man’s standards may also lead to fear of failure which can result in withdrawal. This may cause an unwillingness to try something or to get involved in ministry or it can lead to forsaking a ministry. For sure, it can cause one to lose the joy of ministry or service (2 Tim. 1:6-7).
  • False standards can lead to self depreciation with the belief that we don’t count and can’t because e do not measure up.

Because of a failure to become and stay oriented to God’s grace to us in Christ, or because of grace disorientation and the false thinking which naturally follows, many believers end up functioning in ministry out of neurotic needs. They feel inadequate and so may often serve in some form of ministry to compensate for their bad feelings: to overcome guilt, to get recognition, or simply to feel better about themselves. Others may fail to function at all because of the same kinds of feelings. They are afraid of failure or of what others might say.

This leads to a handicapped people who are often divisive and unloving because they end up competing with others and with themselves for a personal sense of significance. This leads to all kinds of spiritual and emotional problems. As a result, people go around wearing their feelings on their sleeve, they become touchy, difficult to deal with, and incapable of receiving correction or suggestions. To be corrected is to be belittled or to lose face. So they become more concerned for themselves than they are about Jesus Christ, His glory and for others. They become defensive, argumentative, and at the same time, fearful.

The problem is grace disorientation (Heb. 12:15). What is grace? It is the name for God’s provision for us in Christ. The problem is we fail to rest in God’s grace for our lives, that is, our new life and position in Christ and the principles and promises of the Word along with the filling of the Spirit.

But what are some of the false standards that we often use like rungs to climb the ladder of success and personal feelings of significance?

  • Comparing appearances, abilities or personalities: God does not give us all the same abilities, intelligence, aptitude, or personality. I am not to look at another man’s ability or personality and decide that I can or can’t take on a particular ministry or responsibility based on my comparison with him. I am not to think or say, “If I had his way with words or his personality, then I could…” (cf. Paul [1 Cor 2:1-5; 15:7-11; with 3:1-3 and 2 Cor. 10:10], Moses [cf. Ex. 4:10-11 with Acts 7:22 and God’s estimation]).
  • Comparing bank accounts or possessions: Most people get their sense of value and competence from how much they make, from the size of their home, or from the kind of car they drive. But compare the Lord Jesus (Matt. 8:20). Money is never the basis of success nor of our ability to serve God. The amount we earn is simply not a barometer of God’s blessing. God has chosen the poor of this world rich in faith (Ja. 2:4-8; I Cor. 1:26-30).
  • Comparing friends or people we know: In talking to some people you wonder if they shouldn’t write a book entitled, The Ten Most Important People Who Have Met Me. Who we know has absolutely no bearing on our success or ministry or leadership abilities unless knowing them has been a means of our learning or an indication of our training and qualifications for a particular ministry (cf. 1 Tim. 2:2; 2 Tim. 3:14). But even then, unless appropriated, it means nothing.
  • Comparing results like nickels, names, and noses: Results can be a product of God’s blessing (Acts), but not necessarily. Results can also be the product of catering to the whims and fancies of the world that is looking for emotionalism, entertainment, and the sensational (2 Tim. 4:3), or to human manipulation as seen in some of the various cult leaders that have been successful in drawing a large number of people after them.

For an illustration of God’s evaluation of success in contrast to man’s evaluation one only needs to compare Numbers 20:8-12 and Psalm 106:32-33. In the eyes of men Moses was a success because he got results, but in God’s eyes, he, at this point, was a failure. THE ISSUE OF SUCCESS IS ALWAYS OBEDIENCE TO GOD, not pleasing men nor seeking to satisfy man’s whims or standards of success (cf. 1 Thess. 2:4). On the other hand, the results we see can be negative and considered by men a failure, but are successful in the purpose and eyes of God. One only needs to compare both Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s call and success (Isa. 6; Rom. 11:25 with Isa. 28; 55:11; Jer. 1:17f). Both Isaiah and Jeremiah were told in advance they would not be a success by the world’s standards. They were to preach messages of judgment to which Israel would react rather than repent. Part of the reason for their assignment was to give further evidence for God’s judgement of Israel (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; Acts 28:25-28).

As Isaiah 55:11 shows us, our preaching can be a means of ‘back door evangelism.’ God’s purpose with His Word for Isaiah was not positive. It was negative to demonstrate the hardness of Israel’s heart and the necessity of judgment. The point is we can’t always evaluate spiritual maturity or leadership or our success by names, nickels and noses and certainly not by the methods the world uses for success.

