George Whitfield preaching

A Special Season of Life and Discipleship

It has only been a couple weeks since Brian and I sat down together at a local cafAi??. We spent two hours together. It was our longest conversation since I met Brian a decade ago when, at the time, he was but a pre-teen. He was small and squirrelly’like most boys his age, but he was always polite and respectful. Today, he’s over 6′ tall and anything but squirrelly. And he’s still polite and respectful. Brian comes from a fine, Christian family. He has parents (Dave and Kristine) who love him dearly and have raised him very well, with a view of Christ and the Word of God as their guide.

Brian and I met at the cafAi?? because he had a question he wanted to ask me’one of the most important questions he will likely ever ask. He wanted my permission to court my daughter, Marissa, in preparation to ask her hand in marriage. Brian had taken an article I had written years ago very seriously’so seriously, he had printed it and had it in his Bible. The article explains, in detail, what I will require of the young men who seek to marry my daughters

After spending some time making sure Brian had a firm grasp of what I expected of him regarding a relationship with my little girl, I gave my consent. While Brian came to the cafAi?? already having a good idea of what my answer would be, he was noticeably relieved when I gave him my answer. All four parents have been praying for this day, and we thank the Lord it has finally come.

One of my expectations of Brian was that he would enter into a discipleship relationship with me. I had asked Brian’s father for his blessing, before I asked Brian. I didn’t want to do anything to interfere with or undermine Dave’s relationship with his son. Brian agreed to allow me to disciple him.

As Brian and I continued to enjoy fellowship with one another, he expressed a desire to have me help him develop his zeal and abilities to share the gospel. My first thought (naturally) was, Great! He might become my fishing’ buddy! But as quickly as the thought came, it was overshadowed with a heaviness of heart.

For reasons known only to the Holy Spirit, my mind was filled with thoughts of men who have shipwrecked their faith by making open-air preaching an idol and a mistress. I thought of how many hundreds of men I encouraged and trained to open-air preach while knowing very little about their lives with Christ. Were they Christians with zeal, but without knowledge? Was evangelism already an idol or mistress for them? What kind of men were they at home, with their wives and their children? How committed were they, really, to their church? Were they men of God, mature in their faith? I didn’t know. I didn’t give it much thought beyond asking whether or not they were a member of a church and some other questions I asked as part of an application process.

I looked at Brian and smiled. I told him that I look forward to the day when he is biblically sharing his faith in Jesus Christ. I told him we would start slow, with him coming out and just watching me preach and listening to me talk to people.

As I said this to Brian, a very determined thought came to mind. I’m not going to do to Brian what I’ve done to others, either directly or indirectly. I’ve got a wonderful opportunity to invest in a young Christian man’s life. He’s going to be my first son-in law. I’m not going to set him up to fail my own daughter by turning him into an evangelistic juggernaut, an open-air preaching machine, before he matures into the man of God the Lord intends Him to be.

The other day was my first opportunity to spend time discipling Brian. We met via Skype. Brian lives on his university campus and only comes home on the weekends. He will graduate in May with a BA degree in economics. Marissa will also graduate from her university in May, with an MA degree in Library Sciences. I won’t make even a veiled attempt to hide how proud I am of both of them.

The first of what I hope will be many books Brian and I will read together is The Making of a Man of God: Lessons from the Life of David. Since he has 17 units during his last semester of school, along with holding down two part time jobs (strong work ethic), we are taking it slow’moving through the book at a rate of one chapter per week. I’ve also have him participating in Resolution 2:24. I am very thankful to the Lord for this new and special season of life and discipleship’a special time during which I will watch a young man grow into a man of God.

What Is a Man of God?’

The phrase man of God appears 73 times in the Bible (ESV). It appears only twice in the New Testament:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11).

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In addition to pre-incarnate appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ, the following men were given the title and/or description man of God in the Bible:

  • Moses
  • Samuel
  • Shemaiah
  • Elijah
  • Elisha
  • David
  • Igaliah
  • Timothy

Character studies of the above men’the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of them’would certainly be helpful in defining a man of God. Unfortunately, no blog-length article will sufficiently answer such a monumentally important question as What is a man of God?’

Suffice to say that whatever description I give, whatever word picture I paint of a man of God, it will fall woefully short of encapsulating a full likeness of this kind of man. Of course, the Word of God must be the primary and only authoritative source for defining the man of God. Any standard other than the Word of God is utterly meaningless. Any other standard is little more than man’s attempt to create himself in the image of God’an image of God that looks most like himself.

