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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reading Providence

"Sometimes providences, like Hebrew letters, must be read backwards."

- John Flavel

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Kid on the Blog

Mark & Kendra Petras (self-portrait with Micah and Anna) are new friends, new district church planters, and new bloggers.

You can read their thoughts at their blog: Life Together.

CCEF Class Update (One and Half Weeks to Go)

One more paper down, one more go!

I'm reading 4 books on marriage right now and when I'm done, I'll write paper #4--and be ready to go.

Thanks for praying!

Even More Excerpts from CCEF Paper #3: Counseling in the Local Church

Responses to two articles this time:

Normal Sunday Mornings and 24/7

Both the private and public ministry of the Word need one another and feed another. They are both essential and founded on the bedrock of the divine potency of the Scriptures. I resonate with everything in this article, and it raises a panoply of practical questions for me. Here are three:

How do I get better at the private ministry of the Word? That’s the biggest reason that I’m taking this class. I have formal training in the public ministry of the Word (seven years of theological education in prominent evangelical schools), yet almost no training in private ministry. I need my skills to be developed. And it’s more than just classroom training needed, of course, I need to get better at the cure of souls by working with real souls. It feels terrible for my church family to be “guinea pigs” and suffer through my learning experiences, but it’s better to do that than to not learn at all!

How do I equip others in the private ministry of the Word? Lane writes, “Ironically, private ministry of the Word is not an individualistic activity. Rather, it is a community activity. It flourishes particularly when people live in close relationships with one another. It does, though, raise massive questions for equipping every member to think and speak in ways that are consistent with biblical truth” (pg. 13). The goal would be to train our church to be a “wisdom community.” But how do we get there? I need a plan.

How do I change my preaching to feed into the private ministry of the Word? I need to beef up the applicational quotient in my public ministry, especially taking it beyond asking simplistic questions such as “How does this teaching apply to you?” I also need to work on the applicational side of the message earlier in the preparation process and make sure that it engages earlier in the sermon than just at the end. Illustrations from real life must become a staple. A

A Community of Counselors

This article dovetails with the last (see above). Tripp calls upon preachers to preach in such a way that the listeners become ministers: “The preacher is called to counsel the counselors, to comfort the comforters, to teach the teachers, to encourage the encouragers” (pg. 52). The public ministry of the Word not only feeds into the pastor’s private ministry, but informs the private ministry of the whole congregation. I see several implications of this thesis:

I need to think of my Sunday message as equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. Normally, I think of it as inspiring, informing, and convicting, but I need to intentionally plan the message to equip our disciples to minister to one another. There are lots of ways to do this, I’m sure, but I need to pick at least one each week!

I need to get my people to think of the Sunday message as equipping them for the work of the ministry. People tend to listen to a message for personal application–at least the healthy ones do, some people listen for entertainment or to critique it. But I need to train my hearers to not only think of themselves as they engage with Sunday’s message, but to think, in love, of how it applies to the people that have been placed around them in their lives. Do they even know that they are all called to ministry? I hope they do, but how can I reinforce this truth?

I need to come up with some practical ways to encourage the private ministry of the Word. In times past, I’ve emphasized to the fathers of the church that they should start conversations about the sermon at the Sunday dinner table. It would be great if we provided a list of suggested questions. This could be done for more than just families, too. Small groups, classes, couples, roommates, etc could all benefit. What other practical ideas could be put in place to stimulate this kind of deep, loving, wise, one-another interaction?

Face Drips

Isaac and I just finished reading a picture book about the depression and the "dirty thirties."

Leah's Pony was about a young girl who loves her pony, but loves her parents even more and helps to save the family farm.

Sentimental me started sobbing as I read it to Isaac. He asked, "What are those drips on your face?"

Sweet.

More Excerpts from CCEF Paper #3: Counseling in the Local Church

It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian

While the divine Persons are by nature a communion, human persons require covenantal commitment in order to effect the kind of perichoretic interdependence necessary for transformation. (Page 75)

I’ve recently changed my definition of “church.” My newest formulation (attempting to be both concise and meaningful) is “The church is Jesus’ worshiping community of gospel-centered disciplemakers.”

The newest part of my new definition, strangely enough, is that the church is, at heart, a community. I knew that, but I didn’t know that. In recent years, I’ve become more and more attuned to the communal reality of the church. Bolsinger's book only reinforced this. He argues, from the nature of the Trinity, that Christ-followers must be in community to be transformed into image-restored disciples. There is no Plan B for genuine transformation than the church.

This kind of thinking has practical implications for our church’s ministry:

∙ We’ll have to say clearly that there are “No Lone Ranger Christians.” I’ve made that statement from the pulpit before, but I’ve probably communicated in implicit ways that participation within the Body is optional.

∙ We’ll have to raise the value on membership. Bolsinger calls it “covenantal commitment.” Membership must mean more than a name put on a list. It has to signal dedication to one another so that we grow together in Christ. This could be painful at times, but will be for our common good.

∙ We’ll need to worship, read the Bible, and celebrate the ordinances together. Bolsinger has several suggestions for these aspects of church more meaningful as a community.

∙ We’ll desire for our love for each other to give witness to the reality of Christ (John 13:35).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Excerpts from CCEF Paper #3: Counseling in the Local Church

Life Together

"God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious...He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself" (Page 27and 28).

My ideal picture of Christian community has been “destroyed” a couple of times in my current ministry. I have often despaired, seeing “the community going to smash” in my mind’s eye.

When I first came to pastor the church I serve, they were hungry for a good small group ministry. So, I immediately dreamed up a scheme for multiplying groups. We started with three, then grew to four, then seven, then...a big fat zero–not enough personnel resources to keep it going. The whole idea languished for a few years until I took a doctoral class on building an effective small group ministry and wrote a twenty-six page strategy for building a healthy Christian community. In three years, this, too, has met with only moderate success–much to my complaining chagrin.

As I read Life Together, I realized that one of the reasons for the failure of these attempts to build Christian community is my idolatrous wish dreams for them. I want my plan to succeed. I want to be the pastor that led this church into dynamic spiritual growth through my exceeding wisdom. And when it doesn’t work, I often turn to accusation. But “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal but a divine reality,” and God’s grace has “speedily shatter[ed] such dreams” as I’ve put forward.

What I need to do now is to return to the divine reality of Christian brotherhood as it is in God’s mind, not mine, and humbly lead my flock into His green pastures. We need to build our fellowship on the foundation that has already been laid by the Crosswork of the Lord Jesus Christ and no other. Ultimately, it won’t look as I dream, and I will be grateful.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shooting at Local Christian Radio Station

One of our local Christian radio stations had a tragic shooting on Friday.

This is the official statement from WTLR--and I think they get it just right.

After a list of good prayer requests for the station and all those involved, including the family of troubled man who died, the end with this:

So why did this happen? Why did this happen to us? Perhaps we will never know.

We had absolutely no indication before Friday at 10:05am that anyone had ill-intent toward our ministry. No threatening phone calls, mail, email or communications of any type. It was a beautiful Friday morning and "out of the blue" this crisis came crashing down upon us.

That happens sometimes in life. All of us can face sudden, overwhelming crisis.

But this is what we do know: God knew all about it. He knew about it ahead of time. As we look back over what happened over the course of Friday July 25, 2008, we can see how He graciously moved to protect us and many, many others around us. Quick and responsible action on the part of Jason Penland to alert us and the police to protect us averted what could have proved to be an even bigger tragedy.

