We all want to be “good” people; good parents, good friends, good husbands and wives, good citizens. But what does it really mean to be “good”…and how do we get there? Join us for a life-changing study of the book of Titus and find God’s heart for the good life.
What comes to mind when you think of the good life? We tend to think of money, cars, houses, relationships, careers. But what if the good life didn’t consist of good things we get for ourselves? Join us as we walk through the book of Titus and discover God’s definition of the good life.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you today. We’re starting a new series today called “The Good Life.” And throughout this series, we’re actually going to have people sitting in this chair telling us how God has changed their understanding of what the good life is and what it looks like to pursue the good life. But I thought before we hear from anybody else, it’d be good if we kind of all put ourselves in the seat. And so, I would encourage you to take a moment right now as we begin this new series to just ask yourself this question, which is, what comes to mind when you think of the good life? When you hear the phrase “the good life,” what kinds of things come to mind? What does it consist of? In fact, I’d encourage you to take a moment right now to answer that question, maybe even write down a few things that come to mind. I promise you, I’m not going to make you share that list with anybody, okay? So, this is just between you and you actually. So, you don’t have to give the church answer just because you’re in church, right? You don’t have to say, “Oh, you know, reading the Bible is the good life,” or whatever. Okay?
Now, when you hear the phrase “the good life,” what actually comes to mind? What does it consist of? I encourage you to take some time right now to write a few of those things down. I think it’s really easy for me, at least, to fall into thinking about the good life the way the world teaches us to think about the good life, which is mostly that the good life consists of a bunch of good things that we get for ourselves, right? So, it’s all kinds of good things we can get for ourselves. One of the first things, obviously, we can get for ourselves would be cold, hard cash, right? It’s often sort of the foundation. I think, of the way we think about the good life, but it’s not just money, right? It’s not just a good bank account. I mean, there’s also things like, you know, houses, right? And you’re going to see here why I’m not a graphic designer. That’s not bad, right? That’s another good thing. I mean, the houses that we live in, we kind of want good versions of those, right? How about this one? It’s a little trickier. Oh, come on. That’s not bad, cars, right? Cars are certainly part of the good life or, you know, the…How about this? Fashion. Come on, clothes. Clothes we wear, that’s part of the good life. Oh, no, we got things like degrees we get. The education we get, that’s part of the good life, right? I don’t know how to draw a degree. I’m going to just draw one of these weird little hat things with the tassels, right? You’re wearing the hat and grad… Anybody? It’s degrees. Trust me. It’s degrees that we get. It’s the educations that we get. Oh, and then, you know, obviously, there’s careers. Career is part of the good life, right? I have no idea how to draw a career, so we’ll actually just write the word career. It’s not just all stuff, though, right? There’s also relationships, right? We all want to have a good relationship, so, you know, we want to have that person that we can marry and share life with, and so they’re holding hands right there, right? So, we got our relationships. All right. Or maybe it’s kids, right? Or maybe it’s grandkids. That’s part of the good life. So, we get our relationship and another person is in our relationship, and there’s a tiny person, right? We got our kids. Oh, boy.
Well, thank you. This is part of the problem, though, with the good life that consists of all the things that we get for ourselves, the good things, and there’s nothing wrong with any of this. This is all good stuff, but when the good life consists of the good things we get for ourselves, there’s kind of a little bit of a balancing act that goes on, right? Plus, if anything comes along and takes one of those things away, then our experience of the good life gets diminished. Or if we don’t quite make it to one of those things, we never quite experience the good life. And then, of course, some of those things, if you lose them, it all comes crashing down, right? But what if…? What if the good life didn’t consist of good things we get for ourselves? What if…? Because it doesn’t consist of good things we get for ourselves, what if the good life couldn’t ever be diminished? What if it couldn’t ever be taken away from us? And what if we could experience it fully even if we never got all of the good things the world tells us make up the good life? That’s what we’re going to talk about in this series, God’s version of the good life. Now, the only place to go for instruction on the good life as God defines it is the Bible. It’s written by a good God who invented life and wants for us to have a good one, a good life. But there’s one book in particular, that has kind of a laser focus on the good life, and that’s the Book of Titus. So, if you want to grab a Bible and start making your way to Titus, I’d love you to join me. If you’re not familiar with Titus and if you’re looking at an old-fashioned physical Bible, you’re going to find it about here close to the end. If you come across the Book of Hebrews, a little bit bigger, you back up. If you come across 1 and 2 Timothy, also a little bigger, you go forward. And it’s a small book nestled between 2 Timothy and the Book of Hebrews.
As you’re turning there, let me just say a couple of things you need to know about the Book of Titus. The first is that it’s actually a letter. It was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to kind of his problem solver, his troubleshooter, a man named Titus. Every time we see Titus in the New Testament, he’s basically being sent off to solve some problem in some church somewhere. And I think the problem with being a good problem-solver is people just keep coming up with worse and worse problems for you to solve. And that was apparently Titus’s main role in the early church. Paul sent him into places that had problems. Now, in this particular case, Titus was going to an island called Crete, an island off the coast of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea, and it was an island that was well-known and had a reputation for having problems. The culture itself was well-known for having problems. In fact, as we go on in the series, we’re going to see some of the things that were problematic with the culture, but the real reason that Titus is there because it’s not just that he had problems in the culture, but some of the problems from the culture are invading the church, and some of the way the church is functioning has actually become impacted negatively by the problems from the culture. And it’s interesting the church always faces a particular kind of tension. We have to be in the world because we have the good news for the world, and you can’t share the good news for the world if you’re completely out of the world, so we got to be in the world. At the same time, we can’t allow the problems from the world get into the church. Sometimes we use the language we say we have to be in the world but not of the world, and it’s a delicate balance that we maintain, and in the particular case of the churches on the island of Crete, they weren’t maintaining the balance very well. They had allowed problems from the culture to get into the church, and it was taking the church off mission, and so Paul has sent Titus to fix that and to get the churches back on mission. And one of the biggest problems that had invaded the church was the culture’s conception of what was the good life. And so, the whole Book of Titus really is about helping people understand how God defines the good life.
Now, Titus 1:1 begins this way, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Just stop there for just a quick moment because I want you to pay attention to the way that Paul has introduced himself here. He’s not just introducing himself to Titus. Titus already knows who he is. He’s really introducing himself and Titus to the congregations there on Crete. And Paul identifies himself in two ways. He says that he’s a servant of God and that he is the apostle or an apostle of Jesus Christ. And what I want you to notice is that there’s a posture and a position there. There’s a posture and a position. The first thing he says, he’s a servant of God. That’s not a position. That’s a posture. It’s a posture of humility. He’s identifying himself as a servant who was there to serve, right? That’s a posture. It’s a posture of humility. It’s a posture of being a servant. Interestingly enough, it’s exactly the same posture that Jesus himself had. Mark 10:45 says… This is Jesus’s own words. He said, “For even the Son of Man,” that’s his favorite title for himself, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” So, even Jesus, the Son of God himself had the posture of a servant. His approach to the world was in order to serve others. And I think it’s important to notice that Paul identifies himself as having the same posture before he goes on to introducing his position, which is he’s an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Now, understand that that is an exalted position. It’s a highly respected position. That word apostle, it literally means a sent one, and it was used of a very small group of people in the first century that Jesus himself had personally commissioned to go and basically to plant churches, which became the foundation for all the other church work that’s gone on throughout the centuries. Every other church that’s ever been planted or every other church that’s ever existed has been built on the foundations of these apostles basically established because that’s what Jesus commissioned them to do. And so, there was a limited number of those guys, and so because of that, it was a very respected position. By the way, you’ll every now and then in the modern world hear somebody in a church refer to themselves as an apostle. I don’t personally think that’s a good thing to do. I actually think there was only one generation of apostles. Again, they were directly commissioned by Jesus. But the reason I think sometimes people use the word apostle is because it’s got a little bit of flair to it, right? I mean, Pastor Craig is fine, but the Apostle Craig, like, that pops, right? It’s got a little bit more oomph to it, and I think that’s the reason sometimes people use that title today because it’s a respectable position. It’s a respectable title. And I want you to understand that Paul is using it that way. He’s using it as a title worthy of a certain amount of respect, but what you need to understand is his goal isn’t to lift himself up. His goal is actually to set Titus up for success. Does that make sense? He’s identifying himself as an apostle only for the purpose of introducing Titus as his right-hand man as Titus has basically come under the direction of an apostle to do the work that Paul has asked him to do there in Crete. And so, what he’s really doing is he’s giving Titus some of the tools that he needs to get the job done because he’s got big problems to face and he’s going to need some clout. He’s going to need some influence. He’s going to need some credibility to accomplish what Paul has sent him here to do. And so, he introduces himself as an apostle, not in order to lift himself up, but in order to set Titus up.
But even so, I want you to notice that that’s not what he led off with. He didn’t lead off with his position. He led off with his posture, “A servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” And I think that’s probably at least partly why Paul is such a great leader because he had the posture of a servant before anything else. In fact, there’s probably an important principle in that, kind of a bonus truth for today. Listen, never give someone a position of leadership if they don’t have the posture of a servant. You hear me, church? Don’t put somebody in a position of leadership and influence over you or over others if they don’t first have a posture of a servant willing to serve others. It’s interesting during this pandemic, obviously, the airlines have been really hard-hit and they’re all scrambling, and they’re all trying to make cuts and layoffs, and all those kinds of things. And it was interesting in the midst of all that, I saw last week that the CEO of Southwest Airlines, my favorite airline, by the way, he made an announcement that he would not be taking his salary in 2021 in order to cut the costs of the airline and not have to lay anybody off. And I thought, “That’s actually a guy who probably belongs in that position.” He probably belongs in the role of CEO. He belongs in the role of a leader because he clearly has the posture of a servant. Never put somebody in a position of leadership unless they have a posture of servant because otherwise, you’re giving them power without the posture of a servant and that always leads to pain. Always. It’s true in the church. It’s true in business. It’s also true in our families. So, for those of you out there that are kind of in that process of finding your spouse in life, I want to suggest this is a principle to pay attention to. Don’t give that person a position of influence over your life for the long haul if they don’t first have the posture of a servant. It’s what makes Paul so effective. It’s what made Jesus so effective. He uses power to serve. So, he says, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.”
What Paul is doing here is he’s identifying his mission. He’s saying, “My mission, my whole purpose in life is to further the faith of God’s elect.” And I love the way the NIV translated it there, “to further the faith” because there’s a sense there that it’s not just…I’m not just going to deepen the faith because that can imply that, you know, you’d get deeper roots. That means you stay in the same place. To further the faith implies I want to make your faith more profound so that you go further with it, so that you live more effectively on mission with Jesus. We say here at Mission Hills all the time that we’re about helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission because Jesus didn’t say, “Come follow me and I’ll book some rooms at the local Marriott and we’ll hang out for a while,” right? He said, “Come follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” That’s mission. And so, Jesus is communicating something through Paul about what all of us do in life. We follow Jesus on mission. And so, Paul says, “My goal, my whole mission is to further your mission, to further your faith.” Now, it’s interesting in the process of doing that, he talks about furthering the faith of God’s elect. And that’s an interesting phrase. Here’s a couple of things you need to know about that phrase God’s elect.
First, you need to understand that it’s referring to Christians. It’s referring to the followers of Jesus. Secondly, you need to understand that it’s a term of endearment. Basically, it’s saying, you know, God’s chosen people. So, the followers of Jesus are God’s chosen people. And then the third thing you’re supposed to understand is that it’s meant to inspire confidence. The point is, as God’s chosen people, we can be confident that God will be faithful to us. We can be confident that God will bring true his promises to us. We can be confident that God will never abandon us. It’s intended to inspire confidence. Now, if you’ve been around the church, well, you may be aware that that phrase elect is also tied to phrases like predestination and things like that, and so you may be aware there’s a little bit of a debate in the church about what makes them God’s elect. Did they become God’s elect when they said yes to following Jesus, or did God elect them, which is why they ended up saying yes to following Jesus? Now, this is a very simple debate. It’s not complex at all. It’s been going on for about 2,000 years now because it’s not simple, actually. It’s very complex. I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time dealing with it today. Two reasons. Number one, it’s actually very complex. And number two, in the Book of Titus, actually, Paul actually warns us about getting caught up in endless debates that take us off mission. And I’ve seen that this debate can become one of those debates. It’s a fine subject to discuss, happy to discuss with you, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it today. Here’s the bottom line that I want everybody to understand. God will never say no to anyone who says yes to following Jesus. Are you with me, church? God will never say no to anyone who says yes to following Jesus. If you’ve said yes to following Jesus, you’re God’s elect, okay? And if there’s something stirring in you that you’re thinking about becoming a follower of Jesus, it’s because God is working in your heart and he’s drawing. He wants that to be true. And when you say yes to following Jesus, God will never say no to you, okay? And you can be encouraged by that.
So, he says that he wants to further the faith of God’s elect, of his chosen people, and he says, “And to further their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” I love that. He says, “I want to teach you some things, but I only want to teach you things that are going to actually help you to become more godly.” It’s interesting. In other of his letters, Paul writes that knowledge can puff up, meaning, you know, you can get a lot of knowledge about God and end up being arrogant about it. You know, if you feast on enough knowledge, eventually you have to let out the belt because you’re all bloated but you’re not actually doing anything with it. That’s what he’s talking about. And here he says, “What I’m going to do is I’m going to feed you but I’m going to feed you so that you have fuel for the mission. I’m going to feed you so that you can move further into God. And so, I just want you to know some things. I want you to know the things that are going to help you to become more godly.” And when he says that, he’s actually setting the foundation for an important theme that we’re going to see over and over again in the Book of Titus, and that is the theme of the good life. He’s laying the foundations right here in every single section of the Book of Titus. As we move forward, you’re going to see he builds on this foundation.
So, here’s what you need to understand about the good life. Number one, the good life is the godly life. The good life is the godly life. The good life is not the life that consists of accumulating all these good things for ourselves and trying to keep them stacked up and protected. No, no, no. The good life is the godly life because God himself is good. In fact, we only know what good things are because they line up with who God is. Why is telling the truth good? Because God tells the truth, and when we tell the truth, we line up to who God is. That’s good because it’s godly. Why is keeping our promises good? Because God is faithful. He keeps his promises, and so when we keep our promises, we line up with God who is good. That’s godliness. It’s also goodness. They’re equivalent terms. And so, the good life is the godly life. Then the second thing we need to understand is that God is all about giving. One of his defining characteristics is as a giver. He gave us life. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” He gave his own Son. In the Book of James, we’re told that he’s the giver of every good and perfect gift. God is a giver. He gives good things to others. That’s who he is. So, if the good life is the godly life, that also means, number two, that the good life is all about giving good to others.
Listen, this is so important to understand because it requires a reorientation of what the world has been teaching us from the moment that we entered into it. See, the world says that the good life is all about getting good for ourselves, right? It’s, “Oh, you need a little bit of this and you’re definitely going to need some of this, and it’s only if you get this and get a little bit more of this that you’re beginning to experience the good life,” okay? The world says the good life is all about getting good for ourselves, trying not to lose it, but God says that the good life is all about giving good to others. You with me? This is foundational to everything else we’re going to see throughout the Book of Titus. The world says the good life is all about getting good for ourselves, but God says the good life is all about giving good to others. And I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be honest. When I came to understand that that was the good life that God wanted for me of giving good others, there was a little part of me that went, “Ahh” because I want good for me too, right? Like, I want to experience the good life and this idea that the good life is all but giving good to others there’s a little part of us that goes, “Well, then when do I get mine?” Right? “When do I get mine?” Plus, honestly, the idea of living a life that’s all about giving and serving others, that sounds exhausting. And I’m already tired. This has been a long…Anybody else…? This has been a long season for you? And you’re really glad you came to church today, right? I’m so glad I came. And then Craig is going to tell me that I just need to give more, and more, and more. And it’s a little hard sometimes maybe to find the motivation for that.
And I want to say something. The good life as God defines it is impossible to live without one foundational thing being true. That’s what Paul says next. He says, “In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” He says, “I’ve come to further the faith to help them live on mission. I’ve come to give them the knowledge that will lead to godliness in the hope of eternal life.” And a couple of things you need to understand. First off, you need to understand that the word hope, as Paul was using it there, doesn’t mean what we often mean by the word hope. In our culture, we often use the word hope to talk about…really, it’s wishing, right? Like, I really wish that this coronavirus had come to an end. So, I really hope we’d say, you know, the vaccine will be out by Thanksgiving or by Christmas. I really hope that it just goes away all by itself. Though what we’re really saying is it’d be really nice if this thing happened. I don’t really know if it will or not, but I really hope that it will. We kind of use it as that sort of wish. And that’s not what Paul means.
When Paul talks about the hope of eternal life, what you need to understand is he’s talking about confidence. He’s talking about the certainty of eternal life. He says, “I know it’s going to happen. I’m just waiting for it, and in the meantime, because I know what’s going to happen, I can focus on these other things.” And he says there’s two places where that confidence comes from. He says, first off, “The God who does not lie.” God would not promise something he’s not going to deliver. He has promised to turn alive to those who put their faith in his Son, Jesus, and so we can be confident it’s going to happen. And secondly, he says, “This was promised before the beginning of time.” He says, “Basically, this was God’s plan all along.” God didn’t come up with the offer of eternal life as a secondary option. This was the plan for you and I from the very beginning. He says, “God always intended us to have the good life.” God always intended us to have the good life filled with love, and joy, peace, blessing, and significance. And I want you to understand this. If you have ever looked around at life and gone, “Is this all there is?” In the midst of running after things the world says you got to have to have the good life and maybe succeeding maybe failing, if you’ve ever had this moment where you went, “Is this really what life is all about?” What you need to understand is what you’re feeling in that moment, the discontent you feel in that moment isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a very good thing. What’s happening is you’re responding to something about the way that God wired you. God wired you to experience the good life. It was his plan for you from the very beginning. He wanted you to have a life that was filled with love, and with joy, and with peace, with blessing, and meaning.
All those things God designed you for and the longing that we have for the good life is actually a longing that’s been built into us from the very beginning. The problem is that since Adam and Eve sin, since we began to rebel against God by our own sin, we got separated from God, and because of that, we don’t experience the good life as God intended it, but the longing is still there. The desire is still there, and so what happens is we’re like, “Well, I know I need something,” and so we go looking for something. And here’s an important truth to understand. In the absence of what’s real, we settle for what’s ridiculous. In the absence of what’s real, we settle for what’s ridiculous because we’re longing, and so what happens is we’re like, “Well, I know I’m missing something, so maybe it is this, or maybe it is this or maybe because that hasn’t done it yet, maybe it’s this and I still don’t feel it, so I guess maybe it must be this. Also, maybe it’s this.” And we’re constantly struggling after these things. And again, they’re good things. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but the idea that these provide for us the good life, that is ridiculous.
God always intended from the very beginning. He intended you to live the good life filled with good things. What Paul says here is this idea of living a godly life, living a life on mission of giving good to others, that’s only possible when we know that the good life, we all long for is coming, right? What he says basically here is it’s our confidence in the good life that’s coming that enables us to live the good life now. Our confidence in the good life that God has promised and always intended for us, our confidence that we’re going to have that is the only thing that enables us to live the good life here and now. In other words, knowing that the good life is ours means that we can stop chasing after the imitations of the good life that the world offers us. We’re free at that point. We’re set free to begin living the good life as God intends it, a life of giving good to others. And he says this, he says, “And which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.” What he says is, “I know the good life is coming to me because God has fulfilled his promise,” meaning that in the life of Paul, he’d actually seen, during his lifetime, the Son of God, Jesus. He’d come. He’d lived a perfect life. He died on the cross to pay for our sins. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove he had defeated death and sin, and that eternal life was an actual possibility if we would trust in him. Paul had seen all of that. It had come true and he sees it, and so now he says, “I know that that’s coming. There’s no question in my mind. It’s not just a wish that maybe someday I might have the good life as God defines it,” but no, he says, “I know it’s coming, and because I know that what’s coming is so much better than all the imitations the world has to offer, I’m free. I don’t have to run after these things anymore. I’m free to help other people understand the good news that leads to the good life that God always intended us to have.” In other words, what was coming changed his perspective of what is. What was coming gave him the confidence to begin living the good life in the here and now. It’s interesting.
It’s interesting. Some of you know for a couple of years my youngest daughter struggled with chronic abdominal pain, and we saw all the specialists. We read all the books, we read all the web articles and all that stuff trying to find things and nobody could figure out what it was. We had gotten to the point that the doctors were just beginning to say, “I guess we should just prescribe opioids to your teenage daughter, and that’s just how she’ll live the rest of her life.” It was horrible. And we were frantically looking for options and praying for options, and God led us to a specialist. And I’ll be honest. We went to that specialist with a little bit of skepticism, just one more specialist. We sat down and she came in with some X-rays that they’d taken, and she goes, “Oh, yeah, here’s the problem. Yeah, she’s got a vein that’s supposed to bring all the blood back from the lower body and it’s just way too constricted. We seem to go in there, put a stint, and she’ll be fine.” We were like, “Wait, what?” Yeah, we can fix this. “All right. When do we do the surgery?” And unfortunately, we had to wait six weeks to do the surgery. But it’s interesting during those six weeks, we lived differently.
During those six weeks, like, we relaxed. We didn’t spend those six weeks constantly scouring the web for possibilities, making phone calls, and trying to set up appointments because we had hope. Not we wish, but we had some confidence of what was actually coming, and it changed the way that we lived during those six weeks as a family. We had more fun in those six weeks than we had had in the previous two years. That’s what Paul is talking about here, in the hope of eternal life, in the confidence eternal life is coming that the good life that God always intended is actually going to be mine for sure and forever, it changes the way I think about this life right here right now. And now, I can actually focus on not trying to gather all these good things for myself. I can focus on giving good things to others. And that’s what he means when he says that God has brought this to light through his preaching. He says, “My mission now is to shed light on this good news that leads to the good life that God always intended.” He says, “My mission is to give good to others,” and what greater good do we have to give than the good news that leads to the good life that God always intended us to have and promises is ours in Christ? Paul says, “I’m focused on that now.”
