Category Archives: Titus

Titus 3: Looking Back while Looking Forward

My friend, Naomi, stands up for asylum seekers. She write letters TO them in custody on Manus Island and other places. And she writes letters FOR them. To newspapers, and the immigration department. She’s even studying to become a LAWYER, so she can work more effectively to help them. And what MOVES her is to hear their stories. About what they endured in their home countries, and what they endured to MAKE it to Australia.

You have to wonder, “What would convince someone to pay all they have?” To leave behind their whole lives? To risk their live and the lives of their children? To spend weeks in stinky, cramped conditions, sea-sick and hungry, on a leaky tub of a boat? All on the SLIM CHANCE that if the boat makes it safely into Australian waters. After waiting for years, they’ll be granted asylum?  Why do they DO it?

It might seem strange to US. But not to THEM. To them, it’s OBVIOUS. Because what they’re looking FORWARD TO is so much better than what they leave BEHIND. They’ve left behind bloodshed and war. They’ve left behind poverty and persecution. Famine and danger. So they’ll put up with ALMOST ANYTHING for the chance for something BETTER. The chance for FREEDOM, AND PEACE AND SECURITY. They’re looking FORWARD to something better. And BACK to something they want to LEAVE behind. And they BOTH motivate them IN THE PRESENT.

And it’s like that for US as CHRISTIANS. In Titus ch 3 we see that Christians have SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO. And they’ve also got something to look BACK to. Back to things they’ve left behind. One to PULL them forward, and the other to PUSH them. And BOTH motivate them in the PRESENT.

Saved FROM

Look at v3. Paul wants them to LOOK BACK. To what they’ve been saved FROM.

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

It’s not a flattering portrait, is it? But it’s ACCURATE. Not NOW, but ONCE – “at ONE time”. Before they were Christians, Paul and Titus and the rest were FOOLISH. Failing to recognise God from his Word and his Creation and his Son.

And DISOBEDIENT. Failing to respond to God the way they should.  Thinking THEY knew better than God. Thinking life was about what THEY wanted, rather than what God decided.

And they were “deceived and ENSLAVED by all kinds of passions and pleasures”. It’s funny isn’t it? Non-Christian People think they’re FREE to live the way they want. And that CHRISTIANS are the ones who are trapped.

It might be the single, pleasure-seeking party lifestyle. Free to BE with whoever they want, doing whatever they want.  They don’t want to be TIED DOWN by Christian morality. Constrained. Restricted.

But this verse says that it’s THAT lifestyle that’s slavery. Bound up to live for SELF. Bound up in a life that’s HEADED NOWHERE. That doesn’t LAST. That LIES – that offers life but delivers DEATH. But you don’t need to have a WILD lifestyle to be enslaved.

It’s the same for the good, MORAL non-Christians. You probably know PLENTY of them. But they’re still deceived and enslaved AS WELL. Enslaved by a mortgage, or by materialism, or a lack of contentment, or the need for approval, or the short-sightedness of thinking this world is all there is. But they can’t see that they’re actually SLAVES to the things that they’re free to do. Like a carrot dangling on the end of a stick strapped to a donkey’s back. He can see the carrot, but he can never REACH it. Every step he takes moves the carrot one step further forward TOO.

And it’s the same with the so-called “freedom” of life lived outside God’s plans.  It’s not freedom, it’s a TRAP. Trapped by the compulsion to gamble, or to seek pleasure. Unable to break out of the vicious cycle of desire and satisfaction, and greater desire and greater satisfaction. Trapped in the emptiness of seeking SATISFACTION in things that can never truly SATISFY. Or seeking SECURITY in things that can never LAST. Trapped in the powerlessness of WANTING to overcome selfishness and self-centredness. Or to be a better person. But not being ABLE to change. Failing again and again. An inbuilt nature to do things OUR way, rather than God’s way.

And then there’s the slavery of how we treat each other. The cycle of hate and being hated. Like a mouse on a treadmill, achieving nothing but getting dizzy. (See there at the end of v3?)

“We lived in malice and envy, BEING hated and HATING ONE ANOTHER.”

The WORLD says the way to personal success is to DRAG others BACK. You can’t WIN unless others LOSE. It’s just NATURAL to wish them HARM, wish them FAILURE. And if they harm YOU, then success and victory means harming them MORE.

We see it in the gang warfare raging through Sydney the last few years. Personal revenge and justice just escalate as people are hurt, and seek to inflict even GREATER hurt on those who’ve hurt THEM. But there’s no FREEDOM in that. It’s A TRAP. It’s SLAVERY.

That’s what life USED to be like. It’s what it’s STILL like for people who aren’t Christian.  So don’t look LONGINGLY at that life. There’s no lasting pleasure there. No freedom. Just slavery. And deception. And foolishness.

And don’t JUDGE those people EITHER. ACCEPT them. Be GENTLE with them, and HUMBLE. Be CONSIDERATE. That’s the point of v3 following v2. The connection is a bit more obvious in the Greek, It says “Show true humility toward all men… FOR YOU TOO used to be just like them.” They MAY be foolish and deceived and enslaved. But you were JUST AS blind. Just as trapped and enslaved and deceived. The DETAILS might have been different, but the broad brushstrokes of the portrait were the same. So you’re on shaky ground to be BLAMING them. Or CRITICISING them. Or JUDGING them. Don’t look down on them, or think you’re any better. HUMILITY is the right response when you’ve been SAVED BY GRACE.

Saved BY

Which is what Paul moves onto NEXT. WONDERFULLY, INCREDIBLY, v3 isn’t where you are NOW. If you’re a Christian, God’s CHANGED the picture. If you’re a Christian, then that picture’s OUTDATED. And the CURRENT portrait’s MUCH better.