We bear no ill will whatsoever toward Brian Neiman. We understand that he was a troubled man. Unfortunately, that troubled man was an armed and in our sad day of frequent shootings, we must take public safety seriously. I talked with Jason Penland about the situation the day after the shooting. Jason's assessment matches our own: heartbroken. I know the law enforcement officials would have much preferred a peaceable surrender and resolution. Apparently, that was not meant to be.

Friends, it's in moments like these -- times of tragedy, crisis and loss -- that I believe Almighty God pulls back "the veil" around our comfortable and cushioned lives and shows us a glimpse of reality. The stakes are very, very high. Jesus said that the devil has only one agenda: to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10a).

Jesus died a horrible, cruel death at the hands of sinners. He took the awful load of our sins upon Himself. He who "knew no sin" was "made him to be sin" "for our sake". Why? "So that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (1 Corinthians 5:21, English Standard Version). He shouldered the full wrath of God, due for sinners like me. He shed His innocent blood to provide atonement -- oneness with God -- as well as paying the ransom for the devil's claim over our lives, redeeming us from the curse and make us God's own cherished, purchased possession.

The sheer awfulness of what He faced, what He bore on that cruel cross two thousand years ago is more than equal the awfulness of sin and its curse. He died a death that bad to deal with a fallen human race which was that bad.

Sometimes our Christianity can take on a sterile, cushioned and sugar-coated quality that is devoid of the reality of sin and its horrendous effect on sinners. At times like these, God shows us the stark reality sin and the condition of the human race.

God sovereignly uses situations like we faced on Friday July 25th to show us the seriousness of our mission. Friends, it's a matter of eternal life or death. It's a matter of souls that are hopelessly lost apart from Christ on one hand and the radical mission that Jesus has given us to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

What do we do now? We are more convinced than ever about the importance of our mission. Jesus gave it to us, 2000 years ago:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Amen. Read the whole thing.

Matt's Messages "Grace Has Appeared"

“Grace Has Appeared”
July 27, 2008
Titus 2:11-15

Titus had his work cut out for him.

The Apostle Paul had left Titus behind on the island of Crete to finish some things that Paul had gotten started but hadn’t gotten done.

This fledgling little church still didn’t have elders to lead it and didn’t yet understand how the gospel applies to every day life.

So Titus had his work cut out for him.

In chapter 1, Paul told him what to look for in potential elders to lead the church and why true elders were so necessary, because of the proliferation of false teachers.

In chapter 2, Paul told Titus what he was supposed to teach to various groups of believers within the church. And what he was supposed to teach was the application of the gospel. V.1 said, “You must teach what accords [or goes] with sound doctrine.”

Our behavior must match our teaching.
The gospel must be applied.

And then, we saw last week that, he applied that gospel to various groups: older men, older women, younger women, young men, Titus himself and church leaders, and slaves, much like our employees today.

Now, in our passage for today, Paul hasn’t really moved on to another topic.

No, instead, he’s actually grounding what he said in the first 10 verses with the deep theological foundations that undergird it.

Verse 11 begins with the word “For.” Verses 11 through 14 are actually explaining further how we get verses 1 through 10 and then verse 15 rounds off the instructions on what and how Titus is supposed to teach.

I think that these verses are the very heart the book.

Let’s begin at the end.

Verse 15 shows us how important these instructions really are. V.15 again.

“These, then, are the things you should teach [everything in verses 1 through 14]. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.”

Wow. Those are strong words, aren’t they?

What Paul has told Titus should be taught–the application of the gospel.

And for those who are doing it, they are to be encouraged.

And for those who are not, they are to be rebuked. Remember chapter 1, that True Elders both encourage and rebuke? Titus was supposed to, as well.

And he wasn’t allowed to back down from this. “..with all authority [it says.] Do not let anyone despise you.” Not that he could help how they felt, but he wouldn’t let them get away with scorning this teaching.

This stuff is really important.

What’s important?

To understand that “Grace Has Appeared.” That’s our title for this morning, “Grace Has Appeared.” I get that from verse 11.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.”

“Grace has appeared.”

John Newton alluded to this verse in Amazing Grace.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

“Grace Has Appeared.”

What is Paul talking about?

He’s talking about when Jesus Christ came to us.

God the Son became a man and lived on Earth.

His name was Jesus, and He was the Christ, the Messiah.

And Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the Cross to make grace appear to all men.

“Grace Has Appeared.”

It has shown up. It has come on the scene.

Grace is here.

What is grace?

We use that word a lot, but we don’t always know the meaning of it.

Grace is unmerited favor.
It is unearned blessing.

My favorite definition of grace is that it is not getting what we do deserve and getting what we don’t deserve.

Grace is not getting what we do deserve and getting what we don’t deserve.

It’s the greatest concept in the world!

And the Bible says “Grace has appeared.”

Grace is here.

Why? What is it here for? Why has grace appeared?

Paul tells Titus basically 2 things:

Grace Has Appeared To Redeem Us and To Refine Us.

#1. TO REDEEM US.

Look at what he says again in verse 11.

“For the grace of God that brings [what?] salvation has appeared to all men.”

Grace saves us!

Verse 14 says it even more clearly.

In talking about Jesus’ life and death (v.14), “[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness...”

There’s that word, “redeem.”

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to redeem us by His grace.

To redeem something means to pay back a price for something.

To buy someone out of slavery is to redeem them.

Jesus Christ paid the penalty that we had accrued for our sin.

He died for our redemption–to buy us back from sin.

Verse 14 says, “He gave himself / for us / to redeem us.”

He gave Himself. He willingly went to the Cross.

He knew what He was doing. He was giving Himself for us.

For us.

In our place. Instead of us. What we deserved. That’s why it’s grace.

Because grace is not giving us what we deserve (giving it to Him instead!)

And grace is giving to us what we don’t deserve–everything He deserved! That’s what we get.

He gave Himself for us to redeem us – to buy us back from the sin we were enslaved to.

That’s the gospel, friends, it’s the good news that in Jesus Christ grace has appeared to redeem us from all wickedness. And we’re going to sing about it for all eternity!

We just did in a couple of those songs!

Let me ask you now:

Friend, have you been redeemed?

Have you been bought back?

Have you trusted in Jesus Christ and what He did for you at the Cross?

It’s not about what you do.
It’s not about how good you are.
It’s not about having more on the good side than on the bad side.

So many people think that salvation comes by being good.

But it doesn’t. It comes by GRACE.

The GRACE of God has appeared to REEDEM Us.

And there is no other way than that.

Have you trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior/Rescuer and Lord/Master?

He gave Himself for you. Put your trust in Him.

But catch this.

That’s not all that grace does.

That’s often where we stop when we, Christians, talk about grace, but that’s not where the gospel stops.

And it’s not where Paul stops here, is it?

Grace doesn’t just save. It also sanctifies.

Grace Has Appeared #2. TO REFINE US.

It’s the point of this whole passage. Go back to verse 11.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. [v.12] It [GRACE] teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing 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.”

Grace not only redeems us. It also refines us.

Verse 12 says that this grace found in Jesus Christ “teaches us” or “trains us” or “disciplines us” to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions.

Do you see how powerful grace is?

It’s not just a forgiving power.
It’s an enabling power, a teaching power, a training power.

Grace enables us to say ‘No” to ungodliness and worldly passions.

Let that sink in for a second.

We can say, ‘No.”

If we belong to Jesus, if we have experienced His redeeming grace, then we can say “No.”

I know that it doesn’t feel like it.

One of my biggest temptations is gluttony. I have what I call “an extra plate addiction.”

And it’s just too hard to say, “No.”

No, it isn’t.

I can say, “No.”

Not because of how good I am, but because of how good God has been to me.

Grace Has Appeared to teach me to say No.

You can say, “No,” too.

