Verbs of a Healthy Congregation
Verbs of a Healthy Congregation
Verbs of a Healthy Congregation
Introduction: Turn in your Bibles to Titus 3. We have had the joy of covering this letter of Titus for the last 4 Sundays. After today we only have one more Sunday in this book. To recap we have seen several elements of a healthy church. From leadership in Chap 1 to members responsibilities in Chap 2, and last week at the end of Chap 2 we saw the heart of the letter. Now this chapter flows from the heart of the letter to the extremities. We are going to be covering how the people of a local church is to act toward outsiders, to unbelievers as well as toward government leaders. Here is the breakdown of the passage we have before us.
Verses 1-2 address who we are to be, verse 3 is who we were at one time, prior to a relationship with Christ, and verses 4-8 are about who God is.
Read Titus 3:1-8
Let me tell you about my cooking adventure. (Seasoning)
Who we are Remind them: VS 1-2.
By saying keep reminding them Paul is telling Titus to remind believers to do what follows, things that they were already knew about but that they need to keep doing. Think about the time frame this is written in. We mentioned Nero last week and how he was a very evil man in his desire to torture Christians. Christians fell under this PAX Romana, the peace of Rome, essentially Rome was the boss and everyone else complied to the emperor. Now also remember the local context Titus is in, he was sent to put in order these churches on the island of Crete and Paul’s quotation of who the Cretans were, is pretty funny, but serious. What does this mean? It means that the Christians in Crete had an oppressive government and were in surrounded by a pagan culture. In order to be lights in the darkness they had to remember who they were. We have significantly more freedom in our country yet we live in an increasingly secular culture. In this heightened political climate, our witness to the world is highlighted greater than ever.
A healthy congregation interacts with the world by remembering three verbs, Are, Were, Is.
Part of who Christians ARE is that we
-Submit to rulers/authorities: Literally be under submission to rulers and authorities, governmental rulers. For Paul that meant being under judgment from rulers
8 Then Paul made his defense: “Neither against the Jewish law, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I sinned in any way.”
9 But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, replied to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem to be tried before me there on these charges?”
10 Paul replied: “I am standing at Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as even you yourself know very well.
11 If then I did anything wrong and am deserving of death, I am not trying to escape death; but if there is nothing to what these men accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
12 Then after Festus conferred with his council, he replied, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go.”)
Paul is willing to submit to the Law of the land even up to his death.
Back in Titus Paul’s directive implies that “rulers and authorities” are not commanding rebellion against God but generally fulfilling their God-ordained duties (see Rom 13:1–7). They are upholding social order.
Paul’s directive here is indicating governmental authorities and that we are to submit ourselves to governmental leaders.
Now as Americans we read this and might get a little hot under the collar, we were born out of rebellion and proud of it. As Arizonians we are ready to fight, we have that frontier mentality. For a people birthed out of rebellion and raised on freedom any hint of submission raises our blood temperature.
We are blessed by God to live in a country where we have freedom to practice our faith. But it has not always been so.
We have to understand what submission is and isn’t.
What is Paul implying here with this submission to authorities? It seems to be similar to how he says wives are to be submissive to their own husbands. We submit to our government in so far as doing so does not cause us to break God’s law. If a husband was going to harm his wife and she could not escape would she be condemned for defending herself? In a nation like the United States there are many safeguards for this so we as a people do not have to fear that. We can submit and work to change injustice faithfully.
-Obey: Similar to submission to authorities we are to obey, we obey God rather than man, but we obey government when it is not in direct contention with God. Peter in Acts 5:29 we obey God rather than humans first.
Sometimes it is necessary to go against earthly authorities to uphold the divine will, as when the Hebrew midwives “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do” (Exod 1:17); when Moses defied Pharaoh (Exod 7–12); when Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego would not bow down (Dan 3); when Daniel prayed, despite the king’s edict (Dan 6); and when Peter and John kept preaching after being ordered to be silent (Acts 4:18–20).
Because I fear God, I will not do evil if the government tells me to do something contrary to the law of God. Remember this is more than just preferences, I prefer not to pay taxes, but my duty is to render unto Caesar what is Caesars. So even if the government is foolish and institutes foolish laws we are to submit to the law of our government, however if laws that are immoral are instituted we have an obligation to obey God rather than man.
-Ready for every good work: While this applies to the commands for people in Chapter 2 it is also in regard to the context of in our society. While we submit to our government authorities, we are looking for ways to work for good. This has so many various applications that it might be helpful to look at your own circumstances and see what good works you can do to be a witness to those around you.
Would there be a felt loss if Sierra Vista Baptist Church was no longer here? If you moved out of your neighborhood would there be a felt loss as to goodness that was there?
We must be seasoning, not bland roast. We must be salt and light in a dark and distasteful world.
-Don’t slander anyone: Don’t blaspheme anyone “to speak ill of no one.” Think about politics today, this is a national past-time. But Paul here says to not slander/blaspheme anyone. Think about the Christians in Rome or Crete who were afraid for their life they were not to talk slanderously, about Nero! Yikes! But not only are not to slander leaders and rulers, but we can’t slander anyone, or don’t talk bad about anyone! I don’t know about you? but after reading this I had to get on my knees and pray for repentance. Christian witness in the world relies on the good fruit of believers, we externally live out the Gospel because of the inward change.