Like the before and after photos with Weightwatchers. Or bodybuilders. BEFORE they’re overweight, or unhealthy, or unfit. But NOW, they’re slim, trim, and terrific.

And it’s like that with the portraits Paul’s comparing here. The PRESENT picture is MUCH better than the OLD one. What we’ve been saved FROM (v3). Compared with NOW WE’VE BEEN SAVED.

And in v4 he describes HOW God changed the situation. (Saved BY). For those who are Christian, we’ve been saved by his KINDNESS, LOVE AND MERCY. (At ONE time, we were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved)

4 But when the KINDNESS and LOVE of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his MERCY. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

It’s a wonderful description. God responds to our disobedience, ignorance and hate/ with kindness, love and mercy. It’s the ultimate INAPPROPRIATE RESPONSE.

There’s a wonderful scene in the book, and the musical, Les Miserables. Jean Valjean is released from prison. He can’t find anywhere to stay until the Bishop Myriel takes him in. During the night Valjean steals the Bishop’s silverware, and runs away.  He’s caught by the police and returned to the Bishop. He’s betrayed the Bishop’s hospitality, and deserves to be thrown back in jail. Instead the Bishop explains to the police that the silverware was a gift. And then reprimands Valjean for forgetting, also, to take the silver candlesticks.  He’s rescued, and set on the path to redemption.

It’s AN INAPPROPRIATE RESPONSE. He DESERVES wrath and punishment. But he’s shown mercy and forgiveness INSTEAD.

And God gives us an even GREATER inappropriate response. He returns HATE with LOVE. He shows us MERCY – withholding something we deserve. We DESERVE judgment, but he shows us kindness instead.

And it’s not just a FEELING. It’s an ACTION. V5. His kindness and love EXPRESSED itself in God our Saviour SAVING us. RESCUING us from the SLAVERY we were trapped in. And it’s THAT RESCUE when God’s kindness and love APPEARED.

God’s character is all THEORETICAL until he actually SHOWS that character in SAVING us. In revealing his SON to us. Revealing justice and forgiveness and new life in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s like KNOWING that the lifeguard at the beach is a good swimmer. He’s sitting there in his chair. He’s got the uniform on, so he must be a good swimmer. You know it THEORETICALLY. But it’s not REVEALED until you’re getting dragged out to sea in a rip, until you’re exhausted, and your head’s sinking under the waves. Not until you feel a solid grip and a strong arm grabbing you tight and lifting you onto a rescue board. And you’re SAFE. It’s only THEN, the lifeguard’s qualities are REVEALED. Same with God. His mercy, love and kindness are revealed in THE ACT OF SAVING US.

As v5 and 6 explain, he does it by washing us clean. Declaring us forgiven and righteous. He does it by making us NEW PEOPLE through his Holy Spirit poured out generously on us.

We’re NOT who we used to be. We’re no longer FOOLISH. We know whose world it is. And who deserves our allegiance. We’re no longer DISOBEDIENT. Sure, we still fall. But our basic orientation is towards what GOD wants. We’re no longer DECEIVED. God’s opened our eyes. We understand eternity. We understand what SIN is. And GRACE and FORGIVENESS.  And we’re no longer ENSLAVED. Instead, we’re set free (RESCUED) to be SLAVES, instead, TO GOD. We’re NEW PEOPLE. Reborn and renewed. And (last part of v6) he does it all THROUGH Jesus Christ our Saviour. On the BASIS of his work on our behalf.  That’s how God’s kindness, love and mercy are REVEALED to us.  Have you NOTICED that? Have you ACCEPTED it? Have you APPRECIATED it?

If you wonder what God thinks of you. What he’s like. If you’re not SURE. Then spend some time at the foot of the cross. THAT’S where we come to understand God’s character. Where it’s REVEALED to us. That’s LOOKING BACK.

Saved TO

But that’s not all. God doesn’t just save us, make us new, and then leave us as we were. He wants us LOOKING FORWARD. We’ve been saved TO something. There are a whole lot of BENEFITS that come with the new relationship. He says to us, “But WAIT, there’s MORE!” Forgiveness and sonship and his Spirit and assurance and purpose. All those things come NOW. But there’s much more we DON’T see yet.

And so the Christian life is about waiting expectantly for God to deliver on his promises. To trust his word, even when we can’t SEE it. It’s about LOOKING FORWARD. We’ve been saved FROM something. But also saved TO something. V7. God saved us through his Holy Spirit through Jesus…

7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become HEIRS having the HOPE of eternal life.

God promises us an inheritance beyond our wildest dreams. But just not yet. That’s the thing about inheritances. They’re CERTAIN. Promised. But you don’t get them YET. God promises us eternal life. Life lived with the priorities and orientation and perspective of eternity about it. We BEGIN it now, but we don’t get it all until THEN. God promises us wealth and riches. But not NOW. We have to look forward to THEN. He promises us health and wholeness. He promises us restoration and rest and peace. He promises us perfect intimacy without hurt or embarrassment. He promises us no tears or hunger or danger or fear or pain.  But not NOW. We have to LOOK FORWARD/ to THEN. To ETERNITY. When everything will be restored and renovated. To the new heavens and the new earth.

It might seem physically impossible, but the Christian life is about looking BACK while looking FORWARD. It’s about looking back to what we ONCE were. What we were saved FROM. And looking FORWARD to what we’ve been saved TO.