You can say, “No,” to lust.
You can say, “No,” to pornography. You don’t have to click over there.

Men, you don’t have to click over there.

You can say, “No,” to gossip. You don’t have to share that morsel of information.

Ladies, you don’t have to share that.
You can say, “No,” to angry outbursts.

You don’t have to yell at your kids or your spouse or your roommate.

If you belong to Christ, you can say, “No.”

Sometimes we emphasize that there is grace for us when we sin.

And there is, friends! If you are trapped in any of those patterns I just mentioned or any others, Jesus’ blood is sufficient to forgive!

But His grace doesn’t stop there. It goes another crucial step. It also empowers us to say, “No.”

No to ungodliness.
No to worldly passions.

I have a friend who was sleeping with his girlfriend. And I told him that God wanted him to stop.

And he said, “Yeah, I know, but it’s hard to.”

Yes, it’s hard to. But it is possible because grace has appeared!

Look at the second half of verse 12.

“[Grace] teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

That’s the whole point of chapter 2!

Older Men being respectable.
Older Women being reverent.
Younger Women loving their families.
Young Men being self-controlled.
Church Leaders setting an example.
Slaves being trustworthy employees.

How?

Not because they have it in them to start with. No.

But because the grace of God has appeared.

It has come to save us and to sanctify us–to make us holy.

And it does, every time.

I’m concerned about some people who claim to be Christ-followers but whose lives show no sign of this kind of thing.

In the Bible, grace is effectual. It works.

It not only forgives us through the death and resurrection of Christ, but it transforms us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Look at how verse 14 says it.

“[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify [refine] for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

Jesus didn’t just save us to leave us how we are.

He didn’t just die to forgive us.

He died to change us.

To make us His very own.

Oh! That is a precious thought. That we belong to Him.

That we are His precious treasure!

If the universe were on fire, we’re what He would run in to rescue. In fact, He did!

And not just any precious treasure, but one that looks like Him. V.14

“Eager to do what is good.”

King James: “Zealous of good works.”

That’s not what we were. But it is what we are becoming!

Here’s the key question.

Are we being changed by grace?

Verse 12 says that grace teaches. Are we learning?

Verse 14 says that grace purifies. Are we being refined?

What area of your life is God working on?

And are you letting Him?

I don’t know what it is for you.

My guess is that it relates in some way to self-control.

For me, right now, I’m trying to learn (by grace) to exercise self-control in the use of my things.

I tend to run things down and break things and not take good care of my things.

Last week, I ran my mower into a hole and broke the guard on the mower-deck.

Boy was I angry! I had finished the sermon in ample time to get the lawn mowed before Supper, and I was so proud of myself! (That might be something else to work on!)

And so I just pulled the cord and got to mowing. But I didn’t take care. I wasn’t careful. I didn’t appreciate what a great machine I have–my dad gave it to me. It has a 33" deck on it and is self-propelled.

But I’m just whipping it around and not caring what I land it on.

It’s supposed to be run on grace. But I run it over rocks and over stumps and roots sometimes, and I know that I shouldn’t, but I’ve never really had a problem.

And I know that there’s a hole around there, but I’ve never broken the thing, and it’s too much work to be careful!

And, boy, did I regret it when I did it!

Grace has come.

Grace has come to pay the penalty for my out-of-control behavior. Jesus died for my carelessness.

Yes, Jesus died for my carelessness.

But that’s not all. He didn’t just forgive me and then not care any more.

Grace has come to teach me self-control.

I can say, “No” to carelessness and say Yes to upright and godly self-control.

I can be refined.

I don’t know what it is for you.

Maybe it’s patience.

A month or so ago, I talked about patience in a sermon, and a lot of you responded back to me that this is an area that you struggle with.

Are you learning from grace?

Are you being refined?

Or are you just living like you used to?

Jesus died to redeems us from all wickedness AND to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Are we eager to do what is good?

I’m afraid that often we aren’t.

We aren’t eager. We aren’t zealous.

We are content to be saved and then sit there.

But this is about getting up off our pews and into the game–eager to do what is good.

Are we being transformed?

That’s one of the biggest reasons why we’re still here, you know?

Right now, we’re here to be redeemed and refined. But that’s while we wait.

Did you notice that grace has appeared, but it’s also coming again? V.12

“[Grace] teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age [now], while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ[!]”

This redeeming and this refining are for now while we wait for His returning!

Jesus is coming back and coming back soon!

Paul calls it, “the blessed hope.”

It’s that thing that we’re trusting in for the future that makes it all worthwhile. It’s “blessed.” It’s full of blessing. It’s awesome and wonderful and delightful.

Jesus is coming back and coming back soon!

He calls it, “The glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!”

He appearance the first time was humble.

But when He comes again, it will be glorious!

He will be seen to be as GREAT as He is.
And as GOD as He is!

This text points us to the divinity of Christ! He is God!

And He is Savior!

He gave Himself for us to redeems us.

Grace Has Appeared to Redeem Us and to Refine Us Until He Returns For Us.

Praise His name!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

We're Off to See the Wizard!

We're taking our kids tomorrow to their first play (at least for the 6 of us).

Many of the kids in our church are involved in a Summer Youth Theater production of The Wizard of Oz (yes, and that little dog, Toto, too!).

Hope it's fun.

The Invisible Hand

Byron Harvey on God's providence.

He ends with these good discussion questions:
Five Good Questions
1. What practical differences does it make to know that the “invisible hand” of God is there, guiding our lives?

2. In what ways can you trace the invisible hand of God working in your life—before you were even born?

3. Does it strike you as unusual that the invisible hand of God can work even through your sin? Is there a “fine line” to walk between acknowledging that, on the one hand, and justifying or celebrating sin, on the other? How do we walk that line?

4. What kinds of boxes do people try to put God in? Have you ever been surprised by how God “broke out of your box”? Share that with the group.

5. What are some of the ways in which God has given you what you need at “just the right time”?
Read the whole thing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

CCEF Class Update (Again)

Coming down to the wire now.

Since I last wrote, I've been able to down 3 books. 1 more to go before I write paper #3. Then it's 4 more books and paper #4. All this in the next 2 weeks.

Keep praying! I've been working hard but not "stressing out." I really appreciate your prayers (as does my longsuffering wife...).

“Be not afraid of his sweet, lovely and desirable cross.”

RCO only blogs on Fridays now, but it's worth waiting for.

From today's post:
Let’s be appropriately suspicious of ourselves. Every day we face decisions that require us to die a little. We may find ourselves thinking a very human thought like, “Far be it from me, Lord! This shall never happen to me.” If we set our own preconditions on the Lord, we might hear him say to us, as in fact he said to no one less than the apostle Peter, “You are a stumbling block to me. You do not understand that new life always comes through death. If you want to follow me there, I welcome you to. But you’ll have to pick that cross back up again. Yes, that one. The one you just dropped to the floor.”

The cross is a safe place. In the dying words of the Scottish martyr John Nisbet, “Be not afraid of his sweet, lovely and desirable cross.”
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Always be killing sin or it will be killing you."

Dan Ledford continues his series on mortification of sin answering the why question.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fire on the Fourth



Sparklers at our friend's, the Schiefer's, house. Peter didn't get photographed with one.

More Four


Photo Essay - Big Boy Meets New Bike

This was the look on Peter's face when he saw his biggest birthday present this year:


Then he ran downstairs to check it out and...



Got right down to it!



Happy birthday 5 year old!




Matt's Messages "Applying the Gospel"

“Applying the Gospel”
Applying the Gospel: The Message of Titus
July 20, 2008
Titus 2:1-10

The title for our series is also the title of today’s message: “Applying the Gospel.”

