As we are walking through Passion Week and soon will celebrate Resurrection Sunday it is important for us to step back and look at the life of Christ and the writer Mark will be our guide. As we begin we see that Mark reveals the urgency of Christ’s message to a world wallowing in sin. He shows us His authority over the physical elements of sin. He shows us His compassion over us who are held in the grip of sin.
It is this last element that grips our hearts this week as we see our blessed Savior hung on a cruel cross because men were blind by choice to who Jesus truly was. He was a man yet he was God in his humanness. He was as the demoniac said “the Holy One of God” to show us His goodness and His love for mankind. He was a man who walked, talked and saw the effects of sin yet with a heart of compassion. It was this character quality we see as he silenced the demons, with gentleness lifted an ailing woman from her sick bed, reached out to a leper to heal him not just because he was able but because he was willing. This is the gospel or good news we are to proclaim this week for we have the message, we have been touched and healed.
Beloved there are people all around us who are wallowing in sin and Christ is the authority who can heal them because He is the Compassionate Christ. May we take time this week to show and reveal compassion to another.
I am sure you have heard this statement: how can I love “that person;” look at how they are or what they have done! Yet when we read Titus 3 we see that we too were once foolish, darkened in our understanding, deceived, enslaved to worldly passions, hateful and hating. How can we love another? It is not from within ourselves for if truth be known we are even as they. Our standard is not others or ourselves but God. The Apostle John also noted this: “for God is love” and “we can only love because he first loved us.” [ 1Jn 4].
Beloved, when we look within ourselves we see that our view is myopic or short-sighted; narrow minded. It is only when we look at ourselves in the mirror, as James reminds us, that we see who we really are. And when that happens we either fall upon our faces and repent or walk away. The mirror reveals two things; our sin and God’s love and our need for His love. Stephen Drain in his Impact Blog reviewed a book by Dwight L. Moody who wrote: “If we really make people believe that God loves them, how we should find them crowding into the kingdom of heaven! The trouble is that people think God hates them; and so they are all the time running away from Him.” But, God does not hate us. In fact He loved us so much that he chose to send his Beloved Son to die for our sins.
We have an opportunity before us this upcoming Resurrection Sunday. Will we show God’s love by loving even the unlovable by sharing His message : GOD LOVES YOU! Gods’ love equation is simple. I loved you and I sent my Son to die for you. What else do you need to understand?
Be sure to go and read Stephen Drain’s Impact Blog as an accompaniment to this blog http://blogs.bible.org/impact/stephen_j._drain/23_books_reviewed_in_23_minutes#comment-25278
When having conversations regarding a person’s lifestyle I have encountered one of these responses which leads me to wonder— has this person really accepted the Word of God as His final and absolute standard? Here is what I have heard both recently and in the past when I asked why a person chooses to do thus and so: (a) I do not care, (b) I like what I am doing, or (c) God will understand. How do you continue to dialog with someone who has one or all three of these components in their understanding?
Paul left Titus on Crete to deal with new believers and to teach them how to live amongst the Cretans who by their own words are “liars, evil and lazy.” Our world today reflects much the same in attitude and behavior. But, as believers are we not called to live and behave differently? I think the answer is yes. When we fail to live differently we fail to realize the price of the precious “grace of God which has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” This precious grace instructs us in three areas:
First we are to deny ungodliness…that is to deny that which is anathema to God’s view and standards. When we deny the absolute standard are we also in denial about how God views our lifestyle?
Secondly we are to live righteously and godly…that is to live and model the righteous life through the power of the Holy Spirit, which must be an ever present attitude and behavior. Does my life model Christ’s?
Thirdly we are to be looking for the return of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus at any moment in time.
When we fail in any or all of these three things Paul emphasized we also fail to realize the depth of this verse: Heb 10:31 “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Our life and our words reveal our true understanding and love for the sacrificial grace of God that has been bestowed upon our lives. We therefore must be deny self, live righteously, look for the return of our Messiah.
So here are some questions to consider: How am I doing and how are you doing? Are we really ready to meet the Lord in the air and to stand before Him? When He asks why we responded in one of those three ways (that is I didn’t care what your Word said, I liked what I was doing and was not willing to change, or surely you understood, right God?) what will our response be? Are we, am I living differently?
According to statistical studies women speak far more than men. In fact a study revealed that women speak an average of 20,000 words while men only speak 7000 words in a day. Paul encouraged Titus to “speak (to older men, to older women, to younger men and bondslaves) the things fitting for sound doctrine…speak and exhort and reprove with all authority” This is appropriate for us as well for we are to be about sharing the gospel message of the one who “redeemed us from every lawless deed to purify for Himself” a people for Himself.
As we speak do we speak with all authority? Both Moses and Jeremiah were aware of their weakness in this area: “Oh, Lord God, I really do not know how to speak well enough” God reminded them both: “Who gave a mouth to man, or who makes a person mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” [Exo 4:11] God reached out and touched the mouth of both that they would have the words to speak for Him. The psalmist wrote: “My mouth will speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart will be understanding” which only can come when we take time to meditate upon His Word and as Paul told the Philippians to “think about whatever is true, respectful, just, pure, lovely, commendable” and to “practice” it moment by moment. [Phil 4]
May this be our prayer today “You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it would give grace to those who hear. “[Eph 4:29]
Paul sent an edifying and encouraging note to Titus, his genuine son in the faith. Paul said to Titus “The reason I left you in Crete” was to do thus and so. We recall the words of Peter “Lord, why can’t I follow you “NOW”? [Jn 13] Jesus answered I have left you here so that you can Go! Make disciples! Go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the farthest part of the world! [Mat 18/Acts 1] That was the reason they were left behind when Jesus returned to heaven and why He sent the Holy Spirit to walk and talk with them just as He had done while with them.
