TITUS, WEEK THREE: RIGHT LIVING IN THE WORLD
DOING GOO BECAUSE OF GOD’S GRACE
This morning we are wrapping up a three-week series on the three-chapter book (letter, really) called TITUS. The letter, written by Paul to his son and companion in the faith, Titus, was for the express purpose of guiding him into selecting men of godly repute to oversee the newly formed house churches of Crete, to warn Titus against false teachers and teachings which lead people away from the true Gospel, and to instruct these new Gentile Christians in sound doctrine which will lead to right living.
Last week we looked at such instructions to older men, older women, younger women and men, then servants. A common thread was the need for all God’s people to live upright lives with self-control. Being able to master one’s own mouth and actions is something only God can do when we submit to His authority. When we walk in the flesh, we tend to live in the flesh.
As we read final chapter of Titus, pay attention to two things: (1) The central claim of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; and (2) the result of doing what is good because of God’s mercy toward us. [READ TITUS 3]
Paul opens this part of the letter with a reminder he wants Titus to pass along to the Cretan Christians: be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, and to do whatever is good. I’m going to come back to this reminder in a minute. First, I want to get at the “WHY” of the what.
Paul gives instruction for how we are to live in the world, but then he explains WHY we are to “do whatever is good.” You see, “once upon a time” these new Christians were just like those who don’t claim Christ as Savior: foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. They were living for self and NOT for Jesus. They wanted what they did not have (envy). They had a wicked disposition, which is the core meaning of the Greek word for malice. Living in such a way that others hated them, all the while hating other people.
He’s describing the disposition of anyone from any generation who is far from God. Because we are living to please ourselves, we are deceived and enslaved. There’s nothing redeeming about us. AND YET…God finds us redeemable! Paul goes on to say this: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” THIS is the Gospel! THIS is the “WHY” behind the reminder to do whatever is good. [Don’t be surprised if this passage shows up again in my Christmas message in 5 months!]
Why should I submit to rulers and authorities…both inside and outside the church…inside and outside my home? BECAUSE out of the goodness and mercy of God, the Son of God submitted to the will of the Father and saved me while I was still far from God. While I was unlovable, God loved me.
Friend, I don’t know what you did last year, last month, or last night that may have you thinking that you are beyond repair…beyond hope…beyond healing. But I have GREAT news for you! You are NOT! There is NO HUMAN BEING still drawing breath who cannot be redeemed by the power of God’s love. The message for you who feel far from God is this: COME HOME. Stop running. Stop trying to hide behind the fake smile. God knows your deed and loves you anyway. He wants you just as you are SO THAT He can transform you into what He wants you to become.
As Carolyn Moore says repeatedly in her book, Encounter the Spirit, Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. Jesus came to make dead people ALIVE! Here’s how Paul puts it to us in Ephesians 2:1-5à Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.
Church, let us not be so naïve this morning that we think everybody in here has owned this Gospel truth for themselves. There are still some in this room who struggle to accept the Good News, so they keep living the lie that they are Christians because they come to church. But I say, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Quit living for the devil and really start living for Jesus! Rise to your feet and declare INDEPENDENCE from sinful self and DEPENDENCE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!! [PRAY IF ANY RESPOND].
Here’s the second WHY that we read in this part of the chapter: He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. REBIRTH…REGENERATION is what happens when the Spirit of Christ gives us new life in Jesus Christ because we repent of our sins, confess our need for a Savior, and put our faith in Jesus Christ as that one and only Savior. We have been justified—making it “just as if” we never sinned—by his grace.
But wait! There’s more! The Holy Spirit is poured out on us in this new birth and begins the process of what is commonly called, SANCTIFICATION—the process of growing us deeper and deeper in love with God our Savior. We are becoming more conformed into the image of Christ Jesus. And as the Spirit does this work in us, He also gives us the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ until He returns for his Bride, the Church. We have the hope of eternal life because of faith in Christ. As Paul puts it in Ephesians 1, we are sealed with promised Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance.
Why is this important? Because without the Holy Spirit continuing to draw us closer to Christ…without His guidance as we read God’s Word, as we pray, as we serve, then we will go off course. Left to our own devices…if we choose to listen and follow the teachings of those who do not rightly divide God’s Word and are not led by the Spirit, we will choose to return to our own vomit, as the apostle Peter wrote in his second letter.
In my seven years here, I have witnessed dozens of people become participants in this body of Christ. Some have professed Jesus Christ and been baptized. Others still joined this church through a covenant, stating that they would support this body with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. And yet, because of the cares of this world…or because of their own selfish-directed desires, they have drifted away from the church.
You may say, “Well, preacher, that doesn’t mean they have lost their faith.” Perhaps. I can tell you this: more times than not, when people stop participating in the body of Christ, their relationship with Jesus grows cold. I know people right now who are considering divorce who would have NEVER done so a few years ago when they were active in the church. Embarrassed, ashamed, or proud, they refuse to return to the community of faith who will love them back into a strong, intimate relationship with Jesus. And isn’t that what we are put here to do?