The apostle Paul had left behind his friend and ministry partner Titus on the island of Crete to straighten out that which was left unfinished. He was “left behind to do what was left.”

And it appears that most of what hadn’t been done yet for the new and fledgling church on Crete was the establishing of leaders and the training of believers in the implications and applications of the gospel.

Last week, we learned about the qualifications for True Elders who would lead the church in faithfulness and about why True Elders are needed: the presence of false teachers who desire to lead the church astray.

Crete was known as an untrustworthy place to live, and Titus was charged with finding trustworthy elders to lead the church and instructing the new disciples in living their lives differently, changed by the gospel–applying the gospel.

And in our text for this morning, Paul gets specific. He names six different groups of people whom Titus is called to teach the application of the gospel: Older Men, Older Women, Younger Women, Young Men, Titus Himself, and Slaves.

Verse 1 is the key verse.

Titus, listen up! There false teachers everywhere you look. Crete is overrun with liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons.

But not you. That can’t be you. And it can’t be the church on Crete. Instead (v.1):

“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”

Notice that Paul does not say that he must teach sound doctrine. He does need to teach sound doctrine, and Paul will be telling him in next week’s passage and in chapter 3 what sound doctrine he needs to teach–the gospel, the good news of grace in Jesus Christ.

But that’s not what he says here in verse 1. He says that Titus needs to teach “what is in accord” with sound doctrine.

Or the KJV, “the things which become sound doctrine,” and that doesn’t mean the things that didn’t used to be and then became sound doctrine. It means the things that “become,” that go with, that accentuate, that affirm, that correlate, that accord with sound doctrine.

He means what we call “applications” or “implications”–the practical outworkings that go with the doctrine.

Titus needed to teach the believers, not just what was sound (or healthy) doctrine (or teachings), but he needed to teach them how to apply those truths to their lives so that their lives and their teaching were congruent, coordinated, compatible.

Their lives needed to match the gospel.

Let me put it this way: the church on Crete needed to be taught in specific, practical ways, that their lives needed to demonstrate that the gospel was true.

Their lives needed to match the gospel.

“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”

Applying the Gospel.

#1. TO OLDER MEN. Look at verse 2.

“Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.”

The first group that Paul lists are the older men perhaps because he’s already been talking about older men when he talked about elders in chapter 1.

Older men, are you listening?

You’re probably wondering who is an older man according to the Bible.

Well, I’ll let you figure that out, but this is what all men as they grow older should be aspiring to.

The King James Version says, “aged men,” but I don’t think you have to be elderly to aspire to these things.

There are four marks of a godly older man that Paul gives Titus in chapter 2. They are not everything that a godly older man should be, but they are each important.

1. “Temperate” which means clear minded and sober in judgment. A good, wise head on his shoulders.

2. “Worthy of Respect” which means dignified, the KJV has “grave” which means having some “gravitas” or being noble. Not that you can’t be humorous, but there is some decorum to your life, you are serious about the right things. You are not a fool and others can look up to you.

3. “Self-Controlled” which is Paul’s favorite word in this book. We’ll see it again and again and again. Being out of control is still a real temptation for older men–not just for younger ones.

4. And “Sound in Faith, Love, and Endurance.” An older man who is trusting, loving, and hoping, persevering in hope.

Older men, does this verse describe you (us?)?

Is this what you aspire to?

There is nothing said here about amassing wealth, or being feared in the corporate world, or having stuff that others want, or being free to golf all day long, or anything else that the world says should characterize an older man.

Instead, respectability and wisdom are what’s truly important. Being an example, someone that others can look up to. I see men like this all around this auditorium.

But if these verses don’t describe you, what needs to change? And how are you going to do it? We need to take this seriously. Our lives must match the gospel.

Older people are often overlooked in our society. But they are very important for the gospel in our culture, especially those who have believed the gospel for many years.

Because people are watching and need to see if gospel is true because of how it has changed people’s lives.

Older men, are your lives changed by the gospel? Or are you no different than the other men of our community?

#2. APPLYING THE GOSPEL TO OLDER WOMEN. V.3

“Likewise [like the older men, Titus], teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.”

You can see how we could easily have a sermon (or series of sermons) on each of these groups, each verse.

Here the older women are to be taught these four sets of behaviors:

#1. Reverent in the Way They Live. I call that “living a worshipful life.” This is the only place where this Greek word is used in the entire New Testament, but in the other places it’s used to describe priestesses–holy women. Gospel women are full of worship.

#2. Not Slanderers. This is not passing on negative gossip about people or talking people down. As I understand it, this is a major temptation for older women. And they don’t even know that they’re doing it, it’s so ingrained in the their nature and prized in the world. Can you keep your lips closed about someone?

#3. Not Addicted to Much Wine. Not given over to addictive substances. Not out of control (this one goes with self-control).

#4. Teaching What Is Good. Notice that older women have a job to do! They are called to be teachers. Not necessarily class-room teachers, but life-teachers. Mentors. Ones called to come alongside the younger women and teach them what is true.

Older ladies (and all of you ladies are older than someone!), does verse 3 describe you?

I’m glad that our church is full of women like this–older women that younger women can look up to and learn from.

The Lanse Ladies are awesome!

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. I think that that last one could be really expanded at our church. Where the older ladies take responsibility for teaching the younger ones.

That’s whose supposed to do it. Notice in verse 4 that Titus isn’t supposed to teach the younger ladies–not directly anyhow. He was probably a younger man, anyway, and that could have created some problems.

But Paul wisely tells him to teach the older women how to behave and what to teach and then they are to turn around and teach the younger women. V.4

“Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Ladies, do you have at least one younger lady in your life that you are doing this for?

I’m doing what Titus was supposed to do. I’m teaching you ladies right now that you are supposed to be investing in the next generation.

#3. APPLYING THE GOSPEL TO YOUNGER WOMEN.

And older ladies, this is your job! V.4 again.

“Then they can train the younger women to [#1] love their husbands and children, [#2] to be self-controlled and [#3] pure, [#4] to be busy at home, [#5] to be kind, and [#6] to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Notice the emphasis on relationships and reputations.

Younger women are to be trained in their relationships so that their reputations match their gospel.

#1. Love Their Husbands and Children. This is something that doesn’t necessarily happen naturally! It’s not talking about having affection for husband and children, though that’s wonderful. It’s talking about truly loving them–even when they are unlovable–and sometimes we husbands can be very unlovable!

#2. Be Self-Controlled. There it is again! Young ladies can be impulsive. Older ladies have to try to train them to not be.

#3. Be Pure. Young ladies, this would include what you take into your minds–what movies you watch, what internet sites you go to, what magazines you read, what songs you listen to on the radio. A lot of that of that stuff today is polluted, and you are called to be pure!

#4. Be Busy at Home. This doesn’t rule out work outside of the home, but it does reflect the biblical call upon a wife and mother to be home-centered. To make the house a home–full of love and care. To rule over the home and make it an effective and joy-filled place for husband and children.

#5. Be Kind. Younger ladies are not always kind.

#6. Be Subject To Their Husbands. Not to be subjected by their husbands, but to gladly submit to their Christ-like headship in the home.

These things don’t come naturally, but they are all implications and applications of the sound doctrine. So we need to teach them to the younger Christian ladies to makes sure that the gospel cannot be badmouthed.

Did you see the purpose statement at the end of verse 5?

Why is it important to teach these things to younger ladies? V.5

“...so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Our lives either confirm or deny the gospel that we proclaim.

Which will it be?

Younger ladies, do you have some older Christian women in your life that you are keying off of? That you are learning from how to be a godly gospel girl?

