LINK: Titus 1
On the epistle -
Paul wrote to Titus, a young Greek convert that he'd mentored (Gal. 2:1-10), this letter of pastoral advice. Titus had become a kind of "trouble shooter," sent by Paul to solve difficulties in the churches. Titus was sent to Corinth first and then to Crete.
It isn't clear exactly when Titus was written. Tradition says that it was written at about the same time as 1 Timothy, in the mid-60s A.D., after Paul's release from his first imprisonment in Rome, and before his second imprisonment and death under Nero (not recorded in the Bible, but held traditionally). There are strong similarities in the two letters.
Do our beliefs matter? This book tells us they do. Titus makes clear the link between what we believe and what we do. If we have faith in the gospel of Christ, that faith transforms our practice. Titus uses that truth (the link between belief and behavior) as the foundation for discerning false teaching and for instructions about church leadership and Christian living.
On the chapter -
Paul recognizes in this chapter the difficulties that Titus faces in Crete. Paul quotes from a famous Cretan poet, probably Epimenides, to point out the Cretans' reputation for lying, gluttony, and animal passions. According to my ESV note, "Cicero also stated, 'Moral principles are so divergent that the Cretans … consider highway robbery honorable' (Republic 3.9.15)." Imagine the difficulty of ministering in a culture like that! Not only that, but the fledgling church was being influenced by false teaching, teaching that perverted the gospel with empty talk and deception - requiring ritual. However, Paul didn't give up on the church in Crete! He encouraged Titus to appoint church leaders in each town. The leaders were to be men who believed steadfastly in the truth of the gospel. That trust would be exhibited in their conduct; they would be men of good character.
Each elder was to be:
- the husband of one wife
- the father of believing children who were not wild or disobedient
- self-controlled or disciplined
- a lover of good
- upright - just, fair
- sensible - exhibiting good judgment
- holy - exhibiting purity in behavior
- firm in his grasp of God's message
- faithful to God's message
- being quick tempered
- violent behavior
- greed - a desire for financial gain
"The gospel by its nature produces godliness in the lives of believers. There is no legitimate separation between belief and behavior. ... One's deeds will either prove or disprove one's claim to know God." (ESV note on Titus)
This chapter contrasts those who know the gospel and live it (vv 5-9; 15a) with those who claim to know God but deny it in the way they live (vv 10-14; 15b-16).
So I've been thinking, just how does the gospel change the way I live?
I don't underestimate the parasitic power of sin. Sin looks attractive and pleasing until it consumes us. Anytime we think we can approach God on our own terms - when we redefine what He tells us - we sin.
In trusting in Jesus' death for me, in running to His grace and mercy, I have become at the same time both free and a slave. I am free from the power of sin and self and I am a willing slave to Him. He was crucified for me, so I am now crucified with Him - saying in essence that I no longer want to live for myself, but for Him. This is utterly different from those around me who don't believe the gospel. As I listen to how they frame their words, I'm seeing more and more that instead of the LORD being the focus, people (either self or others) become the focus. Saying I'm crucified with Him and living that way are two different things. Daily the Lord brings into my life people and circumstances that make me confront my willingness to live for the LORD Jesus - to deny myself and follow Him.
Believing the gospel gives me stability. Because I am certain that I belong to the One who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and yet who has chosen to draw near to me through Jesus, through the words of the Bible, and in the person of the Holy Spirit - I am able to live in hope. I know that God doesn't lie. I know that He has a purpose in all things. No matter what I face, He has a purpose in it.
I believe that verse that Katrina focused on last week in 2 Timothy 1: "I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day." Even when I am faithless, He is faithful.
There is a saying that if a father wants his children to know he loves them, he should love their mother. Well, that is true for believers, too. If we want others to know we love them, love the LORD. As we pursue Him in love He will help us to love others. Our love will be founded in truth and will reflect Him, not be manipulative and self-serving.
My whole view of life is changed. I realize that it's all about what God had done for me through the work of Jesus on the cross. It's truly not about me. That doesn't mean that I live life perfectly, but I do live with a different focus and that will affect my actions.
An artist friend of mine recently created a ceramic piece on which she inscribed words written by others about a time they acted in spite of fear. She asked me to write something. I think it applies here... an example of how the the Holy Spirit used the gospel to compel me to act:
She blew into Louisiana in late August. Cantankerous and mean spirited, Hurricane Katrina caused a commotion in the homes of many people. She was a taker and a user. But in her own way she strengthened those of us who met her. She made us face ourselves and our fears.
I was no exception. Until I met Katrina, I thought I was open and kind and hospitable. But when she left a volume of need in her wake and when she reshuffled the lives and locations of the folks of southeast Louisiana and people were left without homes and thrown out of their usual spots, I realized that it’s easy to not be afraid when life continues on, when the game is played by the rules. Like houses built from playing cards, the lives of many came tumbling down.
Our home was fine, but living in Baton Rouge meant we were right on the doorstep of disaster. Life didn’t continue on in its usual pattern. It assumed chaotic designs. Thousands of people were forced to evacuation centers. Thousands more were in hotels or with friends and families, trying to figure out what to do next. I was constantly confronted with change and need. Families with their plastic bags sat bewildered at tables in the food court at the mall. Cars pulled into remote sections of grocery story parking lots while weary, mussed people walked their dogs. Cars sat abandoned on the side of the road. Helicopters buzzed overhead and became as commonplace as the sound of mosquitoes at dusk, and sometimes as annoying. Sirens wailed round the clock.
We were told that people, run out of their own homes by Katrina, needed places to live. When we were contacted to house some international students from New Orleans, strangers set adrift in a strange land, I hesitated. I knew the need, but fear is a noisy emotion. Fear is loud and the more we hesitate, the louder it gets. So I faced my fear in silence and told my husband that we could keep some students. I had to. How could I live with myself before my LORD if I let fear rule me? He took me in when I was a stranger. Five strangers arrived and we took them in and in a day or two they weren’t strangers anymore. We were given a gift. Instead of fear we experienced joy. We grew particularly close to one young couple, from Turkey. They became part of our family – a blessing to us. Fear wanted to keep us from that and I think that giving into it would have made me smaller.
This has been a long post! C.S. Lewis said this: "The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or - if they think there is not - at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us." (Mere Christianity)
Are you trying to be good to win God's or people's approval? Or does your behavior reflect your belief in the gospel that you've experienced? Have you been crucified with Christ so that you live for Him? Spend some time on your knees thanking Him for giving up His glory, for taking our sin, so that we can live free to serve Him.
Help us to go deeper and deeper into your gospel, Father. Help us to understand more and more of it. As you bring circumstances and people into our lives help us to love them with your love - for YOU! As you increase and we decrease make yourself evident in our character and actions.