And I think it’s important that we recognize that he’s not just talking about his mission here. He’s talking about all of our missions. As followers of Jesus again, we don’t just follow Jesus to hang out with Jesus. We follow Jesus on mission. We all have this mission of shedding light on…of bringing light so the people can see this good news that leads to the good life that God always intended people to have. And that’s ultimately what the good life is right now. Throughout the Book of Titus, what we’re going to see is specific talk about what it means to lead that good life. We’re going to see specific instruction on loving what is good, doing what is good, of being saved by Christ to do what is good, of not being distracted from doing what is good. We’re going to see all kinds of instruction on that, but what you need to understand right here as we begin the study is this, it’s foundational. The good life is a missional life. The good life is a missional life that’s focused on giving good to others. And there’s no greater good that we have to give than the good news of the good life that God always intended us to have and through Jesus Christ. It’s not only possible, but it’s a certainty. The good life is a missional life.
So, here is the question I want you to ask yourself as we really begin this series. I ask you to think through, like, when I think of the good life, what kinds of things come to mind? And here I’m going to ask you to do this now. Where do I probably need to change some of my thinking about what the good life is? I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve been in vocational ministry for 27 years now. And, by the way, I always say vocational ministry because the moment you say yes to Jesus, you say yes to ministry. Every one of us is in ministry. Every one of us is on a mission to share the good news of the good life that God always intended us to have. I’ve been in vocational ministry for 27 years, though, in paid ministry for 27 years, and even so, I still find myself on a regular basis going, “But this is kind of part of the good life, isn’t this? Right? You know, if I just also add these things in…” And the thing is that when I begin to add these things into my thinking of the good life, it’s so awesome that they kind of begin to eclipse the true good life. They take over. And I’m telling you, I’m being honest with you. I struggle with this, and so I know that you do too. We all do. And the question is, where do we struggle? We need to identify those places where the world’s version of the good life needs to be toppled so that we can replace it with God’s version of the good life. So, where do you need to change some of your thinking? The good news is that you can ask God, and the Holy Spirit will actually begin to transform the way you think about the good life. So, spend some time wrestling with that. Where do you need to see some changes in your thinking about the good life?
The second question is this. What’s something I can do to start living more on mission? What’s something I can start doing to live more on mission? If the good life was a missional life, then how are you engaged in your mission? You know, Paul preaches. You may not be called to preach. It may be acts of kindness or generosity. It may be in your work situation, maybe the relationships that you have with all kinds of people. All the different ways that we live really set the stage for the truth, the hope, the good news that we have to give. But the question is, are you thinking through that? Are you living with the missional mindset? And you should be. So, my encouragement is start doing something that’s more mission driven. You know, there’s group link weekend. Maybe you’re not part of a Life Group. I would encourage you to become part of a Life Group this weekend. Our Life Groups are all about helping people discover community, grow in their faith, and live on mission with Jesus. So much easier to live on mission. You have other people around you who are living on mission, so if you’re not part of a Life Group, maybe you do that. Or maybe you begin serving in some area. You have some people in your life that God is calling you to reach out to to build a relationship with, and that relationship becomes the foundation of the good news that you have to give about the good life that they were called and intended to live. But what can you do to start living more on mission? We’ll see some practical stuff throughout this study to help you do that but begin thinking about it right now.
And the last question is just this. Do I have the hope of eternal life that makes the good life possible now? Remember the good life that Paul saw him as not possible without the hope of eternal life, without the confident expectation that the true good life is coming. So, we don’t have to look for the ridiculous versions the world offers us. That’s not possible unless you have a relationship with God through faith in what Jesus did for you. And if that’s you who recognizes it right now you don’t have that hope of eternal life, maybe you’ve been trying to be a good person, maybe you’re not sure what it looks like, and you know you don’t have that confident expectation of eternal life, I want you to have it today. You can have it. You can have that confidence today. Here’s how. I’m going to ask everybody to close their eyes and bow their heads. If you’re listening to this and you do not have a relationship with God through faith in what Jesus did for you, if you do not have the confident expectation of eternal life, here’s how you get it. You’re going to say yes to following Jesus because that’s the only way. So, just right now, have this conversation with God. Just repeat this after me to the Lord. Say, “God, I have done wrong. I’ve committed sin. I know I’m not ever going to be good enough on my own. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and that you’re offering life, eternal life, the eternal good life. You’re offering me forgiveness, freedom, hope. Jesus, I want all of that, and so I’m going to receive your gift today. Jesus, I commit my life to following you. Jesus, I put my faith, my trust in you. Jesus, I’m saying yes to following you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
I’ve had a number of people make that decision this weekend. Can we welcome them into the family of God together?
We continue our study in the book of Titus looking specifically at how church elders are ordered to conduct themselves and how being gospel-centered and others-focused leads us to God’s design for the good life.
John: My name is John Geringer and I grew up in a house that was really financially overwhelmed which means that my parents fought about money a lot. And so I thought growing up that I knew I had loving parents and I loved my family and they loved me, have three sisters but I thought that the whole problem with my family, why it wasn’t perfect, was that we didn’t have money. And so when I grew up, I started working at 10 years old so that I could have my own money and wouldn’t have to bother my parents. When I graduated from college and started in business, my number one goal was to become financially successful. In success, in fact, I was so motivated to become financially successful that when I met my wife on a blind date, I told her, “I’m building a business right now. I can give you from Saturday at 5:00 p.m. until Sunday at 5:00 p.m. and then I’m going back to work. And I was that motivated and thankfully, by…11 years later, by 2005, we were financially successful by what the world would call you financially successful, but I actually wasn’t happy. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy. I knew I had a beautiful wife and a beautiful son and we had a beautiful home in San Diego and I had my own business and we had lots of money but I actually wasn’t happy. And what I came to realize, the reason I wasn’t happy is because I actually grew up with a religion. I grew up with a religion and I believed that Christ is my Savior, but I actually didn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. And once I figured that out and in January of 2006 got really serious about working on my walk with Jesus Christ, that’s where I found out.where the void is. And I also realized that it doesn’t matter how much money I have. Money, possessions, they will never fulfil me.
Reza: Well, Mission Hills, it’s so good to be here with you. Thank you for coming, if you’re here in the auditorium braving the elements and coming and being with us. If you’re joining us online, we’re so thrilled that you’re here with us in your living rooms or on your phone or in your car, wherever you’re listening to us, maybe gathered in a home group with others. We’re glad to be able to be here together as the church on mission and thrilled to be able to walk through the Scriptures. And we’re gonna be continuing a series here, the series that Pastor Craig started last week. And it’s a series in a tiny little book in the New Testament. It’s a tiny little letter called Titus. So if you have a Bible with you, I invite you to turn to Titus. Find it. It’s toward the end of the Bible, it’s toward the end of the New Testament. If you have a device, if you follow along, you have the Bible on your phone or your iPad or something…if you have a device, I invite you to go to Titus because we’re gonna look through this verse by verse. We’re gonna continue what Pastor Craig started last week.
And before we continue, I just wanna warn you. I live in Northern Colorado and the smoke has been horrible and so I might be coughing but I promise you it’s just smoke. So that’s it. But hey, as we talk…this is what I loved about John’s story. I loved John’s story because I think he did such a great job articulating and illustrating the difference between the world’s perspective of what a good life is about and God’s perspective of what a good life is about. You see, here’s what the world says. The world says a good life is found and when you’re good, you can get for yourself: money, possessions, a promotion, maybe a business, maybe a relationship, maybe if you’re single it’s, “Man, if I can just get married.” The good life is found in the world’s eyes by what we get good for ourselves. But in the kingdom’s perspective, when it comes to God’s economy, a good life is not good that you get for yourself. The good life is found in good that you give to others, not get for yourself. And so that’s the core of what we’re going through. And so if you’re a follower of Jesus, if you’re here with us today in person or online, if you’re a follower of Jesus, if you are a Christian, there are some incredible truths for you. If you’re not yet a follower of Jesus, maybe you’re considering Jesus, maybe you’re curious, I am so thrilled that you’re here because there are some things that I hope that you would consider in your life as we dive through the reality of a good life from the world’s perspective versus God’s perspective.
And so as Christians, we are called to not just live the good life but we are called to share the good news that leads to the good life that God always intended for every single one of his people when he created us, that this good life was intended for us and that starts now and it goes on for all of eternity. And so I’m glad to be able to walk in with…that we are walking verse by verse through this tiny little letter. And Pastor Craig did a great job launching us as Paul spoke some specific words as an introduction as he does with all of his letters. But this letter is specifically to a man named Titus. And Paul was writing to Titus and he wanted to communicate a few specific things. You see, Titus…for Paul, Titus was kinda Paul’s, you know, crisis coordinator. When there was a crisis in one of the churches that was planted, Titus was the one that was sent in. And so this Book of Titus, this letter to Titus is actually Paul appointing Titus to do something specific because there was a church in a little island called Crete. Crete was a little island in the Mediterranean and Crete had a specific…it had a specific reputation. It was not a very good reputation. The reputation of Crete was they were pretty violent. People were treacherous, taking advantage of each other. If people came through Crete, you wanted to hold on to your wallet or you wanted to hold your purse really tightly. Crete did not have a very good reputation. It had such a bad reputation that there was a phrase that was tossed around in the first century world called creticio which simply meant that you were acting as if you’re from that island. You’re like one of the Cretan people. Basically, it was you’re a liar. That’s what kinda reputation Crete had.
But Crete being an island, having a ton of harbors, Paul…when he planted churches… If you look in the Book of Acts, Paul went specifically and he planted churches with Barnabas and people like Titus and Timothy and Peter and all of them were planting churches and this specific church…when Paul planted churches, he set up some sort of a structure for those churches. And so…but so structures were set because Paul knew that as he was going around to plant other churches, those churches had to be strong. And so he would appoint leadership within those churches. And so we’re gonna talk about Paul’s call to Titus because some of the leadership in this tiny church, in this tiny island was becoming corrupt, that the church was not just participating in the culture, they were actually assimilating within the culture. You see, and that’s a word for us that as believers and as Christians and as followers of Jesus, we are to participate in the culture. We are to be in the world but not of the world, as Pastor Craig said last week, that we are to participate but not assimilate. But you see, this church not only had a church that was kinda falling apart. The reason the church was being infiltrated is because the leadership of the church wasn’t strong at all. And so that’s why Paul wrote this letter because Paul was sending Titus in to do some work to help build up this church because the church is very important. You see, Paul’s strategy with planting churches was because the word of God and the good news of God and the Gospel of Jesus and the good life and the message…the church had to be on mission. And here at Mission Hills we have essentially adapted this call that Paul had for all his churches, we’ve adapted that today, that Mission Hills, our call, the purpose that we exist is to help people become more like Jesus and join him on mission. See, that’s why we are here. But for that to happen, there has to be strong leadership, that every Bible believing church needs to be a church that is displaying personal transformation by people that are within that church but then also being a part of cultural transformation as we influence and live on mission with Jesus making an impact in our community, in our state, in our nation and in our world. You see, this was vital.
And so Titus’s role was to go in because the church was getting off mission because the leadership was being corrupted by the culture. And so Titus was sent in to help get the church back on mission. And so that’s the backdrop and that’s where we are at. So I’m gonna pick up in verse 4 where Pastor Craig left off. And so Paul starts this in verse 4 and he says, “To Titus, my true son in our common faith.” Now, Paul didn’t have any biological children. Titus was a spiritual son to him. And essentially saying because you love Jesus, because I love Jesus, because we’re bound together, we have this common faith that you are like a son to me. Grace and peace from God, the Father and from Jesus Christ, our Savior. He’s saying we are connected; we are united. God is our Father and Jesus Christ is our Savior and because of that, grace and peace to you. Because he’s gonna need some grace and peace as he steps into a little bit of the mess that we’re gonna step into and see why that was specifically important. In verse 5 he continues. “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I have directed you.” He’s saying basically look, God’s people are incredibly valuable to God, that the value of God’s people… God’s people are so valuable to him that he gave his Son as a ransom for them. And when something is really valuable, you don’t just let anybody be a part of stewarding or overseeing that thing that is valuable. You and I understand this, that for God, his people, his church, his body is so incredibly valuable, you couldn’t entrust something as valuable as God’s people to just anybody.
So there are some standards. There are some things that the elders had to do. And so what God is doing through Paul, what Paul is communicating to Titus is there are some specific things that the elders, the leaders of the church are not doing and we need to call them back because the church needs to get back on mission. Friends, you and I understand this idea of not entrusting something that’s this valuable to people who are trustworthy. You know, a couple of months ago, my car died. I was given a car by my mother-in-law years ago right before she passed and this car…it was a Ford Escape hybrid. I mean, it was like as manly of a vehicle as you could get. And I drove it to 197,000 miles. I was so desperately wanting to get to that 200,000-mile mark but it died. So we got a new car and it’s a Buick and I love it. And I’ve never had a new car. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this but to be able to sit in a car that no one else has driven, to be able to sit there…no one’s eaten food in this car. Like that’s a…I have three little kids and there’s like food found in places I didn’t even know you can get food in cars. And so like when we go through the drive through, we put the food in the trunk because I’m like, “There’s no way you’re eating french fries driving in this car.” Like I… But it’s a car. Like if you needed a car, you needed to go somewhere and you promised to bring it back to me, I’ll let you borrow my car. Like I’d for sure give you our minivan because…and I’d probably pay you to crash it but there are some things I would give to you. But you know what? My kids? I probably wouldn’t let you like steward my kids or entrust my kids to you if I don’t know you that well, because my kids are much more valuable than my car. You see, we entrust things that are valuable to us to people that are trustworthy. God has the same thing with his people.
And so there are these elders that need to be established. Now see, the word elder implies somebody who is older. You see, and there’s three specific areas in the New Testament that the qualifications for elders are listed. But yet, it does talk about somebody that is older but it’s not always connected to being older in age. You see, the connotation here is that there shouldn’t be a recent…not shouldn’t, they can’t be a recent convert because they need to understand what does it mean to apply faith and biblical knowledge to the life that we’re living, that it’s almost as if this person…yes, they need to have life experience and the Jewish connotation of an elder is someone who is more advanced in age. But really, the core of what Paul talks about as an elder is somebody who’s basically walking with a spiritual limp, that spiritually speaking they have gone through experiences, they’ve gone through some spiritual battles. They know what it means to have the spiritual highs and the spiritual lows. They know how to apply life’s principles or how to see life’s realities through godly principles. And so there are these elders that are set up, these people that are anointed by God, church leaders with certain functions to help the church grow and to develop in a healthy way. You know what’s been helpful for me when I think of church leadership, when I think of elders? It’s helpful for me to think about a vine trellis. I want you to take a look of this picture of a vine trellis. You see, this picture here shows a trellis but the trellis isn’t designed to dominate the vine. It’s not to dictate the vine. It’s not to control the vine but it’s to give a structure for the vine that’s eventually gonna grow. Everything grows. The difference is it can grow healthy or unhealthy. Is it gonna grow with purpose or without purpose? You see, what church leadership, what elders are supposed to be is kinda like that structure of a vine trellis to help the church grow in a healthy way. And in that picture, we just looked at, that specific vine trellis was creating some sort of a covering for people that would walk through a pathway. You see, we need strong leadership in our churches because without strong leadership, our church may grow but how do we know it’s gonna grow in an effective manner? How do we know it’s gonna grow on mission? So that’s what elders do. And here specifically at Mission Hills our elders discern and direct and protect the future and the function and be sure our church is still on mission.
And there are some qualifications for these leaders. But remember when Pastor Craig talked about last week…and if you didn’t listen the last week’s message, I encourage you to go back. It’s a great foundation as we continue verse by verse to the Book of Titus. Paul starts off the letter and he starts off saying, “I, Paul, a servant of Jesus,” basically talk about his posture towards God, and then he talks about being an apostle, his position. Posture always precedes position. You see, and even as Paul is starting to write down the qualifications of an elder here, there is a heart posture that an elder is supposed to have that supersedes the position and the things that they do. And you’re gonna see there’s a specific word that’s repeated a couple of times that’s key for us to understand, because we’ve gotta understand that elders have to have a posture before Jesus, before the position and the roles of what elders do. You see, you can never give leadership, a position of leadership to people who don’t have the posture of a servant. So let’s take a look. What does this posture look like and what does the position entail? Verse 6 and 7, an elder must be blameless. If you write in your Bible or highlight, I encourage you to underline that. Must be blameless. Faithful to his wife. A man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless. Go and underline that again. Not overbearing, not quick tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. You see, there’s a list of qualifications that are listed within this passage. And some of us might say, “Man, those are some pretty high standards.” But having standards are not a bad thing. You know, I have an 11-year-old daughter. My daughter’s tall. Like she’s about to pass me up at 11 years old. She’s in sixth grade. She loves to play basketball. She’s a pretty good basketball player for her age. She came to me this summer and goes…and ran inside the house all excited. She goes, “Dad, I dunked a basketball for the first time.” And I thought, “What? You dunked?” Like I can’t even…I’ve never even dunked a basketball. Like, “You dunked a basketball?” She goes, “Yeah. You wanna come see it?” I’m like, “Yeah.” So I get my flipflops on and I go outside and she lowered the basket from 10 feet down to 6 feet. And sure enough, she dunked the basketball.
But you see, here’s the thing. You can’t lower your standard thinking that a lower standard and that if you can achieve it means that you’re able to play the game. She can keep practicing on a six-foot rim but the game she plays, they’re not six-foot rims. They’re 10-foot rims. You and I, we wanna make sure that our leadership, the leaders that we come underneath, that we align ourselves with, we wanna make sure there are some high standards, and those standards are not compromised. Standards are important. We don’t lower the standards so people reach them. We maintain high standards so we have the right people. And there’s this word blameless that I emphasized a couple of times. This word blameless is used twice in this passage that Paul is writing. And so in the…we want to understand like what does the original language say about this? You know what the original definition of being blameless in the Greek…do you know what it is? To be blamed less. I’m just kidding. That’s not the definition. But the word blameless, it’s anegkletos. And the word anegkletos in Greek literally is translated as someone who cannot be called in to account. Someone who is…there’s no accusation against them. You see, this is the same word that Paul uses when he writes to the Colossians and he’s talking about the grace of Jesus, he’s talking about what Christ has done on the cross. It’s the same, same word, anegkletos that he’s talking about and this is what Paul says in Colossians 1:22. He has done this through the death on the cross of his own human body and now as a result, Christ has brought you into the very presence of God. Listen to this. And you are standing before him with nothing left against you, anegkletos, that there is nothing standing against you. You are blameless. Nothing left that could even…that he could even chide you for.
You see, so this idea of being blameless doesn’t mean that an elder must be perfect. It doesn’t mean that this elder is without sin. It just means that this person, this elder fully understands Romans 5:8, that while we were yet, Christ died for us. This elder fully understands Romans 3:23, all have sinned, fall short of the glory of God, Romans 6:23, that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life. You see, knowing that righteousness and being blameless is only possible because it’s a position that we stand before Jesus because his righteousness covers us. That’s the first qualification for an elder, understanding that they stand blameless not because of their own righteousness but because of Christ’s righteousness that he’s placed upon them at the cross. And friends, that’s a principle that we have to understand for ourselves, that although we’re not perfect, we stand blameless because we live a life of confession, of repentance and belief in the Gospel and the resurrection of Jesus. That’s where our righteousness comes from. Paul is saying for our leadership, they must be blameless. And it’s important. And again, it doesn’t mean that they’re without sin but there is something to be said that if an elder engages in some things, that will eliminate them from being able to be a part of this structure of this leadership for this church. But being blameless, it’s almost like a covering for everything else that we’re gonna talk…all the other qualifications. Remember, being blameless is the sheet that covers all of those things as we continue.
You see, here is the reality and this is why our leaders need to have strong, strong leadership. They need to have strong character. This is why you and I need to examine our character because our skills and our talents, they have the ability to take us farther than our character can sustain us. And that should scare us, that for some of us who are in position, some of us have influence, some of us have the opportunity to steward children and sometimes our skills and our talents and our roles have the ability to take us farther than our character can sustain us. And the church of Jesus is too valuable. The bride of Christ is too valuable to have people with character that is diminished to be able to oversee and support it. You see, we all have heard the story of the Titanic. You know that story of the ship that started in 1912 from one…I’m sorry, for…yeah, 1912 from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Do you know that the captain stood on the front of the Titanic and declared before it set sail that not even God himself can sink this ship? That’s not something you probably should say before you go on a trip like that. And many of us know the story of the Titanic. There was an iceberg in the water and the Titanic hit the iceberg and eventually the Titanic sank and people lost their lives. You know what’s interesting about an iceberg? And many of us have studied this and you’ve heard this before. That when it comes to an iceberg, we only see 10% of the iceberg. We only see what’s above the surface. 90% of the iceberg is under the surface. It wasn’t the 10% that sank the Titanic. It was the giant iceberg under the water that they didn’t see that cut little slits into the side of the base of the Titanic that eventually caused its downfall.