If not, seek one out today. An older ladies, seek them out, too.

This would be a perfect time for me to mention that we need some older ladies to participate in the Youth Girls Class on Wednesday nights this Fall. Some ladies that would come and invest in the next generation. If you are willing and interested, talk to me, Pastor Titus, after the service today...“so that no one will malign the word of God.”

#4. APPLYING THE GOSPEL TO YOUNG MEN.

In v.6, Paul turns from younger women to young men. He had 6 things for ladies to work on, and just one for the guys. V.6

“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.”

I don’t think he only mentioned one thing because the guys have all the rest mastered. I think he picked out the one that guys struggle with the most and said, “Work on this!”

“Encourage the young men to be self-controlled.”

To get a grip on yourself.

To control the temper.
To control the tongue.
To control the sexual appetite.
To control the ambition.
To control the greed.

To gain mastery over one’s own self–that’s the major project for young men.

Guys, how are we doing on this one?

Are you in control or out of it?

I said last week, and we’re going to see it again next week:

The gospel empowers us to be self-controlled.

You can have victory. You are not determined by your genes or your past behavior or by those around you.

You can get a grip on your self.

Jesus Christ died to not only pay for your sins but to give you the power to say “No” to those temptations when they come back around again.

#5. APPLYING THE GOSPEL TO CHURCH LEADERS.

Here it’s to Titus himself and by implication to those of us who lead in the local church. V.7

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. 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.”

#1.To be an example by doing what is good.

Church leaders have to set the tone.

We are not thermometers of spiritual health in the church. We are supposed to be thermostats.

If people are watching the believers, how much more are they watching the leaders?

#2. To teach with integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech.

Notice that the most important thing for church leaders (beyond living out the gospel) is teaching the gospel well.

And seriously. That doesn’t mean that we church leaders can’t have fun. But it does mean that we take that which is serious, seriously!

Or are we going to give the enemies of the gospel ammunition?

The enemies of the gospel are growing in number and force.

Atheism is on the rise again.
Radical Islam aims to conquer the entire world.
And every other false teaching wants a piece of the pie.

Church leaders must live out the gospel and soundly and seriously teach the gospel (v.8) “so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Not that they won’t say anything bad, but there won’t be anything to it.

This one applies doubly to me, and I hear the importance of walking the walk and practicing what I preach. I know that’s it’s important and I’m sorry for the ways that I have fallen short of this and desire to do better.

#6. APPLYING THE GOSPEL TO EMPLOYEES.

For Titus, it was slaves. But don’t think black-skinned men and women in the deep South before the Civil War.

This kind of slavery was a very different institution, not necessarily built on the back of man-stealing.

In many ways it was more like our employee-employer relationship. And that’s where I think the application is for us. V.9

“Teach 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, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

Titus was supposed to teach these folks to be model employees.

To be subject to their masters (their bosses).

To try to please them. To try to make your boss happy.

To not talk back to them. To treat employers with respect.

To not steal from them. Neither money nor time.

To show that they can be fully trusted. That servants impacted by the gospel are changed–and are trustworthy.

Christ-followers should be the best employees!

Employers should be excited to find out that their employees are believers in Christ.

Does that always happen? Do we always live up to verses 9-10?

How was your last week at work? Did you give them your all? Even if you don’t think they deserve it?

Is it important how we do our work?

You bet it is! Look at what’s at stake? The end of verse 10.

We need to be this kind of gospel people...”so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

What is the teaching about God our Savior?

It’s the gospel!

It’s the good news of Jesus Christ’s life and death and resurrection, paying the full penalty for my sins and rising from the dead to give me new life and new power to live a changed life!

But I’ve got to live that life so that the teaching is attractive!

Is this gospel true?

We know it is by the lives that are changed.

If you are currently investigating the gospel, then I invite you to look at the lives of the people in this room.

None of us are perfect. In fact, each of us is a wretched sinner.

But many of us have been rescued from that sin.

Not just from the penalty of that sin, but increasingly from its power.

Older men, older women, younger women, young men, leaders, and workers.

And our lives tell the story that this gospel is true.

It’s attractive. It matches.

Our lives match our teaching. We are living in accord with sound doctrine.

Applying the gospel.

And we invite you to join us.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

4 Big Years Old


Isaac is 4 today. My how the time flies! I have a friend who says, "The days go slow, but the years go fast." Here are some action shots of Isaac over the last few weeks, parades, sparklers, presents, and fun. Happy Birthday, big boy!

Parade Watchers

Posted by Picasa

The Fab Four



Recent photos from the 4th of July Parade. Isaac didn't like the loud trucks.

CCEF Class Update

As you can tell, faithful reader(s), I'm starting to get productive again before my CCEF Classes in August.


Good thing, as I only have 3 more weeks until the first day of class!

I still have 8 books and 2 articles to read and 2 major papers to write, so if you're thinking of me (and my poor wife), please pray for productivity and good time management.

CCEF Paper #2: Counseling & Physiology

Response to Listening to Prozac

“To Prescribe or Not to Prescribe?”

Reading Listening to Prozac is a fascinating experience. Peter Kramer’s book is something like “Darwin meets Freud meets Huxley,” and it raises a panoply of questions while giving few solid answers. At bottom, it’s a book on ethics. Should we prescribe Prozac-like drugs to people, especially people who were previously considered “normal?” Should we pharmacologically tinker with mood, temperament, personality, self? If so, when and why? What would be “doctorly,” and what would be right?

Kramer seems both ambivalent about Prozac and excited about it, too. He is breathless in his descriptions of the surprising ways Prozac and its pharmacological kin produce remarkable changes in patients with few side effects. And yet, he is the one who is raising the ethical questions that Prozac has created by changing the way we understand personality (for example: “cosmetic pharmacology”). Of course, I don’t see how Kramer could come to a firm conclusion on his questions with no transcendent standard of right and wrong.

“Listening...”

For Kramer, “listening to Prozac,” means changing the way that we (including researchers, practicing doctors, and patients) perceive the “self” and its problems. There is a shift from a mainly Freudian psychodynamic theory of personality (from which Kramer comes and is still most comfortable) to a biologically based “spectrum theory” of personality that comes from “listening” to the results of both pharmacological dissection and the surprising experiences of those who have been taking Prozac. It’s both (1) what does Prozac change in the brain, therefore telling us about what the brain is, as well as, (2) what does Prozac change in my sense of myself, therefore telling me more about who I am? And from there, Kramer insists that it is changing our entire culture’s sense of the self, for good or ill.

I wonder about a third kind of “listening”–the so-called “placebo effect.” How much of these remarkable changes in people’s experience can be chalked up to expectations from the medication–what they thought they would hear when they listened to Prozac? Would this, perhaps, explain some of why it seem efficacious for so many different kinds of problems?

“What is Depression, Really?”

I was amazed by the amount of speculation upon which the book was built. Kramer admitted that scientists don’t know really know what depression is–not just what causes depression, but physically speaking, what depression actually is. And they don’t know exactly what serotonin does, either. Perhaps it functions as the brain’s “police.” Perhaps it helps people experience pleasure. The book was theory built on theory. Yet for all of that speculation as to what’s actually going on in our craniums, here we are prescribing away! And Kramer, for all of his sophistication, doesn’t seem to see the irony of that. Instead, he believes that American doctors under-prescribe! I’m all for the alleviating of suffering, but this book didn’t build confidence that my psychiatrist actually knows what it is he’s doing.

“What Is Temperament, Personality, Character?”

In this book, the quest to figure out what exactly is temperament, personality, and character is what intrigued me the most (and Kramer, too, I think). What part of who I am is determined by biology (and therefore very malleable with a very small pill), what part is shaped by nurture, and what is part is created by my choices? Is there any part of “me” that is unchanging and eternal–a soul?