Saved FOR

And BOTH of them are strong motivations for how we should think and behave IN THE PRESENT.  Just like the asylum seekers. Looking BACK to the persecution and hardship. Looking FORWARD to the peace and freedom of Australia. BOTH of these perspectives motivate them IN THE PRESENT to risk the open seas, enduring the seasickness and hunger.

And Paul, as every good pastor does, wants to APPLY the theology. How it makes a DIFFERENCE TODAY. THIS WEEK. He talks about what we’ve been saved FOR. V8. God saved us, justifying us by his grace, so we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life. V8.

8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, SO THAT THOSE WHO HAVE TRUSTED IN GOD MAY BE CAREFUL TO DEVOTE THEMSELVES TO DOING WHAT IS GOOD.

Looking back, and looking forward. Focussing on how God’s saved us, and why. Helps us to do what we’re here for NOW. Which is DEVOTING OURSELVES TO DOING GOOD.

He says it again down in v14. Just to make sure we’ve got the message.

14 Our people must learn to DEVOTE THEMSELVES TO DOING WHAT IS GOOD, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

And Ch 2 is all about what doing good LOOKS LIKE for different groups. Being careful to devote yourself to living humbly, sacrificially, honestly, with self-control. So that the world would NOTICE. So that the teaching about Jesus looks ATTRACTIVE.  That’s what counts.

How are you GOING with those things? Those ATTITUDES? Or are you coming up with EXCUSES?

Two ways we can go bad with doing good

Perhaps you’re letting yourself get distracted from the main game. Seems like that was happening for Titus. V9. Don’t get side-tracked, says Paul, by arguments about things that don’t matter. Some churches have huge rows about the most insignificant things. Like the instruments you use, or the chairs you sit in. Or the right amount of water to use for baptism.  While people all around them are blindly headed for judgment. People all around are deceived and enslaved, living with malice and envy, being hated and hating. And churches are arguing about tea cups and the colour of stained glass windows.

Paul wants NOTHING TO DO with that sort of stuff. Avoid it, he says in v9. It’s unprofitable and useless. V10.

10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

He’s just wasting your time and your attention and your energy.

We’ve been saved so we can be CAREFUL to DEVOTE ourselves to DOING GOOD. DEVOTE ourselves. Is that what we’re DOING? Or are you letting yourself get DISTRACTED?

We get distracted when we focus on the MINOR things. And forget the MAJOR things. That’s Paul’s point in v8. He’s just reminded Titus of the wonderful good news of what God’s done for us in Jesus. Then he says,

This is a trustworthy saying. I want you to STRESS THESE THINGS.

ONE way we get distracted from doing good, is when we stop reminding ourselves of the GOSPEL. And THE REST of life crowds in, and becomes more important than living a life of gratitude.

People all over Australia today are in church giving God their Sunday mornings. But then once they walk out the door, life goes back to normal. God takes a back seat until NEXT Sunday morning.

God has ONE CORNER of their lives. But everything ELSE is out-of-bounds. Because they don’t KNOW God’s mercy and grace. Or they’ve FORGOTTEN it. Because their church leaders haven’t STRESSED these things. EMPHASISED them. Kept the MAJOR things MAJOR.

And that mistake (treating the IMPORTANT things as UNIMPORTANT) leads to a SECOND mistake. Treating the LESS important things as MOST important.  People devote themselves to doing good SO MUCH. That they start to believe that it’s DOING GOOD that SAVES them. But that’s making a DEADLY mistake, isn’t it? It misses the whole point of good works. That it’s by looking back, and recognising how God SAVES you that you RESPOND by doing good works. That good works are what you’re saved FOR.

God’s work saves you FIRST, THEN you do good works SECOND. It’s not GOOD WORKS that saves you FIRST, then God does some work for you SECOND.

Did you see it, there in v5? You don’t save yourself by being good at all. He saved you NOT BECAUSE OF THE RIGHTEOUS THINGS WE’D DONE. But simply because of his MERCY. Completely undeserved.

And the person with true faith in that work/ true gratitude for it/ will do good works in RESPONSE to that. Will DEVOTE himself to them.

Is that the attitude YOU bring to the good works you do? Constant amazement at God’s goodness? Thankfulness and gratitude?  And does that SHOW ITSELF in perseverance and humility and non-judgmentalism and patience? Does it show itself in your willingness to STICK AT those good works? Week and week. Year after year. Even though no one else notices. All for an audience of ONE. Because it’s in response to God’s goodness that you’re doing it all IN THE FIRST PLACE? Or is there, instead, a bitterness, or a people-pleasing or self-serving attitude? Or a weariness and frustration?

Look back at what you ONCE were. Look FORWARD to what God’s promised for you. And let those truths MOTIVATE you to live for him NOW. DEVOTING yourselves to what’s good.

Titus 2:1-3:2: A counter cultural curriculum

How was your Christmas this year? Good, bad? Noisy, quiet? Hot lunch or cold lunch? Exceeded expectations, or disappointing?

But here’s a more IMPORTANT question. Did it look any DIFFERENT to the neighbours in your street? To the people who AREN’T Christian? Who DON’T rejoice in the birth of their Saviour?

Was there any difference in JOY? In prayerfulness and gratitude? Any difference in priorities? In COST? In GIVING, as opposed to receiving? Any difference in terms of who the FOCUS was on?

Master Chef winner this year, Kate Bracks, has a Christmas tradition in her family. Christmas morning, before they go off to church in Orange. She bakes a birthday cake with the kids, then lights as many birthday candles as she can find, and the whole family sings “Happy birthday!” to Jesus. So the kids are in no doubt what Christmas is REALLY about.

That’s being DIFFERENT. There’s not too many families where Jesus is the focus LIKE THAT.