There’s an old story (I may have shared with you before) that I’d like to tell with a slightly different set of characters. Once there was a young couple who, after marrying in the church, became very active in all sorts of ministries. They were in a Life Group. They helped out serving meals to kids on Wednesday nights. As time went on, this couple got promotions at work, which required more time at work. Their weekends got shorter. They began to skip church to get caught up, or go to the lake, or sleep in after the Saturday night game.
People started noticing that this couple wasn’t around as much, but nobody reached out. So, the couple thought, “I guess nobody really misses us at that church. I don’t feel so guilty for missing anymore.” But one cold Saturday evening in February, an older couple who had been married 53 years decided to pay the young couple a surprise visit. When the door opened and the young man noticed his friends from church, he quickly invited them in as the young wife brought coffee into the living room next to the fire.
After a few minutes of small talk, the room grew quiet as they watched the roaring fire. Soon after, the old man got up, grabbed the tongs, reached into the fire and grabbed a small piece of wood from within the fire and pulled it away from the blaze. The young couple watched in silence as they saw that small ember grow dim…from whitish pink, to darker red, to nothing.
The old man, then used the tongs to return the ember to the blazing fire and within seconds the small piece of wood was fully ablaze again. With that, the old couple said their farewells and left. The young couple were in worship the next morning and never drifted away again.
Friends, that’s how it is with our faith. If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, moving us closer and closer to Jesus and to one another as the body of Christ, we will remain ablaze for Him. But if we drift away from God’s people, chances are we will grow cold in our faith. We will begin to think more like the world and act more like the world than like the body of Christ with Jesus as our Head.
So, what does that have to do with this morning’s text? I think it has everything to do with it! BECAUSE God is so rich in mercy toward us through Jesus Christ for salvation…and BECAUSE the precious Holy Spirit of God dwells in us and is shaping us into the Bride of Christ fit for heaven, THEN we will behave in ways that bring glory and honor to God!
We are called be merciful and to do good works BECAUSE God is merciful to us and calls us to be good and merciful to others. One of my favorite OT passages is from Micah 6:8—And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Basically, we are imitating Christ when we do what is good. We are reflecting the character and nature of our loving, merciful God when:
- We submit to rulers and authorities, provided that submitting to rulers and authorities does NOT violate God’s transcendent truth and ethos
- We slander no one; which means properly, to speak evil against, blaspheme, use abusive or scurrilous language about God or other people.
- We are peaceable and considerate, and are gentle toward everyone. God is calling us to behave in this way inside and outside our homes as well as inside and outside the church. Our children are watching…your brothers and sisters in this church are watching…and the world out there is watching. Are we representing Jesus in what we think, say, and do?
Conversely, Paul gives us some examples of things we should avoid BECAUSE of our new identity in Christ. He calls these things “foolish.” That word in Greek—moros—is the same word from which we get the English word “moron.” It means “acting as though brainless.” There are certainly things worth debating over. There are certain biblical truths worth dying for.
Let me give an example. If someone inside the church claims that it’s okay to engage in premarital sex (fornication), then we should gently correct and attempt to persuade that church member of God’s truth. If, however, that same discussion is being had with an unbeliever, then we’re getting the cart before the horse. Paul might even call it foolish. Casting pearl before swine, as Jesus said in Matthew 7:6.
Cassie was in a conversation with an unbeliever who also happened to be a lesbian. She wanted to know what Cassie thought about homosexuality. Convincing an unbeliever who is in the LGTBQ lifestyle that they are not living within God’s will is foolish. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteous, and judgment. Cassie simply shared what her Lord said in His Word, but demonstrated love and acceptance of this co-worker, not judgment. To do anything less would be, I think, “foolish.”
So, let’s not be foolish with things that are not productive for the kingdom. Let’s not fight inside the church about what temperature to set in this room, or what kinds of music we sing, or whether we should include the Apostles Creed every week or not. And let us not engage in foolish controversies or arguments outside the church that would hinder unbelievers from hearing and receiving the Gospel.
Well, that’s Titus. It’s a short little letter, but one packed with great truths. What are some things we heard?
- Godly leadership is vital for the teaching of sound doctrine. Men and women of integrity, especially pastors and other spiritual leaders, should be carefully selected for the benefit of the church
- Sound, biblical doctrine matters for followers of Jesus. Conversely, false teaching and false teachers can cause great division in the body and lead people away from who we are called to be.
- How we behave in our homes and in the church matters. Our kids are watching. The world is watching. To show grace and self-control while living out the truth of God’s word can go far in leading others TO Christ and into a deeper walk with Him.
- BECAUSE God has been so merciful to us, we are also to demonstrate submission to rulers and authorities inside and outside the church, showing gentleness and consideration to everyone. In a word, we are to devote ourselves to doing what is good for Jesus’s sake.
Friends, I believe that if we accept and apply the principles found in this short but powerful book, then the church will grow stronger and more like what God has intended. I also believe we will be a more powerful witness for Jesus Christ. Amen.