You see, there are things in our character that may not be on the 10% that other people see. But there’s 90% underneath that we suppress, and we don’t work on the 90% because people don’t see the 90% and we think we can cover the 90%. Do you know one of the stories about the Titanic you may or may not know? That the night before it sank on April 14th, 1912 there was four communications that came to the Titanic that said, “You better watch out. Icebergs ahead. You gotta watch out. There’s iceberg…” Four communications that came the night before. Silence. They heard them, they didn’t even respond. They just kept going on with their evening. In the early morning hours of April 15th, 1912 there was one more communication that came to the Titanic, “Watch out. There’s icebergs ahead.” This was 30 minutes before they struck the iceberg. And the person on the other line from the Titanic that finally answered after five times being warned there’s icebergs ahead, there’s icebergs ahead, they responded with four words. These were the last four words that were communicated from the Titanic before the SOS signals went out because the ship was sinking. You know what those four words were? Shut up. I’m busy. Those were the four words that came up. They were warned about the icebergs. They were warned about 90% of that ice that was under the surface of the water. They were warned but they were too busy to deal with it. Friends, let me ask you. What is it under the 90%…what’s the 90% under the surface of our character that we don’t deal with and we actually say, “I’m too busy to deal with it.” So we gotta be careful because these are the types of things that people might point out to us that will end up sinking us personally, who end up sinking our organizations, will end up sinking our reputation, will end up sinking our churches. So that’s why this is so important. Listen to how Peter talks about elders. Listen to what Peter says in his letter, in First Peter, Chapter 5. Listen to this. To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who will also share in the glory to be revealed be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them. Not because you must but because you’re willing as God wants you to be. Not pursuing dishonest gain but eager to serve. Not lording it over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
You see, being the elder, there’s a high calling, there’s a high standard for elders. You know why there’s a high standard? Because there’s a high calling. There’s a reason that God gives these types of qualifications here. But see, as we walk through some of the things we’re gonna take a look at, some of these qualifications, again, let’s remember that being blameless is the covering over all these qualifications. And these qualifications are not intended to be a checklist. The only thing that Paul says and he says it twice that an elder must be is what? Blameless. So an elder must be blameless, an overseer must be blameless. But yet, there are some portraits that are written here that an elder needs to display within their life and he starts out specifically saying must be faithful to his wife, the husband of one wife. But what if this man never was married? What if they were married and they’re a widower? Would that disqualify them? You see, if we looked at this as a checklist, then the answer would be yes. But this is speaking more to fidelity and faithfulness in their relationships. If they’re married, fidelity and faithfulness to their spouse, but even more, if they’re not married…let’s say they’re a widower or never got married. How are they stewarding relationships within the church? How are they stewarding their singleness? Are they able to have difficult conversations with people in the church? Are they able to confront people in a loving and truthful way? Are they able to display God’s grace and truth at the exact same time calling others to a higher standard? How are they living out this context of relationship that we have within the church or even those outside of the church? Can they sustain healthy relationships?
What about children? What if they never had children? What if their children tragically passed away? What if they have children that have made decisions on their own to make decisions that they have walked away from the church or walked away from teaching…the church’s and God’s teaching and God’s standard in Scripture? Does that eliminate them? Well, again, if we were looking at a checklist of finding out do they measure up, then the answer would be yes. But remember, the blamelessness, the righteousness, that’s what covers all of this. But I believe what this is speaking to is do they have spiritual children in the faith. Paul had a spiritual child in the faith right here. His name was Titus and a gentleman named Timothy. Are they able to come alongside others? Do they have spiritual children that they’re helping grow up within the church? Are they sharing God’s grace? Are they sharing God’s truth? Are they building up the body? Are they able to disciple somebody? Are they living as a disciple? Are they pouring into and making other disciples that go on and make other disciples?
You see, if this was an exact list of what someone had to accomplish to prove their worth as an elder, then this person would be eliminated. But we gotta look at the core of what Paul is saying. First and foremost, they must be blameless and they’ve gotta display some of these things in their lives. Verse 8, it continues. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good. And that’s something for us to identify and highlight and underline as well. I’ll come back to that. Who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. You know, this phrase, loving what is good, this Greek word, this original language, this word loving what is good, this is the only time in the entire Bible that phrase is used. And that phrase, philagathos is used and it’s connected to this idea of loving what is good. And actually, the other side of it…Paul actually uses it as well. Aphilagathos and it literally means not loving good and in 2 Timothy it is connected to this idea of being selfish. And so what Paul is saying…if you look at some of the original language, what Paul is saying is loving what is good is actually living a life that is selfless. Just like Paul or just like Peter talked about being an elder. Not because they must but because they are willing, because they are there to serve other people. You see this idea of loving what is good and Paul writes this idea of philagathos in Titus more than twice as many of his other writings, this idea of loving what is good. You see, it’s opposite of being selfish. And so it’s actually being selfless. So as we continue our study in Titus, we have gotta understand that the good life, that the canvas for the good life is about being other centered and Gospel focused, that it’s essential for us to live this way and in verse 9 as we close out the passage that we’re studying this morning, “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
That one of the key elements of elders and eldership is to protect the teaching of the church, to protect the teaching because healthy churches need healthy teaching because healthy teaching helps the church understand what to believe in. And what you believe will impact how you think and how you think will impact how you act. And so if there’s false teaching infiltrating the church, the church is gonna get off mission. And this is what was happening in Crete. This is exactly what was happening. The church was getting off mission because the leaders were not protecting the teaching of the church. But instead of being a light and a beacon to the culture around them, they were allowing the culture around them to dictate what the church was saying. Instead of leaders sticking to what the Scriptures would teach, they were not telling the people what they needed to hear but what their itching ears wanted to hear. Does that sound familiar? You see, the eldership of a church is to protect the teaching, to make sure there’s no false doctrine or false teaching, from this pulpit in the children’s church, in our youth ministry, in our small groups, to protect and be able to discern what is being taught.
Because we don’t want things to infiltrate our church that will eventually cause us to crumble. You know, one of the greatest things that humans have ever created, one of the wonders of the world is the Great Wall of China. And then the Great Wall of China…the Chinese Empire, they built this wall to protect themselves from the invading empires around them. They built it so high that really you couldn’t come over the wall. They built it so wide all around the empire that you couldn’t go around the wall. And they built it deep into the ground so you couldn’t go under the wall, that it was meant to be a protection, to be a shield, something that would protect this empire. This wall was created so they wouldn’t be invaded but you know what? The Chinese Empire was invaded three separate times. And in every instance the invading army didn’t go over the wall or around the wall or under the wall. Do you know how China was invaded? It’s because the gatekeepers were compromised. They were bribed by their enemies to allow their soldiers to walk through the gates. Three separate times. Those that were supposed to keep guard of the gates didn’t do what they were supposed to do and protect the Empire, but they compromised. They let things sneak in. So, from the inside out the Chinese Empire was attacked.
I’m so thankful that we have elders in this church that will protect the teachings of this church, that will protect the doctrine of this church so nothing else invades us. So here’s a couple of questions for us that I think are helpful for us as we contemplate elders, as we contemplate church leaders but even…I would even say as we contemplate our lives because these questions, these four questions that I found to be helpful, that we filter through our minds as we read this portion of Titus about elders within the church…I think it’s helpful for us because these are questions we need to ask of ourselves because the standard for holiness is not limited to elders or leaders in the church. Standard for holiness is for all of us. God said, “Be holy for I am holy.” And so here are some questions for us just to think about the elders of our church but I also want us to think for ourselves whether you’re a Christian or not a Christian, these are some great questions to ask. First one is this. Are they a growing and mature disciple of Jesus? Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t just mean that you are a Christian. Because a disciple is an apprentice. And even in the context of a trade, if there is an apprentice of someone for a man or a woman who is a plumber and somebody desires to be a plumber, they become an apprentice of that master craftsman or master craftswoman. And they come underneath, they come underneath that person because they wanna learn from them so eventually they can go accomplish that task and also teach other apprentices along the way. Being a disciple is someone who lives as an apprentice of Jesus and is discipling other people.
The second question I found helpful to filter out the role or the qualifications of an elder is this. Could they not only teach but can they protect the Gospel? Now this doesn’t mean that an elder has to stand up on a platform and teach although in our context here at Mission Hills, we do have a teaching elder whose vocation it is to teach. His name is Pastor Craig. But an elder needs to be able to teach and disciple and grow up spiritual children but then to also protect the…be able to discern and identify false, incorrect teaching. Third, is there evidence of Christ control over their lives? Are they living surrendered to the Spirit on a daily basis? And even when they do mess up, even when they do fall short, are they confessing, are they repenting, are they believing? Are they flying off the handle? Are they treating people poorly? Are they dishonest or are they living surrendered suppressing their earthly and worldly desires and coming under Christ and the Spirit’s control of their lives. And lastly, do they have a good reputation with outsiders? How do people outside the church view them? Do they have a good reputation or not a good reputation? Because here’s what’s true for every one of us. Every one of us have an ability to be either a wall or a window for others to see Jesus. You see, when you’re living as a wall, the way that you’re living and the things that you’re saying and the way that you’re treating people, might I even dare say sometimes the things that we post online are preventing people from seeing Jesus through us. Or are we being a window where our words and our attitudes and the way that we treat people and the words that we say and how we say them allow people to see Jesus through us? You see, there are some incredible truths that God has set up for his church. But again, not to control the church, not to dominate the church but to support the church so the church would grow in a healthy way. So I want us to pray. I wanna pray for two things specifically and I’m gonna pray first and foremost that as we hear this message that it just wouldn’t be, “Well, that’s just the governance of a church.” No, no, no, no. This is about our personal holiness. This is a posture that I wanna challenge us to have before God, to be able to live blameless, unaccused, without charge. You can’t be accused of doing something you’ve already confessed to. Are you living a life of confession and repentance before God?
The last thing I wanna do? I wanna pray for our elders. We have an incredible group of elders that love, pray, support, talk, argue, discern the will of what God wants for this church and continues to lead us on mission for the next years and the decades to come. So if you could join me in prayer for these two things. Heavenly Father, thank you today that as we sit in this place, we are contemplating our own lives, thinking about what does it mean for us to be blameless, what does it mean for us to understand that your grace is sufficient in areas where we fall short. So God, I thank you for every person that is hearing my voice here today, that your grace is sufficient for our weaknesses. And God, that we would be able to live in a manner that is worthy of the calling that we have received. And Lord secondly, I wanna pray for our elders. Thank you for who they are. Thank you for their story. Thank you for the way that you shape them and uniquely anointed them to lead. I pray for the future elders of this church that will discern and direct your will and for us to stay on mission and not forget the things that you’ve called us specifically to do as a local church. Thank you, Lord for who you are. In your name we pray. Amen.
FIT FOR DOING GOOD
We continue moving through Titus with a look at the difference between how the world and God perceive “the good life” and how keeping your focus where it needs to be can make you fit for doing good.
Kelly: Morning. Twelve years ago, I began a journey that deepened my faith in God through my son’s struggle with mental illness. My husband and I could tell you the ins and outs of nearly everything that has to do with mental illness from therapy to 72 hour holds, hospitalizations, medications, cutting police protocol, and eventually a suicide attempt. I used to wonder how many times my heart could break, but today my focus is on how God has carried me through these last 12 years of heartbreaking sadness. I’ve always believed in God and knew he was nearby. However, my turning point as to where that knowledge of God moved from my head into my heart was shortly after Alex had tried to commit suicide at age 15. After that suicide attempt, he was moved to a mental health facility for seven months. We all hugged him that day and said goodbye and left broken and empty.
At that point, though, I recognized what it meant to really give it up to God. The funny thing is that I thought I always had done that because I prayed every day. It becomes very real, though, when that control and choice are taken away from you. And I had no other choice but to give my fears and anxiety to God in order not just to save Alex’s life, but to save my life as well. I had a strong belief, but at that point, I had no faith in God. I wish I could say that we all lived happily ever after, but as I pulled closer to God, evil pulled a little bit closer too, for the next five years presented attacks from all sides. Everything and everyone I cared about was falling apart around me, and I was left to pick up those pieces.
But throughout those really awful years, my faith grew, and I knew that God was right there living it with me. God presented me with a peace in my heart that I cannot explain. It’s the only kind of peace that God can give. I’ve never spent one day angry at God, and I’ve never even asked him why. I began to see the blessings that came out of my struggles, that life was so much larger than the little world I had created in order to form safety for myself. The gift that God gave me was that strength to continue moving forward and not backward. Having that faith and trust in your heart instead of your head helps you to let go, and the blessings have been profound.
Craig: Thank you, Kelly. Can we thank Kelly? So, I think one of the things that I find so inspiring and challenging at the same time in Kelly’s testimony is that her dramatic change and her experience of life wasn’t based on a dramatic change in her circumstances in life, right? It was based on a dramatic change in her focus on life. And I think that’s an incredible way to lean into what we’re going to talk about today, which is this simple truth that our lives follow our focus. Do you know that church? Our lives follow our focus as inevitably as our bodies follow our eye focus.
One of my favorite videos right now, you can look it up, do it after the service, but just go on YouTube and look up “Lion Fails,” and you’re going to see my favorite video right now. I just watch it over and over. It’s a video of a lion and he’s like he’s the quintessential male lion. He’s like he’s ripped, right? And he’s got this huge mane and he’s got the walk down. Like, he walks like you think a lion should walk, right? And in this video, this lion is walk…I’m not even sure walking is the right word. Honestly, he’s strutting, and he’s strutting along this kind of ledge and drops off into a pool, but it’s interesting. He’s headed along to the ledge but his focus is on something on the other side of the pool. And I don’t know what it was, but he’s, like, trying to walk this way but he’s looking this way, and inevitably, he’s gradually getting closer and closer to the ledge until there’s a moment when he steps and there’s just nowhere to step. He’s off the ledge, and suddenly, this ferocious majestic king of the beast is transformed into a total spaz. He flips out and he’s like he’s going all over and he hits the water and he goes under and he comes up and he looks like a drowned kitten, honestly.
And I love that thing, but that’s what we’re talking about. See, our lives follow our focus. What we’re focusing on is where we’re going to end up. We might say, “I’m headed here,” but if what we’re focused on is over there, what’s going to happen is our lives are going to follow that focus. It’s almost inevitable. And so, as we begin our time together today, I want to ask you to ask yourself this question, what’s my focus right now? What are you focused on right now? What do you find yourself thinking the most about right now? What do you find yourself fixed at and what occupies your mind, and your attention, and your thoughts? What are you focused on right now?
Maybe even jot something down if you’re watching online, maybe even share it in the chat window right now. Because here’s the reality is that whatever it is that we’re focused on is going to have a huge impact on the kinds of lives that we experience. Now, we’re in a series right now called “The Good Life,” and what we’re doing in this series is we’re leaning into what God has to say about how to experience the life that he always intended us to have. God intended us to live the good life, right? Jesus himself said, “I came that they may have life and have it to the full,” okay? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about a mediocre life that we have in abundance, okay? And I know for a fact, he wasn’t talking about a bad life that we have in abundance. He’s talking about the good life.
He said, “I came that they may have life,” and to the max, to the complete, fill it up to the brim and spill over. That’s the kind of life God intends for us. The problem is that we face two very different definitions of what the good life is, okay? On the one hand, we know that the world has a definition, and the world’s definition says the good life is all about getting good for ourselves. That’s the world’s definition of the good life. It’s about getting good for ourselves. It’s about getting the bank account that allows us to buy the latest tech or the latest fashions. It’s about getting the degree that allows us to get the job, which allows us to get the promotion, which allows us to get the house and the vacation home, or the good car. It’s about getting the boyfriend or the girlfriend. It’s about getting the husband or the wife. It’s about getting the kids. It’s about getting the grandkids. Whatever it is, it’s about getting good for ourselves.
But God has a very different definition of the good life. God says the good life is all about giving good to others. And we have these two radically different definitions, and the problem really has to do with which one we’re focused on because whatever one we’re focused on is going to have a huge impact on the kinds of lives we end up experience. Now, God says the good life is all about giving good to others. And I realize that that has a little bit of a tendency to sound super-spiritual, right? Like, where’s the fun in that? But the reality is this is a practical truth as well.
I remember several years ago, my youngest daughter got into this phase where she just really wanted a Husky, and I was like, “No, we’re a Golden Retriever family. It’s just who we are. I’m sorry. We just…Husky is not really an option. Very energetic, da da da…” And honestly, I thought she’ll grow out of it. Well, she did not grow out of it. She kept wanting a Husky. I thought, “Well, she’ll forget about it.” She did not forget about it. And finally, after several years, honestly, of asking if she’d get a Husky, my wife and I said, “Well, you know what? She’s a very responsible kid. I’m confident she’ll take care of it.” And we’re in a house with a little bit more room than we were in before, and so I think we have room for it.”
So, we decided for Christmas morning, we got a piece of paper and we just wrote the word “yes” on it. We wrapped it up and we gave it to her, and it was awesome because she unwrapped it and she had that moment where she’s like, “Yeah.” And I made a strategic error, I just want to tell you. I was not close enough to her. I wish I had been closer to her. I was on the camera, honestly. My wife was closer, and so my wife got tackled, and they both went down and we thought it was just…She was just overcome with excitement. I was like, “I should have been there. That should have been me.” All right. At least I got it on a film, right?
But here’s the interesting thing. Like, I have never received a gift that made me as happy as that moment of giving her that gift. I’ve never felt as much happiness in getting a gift, and I’ve gotten some great gifts over the years. Let me be really clear. My family is amazing gift-givers, all of them, and I’ve gotten some fantastic gifts, but no gift that I’ve ever gotten made me as happy, filled me with as much joy as giving that gift to her. And we all kind of know, that’s why we have a saying, right? We say to give is better than to receive. Because here’s the thing that giving good to others unleashes a joy in us, okay? Giving good to others unleashes joy at us. And it is a joy that can’t be taken away by the circumstances. And that’s really what we’re talking about when we’re talking about this good life that God has intended us to experience.
So, the question is, what do we need to focus on that will lead us to the experience of the good life as God defines that he always intended us to live? That’s what we’re going to lean into today. So, why don’t you go and grab a Bible? We’re going to be in the Book of Titus today, Titus chapter 1 starting in verse 10. Now, while you’re making your way to Titus 1:10, let me just say this. Titus is the Apostle Paul’s troubleshooter. So, the Apostle Paul would send Titus to churches that were having some problems, and he’s sending him now to the Island of Crete. And the reason he sent him to Crete as we’re going to see today is that because the problem with the churches on Crete was they had lost their focus as a church, and it was having a huge impact on how they were living and what it is they were doing.
And so, Titus 1:10 says this. Now, “For there are many rebellious people full of meaningless talk and deception.” And what’s going on here, if you were with us last week, Reza taught that one of the things Paul told Titus he had to do was he had to go and he had to appoint elders in all of the churches. And he said, “They need to be people who love what is good. They need to love what God says is good. They need to be about and focused on what God says is good.” And now we find out why. He says because there are some teachers in some of these other churches that are focused on something else entirely and then they’re leading the churches astray. He says they’re rebellious, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they were full of terrible sin, but it means that they’re rebelling against the focus that God has for us. They’re rebelling against the path that God has for his church and they’re taking it somewhere else. He says, “And they’re focused on meaningless talk,” literally empty talk. Talk that means nothing, it accomplishes nothing. And he says, “Deception,” or literally misleading.
So, the church is being led astray from God’s purposes for it because it’s focused on some things that don’t really matter, he says. Now, he doesn’t say immediately exactly what that is, but he does say this. He says, “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group.”
Now, if you don’t know what circumcision is, google it. Don’t do a Google image search, okay? Here’s all you really need to know for now. It was a minor surgical procedure for men, and in the first century, it was only done to Jewish men, okay? And so, what he’s meaning here is essentially that these people full of meaningless talk and deception, misleading the church, taking it off their mission, they’re either Jewish themselves or they were focused on Jewish things, Jewish rules, regulations, and rituals. Now, my guess would be that what was happening was these people were kind of coming in churches going, “Hey, Jesus is great. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus is awesome. Faith in Jesus is so important, but if you really want to be right with God, you’re going to have to get circumcised. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus is so, so important. You got to have faith in Jesus, absolutely. You got to follow Jesus, but if you really want to be pure before God, you got to eat kosher, you got to avoid pork and shellfish and eat only the ceremonially clean foods or…you know. Look, look, following Jesus, obviously, is so, so, so important, but if you really want to be good with God, you got to go through these Jewish rituals.”
So, they were doing something like that, and what Paul says is they must be silenced. He says, “You got to shut them down because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach. They focus on things they shouldn’t be focusing. They’re talking about stuff they shouldn’t be talking about.” And he says, “And they’re disrupting whole households.” Now, two things you want to know. First, when he talks about households, he’s talking about churches, okay? It’s easier to read that in the modern world and think he’s talking about families, but he’s not. He’s talking about churches. Because in the 1st century, churches didn’t have their own buildings. They always met in somebody’s house, and so when he’s talking here about households, he’s talking about the churches that met in those households.
And he says, “These people are disrupting whole churches.” He says, “They’re disrupting whole churches.” And he uses a very interesting word when he talks about disrupting. It’s a very powerful word. It’s an unusual word. It only shows up a few times in the entire Bible. One of them, my favorite use of this particular word for disrupting is in the use of the story where Jesus came into the temple in Jerusalem, and he went into a place called the Court of the Gentiles, which is a part of the temple that had been set aside for the non-Jewish people to worship God. And he came in and he found that they had set up tables and they were selling things and they were disrupting worship. They were disrupting church. It was basically church for the Gentiles, but they were disrupting it by doing all the selling.
And Jesus said a couple of things. One of them he said was, “Hey, you’ve turned the house of worship into a den of robbers,” and then he started flipping tables over, which I love. It’s one of my favorite images of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s easy sometimes to get this picture that Jesus is just…and he’s just so calm, and serene, and everything, you know. He probably almost hovers everywhere he goes. And then you get that image that’s so easy sometimes and then you see Jesus in multiple gospels describe that he goes into the temple, he starts flipping tables over. John actually says he made a whip and chased people out, and you’re like, “Is it a soft whip? Is it a gentle whip? I don’t know how to deal with that.
But it’s interesting. When the Gospel said that he flipped the tables over, he’s using the same Greek word that Paul is using here when he says that he’s disrupting churches. It literally means to flip over. And so, basically, what Paul says here is you got to shut these people down because they’re flipping churches, meaning they’re turning them into something other than churches. They’re flipping churches the same way we might flip a witness that somebody who was going to testify on your behalf in court suddenly gets convinced to testify against you in court. They flipped the witness. Or somebody who is spying for us as a country gets flipped and now they’re spying against us. They’re working against us as a country. He says, “Hey, you got to shut these people down because they’re flipping churches. They’re turning churches into something that has nothing to do with being a church. They’re turning churches into something else entirely, and so you got to shut them down.”
And it reminds me a little bit, several years ago, because of the generosity of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, my family had the chance to go to Australia. And we spent a little time in a place called Noosa, Australia. And while we were there, we had an opportunity to visit the Noosa Heads Life Saving Club, the Noosa Heads Life Saving Club. And I read the placard out front, and apparently, this was a group of people who had come together years and years ago, decades before, and their whole purpose, their mission was to rescue people from shipwrecks when they’d been caught in the rough seas off the coast of Australia here. They were all about rescuing shipwreck victims, so that’s why they were the life-saving club. But what’s interesting was we didn’t visit the club to see their life-saving operations. We visited the club to have brunch. They had actually become a restaurant. They didn’t do any life-saving operations anymore apparently.
