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Hope when life is very dark – Titus 3:1-8, Part 3

7 Aug

Do you have a dark past? Is life feeling messy or difficult right now? If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, you’re not alone. All of us go through really troubling times. In the middle of it, we can feel a confusing mixture of fear, sadness, pain, longing, despair, and we wonder if things will ever change. Usually we think they won’t.

As we continue studying Titus 3:1-8, Paul is thinking about those dark days in the past when in verse 3 he says, “At one time.”  After talking about how the Christians in Crete should be subject to the authorities and live Christianly in the world, Paul has a shift in his flow of thought, drawing their attention to the past.  He wants them to be totally different people than he used to be, than they used to be. 

When he says, “we too,” he could be talking about himself, which is important because, as a leader, he is owning and admitting his past faults.  Paul lists the way he used to live:  foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by passions, living in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

Paul could be talking about himself because before he became a Christian, he was pretty rough, persecuting Christians.  This is very much connected with what he just said in the previous verse about being humble.  Christians should be willing to admit our faults.  Leaders especially, we need to be committed to admitting where we mess up.  It’s hard to admit our faults, though, isn’t it?  I sense that in our society we have moved toward less admittance of our faults.  It seems to me that people are much quicker to blame others, and not accept fault.  We have too few examples of people who screwed up, owned it, confessed it, and strove for penance, reconciliation, healing.

Paul is also not saying that everyone used to horrible, though.  But maybe there is at least something on the list that describes how you and I used to be. 

Verse 3 is difficult.  Who likes to remember our dark pasts?  And yet Paul is leading us there, so let’s follow his lead.  Look at the words he uses in verse 3 to describe the dark past.  Take a moment to dwell on them.  For the most part Paul is describing those times when we made a mess of our lives.   What was that for you?

A choice to indulge an unhealthy relationship.  To engage in addictive behaviors.  To cross the line into illegalities, because maybe you were angry, you were hurt, you were maybe trying to impress someone.  Maybe people pushed you to act a certain way, and you wanted to be included in their group.  Maybe you were deceived by someone and they hurt you.

As Paul says, remember those times when you felt malice, which is a feeling of wanting to hurt someone.  Remember those times when you were envious.  Maybe a family member or friend was prospering or gaining accolades, while you are working super hard long hours, and seeming like you are not advancing.  And envy creeps in.   Maybe you had someone at work hate you.  Maybe you have someone you hate. 

It can get dark, can’t it?  Remember the darkness? It’s no fun.  Maybe you have some of that darkness even now in your life.  Maybe you feel like you are living it now. 

And into the darkness something happens.

Look what Paul says in verse 4.  God intervened! His kindness and love appeared.  It wasn’t us.  We didn’t do it.  God stepped in.  This is so similar to what he said earlier in 2:11 – the grace of God appeared!  Praise God!  He steps into our darkness! 

When we are in the mess and muck of life, even if it is a situation of our own making, we can feel hopeless and alone.  But Paul says, God our Savior is loving and kind.

What’s more, Paul says in verses 5-6, God saved us!  He steps into our mess and saves us.  Not because of our righteousness. Remember the darkness in verse 3, which says we were far from him, the furthest thing from righteousness.  Paul says God saved us because of his mercy.  We need to spend time dwelling on that too.  God is merciful.  Even when we used to be living in a mess of our own making, he is still merciful.  We don’t deserve it, but he is loving and kind and gives us mercy.

What does mercy involve?  Just words?  Maybe just a pat on the head?  Oh no.  Paul says, God saves us so deeply, so thoroughly, from the inside out.  We’re talking transformation here.  Look at these words he uses:

He saved us through the washing of rebirth

He saved us through renewal of the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Rebirth and renewal.  We need to talk more about these two! 

Paul calls it the washing of rebirth.  This is symbolized in the celebration of baptism.  The water and act of baptism symbolize the reality that God is doing within us.  All that junk we read about in verse 3, all of it is washed clean, and we are reborn.  So not only are we cleaned, but we are reborn.  We are new people.  A new beginning.  We’re not the same as we used to be.  What Paul is describing is incredibly similar to what we saw him teach last week in chapter 2, verse 14, when he talked about redeeming and purifying us.  When Jesus gets in your life, he makes a change!

