Titus 3

Today’s reading is Titus 3.

Today we read something that every Christian who uses social media should : “Remind the people... to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”

Why? Because there was a time when each of us was a sin-sick fool. As verse 3 says, “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.”

Pretty ugly, right? But that’s where we all were. Christ saved some of us before these sins were in full bloom, but they were all there within us, agitating to be expressed. The difference between you and any unbeliever is not your high moral standards or your profound insight. The difference is the grace of Jesus Christ: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

So when people do sinful things and brag about them, when they are unwise and unashamed of it, when they are disobedient to God’s word, the proper attitude we should have is not moral lecturing. The proper attitude should be “to be peaceable, considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”

I hate how politics have been injected into everything. It turns every event and activity into some kind of argument. Those arguments, in my observation, often turn to “slander.” They lead people who profess love for Jesus Christ away from being “peaceable and considerate and... gentle toward everyone.” But this is how God wants us to be. If someone’s sin bothers you, recognize that person is caught in the grip of a depravity from which only Jesus can rescue them. That won’t change your opinion of what they are doing but it should change your thoughts about the person and your approach to speaking to them. Christ has rescued us from the damage that our sinful hearts long to create; look at others who are sinning not as objects to be argued with, slandered, and intimidated. Instead, look at them as people caught in sin’s grip. Then, pray and ask the Lord to release them.

Titus 2

Today we’re reading Titus 2.

Self-control is a key theme of this chapter. Older men are to be taught to have it (v. 2), older women are commanded to teach it to younger women (v. 5) and Titus was to encourage young men to be self-controlled as well (v. 6). Why all this emphasis on self-control?

One reason is that a lack of self-control feels good. It is always easier and more fun to eat an entire pizza or cake than it is to eat one modest slice--or none at all. The same is true when buying clothes or cars, expressing your opinion, or venting your frustration and anger. And we haven’t even talked about intoxicants or sexual activity. These--and other--things promise an immediate hit of pleasure and they usually deliver, at least at first. Self-control is hard when pleasure is easy. We all struggle with it at times and in various aspects of our lives.

Verses 11-12 told us that it is God’s grace in salvation that teaches us “to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit makes us desire to be self-controlled as does the gospel (again, here in Titus 2:11-12). Desiring self-control, however, doesn’t make exercising self-control easier. That’s why it is something that has to be taught (vv. 2, 4), encouraged (v. 6) and modeled (v. 7).

Do you have an area in your life where you need to work on self-control? Have you sought out someone who is self-controlled to help you, just as Titus was to help the older and younger men and older women were to help the younger women?

Honestly, a lot of self-control can be learned by modeling, as Paul commanded Titus to do in verse 7. Would Jesus click on that link? Would Paul order another round of beers in this situation? Would John MacArthur (or John Piper or whoever) take a hit from that bong? While we don’t worship men and women as idols or slavishly copy them, we do follow the example of others as they follow the Lord. When we wonder if it would be OK to indulge in something, it can be helpful to ask ourselves if someone we respect in the Lord would do it. In those situations we are not subjecting ourselves to someone else’s morality; we are learning self-control by following “an example [of] what is good.” So consider where you need to learn more self-control, trust God’s power and teaching on that, then look for other believers who can coach you, guide you, and model it for you.

Titus 1

Today the schedule calls for us to read Titus 1.

Over the course of my lifetime, I have heard of and met some highly authoritarian pastors. Once I was running a conference for pastors and one pastor who called to register for the conference lectured me for three or four minutes about an aspect of our ministry that he did not like. Then I told me he would like to attend our conference. I asked for his first name so I could enter it into the registration form. Then he lectured me about how he never lets anyone use his first name. To show respect to him and his office as a pastor, he insisted that everyone call him “Dr. S__” [name withheld]. So, his first name became “Dr.,” at least for the conference registration form and badge.

On another occasion, I heard from a very reputable source about a pastor who told a man he needed to remodel his home--not the pastor’s home, the home of the guy receiving the instruction. The guy gutted his house and took years to remodel it, in part because he needed the pastor’s approval for every major decision--floor coverings, wall placement, paint colors, etc.

I guess some pastors feel that they have a prophetic gift or at least that they have a level of wisdom that the average guy in the pew can never have. Probably, though, they just like to control people. Maybe somebody thinks this makes for good pastoral leadership, but not God. God said here in Titus that a pastor (or elder or overseer--it’s the same office in scripture with multiple names) “must be... not overbearing” (v. 7b). Why? Because, verse 7 says, he “manages God’s household.”

That last phrase is key. If Calvary Bible Church were my household, I could run it any way that I wanted. But it isn’t my household; it is God’s. Part of being a faithful manager, a good leader, is to run God’s household in his way which means being a servant-leader, not a dictator who insists on honorific titles or tries to control every decision of everyone’s life.

I had a guy ask me once if he should get a reverse mortgage. He wasn’t asking me if it was biblical or moral to do so; I can answer those kinds of questions. He was asking me to make a decision for him. This is not what elders do. If an elder in our church--me or one of the other men who lead with me--starts acting like this, it is a key sign that we are spiritually unfit to serve as leaders of God’s household.