Kramer seems to posit a soft-determinism where we are biologically handed a temperament at birth, but our life’s experiences can help or hinder that temperament along (ex. a catastrophe, physical or mental, could damage or ruin the biology). Therefore, the solution to our problems is, first, medicine to repair the biology, and then, psychotherapy to understand the dynamics that led to the brokenness in the first place and cope in the future. Nothing is said about a soul, and yet, perhaps Kramer slips it in the last few words of the acknowledgments to his loved ones, “The drug will never be invented that sustains the spirit the way a family can” (pg. 405). Curious.

It seems that Prozac is shifting the boundaries of what we consider to be temperament, personality, and character–and even “self.” We are back to bodily humors, what Kramer whimsically calls “neurohumors,” as a way of talking about what makes us do what we do. I’m sure there is something to it, but I also know that we can’t abandon the eternal soul and the worship dynamics of the human heart.

“Prozac as Savior”

I found it fascinating that, in the last and summary chapter, Kramer’s main interlocutor is novelist Walker Percy, representing something of a Christian world-view. Kramer takes him seriously, but eventually dismisses Percy’s insistence on the reality of sin and the potential goodness of suffering. For as much as he deals with ethical choices, sin does not seem to be a living category for Kramer. He says that one (side?) effect of Prozac is the numbing of moral sensitivity, and that this may be a good thing!

With his stories of lives changed by a little pill, Kramer almost presents Prozac as Savior, or at least, as Prozac as Prophet (revealer of the secrets within). Of course, any alternative Savior to our Lord Jesus Christ will never truly save nor satisfy.

CCEF Paper #2: Counseling & Physiology

Summary & Response to Blame It On the Brain

Blame It on the Brain? is a biblical anthropology focusing on our dual body/soul nature applied directly to life problems that include a brain component. The focus of the book is using biblical categories to distinguish between spiritual and physical symptoms and to respond to each skillfully. It is a model of lucidity and helpfulness!

Welch’s goal is to carefully differentiate between disobedience/sin (which can be expressed on or represented by activity in the brain but not caused by it) and weaknesses/suffering (which can actually be caused by physical brain problems and tempt our hearts to sin). He then skillfully applies this biblical model to cases where the brain is definitely the cause (Alzheimer’s, Traumatic Brain Injury), perhaps a cause (depression, ADD), and definitely not the cause (homosexuality, alcoholism). And he gives practical tips for people to wisely walk with their loved ones through each of these and similar problems.

Most of my lingering questions are about practical theology:

How do we know if someone is sinning? In the chapter on Attention Deficit Disorder, Welch brings up the example of a boy jumping on tables in the cafeteria at school. He argues that this may or may not be sin, depending upon what rules the boy understands and even remembers. This is very helpful for not jumping to conclusions–the first step in each chapter was to carefully study the person to understand their experience. But exactly what factors do we need to take in before we can decide if someone is out of bounds and needs rebuked?

How to we balance suffering as a potential good and the desire to alleviate suffering? In the chapter introducing psychiatric problems, in one page, Welch points out the redemptive value of suffering (James 1:2-4) and also reminds us that the alleviation of suffering is generally a good thing. What other biblical principles balance these two things out?

How we talk to someone about their sin who is already struggling so much with their brain-oriented problems? This was especially true in the discussion of depression. I know that sin has an answer in the Cross of Christ, but it’s still hard to rebuke someone who is already laboring under a heavy load. What are helpful pathways to get into discussions of disobedience when the person you’re helping is suffering?

How do we counsel/help unbelievers? This book is brilliant and powerful for Christ followers, but what do we say to Non-Christians other than “Repent and believe” to help them through their similar problems? The chapter on Alzheimer’s talked how a believer has an “advantage” over a unbeliever in their responsiveness to God’s Word. After some consideration, that seems like a major understatement to me!

How do we know if it’s “okay” to be tempted in a particular way? In the section on addictions, Welch talks about deep change at the level of our temptations–which is terrific news (James 1:14-15). But not all temptations come from within. Jesus was tempted, yet never inappropriately felt the internal pull. How do we correctly talk about these things, especially as we deal with terrible tempters like brain disorders? It’s never okay to sin, but is it sometimes okay to be tempted?

What is now in my heart? In this re-reading, I was most struck by the sobering idea of my (now) innermost thoughts becoming revealed to my friends and family through some kind of brain weakness. What am I going doing to change what’s inside of me so that when it is revealed, there is no embarrassment to me or, more importantly, to my Savior?

Identity

Byron Harvey:

Identity determines destiny.

I’m talking about getting a Bible grip on what the Scripture says is true of you—and why it’s true of you, which is critically important. In our text today, Paul has an opportunity to tell his story, to identify himself to a howling mob intent on his execution.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Birthday Cake 2008



What a scarey dragon! Don't worry, though, we already cut off his head and ate him.

Birthday Party





Robin and Peter turned 8 and 5 last Saturday (and Isaac is soon to turn 4), so we had a birthday party with some precious friends.

CCEF Paper #2: Counseling & Physiology

Theological/Practical Issues in Ministry to Sufferers of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Where to start? What wouldn’t be a practical/theological issue in ministry to someone who suffered from an accident like Alan Forman had in Where Is the Mango Princess? As Ms. Crimmins says, everything changes. Maybe they wake up from their accident. Maybe they don’t. Even if they do, no one know how much they will recover or when or how changed they will be.

Can he/she understand? A crucial element in effective personal ministry is that the one being ministered to embraces some portion of gospel truth and learns to apply it to their life. Many brain injury patients never regain the level of cognition needed to understand the gospel and its implications. Even in those who are “high functioning” like Mr. Forman, it’s hard to tell if they really know what’s going on.

It’s not just with amnesia that they struggle; it’s also agitation, confusion, focus, distraction, loss of object permanence, disorientation. Mr. Forman was, for most of the book, “oriented in only one sphere.” He knew who he was, but not where he was or when he was. All of these problems led to cognitive fatigue. These cognitive realities will create major obstacles for sharing biblical truth with a brain injury survivor. Even if they are increasingly “clearing” (getting better oriented), does that mean that they truly “get it?” The gospel is powerful truth, but it must be understood to have its full effect. Much patience and grace will be needed to share the truth with the sufferer.

Can he/she communicate? Of course, most biblical counseling doesn’t start with talking–it starts with listening. According to our book, the brain injured can be very hard to listen to: dysarthria (slurred speech), disinhibition, lack of self awareness, withdrawal, incontinence, denial of paralysis, duplication of significant people, aphasia (inability to find the right words), and confabulation (making up a story around a kernel of truth). Can I trust what this person is saying? Can I really know what is in their heart to minister to them? What is this relationship going to look like? Personal ministry will require the virtues of Colossians 3:12-14 in large doses.

What does growth look like? This is the main question for the Christ-follower who survives a traumatic brain injury. What does progressive sanctification look like if you can’t organize your life? What does faith-working-in-love look like if you can’t manage your time, struggle to initiate and then complete tasks, or are unable to understand what is appropriate in a given situation? How do you know if you’re growing if you seem lost in an endless stretch of repetitions and “perseverations.” How can you take responsibility for your life and actions, under the gaze of God, if you can’t remember them? The temptations to anger and fear would be mountainous if you can’t quite understand what is going on around you.

The answer to these questions is probably pretty simple. True gospel growth will look different for a TBI survivor than it would for another Christ-follower. It will probably look like much smaller–but actually more significant–victories.