Check back in as we’ll continue talking about this change in the next post.

How to live Christianly in the world – Titus 3:1-8, Part 2

6 Aug

In the first post in this series on Titus 3:1-8, I introduced the series saying that so often we Christians talk about the good news of Jesus by focusing on its implications for life after death. While it does apply to the eternal realm for sure, what we notice in a letter like Titus, is that God cares greatly about how we live. In fact in Titus 3:1-2, Paul lists six ways that God wants Christians to live in the world.

First, we saw that God is concerned that Christians be subject to rulers and authorities. You can read that post here. Now Paul continues this line of thinking about God’s desires for how his people live, with what Paul says next about how Christians should live in in relation to all people.  Remember what I have been saying in this study through Titus about the reputation of the people on the Island of Crete?  They are wild and out of control.  Time and time again in Titus we have seen that Paul wants the Christians to be different.  In this post we are going to look at the next five ways Paul describes in Titus 3:1-2 that Christians are live God’s way in the world.

Next he says that Christians are to be obedient. 

Obedient to who or what?  Certainly to the rulers and authorities as he already said.  But there are plenty of other ways to be obedient.  First and foremost, we obey God.  And as long as what we are being asked to do is in line with God’s ways, we obey in other situations as well.  Children obey parents.  Employees obey employers.  Students obey your teachers.  Athletes obey your coaches.  Christians are known for being obedient.

After obedience, Paul says Titus is to remind the Cretan Christians to be ready to do what is good.  Are you seeing a thread here?  Christians are to be subject to authorities, obedient, ready to do what is good.  Christians will be very easy to spot, if they follow what Paul is teaching in the middle of a society that is unruly.

Often when I preach these messages at Faith Church, I use PowerPoint to illustrate them. As I was trying to find a picture to depict “doing good”, I learned that there is such a thing as International Good Deeds Day.  People all over the world give time to clean parks, plant trees and gardens, visit the elderly, or feed the hungry.  I thought that was amazing, something that we Christians should be participating in. But you know what? For Christians, every day should be Good Deeds Day. 

It is very easy to be self-focused in this world.  The busyness.  All the hours at work.  Just keeping up with dirty dishes and the laundry, keeping vehicles going, and then, those of you that have kids and all they have going on, all school, sports, and extra-curricular activities, and more!  We come to the end of most days exhausted.  When that happens, we can think we have no time for doing anything extra.  Doing good?  Many of us have house projects or yard work that we’d love to have time for, letting alone serving our community, volunteering, or reaching out to neighbors.  But Paul is saying that Christians are people who are ready to do what is good.  They will make a difference in society.   This is why we are so concerned about the concerns of social justice in our society.  Feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, housing the homeless, and finding the roots of injustice that may be causing these problems.  Roots of greed, racism, and so on, and we work to bring justice to them.  The work of mercy and justice is doing good.

Next Paul goes on and says that we slander no one.  Speak with kindness and gentleness and truth, and do not gossip.  Be committed to radical confidentiality.  It seems to me that this is an area that many Christians could dwell on.  Whether it is on social media, or face-to-face, it can be hard to control our tongues.  Christians should be known as people who have control over our tongues, even when we are hurt and offended, or even when we disagree with something. 

Very much related to that, Paul next says Christians are peaceable and considerate.  Christians should be peaceful, peace-loving, peace-making, people.  Our Anabaptist brothers and sisters, like the Mennonites, are really focused on this, and for good reason.  We can learn from them, because generally-speaking they have done deep study into peace-making and are much farther along than others.  We strive to make peace between genders, ethnicities, and generations. 

