The Heart of a Healthy Church
As you open your Bibles to Titus 2 remember that we are in the series about Foundations a Biblical community. The book of Titus is intimately practical on all aspects of life in the Church, from the hope we have in Christ to biblical leadership to marks of a healthy congregation to now we are going to see what the Apostle Paul says is the heart of a healthy church. The passage we have before us today contains the heart of everything else Paul writes about in this letter to Titus. The church has a mission to be a light into a dark world, a community of people who are being made pure by the blood of Christ and who are fed with healthy doctrine which leads to healthy members that reach those around them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul continues his conversation from last week that healthy teaching should produce members of the community who live holy lives, examples of good works.
This week you will see that the why of this holiness is based on three truths. On the basis of three truths, Our Place, Our Instruction, Our Hope.
Pauls main thrust in this passage is that you will be motivated to be holy on the basis of three truths, Our Place, Our Instruction, Our Hope.
1. -Between two Great lights. Our place is in between two great lights.
“The mayor of Toronto launched a “Light the Night” campaign. The idea was for residents to leave their lights burning overnight in order to discourage crime. A similar campaign was carried out in the Oakland, California, area, and reports show that crime was greatly reduced—in fact, reduced fantastically.”
I would like to draw your attention to vs 11 The Grace of God has appeared, This is describing the coming of Jesus Christ and as we continue on to vs 13 we are waiting on that blessed hope. Paul has placed his readers in between the two appearing of Jesus. This indicates that we are not unlike the Ancient Israelites living in a wilderness interval, between freedom from slavery in Egypt and conquest of the promised land. It is almost as if we are pilgrims, travelers wandering in the wilderness called life. Or to stretch this analogy even more, we are exiles living in Babylon.
Charles Spurgeon a 19th century preacher puts it this way.
We are divided from the past by a wall of light, upon whose forefront we read the words Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary. We date from the birth of the Virgin’s Son: we begin with Anno Domini. All the rest of time is before Christ, and is marked off from the Christian era. Bethlehem’s manger is our beginning.
C. H. Spurgeon, “The Two Appearings and the Discipline of Grace,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 32 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1886), 195.
We are on this side of the Grace of God, we are able to look back and trust in the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Savior. The time before this was a time of dense darkness and confusion. The time of Paul’s writing to Titus was a time where gladiators fought to the death for sport, were the solution to almost all political problems was murder. Look how Nero handled the growing threat of Christians, he would cover Christians with black tar and light them on fire in order to light his vast gardens. A time of great darkness that was brought to light by the blood of the martyrs bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our church inherits that legacy the countless deaths of believers across time brought us the faith that we hold today.
But we do not just look behind us at the great hope we have from the bringing of salvation for all people. What is meant by all people here? A universalist might take this to mean that every person will be saved. However closely look at the grammar and you will see that his salvation is brought for all people, not that it will save all people. The gift of Jesus is sufficient for all people, but it is only efficient for some. Some people will get wrapped up into confusion in an attempt to determine who it is exactly to be saved, they want some book that has the name of every person that will be saved. This is a colossal missing of the point here. All that we need to know is that in order to be saved we must believe in Jesus Christ, we must have faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ.
For those of you who are saved we look forward to the second appearing. That is our destination, the second appearing of Jesus. As pilgrims in a strange land we realize that this is not our home, we have a future home, a promised land. The Church of Jesus Christ, all people who have faith in Jesus throughout time, starting from the great light of His birth to his second coming are looking forward to the day He will return.
VS 13 describes it as our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the heart of the people of God, this is what Paul lived his life for. Like Paul we believe that our Master who was taken away in the clouds before the eyes of the disciples will return in like matter. Acts 1:10-11 provides the promise.
And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
As an end to this current age, we look forward to the Glorification of Jesus. Behind we see Christ’s humiliation on the cross, before us the great God and Savior in His full glory! hallelujah
2. At the end of VS 12 The present age. It does no good for us to only look to the past for our trust and to the future for our hope, we have this present age to contend with. This is the second aspect of our place. As we move from one light, one appearing to the other we are taking this journey with all believers past and present. Paul calls it the present age, what a fleeting way to describe this life.
One hobby I used to enjoy was Duck hunting. As you know duck hunting requires the ducks to migrate from up north down to the south for warmth. As ducks would come down I would place decoys in a pond in order to attract them to stay for a little bit. I used all sorts of decoys, moving decoys and still decoys, I would also use a duck call in an attempt to call them down to my pond. Then of course when they come close enough I shoot them.
We are like ducks migrating through this world, the only problem Satan has placed decoys in our lives, they are different for everyone but in many ways they are the same. They are connected to our hearts desires. When hunting ducks I knew they wanted to eat and to mate, so I provided decoys that looked like they were eating, one of the calls on a duck call is a feeding call that sounds like a duck eating. The other decoy was that of male and female ducks looking as realistic as possible.