And so, I thought that was just so interesting. The life-saving club had become the brunch-having club, you know. A rescue operation had turned into a restaurant operation. And I remember thinking, “How does that happen?” But honestly, it’s not that hard to understand, right? They’d lost sight of their mission. They began to focus on things that had nothing to do with the reason for which they existed. And that’s what’s happening here when Paul says, “You got to shut these people down because they’re flipping churches. They’re getting churches to focus on something other than their mission. They’re getting churches to focus on and be obsessed about and drift towards something that has nothing to do with what it means to be a church. Okay. So, what is the mission of the church? Well, the mission of the church is to advance the Gospel in the world. Do you hear me?
This is so important to understand. The mission of the church is to advance the Gospel in the world. It’s to make sure that other people have the opportunity to respond to the good news that God loves us. God loves us so much that he sent his own Son to die for our sins, to pay for every wrong that we’ve ever done that separates us from God. And he raised him from the dead so that he offers us forgiveness and new life that begins now and goes on forever, and it’s a good life. It’s filled with joy, and peace, and contentment, and meaning, and all that’s available to us just by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross.
That’s our mission is to advance the Gospel in the world, which means, follow me on this, it means that a real church, a church that’s actually being a church is Gospel-focused and it’s mission-minded. Does that make sense? It’s really what defines a church. It’s a group of people who are Gospel-focused and mission- minded. They’re focused on the Gospel and they put their resources towards accomplishing the mission that God has brought them into existence to do. And what Paul is saying here is these people are full of empty talk and meaningless deception, and they’ve gotten the church focused on something else, and they’ve led them into a place where the church is no longer a church because it’s not Gospel-focused and it’s not mission-minded.
And he says, “And that, for the sake of dishonest gain.” He says, “They’re doing this not because they have a better theological understanding over the purpose of the church.” Not because they’ve been reading the Bible and they have become convinced, now we really need to focus on this. No, it’s not any of that reason. He says, “They’re doing all this because they want to get something for themselves,” which is ironic because remember the good life as God defines it is giving good to others. It’s the world that says the good life is about getting good for ourselves.
They were bringing the world’s definition of the good life into the church. They were misleading the church for that very purpose of getting good things for themselves, dishonest gain. Now, I don’t know exactly what that means. It might be financial. It might mean that they were charging people to do certain of these things they were saying you had to do. I don’t know how that works with circumcision. I would not think that would be a good business model to convince adult men to pay you to circumcise them. I don’t see that happening a lot.
But maybe it was, or maybe they were…Maybe they were writing books like the “Jewish Way to Perfect Purity” or something like that. Maybe they were selling books, or maybe it wasn’t even about money. Maybe it was about influence. Maybe they were focusing on things that people found interesting and would lock in on and they were teaching whatever they needed to teach to get people to listen to them and they were trying to gain influence, and power, and prestige for themselves. I don’t know exactly what it was, but Paul says, “They’re taking the church off mission and it’s not because they have a different mission in mind. It’s all because of their own personal motivations,” which raises an important question I think all of us should probably ask. What’s my motivation right now? What’s your motivation in life right now? What motivates you? Because here’s an important truth we need to recognize. Our lives follow our focus, but our motivation sets our focus, okay?
Our motivation sets our focus. It’s what we’re motivated by that causes us to fixate on certain things, and then whatever we’re fixated on ends up directing the course of our lives. So, what are you motivated most by right now? What are you longing for the most? Chances are it’s having a huge impact on your focus, which ultimately will have a tremendous impact on whether or not you experience the good life as God always intended it to be. Paul says, “One of Crete’s own prophets has said Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This saying is true. And can we just say, “Ouch?” Like, that’s harsh, right?
He says, “The people on this island, they had this reputation for being liars, lazy animals, evil brutes.” In fact, there was a saying in the Greek Empire that said, “Hey, Crete,” which wasn’t known for having a lot of wild animals, they said, “Crete doesn’t need any wild animals because the people are wild animals.” And it sounds really harsh, but what Paul is basically doing is he’s dealing with an important thing we all need to recognize, which is just that the culture in which a church sits, every culture has its own weaknesses, okay? I love being an American, but can I just be honest with you? We’re not perfect people.
There are certain weaknesses that Americans are prone to. I would argue that one of the things that Americans tend to be prone towards is individualism and a little bit of self-centeredness. I love being an American, but I recognize that’s a weakness in our culture. Europeans have a different set of weaknesses. South American cultures have different sets of weakness. Every culture has its own weakness, but every church in a culture always has to deal with the temptation to allow the weakness from the culture to enter into the church. And what Paul is saying is, “Hey, you know, even the Cretan prophets, they’re good thinkers out there and they’re religious leaders recognize these are weaknesses in the culture of Crete, and he says what’s happening is those same weaknesses are coming into the church. And that’s why it is that these leaders are able to take them off mission.
And so, he says, “Therefore, rebuke them sharply so that they will be sound in the faith and they will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.” He says, “You’re going to have to rebuke them. You’re going to have to deal with this weakness coming into the church and try to get them to stop focusing on, stop paying attention to Jewish myths and the commands that come from human beings who reject the truth.” Now, understand, he is not saying that all Jewish teaching comes from human beings. The Old Testament, the Bible in which the Jewish faith is based, that’s inspired by God, okay? Everything about Judaism is not a myth. Everything about Judaism is not a human teaching, but what Paul is doing there is the same thing that the Prophet Isaiah does. It’s the same thing that Jesus himself said. He talks about these merely human commands, meaning things that have been added on to the Jewish faith or things from the Jewish faith that had been twisted into something that God never intended them to be.
He says, “You got to get people to stop paying attention to these things.” Stop focusing because our lives follow our focus. As long as they keep focusing, that’s where they’re going to end up, and so something else has to be done. He says, “These people, they reject the truth.” Okay, well, what is the truth? Well, Jesus is the truth, right? Jesus is the truth he is saying these people reject. The simple Gospel is the truth that he’s saying these people reject. Faith in Jesus is the truth. What did Jesus say? He said, “I am the way,” and everybody say it with me, “The truth.” Online, I want you to say this with me as well, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, the good life.” He says, “No one comes to Father except through me.”
That’s the Gospel. This is the simple Gospel that everything good that God intended us to have comes by being Gospel-focused and mission-minded and focused on this simple truth of faith in Jesus. He says, “They reject that,” and because they reject that, they’re causing incredible damage. He says, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe,” not believe what? The simple truth of the Gospel, “Nothing is pure.” In fact, he says both their minds and their consciousness are corrupted.
He says, “To the pure, all things are pure.” And understand that what he means by the pure here is the pure are those who have said yes to faith in Jesus, okay? That’s what the pure is. Those who have said yes to faith in Jesus because the Gospel says that by saying yes to faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, our shame is gone, our guilt is eradicated, and we are pure before God. And I don’t know if anybody here like me sometimes feels like, “That sounds great, but have you seen me? I don’t think my life is completely pure. I’m kind of a mess still.” And yeah, we all are. We’re all in progress, but what the Gospel says is that when we say yes to faith in Jesus, our sins are paid off, our debt is forgiven.
And God looks at us and he sees us as righteous, he sees us as pure because of the sacrifice of his Son. And he gives us the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit begins to work in us, transforming us from the inside out, making us into the people that he designed us to be. And yet, there’s a gap between where we are and where we’re going to be, but God says, “As long as you have faith in Jesus, hey, as far as I’m concerned, you’re on the other side of that gap. You’re in process, I know, but you’re pure.”
And so, pure is those who have said yes following Jesus, yes to the pure all things pure. So, He says, “If you’re trusting in Jesus, if you’re trusting in the simple Gospel itself, all things are pure.” If you want to get circumcised, go for it. I don’t know why you would, but it’s okay. If you’re pure because of your faith in Jesus and then you want to eat kosher, that’s fine. No problem. If you’re pure because you have faith in Jesus and you want to go through some of these Jewish rituals, it’s totally fine. It’s not a problem.
But he says, “Nothing is pure to those who do not believe. To those who don’t trust in the simple Gospel, faith in Jesus, he says, “Nothing is pure.” If you’re not trusting in Jesus himself, you know, getting circumcised isn’t going to help you. If you don’t trust in Jesus alone, you know, eating kosher isn’t going to make any difference in your life. If you don’t have your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection, going through those rituals isn’t going to help you in any way. In fact, he says, “You’re being corrupted by that” because it’s taking you further away. Your focus is causing you to drift, taking you further away from the only thing that can actually purify you before God, which is this simple Gospel.
He says, “They claim to know God, but by their actions, they deny him. They’re telling people, “Hey, no, we know what it’s like to be right with God. We know what you really have to have in your life in order to be good before God, to be pure before God, to be truly righteous.” He says, “But by their actions, they deny him.” By what they’re actually telling people and where they’re actually leading people and where, in fact, they’re taking the church, they’re proving they don’t know squat about God.
They’re denying, by their actions, the very thing they’re claiming to have a higher, almost exclusive knowledge of. He says, “They’re detestable,” which is a strong word. It has an implication of it makes us feel a little bit sick inside. He says, “I think about those people and they make me nauseous because they’re disobedient. They’re unfit for doing anything good.” They’re unfit for doing anything good. That’s a powerful statement because as we’ve already seen, God says the good life is all about giving good to others. God says the good life is all about doing good for others, but he says, “These people are unfit for doing anything good,” which means their focus has made them unfit for the good life.
Their focus has made them unfit for the good life. They can’t experience the good life and they absolutely can’t help anybody else experience the good life because what they’re doing is actually taking people away from the only thing that can give them the good life for now and forever. And it’s one of the saddest testaments of history that the church has always faced this challenge, that throughout history, churches have always faced this struggle, this temptation to become something that they were never intended to be because they focused on something that wasn’t supposed to be their focus.
One of God’s great kindness to me over the years is that he’s given me the privilege because of my time as a seminary professor, as well as a leader in the church, that I have a number of younger men who lead churches that look to me as a mentor and as a coach. I have people that I look up to, mentors and coaches in my life, and I’m privileged by God to be able to try to help other pastors a little bit younger than me. And it’s interesting how often I get calls from these guys who basically say, “Hey, my church has lost its focus. My church seems to be…either we’re focused and, oh, we get this, this, and this, and this, and that. We’re working on trying to do that and we’re kind of…We’re just like all over the place, right? We’re all over the place. We’ve lost our focus. Or they say, “My church has gotten hyper-focused on something that I don’t think we should be hyper-focused on.” Like, “We’re hyper-focused on end times.” Churches love to get hyper-focused on the end times, and they get hyper-focused on, you know, are you pre, or mid, or post-tribulation rapture?
And some of you are like, “What does that mean?” And that’s okay if you don’t know. I’m not saying it’s a bad discussion, but they say, “My church has become hyper-focused on this,” or, “My church has become hyper-focused on the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism, free will and predestination, and all that kind of stuff,” or, “My church is hyper-focused on the gifts of the Spirit or the one particular gift of the Spirit, like speaking in tongues, and we’re so focused on something that I feel like it’s taken us off mission. What do I do?” I get this question a lot. And one of the things that I’ve learned over the years is there’s two questions I need to ask anybody who calls and asks that about their church.
Question number one is this, I say, “How often do you talk about the Gospel? How often do you talk about the Gospel?” See, if you’ve been coming to Mission Hills for any length of time, you probably know that I talk about the Gospel every message. And there’s several reasons for that. One of them is because I really believe the entire Bible from page one to page…I don’t know what mine is, 1,872, that every single page of the Bible is pointing towards and getting people ready for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, which is the only basis for the good life. I believe that all the Bible does, and so I make sure that I make those connections. I also talk about the Gospel every single week because I know that we have people listening. Some of you are on mission and you’re bringing friends and inviting them to listen to this service online or come to our campus that don’t know Jesus yet, and I want to give them the opportunity to say yes to following Jesus to the good life that God always intended them to have.
So, I talk about the Gospel every week for those reasons. But there’s another reason that I talk about the Gospel every week, and that’s that I’m not just the lead pastor. I’m the CRO of Mission Hills. You know what the CRO is? It’s the chief reminding officer. I honestly believe that one of my highest callings as a pastor is to keep the church focused on what makes the church the church, the mission of the church advancing the Gospel. And so, I talk about the Gospel to remind us that that’s why we’re here. And sometimes people go, “Well, wait a minute. Isn’t the church all about discipleship?” I’m going to say something that shocks you. No, it’s not.
Now, is discipleship important? Absolutely, it is. Discipleship for us means helping people take their next step forward in becoming like Jesus, and everybody say it with me, joining him on mission. They’re inseparable. They’re part of the same thing. Jesus said, “Come follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men.” That’s mission. And yes, we have to help people do that. A hundred percent of what I do on a weekend is focused on discipleship, but discipleship can’t be separate from mission. If it is, you’ve got something wrong in the church. That will be like saying that the purpose of the army is physical fitness. It’s not. The purpose of the physical fitness stuff that the army does is to enable all the people in the army to accomplish their mission. And discipleship is all about that. I’m all about discipleship, but it can’t be separate from mission. The church is about mission, advancing the Gospel in the world. There’s a reason God hasn’t taken us out of the world. It’s because we’re supposed to be making a difference in it.
And so, I ask them, “How often do you talk about the Gospel?” Don’t expect then to be focused on something that you’re not focused on. And then the second question I ask is this, “How is your mission as a church? How is your mission as a church?” And it’s interesting how often the answer I get back is, “Oh, we have a great mission’s program, like we give X amount of money and we do this many mission trips every year. We have a great mission’s program,” and I always have to go, “No, I didn’t ask about your missions, but I said how is your mission as a church?” So, here, it is shocking to some people sometimes, but I don’t think you’re supposed to have a mission’s program as a church. See, the church doesn’t have a mission’s program. We are a mission program. Are you with me, church?
If we have, well, that thing over there, that’s the mission of the church, no, no, no, no, no. You’re losing sight of the central purpose for which the church exists. Missions is not one of the things we do. It is the central purpose for which we exist. We are a mission program. We are a mission organization. And I say we because the church isn’t a building we come to. It’s not a program that we tune into. It’s not a broadcast that we load up on a podcast. No, no. The church is the people of God engaged in the mission of God. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. We are a mission program.
Followers of Jesus, this is going to be shocking too, but listen to me for a second, followers of Jesus don’t go on mission trips. They lead mission-minded lives. Now, I’m all for short-term trips. We call them global outreach trips. I love them. I can’t wait to get back to them because what happens in those trips is we do good for others, which is part of being on mission, but it also causes us to refocus on this mission that we’re all called to have all the time. So, I’m not talking about getting rid of anything. I’m talking about refocusing on the central purpose of the church. And understand, church, it’s not just the church.
Staying focused on what we should be focused on is actually…It’s so good for each of us. It transforms the way we experience life. It leads us into the good life. This is the bottom line of what Paul is saying here. Staying Gospel-focused and mission-minded is the only way to live the good life, do you hear me? If you’re facing something in life right now and you’re going, “I don’t feel like this is the good life God intended,” the most reliable way to transform your experience of your circumstances is to reorient your focus to stay Gospel- focused and mission-minded, and it will change the way you experience everything in life.
Here’s a question for you. Besides the Gospel itself, what do I feel gives me a better standing than others with God? I think we need to ask this because we all have this temptation to fall into this, yeah, the Gospel, but I’m doing a little better with God than she is. I’m a little more holy than he is because I do this, or I’ve done this, or I’ve been part of this, or whatever it is. I think we need to identify those things because they can distract our focus and our lives follow our focus. So, wrestle with that question this week.
Another question you want to wrestle with is this, on a scale of 1 to 10, how mission-minded am I? One being I don’t think about the mission God has given me at all, 10 being I think about nothing else. I’m an 11. I’m not. I’m not at all. This is something I constantly struggle with, and I find myself sometimes in the middle somewhere, but on a scale of 1 to 10, how missions-minded am I, and what can I do to move the needle up a notch? What can I do to take a step forward in becoming more mission-minded? Maybe you would say, “Is there a motivation that’s distracting me from living on mission with Jesus? Is there a motivation, something in my heart that’s ultimately setting my focus, which is ultimately directing my life? Is there a motivation that’s distracting me from living on mission with Jesus?” Something your heart wants more than it probably should.
How about this? Is there a focus that’s distracting me from living on mission with Jesus? Is there a focus? Something that I’m fixed. I’m saying, “I’m going here,” but I’m looking over there and I am finding myself going through this curve without even realizing it. It’s inevitable, but sometimes it’s imperceptible because it happens such a little bit all the time. How about this? Do I have the right community? Do I have the right community to challenge me to live on mission with God? We can’t do it on our own. So, are you with a group of Christians on a regular basis who challenge you to live on mission with Jesus?
And then maybe ask yourself this too, what part of my life doesn’t feel like the good life right now? I think we all have those. Anybody feel like 2020 has just been the best year ever? No? It’s not going to be a hard question. Which part of your life right now doesn’t feel like the good life that you feel like God promised you? And then you’re going to ask this transformative question. Is there an opportunity there in that place that feels the least like the good life? Is there an opportunity there for mission that I’m missing? Would you pray with me?
God, I just want to say for myself and I think for a lot of my brothers and sisters listening right now that, man, my focus can get really off. It’s really easy for that to happen, and then I see it. I see it in my own life. We see it in our lives that our lives do follow our focus. And so, we ask for your forgiveness that we have not been as Gospel-focused and as mission-minded as your individual people and as your church as we should have been. We ask for your forgiveness and we ask for strength and power through your Holy Spirit to change our focus, to put it back on what it’s supposed to be on. Lord, make us Gospel- focused and mission-minded, and in that way, Lord, allow us to experience even in the midst of hard circumstances the good life that you always intended for us.
Speaking of keeping our mission first, if you’re a follower of Jesus right now would you just begin praying for those people listening to this message who don’t have that relationship? They’ve been trusting in something other than the Gospel for the good life. And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment. I believe that the reason you’re listening to this right now is because God wants you to wake up to the reality of his love for you. That’s why you’re here right now. It’s why you’re tuned in right now. God wants you to experience the good life starting now and going on forever. And this is how you do it, by choosing to follow Jesus, by saying yes to putting your trust in Jesus and nothing else. And if you’ve never done that, today is the day.
Here’s how you do it. You’re just going to have this conversation with God in your heart right now. Say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I’m done trusting other things to give me the good life. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead so that you could offer me new life, and so I’m saying yes to following you, Jesus. I’m deciding today I’m going to put my trust in you, and I receive from you right now forgiveness, a new life, eternal life, a relationship with my God. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
I’ve had a number of people make that decision this weekend. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? So awesome. Hey, if you made that decision today, we would so love to celebrate with you. Would you do this for me? If you are watching online, you can click the button that your host is going to put up, says “I said yes to following Jesus,” or you can text the word “Jesus” to 888111. However you do that, we’re just going to get you some truth so that you can begin experiencing this good life that God has always intended you to have.
EAGER TO DO GOOD
As followers of Jesus, you are the clearest picture of him that others will ever see. You are encouraged to live so that others can see past you to who He is. You can enhance this process by being eager to do good for others.
Angela: Growing up, I’d say church was a top priority for our family. From a young age, I could recite many stories from Genesis, along with all the Old Testament, holy days, Ten Commandments, numerous Bible verses, but this head knowledge never quite made its way into my heart. During college, I walked away from church and anything related to God.
I never doubted his existence, I just wanted nothing to do with him. I wanted to live life my way, for me and no one else. If you had asked me if I was a Christian, I would not have hesitated to say, yes. Did I believe God was real? Absolutely. Did that belief change me? No. I spent years living a self-destructive life. I looked everywhere, except to God to fill the emptiness in my heart, only to find that emptiness grow.
Around the same time, God sent me an amazing gift, named Murray. Despite the difficulties that she faced in life, there was this joy and peace about her that defied logic. Through my darkest years, Murray was a steady light in the distance, always loving, always sharing the truth of Christ with me. Most memories I have of her include her Bible that was all tattered and marked up, falling apart from use. When I found myself pregnant and alone at 23, I knew that something had to change. This child deserves so much more than the life I was living. He deserved that joy and peace. So I began to search for what Murray had. I bought a Bible, and I started reading. I finally saw the God Murray had been telling me about. He was not this distant rule giver. He was my Savior and Redeemer, my Healer and Helper, my gracious and loving Father. I fell to my knees one night, tears streaming down my face, and I cried out to God. I was done living life my way. I wanted his.
Craig: Thank you, Angela. I’m so grateful for your honesty and transparency. In Mission Hills, we strive to be real, messy, and new. None of us are perfect but God is in the process of making us new and I just so appreciate Angela’s authenticity there about parts of her life that are messy. I’m also really grateful for Murray, for that woman who began to show her a different kind of life. I think we all probably have a Murray in our lives, whether we’ve paid attention to them or not is sort of the question. And here’s a really scary thought, some of us are Murray to other people. How scary is that thought? Can I tell you the most terrifying day of my life? It was June 10th, 1999. That was the day that Coletta and I drove our firstborn daughter home from the hospital. And they just gave her to us. It was the craziest thing. Like, and there was no instruction manual, there was no educational DVDs, just here’s a tiny person. Good luck with that.
And I remember driving south on I-25 to Castle Rock where we lived, and I remember being incredibly paranoid about every bump that we hit. I was like, is that gonna break her? Is that gonna break her? Is that gonna break her? So I was driving like 20 miles an hour, and people were backing up. It was just the first time I realized what that “Baby on Board” sign is for, I think it’s for new fathers who are driving so far under the speed limit that they’re ticking everybody off because we’re so afraid that we’re going to hurt that little, tiny human person that we’re suddenly kind of in charge of. But that wasn’t the really scary thing. The really scary thing was somewhere on that drive, I looked in the rearview mirror and I saw Coletta looking down at our daughter and I had this thought, and the thought was that “She’s gonna look up to me. Oh, no.” It was in that moment. It was actually it was terrifying, but it was also a pivotal moment in my life because I realized, in that moment, if she was going to look up to me to figure out what this whole life business is, then I need to be living a life that’s worth looking up to. And that was a really scary moment in my life. But as I said, it was a pivotal moment in my life.