Or perhaps some of you met I’s sister, S. She was here on Christmas Day. And she had a huge smile on her face the whole time. Because she said it was her FIRST REAL CHRISTMAS. You see, she’s just become a Christian. And so she understands Christmas in a completely new way. She’s never really CELEBRATED Christmas before. She’s seen DOZENS of Christmases, but only ever CELEBRATED  ONE. Celebrated the birth of the One who died to SAVE her. Because he loves her SO MUCH.

And that’s what it should be like for ALL of us. There should be something DIFFERENT about the way we approach life. Something COUNTER CULTURAL. People should look at us, and see PRIORITIES TURNED ON THEIR HEADS.

Unexpected attitudes and actions and behaviour.

They should see CONTENTMENT AND LOVE when they expect bitterness and grumbling. They should see generosity and patience when they expect selfishness and frustration. They should see acceptance and forgiveness when they expect finger pointing and misunderstanding.

They should see confident hope and certain assurance when they expect uncertainty and worry.

As Christians, we’re meant to be A COUNTER CULTURE. If you’ve ever been to Nimbin on the NSW north coast, you’ll have seen a counter culture. They’re DIFFERENT. And proud of it. They’re stuck in the 60’s. With long hair, and flower power pot-smoking.

It’s a counter culture. That goes against the flow.

And that’s what Christians are meant to be as well. In a way that’s very different from Nimbin. And very different from the rest of the world as well. Because we DON’T follow the rhythm of the world. We don’t go with the flow.

Christianity is A COUNTER CULTURE. Whether the culture is 21st century Australia. Or first century Crete.

Paul had left Titus on the island of Crete to build up the new churches there. He was to appoint leaders, and to teach the people what living as a Christian LOOKED LIKE.

Crete might be a lovely holiday destination TODAY. But back then, it had a TERRIBLE reputation. The Kings Cross of the ancient world.

So much so that right around the Greek speaking world there was a WORD for it… when you were bending the truth, people would say you were CRETANISING. That was their word for LYING. Oh, you can’t trust what he says – he’s a CRETANISER.

Even their most famous poet, their number one philosopher, he admitted it. In a famous poem. We’ve got I LOVE A SUNBURNT COUNTRY, a LAND OF SWEEPING PLAINS. His name was Epimenides, and he said this. About his own people. He said – and it doesn’t rhyme very well either – “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”

And as Paul writes to Titus about how the church should be DIFFERENT. Paul AGREES. By and large, that’s what the people of Crete are like. Verse 12 in chapter 1, He says,

“Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” THIS TESTIMONY IS TRUE!

As a general rule, they live lazy, unproductive lives. It’s everywhere you look. It’s the prevailing sort of attitude.

So how do you live as a CHRISTIAN… in the middle of a world like that? What’s a CHRISTIAN COUNTER CULTURE GOING TO LOOK LIKE… in a place like Crete?

Trouble is, for a lot of the Christians in Crete, the answer was … “No different AT ALL!”

It’s so much easier, whether it was then or now, to just BLEND IN. To lower our expectations. To settle for excuses. “But everyone ELSE is doing it.”

And yet it’s not what we were DESIGNED for. Not what we were SAVED for. Becoming a Christian isn’t about getting a ticket to heaven, and then life continuing exactly as it did before. Look down to v11 of Ch 2. Pretty much the central verse of the whole letter. And it sums up Paul’s message to Titus and the church in Crete. Ch 2 v11.

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to LIVE SELF-CONTROLLED, UPRIGHT AND GODLY LIVES in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to REDEEM US FROM ALL WICKEDNESS and to PURIFY for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

 

You want to know why you’re a CHRISTIAN? Why the Lord Jesus put his hand on you, and said, FOLLOW ME?

 

The reason GOD’S GRACE THAT BRINGS SALVATION ever broke into our world in the first place … was to REDEEM YOU… OUT OF WICKEDNESS. To PURIFY YOU from all that stuff.

 

To make you A COUNTER CULTURE. To make you into a person who’s EAGER TO DO GOOD. Busting for something good to do. And to teach you to say NO… to ungodliness. And worldly passions. Selfishness. The immediate self gratification life style that drives the world around us. Say NO.

 

And yet the Christians in Crete, seems like they’re still saying YES. Like you might be.

 

A Counter Culture Curriculum

And so here in Titus chapter 2, Paul’s setting out A CURRICULUM.

 

And it’s not “one size fits all.” Godliness looks different for different sorts of people. But there are some common themes that run through the curriculum though.

 

A team sport

Firstly, notice it’s A TEAM SPORT. Even though it’s a letter addressed to Titus, Paul doesn’t say, “Titus, here’s how you’ve got to live.” He’s got a responsibility, before God, as a leader of the church. To teach and encourage EVERYONE to be living godly lives.

 

And it’s not just the PASTOR’S job. We’ve ALL got a responsibility to be setting an example, and teaching and encouraging others.

 

Like the older women. There in v3. They’re to live reverent lives. Honouring God in everything. But v4 – they’ve ALSO got a responsibility to train the YOUNGER women.

 

We’re all part of a TEAM. And we’ve got RESPONSIBILITIES.

 

How are YOU fulfilling your responsibilities, before God, here at church?

Are you part of a Home Group? Why not make a commitment to join one this year?

 

And there’s also One-to-one Bible reading. It’s something we’re focussing on this year. It’s pretty simple really. Asking someone to meet up once a week, or fortnight. To read a bit of the Bible. Talk about what it means and how it applies. Then pray for each other.

 

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s God’s way of maturing and growing and discipling us. Of bringing people INTO his kingdom. And then teaching them how to LIVE in it. To make us more counter-cultural compared to the world around us.

