Tag Archives: adoption

What that little pocket on jeans can teach us about church family – Titus 3:9-15, Part 1

12 Aug

Family.  Who do you think of when you think of family?

Growing up my family was my dad and mom, and my brother and sister.  Five people.  I’m so thankful that they are still my family. 

When my wife, Michelle, and I got married, though, we started our new family.  God blessed us with children, and eventually we became a family of six. 

A few weeks ago, our oldest son was married, and now we have a daughter-in-law, making our family seven. Although, it could be said that we have become a family of five, as my son and his wife started their family. (I think we’ll just go with “a family of seven”!)

Earlier in the summer my extended family got together at the beach for my parents’ 50th anniversary.  My parents were once just a family of two, but in fifty years time, their family was now more than 20, with all the spouses and grandkids. 

Furthermore, family is not simply biological.  Three of my nieces and nephews are adopted, and yet they are completely a part of my parents’ family. Also, one of my second son’s friends calls Michelle and me, “mom” and “dad” because of the close nature of our relationship. You may have relationships like that too. For those of you in church families, I hope that you experience that kind of closeness with the people in your congregation. In this series of posts on Titus 3:9-15, we will conclude our study through the letter Paul wrote to Titus, and we will see how Paul describes the church family he was a part of, and how that family was to relate to one another, in the difficult times and in the joyful ones.

When I read what Paul says in verses 9-11, it occurred to me that we might give these verses the following subtitle: How not to be a church family. Why?

Look at verse 9, for example. There Paul will tell Titus what the people in the church should do: avoid that which is unprofitable and useless.  It seems pretty obvious that people should avoid what is unprofitable and useless, right?  But it’s like we’re suckers for it, as much as we can get caught up in it.  Have you ever been involved in an unprofitable, useless discussion? Have you ever participated in an activity that initially seemed worthwhile, but in time was revealed to be a waste? For me it was phone apps and games. You can read about my personal journey to free myself of them here.

What useless or unprofitable activity is Paul talking about? He mentions three things: foolish controversies, genealogies, and arguments and quarrels about the law. Paul here is primarily describing theological controversies in the church, based in what he already said in 1:10-16 about the misapplication of the OT Law to Christians.  Now here in 3:9-11 Paul is saying that the controversies we get caught up in are often silly and thus should be avoided. 

Paul’s principle for Christians in a church family, then, is: “avoid what is unprofitable and useless.”  Let me make an analogy. Did you ever think about that small right front pocket in most jeans?  Why is it there?  Well, when jeans first became popular in the late 1800s, that pocket was pretty handy because lots of people used pocket-watches.  In time that pocket became part of what makes jeans uniquely jeans.  So though those mini pockets are rarely used anymore, clothing companies keep putting them there.  Here’s the thing, in 2019 you could say jeans’ mini-pockets are useless.  Even when cell phones were small, they didn’t fit in there. Try to put anything in there, and it’s almost impossible to get out. But if jeans didn’t have those pockets, they would look weird. That’s the funny thing about life.  We can get accustomed to what is useless, and normalize it!  We can accept it.  We talk about it.  Get excited about it. Or upset about it. 

How does this happen in church families? The classic example is the color of the carpet in the sanctuary.  In a building project one faction says the carpet should be tan, and another faction says the carpet should be blue.  They get angry, fight, refuse to agree, and the church splits.  Talk about useless and unprofitable. Sadly, there are many other such examples that church families have allowed to become divisive.

Paul says in the church, though, we should be people committed to avoiding what is unprofitable and useless.  He was mostly talking about conversations, beliefs, ideas, and practices of how we live out our faith.  The problem is that Christians will have differences of opinion about what is the profitable verses unprofitable, and what is useless versus what is useful.  At Faith Church we have a variety of opinions like this, as I’m sure you do in your church family.

So we need to agree to disagree, lovingly.  We can and should get along in a loving way, though you may have differences of opinion with those who think differently than you. As we continue this series of posts, stay tuned, because we’ll talk further about how Christians in a church family can navigate those differences of opinion in a godly way.

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!

God wants to adopt you

5 Oct

Image result for courtroom and adoptionI have been inside a courtroom for actual proceedings five times in my life.  The first time was my fault, and it was scary. The second time was a school field trip, and it was a relief…it wasn’t about me this time!  Those last three times? Well, they have been astoundingly beautiful.

In each of those last three times I sat in the courtroom, I heard the judge declare that a child was now part of a new family.  I cried tears of joy as my brother, sister and close friends each welcomed those children into their lives, adopting them.

Perhaps surprisingly, the beautiful New Testament teaching about grace that I have been talking about this week is summed up in this picture of adoption.  God, we are told, in his grace, adopts us as his sons and daughters, through the work that Jesus did in his life, death and resurrection.

A scholar I found describes it like this, “Grace is not God’s way of helping us to become obedient children; it is rather God adopting us; unworthy though we are.”

We who did not have a family, because of our sinfulness, can become part of God’s family, because of what Jesus did for us.  Think about that. We are all orphans because of our sin.  Separated from family.  Across that chasm of separation God says, “I want you in my family, but there is something keeping us apart, your sin. But I have good news for you! I love you so much, I’m going to fix that.”  And he did fix that, through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Now all who place their faith on Christ can receive the gift of God’s grace.  When you receive that gift, God adopts you into his family.

I love how Ephesians 1:4-5 depicts God saying to us “I chose you to be adopted into my family.” Have you received the gift of God’s grace to be adopted into his family?

There is something important to bring up here.  We can also choose not to accept the gift.  God doesn’t force us to be in his family.  We have to hold out our arms with open hands, and receive the gift of grace.  When we receive the gift, we are saying that we want to be a part of God’s family.  And not just in name only.  It is not just a label.  “Christian”.

There is a change that begins to take place in us when we receive the gift of God’s grace.  So what happens when we receive that gift of grace?  What do our new lives look like as children in God’s family?  More on that tomorrow!