Will the family survive? Effective ministry to the survivor will include ministry to their loved ones. Ms. Crimmins writes that less than 25 percent of couples stay together after a traumatic brain injury citing stress on the family, costs of medicine, grief, being forced into new roles (parentification), loneliness (yet the other person is still there!). It’s just as hard for the family.

Reborn? The book indicates that the hardest thing to deal with (and the most interesting for thinking about brain/soul issues) is that the person who emerges from the trauma appears to be significantly different than the person they were before. Is this the “same” person? Can “characterological change” happen because of a TBI? Biblically speaking, I don’t think so. Character can only be permanently changed by being reborn by the Spirit of God (John 3:1-16).

[Read my short review of this book.]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

EFCA in the News

The new EFCA Statement of Faith made it into the online pages of Christianity Today this week. The article by Collin Hansen, which is concise and positive, captures the essence of what our leaders were trying to do with the revision:

It's Not Broke, So Fix It.

Knowing God

Dan Ledford is leading his church through the attributes of God. The first two sermons are up:

Knowing God: Who Is a Spirit
Knowing God: Who Is Infinite

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Matt's Messages "True Elders and False Teachers"

“True Elders and False Teachers”
Applying the Gospel: The Message of Titus
July 13, 2008
Titus 1:5-16

Last week, we briefly looked at the greeting section of this letter, this epistle. The letter is written from the Apostle Paul and to a man named Titus, who was a close ministry partner of Paul’s in his church-planting and church-establishing ministry.

Today, I’d like to give a title to our whole study of Titus and that is this: “Applying the Gospel: The Message of Titus.”

We’re going to see, in a second, that Paul had left Titus on a island called Crete that is in the Mediterranean. And the reason he had left him behind on Crete was to straighten out some things out that had not yet been finished in establishing the church on the island.

There was work still left to be done. Items still left to be checked off on the to-do list of establishing the church at Crete.

And Titus was the man. He was Paul’s apostolic representative left behind to straighten things out so that what was left got done. “Left behind to do what’s left.”

And it seems that most of what hadn’t gotten done yet was the training of the believers in the application of the gospel. Paul’s going to tell Titus to teach “what is in accord with sound doctrine.” And to stress the good news about Jesus Christ and how it affects people’s lives.

The picture I get when I read this letter is that Paul had reached some people for Christ, the church had begun, there were new believers and they had the basics, but they hadn’t yet gotten organized and they hadn’t yet been taught how what they now believed worked out in real life situations.

So that’s what Titus is left at Crete to do.

And the first thing on Paul’s left-to-do list for Titus is to recognize and install elders in the local church. What we’re going to call today “True Elders” [Following John Stott in his helpful little book on The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (The Bible Speaks Today).]

That’s in verses 5 through 9. And then in verses 10 through 16, we’re going to see why these True Elders are needed. It’s because of False Teachers. “True Elders and False Teachers.” Let’s read it together and then see how this applies to us today.

[scripture reading, prayer]

The first thing that Titus was called to do was to find some godly men and get them into church leadership. V.5

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”

Paul hadn’t gotten a group of elders together before he had to leave Crete. Titus was called to find godly men to be elders, train godly men to be elders, and install godly men as elders.

The elders in the New Testament are those men who are called upon to lead the local church. They are like, in our church, our “combined Leadership Board.” V.7 says that they are “entrusted with God’s work.” That is, they lead the charge for the church. And their work is very important–it’s God’s work. 1 Timothy 5 says that they “direct the affairs of the church.”

They are not more important than any other member of the local church in and of themselves, but their role or function is crucial, and it’s very important to find the right kind of men to do the job.

I’m thankful for the godly men who serve on our combined leadership board here. This last Tuesday night, one of them said that I’ve had a pretty ideal situation here in the first 10 years. And he’s absolutely right.

We don’t need a Titus here to hunt for godly men to lead the church. They are right here in front of us.

But I also said a couple of weeks ago that we need “younger elders” as we train the next generation of church leadership. And that’s true, too.

Remember that I said that I’m on the lookout for you? Younger men? That I want to meet with you and help you to be what you should be. I see a large part of my job description as equipping men to be elders.

I believe that every man should aspire to be the kind of man that Titus was looking for.

Not that every man ends up functioning as a elder in a local church, with the “office” of elder, but that every man’s desire is to be this kind of a man.

Not just a “man’s man,” but a “God’s man.”

And ladies, this is what you should be looking for in a godly husband and praying for in the young men in your life, if you are a mom or a grandma or a aunt. This applies to you, too. We should all be hoping and praying for these things in the lives of the men of our families and church.

It’s interesting to me that one of the extraordinary things about the qualifications for being an elder is that they are not that extraordinary!

They are mainly character qualifications. Who we are at heart. How we conduct ourselves. Not how gifted we are or what credentials we have.

But who we are.

Are we True Elders?

I can remember when God first put it into my heart to be this kind of a man. It was about 17 years ago in my first semester at Moody Bible Institute. It was the first time that these verses had jumped out at me. I remember being shaken with the question, “What kind of man does God want me to be?” And in response, I wrote these verses and the similar ones in 1 Timothy 3 on the side of a box and put them on a shelf in my room right at eye-level above my bed. So that whenever I laid in my bed and my eyes drifted around the room, they would eventually land upon these verses.

A constant reminder of God’s will for my life. And slowly, I began to want what God wants for me.

Let’s see in verses 6-9 what an True Elder must be.

#1. A TRUE ELDER MUST BE FAITHFUL AT HOME. V.6

“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”

Now the catch-all phrase to describe a true elder is “blameless.” But that doesn’t mean “perfect” or “flawless.” Who could be an elder if that’s what it meant? Only Jesus!

The word “blameless” means “unaccused.” It means having a good reputation. It means that those who know you know that you are a, True Elder, a faithful man, a godly man.

That there is nothing in your life that calls into question your leadership.

It doesn’t mean that people won’t still talk about you. It just means that you haven’t given them something to talk about!

And here, it’s in regard to your family.

A True Elder Is Faithful at Home.

First, with his wife, if he has one. The NIV translates it “the husband of but one wife.”

I would translate the Greek here: “A One-Woman Man.”

I don’t think it’s talking here about marital status. It’s talking about fidelity to your wife. It’s talking about purity of mind and heart. And a single-focused-ness.

It’s a character word. If you are married, then you are married to that one woman. She is your focus. She is your wife and no one else is! She’s your main squeeze. You don’t pursue intimate relationships with other women either physically or emotionally! You don’t entertain lustful thoughts about other women. You are a one-woman man.

If you aren’t married yet, then you aren’t “a ladies’ man.” Believe it or not, this was one area that God had to really get a hold of me in. I’ve told some of you before that same first semester at Moody, I earned the label, “The Chick Magnet.” And I was proud of it back then. But I was completely un-focused in my search for a soul-mate. My heart was scattered over two countries and several young ladies. And I was leading them all on a wild goose chase. It was irresponsible and unhealthy for everyone involved.

And God had to clean me up and make me a one-woman man. And I’m glad that one woman is here today!

Because if I was that same man, I couldn’t lead you here. I wouldn’t be True Elder. Because my thoughts and my actions were unhealthily unfocused and double-minded.

What about you, men? Could you be described as a one-woman man? Or are you distracted by that lady at work? Do you have a female friend that you are closer to than your wife? Who is the queen of your thought life? What’s your reputation with women?

A True Elder is faithful at Home, a one-woman man.

And a True Elder is faithful with his children, too. Especially faithful to teach and train them.

The NIV translates verse 6 as, “a man whose children believe...” but I think that the King James is a better translation here. It says, “having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.”

