The Man in the Mirror

How many of you know the song The Cat’s in the Cradle? The song is from the point of view of a father and his relationship with his son. For those who don’t, and for those who need reminded, here are the lyrics.

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then
Well, he came home from college just the other day

So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then dad
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

Our example is important. Examples are contagious. One of the most important things I have been learning is that we teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are.

This song is no less true about spiritual parenting (i.e., discipleship). The example we give in how we live our faith is (for better or worse) going to reproduce itself in those who look to us as examples.

As Paul set up churches on his missionary journeys, one of the most important steps was setting up elders who not only knew the gospel and could teach it and defend it, but who lived it out in their homes and in their communities. Paul knew that for people to be growing in God’s family, they needed spiritual mothers and fathers who were looking after them.

In a moment we are going to look at some of Paul’s teaching on this in Titus chapter 2. But before we get to our text, let me say a few things about the whole to put our text in its context.

Paul wrote this short 3 chapter letter to Titus, a gentile Christian who likely came to Christ under Paul’s ministry. In Titus 1:4 we see that like Timothy, Paul looked at Titus as his son: To Titus, my true son in our common faith. And like Timothy, Paul in this letter looks to him to model the Christian life to the believers and especially to the elders he appoints in the churches.

Paul and Titus had at some point spent some time in Crete with the churches there, Paul moved on and left him there to make sure that the work they had started was given a solid foundation.

Titus 1:1 sets the theme and focus for the letter: Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. Chapter 1 is concerned about making sure the churches there had strong leaders who were both doctrinally sound and clear examples of godliness. Chapters 2-3 paint a picture for Titus of what he should see in the life and ministry of the members of the congregations as the Holy Spirit continues to work though him and the elders.

In Titus 2:1-15, Paul told Titus what he and his fellow elders needed to be looking for in the lives of believers they were discipling, so that they could be sure that they were growing and maturing in their faith. For Paul, good doctrine leads to good practice. Christianity is the doctrine of living to God by Christ. If the saints there were living their lives according to the truth of the gospel, this is what Titus should expect to see:

  • The older men should be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance (2:2).
  • The older women should be reverent in the way they live and actively modeling to the younger women how to live and relate to their husbands (2:3-5).
  • The younger men should be learning to be self-controlled (2:6)
  • Slaves should be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted (2:9-10)

All this would result in making the teaching of the gospel attractive (2:10).

The lynch pin in all of this, is in verses 7-8 we’re Paul says to Titus,

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

The success or failure of Titus’ leadership would greatly depend on his own example. If Titus was going to effectively prepare the elders to effectively lead their fellow saints, he needed to live the life that he was calling them to live. As the Christian poet Matthew Prior wrote, “Live to explain thy doctrine by thy life.”

The first step in spiritual parenting is leading yourself—by being an example. In order for us to be spiritual fathers and mothers in our homes or in the church, we need to be committed living out our faith ourselves. Before you can lead others, you need to be leading yourself.

Maybe that seems obvious. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find that I miss the obvious. When I was in seminary, I was under the care of a denomination that required all prospective pastors undergo a psychological evaluation. The bad news was that I needed to cover a third of the cost, and it was going to take place over three days. The good news was it was at Clearwater Beach in Florida. One of the exams I was required to take was an IQ test. When the counselor went over the results with me he shared that while I got most of the hardest ones right, I missed most of the easy ones. He concluded that one of the things I needed to be aware of was that I sometimes overlook the obvious. Mandi would tell you that the guy hit the nail on the head.

Let me share one more reason why I think it is important to talk about this even though it may seem obvious, and that is our natural desire to “pass the buck.” Let me give you a for instance.

A few years ago, I was down at Yale for the annual summer course on Jonathan Edwards. You can imagine that some of the people in attendance would be pastors from Reformed traditions who love Edwards for his strong, biblical theology, his uncompromising preaching, and his teaching methods. At one point, someone raised the interesting question, “would Edwards peach and teach the same way today?” Conversation soon turned to the Biblical illiteracy of the average person in the pew as compared to Edwards’ day. They mused about how disappointed Edwards would be, seeing How far people had fallen.