Another illustration is seen in Mark 4 with the parable of the soils and the purpose of this parable. The people were wondering why the leaders and the nation as a whole were not responding to the message of Christ. The parables of the soil, the sower, and the seed answer this question. They show that the problem was not in the message (the seed) nor with the messenger (the sower), but in the condition of the soil.

Another illustration is that of 2 Timothy 4:9f. Paul had been deserted and was in prison waiting to die, but he was anything but a failure. He could have very easily begun to feel sorry for himself, “no one wants to follow me, my men have deserted me; I must be doing something wrong, I am a failure.” But as a mature man in Christ, Paul had a very different perspective and wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4;7-8).

In his book, Failure: the Back Door to Success, Erwin Lutzer tells the following story that provides an excellent illustration of a mature man who derived his sense of significance and self image from the Lord rather than from the opinions of people.

A friend of mine who pastored a small church told me how depressing it was for him to attend pastors’ conferences. There he would suffer through the reports of the wonderful success of other churches. It seemed that all churches had either doubled in their membership or tripled their income during the preceding year.

His church, on the other hand, was small and had a history of difficulties. It had problems with bitterness, complaining, and factions. On some occasions the pastor was publicly humiliated by irate members. His story (which could be the subject of an entire book) reminds us that carnal Christians can be just as obstinate as worldly pagans.

What did the pastor do? He lived with the abuse. He preached the Scriptures and taught doctrine. Eventually, a few individuals began to show signs of spiritual growth. In the lives of a handful, there was fruit. But most of the seed fell by the wayside; it was choked by thorns of worldly anxiety or drowned in the slough of resentment.

When I heard the full story, I said, “Roy, I would not have stayed there for a month!” His reply was a rebuke: “I’ve always wondered if I had love for people. God put me in the most trying situation I could endure. He wanted to teach me how to show love in a place where there was none!”

Was he a success? Not if nickles [sic] and noses are the measuring sticks! Results can be a barometer of God’s blessing but not necessarily.38

A spirit of comparison, whether it involves comparing others with others or ourselves with others, is biblically defined as carnal, worldly, immature, and can even be devilish (see 1 Cor. 3:1ff; Jam. 3:14-16). It leads only to hurt and harm, failure and malfunction.

Finally, Peter’s response to the Lord’s revelation regarding Peter’s future and the Lord’s response to Peter’s question about John’s future in John 21:18-22 provides us another illustration of our tendency to make false comparisons or question God’s dealing with us in comparison to His dealing with others. Our tendency is to look at others and wonder, “Why me? Why do I have to face this trial while other believers do not?” Or “Why doesn’t God do with me what He is doing with so and so?” But the point is, “If God wishes to bless others more than us, if they are famous and we are unknown, if they are wealthy and we are poor, if they are highly gifted and we are less gifted (at least by men’s standards) what is that to us? Christ calls upon each of us to trust and follow Him. As long as we are pursuing the Savior with all our heart and doing our best in accordance with His supply, our responsibility is to simply follow the Lord.

The last words of our Lord in John 21 form an important message for all believers and especially for leaders. We must follow Him AND leave the results to Him as well. God is sovereign and we are His creatures. We are tools of His grace.

Mature Believers Live by Faith in Biblical Truths

(1) They will act on the truth of their identity in Christ. The Bible teaches us that every Christian is created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26,27), that each believer is uniquely and personally crafted by God from the womb (Ps. 139:12f), that each believer in Christ, has been recreated and is a new spiritual creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17), and that through faith in Christ, every Christian is a child of God by the new birth (John 1:12-13; 3:3-6; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23; Jam. 1:18). What a marvelous identity and heritage! Such a heritage means value beyond compare regardless of the responses of others or of the opinions of men.

(2) They will rest and act on the fact of their God-given abilities—natural talents and spiritual gifts. In Psalm 139:1-12, the psalmist declared his faith in the Lord’s knowledge of all the details of his life. However, the Lord not only knows and perceives the nature and needs of his people in general, but the psalmist believed in God’s personal purpose for his life. God is not only the Sovereign Creator, the Transcendent One, but He is also the Immanent One who is intimately concerned with the individuals He has created even from the womb and before!