The word could mean that all elders’ children must believe the gospel, but that seems to be out of the hands of a father to me especially if the children are not old enough yet to understand the gospel or out of the house and out of our sphere of responsibility.

I think this is asking the question of whether or not the man’s children, in the home, obey him and are faithful to him–and are not out of control. [Following the thinking and scholarship of D.A.Carson.]

It’s a question of teaching and training. Does this man do that? Does he discipline his children in love?

You can tell a lot from a man’s family.

#2. A TRUE ELDER MUST BE FAITHFUL IN HIS LIFE AND MINISTRY. Verses 7 and 8.

“Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless [there’s that word again. Not perfect but clearly godly and an example to others. V.7]–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”

Verse 7 talks about temptations that all men deal with.

We are all tempted to be overbearing (prideful), quick-tempered (angry), given over to our pleasures and desires (like strong drink or other addictive past-times), using our strength to overpower others (violent), and our love of money.

If verse 6 talked about controlling our children, verse 7 talks about controlling ourselves.

Verse 8 uses the word “self-controlled.” Paul uses that word several times in this short letter. We’re going to see it again and again.

The gospel empowers us to be self-controlled.

Men, do you need work in this area? I know that I do.

I know that some of you don’t like hearing about the continuing saga of my battle with gluttony, but I think it’s important for me to publicly share what I’m struggling with and commit to being a True Elder.

I have gained back 13 of the 25 pounds that I lost last year. And it’s directly related to my self-control.

I want to be blameless, someone for you to follow. And I know that I need repentance and forward movement on this or I won’t be a True Elder.

Men (and women, too), what area of your life do you need to wrestle under control?

We’re going to come back to that several times in next month. Ask God to show you what changes need made so that you’re faithful in this area.

Faithful in life. And faithful in ministry. V.8

“Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”

True Elders are hospitable. They use their resources in ministry–whether those resources are a home or whatever. If it is a home, they open their home and love people with their home.

And they love what is good. They love righteousness and seeing righteousness done.

Now, one of the hard things about being a True Elder is that you have a hard time figuring out if you are one on your own.

I mean, what humble godly guy is going to say, “I think I’m hospitable, loving what is good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Choose me to be your elder!”

Not many!

It is possible to have confidence that God has worked these things in your life [It’s definitely possible to know if you WANT to be a man like this], but most of the time, we need someone to recognize these qualities in us and point them out to others.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad that our church is congregational in form of government. Together, we get to recognize who are the True Elders among us and affirm them in leading us.

#3. TRUE ELDERS MUST BE FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL TRUTH. V.9

“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.”

This is, arguably, the most important thing that elders do in their function as church leaders in new covenant churches.

They teach the truth of the gospel and defend the truth of the gospel.

The gospel has been given to us as a sacred trust. Here is it called “a trustworthy message.”

And elders (and all church leaders, too, but especially elders) must be faithful to it.

“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught...”

We are not allowed to change it!

I told you a last week about the new EFCA Statement of Faith.

If our leaders had been trying to change the truth, then I and we should have had no part of it!

But they weren’t. They were restating in new and (I believe) stronger words the unchanging truth of the gospel.

Here’s why that’s important (v.9 again): “...so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

The truth of the gospel is encouraging to those who believe it and needs defending against those who don’t.

In verses 10 through 16, we find out why these True Elders are so needed.

The first reason is that #1. THERE ARE LOTS OF FALSE TEACHERS OUT THERE. V.10

“For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.”

Notice that very important word: “FOR.”

Why are True Elders needed? Because there are false teachers.

Paul says that these teachers are “mere talkers” that is they don’t really believe what they’re saying. And “deceivers,” that is, they’re trying to get you to believe what they say.

And he singles out the “circumcision group.” Remember those guys from our study of Philippians during Family Bible Week? Paul called them the dirty dogs!

What were they teaching?

That it’s Jesus plus what I do that achieves my standing with God.

Yes, Jesus, sure. But Jesus plus my performance. Jesus plus something I do (like get circumcised or take on the yoke of obedience to the Law). Jesus plus something I do (my works)–gets me a ticket to heaven.

But Paul says that’s no gospel at all! How many good works are going to be required?

Can you keep the Law in every detail?

Can you add to what Christ has already done?

No! He says (v.11), “They must be silenced.”

He’s not talking about killing them. He’s talking about defending the gospel against them so that their false gospel is shown to be what it is!

There are lots of false teachers out there today.

Just turn on the T.V.

Just read your newspaper.

Paul believes that the way to silence false teaching is to raise up True Elders.

Why is this important? Because doctrine matters!

#2. FALSE TEACHING RUINS FAMILIES. V.11

“They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households [which was the family, plus the family business really] by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” Watch the money.

Notice how much doctrine matters.

If you come to believe the wrong things, it will affect your life.

And if you come to believe the wrong things enough, it will ruin your life and your family.

We have got to maintain our grasp on biblical truth or our lives will come crashing down around us.

And the church needs protected. That’s one of the chief reasons why we need True Elders.

That’s one of the reasons why I am here. I want to serve you in this regard, helping you to see what is true and what is false in the teaching out there.

If you have a question about some person you see on television or hear on the radio or a book you’re reading or someone else is reading, I’d be glad to help you to identify truth or error. Because it matters. It really matters.

Right now there is a widely popular book out called “The Shack.” And I guess everyone is reading it. It’s supposedly Christian and has helped many people in their faith. I don’t doubt their sincere intentions, but I’m concerned about it.

I haven’t read it yet, I can’t read everything (try as I might), but from what I’ve read about it, it’s a harmful book for the people of God. Beware it.

The same is true of what comes from the church of Oprah. In the last year, she has pushed a book that claims to be compatible with Christianity called “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. Beware that book.

I could go on. False Teachers are out there and believing false teaching ruins families.

Understand! False teaching doesn’t always sound false. Sometimes it comes with a beautiful face and a big smile. But the inside of it is ugly and will harm you.

These false teachers had figured out a way to profit from it. They were prophets for profit. Which is a temptation of Christian leadership that the New Testament often addresses. V.11 calls it “dishonest gain” or (KJV) “filthy lucre.”

Which was “business as usual” on the island of Crete. V.12

“Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.”

The folks that lived in Crete had a reputation! And it wasn’t a good one. That’s why it was important to find Cretans that didn’t act like Cretans to be True Elders for the church.

Titus was to rebuke those who were trying to infiltrate the new church with false teaching so that they didn’t get caught up in ruinous doctrine.

That doctrine, it seems, included Jewish myths and probably dietary and ceremonial rituals imposed on believers (v.14) “the commands of those who reject the truth.” V.15

“To the pure [pure at heart], all things are pure [including ceremonially pure], but to those who are corrupted [at heart] and do not believe, nothing is pure [you’ve got to follow these rules and they won’t save!]. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

Those are strong words.

And they highlight the third and last reason why True Elders are needed.

#3. BECAUSE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW THE LORD.

These folks CLAIM to know God, but their actions deny Him.

Do you know folks like that?

Unfortunately, I think that the West Branch area is full of people like that.

They claim to know God, they have a religious affiliation, but they aren’t living as faith-followers of Christ, having believed the gospel of GRACE and know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

People Need to Know the Lord!

It’s the only way for them to NOT have their minds and consciences corrupted!

If you don’t know the Lord yet, then I urge you to come to Him.

Turn from the false teaching that this world offers.

It’s Cretan! It’s just words and deceptive and empty and dangerous.

And turn to Jesus Christ.

He died on the Cross as the perfect sacrifice for your sins.

And everything He did is everything you need! You don’t have to add to it to get to heaven.

Turn and trust in the Savior. He’s a wonderful savior!

You need to know Him.