Today we are finishing the book of Titus, looking at chapter 3. Next week, we’ll start the Sermon on the Mount, which is Matthew 5-7. I am very excited about being there for the summer, because it’s some of the most practical and challenging teaching in all the Bible. It’s the heart of Jesus’ teaching. So, I hope you’ll prayerfully prepare yourself to be molded by the Holy Spirit today, and also as we move to the Sermon on the Mount next Sunday.
If you missed last Sunday, we did a sort-of precursor to this message. Last week we looked at Isaiah 43:1-7, and the truth we have no reason to fear no matter the political or social or cultural climate. Why? Because we’re sons and daughters of the King of Kings. If you missed that, it’s available on our website. This week, Titus chapter 3, we’re getting a little more specific. We’re going to answer the question, “How do we respond to this culture when it seems to be increasingly rejecting Christ?” Several of you told me that last week you felt somewhat released from fear of what the future holds. I want you to know that I’ve been praying that this week, as well, you’ll be released from something else in particular.
Not only is fear or anxiety a common response to everything happening in our culture, but there is another seemingly common response for Bible-believing Christians who watch a culture turn not only from Christ, specifically, but also turn away from Christian principles and foundations for society, something many of us may struggle with– What is this other common response we have? Contempt. Even hatred. Now none of us would ever call it that, but it may be just that. How do we live for Christ and show love to a culture that is so far from Christ, sometimes frustratingly so? That’s the question we’re answering today. Turn with me to Titus chapter 3; Titus chapter 3. We’re going to read the whole chapter; it’s 15 verses. And just to put you back into the story, this is a letter written by Paul to Titus, as Titus is on the island of Crete making sure that things are staying together for the churches that Paul and Titus had founded there on Crete after they had gone and evangelized the island and saw many come to the faith. Titus 3, starting in vs. 1.
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.
15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
The question we’re going to answer, again, is “How do we live like Christ in an ever-increasingly Christ-less Culture? What does that look like? 4 reminders: 1st,
- Remember your Calling (1-2).
Look at verses 1-2 again: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
“Remind” them. Remind these Christians of what they are called to do in the Gospel. Because we’ve been shown perfect courtesy, we’re to show perfect love and courtesy toward others! This includes human authorities! We’re to submit to and obey human rulers and authorities. There is no caveat to this command, at least in this passage. It doesn’t say, obey human authorities, as long as you like whatever they’re telling you to do. It doesn’t say that at all! It says, obey governing authorities, submit to them; this carries with this connotation of not just brute or reluctant obedience, but total obedience and even respect for human authorities.
Now, there is an obvious reason that we may disobey human authorities, and that’s when they require us to do something that God has clearly commanded against in His Word. We see an example of this in Acts 4, when the Sadducees and the captain of the temple command Peter and John not to speak anymore in Jesus’ name. And they respond, in Acts 4:19, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” So we do see that we obey God over men. But, unless there is clear biblical warrant that what the authorities are telling us to do God doesn’t want us to do, we are to obey and respect our God-given leaders and authorities.
So, here are some questions for us: Do we respect the authority that God has put over us? Not that we have to respect everything these authorities do, but do we respect them, knowing God, ultimately, is the one who puts authority over us, according to Romans 13? Do we respect the authorities that God has put over us? Not that we consider them perfect, obviously they’re all people too. But think about it: local authorities? State authorities? Tax authorities? federal authorities.? Do you obey and respect them?
We had this ongoing joke while I was in college, where we would blame anything that happened on President Obama. My roommate would get a “C” on a test, he’d say, “Thanks Obama.” I’d stub my toe, and say, “Thanks Obama.” It was just an ongoing joke about how sometimes it’s easy to blame everything on the president, no matter who the president is at the time. Obviously whoever the president is drastically affects the direction of the country, but I want to challenge all of us here with one question: Do we pray for our president more than we complain about him? Do we pray for our current presidential candidates more than we complain about them? We don’t have to like any of them, we don’t have to like our governing authorities; it’s not like we’re going to be friends with them or hang out with them. We don’t have to like everything about them, but we must NOT, as Christ-followers, get to the point where we feel contempt for these people over us.