That means how we talk about the politicians on social media and in everyday conversation matters. Do you bash a current political leader in office today? As Christians we are not to slander or speak maliciously about these people. Instead we are to pray for them. Brothers and Sisters, this is not easy trust me we all must work hard to not fall into that level of worldliness. We are to be different. We can disagree with policy and decisions made, but we are not to slander. But this extends beyond politics even to our relationships with those around us.
Paul is not saying by this admonition that Christians must be naive and never correctly evaluate and speak about the evil that they see in anyone, since this is what he himself does in 1:10–16. Rather, he is urging Christians to restrain their natural inclination to say the worst about people.
-Avoid fighting, be kind, always show gentleness to ALL people:
Maybe this should be titled do hard things, its hard to be kind, I spent a large part of my military career fighting. Now I’m being told to avoid fighting? This is a tall order, is Paul serious? Yes, he is. We are to show gentleness that is courteous, 2 Cor. 10:1 Paul urges his readers to do what they are supposed to “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”
All this would be impossible except, we have to two things going for us, we know who God IS and who we were before Jesus.
Our next two points help us to be the witness to outsiders, toward non-believers.
We must be seasoning to the world around us, this is who we ARE.
We ARE ready for every good work,
Since we WERE unbelievers at one time. Paul reminds Titus and us readers that unless we become to self-righteous thinking, we are somehow better than anyone else because of this newfound responsibility, we too were lost once.
Who we were: VS 3.
This is a hard-hitting verse, Paul in an economy of words says exactly who Christians were before coming to faith in Christ. Also note he includes himself in this list describing characteristically how we were.
Paul acknowledges that it can be hard to deal with people and that we can remember we too were lost like this. But I don’t want you to just sit here and listen to me talk about it, but we must feel the impact of our old lives. Let’s turn the pages back to our old selves and join with Paul in the sad confession of our old lives, our old pursuit of former pleasure.
Those of us who have served faithfully the Lord for many years I’m inviting you to join in on this confession from Paul, “We ourselves.” VS 3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
Illustration: Plan of salvation book, for this point we are looking at that black page of our lives.
Three types of evil are described here. evils of the Mind, evils of Action, evils of the heart. When we look upon the world today it hurts us to see how foolish and disobedient to God’s law people are.
Before Christ all of us serve ourselves, we can look back at our old selves and say how foolish I was! But we also can deal with a society that is degrading before us. Just as we once were lost and rebellious and God had mercy on us and made us objects of His kindness and followers of Him we are to look at those who are degenerate and lost having the same mind and compassion of Christ on these who exhibit these characteristics.
This message from Paul should drive us to watch the news with hope! If God can change wretch like me, he can do the same for the politicians on the news, for the foolish kids doing foolish things. God’s saving grace is never out of reach. Because such were some of us. 8 Characteristics are mentioned here. Our former life was characterized by, foolishness.
-Foolish: We were foolish. Our minds did not grasp the self-evident truths about God. We were like a three year old at the Louvre, we don’t grasp the beauty all around us. A sunset doesn’t give glory to a great Creator. We were once blind to the Glory of God.
-Disobedient: it denotes unruly behavior in general (Luke 1:17; Titus 1:16), rejection of God’s command (Acts 26:19)
-Deceived: The image of errant and wandering souls is common in depicting the plight of humans outside of faith in Christ: 1 see Isa 53:6
-Enslaved by various passions and pleasures: recalls Paul’s depiction of all humans as slaves of either sin or righteousness (Rom 6:16–19)
-living in malice and envy: We were characterized by ill-will to others. Everything is someone else’s fault they are all out to get me. We were envious, that is continually dissatisfied with our own position or possessions or power comparing ourselves to others.
-hateful, detesting on another: Both the passive hating of others, and being hated that’s how we were.
Thinking about man’s sinful condition I am reminded by
Jer 17:9 the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt, who can understand it?
Do you beat an untrained animal for following its natural instincts? Say you get a new puppy and you begin to potty train it. If that dog makes accidents it may be inconvenient, but it is not cause for anger or mistreatment. You of course apply discipline, but you understand that it is natural a natural inclination that you must curb.
Or what about your children do you berate them for going potty in their diapers? Or maybe when they begin to walk do you get mad at them or upset when they fall down? No of course not.
When the unregenerate when those who have not been born again, those who are unsaved not having been washed and cleansed and having the bonds of sin broken do something that is Foolish, disobedient, we can show kindness because we were once there.
A healthy congregation interacts with the world by remembering three verbs, Are, Were,
Who God is: VS 4-7
Paul confesses this past life as his and ours, now he builds on this. Remember last week we talked about the heart of the letter, The Coming of Jesus, this is brought back up here. In this passage
We have a trinity of actions and we see the Trinity here in this passage. God came, God, Saved, God is generous.
