Saturday, August 8, 2020

7 behaviors of a genuine Christian Life

Read Titus 3.

Consistently, the Apostle Paul urged that sound Christian belief will always show itself in sound Christian behavior.  A profession of faith is to lead to performance of faith.  And, if that performance of a changed behavior is not seen, then it is time to call into question whether or not that person is a genuine believer at all.

As one tire manufacturer used to state in their advertisements, "This is where the rubber meets the road."

In verses 1-2, all those who know Jesus regularly need these seven reminders.
1. We are to be submissive to authorities.
This is a heart attitude of humility and respect for those who are in positions over us.  These would include government leaders, police officers, game referees, or a boss at work.  The same expectation was mentioned in 2:5 and 2:7.

2. We are to be obedient. 
This is the action of true submission.  Rebellion and disobedience begins in an unsubmissive heart and then acts out in a violation.  A person of integrity shows congruity between one's attitude and actions.

3. We are to be ready for every good work.
This is not referring to just being busy but it is the eagerness to what is right.  In 3:8, Paul instructed Titus "to insist on these things so that those who believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works." 

4. We are to speak evil of no one.
To malign someone is the practice of hurting others by slander.  Gossip and slander have split more churches than false teaching.  It is the coward's way of not dealing with real issues.  Jesus, Paul and James warn that God holds everyone accountable for their words.

5. We are not to be quarrelsome.
It is one thing to disagree.  It is quite another to be contentious.  Ephesians 4:2-3 states that our words are to be characterized "with all humility and gentleness with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

6. We are to be gentle.
When problems do arise (and they will) we are to handle those in disagreement and their issues with gentleness.  According to Galatians 5:23, gentleness is a result of the Holy Spirit being in control.

7. We are to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
The bully, the self-centered, the angry person, or the unthinking will only see themselves as important.  As a follower of Christ, when we interact with others, we must be considerate of their feelings and respectful of their viewpoints.  This is especially true when hard decisions must be made.  While it is impossible to please everyone, we always want to treat people with kindness.


Friday, August 7, 2020

The key to spiritual Health

 Read Titus 2.

"But as for you"

Ignore the chapter division that was added later.  Paul had just finished obliterating false teachers.  Now, in stark contrast, he commands that "sound doctrine" be taught.  The Greek word translated "sound" means "healthy".  In other words, teaching the Scriptures is what people need for spiritual health. 

Next, five categories of people in the congregation are addressed.  If they are to be spiritually healthy, these are the demonstrable behaviors of each.  No matter our age or station in life, followers of Jesus are to model certain qualities of character and responsibility.  " that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior." (v.10b)  Healthy doctrine is not just for our information.  It is intended to change our lives in such a way that others actually see the difference.

The results of putting our healthy spiritual beliefs into practice are signs of the grace of God at work.  There are three of these effects mentioned in verses 11-14.
1. "Bringing salvation for all people."
Personally experiencing God's grace means I am delivered from the PENALTY of sin.  "There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)  It is the message of Jesus, brought to us by the grace of God, which saves humans from an eternity in hell to eternal life.  That is not merely good news; that is great news!

2. "Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions."
Personally experiencing God's grace means I am being delivered from the POWER of sin.  Grace is "the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life."  In other words, when God does a work on the inside, there will be some noticeable changes on the outside.  Once we truly encounter the grace of God we can never be the same.  His goal is to "purifying for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (v.14).

3. "Waiting for our blessed hope."
Personally experiencing God's grace means I will one day be delivered from the PRESENCE of sin.  A true believer in Jesus does not secure their hope in this life.  This life is temporal at best.  The deterioration of morality and the increasing conflicts in the world, of course, concern us.  But we have read the last chapters of the Book and know how this story will end.  Our hope is in the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.  It is He, the Prince of Peace, who will rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.  It is this promise of "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" that gives us daily hope.

Jesus said, "I will come again." (John 14:3).  The spiritual health of a church is dependent upon this teaching.  Our personal spiritual health is dependent upon living as if we may see Jesus, one way or another, even today.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Evaluating Leadership

Read Titus 1.

Titus had been a devoted colleague of the Apostle Paul and a faithful man.  Here, Paul referred to him as "my true child in a common faith", which may indicate that Paul led him to Christ.  Titus was sent to Crete to oversee and develop the ministry "in every town".  To say the assignment was difficult may be an understatement.  However, the challenges Titus faced are not unlike what most every godly pastor of a local church faces while serving the people and preaching the truth of God's word.

Two internal items needed immediate attention.
1. To organize the ministry by appointing qualified leaders. (vv.6-9)
Too often, people are asked to serve for reasons other than these godly characteristics. The world wants to separate one's private life from their public life.  Yet, it is the person's character that qualifies, or disqualifies, them as a leader.  When a person separates conduct from character, their leadership will be corrupt 100% of the time.