Finally, Christians show true humility to all.  This means not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought.  Look to the humility of Jesus.  His willingness to associate with people of low position, to be friends with sinners, not to be judgmental, but forgiving.  So in summary, in verses 1-2, Paul is saying, Christians, you will be so different in society because you will be so good.  You’ll be living like Jesus did.  Not exactly like he did, of course.  But you’ll stand out, in a good way.  Sure some people get grumpy at people who are trying to be good.  You’ll have that.  Kind, peaceable, humble people expect that, don’t let it get under their skin, and love those people anyway.  Not easy, I grant you, especially when the difficult people are from within your own family, friends or even church family.  But still we follow the example of Jesus in practicing kindness and humility to all.

When to subject ourselves to the authorities, and when not to – Titus 3:1-8, Part 1

5 Aug
Photo by Jacob Morch on Unsplash

I recently heard what is reported to be a true story from a Sunday school teacher in Dublin, Ireland.  She writes, “I was testing the children in my Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting into Heaven. I asked them, ‘If I sold my house and my car and had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?’ ‘No’, the children answered.

‘If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the lawn and kept everything tidy, would that get me into Heaven?’ Again the answer was ‘NO!’

‘If I gave candy to all the children and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?’ Again they all answered, ‘NO!’

I was just bursting with pride for them. I continued, ‘Then how can I get into Heaven?’ A little boy shouted out, ‘You’ve got to be DEAD!’ **

It’s funny to hear things from a youthful perspective, isn’t it?  Yet when we tell the Gospel story, we can make it seem like what God really wants is for us to be dead.  You might think, “What?  How can you say that, Joel?”  What I mean is that we often start telling the good news of Jesus with, “When you die,” or “After you die.”   Have you ever heard the method of sharing the story of Jesus that starts like this: “Do you know where you’ll go when you die?” 

Is God only concerned with what happens when we die?  As we continue studying the letter Paul wrote to Titus, Paul will speak about this. Turn to Titus 3:1-8, which we’ll be studying in this series of posts.

In verse 1 Paul says to Titus, “Remind the people.”  Why do they need to be reminded?   Remember that Paul and Titus had been on Crete previous to Titus’ current trip.  They had seen people become believers in and followers of Jesus, and thus Paul and Titus had grouped these new Christians into house churches in various towns on the island.  During that initial trip, Paul and Titus had already taught the people what it means to know and follow Jesus.  Now Paul senses that the people need to be reminded.  So Paul is saying Titus, you need to remind the people in Crete of some stuff, and by extension you and I in 2019 need to be reminded of it as well. As we’ll see throughout this series of posts, God is definitely interested in what happens to humans after we die, but he is also very concerned with how we live in the here and now.

What do we need to be reminded of?  Paul has a list of six things in verses 1-2, and they all relate to how Christians live now.  In this post we’ll look at the first one in which he reminds them to be subject to rulers and authorities.  Paul was talking to a very different cultural and political context than our own.  Crete was a part of the Roman Empire in the first century.  Roman emperors would claim that they, the emperors, had become gods.  Thus the people should worship the emperor as their savior.  So in the Roman Empire there was a religion of emperor worship. 

Into that culture, Paul has been clear in teaching that Jesus is God, the true savior of the world. Just glance back at chapter 2, verse 13, where Paul says, “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  From there you can keep going back and see it in 2:10, and even at the very beginning of the letter in 1:4.  Jesus is God and he is the savior.  Not an emperor in Rome. 

One potential result of this teaching is that the new Christians on Crete could get the idea that they are free from having to obey Caesar or any ruler.  Caesar is no longer their lord.  Jesus is their Lord.  But that freedom in Christ could have disastrous consequences if not handled well.  Christians could believe they were above the law of the land, which could bring them into conflict with rulers, and that could be disastrous.  So Paul says the people need to be subject to rulers and authorities.  

I think it is best to see Paul as teaching that in the vast majority of situations it is right and good to follow the law.  Pay your taxes.  Obey traffic laws.  In a society that is attempting to base its legal system on justice, we can and should be subject to and obey rulers and authorities. 

But what about societies that are unjust?  Or what if one particular law is unjust?  That happens, right? It has happened many times in the history of the USA, and still happens today on the federal, state and local levels.  Thankfully we have a justice system to address this.  But justice doesn’t happen automatically.  It usually starts with individuals speaking up, and often practicing what is called civil disobedience to unjust laws.

