Quote: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” This quote is from movie Batman Begins but it could also be a summary of the Bible book of Titus. The quote is an indicator of identity = our actions speak louder than our words. We can give lip service to being a Christian but if our life’s works do not support our words then we have failed to understand genuine faith in Jesus Christ.
The book of Titus teaches us letter about living for the glory of God and the good of others. The letter is a series continuation about being participants of the “Household of God” and members of God’s church. While the letters to Timothy were about ministry in an established church, the letter to Timothy was about mission in a church plant. Every church is in a battle for the kingdom of God and Paul wrote to these church leaders to encourage and equip them to advance the king’s glory. Another way at distinguishing these letters is that while Timothy was a soldier in the war, Titus was on the front lines of Jesus’s mission. Paul started a church next door to hell instead of a suburb of heaven… best place to do ministry is among sinners not self-righteous.
- Crete notorious pagans – verb “kretizo” meant to be a liar, immoral, and gluttons for corruption (cf. Titus 1:12).
- Crete was a large island off Greece coast. It was a strategic hub of land in the Mediterranean Sea between Israel, Middle East, and onward into Europe and beyond.
- The gospel advanced because of Paul’s efforts to confront problems and counsel a pathway toward health in the church. Likewise, churches that are needing revitalized must come to a point of decision to confront issues and consider new paths towards health.
- Likely converted under Paul as he calls him “my true son in our common faith” (Titus 1:4).
- Accompanied Paul in mission journeys (2Cor 2:12-13; 7:5-7, 13-15; 8:6, 16-24; Gal 2:1-3). Upon leaving Timothy in Ephesus, Paul traveled with Timothy to island of Crete to spread the gospel & start churches.
- Titus 1:5 “The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and to appoint elders in every town.”
- Titus 1:16 “[Cretans] claim to know God but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work.”
- Titus 2:14 “[Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works.”
- Titus 3:1, 8, 14 “be ready for every good work… This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone… Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works for pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.”
Our approach will start with the end.
- Titus 3:1-8 with emphasis on life outside the church.
- Titus 2:11-14 with emphasis on life through the church.
- Guest with Mark Dooley
- Titus 2:1-8 with emphasis on a church family growing godly generations surrounding the church.
- Then onward into the fall we will commence a series on the first few chapters of Revelation to continue stirring our church toward revitalization in light of the greatness of God and the glory of Christ’s return.
EXAMINE Titus 3:3-8 3 reflections for The Church’s Culture
Reflect on our condition.
Paul reminds Titus to help the people remember what life was like before they became Christians. He lists seven descriptions of humanity’s condition apart from Christ.
1) Foolish (ἀνόητος: means ignorance or inability to understand). In other places Paul describes unbelievers as having a depraved thinking (Rom 1:21-22). Fools reject God as their creator because they reject Jesus as their master. “This is the verdict: The light has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
It’s like the person who is argumentative on every topic and you cannot persuade to a different perspective.
à We can overcome foolishness by not closing mind/heart to Jesus; only a fool stops listening and learning.
2) Disobedient. The law of God (10 Commands) reveals how we fall short in our actions. Jesus takes it a step forward to show how we fall short in our heart (pride = idolatry, anger = murder, lust = adultery, covet = stealing, etc.). Further, Jesus presents disobedience not just wrongful actions and attitudes committed but inaction toward doing what is right (Mt 21:28-32).
Imagine having a recording device around our necks and every time we made reference to what others should do/not then that became the standard to which God held us at the judgment seat. The point is, regardless if it is God’s standard or some made-up human standard, we are all disobedient sinners.
à We overcome disobedience by not having a soft or shallow perspective of sin.
Charles Spurgeon: “Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Savior. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honour of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed.”
– Don’t coddle sin, kill it. Resolve not to quench the Spirit but to cultivate authenticity before God.