The instruction from Paul is simple.  There are no organization charts or job descriptions.  Leaders are to be the number one servers.  Instead, in far too many churches, leaders have followed a secular model of trying to be board members, decision makers, and regulators.  The word elder by definition means older.  These leaders were recognized and to be appointed because of their experience and maturity in the faith.

2. To defend against false teachers. (vv.10-16)
Rather than tolerate them or hold a vote on whether to accept them, the Holy Spirit of God had Paul instruct otherwise.
"They must be silenced." (v.11)
"Rebuke them sharply." (v.13)
The failure of pastors and denominations in obeying the Scriptures by taking this action always results in liberalism and down fall.  They no longer truly represent Jesus and the word of God.

False teachers are characterized in four ways.
A. They teach myths.  Their rituals and made up traditions are taught to the people by routine, instead of the truth.
B. They value popular opinion.  Their cues for belief and behavior come from "the commands of people", rather than the written word of God.
C. They have defiled their thinking.  As these false teachers have rejected the truth, their "minds and consciences" have become desensitized.  Sin, in themselves and others, no longer bothers them.
D. They are hypocrites.  They say certain vocabulary words to sound Christian, but their lives broadcast an opposite message.
E. They are unfit to represent Christ.  Paul called them "detestable, disobedient".
We must know the truth of the God's word in order to evaluate leadership and to be discerning.  We must be sure that we are daily conforming ourselves to God's expectations.  Godliness is not a position in the church but a reflection of our relationship with Christ.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The last words of a faithful Man

Read 2 Timothy 4.

Collections of famous last words have been compiled in books and inscribed on cemetery headstones.  This chapter contains those of the Apostle Paul.

He knew death was near.  Paul likened it to the Old Testament drink offering that the priest poured out on the brazen altar (v.6).  That sacrificial gift to God was part of Israel's worship.  In Romans 12:1, he had written that believers are "to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."  Now, at this point, Paul sensed his last drops were being poured.

He evaluated his life and service for Christ in three statements. (v.7)
1. "I have fought the good fight."
Paul wrote of his sufferings in every chapter of this letter.  Life is not easy.  Following Jesus does not equal peace and tranquility.  "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12)  Contending for the faith (Jude 3) is part of what it means to serve Jesus.  The believer is not to be objectionable but, in this spiritual war, the message will be to some.

2. "I have finished the race."
Paul knew his assignment.  God called him to take the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles.  He spent his life traveling through the provinces of the Roman Empire winning souls to Christ and planting churches.  He trained and established leaders in each place.  He mentored and commissioned many others to go as well.  Timothy was just one among them.  But, here, he sensed that he had accomplished his life's purpose.  He had finished well.

3. "I have kept the faith."
Life and ministry was never about Paul.  It was always about Jesus.  Through all the hardships, persecutions, rejections, beatings, and perils his faith only grew stronger.  The word of God was the anchor of his soul.

One day, Christ will "judge the living and the dead" (v.1).  In the final analysis, that is the only evaluation of a life that counts.  Jesus told in the parable of the talents that faithful servants were rewarded with a hearty "Well done!"  Paul looked forward to a "crown of righteousness".   He was confident of that award.  But such commendation is not only for those like the Apostle Paul.  That crown is for all who live in the light and love of the return of Jesus (v.8).


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Is the Bible really Necessary?

Read 2 Timothy 3.

Cecil Dichard once said, "Give me a Bible and a candle and shut me up in a dungeon and I will tell you what the world is doing."

The opening paragraph of this chapter is as relevant as if it had been penned this morning.  How is that possible?  In 2,000 years human nature has not changed one bit.  The Apostle Paul lists nineteen qualities of bad character.  One would expect such descriptions to be of those who were against religious beliefs.  But the sad truth is Paul refers to some pretenders influencing the church.  "...having an appearance of godliness, but denying its power." (v.5) 

These false teachers, who have been cited previously, are counterfeits.  They use some of the same vocabulary but what they communicate is, in fact, not God's word.  Gullible, needy, and vulnerable people become their prey in order to gain a following (v.6).

"BUT AS FOR YOU..." In verse 14, the charge begins.  Genuine followers of Christ are marked by two indispensable characteristics:
1. Belief in Jesus based upon the Scriptures. (v.15)
"The sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

2. Behavior based upon the Scriptures. (vv.16-17)
"All Scripture is breathed out by God"- That statement makes the Bible an inerrant, infallible source of what God wants us to know.  It is the final written authority to which a believer submits.
"...and is profitable"-The benefits in understanding and applying the word of God will be demonstrated in a changed life.  The value of the Bible includes teaching (for right belief), reproof (for wrong belief), correction (for wrong behavior), training in righteousness (for right behavior).