The civil rights movement for example broke a ton of laws, but those laws were unjust.  Think of Rosa Parks, refusing to give up her seat on a bus.  What a wonderful Christian example of practicing civil disobedience to unjust laws.  In her case, the law of segregation, was unjust, based on racism and prejudice, and she was right to break it. 

We must remember that we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven first, and if human government creates unjust laws, we practice civil disobedience seeking to move our government and laws in the direction of justice.  In some places around the world, Christians have an exceptionally difficult time with this because in their countries it is illegal to practice Christianity!  We need to pray for the persecuted church.  Here in America, while our nation is far from perfect, there is still, enshrined in our Constitution, the pursuit of justice for all. So, Christians, let us be subject to authorities when they pursue justice, and let us practice civil disobedience when the authorities promote injustice.

**Thanks to Jim Ohlson for sharing this story with me.

How you can know that you are truly a Christian – Titus 2:11-15, Part 5

2 Aug

How do you know if you are truly a Christian? Have you ever doubted? Have you wondered if your faith is real?

We’ve heard a lot of good news in this series of posts on Titus 2:11-15 about God’s love for us. Before we get a big head from all this good news that God has for us, as if we are somehow the center of the universe, Paul lastly says in Titus 2:11-15 that Jesus gave himself for us so that we might be eager to do what is good

We have seen this all along in his letter to Titus. Good works.  In Titus 2:11-15, Paul teaches sound doctrine, or the truth about Jesus, so that we might be transformed into people who are eager to do what is good.  That means we turn our gaze away from ourselves to others.

The word Paul uses is where we get our English word “zealous”, meaning “filled with zeal.”  Because we don’t use the words “zeal” or “zealous” all that much, here’s a definition for you: “to be energetically committed.”  Passionate.  Connect zeal with the good news about Jesus, and we get a clue about how to know that we are truly Christian: people who are genuinely transformed by Jesus are easy to spot because they are the ones passionate about doing good. 

Doing good is a broad concept, and it covers personal piety, which is all about our individual choice to think like Jesus, talk like Jesus and live like he did.  But doing good goes beyond the personal, into the realm of society, which is also how Jesus lived. He didn’t just live well in his personal life, he also healed the sick, taught the good news of his Kingdom, fed the hungry, and freed people from oppression.  Christians, therefore, follow Jesus’ example, filled with mercy for those in need, pursuing justice for the oppressed, and declaring good news available to all.  We should be known for working at local social services agencies, visiting in prisons, raising godly families, talking about how Jesus has changed us, working with creativity and honor, curing disease, making artistic works of beauty, scientific discovery, political peacemaking, and spending our lives for all that is good in the world.  That is the impact of the good news of Jesus. It not only changes individual lives, but has the power to transform the world.

But thinking about all that we have learned this week about the good news of Jesus, as Paul describes it in Titus 2:11-15, did you notice something important missing from this passage?  Look back over Titus 2:11-15.  There is a glaring omission from Paul’s presentation of the Gospel.  Compare Titus 2:14 to John 3:16 for example, and then can you see the difference?  John 3:16 focuses on salvation that leads to eternal life.  But here in Titus 2:14, the concept of eternal life is totally missing.  I’m not saying that Paul is messing up the Gospel, by the way.  As we’ll see in chapter 3, he gets to talking about eternal life.  For now, though, Paul is emphasizing another, and equally important, aspect of the Gospel: transformation for life now.

Sound doctrine leads to good works.  So the question becomes, how do you know if you know God and he knows you?  How do you know if you are being transformed by him?  How do you know if you are redeemed, purified, and eager to do what is good, as Paul teaches in Titus 2:14?

Jesus once said, “By their fruits you will know them.”  He is referring to what comes out of your life.  In my back yard, the apple tree makes apples, and the peach tree makes peaches.  Christians, you make the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control.  You know the Spirit is transforming your life when you see those actions flowing out of your life.

Jesus once said, for example, “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”  We often let ourselves off the hook on this, even if we have broken relationships, by saying, “Well, I’m pretty much a loving person.”  But Christians are being transformed into really, really loving people.  Christians even love their enemies. 