3) Led astray. Paul describes our condition as being deceived. This does not imply innocence from our decisions and give us the freedom to blame others. Too often we blame our issues on others; “I was just with the wrong crowd.” True, but you still had a choice; so we are easily deceived because our mind doubts and our heart drifts from God.
Like Adam & Eve who had all the good in the world, but they still were self-deceived to sin against God and reap consequences. Additionally, humanity has inherited that sin nature so that no one has to teach us to sin, it is innate and we all are guilty before God – just look at children: Do we have to teach them to sin or does it just happen?
à Overcoming self-deception requires accountability and confession with other Christians.
Like the game we played as kids “What are you thinking now?” It’s fun as kids but then you get older and you don’t want to admit what you’re thinking. We learn to hide what is in our heart – inside we are sick with sin, rotting our souls and spiritually dying. But bible calls us to confess sin to experience healing (Psalm 32:5; James 5:16: 1Jn 1:9).
à Also why Paul emphasized removing false teachers and reflecting sound doctrine.
4) Slaves to various passions and pleasures. We are all slaves to something, or even addicts to our appetites. Our cravings and yearnings toward pleasing the flesh are strong and can be a daily fight if our passions are harmful or unhealthy in abundance.
The human heart is like a hunter. As a hunter will track its prey to consume food, so we pursue our passions to satisfy ourselves. Unfortunately, our souls are sick (Jer 17:9) and without transformed passions we will be slaves to sin. God created humans with desires for good and passions for Him, but we have made god-substitutes, consuming what will never satisfy and what ultimately destroys us.
Our culture says following God’s ways restricts our passions and makes us unhappy. But consider the fish made to swim the open sea and not fly in the air; if it were set free out of the water for which it wasn’t made, it would die in swift moments. Likewise, people were made with passions that can only be satisfied in God.
C. S. Lewis said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important.” In other words, we must set our passions and priorities for things that matter for all eternity.
5) Passing our days in malice and 6) envy, 7) hated by others and hating one another.
Paul describes the person living without Christ as empty inside – morally, emotionally, and relationally. While the unbeliever may not believe in God, they still have a functional savior they place trust and hope. However, their gods will disappoint and cause dissension. The earthly things we idolize, we eventually will demonize; we will turn our passions of love into angst and hate. People and things are not meant to carry the weight of our fullest hopes and affections.
Like a bridge with a sign that reads “maximum weight limit,” we must avoid driving all our cargo and baggage expecting fragile bridges to sustain us. Ex JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy with the ring “my precious” When LOTR was published in 1950’s a woman wrote Tolkien, saying she loved the books but objected to one thing – the Dark Lord would never put all his power into a simple ring; that would have made him vulnerable. Tolkien wrote back, “Yes, but this is always what we do. We place all our hope and power, in some external object, which is thus exposed to capture our destruction with disastrous results to oneself.” Our life depends on that one thing!
- Family togetherness – and when not, you end up bitter, self-pity, and empty
- Marriage – and when disappoints, you end up loveless and hateful, unforgiving
- Materialism or wealth – and when rots or ruins, you end up confused and distraught
In all, these descriptions are not pleasing or pretty, but they are accurate if we are honest.
BUT… That’s a big and beautiful but! The brightness of the gospel begins to shine in that transition point.
Reflect on God’s salvation.
God saved us. God is preeminent in salvation thru Jesus; God our Savior. Paul lists 7 elements for God’s salvation.
1) God saves us bc of His goodness (χρηστότης = chrestotes = goodness or kindness). It’s not the goodness in my heart but the kindness in God’s heart that saves us. When we contemplate GOD – we consider greatness in power to create galaxies and governing the world, but only the few have revealed to them that the character of our great God is kind. It is God’s kindness wanting and waiting for us to repent (Rom 2:4).
2) God saves us bc of His loving kindness (φιλανθρωπία = philanthropia = familial kindness for humanity). In the greatest sense, God is a philanthropist, investing in the welfare of others and giving the greatest gift of Himself for sacrificial love and faithful serving.