It is important for you to think about your role in the church as well. I cannot make you live a godly life. I could bully you about reading the scripture or coming to church or something else, I guess, but that’s not what God called me to do. What we as elders are charged to do is “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” It is our job to lead, to teach, to encourage, and to rebuke sometimes but it is your job to put the truth into practice. Don’t follow an overbearing church leader, but do take what we try to do for you seriously so that our church will grow in Christ.

Leviticus 27, Psalm 34, Ecclesiastes 10, Titus 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 27, Psalm 34, Ecclesiastes 10, Titus 2. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Titus 2. 

Titus 2 beautifully describes why the church needs to be intergenerational. It begins in verse 1 by telling us that there is an appropriate way to live if you believe in the truth of the Christian faith. Verses 2-10 describes what that appropriate way of life looks like. Titus was to teach older men how sound doctrine should lead them to live carefully and in ways that are healthy in faith, love, and endurance (v 2.). Verse 3 tells us that Titus should teach older women to live reverent, good lives but that their purpose for living such lives was, in part to “urge the younger women” to live lives devoted in purity to their families (v. 5). Meanwhile, younger men needed to be taught how to control their actions (v. 6) with Timothy himself being an example for them to follow in every way (vv. 7-8). Likewise slaves should seek to serve their masters as best as they can in all honesty (vv. 9-10). The reason for all of this is God’s grace (v. 11). It has appeared to “all people”; this phrase, in context refers to “all types of people” whether old (vv. 2-3) young (vv. 4-6), men (vv. 2, 6) or women (vv. 3-4), free or slave (vv. 9-10). Although we never lose our sinful desires in this life, God’s grace teaches us to say no to them (v. 12a). This is what being “self-controlled” (vv. 2, 5 & 6) means. It is learning to say no to sin no matter how strong our desire is for it. Older people have had more experience with sin—in their own lives and in seeing its effects in the lives of other—so they can tell younger people how much sinful passions lie to us in what they promise and how to avoid giving into those passions. The result of this teaching is that believers will learn how “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (v. 12) while we wait for the return of Christ (v. 13). One of Christ’s main purposes in coming the first time was “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (v. 14b). Without older men to lead the way for younger men, without older women to mentor and instruct younger women, a local church’s adults will make the same sinful choices over and over again. But one of God’s gracious gifts to us is the gift of older, wiser believers who can encourage, instruct, guide, and lead (by example and by words) the younger adults in the church. Then, as each generation grows in its understanding of the gospel and person holiness, the church gets stronger and Christ accomplishes the goals he came here to accomplish (v. 14). If you’re an older person, are you having an effect in the life of someone younger? If you’re a younger person, do you have relationships with older believers who can help you grow in your faith? This is what Christ wants for his church so consider how you can serve or benefit from the service of others to grow more like him in your faith and walk with God.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 26, Psalm 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Titus 1

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 26, Psalm 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Titus 1. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Titus 1.

So much has changed in American church ministry since I began preparing for it when I was in high school. Back then, pastors were guys who wore dark suits, white shirts and ties all the time, even when going down a waterslide. While that may still be the image some people carry of a pastor today, it is by no means the only picture that comes to mind when people think of church leaders. These days a pastor might be a guy who seems a bit too stuffy or someone who seems like he’s trying too hard to be cool. 

As Paul explained to Titus what to look for in an elder, he carefully avoids a description of the man’s appearance. It is not his taste in clothes, his ability to appear somber or cool that matters to God. What matters is a man’s character; the description Paul gave in verses 5-9 focuses on the outward characteristics of a man’s life as evidence of God’s work in his life. People might be able to develop a few of these characteristics on their own but apart from the grace of God in his life, no one could consistently demonstrate these characteristics. Verse 9 of this chapter focuses on the most important aspect of a godly man’s life, the one that leads to all the character qualities that are required of him: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught….” Sometimes pastors are criticized for being too rigid, too hard-nosed about orthodoxy. We are told to be tolerant of other viewpoints and not so dogmatic about everything. While this passage cautions us about not being “overbearing,” it also says that we should “hold firmly to the trustworthy message…” That is, we do not act as if our faith and its doctrines are negotiable, fuzzy, or unclear. Instead, God calls church leaders to have a certainty about them, one that comes from deep conviction about the truthfulness of these things and their importance for the Christian life. Why is this important? “…so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Doctrine matters because it is the content of faith; it is what encourages the faithful and provides us with what we need to grow and faithfully hold on to the Lord. Conversely, there is an abundance of false doctrine and false teachers in the world. A godly, capable elder can “refute those who oppose it.” This means that the truth can be defended, when necessary. This protects the growth of God’s people from the withering damage done by falsehoods. If you’re a man and aspire to serve the Lord, look at the words of this passage often. Think about them; consider what obedience and growth in these areas should look for in you life. Then become someone who serves the Lord with deep conviction for his truth and consistent personal integrity. If you’re not interested in becoming an elder, pray for the men who lead our church that these verses will be a fairly adequate picture of our lives as we walk with the Lord daily.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.