One of the most detailed descriptions found in a single place in the Word of God is found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, which reads:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

While this is not an exhaustive list, the passage clearly lays out several characteristics of the man of God. He is:

  • Above reproach ‘ no charge of immorality or holding to false doctrine can be made
  • The husband of one wife (if he is married) ‘ not a polygamist; not a party in an unbiblical divorce
  • Sober-minded ‘ vigilant; watchful; mindful; serious but not morbid; sound judgment; understands the idea of moderation in every area of life
  • Self-controlled ‘ modest in appearance, deportment, and conduct
  • Respectable ‘ courteous; decorum; a well-ordered life
  • Hospitable ‘ literally, a lover of strangers; a willingness to bring people into one’s home
  • Able to teach ‘ an ability to communicate his wisdom to others; an ability to rightly interpret the Scriptures for the edification of others
  • Not a drunkard ‘ one that is not given over to strong drink or exhibits the behaviors, even when sober, of someone who is drunk
  • Not violent ‘ not a striker, with his hands or his tongue; not a persecutor of those who displease him
  • Gentle ‘ fair; equitable; seeks to extend grace by applying the spirit of the law, when others might seek to impose the letter of the law
  • Not quarrelsome ‘ not disposed to fighting; not a brawler; peaceable; not litigious
  • Not greedy ‘ not covetous; not bent on wealth for the sake of being wealthy
  • Good manager of his home ‘ he is the leader of his home; not lording his leadership over his family, but leading in such a way that his wife and children want to follow him
  • Children in subjection/submission ‘ he is neither frivolous with or fickle toward his children; his children are respectable, modest, and submissive to their father
  • Not a new convert ‘ not a novice in the faith; his must be a faith of theological and experiential strength; one who can be trusted with weighty responsibilities in the church, such as teaching
  • Well thought of by the lost ‘ a life without public scandal; one who seeks to do good to his unsaved neighbor, etc.; respected by those outside the church

Only Jesus Christ, the God-Man, perfectly lived up to the biblical standard of a godly man. Even those men who are referred to in the Word of God as men of God were flawed men, prone to sin. While no man can perfectly live up to God’s ideal of a man after His own heart, the man of God is one who does his best, for the glory of God, to model the above character traits in his life.

A final word on what is a man of God from one of the best known evangelistic preachers of the 19th century, Octavius Winslow:

It is admitted by all conversant with Christian evidence that the internal proofs of tithe truth of Christianity surpass all others. This is undoubtedly so as to the evidence of experience. An individual may not be able thoroughly to understand either the external or the internal evidences of Christianity, but let him have the evidence of personal experience and he is convinced. No reasoning can overthrow, no sophistry can weaken, no assertions can remove it. A man that has the experience of the truth in his heart is armed with a mighty weapon with which to confront and confound his foes.

We do not say that there will not arise occasional mental difficulties and spiritual despondencies, casting a momentary cloud-veil upon the luster of his hope. But this we affirm, and affirm it fearlessly, that as it is impossible to admit the sun within a room and then sanely question its light, so is it impossible for Christ to take up His abode in the heart of a poor sinner unattended by clear and demonstrable evidence. Nor is this evidence confined to himself; others are compelled to acknowledge that he is a man of God, that he has “passed from death unto life that his Christianity is more than a symbol, that it is a fact; more than a resemblance, that it is a reality. Such is the truth we are about to demonstrate . . .

The Church has its men of distinction too. They are styled, men of God.’ Who and what is a man of God?Ai?? The world cannot match him- we challenge it, and say, “Bring out your man of intellect, measure him with the renewed mind, the intellect taught and disciplined by God the Spirit, trained in God’s school, on whose faculties the light of heaven has shone- he is in comparison but a dwarf! Bring forth your man of rank, the coronet glittering upon his brow, the ermine gracefully enfolding his form- compare that rank with the rank of a believer in Christ, with one who can claim a filial relationship to God, calling Him Father’ -with one who belongs to the blood-royal of Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords,’ who belongs to the Royal Priesthood, and his earthly order, his human titles, pale into impressive insignificance. Bring out your men of pleasure- what are their highest, purest delights, contrasted with the joys, delights, and pleasures of the child of God? The pleasure of the one is but a “name, a mock, a sham; the joys and delights of the other are real, substantial, satisfying.

But these are general remarks only; it may be proper that we attempt to show, who the man of God is- what are the essential elements, the great attributes of his character. In the first place, a man of God is a partaker of God’s nature. It is this that ennobles and exalts him, and gives him a character so distinctive, a dignity so lofty. He possesses another nature than his own. It is not of earthborn royalty, nor is it of angel-birth, it is nothing less, it could be nothing more, than the nature of God himself!

In Part 2 of this article, I will explain why the open-air preacher must be a man of God. While I wish there were more open-air preachers on the streets, today, I fear there are far too many men on the streets that lack the spiritual qualities to serve God as one of His heralds.

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