-God came vs 4: An evangelist named Tony Abram said it this way.
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.
A SUBJECTIVE person came along and said: "I FEEL for you, down there."
An OBJECTIVE person came along and said:
"It’s logical that someone would fall, down there."
A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST came along:
"You only THINK that you are in a pit."
A PHARISEE said:
"Only BAD people fall into a pit."
calculated HOW he fell into the pit.
A NEWS REPORTER
wanted the exclusive story on his pit.
"If you would have listened to me, you would not be in that pit."
"Your pit is only a state of mind."
A REALIST said:
"That’s a PIT."
calculated the pressure necessary (lbs./sq.in.) to get him out of the pit.
told him to appreciate the rock strata in the pit.
AN EVOLUTIONIST said:
"You are a rejected mutant destined to be removed from the evolutionary cycle." In other words, he is going to DIE in the pit, so that he cannot produce any "pit-falling offspring."
The COUNTY INSPECTOR asked if he had a permit to dig a pit.
A PROFESSOR gave him a lecture on: "The Elementary Principles of the Pit."
An EVASIVE person came along and avoided the subject of his pit altogether
A SELF-PITYING person said:
"You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen MY PIT!!"
An OPTIMIST said:
"Things COULD be worse."
A PESSIMIST said:
"Things WILL get worse!!"
JESUS, seeing the man, took him by the hand and LIFTED HIM OUT of the pit. End quote. But better yet, Jesus got into the pit to bring us out of the pit.
God came down to earth to bring us from this pit. No other religion, system of thought or invention of man has come up with the truth of what God did for mankind through Jesus Christ. Most systems deny that we have a sin problem, or they say that the solution is us working harder or doing better. But not our God, not Paul in this letter to Titus.
Take a look at the two words kindness and love, God the Father’s purpose for sending his Son for salvation was because of His kindness that is his generosity or goodness to mankind. The term love here is philanthropia, where we get the English word philanthropy. We see God’s love for mankind in His sending of the Son. The purpose of the Father’s kindness and love was to bring salvation, Paul refers to God as our Savior.
-God Saved vs 5: “He saved us is the main verb in this lengthy sentence. Here is the elevation of God over all human attempts. He Saved us! You didn’t save yourself, You cannot work to be acceptable in God’s eyes. Only because God is merciful. You can try to be good all you want by force of will, you can even live better and be more moral than everyone else around you. You still will not be saved. Salvation can only be attained through a radical change of heart. This heart surgery can only be done by God.
Paul has been emphasizing the importance of good works in the Christian lives, in the life of the Church and to the world. But Good works are only the result of the Gospel the life change in us, not the cause of our salvation. There is no saving power in good works. Good works are the fruit of salvation, Good fruit comes from a good root.
The good root is accomplished in our lives through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. An important theological point arises here in this statement. This is one event, one washing. Regeneration (rebirth) and renewal (inner change). This is a spiritual event. At salvation the Holy Spirit makes you a new creation and cause inner change. This passage is not about baptism and you are not saved by any external washing or baptism. Because that would be obviously contrary to what Paul just said not by works are we saved but by His mercy.
-God is Generous vs 6: In this verse we see all three persons of the Trinity mentioned. HE (The Father) poured out His Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. With the verb for pouring out of the Spirit echoing that of Pentecost we see the generosity of God. He does this abundantly that is sufficiently. All our needs are covered in this pouring of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is our comforter in times of trouble, our Guide in times of confusion, our convictor in times of our sin, our power in our weakness. He exists to glorify Christ in His Word and to bring us into saving faith cleansing us of all our sins the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the direct result of the work of Jesus Christ.
This generosity justifies us and makes us heirs with the hope of eternal life, VS 7
“the goal, purpose, or result of our salvation: so “that … we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
We ARE to interact with the unbelieving world because we WERE just like them and because God IS the Author and Finisher of our faith. As we wrap up we are going to look at VS 8 which is our response to this message.
Response VS 8: This saying is trustworthy, Paul uses this term in all three Pastoral Epistles. It is too emphasize what is being or has been said. I really think that 4-7 is what Paul has in mind, this is a summary of the Gospel.
Paul tells Titus to insist on this. Titus needs to speak frankly about this to speak with confidence on this. Because good works are profitable for everyone. It is my job to speak boldly about this!
Take a moment and examine your lives today. Is anything about your life convicting you today? I know mine was all during this week of sermon preparation. In a minute we are going to go the Lord in prayer. During that time, I want you to confess what you are being convicted about and ask for forgiveness and repent of these past ways that you have been living contrary to the standard of God’s Word. Does your life reflect the good works of a saved life? If your life is not reflecting the truth of the Gospel, that we were once foolish and enslaved by various passions you need to seriously consider what is your position before God.
Most of us were unbelievers and futile in mind, but now we are not there but, however we are not where we are supposed to be. The promise for us is the God Saves and we need his help to live a life worthy of our calling as believers. Let’s commit this day to repent of our failings and rest in the assurance of God’s abundant sacrifice.
“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”
― John Newton