And what we’re gonna lean into today is really that truth, that we have people that we look up to, but also, we are people that others are looking up to, to see a life worth living. The reality is I was a little bit late to the game that day. The truth of the matter is there were already people that were looking up to me and there are people that are looking up to all of us. If you’re a parent, obviously you have people looking up to you. If you’re a grandparent, you have people looking up to you. If you’re an older brother or sister, you got people looking up to you. If you’re a little bit farther ahead in school than another grade, you got underclassmen that are looking up to you. If you’re a coach or a teacher, you have people looking up to you. If you’re an owner of a business or a manager in a business, you have people looking up to you. If you’ve just been doing whatever it is that you do a little bit longer than somebody else, you’ve got people who are looking up to you. And if you’ve ever made the mistake of letting people know that you’re a follower of Jesus, and I mean that a little sarcastically, if other people know you’re a follower of Jesus, you have people…if they’re not looking up to you, they’re at least looking to you to figure out what that’s all about.
We all have these people who are looking to us, if not looking up to us. And so the question we want to wrestle with today is this, “Am I living in a way that’s worth looking up to? Am I living in a way that’s worth looking up to?” And we’re going to dig into a teaching from God’s Word that’s going to give us the surprising key to living that way. The one thing that if we can get ahold of it, if it can take root in us will actually allow us to live in a way that others can look up to. So why don’t you go and grab a Bible and join me, we’re going to be in Titus chapter 2 today, starting in verse 1. And while you’re making your way to Titus 2:1, well, let me just say this, if you’re joining us for the first time, the Book of Titus is a letter. It was written by a man named Paul to a man named Titus. And Titus was Paul’s problem solver. And Paul had sent Titus to the Island of Crete off the coast of Greece to do some work in the churches there because there were some people that had come into the churches on Crete, they were taking the churches off mission. They were teaching a bunch of things that had nothing to do with the Gospel that Christianity is centered around.
And so Paul had sent Titus and said, “Hey, you got to shut those people down.” We talked about that last week. And now we’re going to see what he says Titus needs to do instead of what they were doing. And he says this, he says, “You, however, you must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine, because you’re gonna shut them down, but you’re gonna fill that vacuum with teaching that is appropriate to sound doctrine.” And doctrine might be an unfamiliar word to some of you. The word doctrine literally just means a set of beliefs. Now, a sound doctrine or a sound set of beliefs, beliefs that can be trusted, beliefs that will hold us up if we put our trust in them. And he’s talking about the Gospel. He’s talking about the good news that God loves us, that even though we sin, that are separated from God by our sin, God loves us so much he sent his own Son to pay the price of our sin. And Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sin. He rose from the dead three days later. And he offers us forgiveness, he offers his relationship with God, and he offers us the eternal good life, simply by putting our faith in Jesus himself. That’s the Gospel he’s talking about. That is a trustworthy truth. That is a trustworthy set of beliefs.
And so he says, to Titus, “You have to teach what’s appropriate,” meaning what’s in line with. In other words, he’s basically saying, “Hey, you’ve got to teach people to do what lines up with the Gospel.” He says, “Live in a way that lines up with the Gospel.” That’s what he’s saying Titus has to do. He has to teach people to live in a way that lines up with the Gospel because the false teachers weren’t doing that. They were teaching people to live in ways that had nothing really to do with the Gospel. They were saying, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, the Gospel is really, really important. That’s great. But you also have to get circumcised. You got to do that. And you also have to eat kosher. You got to do that. And you also got to go through this ritual and that ritual. You got to do that.” And Paul says, “None of that’s appropriate, none of that lines up with the simple Gospel message.” So he says, “You got to teach people to live in a way or to do the things that line up with the Gospel itself.”
Okay, well, what does that mean? And so what he does next is he kind of goes through a series of groups of people. And what we need to understand is that with each group, he deals with certain things that they might be tempted to do that don’t line up with the Gospel. And he wants to encourage them to change that in the line up with the Gospel itself in their lives and in their actions. Now, he’s gonna hit almost all of us in one way or another in this list. And so he says, “So teach the older men…” And by the way, older men in those days was anybody over 30. So a lot of us qualify, and some of us have qualified for longer than we’ve been younger men, actually, at this point. “So teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.” He says, “Here’s kind of what the older men need to focus on.” He says, they need to be temperate. Now, temperate, literally just means not getting drunk. He says teach the older men they shouldn’t be getting drunk.
Now, you need to understand that this was kind of a problem not just for older men but for everybody in the first century, especially on Crete. If you remember back to your grade school days, where you study Greek mythology, remember those gods so you had Zeus and Poseidon and Apollo and those kind of things? Well, in the first century, the worship of those gods had kind of been on the decline for a long time. You didn’t have a lot of people doing a lot of worship of those gods, it was still here and there, but it wasn’t a big deal. But there was one god in particular that people still worshiped a lot. It was one god that people really were pretty keen to worship. And that was the god, Bacchus. And if you can remember back to your middle school days, and you maybe when you studied this, Bacchus was the god of? Anybody? He was the god of wine. And as you might imagine, worshiping Bacchus remained popular, because the way you worship the god of wine was to drink a lot of his stuff, right?
And so this was actually still an ongoing issue for a lot of people. So he says, “Hey, the older man, I don’t care what the culture is doing. You can either stop going to festivals, you need to not be getting drunk.” He says, “You need to be instead, you need to be worthy of respect, you need to live in a way that invites respect, that invites people to look up to you and figure out what this life business is all about.” Now, I remember a man in my life early on that was that he was somebody that I couldn’t help but respect. He was worthy of it. His name was Coach Williams. He’s my track and field coach. I was a pole vaulter and a sprinter in high school. And I just revered Coach Williams. I just looked up to him. I respected him because he was worthy of it. He’s just a man’s man, okay? I mean, man, he was solid, he was stable, he had a deep, low voice that I’ve never been able to emulate, but it just kind of commanded attention. And yeah, he could shout, you could hear him across the whole field or the stadium. And he kept everybody on their toes. He made everybody work hard. He never let any of us slack off. It was constant. And we all respected him. And it’s interesting, Coach Williams was a follower of Jesus, and every time that we had a track meet, the whole team gathered around him, and we had a prayer.
And some of you are like, “Oh, I wish that we were still in those days.” We weren’t in those days in those days, either. Actually, you weren’t allowed to do that. In fact, I remember a couple times the administration came to him and said, “Hey, you can’t make the team pray with you.” And he said, “I don’t.” They said, “Then why is every member of the team there?” “Because I don’t know.” But I knew. So even the non-believers, even the guys who didn’t want anything to do with church, who didn’t want anything to do with Jesus, they wanted something to do with Coach Williams. They looked up to him. They respected him. He was worthy of respect. And so they were all there because he was what Paul saw. He was worthy of respect, in spite of all of his pushing us and challenging us, he was also deeply kind and he cared about each of us individually. And we knew that and we felt it. He was worthy of respect.
So he says, “Teach the older men not to get drunk and to be worthy of respect, to be self-controlled.” Now, that’s an interesting word. If you look into the original Greek, what that means is that they need to control themselves. It’s actually not that complex. So here’s the thing, sometimes… By the way, we’re past the election, so is everybody’s done being offended with everything? Because I’m about to offend some people. Sometimes, older men are not self-controlled. Sometimes older men cannot control all the parts of themselves. The tongue, in particular, is one thing I noticed that sometimes older men get to this point where like, “I’m allowed to say anything, I think, to anybody I want, at any time.” There’s a reason why we talk about grumpy old men because older men don’t necessarily do a great job of controlling their tongues. But he’s not just talking about controlling their tongues. It’s about controlling all parts of themselves. It’s also you know, their mouths that are taking in too much wine, it’s the ears that are listening to things, it’s the eyes that are looking at things they shouldn’t be looking at.
And ultimately, one of the other issues that was going on in the first century was a lot of sexual promiscuity. And so he says, “You got to be self-controlled.” You never age out of the need to be self-controlled. He says, “The older men they need to be sound,” meaning solid, or consistent in faith, trusting in Jesus, in love, loving others, and in endurance. It’s another issue I think older men can struggle with sometimes that they get to the point of like, “I’ve done my time. I don’t really need to keep serving others. Other people can take over that.” One thing I love, I get to see it every week here at the Littleton Campus of Mission Hills is there’s a group of older men who come and they help maintain the building. They get in the lifts, and they change lights that are crazy high and they do projects around the streets. And they keep this place looking fantastic for people who come here to worship on the weekends and throughout the week for all kinds of ministries. This group of older men has not gotten tired of doing good. They’re enduring, even though they’ve gotten older. And I love that example. They’re giving an example of exactly what Paul’s talking about here.
And at the bottom line, really, what he’s saying is that older man, you need to live lives that are worth looking up to. Live lives that when people look at you, they see a life worth living. And he says in verse 3, he says, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way that they live, not to be slanderers, or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” He says, “Likewise,” he says, “this is the same obligation that we find coming to older women as well, that they’re supposed to live reverent lives.” And that word, reverent, basically just means to be focused on living in a way that lines up with your beliefs. So again, what we’re being told here is teach them to live in a way that lines up with their belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He says, “They’re to be reverent in the way they live.” And he gives a couple of examples, he said, “They’re not to be slanderers.”
I remember a few weeks ago in our series on “Toxic Talk” we talked about slandering is basically it’s tearing people down. You could also translate that word as gossips. And listen, I’m not saying that older women are more likely to be gossips than any other group. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is… Nah, nah, nah, nah. Yeah, older men can be grumpy, maybe older women can be a little more prone to being gossips but this is something we all face. We have to pay attention to all these instructions for all of us, right? He says, “Don’t be tearing people down with your talk.” He says, “Don’t be addicted to much wine.” Again, that apparently was a non-gender-specific problem. He says, “But to teach what is good.” And that actually is a very interesting word. In the original Greek, that word only shows up one time in the whole Bible. Actually, I had to go reading some other Greek literature to find other examples to get a handle on what it means. Because it doesn’t mean to teach what is good by talking about, it’s literally more like, teach what is good by being good. Does that make sense? It’s this huge word in the Greek.
But the idea is here, it’s talking about showing people the good life by living the good life. It’s an example based word. And really, what he’s basically saying is this, he’s saying, “Hey, older women, you need to model what you want others to mimic.” Model what you want others to mimic, because people will do what we do. Sometimes they’ll do it consciously, and sometimes they’ll do it unconsciously, but when they’re looking up to us, for whatever reason, their temptation is always going to be to get in line with us and to live the way that we’re living. So he says, “You need to model the life that you want others to mimic.” So here’s an interesting question, as I look what he says to both older men and older women here, I want you to do something for me, I want you to think about someone that you’re frustrated with. Just look right at me, it’s really important. Don’t look around, just look right at me. Think about something you’re frustrated with. And I don’t mean that you’re frustrated because they’re not doing something that you really want them to do for your sake. I mean somebody who’s not living life in the way that you know God intends it to be lived and who’s not experiencing the good life that you know God intends for them to experience.
I want you to think about somebody, and I want you to ask yourself this question, “Who’s not doing what I want them to do for their sake? And is my failure to model part of the problem? Is my failure to model part of the problem? Have they not seen in me what I wish I could see in them?” It’s an important question because sometimes that’s the problem. Sometimes we tell people, but we have not demonstrated for people. That’s what Paul’s getting at here, be someone who teaches what is good by being an example of good. Teach them the good life by living the good life. And he says this, he says, “Then, they can urge the younger woman,” I love that he says, “Then.” After they have been that example, then they can urge, and urge is a talk word. He says, “You can start talking to the younger women, but only after you’ve modeled what you’re asking them to mimic,” right? If they haven’t been given the example, then you can’t bother telling them or admonishing them or rebuking them or any of those other stronger words, you can’t urge them to do something that you haven’t. In other words, it’s basically saying, “Hey, you can’t demand what you haven’t displayed.” You can’t demand what you haven’t demonstrated. You can’t get on them for something that you haven’t shown them.
There’s another interesting question. Think of someone in your life that you’re struggling with, who is a point of conflict and maybe you’re deeply concerned about the trajectory of their life right now and ask yourself this, “Am I demanding something I’m not displaying?” Maybe I’m full of talk. I’m telling them what to do but maybe I haven’t displayed what it looks like enough yet. This is then and only then after you’ve done that, can you urge the younger women to love their husbands and their children to be self-controlled, pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands? Oh, boy. Kind of some red flags there, right? Especially like, you know, to be busy at home and to be subject to their husbands. So, is Paul saying that women can only do their stuff in the home, they have to stay at home, and they have to do everything and anything that their husband tells them? That’s not what Paul’s getting at here.
In the first century, there was a rise of something called The New Roman Woman. And the New Roman Woman looked around and they looked at the men, who are going off to these wild parties, and they were getting drunk and they were sleeping around, it was often one of the consequences of those festivals. They said, “Well, if the men can do it, so can we.” And so they were out doing it. And it was being neglect for children and sometimes it would mean being sexual unfaithfulness. And so when he talks here about being busy at home, he’s talking about stay with your family. Don’t be going out and doing these things that cause you to neglect them. When he says, “Be subject to their husbands,” there’s a bit there about loyalty, that remaining loyal to and faithful to your husband, and not to other men, not giving yourself to other men. And it’s interesting, all of this has a purpose. And now Paul brings us to that purpose. Before we get to upset about specific things that he’s told any of us, he says this, he says, “And you’re going to do all this so that no one will malign the Word of God.” That’s the ultimate purpose.
Okay, hang on a second there. Before we talk about this, the business of maligning the Word of God, let’s ask ourselves a question, “Am I distracted by something that the world offers, that’s leading me away from the good life that God calls me to?” See, that’s what he’s saying to these younger women, it’s what he’s saying to the older women, it’s what he’s saying to the older men as well. He’s saying, “Don’t let the world’s version of the good life distract you from a truly good life, from God’s version of the good life.” Remember, God says, “The good life is all about giving good to others,” the world says, “The good life is about getting good.” And it says, “Oh, this would be good, and yes, you should do this, and this and this and this, oh, these are all good things, you should be involved in those.” And what Paul’s saying is, “Hey, don’t let the world’s version of the good life distract you from the truly good life that God calls us to.”
And so here’s a question, “Are there any cheap imitations of the real thing that are distracting me? Are there any cheap imitations distracting me from the real thing?” Because what the world says, “Oh, that’s good, sleeping around, that’s good. Getting drunk, that’s good. Having a good time, that’s good. Partying, that’s good. Doing these things, that’s good.” And there’s sometimes there’s a temptation even among us to go, “I know that’s not the real good in life,” but sometimes it comes at us so much that we find ourselves going, “Well, maybe it is a little good, and maybe I’ll just take a step in that direction, and then another step.” And pretty soon we’re in a place where we’re not experiencing the good life because we filled our lives with things that the world says is good, and now we’re looking at them and go, “But these are cheap imitations.” We all struggle with that on a regular basis. There’s no way that you can live in this world and not face that temptation. So ask yourself the question, “Are there any cheap imitations distracting me from the real thing of doing good for others?”
Again, Paul says, “There’s a reason for this.” And some of it is so that you will experience the good life, but also, there’s something even more important at stake. He says, “Do this so that no one will malign the Word of God.” In other words, so that no one looks down on the Gospel because of the way that we live. Here’s the reality, this is a scary reality, but we seem to face it, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re not just a follower of Jesus, you’re the clearest picture of Jesus that some people will ever see. Anybody find that intimidating? Online, go ahead and type in super intimidated, right? Yeah, we’re the clearest picture of Jesus most people will ever see. We don’t know what Jesus looked like. I know we got these pictures that float around out there. It’s always interesting to me how often the pictures of Jesus show him as white, with long, straight hair, which is kind of an odd thing for a Jewish man.
So we know we can’t trust those pictures, so where can we look? Where can we get a true picture of who Jesus is? Where can the world look to see who Jesus really is? And the answer is me. The answer is you. Every single one of us is to the world a picture of Jesus. They’re looking up to us to see who Jesus ultimately is. Here’s a really hard question, “Am I making it easier for someone to reject the Gospel? Am I living life in a way that’s making it easier for them to say no to following Jesus, making it easier for them to say, I don’t need to put my trust in this Gospel business? Am I living in a way that’s making it easier for someone to malign, to look down on, to reject the Gospel?” I’m gonna be honest with you, I realized as I wrestled through this, that I have a pretty easy answer. Here’s how I’m doing it. I’m not a good enough neighbor. I mean, I try to be friendly and smile and wave and have a conversation here and there but I realized this week, I’m not being the kind of neighbor that God calls me to be. We had two different people move out of kind of our extended community, and one of the families I realized, I don’t know their names. Yeah, I’ve said, hi, I’ve had a couple conversations, but I don’t even know what their names are.
So we’re beginning to change that where we’re reaching out to the new families that are coming in and getting…try to connect with them because I realized that they know that I’m a follower of Jesus. Worse, they may know that I’m a pastor, which means that when they look to me that they need to see an example of someone who cares deeply about their good. And I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of that. And maybe that’s it for you, or maybe it’s something else but that’s the question, how am I making it easier for people to reject the Gospel? How am I making it possible for someone to look down on the Gospel message itself to reject following Jesus? He says, verse 6, he says, “Similarly, in the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled,” which is interesting. The young men only get one, just be self-controlled. And I don’t know if that’s because he’s like, you know, you guys are so good overall, but this is really the only thing you need to work on, or if he’s looking at the young men going, “Oh, boy.” How about this? Let’s focus on this one.
All right, okay. And I can say, listen, I didn’t raise boys, we have two girls, so I can’t say that I fully understand this. But I can tell you this, my girls, we had issues raising them but at no point did my small, little girls ever headbutt me. And no point did they ever bite me hard enough to draw blood. I have friends who had little boys that had to deal with both of those things. We had trouble when my daughters were teenagers, we had the same kinds of struggles that everybody has, but they never offered to fistfight me, and I got friends with teenage boys who have had that. You want to take it outside, Dad? What? That’s a lack of self-control. And I can tell you as a younger man, that is an issue that we all have to push into. It’s not something that comes naturally to younger men. And at the same time, it is the foundation. Everything else that follows that he said to everybody else really depends upon whether or not you’re able to exercise self-control, right?
So he says, “Encourage the young men to be self-controlled.” Over and over again, in this section, he’s saying, “Hey, no matter who you are, do whatever you have to do to live a life that’s worth looking up to so that no one will look down on the Gospel.” He says this, he says in verse 7, he says, “In everything, set them an example by doing what is good.” And then that’s interesting, because, you know, you start with older men, and then he had older women, and then he had younger women, now he’s got younger men. He’s kind of…everybody sits in there somewhere, right? And he says, “Okay, Titus, now I’m talking to you, and I want you to set them, all of those people we’ve talked about, I want you to set them an example by doing what is good.” He says, “I’m not just sending you there to teach, I’m not just sending you there to urge them to live these lives that are worthy of looking up to, to live lives that will keep people from looking down on the Gospel, you’ve got to set the example. They have to see in you an example of the kind of life that you’re calling them to live.”
So he says, “In everything, set them an example by doing what is good,” by serving others, by caring for others, by advancing the Gospel. He says, “In your teaching, show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” I love that. Because many of those who oppose you, and I don’t think he’s talking here just about false teachers in the church, he includes those, but he’s talking about the world who might be tempted to look down on the church. He says, “I want you to set an example for the whole church so that as a whole church, you live in such a way that no one has anything bad to say about us.” How about this? Let’s flip that around and go, how about what if this…what if we lived in a way that they had so much good to say about us that they’re willing to overlook anything bad they might be tempted to say? What if they were more impressed with how much good we had for them?
You know, a couple of years ago, I was in Peru with Compassion International…and I’d always known Compassion as an organization that did the child sponsorship stuff, right? They take care of kids, and we sponsor a number of kids. But we were there to visit their church planting operations. And I thought it was interesting, I didn’t know that Compassion did church planting. And they said, “Yeah, basically, you know, we’re committed to working in child poverty, we’re going to end childhood poverty, but we do it through a local church. We always do. We’re committed to that.” And he said, “We have these communities around the world that are in abject poverty, some of the worst poverty on the planet, but there’s no church that we can work through in that community, so we realized we’re gonna have to plant churches in those communities.” And so they have this system where they partner with a U.S. church to basically pay for the building of it, and then they work with local denominations, and they get a pastor raised up and they do this incredible ministry. And I said, “Oh, that’s interesting.” You know, in America, United States of America, 80% of church plants fail. Do you know that? Eighty percent, which means, 3 years after a church plant starts, 80% of them are defunct.
So I said, “I’m curious, Compassion, you’ve been doing this all and it’s been for 12 years, like, oh, that’s a good test case. What’s your success rate?” They said, “100%.” I said, “No, it’s not.” I said, “You must not have understood the question.” I said, “You know, 80% of church plants fail in America, here, and around the world when you do this, because you’re in a lot of different cultures, so there’s no way it’s 100%. What percentage three years in are still in existence?” And he said, “Well, that’s not our standard.” They said, “We want to know five years in that they’re still in existence and that they’re growing, and people are continuing to say yes to Jesus, and they’re self-sufficient financially.” And I said, “You’re telling me that 100% of the churches you planted over the last 12 years are that?” And they said, “Yeah,” and I went, “Okay, talk to me. Show me this.”
And it was fascinating, and I came to know exactly why it is because, see, what happens is they go into this community where there is no church, but there’s all this poverty and they begin to enroll kids in that community in their program, they get sponsors for them. And those kids are given food, they’re given clothing, they’re given medical care, they’re giving them education, and they’re giving them the Gospel. And while they’re doing that, they’re building the church, but they don’t have any church services. And then eventually that church gets finished, and they open the doors for service, and typically, the service is flooded with people from the community who come and go, “We have no idea what this Christianity business is all about, but you guys have rescued our children. You guys have saved hundreds of lives and families. We don’t know what we think about Jesus, but his people are impressing us. They’re so good, and we want to know why they’re so good.” That’s why those churches succeed because they have a reputation for good.