The clear message that Paul is giving Titus, and us, is the answer to what he said in chapter 1, verse 16.  There he referred to people in the church who said they knew God, but by their actions they showed they actually denied God.  In other words, you can know that you really know God because your life will be transformed, and God’s goodness will flow out of your life.

What we have in Titus 2:11-15 is the Gospel, the good news that God’s gracious gift of salvation, through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, is available to all.  We will know that we receive that gift as evidenced by the change that takes place in our lives.  We are redeemed, purified and eager to do good.  Think about those three words.  Redeemed, Purified, Eager to do good.  How are you expressing the transformation God is doing in your life?  How is his fruit growing in your life?  There should be clear evidence of God’s goodness growing in you.  How are you seeing that goodness impact the lives of other people around you, and impact your community?

How to be adopted into God’s family – Titus 2:11-15, Part 4

1 Aug

Would you say that you are close to God? Or distant? Thinking in family terms, would you say you are part of God’s family? I recently blogged about the phrase that people sometimes use, “We’re all God’s children.” As I reflected on that phrase, I found it needed further explanation. You can read that post here. As we continue studying Titus 2:11-15, what we find it that anyone can be adopted into God’s family. Keep reading to learn how!

Paul’s long sentence continues in verse 13 where he says that we live this Jesus-shaped life, while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ

When Paul calls Jesus “our great God and savior Jesus Christ,” he is saying that Jesus and God are one and the same.  Philip Yancey, in The Jesus I Never Knew, says that Christians often wonder “Where is God? Does God care about my life?”  Yancey’s response is that we should look at Jesus.  Jesus is God in the flesh, and thus it will become clear, as we look at Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection, not only who God is, but that God cares deeply for us.

We look to him, Paul says, while we are waiting for his return.  He is coming again.  Jesus himself told his disciples that he was going back to his father, but that they should be ready for his return.  What does it mean to be ready?  Paul is describing it for us.  It means receiving God’s gift of grace and allowing that grace to inform and energize our lives to the point where we would say “NO” ungodliness and worldly passions, and we would follow the example and way of Jesus. 

After saying that we should be waiting for Jesus’ return, he goes on in verse 14 to talk about Jesus.  Some people have called verse 14 “the Gospel in a nutshell.”  The word “Gospel” is an Old English way of saying “Good News,” and it refers to the story of Jesus, that in Jesus there is Good News for humanity.  That’s exactly what Paul has been getting at in these verses.  That God’s gracious gift has appeared to all, bringing salvation to humanity

Paul begins verse 14 by saying Jesus gave himself for us.  How did Jesus give himself for us?  Think about his birth, life, death, and resurrection.  He became one of us.  Though he is God, he took on a human body, and was born into this world.  That was the beginning of the gift of himself.  Then the gift continued as he lived with perfection, showing us how to live, showing us what it means to be human for 33 years.  Then he gave himself by sacrificing himself, dying for us to defeat the power of sin, death and the devil, to make right that which was broken.  But he didn’t just give us the gift of his birth, life and death; he also gave us the gift of new life, of which he was first, when he rose again from the dead.  So through him we, too, can have a totally new life. 

So Jesus gave himself for us, and Paul now describes three results of Jesus giving himself for us.

First, Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us.  What is redemption?  The image this word carries is that of being set free.  What once enslaved us, no longer does so.  We are set free to live a new life of freedom.  That is why Paul says we are redeemed from wickedness.  We are set free from slavery to wickedness and we are set free to live godly lives. 

Paul’s thought continues with the second point, that Jesus gave himself for us to purify for himself a people that are his own.  Through his gift of himself there is a radical change that can take place in the lives of those who receive his gift.  A purification takes place.  A cleansing.  This is symbolized when we celebrate the ritual of baptism.  When we receive his gift of grace, Jesus enters our lives and makes us new. 

And maybe it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it.  What God wants for you, this idea of cleansing you, this radical change, is better by far than anything out there.  In our world today, there are so many competing ideas for what is the good life.  Paul is saying that what God has in store for you is far better.