In fact, part of our calling as Christians, according to vs. 2, is that we “speak evil of no one, show perfect courtesy to all people.” That doesn’t mean we don’t speak out in disagreement; it means we don’t show contempt for them in what we say. That includes those that might frustrate us the most. Now verse 2 is speaking way more broadly, not just of those in some type of authority. Speak evil, or “ill” of no one, that’s another way to understand this. What do we do for all people instead of speak ill of them? We’re to pray for them. 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
When able, we’re to avoid quarreling for the sake of the Gospel. We’re to be un-contentious. That doesn’t mean we’re weak, or that we’re all pacifists, by any means, but just that we have something in mind that is far greater than righting our own wrongs, or complaining about whatever human authorities are over us. We have the Gospel in mind. Our calling is to pursue holiness and spread this Good News that is the Gospel: Jesus died for our sins, bearing the wrath that you and I deserved, and rose again defeating death. If we repent, turn from our sins and to Christ, placing our faith in Him, we are given eternal life. Christ is the only Savior there is; our calling is to follow Him and share Him with others, no matter the cultural climate. Remember your calling. The 2nd thing we’re to remember in the midst of a culture that seems to be going farther and farther from Christ:
- Remember your Lostness (3).
Verse 3: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” There is no doubt that, sometimes, living amongst people that don’t know Jesus is difficult. It’s not always easy to be gentle and loving toward people, because they are heading in a completely different direction in life than we are. They have different goals, different priorities.
But if it ever gets to the point for us that we are more frustrated with those don’t know Christ than we are broken, it’s because we’ve forgotten. We become frustrated because we forget that the only reason we’re not stuck in sin like the rest of the world is because of the grace of God.
We were once foolish, we didn’t understand before God opened our eyes. We were disobedient to God, rebels. We were led astray, deceived. We were slaves to sin, just talking bad about people, we were jealous of others. All we wanted was what we didn’t have. We all once were motivated by the same sins that are hopefully repulsive to us now. There’s nothing wrong with being repulsed by sin and perversion. As we pursue God and holiness, that’s what will happen. We will gain the same distaste toward sin that God has, particularly a distaste toward sin in our own lives. But, think about this: How did Jesus look at those that were lost? There was no hatred or even anger toward them. He was broken for them. He was compassionate. He desired for them to repent and believe. So the question: How do we look at the lost?
What’s the biggest fuel for avoiding contempt for the world? You know, when you watch the news, or just live in the midst of a Christ-less culture, how do we avoid getting angry? By remembering that we were lost ourselves. Now we’re found. Did I find myself? No. God found me; He drew me to Himself. We must realize how different we would be without Christ. That’s one of the most gripping things about being a Christian, is remembering that I was lost in the dark, couldn’t find my own way out of the darkness. Then what happened? Col. 1:13- “He rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” This brings us, very naturally to our third reminder:
- Remember your Salvation (4-7).
We were so lost, sinful, hateful, vain, selfish, repulsive. If I were to tell you some of the sins of my past, you might be shocked, me as your pastor. One day, I’m sure I’ll tell you. But do we not all have things in the past that show our utter failure at being anything worthy of God’s mercy? But! Verse 4- “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Remember your salvation. Remember that God did it all. We get no credit. Do you hear over and over how we get no credit for the work of our salvation? He saved us NOT by our works, but according to his mercy. Who regenerated and renewed us? The Holy Spirit! Who poured out the Holy Spirit on us richly? God did, according to verse 6. How are we justified in verse 7? By HIS grace! All of this done by our God and NOT by us, and yet, verse 7, we become heirs of eternal life!
We hate the world because we forget. We get frustrated or let anger consume us because we forget! We forget that we are no different from the world without the grace of God! It’s only because of Christ that we can understand truth, what He has laid out for us in Scripture. If I’m honest, I think many of us have developed a self-righteous attitude toward the people around us, inside and outside the church. We think, man, they just don’t get it. I get it. Politics, culture, right and wrong. They’re over there, good luck to them, hopefully one day they’ll get out of that. They just don’t get it. But I get it. I’m more intelligent.