That’s what Paul’s talking about here, he says, “So that no one will have anything bad to say about us,” because they got too much good to say about us. He says, “Teach the slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted.” And don’t get hung up on the slave-master language. It was the social institution of that day. But what he’s talking about here is how we deal with people who are in authority over us, whether that’s a boss, and an employee, or whether it’s government officials and citizens, he says, “Live in a way that people will look up to and then past you to this God that you say is good and is causing you to do good.” He says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation…” No, I’m sorry, he says, “So that in every way, they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive, for the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”
He says, “The goal here isn’t to convince anybody that you’re good. The goal here is to convince everybody that God is good. That when you live this way, you make the Gospel itself attractive.” And it is the Gospel that has offered salvation to all people. No one is excluded from this offer of the good life that God always intended us. Nobody is excluded from the opportunity to be forgiven of their sins and have eternal life with God by faith in Jesus. He says, “But your job is not to save anybody, it’s to make the Gospel attractive, by the way that you live your life.” He says, “This Gospel teaches us to say no to ungodliness and to worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age. While we wait for the blessed hope, the certain hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” I love that.
He says, “Everything that God has done for us has been done for two purposes, number one, to make for himself a people of his very own.” And if you’re a follower of Jesus, understand you are God’s treasured possession, do you know that? He went through all this because of his love for you. And he loves to call you his son or his daughter. He loves to call you his child. But that’s not the only reason he went through all this. The second reason he says, “Is that the people who are his very own who are eager to do what is good.” He’s gone through all of this and he’s given us this blessed hope that we know is gonna come true so that we can live lives now that are eager to do good. Not just to do good occasionally, every now and then, here and there we’ll do this good or, “Yeah, okay, I’ll do that,” but no, we’re eager to get after it. We are hungry to do good. We are looking for opportunities to do good. I love it.
Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus, to do good things, which God prepared in advance for us to do. God has scattered good things for us to do so that we can make the Gospel attractive. The problem is that we’re not as eager to do good as we should because if we were as eager to do good as we should, we would see those opportunities, we would seize those opportunities and in doing that, we would make the Gospel all the more attractive. Here’s the bottom line, what he’s saying throughout this whole thing, you know, live lives that are worth looking up to, ultimately though, he says, “It’s our eagerness to do good that makes the Gospel attractive.” That’s the bottom line. Our eagerness to do good makes the Gospel attractive. But if we’re gonna be completely honest with each other, if I’m gonna be honest with you, I would say I know I’m not as eager to do good as I should be. I mean, I want to do good, but I don’t know that I’m as hungry to get after it as I should be. So if you’re listening to this and you’re going, “Okay, I get that, our eagerness to do good makes the Gospel attractive, but I’m not as hungry for it. I’m not as eager to get after it as I should be. How can I grow in that?” Let me give you four thoughts.
If you want to grow in your eagerness to do good, and in that way to make the Gospel more attractive, number one, pray a dangerous prayer. We don’t usually pray dangerous prayers. We usually pray pretty safe prayers, don’t we? I mean, I know at meals, I mean what do you say? I was taught to say, “And bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.” And that seems kind of old school, so when I…I modernized it. And so I prayed in front of my family, “God uses food to nourish our bodies.” Until a couple years ago, my youngest daughter went, “Hey, I’m just curious, do you think if you don’t pray that, our digestive systems don’t function the way they’re supposed to and food stopped?” And I was like, “No. Shoot,” and now I’m all messed up.
But that’s the kind of prayers we pray, like, “God, do the very thing that you designed our bodies to do,” and they do automatically. That’s a safe prayer, right? Here’s the dangerous prayer. God, Lord, make me more eager to do good, that I give you permission to come in through your Holy Spirit and to mess with me, to stir up in me a longing, a hunger for doing good for others that’s not there now. Lord, make me more eager to do good.” That’s a dangerous prayer. I promise you it is a prayer God is longing to answer but it’s going to mess you up. You pray that and one of these is gonna happen is you’re gonna start seeing opportunities to do good, and you’re gonna have to make the choice much more frequently now than you did before of whether or not you’re going to take those opportunities. So that’s one thing you can do. You can pray a dangerous prayer.
Another way you can become more eager to do good is you could hang out with dangerous people. Hang out with people that you look up to because they live a life worth living up to. Hang out with those people because they will inspire you to live more like them. And also, though, there’s dangerous people all around you who are looking up to you. We’ve talked about that. Every one of us has those people who are looking up to us. And just becoming aware that that is happening, if for no other reason, we have people who know that we’re followers of Jesus, and they’re looking to us to figure out what that’s all about, becoming aware that we’re hanging out with those people who are looking up to us can have an incredible impact in the way that we begin to live. As I looked at my daughter in the backseat 21 years ago, and I thought if she’s gonna look up to me, I need to make sure I’m living a life worth living up to. Hang out with dangerous people that you look up to, and that are looking up to you.
Third thing do is this, participate in a dangerous church. Participate in a dangerous church that is constantly reminding you of why we’re here, that never let you forget that. The church, it’s not a building we come to. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. It’s people who got engaged in the mission of God. If God hasn’t taken us out of the world, it’s because he intends for us to be making a difference in it. And one of the ways that we do that is by living lives that do good for others, which makes the Gospel more attractive because the Gospel is the greatest good we have to offer anyone. But our lives set the stage for that. And the fourth thing you can do if you want to become more eager to do good is remember what’s at stake. Eternity is at stake. The Gospel is the only means for anybody to be forgiven of their sins. We’ve all sinned, we’ve all fallen short, we’re all separated from God by our sin, and the Gospel is the only way to be forgiven of our sins and have the eternal good life with God. And our lives, our lives and the goodness of our lives that are willing to do good for others, that’s what makes that Gospel attractive in the here and now. It’s what Paul is saying. So people’s eternity is at stake. Remember that if you want to be more eager to do good. Bottom line, the whole thing is our eagerness to do good makes the Gospel attractive.
So pray with me, God, we thank you for the Gospel. We thank you for the good news that we can be saved, we can be forgiven, we can be set free from guilt and shame and we can have life with you that begins now and goes on forever. And it’s no cheap imitation, Lord. You want to give us the real good stuff, hope, and joy, and peace, and happiness, and meaning, and significance. The world offers imitations. You offer the real thing and it’s all ours by faith in Jesus and we give you thanks for that, Lord. And Lord, we give you thanks for the opportunity that we have to give that greatest of goods to others. And we confess to you that we’re not, we’re not as eager to do good for others as we’re called to be but there’s teaching from your Word, but we acknowledge the truth of what your servant Paul said that our eagerness to do good makes the Gospel attractive.
And so Lord, we ask that you would stir up in us a hunger for doing good for others, an eagerness to do good for others, to seize those good works that you’ve laid out in front of us. We ask that you stir up an eagerness for that, Lord, that we might make the Gospel attractive. And then in that way, the Gospel might be like flame to a moth. The world would be drawn to it. They could not help themselves but come into it. That they would see your goodness reflected in a tiny way in us. And they would come to know you, Lord, as your people, we pray for those who are listening to this service right now, who don’t have a relationship with you, but they are on the edge there. They’re drawn by you. Maybe it’s something that they’ve seen in someone or in some way you’ve been stirring in them. Lord, we pray for those people who don’t have that relationship but are moving in that direction.
And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment. And maybe that you heard for the first time in a way that connected today what this Gospel business that the church is about is really all about. It’s the good news that God loves you. He sent his Son to die for the wrong that we’ve done, the sin that we’ve committed. He rose from the dead three days later and he offers forgiveness and eternal life by faith in him. And if you’ve never said yes to that gift of God, if you’ve never said yes to following Jesus and everything that comes from, you can right here, right now. Here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have this conversation with God right now. Just say this to God. To God, I have done wrong. I’ve committed sin… I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and I know that you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, eternal life. I’m putting my trust in you. So Jesus, right here, right now, I’m saying yes to faith in you. I’m saying yes to following you. Jesus, I’ll follow you from now until forever. Amen. We’ve got a number of people make that decision this week and that’s awesome. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? Love it.
SUBMITTING TO THE GOOD LIFE
We continue on with Paul’s instructions with a look at how we respond to those in authority over us and why that matters. Why does it matter how we respond to authorities in our lives? Two reasons: first, because obeying the authorities allows you to stay focused on God’s mission. And second, because our attitude towards authority affects the way others respond to the Gospel.
Erin: At the age of 36, I became a vice president at a Fortune 20 company. After 10 months of searching and praying fervently, and 15 years working toward this goal, I secured the position. Six weeks into the new job, my prior company was bought out. God delivered me just in time. And I firmly believed I was aware I would spend at least the next decade of my career. Until eight months later, when things drastically changed. Leadership turned over, and I was suddenly without warning told I would be jobless. For the first time in my career, I was unemployed. I remember making the call to my husband from almost 1000 miles away telling him the news as I was driving away from our headquarters for the last time, still in shock after doing all the right things, contributing value to the company, and consistently being a high performer throughout my career.
I was in a specialized professional, I knew it’d take some time to find another similar job. Fortunately, we were financially prepared, having gone through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University here at the church five years ago, and helping lead it now. We eradicated our debt about a year and a half before this happened. And we were so grateful for God’s providence that gave us peace in the middle of the storm. Two weeks into unemployment, COVID hit. My job search that was barely off the ground came to a standstill as the world shut down. And none of us knew what was next. A long season of waiting started.
Months went by with silence from prospective employers, one strong lead fizzled to nothing when an internal candidate was selected for the position. And I was back to the drawing board with little that looked promising. One of my professional mentors with solid connections who was shepherding me through this process passed away at that time, it felt like hope was lost. I played the same worship songs on repeat, calling to God’s promises, remembered his faithfulness and intentionally chose gratitude and joy during the waiting and I hacked a lot.
There were some particularly bleak days when sorrow overpowered joy. One day I was walking at the top of Chatfield Dam, and with no one around, I prayed out loud “God, do you hear me? I know you’ll come through, but things aren’t looking good. Please just show up. I need you.” Three weeks later, my sister-in-law’s mom’s stuck in the U.S. for months on end having come here from Brazil pre-COVID asked to pray for my situation. We didn’t speak the same language. But through translation, a mere acquaintance uplifted me and gave me hope, praying what I was thinking and naming the shame and loneliness that I felt during this time, but hadn’t ever said out loud to anyone. God saw me and he heard me.
And with faith as small as a mustard seed I left that night with the Scripture she shared with me that, “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,” Isaiah 43:19, telling me that God will restore everything I had lost even in spite of COVID. When my hope waned, another month later without movement on the job front, God sent an obedient landscaper to my doorstep. A believer who knew I was also a Christian to encourage me. This is a guy who prayed that every landscaping job he takes would be a blessing to others, or that he wouldn’t be taking someone else’s blessing. He told me that God would shut every single door I wasn’t meant to walk through and swing wide the gates on the one opportunity that he would supply.
I prayed for that clarity in my search for months, and so do many other family members and friends. It wasn’t until I was alone on a weekday at the summit of a 13,428 foot peek, now almost a dozen interviews into an opportunity, that I turned over my search and all of my striving to make things happen on my own to the Lord completely. I heard a message the week before about Jehoshaphat, a leader whose odds were stacked against him and his people in battle praying the Scripture. “I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you,” 2 Chronicles. 20:12.
Twenty days later, I received a job offer that exceeded all of my expectations, restoring everything I had lost just as I had been told. My job now is similar and I’m leading transformation on a grand scale at work. The difference this time around is that having gone through this, I know what it’s like to be in need of divine intervention. I might be the only person in someone’s life who can give them hope. God gave me a heart of compassion and generosity, redirecting my purpose and perspective, and preparing me to do more for people through his power and in his name.
Craig: Thank you, Erin. Well, I love Erin’s story. I love how God sent followers of Jesus to speak hope into her life during difficult seasons. And I love that in the process of doing that, she discovered that God was calling her to do the same thing. I love what she said there towards the end, that she might be the only person in someone’s life that can give them hope. That’s what the good life is all about. You know, we’re in a series called “The Good Life Right Now” because we believe that God wants us, he created us for and he intends for us to live the good life, a life that’s filled with good things with love, and joy, and peace, and contentment, and meaning, and significance.
That the problem is that we’re confronted with two radically different strategies for getting to the good life. That the world says that the good life comes from getting good for ourselves but grabbing all the good for ourselves that we can. But God says, “No, no, no the good life comes from giving good to others, from doing good for others, for being a source of good into the lives of others.” And the problem, of course, is that, you know, all of us are caught somewhere between those two extremes, right? Probably nobody is all the way on one side or the other. I mean, if anybody’s willing to admit, is anybody on the side of being like, “No, it’s all about getting as much good for myself as I can. That’s 100% me.” Anybody? No, not a lot, okay.
Anybody on the other hand, if you’re on the other side, you’ll be like, “I 100% like giving good others. Like, I am so selfless. Like, none of it is about me, it’s all about giving good to others.” If anybody is there, you don’t need to raise your hand, you can just leave. That’s how you would signal that too. Because I don’t have anything to say to you. Okay, well, we’re gonna be talking today about everybody else who’s caught somewhere in between those two extremes. And maybe as this series is going on, you’ve kind of wondered about yourself, and you wonder like, “Well, where am I? Like, I don’t wanna be on the whole world side, but I don’t think I’m all the way in God’s side.” Where exactly am I on the spectrum in terms of the way that I’m pursuing the good life as God calls me to?”
And what we’re gonna do today is we’re gonna dig into a teaching from God’s Word that’s gonna give us a kind of a surprising thermometer on how we’re doing and what kind of the good life we’re pursuing. And here’s the surprising thermometer, it’s how we deal with authority in our lives. In fact, how we respond to authority, how we respond to authority tells us a lot about what version of the good life we’re actually pursuing, whether it’s the world’s version or our version. And that might seem like a strange thing to say, but I wanna show you from God’s Word why I say that how we respond to authority can actually tell us a lot about which version of the good life we’re pursuing. So why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, if you’re able and join me, we’re gonna be in the Book of Titus chapter 3.
And as you’re making your way to Titus chapter 3, whether you’re pulling it up on your phone or grabbing a Bible that you brought with you or whatever it is, as you make your way to Titus 3, here’s what you need to know about the Book of Titus. Titus is a letter. It was written by the Apostle Paul to his troubleshooter, a man named Titus. And Paul had sent Titus to the Island of Crete, where some of the Christian churches there had kind of gotten off mission, they weren’t being the church as God intended them to be. And one of the indications of that was because they had gotten off track in the way they were responding to people who had authority in their lives.
And what we’re gonna see today is basically four things, okay. We’re gonna see four things. Number one, we’re gonna see how we’re supposed to respond to authority. Okay, we’re gonna see God’s heart for how you and I are supposed to respond to authority. Number two, we’re gonna see why it matters so much how we respond to authority. God’s gonna show us why it is that we need to pay attention to the way that we’re responding to authority. Number three, we’re gonna discover why it’s so hard to respond to authority the way that God calls us to. Why it is that that’s not an easy thing for us to do. And then number four, we’re gonna understand today how it is that we can respond better to authority in our lives, how we can get better at it.
Titus 3:1, Paul writes to Titus, and he says, “As you’re trying to get these churches back on track, here’s one of things you need to do.” He says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” He says, “One of the ways you’re gonna get them back on track is reminding them that they are supposed to be subject to and obedient to rulers and authorities.” Now, it’s interesting that he uses two words there. He didn’t really need two words, he could have just said the rulers, he could have said authorities. By using those two words, what he’s doing is he kind of creating a package that encompasses all of the people in our lives who have some authority over us. And so he doesn’t want it to be limited to just this group or that group. He says, basically, “No, no, it’s everything in between those two,” okay.
So here’s the kind of a question we all need to ask ourselves at this point, since he’s talking about all authority, here’s the question we wanna ask, who has authority over me? I want you to think about it for a moment. In fact, it might be very useful if you wrote down a few people who have authority over you. If you’re watching online, you can grab a piece of paper. Or maybe if you’re watching along and you’re using the Mission Hill app, there’s a place to do notes in there. Or if you’re in the Bible app in the Mission Hills event, you can take notes there. But I want you to actually jot a few things down, who has authority in your life?
Now I’m gonna give you the number one person, okay. I’m gonna give you the number one person who has the ability to demand that you act in a particular way because that’s what authority is, right? They can demand that you act in a particular way. Number one person, you’re in church, it’s not gonna be a huge shocker to anybody, God. Okay, so go ahead and just a freebie, right? Okay, put number one now, God, okay, God has authority in my life. But also, I want you to go a little bit further than that, because there’s…all of us have other people that have the ability to demand that we act in certain ways. And so as you go down, you may go on and maybe be some government officials that come to mind, or maybe it’s the police, or maybe you have a teacher, or a coach who has authority in your life, or maybe it’s your parents, if you’re living at home, they have authority over you. Or maybe it’s your boss, or maybe it’s a manager in your job, okay?
We all have people who have authority over us and I want you to sort of think about it for a moment, and maybe jot down a few items, here’s the people who have authority over me. And it doesn’t matter how they got the authority, by the way. It doesn’t matter if you were born into a family that your mom and dad have authority over you, or if you were hired into a company that they have authority over you. Or if you elected somebody or you might be going, “I didn’t elect him, somebody else elected him.” It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a position to demand something of you, then those people have authority. I want you to think about those people, and then we’re gonna ask the question, okay, what exactly does Paul want us to do? How are we supposed to respond to these people? He says, well, let’s go back to verse 1 again. He says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities and to be obedient.” What is he saying we have to do? Well, it’s very simple. He says, “You got to put their demands over your desires.” Right? That’s what it means to submit, it means put their demands over your desires.
Now, let’s be clear. The Bible tells us very clearly that God is the number one authority, He should be at the top of everyone’s list. And our primary allegiance is to God first. And so God tells us that we’re supposed to gather to worship, He tells us we’re supposed to read his Word. He tells us we’re supposed to tell other people about Jesus, okay? Now, if any authority comes along and says you can’t do what God tells you to do, you can’t worship him, you can’t read his Word, you can’t talk to other people about Jesus, we have to listen to God and not the human authorities, okay? That’s very clear. But that’s not the kind of thing Paul’s talking about here. The kind of thing Paul’s talking about here is actually this place where other people’s demands rub up against our personal desires. So here’s the thing, like, if mom tells you to turn off the Xbox and go do your homework, you got to turn off the Xbox and you got to go do homework. If your boss tells you, “I want you to work on this project rather than that project that you’re really much more interested in,” you got to work on the project your boss tells you to work on.
If the speed limit’s 45, hey, listen, I know you’re an above-average driver. I know you are, right? I know you’re perfectly capable of handling all the curves on that road at 65. No problem. But if the speed limit is 45, you got to drive 45. If you’re HOA…by the way, that’s one of the ones on my list. I don’t like that it’s on my list but it’s one of the ones on my list, people who have some ability to demand something of me. If the HOA says to you, like they did to me this year, they send you a letter saying, “You got to get rid of that Christmas wreath because it’s January 15th. That wreath on your front door, you got to get rid of it.” It’s not even a Christmas wreath. It’s a winter wreath. I know that because my wife told me it’s a winter wreath. I tried to pass it on to the HOA, but they weren’t having any of it. You got to take it down.
That’s the kind of thing that Paul’s talking about here he says, “You got to put their demands above your desires.” So that’s how we’re supposed to respond to authorities, put their demands over our desires. People, why? Why does it matter how we respond to authority? Well, he says, let’s go back to verse 1 again, he says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient [so that you can] be ready to do whatever is good or ready to do good.” And then I’ve added some words to the translation. I’m reading the New International Version, but I’ve added some words there, you can see them in brackets. And the reason I’ve added those words is in the original Greek that this was written in, there’s a word that doesn’t really come across well in English and that word is pros. It’s the word that we used to make words like prosecute, which means that you bring an accusation towards someone or a charge towards someone, pros kind of means towards.
And it’s interesting, at the end of that sentence, he throws that word in and what that means is he’s saying, “Be subjective and be obedient, put their demands over your desires towards a purpose, towards an end.” There’s a reason he’s calling us to do this. And that reason is so that you can be ready to do whatever is good. In other words, he’s basically saying, “Hey, listen, you’re a follower of Jesus, right? Okay. I want you to submit to authorities in your life. And I want you to be obedient to authorities so that you can stay focused on the mission that God’s given you.” You see, here’s the thing, as followers of Jesus, we have a mission to advance the Gospel. We have a mission to advance the good news about the good life that God always intended us to have and is made possible through faith in Jesus Christ. We want to advance like us, we want other people to come to know God in the way that we do and experience the life that God has enabled us to have. And so our mission is to advance that Gospel
And as we saw last week, when we do good for others, we make the Gospel attractive. When we do good and we give good to other people, we make this Gospel that we’re advanced, and we make it look very attractive. And so what Paul basically says is, “Hey, I want you to be able to focus on that. I want you to be able to focus on doing good and therefore accomplishing your mission. So here, submit to authority so you can stay on mission.” That’s the reason he says. He says, “Submit to authority so you can stay on mission.” Because here’s the thing, it’s kind of hard to be on mission with your friends when you’re grounded, because you wouldn’t turn the Xbox off. It’s kind of hard to be on mission at work when you get fired because you didn’t do what your boss told you to do. It’s kind of hard to be on mission in your community when you’re in jail because you went 100 miles an hour through a school zone, and you cussed out at the cop who caught you. And in the Roman Empire, where any kind of resistance to officials typically was met with execution, it’s kind of hard to be on mission when you’re dead, okay?
Let’s see what he’s saying, he’s saying, “I want you to submit to authority so that you can stay on mission advancing the good news of this good life that God has for everyone.” Now, that would be hard enough if that’s all we were called to do. But Paul goes a little bit further. And he really begins to meddle, and he says this, “Remind the people,” verse 2, “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle towards everyone.” He says it’s is not just about acting in obedience, he’s talking here about attitude stuff, right? Slander, that’s talking trash about them. And being peaceable and considerate is being respectful, being kind and gentle as you talk about people. And again, the people he’s talking about here are the people who have authority over us. He’s continuing that thought. And so he basically says, “Hey, it’s not just the action of obedience I’m calling you to, I’m actually calling you to a particular kind of attitude towards people who have authority over you.” Okay, why? What’s the big deal? What does it matter if I turn the Xbox off if I go in my room and I text my friends about what idiots my parents are? What’s the matter? I turned it off.