I love how Paul describes this in Titus when he says that Jesus wants to purify us so that we are a people who are his own.  This purification is the idea of a cleansing that happens in our lives, whereby God gives his holiness to us.  If you search online for the word “cleanse,” you get a lot of pictures of people washing their face or hands, using a cleansing product to remove the impurity that got on their skin.  In our world there is lots of impurity from pollution or dirt or something else outside them.  You wash it off, and you are cleansed.  But when God purifies us, he cleans deeper than that.  We are changed from the inside out, because he gives his purity to us, a purity or holiness that we didn’t have before that. 

And what is more, Paul tells Titus, this purification allows us to be adopted into God’s family.   Once we were not the people of God, but now through Jesus giving himself, we can be part of his family.  Think about the richness of that.  When you receive the God’s gracious gift of salvation, believing in him and giving your life to follow him, you become his very own.  That means, to God you are not just a nameless face in the crowd.  You are not just a number or a statistic.  You are his very own.  This word carries the idea of how special you are to God.  He knows your name, he is close to you.  He wants to talk with you and walk with you and spend time with you.  That’s what Jesus wanted to happen when he gave his life for you.  Think about that!  The almighty God of the universe actually cares that much about you!  Did you know that?  So not only does he want to break the chains of what is destroying you, he wants to cleanse you, and make you a whole new person, and be close to you.

I’d be glad to talk with you further about this. Just comment below!

What Christians need to say “No” to – Titus 2:11-15, Part 3

31 Jul
Photo by Zach Ilic on Unsplash

How are you with saying “No” to people or opportunities or temptations in life? It can be difficult, especially for those of us who have people-pleasing tendencies or addictive personalities. Being able to say “No” is vital in many areas of life, and in our series on Titus 2:11-15, Paul brings it up.

In verse 12 Paul says that God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions. Because we need to learn to say “No” to them, in this post we’ll take a closer look at what they mean.

First, what is ungodliness? What one person thinks is ungodly another might not, so we need to be clear as to what Paul is referring to.  The word Paul uses is defined as “to live in a manner contrary to proper religious beliefs and practice.” (Louw & Nida)

Sounds technical, doesn’t it? What is Paul talking about?  Well, before you can know what is “contrary to proper religious beliefs and practices,” you have to know what are proper religious beliefs and practices.  Thankfully, Paul has already told us. In a Bible or Bible app, look at verses 1-10 of Titus chapter 2.  Remember that section?  There Paul describes how the older people in the church are to set the example for the younger people. (You can read my series of posts on that section starting here.)  Paul says that the older people in a church family are to teach the younger people how to live.  In other words, in Titus chapter 2, verses 1-10, Paul is teaching right practices. 

Ungodliness, therefore, would be the opposite of everything you read in Titus 2:1-10.  Look at Titus 2:2, for example, and turn all the godly practices listed there into opposites, and you will get a description of ungodliness: getting drunk, being disrespectable, lacking self-control.  Now scan down to verse 3 and do the same. Ungodliness is found in people who are irreverent, slanderers, and addicts. Keep going and you find more descriptors of ungodliness: impurity, unkindness, lacking integrity, talking back, stealing, untrustworthy.  These are all evidences of ungodliness. Therefore, in Titus 2:11-12, when Paul says we receive God’s gift of grace, that grace is teaching us to say “No” to all those various descriptions of ungodliness.  It is also teaching us to say “No” to worldly passions.

What are worldly passions?   Passions are desires, lusts, or cravings.  Our bodies are created to have these desires.  Desires are not automatically evil, however, as we can also desire goodness, beauty, and truth.  But look at the word that Paul attaches to desire or passion: “worldly”.  The most literal translation of this phrase is “the desires that people of this world have.” (Louw & Nida)  If that was all Paul meant, he would be talking about passions in a very neutral sense via the basic human biological desire that we all have.  But Paul is not talking about neutral desire here.  Otherwise he wouldn’t have said that God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to it. 

