You Are What You Do

Stephen Arterburn

Have you ever listened to men introduce themselves to each other?
‘Hi, I’m Jack.’
‘Good to meet you, Jack. I’m Ken.’
‘What do you do, Ken?’
‘I’m Senior Manager at Wilson’s Hardware in town. And you, Jack?’
‘I’m Chief Engineer with Allied Electronics.’

One of the primary myths of masculinity is that a man’s identity is based upon what he does and accomplishes, principally in his job or career. That’s why men meeting each other share names and professional titles in the same breath! That’s also why men are despondent, sometimes even suicidal, when their businesses fail, or when they don’t get the promotion they desired.

Our culture has trained men to view their accomplishments, especially in the realm of employment, as a credential for manhood. Many of us think that if we fail at what we do, we’ve failed at being a man.

The epitome of the ‘you-are-what-you-do’ syndrome among today’s men is the workaholic. Workaholics embody this masculine myth. But in neglecting loved ones and denying their own personhood, they become less than real men.

In reality, a man’s identity is based on who he is apart from what he does. That is, who he is as defined by his relationship to Jesus Christ’a relationship that can only begin and flourish when received by faith, not achieved by works. In Christ, men, we’re significant and valued, even when our doings don’t turn out as hoped and planned.

Refocusing

Stephen Arterburn

When Jesus walked the earth, He directed the focus off of the apparently ‘good’ people doing apparently ‘good’ things,’ and redirected people’s focus on to God. The religious leaders were pointing to the rules; Jesus pointed to Himself, through whom relationships are restored to God.

A healthy, growing faith is always focused on the person of God Himself, not on cheap substitutes. A healthy faith begins and ends in God, not in rules, regulations, and sheer duty. Jesus Christ, not religion, is at the core of a robust Christian faith.

Today Jesus Christ offers men like you and me the same opportunity He gave to those people in the early church. The choice is ours. We can insist on performing and conforming out of obligation and can try to feel good by chalking up good deeds.

Or we can choose Christ’s way. We can love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We can experience His love and come to know Him intimately. We can stop hiding behind religious facades and meet Him right where we are. We can focus on Him and find sanity, rest, and peace when all hell seems to be breaking loose around us.

Men, it’s not about you. Surrender yourself to Christ’s love and acceptance. Grow closer to Him. Make Him’not your ‘good deeds’ or anyone or anything else’the focus of your life. You’ll never regret it.

The Pursuit of Purity

Psalm 119:9: ‘How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.‘  Matthew 5:8: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

Pursuing purity is a reality for every believer in Christ. Yes, even those who struggle with sexual addiction and lust. What seems impossible with man is possible with God. God is able to transform us through the renewing of our mind and lives.

I see purity as an attitude of the heart that will result in a lifestyle change. It is an active decision every day to commit yourself to the pursuit of purity. ‘One day at a time’ is the expression used in AA. Each morning you decide for moral purity. Keeping yourself pure according to ‘Thy word’ requires a daily plan. Essential to your plan is another heart attitude, humility.

Humility is best reflected in the example Christ set for us to follow. Paul, in Philippians 2: 3-8, reminds us of the importance of focusing on the needs of others and not exclusively our own, which so characterizes our selfish nature. Humility of mind reminds me daily that, apart from Christ, I can do nothing. I am dependent on Him to be able to live right. Pride is the opposite of humility, an attitude that says I can do this myself without God. Just remember where that attitude (pride) got you.

So the commitment to be morally pure is a daily one, where you build new patterns of thinking and behaving motivated by a change in heart. Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 1:5-8:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Job made a covenant with his eyes to not look lustfully on a woman. Learning to turn away from lustful thoughts requires the daily discipline of replacing old thoughts and sinful patterns with new and God honoring ones. In your daily plan, be sure to include scripture memorization, mediation, and study of God’s word. Find a bible study group or take a class with others. Learning the scriptures and encouraging one another makes studying enjoyable and enriching. Doing this also helps you build relationships where you can develop accountability and fellowship.

Another part of your daily plan in pursuit of purity is to have a means of confession or honest discussion about your thought life. I know that when we admit any thoughts that bother us to another, the thoughts lose their power. Having another person pray with you can really encourage you. James 5:16 is a reminder of the power of confession, and Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us ‘to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.’ Having another person to share with also helps you overcome the deceitfulness of your own heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Asking someone to mentor you in the spiritual disciplines can really be helpful. Look for people who have walked with the Lord and have a mature walk with God. Ask your Pastor for guidance to find someone to mentor you. Sponsors, like mentors, are very helpful in your specific area of recovery. They guide and coach you in the recovery process. A spiritual mentor may not have specific knowledge about addiction, but would bring the wisdom and knowledge that comes with walking in relationship with God. You need both.

In closing, as you seek God in pursuit of purity, He will enable you to develop the disciplines that have been lacking in your life. Ask Him to give you a heart inclined towards purity. As Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle and our Resources for Men.

Chris Cole