Well, what does it matter if I do what my boss told me to do, what does it matter if while I’m doing that I also happen to mention to my friends that my boss is an idiot and a jerk? Well, what does it matter if I obey the speed limit? What does it matter what attitude I have towards the police when I’m going the speed limit, at least when they’re there, right? You know, I’ve got…in my house I’ve got a Golden Retriever and I have a Husky, which are the two most different possible dogs imaginable. The Golden Retriever is like she’s not only obedient, she longs to be obedient. Like, there’s just some there’s a people pleaser in her like I’ve never seen. So, like, you tell the Golden Retriever “Come,” she comes. And then she’s like, “What else you want me to do? I’ll do it. You want to lie down? I’ll lie down. You want me to sit? I don’t care. Just tell me what to do, I’d be happy to do it, I would love to do it. Please give me some demands.”
My Husky is not quite that way. My Husky is the only dog I’ve ever known that will talk back. She’ll do what you tell her to do, but she will let you know she is not happy about it. I see it every night. Every night she’s down there, she’s making sure she sticks close in case the snacks fall off of the couch. And then my youngest daughter, she’s her dog. My youngest daughter will go to bed and she’ll go, “Hey, Suka, time to go to bed. Come on.” And you can see it in the dog’s eyes. But more importantly, you can hear it because she’ll start to walk but she’ll go [vocalization]. And she doesn’t do that when you’re telling her to do something she’s excited about, she does that when you tell her to do something she didn’t want to and wants you to know that she doesn’t wanna do and she wants to let you know she doesn’t wanna do it. But she’s obeying.
And it ticks me off every time. I’m like, “You’re a dog. You don’t get to have that attitude.” But the reality is I do it all the time. We all do, don’t we? Oh, yeah, we’ll comply, we’ll obey, we’ll act in obedience but we’re not happy about it. We’re not happy about the people calling us to do it and we’ll let other people know, right? Listen, I want you to know I took the wreath off, but I called them door Nazis. And that wasn’t okay. I wanna tell you what that was, that was a sin. I disobeyed what God called me to do here. That was slander. I publicly repent of it. I didn’t model to the people around me the attitude that God was calling me to have towards people who have authority over me.
And so here’s the thing, here’s why this matters. See, our attitude towards authority models for others how we want them to respond to God. Does that make sense, church? Our attitude towards people who have authority on us, it actually it models how we want people to respond to God. Because think about this for a moment. Why is the world the way it is? Why is everything so messed up? Why is there so much pain, and suffering, and brokenness, and evil? And the answer is because we rejected God’s authority over us, all the way back to the first human beings. When we said to God, “Hey, thanks for life and everything, but we’ll take it from here. We don’t wanna listen to you, we’re not gonna submit to your authority, we’re gonna call our own shots in life.” And we did that.
And we did that in part because we believed the lie that that’s how you could get the good life. That’s how you could get all the good things that you want. But it’s not where it took us, is it? It took us into the bad life. Rejecting God’s authority took us into a bad life, but the Gospel, the good news is that God keeps loving us. He loves us so much he sent his own Son to pay the price of our rebellion, because a rebellion has a price. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Of course, it is. God is the source of life. So when we rebel and walk away from him, we walk away from life. When we walk away from light, we end up in darkness. When we walk away from God who is life, we end up in death. The wages of sin is death.
And that’s what we got by rejecting God, but the Gospel says that God loves us so much, he sent his own Son to pay that price with his own life. Jesus died to pay for our sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead and he offers us forgiveness, and salvation, and reentry into the good life by following him. But understand that to follow Jesus is to submit to Jesus. To follow Jesus is to accept his authority over our lives, to put ourselves in submission to him. So rejecting God led to the bad life, we can come back into the good life by submitting to Jesus. And that’s what we’re doing when we’re advancing the Gospel. We’re helping people understand that if they will give their lives to God, if they’ll give their lives to Jesus, submit to his authority, they could have the good life that’s been lost by our rebellion.
But here’s the thing. If we’re telling people they need to submit to God but what we’re modeling for them is a rebellious attitude, if not action towards authorities in our lives, we are not modeling. As we said last week, we’re not modeling what we want others to mimic. We’re modeling an attitude towards authority that starts setting the stage for them to respond to God’s authority in the way that we long for them to. So here’s a really important question. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you need to ask it, am I modeling an attitude towards earthly authority that sets the stage for people to submit to God’s authority? Am I modeling what I want them to mimic in their lives to submit themselves to God? Is my attitude towards earthly authority setting the stage for other people to respond to God the way that I want them to?
Two things that I’ve personally found helpful when I struggle with this, and I struggle with it all the time, I think most of us do. Number one thing when I go, “Hey, I wanna make sure that I model towards earthly authority something that sets the stage for people to respond to God the way they should.” First thing I’ve learned that I can do is I can just talk about them less. Honestly, the more I talk about people in authority over me, the more likely I’m gonna say something that I probably shouldn’t say, something that’s not the right attitude. And so I can just shut up. You came to church, you want some good godly advice, shut up. Just talk less about the people who have authority over you.
Second thing I’ve actually found helpful, too, kind of a strategy for me is I come up with a but at least statement to use when I mess up. When I don’t shut my mouth, when I keep talking about people in authority, when I begin to slander, I begin to speak about them in a way it’s not everything Paul says it should be, I remember that I have this but at least, but at least they’re this, a good thing, or but at least they’re not this, a bad thing that they could be doing but they’re not, and that’s where I end the conversation. When I find that I’m going down this road of not modeling the right attitude towards authority, I go, “Well, yeah, but at least,” do that thing, and then shut up. You might find that that’s a useful way to begin modeling the kind of attitude that we’re called to.
Okay, so we’ve seen how it is that we’re supposed to deal with people who have authority in our lives, we’re supposed to put their demands over our desires. And we’ve seen why, right? Because it’s so we can stay focused on our mission. And part of the way we do that is we don’t get in trouble with the authorities. And part of the way we do that is so that we’re actually setting the stage for other people to respond to God’s authority in the way they’ve seen us respond to earthly authorities.
Now we’re gonna see why it’s so hard, why it’s so hard to do what Paul’s calling us to do there. Verse 3, he says this, “At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.” He says that’s why, and I really wish he hadn’t said that. He didn’t say it the way I wish he had said. Here’s what I really wish he had said. If I were writing this, what I would have said was, “Here’s the problem, they are foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.” All those people who are in authority of me, they’re fools. They’re out of God’s will and they’re just after their own stuff. They’re only in it for themselves. That’s the reason it’s hard to submit to them because they have a problem. That’s what I wish he’d said. It’s not what he said, is it? He didn’t say the problem is that they are this, he said the problem is that we are this.
He says that one time, meaning that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case anymore. We’ll come back to that in a moment. But he says at one time, we were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. And those are personal passions, personal pleasures, these are personal desires he’s talking about, he says the reason this is hard to understand, or at least it’s hard to accept, it’s what the Word of God teaches us. The main reason it’s so hard to submit to authority is because we are selfish. Are you with me, church? That’s the main reason it’s so hard because we’re selfish.
Why don’t we wanna turn the Xbox off? Because we don’t want to turn the Xbox off. Why do we not wanna do what our boss tells us to do? Because we would rather do this thing. Why don’t we drive 45? Because we have a philosophical objection to the imposition of speed limits, or to that particular speed limit on that particular stretch of the road where I’ve personally done the studies and I’ve discovered that 65 would be a perfectly…no. We don’t drive 45 because we don’t wanna drive 45, because it sucks the soul out of us every time the speedometer hits that 40 that’s like way too low, right?
It’s inconvenient for me, it’s unpleasant. I don’t like it. It’s not my favorite thing to do. It’s what we want. That’s the problem. He says the main reason we struggle to do what God says when it comes to earthly authority is that we don’t want to, we are selfish. What does it get us? What does it get us to live that way? He says, “We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” So did pursuing our own selfish desires get us to the good life? No, it did not. It got us to the bad one, it got us to the same kinds of problems that make us look around and go what is wrong with the world? We’re what’s wrong with the world, pursuing our own selfish agendas. That’s what’s wrong with the world.
And what he says here is so important, I don’t like it but we have to recognize that it’s true. He says basically that the more we’re driven by personal desires, the more we experience interpersonal conflict. The more that we’re out to get what we want most, the more that we’re in conflict with other people who are trying to do the same thing. But we can’t fix them, we got to deal with us first. Think about the last conflict you had with somebody, whether it was somebody in authority who knew you were having a conflict with them or didn’t know they’re having a conflict, or maybe it’s just somebody in your life, some relationship that you’re having, that there is a significant conflict going on, and tell me that you can say with 100% honesty that pursuing your own personal agenda had nothing to do with that conflict. I can’t think of a conflict that I’ve ever had that didn’t have at least a little bit of that being part of the problem.
So, we know what we’re supposed to do with authorities. We know why we’re supposed to do it. And now we understand why it’s so hard, but what do we do about it? How do we get better at responding to orders the way that God calls us to? He says this, he says, “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.” He says, I want you to think about this. What did we deserve from God? We deserve punishment. We deserve condemnation because we rebelled against him. We sinned and he could have just let us go on our own into the darkness and the death that came as a natural consequence from that rebellion. But that’s not what God did. What did he do? He gave us love and kindness. Because of his mercy, not because we deserved it, because of his mercy.
Mercy means you’re withholding what somebody deserves and giving them something better instead. He withheld punishment, condemnation, He put that on his own Son so that we could be saved. He gave us instead kindness and mercy. He says, “Hey, I’m not calling you to be respectful, to be kind, to put their demands above your desires when it comes to earthly authorities, because they deserve it.” But do you really wanna talk about what we deserve? Because I don’t, I absolutely don’t want what I deserve because of my sin.
And if God has that attitude of giving me something much better than I deserve, how can I turn around and give to some other human being, whether it’s an authority, and how can I give them something less than God himself has given to me. He says, “We are saved.” And I think it’s interesting saved here, it’s not just from our sins. He’s just been talking about this natural tendency to do things that are selfish, to do be driven by our selfish desires. And so I think when he says that he saved us, he’s not just saving us from our sin. God didn’t just save us from our sin, he saved us from ourselves. He saved us from the natural consequences of our sin, but he also saved us from this natural consequence of living a life that’s driven by selfish desire. He saved us from our own selfish tendencies. He set us free from that.
Remember, Paul said, “We used to be that way, at one time we were like that.” And he’s implying that there’s a new way that we can be, that we’re not required to be that way, that we can be something else, we can be something better. And he says this look. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, who, he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ, our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
And I love that, as much as I hate that he says, “The real problem is me.” I love what he says here because he’s talking about two things that are so important. He’s talking about salvation, but he’s also talking about transformation. He’s talking about what God did for us, saving us. But he’s also talking about what God has done to us, transforming us, turning us into something else. And both of those concepts are represented twice here, just to show you how important this idea is. He says that he saved us, he saved us from our sins, and he justified us. And justification means it’s just as if we had never sinned. That because of faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, they’re washed away, we’re free of the debt. God did that for us, okay?
But he also says, he saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. That when we say yes to following Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into us and begins to change us from the inside out, begins to transform us into the people God always intended us to be, people who are not driven by selfish desires anymore, who are free to begin living the good life as God defines a life of giving good to others. He says he washes, and we have rebirth. We’re born again and we’re renewed, we’re restored back to what God always intended us to be.
And then he goes on, he says, “We’ve been justified by grace,” that’s what he did for us. But then it says, “So that we might become heirs.” An heir is somebody who inherits from their parents what you would expect them to because they’re their parents’ children. What he’s saying is the Holy Spirit is turning us into sons and daughters of God, we’re turning into people who actually show the family likeness. We actually are becoming the people God always designed us to be. We’re not just saved, we’re being transformed.
And the point is, yes, because of sin and because of the old way of doing things, we were driven by selfishness, but that’s not who we are anymore. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you are not that person anymore. Selfishness is no longer the loudest voice in your life, and you do not have to listen to because you’re not a slave to it anymore. You’re not a slave. And he’s asking a very important question here. And the question is this. If you’re no longer a slave to selfishness, why do you still obey it in your attitude towards earthly authority? If you’re no longer a slave to selfishness, then why are you still obeying it in the attitude that you have towards those who have authority in your life?
I think there’s two reasons why. Number one, because we’re surrounded by bad examples, right? All around us, we see the voice of selfishness driving people, including some of those people who have authority over us. And we go, “Well, if they’re gonna be driven by selfishness, then I should be as well, otherwise, I’ll never get the good life.” God says, “No, that’s wrong.” But yeah, we’re surrounded by bad examples. That doesn’t help.
And then the second reason is this, old habits die hard, right? Why do we still listen to the voice of selfishness? Because old habits die hard. You know, I used to drive this beat-up old Isuzu Rodeo. And it was a car and only the loosest sense of the word there towards the end. Like the window, if you let go of the back window, it would go all the way down into the door, you’d never see it again. So there was a pair of pliers stuck in it to keep it from doing that. It had a lot of the problems. Its worst problem, though, was that when I pulled up to stoplights, it would overheat. So I developed this habit for about a year I pulled at a stoplight, turn it off. Wait till the light changed, turn it back on and go. And then it got rear-ended and I had to replace it. I got a much newer nice car. It was great. And for about three months, every time I pulled up a stoplight, turned it off. Because the habit was just so deeply ingrained at that point. And it’s like that with selfishness.
Before we had faith in Jesus, before we were set free from our sin, and before we were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we were so used to listening to that voice of selfishness that it’s hard to recognize now that we don’t have to, we don’t have to listen to the voice. Oh, I hear it. But I don’t have to give that voice the final vote in my life. We just have such a deeply ingrained habit that it’s a little bit of a struggle. So God says, “Hey, lean into this. Lean into the fact that when you look to me, you’re gonna see example of giving someone good that they don’t necessarily deserve, and I want you to follow that in the way that you respond to authority in your life. But also, I want you to lean into the fact that you’re not the same person. You are a new creation in Christ. You are a whole new human being, and you might hear the voice of selfishness, but you do not have to give it the final vote, because it’s not who you are anymore.”
He says, “This is a trustworthy saying.” Everything I’m telling you, he said, “This is trustworthy, this is load-bearing, you can stand on this. And I want you to stress these things, all of them, the whole package of things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. He’s back to mission again, right? Once again, he’s coming back to the whole purpose. So here’s what we know, right? How are we supposed to respond to authority in our lives? We’re supposed to put their demands over our desires. Why does it matter? Because it’s hard to stay on mission when we’re in conflict with the authorities. And because how we respond to authorities sets the stage for how we’re calling other people to respond to God’s authority, that’s why it matters. Why is it so hard? Because apart from faith in Christ, we’re driven by selfish desires. We’re slaves to that. But that’s no longer true.
So how do we get better at responding with authority in our lives? We look at the example that God has set for us. And we lean into the reality that we are new creations, and we might hear the voice of selfishness, but we do not have to obey it. So these things are excellent. They’re profitable for everyone. Bottom line, everybody, bottom line is this, it’s that how we respond to authorities either helps or hinders our mission as followers of Jesus. How we respond to authority in our lives either helps or hinders our mission as followers of Jesus.
So, a couple of questions for you. Number one, think of that list that you made, take a look at it right now and ask yourself this, what authority in my life is hardest for me to have a good attitude towards? Why don’t you star the one that you struggle with the most? Second question is, what can I do to improve that attitude for the sake of the Gospel? Not because they necessarily deserve a better attitude, but for the sake of Gospel, as God has called us to do, how can you improve that attitude? Is it leaning into the new creation that you are in Christ and remembering I hear the voice of selfishness, but I don’t have to give it that final vote? Or is it just looking to the example of God who was willing to do good for us even though we didn’t deserve it? What specific practices could you implement? Maybe it’s I’m gonna talk less, I’m just gonna shut up. Or maybe it’s that, you know, I’m gonna come up with a but at least they, so that I got that backup for when I do mess up and I don’t show the right attitude. I can try to at least pull it out there at the end. What are you gonna do to improve that attitude?
And then third, and I think this is so important. You know, we said that the more we’re driven by personal desire, the more we listen to that voice of selfishness, the more interpersonal conflict we’re gonna experience. So here’s an important question, what role does my own selfishness play in the conflicts I’m having in my life? Think about places in your life where you’ve got conflict, maybe that’s with someone who’s got authority over you. And maybe they don’t even know that there’s a conflict. Maybe the conflict is one-sided from their perspective, but you know. Or maybe it’s somebody that’s in your life, there’s no authority there, but there’s a definite conflict there. And you’re struggling in that relationship. But I want you to ask the question, what role does my own selfishness play in that conflict? Maybe you need to acknowledge that, maybe you need to ask God for forgiveness and strength through the Holy Spirit to remove that tendency to listen to that voice of selfishness that we’re no longer slaves to. In fact, let’s pray about that right now together, would you join me?
Hey, God, as followers of Jesus, we gather here around the world in this moment. And we confess to you that we’re not great at dealing with authority in our lives. There’s a deep rut and it’s hard to get the wheels of our lives up out of that rut that’s been so so deeply ingrained in us for so long, that rut of selfishness. And, Lord, there’s probably no better example of where that selfishness comes out at than in the way that we deal with people who have authority over us. There’s just something in us that even rejects the very idea that anyone should have the ability to demand. And that does not set us up well for even responding to your authority in our lives. And so we ask for your forgiveness for the ways we fall short.
And we ask for power through your Holy Spirit, those of us who have said yes to following Jesus, we know we have your Holy Spirit, and he is renewing us, he is causing us to be reborn as sons and daughters of the King who listen to our God and not our selfishness. I ask you to give us the strength to lean into that new reality and to stay focused on our mission of doing good for others and making the Gospel attractive. The Gospel, which is the good news of your love for them, would help us to live in a way that makes it attractive.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you take a moment right now, would you pray with me for the people who are listening to this message who are not followers of Jesus, people who are listening to this that have not said yes to following Jesus or are committing their lives to his authority? And if that’s you, if I can just speak to you for a moment, if you’re listening to this going, “I don’t have that relationship with God that you’re talking about. I don’t have a life that is filled with good things. I’m not being reborn. I’m deeply selfish and I don’t see any way to change it.” Here’s what you need to understand. That’s not what God made you to be. And the life that you’re living is not the life that God made you for. God made you for life filled with love, and joy, and peace, and contentment, and hope, and purpose, and meaning, and significance.
But that life is only possible when we submit to his authority. That life’s only possible by saying yes to following Jesus. And if you’ve never done that, but today you’ve heard the truth of how much God loves you so much that he sent his own Son to die for you, to pay the price of your rebellion. Three days later, he rose from the dead. Those are facts of history. He’s offering you salvation and transformation today. He’s offering you forgiveness of your sins. He’s offering you a relationship with God and he’s offering you the beginning of the good life that begins now, and it goes on for all eternity.
And if you’re ready to take those gifts from God, by submitting to following Jesus, here’s how you’re gonna do it. It’s just a conversation you’re gonna have. Here’s what you’re gonna say right now in your heart, say this to God, say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve committed sin and I’ve rebelled against your authority in my life. I’m sorry. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your own Son, Jesus to die for me. Jesus, thank you for paying the price of my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead. And I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, and transformation into a whole new person. I’m ready to accept those gifts by putting my life in your hands. So, Jesus, I’m ready to put my faith in you, my trust in you. Jesus, I’m choosing to follow you starting now and forever. Amen.”
I’ve heard a number of people make that decision this week now already, can we celebrate they’re coming into this relationship with God with us. That’s awesome.
DISTRACTED FROM GOOD
When Jesus enters your life you are changed and challenged to devote yourself to that which is good. You should not be a distraction to the mission of the church; instead coming alongside your leaders as they guide the church body in the mission of God, teaching you and others how to eagerly do what is profitable for everyone.
Holly: Hello, my name is Holly. And I’d like to talk to you about how life was before I started volunteering. It was fine, regular, like most people’s lives, I had a wonderful family. But something always felt like there’s something more, there’s something missing, excitement, a fulfillment. And that all changed when I decided to start volunteering. When I began volunteering at the Life Center, I went in with a lot of preconceived notions as far as you know, I knew I was there to help people. That’s something you know, we’ve always been brought up as Christians to do, you go out, you find ways that we can help one another, which I’m happy to do.
But sometimes, to be honest, it almost feels like you’re getting your chores done for the day. So, you go in, you’re gonna volunteer, you’re gonna get it done, you’re going to go home and go on with your life. Well, that is not what happened. I met some of the most amazing people. They’re the clients who are suffering in a lot of ways. It’s not just that they may need food, which of course they do, they need so much more. But what amazed me was how much they gave to me. Every time I went in there, I left just feeling joy, honestly. I could go in, maybe be a little depressed, be having a bad day, and by the time I left, it all faded away.
These people loved on us as much as we tried to love on them, if not more, I had many things happen in my life throughout the years of volunteering there, people would ask me about. Here, they were going through so many things themselves, and yet they would take the time to say, “Hey, how’s your daughter doing? What’s going on with this? How are you feeling today?” It’s an awesome feeling. These people are no more clients to me as they are friends and family. I can’t imagine not having this part of my life, it fills me up. As I said, it brings pure joy, volunteering at the Life Center has definitely fulfilled my life. This is definitely part of the good life.
Craig: Well, hey, Mission Hills, I am super, super excited to introduce our guest speaker for this weekend. Some of you don’t need to have him introduced to you because you’re already going to know him very well. We know that we have grown a lot over the last couple of years, though. And so for a lot of people, our guest speaker is going to be brand new to you. So, I want everybody to know that our guest speaker actually was the former pastor of Mission Hills, he was the pastor, he preceded me. And he’s become a great friend to me, we continue to stay in contact, and I think so highly of him. He’s a man who loves God, who loves God’s Word, and who loves God’s people. And so I’m super excited that he said, yes, to coming and joining us for this weekend as we finish out our “Good Life” series. And so, whether you already know him and I’m excited to welcome him back, or whether you’re welcoming him for the first time, can we welcome Pastor Mike Romberger.
Mike: Well, thank you, Pastor Craig. And what a joy it is for Jane and I to be with you once again here. It’s more than you’ll ever know. It’s wonderful to be here, and it feels like home in so many ways. I’m so grateful for Pastor Craig and his kindness to us, invites us back from time to time, and I’m so grateful for his leadership and godliness along with other staff and elders that are here. In fact, I just need you to know we miss you a lot. We really do. And I think of that great character Winnie the Pooh when he said to Piglet, “How lucky I was to have had something that I missed so much.” That’s a blessing.