In verse 13, the psalmist continues the emphasis on God’s personal involvement by an emphatic use of the pronoun “you” and by the use of the pronominal prefixes and suffixes to the verbs and nouns in the Hebrew text, which are translated by the English pronouns “you” and “your.” By God’s personal involvement, each individual is the result of the creative work of God (spiritually and physically) in the womb. The psalmist declares “You created my inmost being (the spiritual aspect)” and “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (the physical aspect, cf. Job 8-11; Jer 1:5). All beings owe their existence, including their individual gifts and abilities, to God as the Sovereign Creator. Reflecting on the reality of this truth had a tremendous impact on the life of the psalmist. He knew that the Lord had formed him as a unique person with gifts and abilities according to God’s sovereign purposes.

In verses 14-17, therefore, the psalmist personally responds to this awesome truth of God’s immanent involvement in his very being. Acting on this truth and realizing the distinctiveness this gave to his life, the psalmist properly responded with praise to God for his life.

139:14 I will give you thanks, because your deeds are awesome and amazing. You knew me thoroughly, 15 my bones were not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and sewed together in the depths of the earth.16 Your eyes saw me when I was a fetus. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence. 17 How difficult it is for me to fathom your thoughts about me, O God! How vast are their sum total! (NET Bible)

Compare also Romans 12:3f; 1 Corinthians 12:4-5; and 1 Pet.4:10.

(3) They will act on the fact of God’s purpose and the nature of this life. Such creative activity and personal involvement by God naturally includes a purpose for our being in a given place and time in history. Regarding the response of the psalmist in Psalm 139:14f, VanGemeren writes:

…God is concerned with the individuals whom he has formed for his purpose. Therefore praise is the proper response to God’s grace of discernment, perception, and purpose. The child of God sees God’s presence everywhere (vv. 7-12) and experiences the joy of God’s watchful eye over him. All of God’s “works” are “wonderful,” but the believer senses more than any other part of God’s creation that he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Though God’s grace to him is like a “knowledge ... too wonderful for” him (vs. 6), he lives with a personal awareness of God’s gracious purpose (“I know that full well”). The psalmist reveals a unique awareness of God’s grace toward him and responds with a hymn of thanksgiving (“I praise you”).

…The idea of purpose comes more clearly to expression in v. 16. The Lord’s writing in the book (cf. 51:1; 69:28) refers to God’s knowledge and blessing of his child “all the days” of his life (cf. Eph 2:10). His life was written in the book of life, and each of his days was numbered.39

This element of God’s purpose for us is also seen in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” Simply put, God has a special purpose for each of us: no one is excluded. While some aspects of His purpose are the same for all of us (to glorify the Lord and live for Him, etc.), this includes a special destiny for each person according to the way God has gifted and brought us into this world.

But the nature of this life, who we are in Christ (blessed with every spiritual blessing and complete in Him, Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:10), and our ultimate destiny as believers in Christ should impact how we view who we are as individuals.

1 Peter 1:15-17 And if you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each one’s work, live out the time of your temporary residence here in reverence.

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul,

If we truly know and act on WHO we are in Christ, WHY we are here (as ambassador sojourners), and WHERE we are going (our eternal destiny), we should be able to rest and relax while reaching out to serve and love people regardless of the success of others or of the response we get. This means living out of the fullness of Christ and our unique: (a) a new identity in him, (b) the spiritual ability that comes through him, (c) God’s individual purpose for each believer because of him, (d) and the heavenly and imperishable rewards that come from him. Note the apostle’s sense of this in the following verses even though he was being maligned and compared with others.

4:1 People should think about us this way—as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 4:2 Now what is sought in stewards is that one be found faithful. 4:3 So for me, it is a minor matter that I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4:4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not acquitted because of this. The one who judges me is the Lord. 4:5 So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God (1 Cor. 4:1-5).

Mature believers who know who they are in Christ, why they are here, where their strength lies, where they are going, and their ultimate destiny and reward—issues that are to be settled in one’s heart by faith—will no longer be dependent on man’s standards of success or on the response of others for their happiness or sense of identity or value. Why? Because they are comprehending and accepting by faith the value God places on their lives.