Satan knows the desires of the human heart and he capitalizes on it. He gives us the distractions that he knows we desire, or lust after. As we pilgrims pass through this wild country of life we must be aware of decoys counterfeits that seek only to draw us down to immobilize us and make us ineffective for the kingdom of God. What are the counterfeits in your life? What is distracting you from being useful to the church and Kingdom of God?
Paul makes the argument that a holy life is one that denies the decoys of this world. We are to walk as children of the light. Which brings us to the training, our education.
-Training us; renounce/deny VS 12. training us to renounce or deny ungodliness and worldly passions. Paul describes the education we get by the Grace of God that has appeared to all people. The word for training here emphasizes more of a school house education, or a teaching a child to do the right thing, so the grace of God has come as parent to teach us, train us, educate us for a more developed state. When you think about the Israelites in the wilderness they were not ready to go into battle to conquer a land they had to be trained. They had to be organized into proper units and tribes. They had to develop an overwhelming trust in God’s power to save them. Likewise we are being trained in holiness to fully posses our heavenly heritage.
The first level is that The Grace of God educates us to deny two things
Ungodliness and worldly passions. God’s Grace is the teacher and we are His students. While the Law showed us the Do’s and Don’ts, God’s Grace teaches us the Wants and Wonts. While the Law shows us what ungodliness looks like it binds us to a religious do this don’t do that. Which our natural selves war against. We are unable to keep the law perfectly. It does not lose it’s usefulness as a standard. I am referring here in particular to the 10 commandments which provide a useful example a testing principle to see what is not straight.
How do you evaluate if a stick is crooked? You place it next to something straight. How do we evaluate if a behavior or law is crooked? You place it next to the standard of God’s Word. How do we know what is ungodly and worldly? We place it next to the standard in God’s Word. The more we know understand and learn Scripture the more we are able to see the world for what it is.
But, The law is unable to change us. While the law produces a list of do’s and don’ts, God’s Grace, Jesus gives us the wants and wonts. Because of Jesus we want to live self-controlled lives, because of Jesus we wont indulge in worldly lusts.
Because the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people it is training us. The generality of all men is followed by the particularity near it. It says all men, but then goes into only some will be disciples. Are you a student of the Grace of God? Do you have childlike faith in Jesus as he forms you with greater and greater holiness? Have you learned to build habits based on the Word of God to provide greater faithfulness? If so you can say you are His people.
Have you heard the quote by Frederick?
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” It really ties in to the fact that many of us have lived worldly lives full of ungodliness and now years later we are having to learn to remove the old self and put on the new. Take for example anger. If your parents always responded in anger venting or holding it in and then blowing up on everyone, you are likely to have developed this habit. This habit of responding.
Many teachers will tell you the most difficult part of training young people is not the putting in of the right information, but getting rid of the wrong information and habits.
In like manner when the Holy Spirit enters our hearts we have so much to unlearn, we have learned, puffed up and conceited, we have been taught so much by the wisdom of this world that is hardly wisdom at all. We have to take off the old and put on the new.
The first step is to deny ungodliness, and worldliness. We have to refuse some temporary pleasures we must avoid some decoys that seek to lure us into sinfulness and uselessness. At times that means turning off the TV and reading your Bible. I have heard students tell me they had no time to read their Bibles or pray. I ask them to write down how often they get on social media, how many Netflix shows they watch and similar things. Inevitibly they dont have time to learn godliness because they have filled the majority of their time with decoys. Satan has baited a hook that is attractive yet underneath the bait a hook waits.
What does Satan bait you with?
Remember, there is a God and we are accountable to Him. We neglect the promptings and conviction of the Holy Spirit at our own risk.
Our goal in life is to make ourselves ready for the next, not getting caught on the hooks of today. Practically how does this look,
We recognize our Place before God and in time. We become educated by the life and sacrifice of Jesus. We put off the old self.
Now we also know that nature abhors a vacuum, any flat surface in my house will accumulate stuff. The counters in my kitchen are hard to see because stuff has found its way there. I clear it off and a few days later it is covered with paper, mail and anything really.
Why is this? Well its because I have removed something but I haven’t placed anything there to prevent me from filling that spot. Which leads us to the positive aspect of the training. We cannot be complete with merely negatives, we must seek the positive.
-Training us to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives.
Our great Educator, the Grace of God, teaches us to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives. Because we are living in this present age, waiting for our Hope we must live in the way we are told. Paul’s encouragment to Titus about the marks of a healthy congregation that we mentioned last week spill into today. Self-control mentioned in the previous passage is also highlighted here. We cannot live in just a holy huddle with other believers, many would love to just live in a monastery and escape the world, however it is no use for us to hide away, we were born into this present time for a mission, to reach the world with the Good News of Jesus. One of the ways we do it is through the witness of our lives. A healthy church reflects healthy teaching in the everyday lives of its people. You as a member of the body of Christ are to put off your old self and put on the new. You must be self-restrained not giving to excess,
All gas and no brake, does not a happy story make.
Put on righteous living, not being deceitful in your everyday dealings with others. This is not befitting the servant of God. God’s servants must not lack integrity.
Finally we must be godly, we seek first God’s kingdom not our own. God’s word must be the guide of your thoughts, feelings and actions. This can seem a bit overwhelming and I want to remind all of us that not only did Jesus die for our sins in order to redeem us, but He is also cleansing us, making us holy.
Turn to VS 14 Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are jealous for good works.
Full stop! did you catch that? to redeem us AND TO PURIFY, not only did he die and pay the ultimate cost for us, he did it so that he will purify us. We have this hope.
Because of our position between two great lights, we are being trained in this life to live godly lives, the encouragement for us, the great hope for us.
-In VS 14 it says the does this redeeming and purifying to make a people for his own possession. You might be in a season of depression right now, or a time of anger frustration or fear. You might be overwhelmed with the way this world is going, the wars and rumors of wars. Our first encouragement is that Jesus is putting together a people, a treasured possession. The word is used to reflect the value of the chosen people, this own possession is like that a box of diamonds values his people that he sent His son as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, not only that, but his sacrifice purifies his people from all ungodliness. His people show that they are His because they are passionate about good works, they earnestly desire to do good works. Look at VS 7 with me, Paul tells Titus to be a model of Good Works, all those indicators of a healthy congregation those are the good works that we should all be zealous about. Can we dwell on this for a moment?
You can be dirt poor and be a model of good works, you can be rich and be a model of good works, none of this depends on your personal ability. You don’t have to be smart to be self-controlled, pure, kind, not addicted to much wine. This is attainable for everyone. How we become models of good works is not through anything good in us, it is totally because of Christ Jesus. While we struggle in this life seeking to put to death the sins in our lives we can rest assured that Christ is working with us through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, bringing conviction of sin and showing us the clear way to sanctification, that is to holiness. We are His people. What great lengths God went through for His people in the wilderness.
Not only are we a treasured possession but we are,
-Living in anticipation.
What are you currently living in anticipation of? When I retire I’ll do whatever I want, or maybe, when my kids get out of the house then I’ll be free to chase my dreams. I know some men and woman think that if they could just find the right spouse, the right person then they will be happy. If I just get that next promotion.
Why do we live our lives in the future? We hope in a future where things are different. Paul is reminding Titus that our hope must be in our Savior, that we are waiting for that blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior this is not a stagnant hope, we are not in a waiting room waiting to be seen. No, this is a call to preparation for the promised land.
Paul describes the coming of Jesus to Timothy in this way.
2 Tim 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Even as Paul was preparing to be killed by beheading he was finishing the fight, he was not slowing down in service. We are to anticipate the coming and live in light of that truth.
Christ has a plan for the church, the people of God. The people of God are to be holy because God is holy and we are to be a light in the darkness. The church can only be as holy as it’s congregation. In this text you saw that we must seek to be holy on the basis of three truths, Our Place, Our Instruction, Our Hope.
Christian believers throughout time have held onto these three truths,
We are between to great lights, the first coming of Jesus and the future coming of Christ.
We are to be holy and God’s grace is our teacher,
and finally we have hope, because we know our position in time and we have such a great anticipation of the future in Jesus Christ.
Today we live in a dark world, where mothers kill their pre-born children, drugs and alcohol destroy families, the truth of God is traded for a lie.
The middle ages were commonly called the dark ages. It was called this because of the perceived decline in the culture of Western Europe. It was also a spiritually dark time as Christianity had been co-opted and taken over by governments and corrupt leaders. It became a tool to keep people in line. The Bible was restricted from the common languages and most people couldn’t understand it unless they went to school to learn Latin.
During this darkness a light shown, a light in the darkness. The Protestant Reformation started in obscurity and the light got brighter and brighter, the Bible was translated into the common language of the Germans, and English translations were becoming available. The governments and leaders of the time attempted to stop this rebellion, this reformation. They burned the Bible translations, they put people to death who were involved. They condemned Protestants and severely persecuted them. Now as time went on both sides begin to commit atrocities. But a Latin saying came about. It became the motto of the Protestant reformation. Post Tenebras Lux. Out of Darkness, Light!
Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession. Will you be a light in the darkness? Will you be that Post Tenebras Lux in your community? In Sierra Vista? in Arizona? in the World?
Let that be our battle cry. Let us bring the light of God’s Word in this broken world!