3) God saves us not bc of works done by us in righteousness. He’s not in verse 3 and I’m not in verse 4; we do the sinning and God does the saving. Salvation exchanges your worst for God’s best. Our life is not defined by your mistakes, accomplishments, reputation by others, or even what you think about yourself. Rather than being defined by performance, instead we are defined by God’s mercy and grace.
4) God saves us according to his mercy. Salvation is from our sin and from God’s wrath. If God does not extend mercy to us then we are left to His punishing wrath (Rom 1:18-20; Eph 2:1-3; 2Thes 1:9; Rev 14:10). Earlier Paul tells Titus (and Cretan Christians) to not pay attention to Jewish myths and people who reject truth (Titus 1:14).
- Many people build life on myths.
- Holiday characters… (Cupid, Tooth Fairy, Easter, Christmas consumerism)
- Your failures are someone else’s fault.
- You deserve good
- You should not feel guilty.
- You can believe whatever you want; all beliefs are equally valid.
- You are the answer to you; believe in yourself; follow your heart.
- Jesus says build life on truth.
- ~100x Jesus says “I tell you the truth/Truly Truly.” Jesus is constantly dispelling popular myths of the culture.
- The truth of the gospel that Christians must not lose is not just about faith in God but to fear the Lord and seek His mercy.
à We begin understanding God’s mercy when we start to extending mercy to others (Mat 5:7; 12:7; 18:33; 23:23; Lk 10:37).
5) God saves us by the washing of regeneration. The language is theologically deep. Washing is symbolic of being clean. Jews OT laws were abundant with ceremonial washings. Washing of regeneration (παλιγγενεσία = paliggenesia = implies new birth, spiritual renovation).
Greek philosophers used this to describe rebirth or reincarnation, but Jesus – and Paul – use it to describe what happens after spiritual death and new life in Jesus through faith; that resurrection power enters immediately upon belief – you have new life now! If you are a believer, there is nothing in your life that cannot be healed, overcome, forgiven, restored and put back together because of gospel power in your life.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 “I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you”
And the current symbol Christians have for this new birth is baptism.
6) God saves us by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. Paul thought he believed in God but it wasn’t until he was confronted with the truth of Jesus and filled with the Spirit that new birth came (Ac 9:17). Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit with every person who believes (Jn 14:15-17, ff.). Poured/gushed out – abundant overflow. The believer is drenched with grace and when squeezed cannot help but spill out the character and service of Jesus.
à Evidence of the Spirit is 1) character fruit of Spirit, 2) service from spiritual gifts.
7) God saves us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Paul unashamedly speaks of salvation solely through Christ. Jesus before us, behind us, inside us and through us.
Jesus vs Jesus Jr. – make sure you have the real Jesus.
- Patriotic Jesus: Promises to turn the nation to certain political values and economic prosperity.
- Legalist Jesus: Promotes human traditions and preferences over Scripture principles; styles of worship music, dress, stereotypes for gender and diversity.
- BFF Jesus: Promises friendship and rescue from all troubles, and never challenges with commands; church is optional.
We dare not edit Jesus of the Bible to fit our mold or we will be shocked on His return.
à Submerge yourself in the Gospels.
Reflect on Jesus’s commission.
Paul gives us two aims for God’s salvation:
- So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
- So that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.
God saves us to send us… Paul tells Titus to insist on this – don’t allow complacency. He wants believers to be careful to devote themselves, in other words to prioritize matching the life and lips of believers.
- Good, Excellent (beautiful), Profitable (helpful, valuable)
Christians are salt and light… making flavor and chasing darkness. Let’s get to work church.
 Illustration inspired from quote https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-your-passions-say-about-you
 Explanation inspired from JD Greear sermon on Titus 3.
 See story in Tim Keller, Walking With God Through Pain And Suffering, 169.
 Bruce Metzger, Word Biblical Commentary, Pastoral Epistles, Titus 3:5b.