So what is the reason Jesus has left us here and not taken us home to heaven as soon as we became believers? It is the same reason. We are the men/women He has chosen for the job and we have been given the Fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Word, and the mandate to carry the gospel message to the world. We are here to fulfill the Great Commission. If we are not could it be that we really don’t see the “reason?” Paul told Titus that he was the man for the job and he had been directed to fulfill the task. We are the men/women for the job that Jesus left. How would you answer the question: “Why am I here?”
Today as in the days of Paul, we may face circumstances when all those who once stood by our side forsake us and we stand alone. How do we respond when this happens? Paul has learned his lessons well and he learned the art of forgiveness from the lips of Jesus “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” and the first martyr Stephen, whose cloak he held, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” [Acts 7] Now Paul can say about those who have abandoned him in his time of deep distress: “may it not be counted against them.” That is true grace.
We must be ready in season and out of season because there will come a time when we must be ready to offer forgiveness for these who once stood beside us but now have forsaken us and like the words of Jesus: we must forgive not seven times but forgive with no limits. [Mt 18] It is now that we come back to the Word and remind ourselves, that we have “been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…” We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who gives power to forgive even the most unforgivable remembering this truth: although men may fail you the “Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”[Deut 31/Heb 13] This is mature faith, true grace and true humility.
It is an innate desire that we want to be known as godly parents/teachers and role models. We want and earnestly pray for godly children to be our legacy. How then does it begin and where does it begin? Paul gives us a glimpse as he writes this third chapter of 2 Timothy.
More than once Paul has commended Timothy’s mother and grandmother either directly or indirectly. It was because of Timothy’s heritage that he became who he was. Our children’s heritage, just as Timothy’s, begins at the knee of every parent where they learn godly traits. It is there that the scriptures are instilled into their lives thus fulfilling Ps 78: “tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord…” Why is this so important? It is the sacred writings/scripture that are able to give children wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. It is because scripture alone is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” It is scripture that prepares children to be adequate and equipped for every good work and it is scripture that prepares them to be able to handle the word of truth with accuracy.
We live in a world that seems to have gone awry. but is no different than in the time of Paul. Just read through the list of ungodly traits he lists in this chapter. It reads like the list of the worst of the worst in men and we are seeing it in living color today all across our globe. These children, now adults, are revealing the traits taught them from early on. It is therefore imperative that parents, teachers, and other godly adults model and teach the scriptures which will help children to be able to discern good and evil. [Heb 5]. It is the scriptures that will help them to avoid people who hold to a form of godliness but deny its power, who are deceiving and being deceived. It will prepare them to stand strong should they face persecution such as the OT Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who when faced with certain death proclaimed that God could deliver but even if he did not they would refuse to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol god. It will prepare them to be like the children beheaded by ISIS just because they would not deny Jesus.
How are we doing preparing our children?
As parents and teachers we often hear the words “why?” when asked to do something. Paul in this chapter gives us the answer to the question before it is asked. “Why” are we to be above reproach within and without the church is the question that surely will arise when we are told to pray for our leaders. It is because leaders have been given a charge to lead the body of Christ, the church of the living God. Therefore, they are held to a higher standard and their behavior both within and without the church must be “irreproachable,” that is faultless.
But, Beloved, it is not just leaders that must hold to these standards. We too are called to be a people of the cross that are holy both in our homes and in the church. So what does that look like? James tells us that we must be not just hearers of the word but also doers. We must look in the mirror and see what is reflected back. When we look do we walk away and forget or do we see ourselves as a people who walk, talk, and exhibit that we are “true children of the faith” and “our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith?” Beloved, you and I live, move, breathe and exhibit the truth that Jesus Christ was revealed in the flesh; vindicated by the Holy Spirit, seen by angels; and is even now being proclaimed among the nations who come to believe he was the Resurrected Christ! Is this our reflection to a world that is in need of His love and redemption?
Many times when I was a teacher I would have to step out of the classroom for period of time for differing reasons. As a parent this was often true as well. In stepping out they often leave with these words “I am leaving you in charge.” How does that statement sit with you? Do we really understand the implications of those words? Do we realize the consequences if we do not live up to those words? As we open ITimothy we find that Paul essentially has left Timothy in charge and he does so because Timothy has proven to be trustworthy, he is reliable, he is loyal to the core. He is thus a “true child in the faith.” It is because of this Paul has written this letter to encourage Timothy to “hang tough” for the wolves that he predicted are already at work in Ephesus seeking to destroy the foundational principles of the faith. Paul notes that his predictions are coming to light. Timothy has been given a huge task and he must remain strong and be steadfast.
Beloved, Christ has put us in charge of passing the baton on; we have been given the huge task to remain strong, steadfast as the winds of culture seek to drive us from true doctrine. There are wolves amongst us and we must be discerning and wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Isaiah’s warning long ago to King Ahab is as applicable to us as well: “If your faith does not remain firm, then you will not remain secure.” Beloved, Paul’s charge is before us: “dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
How are we doing?