Some people across the ages have actually misinterpreted Paul here (and in other biblical teaching), believing that all desire is evil. Thus they teach that the best way to live is to abandon or deny all desire.  That’s not what Paul is saying.  We know this because Paul specifically mentions that God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to worldly desire. Paul is referring to negative or evil desire that is not in line with God’s grace.  Because he spent plenty of space in verses 1-10 of chapter 2 on this, we aren’t going to cover it again.  Instead, I encourage you to make time this week to dwell on chapter 2, verses 1-10, read the posts on those verses (linked above), and seeking to answer the primary questions we asked in that series of posts: Who is teaching you?  Who is discipling you?  And in turn, who are you discipling?  Who is helping you to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly desire, and who are you helping to do the same?

As I mentioned above, and blogged about previously, there are plenty of disagreements between Christians as to what is godly versus what is ungodly.  In Titus 2, Paul is not so much focused on making lists of rules as he wants to encourage the people that God’s grace has appeared to teach us to say “No” to what is ungodly.  As a result, Paul continues his teaching in Titus 2:12 by pointing us to focus on what is important: “living self-controlled, upright, godly lives in this present age.” 

The best example of that kind of godly life is Jesus himself.  I encourage you to spend time reading the stories of Jesus and learning from him how to live.  Remember that Jesus himself lives in you, through the filling of his Spirit, and wants his kind of life to enliven and energize your life to look more and more like his. 

So often we think about how close we can get to the line of ungodliness without crossing it.  Paul here is saying that we should focus on becoming more godly!  Let’s turn our gaze away from how close we can get to being ungodly, and look to Jesus, asking him to teach us how to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives in the here and now. 

Maybe you desire that kind of life, but you struggle. Maybe you admit that it is difficult to be good. As we continue this series, Paul will talk about a vital process that needs to happen in our lives if we want to live a godly life. Check back in to the next post!

Do you really know God? Titus 2:11-15, Part 2

30 Jul
Photo by Federico Vespini on Unsplash

As we continue studying Titus 2:11-15, Paul says that salvation has appeared to all.  “Appeared” is the Greek word where we get our English word, “epiphany.”  Epiphany gives us the idea of light appearing in the darkness, like at sunrise.  Here “epiphany” refers to God’s grace like a new light of truth in Christ appearing in the darkness.

This reminds me of the story of the first Easter morning. Jesus had been dead for Friday, Saturday, and now into Sunday, and his followers are distraught.  Do you remember that moment where Mary from Magdalene is in the garden where Jesus’ tomb was located, and she discovers that the tomb is empty, and assumes that someone must have taken the body?  She wanders in the garden, confused, bumping into a man whom she thinks is the gardener.  Through tears, she asks him where the body of Jesus is.  And the gardener simply says one word, her name, “Mary.”  At that moment Mary has an understanding.  An epiphany.  It was not the gardener who stood before her, but it was Jesus. 

Now back in Titus, Paul is saying that salvation is revealed to all.  How has the grace of God that brings salvation appeared to all men?  The word “to” can also be translated “for”.  Either works.  It is salvation for all and to all. Paul is not saying that all are automatically saved.  Instead he saying that the scope of salvation is that it is revealed to all. 

So before we continue, let me ask a question: do you know that God wants to be in a relationship with you?  His grace has appeared.  He has initiated it.  He has done it.  He is reaching out.  He really wants to know you and be known by you.  Do you know him?  Do the people in your family really know him?  How about your neighbors?  Friends? 

When I think about really knowing him, I go back to our Faith Church Logo and that vertical black line in the middle of the four squares.   We call that the Matthew 7 line because of the short parable Jesus tells in Matthew 7:21-23. He describes people who thought for sure they were going to enter Jesus’ Kingdom, but he shocks them saying, “Depart from, I never knew you.”  Do you really know him?  Or do you think you know him, but he would say, “I never knew you.”  And how do you know if you know him?

As we continue walking through this passage in these series of posts on Titus 2:11-15, we’ll see how Paul answers these questions. For now, think about the questions I’ve asked. How would you answer them? Have you experienced the epiphany, the revealing of God’s grace in your life?