So, do we have an identity crisis every time we are challenged, questioned, or rejected in some way, or when we hear of the success of a fellow believer, or fail to see the success we expect or want? If so, Why? Perhaps because we are (a) seeking our sense of well being from the response of others or (b) from always wanting to be right, or (c) from our own evaluation of our success based on the standards of men. Could it be because we are dependent on the responses of others or our visualization of that response to: How do I look (appearance)? How do I do (performance)? Or how important am I (status or position)?

Such a perspective is not only immature, but it will ruin us for ministry. It will turn us from the servant to the served. This is why men often act authoritatively or why some are afraid to delegate jobs or responsibilities or why some become prima donnas.

In John 13:1f we see Christ knew who He was, why He was here, and where He was going. Though rejected by men, these three things, “Who,” “Why,” and “Where” formed the mental foundation for faith and for His ability to love and serve others. He never sought His sense of identity from men or from the typical comparisons of the world.

Think of this: Christ left the eternal glory of the Father to suffer the ultimate humiliation of a shameful human death. Yet, He never complained because He had to abandon the glory that the other two members of the Trinity retained. If He had compared His role in redemption with those of the Father and the Holy spirit, He might have felt cheated. Why should He—equal with the other two members—be the one to become the scum of the earth?.

If Christ had compared Himself with other men (remember, He was fully human), He might have thought that He should be the greatest of them. Yet (incredibly) He became the lowest of them! When the disciples were wondering who would perform the duties of a household servant, Christ took a towel and basin of water and washed their feet!

How could the one who was so high stoop so low? One reason is that He did not compare Himself with others but cared only about meeting the standard that the Father had ordained. “I delight to do thy will, O my God” (KJV). That’s all that mattered.”40

By the world’s standards, Christ was a miserable failure. He was born in a cow stall, raised in the despicable little town of Nazareth, unschooled in the accepted schools of the day, lived without money and without a home of His own, was tried and crucified as a criminal, and died naked with the Roman soldiers casting lots for His robe, His only possession.

Now, an important question to ponder: What is one of surest signs of mature spirituality? It is possessing the heart and mind of a servant. But servanthood is impossible if we are comparing ourselves competitively with others and seeking our sense of well being and success by comparing ourselves with other men. When that occurs, we are seeking to be served by our environment—indeed by our own service.

To be an effective and mature servant, we too must know who we are, we must have an identity derived from God and His standards, and we must know why we are here, and have a sense of God’s destiny and purpose for our lives. We must serve with a view to doing God’s will no matter what, and with a view to heavenly treasures and rewards, not those based on human comparisons (1 Cor. 4:1-5; 2 Cor. 10:12).

In regard to our self concept and maturity, leadership, and ministry, spiritually mature believers also live in view of another vital biblical principle.

(4) They will have a high God-confidence level; Christ’s presence and provision becomes the source of their lives and ministry. Knowing who we are, what we can do and can’t do is important, but above all we must have confidence in the Lord followed by boldness to move ahead. This is important to the servant himself and to those to whom he ministers (Phil. 4:13; 1 Cor. 3:6f; 4:1-5; 2 Cor. 2:14f). None of us are ever sufficient in ourselves regardless of who we are, regardless of our training, our physical qualities, our spiritual maturity, or our gifts and talents. This is wonderfully illustrated in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16; 3:4-6, and 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. These passages remind us that God may use our abilities, as He used Paul’s training and keen mind—both gifts of God—but sometimes He gives us weaknesses and then works though us anyway to demonstrate His grace and power.

(5) They will seek to discover and correct those weaknesses that can be corrected. While all believers have God-given gifts and abilities, they also have weaknesses. Some of these can be changed and some cannot. Part of spiritual maturity is discovering those that can be changed and then seeking to correct them by the grace of God while learning to live with those that cannot be changed. God made us the way we are, not in our sinfulness, but in our basic makeup as to physical and intellectual limitations and as to our gifts and talents (Ex. 4:10-13; John 9:1f; Rom. 12:3, 4; 1 Pet. 4:10; Ps. 139:14, 15).

How should knowing this concept affect one’s life? This doesn’t mean that we are to accept sin as a way of life or sinful tendencies, habits, or mediocrity. It means we are to do the best we can with what God has given us (1 Cor. 15:9-10). It means we should be satisfied with our best and never covet another man’s greater ability. However, we should seek to change what can be changed through the grace of God and according to the standards of the Word, not the world.