 

Will you think seriously about doing THAT this year?

 

Self-control

Another common theme in these verses is SELF-CONTROL. It’s what the grace of God TEACHES us. To say NO to ONE thing. And to live SELF-CONTROLLED lives. See it there in v12?

The grace of God teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live SELF-CONTROLLED, upright and godly lives in this present age,

 

Self-control would certainly set the Cretan Christians apart from the REST of the island. Which was famous for basically following whatever they FELT like doing.

 

The COUNTER culture to that sort of behaviour is to show some RESTRAINT. Like the older men. Back up in v2. Teach them to be TEMPERATE. Not to get drunk. To STOP after one or two. Teach them to be temperate and SELF-CONTROLLED.

 

Same thing with the older women. V3. Teach them not to be ADDICTED TO MUCH WINE. If they’re going to drink. Know when to say, “ENOUGH!”

 

And that gets passed on. If they live like that, v4, then they can teach the YOUNGER women to be SELF-CONTROLLED and pure. To control their words and their actions. Their thoughts.

 

And then we get to the group who probably need to hear this THE MOST. V6. The younger men. Encourage THEM to be self-controlled. To stand up for what they know is right. To say No. Don’t just go with the crowd. An urge doesn’t HAVE to be satisfied.

 

But, more than that, says Paul, set them AN EXAMPLE of self-control. I guess Titus falls into that group. SHOW them that self-control is NOT whimpy or weak or girly. It’ll set you apart as DIFFERENT. And it might be TOUGH. But it’s what the gospel TEACHES us to do. It’s how we LIVE IT OUT.

 

And there’s a few other common themes that pop up. Like LOVE. Gets mentioned TWICE. A different ATTITUDE.

 

Or not SLANDERING. A different way of SPEAKING about people. TWICE.

 

Or DOING GOOD. A different way of TREATING people. THREE times.

 

But the common thread I WANT to spend a bit of time thinking about is SUBMISSION. Because if there’s ANYTHING that’s going to make us stand out as counter cultural. It’s THAT!

 

Jump down to the start of Ch 3. Paul’s just concluded his curriculum on what Titus should teach. V15 of Ch 2.

15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

 

Then he summarises it all. Continuing straight on.

3:1 Remind the people to be SUBJECT to rulers and authorities, to be OBEDIENT, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be PEACEABLE AND CONSIDERATE, and to show TRUE HUMILITY toward ALL men.

 

Show true HUMILITY. Be CONTENT with your place in the scheme of things. And then SHOW that attitude in the way you SUBMIT to those over you. The way you OBEY them.

 

DON’T whinge about the government. Don’t complain about taxes, or rules, or bureaucracies. Don’t get your back up when someone tells you not to park there, or to pay this, or to stand over there.

 

Be subject. Be obedient. Be peaceable. Be humble.

 

Which is just not the way things normally happen in Australia. Where you stand up for yourself. Defend your rights. Look after number one. Where being independent and self-serving are seen as CHARACTER STRENGTHS.

 

Instead Christians are to put themselves LAST, not first. In TRUE humility.

 

In ALL our relationships.

 

Working backwards through the chapter. Ch 2 v9.

9 Teach slaves to be SUBJECT to their masters in everything, to try to PLEASE them, not to talk back to them,

 

That’s going to make Christian slaves stand out from the crowd. From the OTHER slaves who get away with whatever they can. Who steal whatever’s not nailed down. Do it because you follow the ULTIMATE SLAVE, Jesus. Who gave up everything to serve US. Do it to show people what Jesus is like.

 

Or a bit FURTHER back in the chapter. V5. Teach the younger women

5 to be self-controlled and pure, TO BE BUSY AT HOME, to be kind, AND TO BE SUBJECT TO THEIR HUSBANDS,

 

Now I almost feel like I’ve got to APOLOGISE for that verse in this day and age. Because it’s SO counter-cultural. The ULTIMATE in politically incorrect. Because our society moved past this kind of thing LONG AGO.

 

But let me remind you it was counter-cultural in Crete as well. Otherwise Paul wouldn’t need to MENTION it. EVEN BACK THEN it wasn’t the done thing for wives to stay at home, to be pure, and to humbly let their husbands lead the family.

 

Strange picture, isn’t it? Young, intelligent, educated women who are prepared to put other things aside so they can properly LOVE THEIR HUSBANDS AND KIDS. Busy at HOME as their first priority. As if somehow, making A HOME is more important than making A SUCCESSFUL CAREER.

 

A strange Counter cultural picture. Counter cultural back then, EXTREMELY counter cultural NOW.

 

Because if you’re a wife these days, you’ll know – you’re not meant to be subject to ANYONE… least of all your husband. And you’re not meant to worry about the home and the kids; I mean, if you’ve got to fill in a form and write HOMEMAKER, it’s about as low as you can go, isn’t it?

 

And Paul says to Titus, teach the older women to teach the younger women… THAT. Goes against the grain. Which submission always does. And yet it’s a form of GODLINESS. That produces homes and families that are very, very different from the ones the world makes these days.

 

And you older women, don’t APOLOGISE… for modelling and teaching that to younger women. Because it’s more valuable that you know.

 

And HUSBANDS, I want you to notice who this stuff’s addressed to… because it’s NOT TO YOU. And it’s certainly NEVER up to you to be LOOKING for subjection – worst of all trying somehow to ENFORCE IT. Which is the least Christian option of all. The sort of submission Paul’s talking about in verse 5 is a submission WILLINGLY GIVEN. As a mark of love.

 

I wonder if that describes YOU. In those three areas we’ve described this morning. Teamwork. Self-control. And submission.