Since we were here last, we’ve grown as a family and now we’re grandparents got to show off a little bit, all right? When we got here, our kids were ten, eight, four, and two. That’s changed drastically. And now we got a son-in-law as well Eric for the last four-plus years. And that’s Megan, our daughter in the center there who has baby Daniel. That’s when he was just a few weeks old came out 4 pounds, 12 ounces, but perfectly healthy. And now look at him at six months. Yeah, isn’t he cute? That’s the right response. Good job. Yeah. We’re just so, so grateful for him and they live here in Parker. So, we try to get him out here from time to time, of course, we are able to see them, and our other daughter, Aubrey, who’s here as well.
We’ve been at Mount Hermon for the last five and a half years, that’s a Christian Camp & Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. It’s a place that I was going to since I was six years old, a place that we love dearly. But it’s been a place that’s gone through a lot. As you can imagine, COVID we have been shut down since the early days of March, I have not had a camper since then. Revenue dried up, we had to let go about 270 of our year-round staff, and that’s been pretty tough, almost 90%. And we’re thanks to very generous people, we’re making it through. And we’re seeing to the other side, but you can pray for us. We also had fires that came very close, we were evacuated for 10 days, on top of all of that, you get all about fires around here as well. So, it’s been quite a year. It’s been my hardest year as a leader, for sure, and it’s not over yet, and there’s more to go for next year. But we’re praying for God to be open back up and minister to people once again.
And once it happens, we’d love to have you come, we love to have you come on out. I thought you’d be interested. So, if you know me at all, you know that I’m a big baseball fan, I love baseball. I grew up in Los Angeles, and so I grew up a Dodger fan and then moved here and to my own surprise, became a Rockies fan. And still to this day, and I’m a legitimate Rockies fan, I always want them to win over anybody else. But the one thing that’s been constant in my years is my deep dislike for the San Francisco Giants, all right? And now I live in Giants territory. And I always tell people who live there, who love the Giants, I’m like, “Just remember, there’s nothing positive in the Bible said about a giant anywhere.” All right?
But our staff tried to do a funny one on me this year. And if you know baseball, you know was obviously didn’t have fans, in the stands and all of that. So, they had these cardboard cutouts that they would make. And I want you to see what our staff did to me. There I am kind of in the middle there, is a little bit closer here, so yeah, even closer, that’s me in a giant’s uniform, no less. That’s the wonderful staff that I have loved me so much. Yes. So, anyway, but again, it’s great to be with you today.
I want to share with you the last few verses of the Book of Titus, that’s what Pastor Craig has asked me to preach. It’s the closing of this great Book. And it’s one that as I begin to prepare for this message has become deeply personal. It’s become this deeply personal because of my love for you and for this church. And so I’m going to be sharing my heart with you, I’m going to be sharing some things from my years here as well. And it comes a little bit of a risk, it feels like to do so but I’m going to do to look, I think it’s important. The reason is, is because Satan loves to implode churches from the inside. He’s very good at that, he’s been doing it for centuries to churches, not so much from the outside do they blow up, but usually from the inside.
And I want you to know that when Pastor Craig asked me to preach this sermon and this passage, he gave me the passage, he gave me the title, “Distracted From Good.” And that was it. So, there’s no inside stuff, there’s nothing like, “Mike, this is coming up around the corner, would you please do something as a former pastor to help with this,” none of that. So, what I’m sharing is completely what’s been on my heart to share has been studying this passage. Satan loves to come into churches and implode them from within. And he always seems to do it with the similar ways, things like lack of unity of the people, breach of trust with the leadership, a total distraction from what is really matters. And I want to make sure that we talked about that, so that would not happen here. Because you’re in a really good spot, even though it’s been COVID, you’re in a healthy place. I’m so grateful to God for that.
So, let’s go to prayer and to ask God to use this time for his purposes. “Dear Lord God, it is so good to be here in your house. It is good to be with one another. It’s good to worship you. Lord, I pray that as we look at your Word, we remember it is your Word is not our word. And because it’s your Word, we believe it to be true. And because it’s true, we know it’s good for us because it’s good for us, we ask Lord that we would follow it and obey it. Lord, may you do that work that only you can do, we’ll get into your Word from the inside out. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Please take your Bibles and turn them to Titus chapter 3, about three-fourths of the way through your New Testament, right after 1st & 2nd Timothy a little bit before the big Book of Hebrews to Titus chapter 3. And I want to give us an overview of where you’ve been the last several weeks with Pastor Craig and his preaching through this Book. The Apostle Paul writes this letter to this guy, Titus which why is named Titus, obviously. And he is over the churches in the Island of Crete. And Paul is his spiritual father and mentor, and so he writes this as a spiritual father mentor to this fellow leader, and he…it’s also a leader to leader to help him with what’s before him, the challenges there in the church is an Island of Crete. The problem that was going on there in Crete was similar to what happens here in our culture, and that is the buying in of the culture that says, “The good life is about getting good for ourselves when God teaches that the good life is about giving to other people and making their life better.”
And so we read through Titus, we’re struck by how often Paul uses the words what is good, what is good. Chapter 1, verse 8, “One who loves what is good,” chapter 2, verse 3, “Teach what is good,” chapter 2, verse 7, “Set them an example by doing what is good,” chapter 2, verse 14, “Eager to do what is good,” chapter, 3, verse 1, “To be ready to do whatever is good.” Chapter 3, verse 8, “To devote themselves to doing what is good.” Chapter 3, verse 14, “Learn to devote themselves to doing what is good,” it’s all throughout. Therefore, the good life.
In stark contrast, are those that Paul calls rebellious people, chapter 1, verse 10 people who go against the ways of God, they’re not obedient to the ways of God, the rebellious people. And verse 1, chapter 16, “They are unfit for doing anything good.” It tells us in chapter 1, “That these people, these rebellious people are full of meaningless talk, they’re full of deception, they’re teaching what is false for dishonest gain, they’re liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons,” It says. It says that they have corrupt minds and consciences. And then in verse 16 of chapter 1, Paul writes this to Titus about these rebellious people. Get this, he says, “They claim to know God, they claim to know him, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing anything good.” Chapter 1.
Chapter 2, Jesus infiltrates a life and transforms it from the inside out. The rebellious turned to obedient, Jesus is the game-changer in the midst of that, and the work of Jesus changes the life on the inside so that the behavior on the outside reflects that. In fact, in chapter 2, verse 14, Paul writes to Titus these words, “Talking about Jesus who gave himself for us, to redeem us from all wickedness, and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, get this eager to do what is good.” That’s what happens when Jesus comes into our life. Which brings us to chapter 3 where, Paul tells Titus, “To remind the followers of Jesus to be subject to those in authority over them, and to remember that Jesus saved us, giving us a fresh start, we are changed our behavior that reflects that.”
Paul tells Titus in chapter 3, verse 8, “Stress these things so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” And that same verse, why do what is good, he says, “These things to doing what is good, are things are excellent, and profitable for everyone.” When we bless other people and do the good that God would have us do, these things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Which gets us to our passage beginning in verse 9 of chapter 3, where Paul begins this section with two words of warning. He says these powerful words, “But avoid, but avoid, avoid things that distract you, avoid things that sidetracked you, avoid things that keep you off of the mission that you’re supposed to be on.” Why? Because Satan loves to distract from the mission. He does that through conflict, through disunity, and things like that.
Let’s look at this chapter 3, beginning of verse 9. Paul writes to Titus, “But avoid foolish controversies, and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law because these are unprofitable and useless.” Remember in verse 8, the good things are excellent and profitable for everyone, but these things are unprofitable and useless. What are they again? Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law. “Avoid,” he says. The word avoid literally means to turn oneself about, to face the other way, to avoid you into King Soopers, you got your cart, you’re going down an aisle, you turn the corner, you see a person at the end of the aisle that you cannot stand. Someone who has been a conflict producer in your life, and you decide, “I do not want to go down the aisle to having a conversation with that person” and so you take your cart down a different direction, avoid, that’s avoid.
Paul tells Titus to make sure that churches, first of all, avoid foolish controversies. Avoid foolish controversies. Notice he doesn’t say to avoid controversy because sometimes that is necessary and even critical to do so in a church. Sometimes it’s important to call out false doctrine if it’s there. Sometimes it’s critical to stand up against an ungodly leader who goes rogue. So, it’s not saying to not speak up, it’s not saying let your voice be heard, it saying, “Avoid foolish controversies, foolish controversies.” The Good News Bible says, “Avoid stupid arguments.” Or as the Message puts it, “Avoid mindless pointless quarreling.”
Paul wrote to Timothy and said some very similar things to him. In 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 23, he said, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels.” Don’t go there, they’re not helpful. They’re not helpful. He saying, “Don’t get caught in debates that take you off of your mission, they will distract you from doing what is good, from what is good.” Avoid foolish controversies. Secondly, he tells him to avoid genealogies. Avoid genealogies. You see, well, what’s that about? Well, here’s not what that means. This is not mean that you can’t know your lineage, doesn’t mean you can’t know who your grandparents, great grandparents are or what line you came from, what country you came from originally. I mean, you get overly obsessed with that for sure and you gotta be careful of that. But it’s not talking about that. It’s not saying for sure, don’t study the genealogies in the Bible, that wouldn’t make any sense. In fact, the New Testament starts off with a very long genealogy from Abraham all the way to Jesus, to prove Jesus as the Messiah. So, it’s not saying that. So, what is it saying?
Well, I read a lot of commentaries to try to figure out what it says and there was all sorts of different viewpoints given, which means, maybe we don’t really know exactly what it means. Let me give you two of the biggest ones that I heard more than once. One was that now in Christianity, you have not just Jews, but you have Gentiles as a part of it, some of the Gentiles don’t like second class. And so they went out of their way to work on genealogies to prove to Jewish people that they do have some Jewish blood, that they’re welcome. That’s one theory. Another is that people were using genealogies to come up with some crazy mystical interpretations of what took place in the past and changing history even like revisionist history, that was part of what they were doing.
I think that the best way to try to figure this out is what is said to Timothy from Paul, when he wrote to him in 1Timothy, chapter 1, verses 3 and 4. He said, “Command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” Why? Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work. So, whatever this is with the genealogies, it certainly got people into controversial speculations that sidetrack them from doing God’s work. And that’s the real point here, whatever it might actually be with genealogies. So, avoid foolish controversies, avoid genealogies that distract you and get you going in the wrong direction.
And then, thirdly, avoid arguments and quarrels about the law. Avoid arguments and quarrels about the law. Now, this is a new faith community Christianity is fairly new. Now, you have Jews and Gentiles combining together in one faith. And there was a lot of things to try to figure out what the Old Testament Mosaic Law, there’s arguments about circumcision, it got to be such a big argument that the Jerusalem Council had to meet to try to give some guidelines to them. There was arguments over food sacrificed to idols, there was arguments and quarrels about words, words they got done to my new words. In fact, again, Paul says to Timothy, in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 14, “Keep reminding God’s people of these things, warn them before God against quarreling about words, it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”
Now like theologians love to get focused on a word and they argue about the word and that this really could mean it’s like they’ll just chill a little bit. It’s gonna get us off of the mission of what we’re really supposed to be focused on. Don’t get stuck on the little stuff. Stay on course with what really matters. Now, in case you think that these kinds of unhealthy distractions only happen at other churches, let me give you a brief history of Mission Hills Church in my almost 14 years here. It feels a little risky but I’m going to do it anyway because I think it’s worth for the purpose I’m going to share.
We got here in 2001, it was October, I was 38 years old at that time, so a lot of pastors wore coats and ties to preach in. And I thought, you know, at that time, I was a lot older church, a lot of older people, and I thought I need to dress the part and I began to preach in coat and tie and then summer came, and it got warmer, and I said I’m going to shed that and took out the coat, took off the tie, and whoa. I got input, lots of input, letters, and all sorts of things, distract. Every four years, I dreaded about a three-month period of time. It’s called the election where people would really hound me to say certain things or not say certain things or set things up in the lobby or to have certain groups to come in and use the facility. I can’t even imagine what this last round was like to be a pastor.
One thing I learned about being a camp director, nobody cares what the camp director has to say about politics. That’s been the nice thing about my job. But every four years, get distracted, talk all about the election. We relocated here in 2010 is when we actually got here, we moved in late August 2010. Can you imagine taking a church that had been in one location for 68 years and moving it? A lot of wonderful things happened with that but there was also people going, “What are we doing? Are we just trying to build an empire for ourselves? Is this all about us?” We had people that were just like, “We need to go 100% green, you know, environmentally green.” I’d be like, “Wait, wait a minute, I mean, we’re gonna care about the environment, as we build this, we’re gonna do our best but if we go with what you want, we’re gonna have too much smaller building because is gonna cost us a lot more. And we’re all about having more seats to have more people because it’s all about people. It’s about the souls of people.” And some of those people left, I felt like a distraction at the time.
And then letting go of staff members, I can’t tell you how many times that that felt like a major distraction as controversy would arise. And people get so upset, and they want to have big meetings of groups and go against with decisions that were made. And I just want you to know that behind the scenes, when decisions like that are made, they’re made with a lot of conversations over a long period of time, they’re made with a lot of prayer, they’re made with a lot of people that come up with the decisions and hopefully with grace and with some generosity with severance. But once that happens, and it goes public, you know, leadership isn’t able to share, they shouldn’t share all the specifics and the reasons as to why that’s not good leadership. So, it’s a one-sided narrative, and it just becomes a big distraction from the focus.
But the biggest by far, in my years here, was over worship. Some of you if you’re here, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Back in those days a lot of churches were going through that it was called worship wars. Most churches are not going through that anymore. But there was a period of time and worship wars and changing from more traditional to more contemporary style and all of that, in fact, it’s a terrible term, right? Worship war. Like, we have a war over the worship of God, it was never really over the worship of God, nobody said we shouldn’t worship God, it was over things like style and preference, it was over things like volume and instrumentation. I don’t think it’s possible for me to hear one new criticism about worship. I really don’t think it’s possible, I think I’ve heard them all.
I have a friend, a pastor friend that in his office, he has a framed, it’s not a picture, it’s a frame that has three comic cards in it from the exact same worship service. Comic card number one, I won’t get exactly right but you’ll get the idea, comic card number one says “Volume too low, can’t hear it very well crank it up in today’s service.” Comic card number two, “Volume perfect, never been better way to go keep it up.” You know what card three is gonna say, right? Card number three, “Volume way too loud, hurting my ears. If you don’t turn it down, we’re leaving the church.” And he framed them and put him on his office wall to remind him there’s no way to please everybody, there’s no way. Now, before I get all high and mighty.
So, worship wars we got through that is 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 we’re doing fine. 2014 Jane and I go to Red Rocks with our two youngest kids who at the time were teenagers, Noelle and Caleb, we’re gonna go hear, Toby Mac. Toby Mac is my age, but way cooler. It was my kids who told me that, way cooler. And so we’re at Red Rocks, beautiful setting, and one of the warm-up acts was a group called Skillet. So, Skillet is a heavy metal Christian band, heavy metal Christian band. We are sitting on the fifth row, on the far-right side, fifth row from the stage. In front of us is a bank of speakers, I don’t know, at least 20 feet high, I’m not exaggerating super high bank of speakers. Skillet comes out, and I think in first of all when I saw what they were wearing, I’m like, “Did you not have mirrors in the dressing room?” And then they start to play and I kid you not my heart begin to do things that it’s not supposed to do with the beats, my heart literally was racing in ways that concerned me a little bit as it was doing its own beat. And then my hair was going to [vocalization] was moving from the speakers and [vocalization]. And I wear gel in my hair, okay? And then I can’t understand a word that they’re singing. It sounds like they’re screaming. And I’m thinking in my heart, “This is not right, this is wrong.”
The way that they look, that’s disrespectful. The volume way too loud hurts my ears causes the heart to flutter. I can’t even understand the words, how can this be worshipful? And with my condemning heart, I then look to my left, and there is Noelle and Caleb, standing, arms lifted to the sky and praise of God, singing somehow every word. And I look past them up, up Red Rocks thousands of teenagers are standing, hundreds of them with arms lifted, singing song of praise to God. And I went, “Oh my goodness, I just became one of those people.” I don’t know the heart of the singers, never met them, why should it matter to me what they wear? I can’t judge the words because I can’t understand them but I made a promise to God that night the day watch our kids and other kids worshiping God that I would never ever become a distraction by complaining about worship that wasn’t exactly the way that I liked it.
Listen to me, please listen to me. It’s easy for churches to get involved with distractions and controversies and foolish controversies over things that don’t really matter and words and genealogies things that sidetrack, things that you think at that moment are right, things that you think are what you should stand for, but you realize is you good later on, “Man, was it really that important?” It sure took us up the main focus to see people come to faith in Christ and grow in him. Don’t let that happen here. So, what is Paul say to Titus to do about this? Verse 10, he says, “Warn a divisive person once and then warn them a second time, after that have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful, they are self-condemned.” Paul tells Titus, as a leader you need to deal with it, you need to address it, you need to confront that you needed to warn a divisive person, warn them.
On my desk at Mount Hermon, I have a piece of paper that just has a few words on it, I had the same piece of paper here at my desk. It says this, “So, what are you going to do about it?” As a leader, sometimes I feel like I have this red revolving light outside my offices that says bring me your problems, bring me them, the bigger the better. Bring me controversy bring, bring me stuff. And you can sweep stuff under the rug and just not deal with it but it never goes away, if you do that. He says, “Address this, warn them, confront them.” There’s a list in Proverbs chapter 6, verses 16-19. It’s a list of the things that God hates, seven things. That’s a list that we should know. Seven things that God hates number seven on the list is this, “A person who stirs up conflict.” A person not who goes to the leaders and appropriately shares the concerns, a person who stirs up conflict with other people. That’s what God hates.
Just my observation over the years as a pastor is that people agree with a message like this totally wholeheartedly until it goes against something that they don’t like, right? I’ve learned over the years that people like change, as long as you don’t change what they like. That’s me. Notice that there is a process in dealing with such a person, it’s not just get rid of them, that’s never the heart intent. We see that in Matthew chapter 18, if someone’s in sin you go to them one-on-one, and try to you know, have them repented the sin, if they don’t catch on yet, then you go with a few people that doesn’t work, you go before the church, that doesn’t work, then you say, you can’t be here anymore. But you go through a process. Why? Because the idea is not to get rid of people, is we’re a family, we work through stuff. We want you here, but you got to be appropriate while you’re here.
So, he says, “Warn once and that doesn’t work, then go a second time, and then if that doesn’t work, then you’re gonna have to say you can’t be here anymore, you’re causing too much disruption.” Paul tells Titus that a divisive person refuses to stop after being warned, is warped, sinful, and self-condemned. Or as other translations put it, perverted, corrupt, rebellious, their own sins condemn them. They’re not going to stop, so, you better do something about it as a leader. Paul’s words to Titus are what I say to you don’t get divided, don’t get sidetracked, stay on track to become like Jesus, and join him on mission.
I want to promise you something, I promise you this, Satan would love to implode Mission Hills from the inside. He would love to stop this work that is so volatile against him. It’s a kingdom work, where people are being saved on a weekly basis. It’s a work where the hungry are being fed, it’s a work where missionaries throughout the world are being supported, it’s a work that has great vision. It’s a work that’s supported by godly staff and leaders and a congregation that generously supports it and involved with it. Satan would love to come into this place and implode it from within. That’s why Paul writes these things to Titus that we need to pay attention to today, to not allow that to happen.
So, Paul ends the book of Titus with some housekeeping for the most part. Verse 12, “As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis because I have decided to winter there. Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything that they need. Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. Everyone with me sends you greetings, greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.” It’s how he ends. Verse 12, he says, “I want you to come be with me in Nicopolis and so I’m gonna send you either Artemas or Tychicus and they’re going to take your leadership spot for now.” He says in verse 13, Zenas and Apollos are going to become through they’re doing the work of the ministry, make sure that they get all the supplies what they need to travel.” Verse 15, he does his normal goodbye. Almost all of his letters, he finishes with something like grace be with you all.
But before he gives that sign off in verse 15, he says this in verse 14, which summarizes really the Book of Titus and his point he says this, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order to provide for urgent needs, and not live on productive lives.” He says to Titus, one more time was the leader of these churches, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good.” Must learn, it’s not natural, natural as we refer ourselves, it’s not natural to be for other people all the time. But we must learn to do this and we must devote ourselves to this, which it’s not going to happen. To provide for urgent needs, and not live unproductive lives that are just for ourselves and not for other people. We must learn to devote ourselves to this.
Don’t ever stop learning and being devoted to doing what is good. As I close, I want to give you a challenge today, a personal challenge, and the challenge is this. Like, I chose six years ago, I’m never gonna go down this road with be a distraction when it comes to worship, whatever that issue might be for you to choose now, while things are going well, to choose now to not be a distraction to that which is good, to not be a faction that would even have to be warned. But if you got worn because you’re going on a path that you thought was the right path, but then you got warned and said, “Hey, you know what? We understand where you’re coming from but really, this is not where we’re going and it’s distracting from what we’re all about, to back away.” To not be a distraction but instead to be a part of the unity that brings about the powerful work of the Lord. Don’t let Satan have a foothold in this place. Don’t let him do what he’s so good at imploding the local church from within and learn and be devoted to that which is good.
Let’s pray. “Dear Lord, you love this your church, this is your church. Lord, I pray that you would protect Mission Hills Church, that you would watch over it, that you would not allow Satan to get a foothold, that there will not be major distractions they keep the focus being where it needs to be on you and our lives being transformed by you. Lord, I pray for Pastor Craig, I thank you for him. I thank you for his godly leadership, his biblical preaching, his vision, Lord, to reach many people for you. I pray you watch over him and protect him. I pray for the elders of this church, Lord, you have gifted them, you have placed them. I pray you would also protect them and you would give them wisdom and courage to do what is right and when necessary even to warn. I pray for the people who attend this church, in the walls, or from home online, Lord, that this would be truly your lighthouse that this place would be devoted to doing what is good. Lord, we give ourselves to you to make a promise that we will not be a distraction, but we’ll be on mission for you. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”