For instance, if I am physically out of shape so that I can’t go up a flight of stairs without breathing hard, I should get in shape through the proper exercise and diet. If I can improve my mind by study for the glory of God and to enhance my ability to serve Him, I should. If I am in school and I can make A’s, I should, but if, after hard work, consistency, and faithfulness, I end up with C’s, then I need to thank God and move on. I should not sit around and mope because of my inability or another person’s ability.

Understanding this concept should lead to at least four important steps:

  • We need to thank God for who we are, unique and distinct with a message to unfold (Eph. 2:10; Ps. 139:14; Rom. 12:3; 1 Pet. 4:10).
  • We should seek to know our strengths and develop our abilities to the fullest degree. In other words, we need to be all that we can be according to the creative and providential work of God in our lives. Remember, we are each the product of: (a) God’s creative handiwork, (b) His providential direction and provision, and (c) our response to Him. For God’s providence and provision compare Proverbs 16:1f; Mark 4:8,20; and 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 For man’s Responsibility compare Colossians 3:17,23; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 15:10; and 2 Chronicles 31:20-21.
  • We should seek to correct and change in our life what can be corrected as good stewards of God’s grace and according to the directives and standards of the Word.
  • We need to accept those things that cannot be changed, trust the Lord’s design, and utilize the strengths of others in the body of Christ. No one should never try to be a one-man show.

The things we cannot change: Some weaknesses or deficiencies we can’t change; these are not moral issues or problems of sin. Rather, these are what we can call the unchangeables. There are certain things in our lives that we cannot change and from which we may inherit certain limitations (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1f; 2 Cor. 12:5-10). They include: ancestors, time in history, race, national heritage, gender, family, physical features, mental abilities (natural aptitudes, mental limitations, and talents), physical size, abilities and handicaps, and aging and death.

The things we can change: These we will call the changeables and include things that we can do something about. In some cases these become issues in one’s spiritual life while in other cases they are not issues at all. Where they are an issue and hinder one’s walk with the Lord or capacity to minister, they become issues for change. The changeables include: weight, physical condition, physical strength, spiritual character or maturity, knowledge and its use, dress, posture, attitudes and viewpoint, facial expressions, habits or patterns, and skill, etc. Obviously, anything that is clearly contrary to the Word or the moral will of God is sin and needs to be dealt with by God’s grace (Rom. 6:1f; Eph. 4:22f; Col. 1:9f; 3:4f; Proverbs., Ps. 119).


There are two large problems that face us as we seek to appropriate this mark of a Christian maturity:

(1) Our pride—the spirit of covetousness and the desire for public recognition, fame, applause. Let’s face it. This is a spiritual issue. It is basically an unwillingness to rest in God’s purposes for our lives and an unwillingness to wait for His evaluation (1 Cor. 4:3-5; Prov. 3:3-6; Ps. 37:4-6).

(2) Man’s yardstick and scale of values. This has always been a problem even in the church as we see in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4 and in 2 Corinthians 10:10-12, but it has become an even greater threat and problem in our day because of the mediums of modern communication and the great notoriety that men so often receive. We face the “superstar syndrome” and people begin to compare their leaders and their churches by those of the superstars. The yardstick they use is far too often not that of the Word, but that of the world.

Naturally, this often results in (a) discouragement—I couldn’t make a dent, I am not good enough or smart enough, (b) apathy—why try, I could never compare with so and so, (c) fear—I would fail. I simply can’t measure up to people’s expectations, (d) pride in self or other people, the fan club syndrome—”I am of so and so” (see 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4) and (e) divisions, cliques (1 Cor. 1:11f).

Again I would call our attention to the apostle Paul as an illustration of a spiritually mature leader who knew who he was in Christ, why he was here and where he was going. As a result, he was always able to minister to others as a mature servant in the most difficult of circumstances as is so clearly evident from the following passages.

1 Corinthians 4:1 People should think about us this way—as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 4:2 Now what is sought in stewards is that one be found faithful. 4:3 So for me, it is a minor matter that I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4:4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not acquitted because of this. The one who judges me is the Lord. 4:5 So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.