 

How much are YOU looking to do your bit as part of the team?

 

How much are you in control of your TONGUE? DO you find yourself STOPPING SHORT when it comes to returning fire? Or passing on some gossip?

 

Is there self-control in what you THINK ABOUT? In how HARD you work? In what you spend your money on – those impulse purchases?

 

Is there self-control in your spiritual disciplines – your prayer life and Bible reading?

 

Are you in control of your appetites? Or do they control YOU?

 

Have you seen the ad on TV about will power? It’s talking about quitting smoking. It says will power is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Every cigarette you say “No” to makes your will power stronger.

 

And I reckon that’s true about with CHRISTIAN things TOO. Every time you resist temptation. Every time you show some self-control, you’re getting STRONGER. And it gets easier to say NO NEXT time.

 

Or what about SUBMISSION?

 

When everyone else is dragging down the boss at work, or the government, or the authorities. Will you happily just get on, instead, with doing your work, or paying your taxes? Or sticking to the speed limit? Or following instructions?

 

Are you COUNTER-CULTURAL? Do you stand out just as much as a Nimbin hippy would in Westpoint shopping centre?

 

Do you stand out as different at WORK? At the GYM? Talking to the mums outside school waiting to pick up the kids? Are you counter cultural in the way you shop? Or drive? Or holiday?

 

Does this describe YOU? A self-controlled, pure, humble, loving, submissive life of obedience. In WHATEVER area of life you’re in. Young men, old men, young women, old women.

 

It’s what you were saved FOR. Listen again to God’s plans. V14. Talking about Jesus

14 He gave himself for us to REDEEM US FROM ALL WICKEDNESS and TO PURIFY FOR HIMSELF a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

 

And that’s what people should see when they look at us. People who are DIFFERENT. People who simply reflect the light of the goodness of Jesus himself.

 

Because, ultimately, that’s what it’s all for. So people will NOTICE. So that Jesus might be HONOURED as people RECOGNISE us as counter-cultural.

 

There’s one final thread that runs through these verses. THREE TIMES Paul mentions the OUTCOME of all this humble, godly behaviour.

 

There at the end of v5. Young woman are to be pure and kind and submissive SO NO ONE WILL MALIGN THE WORD OF GOD.

 

And the end of v8. Young men, including Titus, are to show integrity, and soundness of speech that can’t be condemned.

so that those who oppose you may be ashamed BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOTHING BAD TO SAY ABOUT US.

 

And again for SLAVES. V10. Be honest and humble

so that in every way THEY WILL MAKE THE TEACHING ABOUT GOD OUR SAVIOR ATTRACTIVE.

 

Can I ask you again… is that YOU? Living in a way that’s DIFFERENT? In a way that makes our teaching about Jesus ATTRACTIVE? Or just the opposite? Let’s get serious about living COUNTER CULTURE lives. Of love. Of integrity. Of service. Of self control. In a way that instead of giving the world ammunition, instead of bringing Jesus into disrepute, brings him GLORY. And shows we mean business.

 

Titus 1: True/ False

Passing it on. From one generation to the next. From your DAD you might have learned how to change a washer, or how to kick a football, or ride a motor bike, or hang a picture.  From your MUM you might have learned how to sew on a button, or bake a cake, or read music.

What sort of things did YOU learn from YOUR parents?

Well, I learned ALL those things from my parents. And more of course. But the most important thing I learned was THE GOSPEL. The message of how Jesus died for me. How God wanted to forgive my sins. And how he wanted me to spend my life serving and honouring him. That was the most important thing I ever learned from my parents.  And I saw them MODEL that message, too.

I’d see Dad creep downstairs every morning before we got up to read his Bible, and to pray. I saw his huge wad of prayer guides stuffed into the front. I saw his hand-written scrawl over every inch of spare space in his Bible. And when I crept downstairs, I saw him on his knees praying through those lists. Praying FOR US.

 

And I saw the way he read the Bible and prayed with us after dinner. Even when we didn’t want to hear, and made things difficult.

And I saw Mum live out the truth in relationships with people. Teaching, training, loving. Serving in lots of ways. Cheerful, hospitable, generous. Encouraging others to follow Jesus.

I know, that for Mum and Dad, passing on the truth of the gospel was the most important thing they could do for us.

And, now, as a parent, the same thing’s true for me too. The most valuable thing I can teach MY kids is the truth about Jesus. About the importance of living for him.

 

And it’s this same desire Paul’s got for HIS CHILDREN.

He and Titus had visited the island of Crete. And people had become Christians. But Paul had to move on. And he’s concerned for his new children. Babes in Christ. He wants to make sure they keep following Jesus.

And so he leaves Titus behind. To finish the job. To set things up for the long haul. To pass the ball on. And then he writes him a letter to help him DO that job. See there in v5?

(Titus 1:5 NIV)  The reason I left you in Crete was that you might STRAIGHTEN OUT WHAT WAS LEFT UNFINISHED and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

 

Paul’s passed the ball to Titus. Who’s going to pass the ball to the elders. Who’ll pass the ball on to the rest of the people in the churches.

 

But before Titus passes the ball on, Paul wants to make sure he’s passing it to THE RIGHT PEOPLE. BECAUSE WHEN YOU’VE GOT A MESSAGE AS IMPORTANT AS THE ONE PAUL’S GOT, NOTHING’S MORE IMPORTANT.

In Paul’s day, just like ours, there’s plenty of people in churches who SOUND impressive. Who SOUND like they know the truth. But who are just PRETENDING.

You don’t have to travel too far this morning to here FALSE TEACHING in churches. People who get it WRONG. People who say you don’t need to listen to the Bible anymore – that’s old fashioned – we’ve moved on these days. You can decide which bits you like, and which you don’t.

 

But the most DANGEROUS mistake false teachers are making. Right here in Sydney. Is that you don’t get to heaven simply by trusting in the work of Jesus. Salvation comes by SOME OTHER WAY.

Some people will say it comes in MANY ways. Other religions are FINE – as long as you’re SINCERE.

It’s the nonsense of post-modern relativism – You have YOUR religion and I have MINE. And they’re both TRUE FOR US.

Or they say that as long as you try and be a good person, then God will accept you.

 

Teaching like this SOUNDS nice. Inclusive, and tolerant, and politically-correct. But it’s DEADLY. Because it’s leading people STRAIGHT TO HELL. Eternal separation from God.

Paul want to make sure Titus isn’t passing the ball on to people LIKE THAT. Because the message is FAR TOO IMPORTANT to leave to UNRELIABLE TEACHERS.

But how can Titus BE SURE who’s UNRELIABLE, and who’s reliable?

Paul’s answer is that knowledge of the TRUTH ALWAYS leads to GODLINESS. Knowledge of the TRUTH ALWAYS leads to GODLINESS.

So look for the GODLY ones. That’s the measure of truth. The measure of A SOLID TEACHER.

Paul’s burden is to make sure HIS SOLID MESSAGE IS GIVEN TO SOLID TEACHERS, TO BUILD SOLID PEOPLE.

1. Solid Message (1-4)

Now, SOLID isn’t normally a flattering description for someone – “He has a very SOLID build” is a nice way of saying he could lose some weight.

And to say “Good old Jim, You can trust him – he’s SOLID” Is a nice way of saying Jim’s not really exceptional – pretty BORING really – but he can be relied on.

 

But in Ch 1, Paul goes out of his way to show that SOLID is a real POSITIVE. A compliment. First, he shows us his solid MESSAGE.

V1. He’s God’s SERVANT – on a mission FOR GOD HIMSELF. And he’s an apostle of Jesus Christ. He’s been commissioned and sent by Jesus himself. Not a bad set of references.

And his message? V2 It’s to do with the hope of eternal life – A PROMISE FROM BEFORE TIME. By GOD HIMSELF – who DOESN’T LIE. It’s SOLID.

And, v3, it’s a message God revealed, at just the right time, through THE PREACHING HE ENTRUSTED TO PAUL. A royal decree. With the full backing of God himself.

This isn’t something Paul dreamed up this morning over breakfast. It’s not man’s ideas at all.

 

It’s planned since before time. It’s God’s solid message. A rock-solid hope of eternity. You don’t get any more solid than that!

 

But notice also, the PURPOSE BEHIND the message. V1. Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ FOR THE FAITH OF GOD’S ELECT AND THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.

 

Paul’s goal in life is to produce faith, and knowledge of the truth in God’s elect. The message bears fruit of faith and knowledge.

 

It’s no good having A MESSAGE OF TRUTH, if no-one goes on to TRUST it. It’s TARGETED truth. Truth designed to produce a response. A response of faith and knowledge.

 

But there’s a third step as well.

 

Faith and knowledge of the truth are not ENDS IN THEMSELVES. What does the end of v1 say? “the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth THAT LEADS TO GODLINESS.”

 

True knowledge leads to godliness. True FAITH leads to godliness. Right KNOWING produces right LIVING.

 

If you really know the hope of eternal life then it will spur you on to want to be more godly. To reflect the character of the one who GAVE you the gift.

 

And if it doesn’t, it shows it’s not knowledge of THE TRUTH.

 

How can you tell if someone really KNOWS THE TRUTH? By whether their LIVES REFLECT IT. And that’s the test Paul wants Titus to use as he works at passing the ball on to others.

 

2. Solid teachers

And once we understand THAT. Paul’s list of qualities for an elder become OBVIOUS.

 

The proof of a solid leader – someone who can catch the ball, and carry it on – is seen in HIS CHARACTER. That’s the test of whether he really knows the truth or not. The sorts of people Titus should look for as solid teachers.

 

“You need to choose Elders who are the REAL THING,” he says. Men with REAL CHRISTIAN INTEGRITY. Who are going to WALK THE WALK… as well as TALK THE TALK. Men whose knowledge of the truth has lead to godliness.

 

Not perfect. Just prepared to live as followers of Jesus: live as if they mean it.

 

And you’ll see, again, as you read through verses 6 to 8; elders or overseers – different words for the same job. They need to have RIGHT LIVES.

 

And verse 9, elders and overseers, they need to have RIGHT DOCTRINE. Which is the only remedy – the only way to oppose those who haven’t.

 

Pick it up in verse 6. And I guess, especially if you’re one of our elders. We need to listen to this stuff.

 

An elder must be BLAMELESS – not open to any accusation that he’s not living out his faith. And he’s got to get things RIGHT AT HOME in his own family before you can expect him to get things right in the CHURCH family. The husband of but one wife, faithful to her; a man whose CHILDREN are faithful and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

 

It’s the TOUGHEST TEST of leadership, isn’t it. The age we live in seems to say kids do what they like, and it’s not the parents’ problem. Paul says, the way you bring up your family demonstrates something about the way you lead.

 

And Verse 7; the reason it’s important is that THIS IS GOD’S WORK. That’s why he needs to be blameless.

 

And then a whole string of NOTS. Not overbearing; a bully. Not quick tempered; not given to drunkenness; not violent; not pursuing dishonest gain.

 

You know, I’ve heard of elders and ministers who’ve blown it on any number of those. The minister who’d been picking up prostitutes in his car. His ministry destroyed, and the church left in tatters. An elder, known in his little country town for his fiery temper. Abused a young mum who was holding up the traffic pushing her pram across the road. And it was the talk of the town. “He calls himself a CHRISTIAN. Why doesn’t he LIVE it?”

 

Others – pursuing DISHONEST GAIN. Cutting corners in business. Let me tell you, if you think you can be a Christian leader and live like that, you’re not going to lead ANYONE ANYWHERE. And when it comes to fronting up to false teaching, you haven’t got a leg to stand on.

 

Paul says to Titus, when you’re looking for elders who are going to MODEL HOW CHRISTIANS LIVE, whatever you do… don’t go for people like THAT- who are going to bring the Lord Jesus into disrepute.

 

Verse 8. Look for someone like this instead. Someone hospitable; someone who LOVES WHAT IS GOOD; who is self controlled; upright; holy and disciplined.

 

You know, sometimes people say, he sets the bar too high. No one can be like that. Which is RUBBISH. The fact is, he’s just describing what ANYONE who’s serious about following Jesus is meant to look like.

 

Find some of those in every town, says Paul… and appoint them as leaders. Who’ll show people in Crete HOW REAL CHRISTIANS LIVE.

 

But more than that… verse 9; remember the two things that have to always go HAND IN HAND. It’s not just about LIVING RIGHT. It’s about RIGHT TEACHING as well. Holding on to THE TRUTH. Read it. An elder, verse 9, he must hold FIRMLY to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by SOUND (or SOLID) DOCTRINE, and refute those who oppose it.

 

Right living Right teaching. Right living right teaching. Hold on to the truth. So you can DEFEND IT. Live it out. So you can ENCOURAGE people to stick to it. And fight off those who don’t.

 

When it comes to the message Paul’s preaching, when it comes to the message we call THE GOSPEL… it’s not a matter of ANYTHING GOES. Make it up however it suits. It’s a matter of sticking EXACTLY to the trustworthy message that you’ve been taught. And passing it on INTACT. SOLID.

 

Like you’re in a relay race. Pass on the baton. And don’t drop it. And stand up against anyone who wants to change it.

 

It’s a SOLID message that’s communicated best by SOLID teachers. Who back up their words with SOLID, blameless, godly  lives.

 

Unreliable teachers (10-11, 14)

And then Paul mentions the OTHER extreme. The ones Titus needs to STEER clear of. The ones the SOLID teachers need to be refuting – UNRELIABLE people to be passing the ball to.

 

Look at v10. He calls them rebellious. MERE talkers and deceivers. In other words, there’s no ACTIONS behind their words. No WALK to go with the TALK.

 

Remember, for Paul, that’s the test. Because knowledge of the truth leads to godliness.

 

And he gives an example. The circumcision group. Ex-Jews, who didn’t MIND the idea of Jesus. Just that the cross WASN’T ENOUGH. “Yes, yes, Jesus is the Messiah. Yes, he died and was resurrected. Yes, we’re accepted by God because of Christ.”

 

“But to REALLY make sure, you need to get circumcised. Or follow these food laws. Or observe the holy days. Like we did BEFORE Jesus. After all, it says so in the Scriptures. Right there in the Law.”

 

Persuasive arguments. But look at their FRUIT. V11. They must be silenced because they’re RUINING WHOLE HOUSEHOLDS, teaching rubbish, and DOING IT FOR DISHONEST GAIN.

 

They SAID they were teaching God’s Word, but their LIVES said their priorities lay ELSEWHERE. Their hip pocket.

 

Or down in v14, Jewish myths and THE COMMANDS OF MEN meant more to them than the TRUTH.

 

Solid People (12-16)

And so , in v13, Paul tells Titus and the elders to REBUKE them SHARPLY. Put them in their place. Tell them to pull their heads in.

 

Why? “So that the people will be SOUND in their faith” It’s that “SOLID” word.

 

Solid Christians. Those with unshakeable FAITH and knowledge of the truth. Are produced when SOLID dependable, blameless teachers pass on the SOLID message of the gospel.

 

That’s the picture Paul wants to see being painted on Crete. It’s the picture he wants to see being painted here at Western Blacktown.

 

Now I guess with a passage like this, it’s easy, isn’t it, to focus on OUR ELDERS. And I trust our elders are taking a passage like this one to heart. As I am.

 

But I want to take it further than that. And say, what’s it like with YOU? Because the point is, the elders are meant to be people of integrity FOR A REASON. To encourage YOU… TO BE THE SAME. It’s not ONE standard for leaders and ANOTHER standard for everyone else.

 

And while I want to say to the elders and leaders in our church, let’s GET SERIOUS…

 

I want to say the same to EVERYONE. We’re going to see more of that next time… what’s meant to be taught to different groups in the church; and the fact is, it’s not that different.

 

And so for each of YOU… can I ask you to think on this? Is what you believe… SHOWING THROUGH IN THE WAY YOU’RE LIVING? Or isn’t it?

 

Is YOUR knowledge of the truth leading to GODLINESS? To a genuine CHANGED LIFE. With new attitudes, and priorities and words.

 

Are you growing as a follower of Jesus to be someone who LOVES WHAT’S GOOD? Or do you still secretly delight in what’s not? How deep can you scratch and still find a Christian there?

 

We’ll be a strong church if our leaders lead by example; and if we’re determined to hold on to the truth. But only if, FOR ALL OF US, the faith we’ve come to, and the knowledge we’re growing in… is a faith and knowledge that leads to CHANGING LIVES. A faith and knowledge that leads to GODLINESS.