I don’t think Edwards would be impressed either, but I don’t think he would lay the fault at the feet of the congregation. Edwards would be much more concerned that the leadership allowed things to go so far!

When we take an honest look at the causes for the shallow faith that seems to be so common in the church today, we need to face that fact that the problem is not out in the world, it is in the church. It is in not realizing that we pastors are not leading ourselves well. We are not doing well at making ourselves available as examples, and therefore we are not teaching our elders and other leaders to do the same.

Before we can lead others, whether that be as mothers and fathers in the home, as spiritual parents to those we are discipling, or as leaders in the church, we need to be leaders of ourselves.

I don’t think it is any coincidence that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all point out that before Jesus began His public ministry He spent forty days in the wilderness by Himself. During this extended period of solitude and temptation, Jesus the man proved that He was one with His divine nature as God’s Son. That time in the wilderness answered 2 questions:

  1. Whose He was.
  2. Who He was.

All three accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness begin with the Father and the Spirit audibly and visually confirming Whose He was: He was the Son of God the Father Almighty. And they all end with this being reaffirmed as His Son, through His Father sending angels to attend Him.

The first two temptations the devil gives begin with these words–“If you really are the Son of God…” They were aimed at that first question, whose He was.

Satan also tempted Him regarding who He was.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matthew 4:8-10, NIV).

In saying this, Jesus answered the question of who He was: He was here to worship His Father and to serve Him only; His purpose was to do His Father’s will.

Once these two questions were answered, He began His public ministry.

Jesus taught the same thing in Luke 6:39-42 (NIV):

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

If you are not leading yourself, you are not going to be able to lead others. All you are able to do is judge others. Judging is not leading or loving.

This is also affirmed By the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:12 and 2 Peter 1:5-11:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If we want to be effective and productive in our knowledge of Jesus Christ, we need to be leading ourselves.

The focus of the summer course on Jonathan Edwards that year was on the Great Awakening that took place between 1740-1742. We looked at a number of primary sources from all over the world where revivals were breaking out. It wasn’t Just an American phenomenon, revivals were breaking out ask over the world. No matter where revival broke out—the American colonies, Scotland, Wales, Greenland, or India—it always started where there were one, two, or three people whose lives were radically transformed, and whose lives showed such a change in countenance and behavior that it could only be owed to the Spirit of God.

If we want to see revival in our church and an awakening in the country and around the world, the way God would have us live out that desire is not by pointing out what others are not doing right, but to examine ourselves to see what we are not doing right.

We need to answer those two questions:

  1. Whose am I? Who an I following? Who is my audience? Who am I trying to please? Am I living for God? Myself? Someone or something else?
  2. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?

I can’t tell you what those answers are. You need to answer those yourself. But let me share my own answers to those questions.

  1. I belong to God my Father who purposefully created me, graciously redeemed me in Jesus Christ, and in love united me to Him as a son through the Holy Spirit.
  2. My purpose is to bring Him glory through enjoying Him and His love, and in being a well-spring of His love for others. More specifically, God has called me to work with Him to equip and encourage the Church locally, regionally, and around the world by embracing the call to love one another by being full of grace and truth (John 1:14, NIV).

Once we have those answers, we need to get real honest with ourselves and ask:

  • Am I living in such a way that my love for God is paramount to everything else. The greatest chink in the Christians armor is that he thinks God is important but not everything.
  • Do I love my neighbor as myself?
  • Do I have a humble and meek spirit?
  • Am I forgiving?
  • When our life and teaching match our teaching is all the more powerful.
  • When our life and teaching don’t match, our doctrine is questioned. Do we really believe it? Can it really be true?

Henry Ward Beecher said, “If you want your neighbor to see what Christ will do for him, let him see what Christ has done for you.”

Are you leading the man in the mirror?


  1. Very well put. You built the case and brought it to its logical conclusion. 2 Chronicles 7:14 comes to my mind when I think about what it will take for revival in our land. The church has to rise up, and humble them selves, fall on their knees and, seek His face. That is the only way. Thanks for a great post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Pete. As long as we say that knowing that the church is much more likely to do that if it sees you and me doing that. We need to stop talking in terms of they and them and start using personal and inclusive terms like me, I, we, and us.

      Liked by 1 person

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