4:6 I have applied these things to myself and Barnabas because of you, brothers and sisters, so that through us you may learn “not to go beyond what is written,” so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of the one against the other. 4:7 For who concedes you any superiority? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as though you did not? 4:8 Already you are satisfied! Already you are rich! You have become kings without us! I wish you had become kings so that we could reign with you! 4:9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to die, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to people. 4:10 We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, we are dishonored! 4:11 To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, brutally treated and without a roof over our heads. 4:12 We do hard work, toiling with our own hands. When we are verbally abused, we respond with a blessing, when persecuted, we endure, 4:13 when people lie about us, we answer in a friendly manner. We are the world’s dirt and scum, even now.

2 Corinthians 10:12 For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 10:13 But we will not boast beyond certain limits, but will confine our boasting according to the limits of the work to which God has appointed us, that reaches even as far as you. 10:14 For we were not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach as far as you, because we were the first to reach as far as you with the gospel about Christ. 10:15 Nor do we boast beyond certain limits in the work done by others, but we hope that as your faith continues to grow, our work may be greatly expanded among you according to our limits, 10:16 so that we may preach the gospel in the regions that lie beyond you, and not boast of work already done in another person’s area.10:17 But “The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.” 10:18 For it is not the person who commends himself who is approved, but the person the Lord commends.

1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, about our coming to you: it has not proven to be purposeless. 2:2 But although we suffered earlier and were mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of much opposition. 2:3 For the appeal we make does not come from error or impurity or with deceit, 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts. 2:5 For we never appeared with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is our witness— 2:6 nor to seek glory from people, either from you or from others, 2:7 although we could have imposed our weight as apostles of Christ. But we were little children among you—like a nursing mother caring for her own children.



Appendix: Discussion Questions for Marks of Maturity

MEN 7/52 is a men's ministry of Our desire is to see all men become true followers of Jesus Christ 7 days a week/52 weeks a year.

These studies were developed in a team training environment where men were being trained for their role as church leaders, as fathers, and as effective members of a society that desperately needs to see what authentic, biblical Christianity looks like. So, exactly what does a mature Christian look like? A mature Christian is a believer whose life begins to take on the character of Christ-likeness. But what exactly is that? What are the specific qualities that mark out a person as Christ-like? This is the focus and point of this study.

The qualities that should characterize Christian leaders are also the marks of spiritual maturity as described in the Bible. While all of the qualities that will be discussed in this series are not unique to Christianity and are often promoted and taught in the secular world, many of them are, by their very nature, distinctive to the Bible or biblical Christianity. Thus, the characteristics that should mark out a Christian leader are also the marks of biblical maturity which are in essence the product of true spirituality. In fact, biblical spirituality can be described by the term maturity since Christian maturity is the result of growth produced by the ministry of the Spirit in the light of the Word over time. It is this biblical/spiritual element, at least in part, that makes the marks of Christian leadership distinctively Christian.

Session 5

1. Describe the paradox that the subject of self-image creates?

2. What is the result of acting “in harmony with our mental self-portrait”?

3. Two key things are needed if we are to effectively lead or minister to others. What are they?

4. Why is thinking in these terms so important?

5. List the five biblical truths that are needed for a mature concept of one’s self-image.

6. What are the three alternatives to worldly self-love, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment?

7. Describe, in your own words, the biblical concept of your self-image.

8. How does this differ from your actual self-image? Please be specific.

9. What are the five points that comprise a biblical standard for judging success?

10. Using the Scripture passages in the text, describe how each of these points are an integral part of your measurement of your successes.

11. What happens when we use the wrong standards of measurement?

12. Describe the four results that are the consequences of using false standards of measurement?

13. In what areas of your life do you use false standards as a measurement of your effectiveness and success? Please be specific.

14. What are the four false standards identified in the text that we often use to measure our personal feelings of significance?

15. Describe the circumstances in your life where you use these standards to measure your personal significance. Again, please be specific.

16. What are the five marks that identify a mature believer who lives by faith in biblical truths?

17. Please describe the following in detail:

  • Your identity in Christ:
  • Your God-given abilities, talents, and gifts:
  • God’s purpose for you in this life:
  • Your God-confidence level:
  • Your process of discovering and correcting your correctable weaknesses:

18. What four steps are necessary for discovering and correcting your weaknesses?

Group Discussion

What must we do, beginning now, to discover and correct the two problems we face in having a true biblical concept of ourselves? How must we help each other in this process?

  • Our pride – the sprit of covetousness and the desire for public recognition, fame, and applause;
  • Man’s yardstick and scale of values.

Related Topics: Man (Anthropology), Spiritual Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership