This sponsored post is provided by Dan Doriani and P&R Publishing.
Why are there so many books, especially books for men, that reduce the Christian life to a string of techniques and how-to lists?
Every man has seen a book that lists four steps for building lasting friendships, five techniques for raising obedient children, six essentials for effective workers, and seven ways to love your wife. I call this “Nike Christianity.” The mentality is, “Here are the rules; just do it.”
Our faith has rules, but the Christian life is more than rules and guidelines for good and godly living. What is more, because of our sinful nature we can’t “just do it.” That is why the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus are essential, if anyone is to have eternal life. When the Spirit unites us to Christ by faith, God remakes his people in the image of Christ. It’s our destiny to become more like Christ. That is the foundation of godly manhood.
Why do Christian writers reduce Christian living to lists and techniques? People like lists. They’re easy to create and they give the sense that progress is at hand. But in Scripture, renewed character drives progress in godliness.
How then do we approach godly manhood? Because character drives godliness, my book The New Man grounds manhood in God’s nature and his work of renewing us in his image.
- Godly husbands follow Jesus’ pattern of sacrificial love.
- Jesus’ love for his bride, the church, shows husbands how to love their wives.
- Good fathers are like God, our Father. His love, justice, faithfulness, and loving discipline set the pattern for godly fathers.
- The Bible doesn’t say much about God as friend, but what it says is consistent: God’s friendship with Abraham and Moses, and Jesus’ friendship with his disciples show that self-disclosure and helpful presence are central (John 15:13-15).
- The incarnation and resurrection of Jesus teach us to value our bodies. As a carpenter and mason, Jesus had to be physically strong, and many heroes of the faith had physical strength and endurance. They teach us to do much better with physical self-discipline in food, sleep, and exercise.
- At work, we like to be creative because God is Creator and therefore creative. When we work hard to finish an engrossing task, we also resemble Jesus, who said “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work” (John 4:34). Likewise God’s pattern of work and rest is the most basic structure for our use of time, one that liberates us to rest and play.
This approach liberates us from the soft legalism that says the disciple’s daily walk is primarily governed by rule keeping. God’s law is a gift, but not his only gift. By recognizing the centrality of God’s work of redeeming us and renewing us, heart, soul, mind, and strength, we put character and law where they belong. Who we are in Christ drives what we do. We also fix our eyes on Jesus, as Scripture says, knowing him as redeemer first, and also hero, friend, and exemplar.
I know that women read men’s books, often alongside a husband or friend, so let me say that this approach applies to women almost as much as men. God created humanity in his image and restored believers to that image, so everyone, male or female, should look to reflect God’s character at work, in marriage, as parents, as friends, and as stewards of our bodies.
My hope is that redeemed men and women will grow in grace and godliness, striving to live out the new identity we have in Christ. We can and should seek to heed God’s commands and especially to be conformed to the life of Christ. I also hope that men will take up the roles that are especially theirs as disciples, leaders, husbands, fathers, workers, and friends.
Dan Doriani is vice president of strategic academic projects and professor of theology at Covenant Theological Seminary. Previously he was senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri.
Come hear Dan speak at The Faithful Shepherd Pastors’ Conference on May 9–11, 2016. For more details visit www.alliancenet.org/the-faithful-shepherd.