"SO THAT..."  There are two purposes for God giving us the Scriptures.
1. That a person of God "may be complete".  Without saturating one's life in God's word there will always be a lack in belief and in behavior.
2. That a person of God "may be equipped for every good work."  Without a solid Scriptural foundation our activities will soon lose their God-given mission.  Ministry will become philanthropic at best rather than eternally transformational in the lives we serve.


Monday, August 3, 2020

6 keys to Endurance

Read 2 Timothy 2.

Dr. Henrietta Mears served as the Christian Education Director at her church for 35 years.  She directly influenced Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Christian publishing, Christian camping, world missions, and countless other ministries.  In one of her biographies, when asked the secret to her success, the answer was her 35 years.  Obviously, it took much more than longevity, but her endurance in using what God gave her changed the world to this day.

The Apostle Paul admonished Timothy to "be strengthened" as he served the Lord.  Paul used his own example of endurance in ministry, despite his suffering and imprisonment (vv.9-10).  Then, he encouraged Timothy with six keys to strengthening his character no matter the hardships.
1. By the grace of God. (v.1)
At the heart of living for Jesus is the recognition that everything belongs to Him.  Our existence, our salvation, our gifts, our opportunities, those whom we serve, and the results are all His.  Therefore, He alone receives the glory.  We serve with great gratitude and humility that the God of heaven would use us in His work.
2. By word of God. (v.2)
Paul faithfully taught and mentored Timothy according to the Scriptures.  Only by knowing and applying what God has said do we live lives pleasing to Him.  "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
3. By remaining focused on the assignment. (vv.3-4)
He compared this to the duty of a soldier.  The soldier preparing for battle cannot allow himself to become distracted by other pursuits.  Knowing what God wanted him to accomplish, Paul wrote, "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on..." (Philippians 3:13)  But the prize of victory awaits.
4. By refusing to take shortcuts. (v.5)
An athlete who cheats will be disqualified from competing.  He must know what is expected and discipline himself accordingly.  First and foremost, this a character issue.  Second, it requires strenuous, private preparation.  Natural ability will only carry an undisciplined athlete so far before an embarrassing end.  But a crown of victory awaits.
5. By working hard. (v.6)
Without a full-on commitment to the required tasks in a timely manner, there will be no chance of success in the harvest.  Farming involves early rising and long days during the seasons of planting, cultivating, and reaping.  But the fruit of the labor awaits.
6. By maintaining purity. (vv.20-21)
The usability of a vessel is not found in the material but in its cleanliness.  A dirty gold cup will not be selected.  A clean, rugged, wooden mug may be picked instead.  In regards to being used by God, Dr. Crawford Loritts is famous for saying, "The price is purity."  "If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work."


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Using what God gave Us

Read 2 Timothy 1.

According to 1 Corinthians 12, every believer in Jesus has been gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve the Lord effectively.  Paul encouraged Pastor Timothy by reminding him of the foundations of the faith and his stewardship of what God had given to him.

Timothy had been blessed with a godly heritage.  But the faith of someone else will never suffice for us to be pleasing God.  This chapter contains the core of what it means to live as a true follower of Christ.

1. He saved us and called us. (v.9)
No one experiences God's forgiveness and receives eternal life by their own doing or willfulness.  Salvation is a free gift of God's grace solely because of individual faith in Christ.  This was God's plan all along.  It is a "holy calling" from the Lord when a person understands and responds to the Gospel message.  An individual's salvation fulfills God's "own purpose".  He has a plan and a purpose for each individual life.  "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works..." (Ephesians 2:10)

2. He appointed us. (v.11)
God has an assignment for each of us.  Paul's appointment was to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher.  1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that believers are sovereignly given different gifts, different ways in which we use our gifts, and different opportunities to employ those gifts.  In other words, everyone is not the same.  It is the responsibility of the believer to discover how God has made them and complete their assignment where God has placed them.

This does not come naturally.  Paul had to remind Timothy to "fan into flame the gift of God" (v.6).  It is our job to build upon what God has started.  If we are fearful and lack confidence in moving forward in serving Christ, understand that such fear does not come from the Lord (v.7).  Literally, the Greek word is cowardice.  What the Holy Spirit has provided instead, and will be evident when we submit to Him, is His power, His love, and His ability in our self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

3. He entrusted us. (v.12)
All of these provisions from God become a personal stewardship.  He is the Owner.  We are the managers of what He has given to us.  Paul's situation at this writing was an embarrassment to some.  He was in prison.  He could have been overcome with depression due to being so limited and accomplished nothing.  What refreshed his hope was the strong truth that God was in control of his circumstances.  On that day when he would stand before the Lord and give an account of his stewardship, it would be with confidence.  "For I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me."  Paul recognized that God had placed him there for a reason and he would use the time to do what he could to further the Gospel.  Indeed, while incarcerated, he wrote multiple books of the New Testament and shared the message with untold numbers of people he would have never met otherwise.

These things are trusts that God has allowed us to enjoy for the eternal benefit of others.  The question is, "What are we doing today with what God has given to us?"