Lynne thought the tie was too much, but she was wearing a beautiful black dress and I was taking her out for her birthday. I needed to go the extra mile! I must admit I have an unhealthy concern for appearances. Spending twenty-two years in the Marine Corps has probably influenced that, but if I’m honest with myself, it is more complex. Long ago I learned that we only get one chance to make a good first impression. Given that I never know what opportunities await me outside the front door, I err on the side of caution.

I’m not the only one concerned with appearances. This was brought home to me a few nights ago when Lynne and I attended a “commencement.” Our church has a program called Regeneration. It is a year-long intensive program to help people deal with sin issues. Remember,

“. . . all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, ESV)

Several people in the commencement, whom I’ve known for quite a while, shared things with which they have struggled, things I knew nothing about. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. The church today is notorious for shooting our own wounded. When we gather as believers, we want to appear as having it all together because we’ve seen the gossip and back-biting when someone’s façade falls away. That fragile façade is threatened in the small group context and it takes courage to become transparently engaged with other believers. We can all make excuses for not getting engaged with other believers and on the surface, we may even convince ourselves. The question needs to be not, “Can I afford the time,” but rather “Can I afford not taking the time?” We make time for many things. Should we not take time to break the chains that bind us and rob us of our joy? Jesus said that He came to bring us “abundant life” (John 10:10), a life where we have “fullness of joy” (John 15:11). Does that describe you, my Brother?

A joyless and powerless Christian is a better tool for the enemy than being a soldier serving the Captain of the Lord of Hosts. When Jesus said, “. . . seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . .” (Matthew 6:33, ESV), He was doing that for our benefit, not His. If you are a believer, you are “in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30, ESV) which means that you are also “the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27Romans 12:5, ESV) It also means you are to be engaged with the people of God – fellowship is not optional. I remember something Chuck Swindoll once said about the Christian community:

“To live above, with saints we love, O, that will be glory! But, to live below, with saints we know, Well, that’s a different story!”

Body life is messy, but it is only in community that we can encourage one another, and bear one another’s burdens. In this environment, we should be able to be transparent with each other about the sin we struggle with. The author of Hebrews tells us:

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, ESV)

To be in a community with like-minded men is to be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses encouraging us to “run with endurance the race set before us” (as they run with us).

One final thought.

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, ESV)

The only hold the enemy has over us are the things we keep in the dark. When we bring our sin into the light, we break Satan’s hold over us, which then allows us to “have fellowship with one another.” Paul tells us to:

“. . . cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12b, ESV)

The way we “cast off” the works of darkness is to bring it into the light through confession and repentance, allowing us to put on the “armor of light” which causes the enemy to flee.

So, my brother, what have you kept in the dark that holds you hostage to the enemy? You need to bring it into the glorious light of freedom found in Jesus Christ.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, ESV)

If you are walking free then you need to walk with other men to help them find that same freedom.

What say ye, Man of Valor?

Adapted from Men of Valor Devotional by Ron Helle, 10 Mar 2023

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