We must get off of our self-righteous high horses, remember that we were floundering about like scared little children in a pitch black room. We were searching for a door or a wall or anything at all, but we were helplessly lost. We were blind and unable to do anything to save ourselves. Then God reached in and pulled us from the darkness. To take credit for any of it, or to say that we understand the world somehow on our own accord or because of our own intelligence, is to forget the Cross. I implore you, as your pastor, don’t forget the Cross. The only reason we’re no longer blind is because Christ has removed the veil from our faces. 2 Cor. 3:16-18- “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” And then the last part, once again, in case you forget who actually made this happen: “This comes from the Lord.”
Remember your lostness. Remember your salvation, and the God who accomplished it. The only way we’ll ever be able to have the Great Commission in mind with the world is when we realize that the only reason we’re not with the world is because of the very Gospel we have to share with them. Which brings us to our fourth reminder:
- Remember your Mission (8-15).
Read with me verses 8-11: “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
Because we remember our lostness, and we remember our salvation which was 100% God’s doing, we also then remember our mission and are compelled to complete it. Because of the Gospel, we are to devote ourselves to good works. This also comes up in verse 14, when it says to “let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” So we show incredible grace to people around us, Christians and non-Christians, because we’ve been shown incredible grace. Paul tells Titus to INSIST on this! We must show grace in light of the grace that’s been shown to us.
That’s why Paul speaks so strongly against distraction and division. Avoid foolish controversies; he’s talking mainly about the law and these people who still yet were claiming that the Jewish law needed to be followed in order to receive salvation. Paul says that’s worthless talk. Verses 10-11 speak so sternly against those that stir up division. Why so strong? Paul seems so harsh here. Why? Because the mission is too important. It’s easy to become distracted. I always joke with Lauryn about how easily distracted I get at times. Some of you may know me as a driven and focused individual, but you just don’t know me as well as Lauryn knows me. But for all of us, it’s easy to become distracted from what matters most. And can I tell you what I think might be the biggest distraction for some of us? We think that it’s our primary God-given mission to make the USA a Christian nation again.
Faith absolutely involves politics. Faith is part of every aspect of our lives, which is why we’re doing a Wednesday night series this summer on the Church and Culture, starting June 8th. I hope you’ll join me. We’ll look at what the culture says, what the Bible says, then what do we do as Christians? We’ll cover an array of cultural and ethical topics.
As I mentioned last week, most of us, as Christians, believe that it is best not just for Christians but for all people, to follow generally Christian thoughts and ideas of what is right and wrong. A country that takes its cue from the Creator of all things will flourish more than a country that doesn’t. I believe that strongly. But please, hear me say this:
A faith that is primarily political twists our priorities as Christians. We are citizens of Heaven; I hope that was so clear from last week’s message. We have responsibilities as citizens of the United States, but we have far greater responsibilities as citizens of Heaven. I have to read this quote from John Seel: “Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound (and act) like resident apologists for a Christian America.” What does he mean by that? He means that we’re citizens of heaven in exile. That’s our primary identity, but it seems some of us have confused our heavenly identity with our national identity. Again, hear me. Be aware and involved with our country; we must. Be aware of what’s happening, vote, make your concerns known for the betterment of the United States, but please don’t forget that our mission is far, far bigger than the red, white, and blue. Our mission is the gospel to the whole world. Matthew 28:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Have you become hostile to non-believers, or at least those that aren’t sympathetic to what we believe? I get the frustration! Very much so! All this talk about tolerance, and yet a very apparent intolerance toward biblical Christianity in our culture. I see that. But responding without grace– All that does is hurt our greatest mission, which is to spread the Gospel to all people. Are you so focused on getting America back on track that you forget the lost people living in your midst? Are you so frustrated with the world, that you don’t desperately pray for their salvation?
We must remember our lostness, our salvation in Christ alone, and our mission. We get distracted because we forget. We forget that salvation for our neighbors, for our country, for the world, for us, is found in Christ and in Christ alone. Let’s remember Christ, and His mission.