Summary: How does one reach a fallen world that glorifies sin? Is their a right and wrong way to preach the Gospel? In Paul's message to Titus we find that loving people and doing good deeds is the only way to reach them.
BEING REMINDED TO DO GOOD
Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
I want you to imagine what it must have been like to establish an early Christian church during a time period when beliefs were as diverse as the stars in the sky. Each time Rome conquered a place they would add the gods of that place to that of their own. They did this to encourage a sense of openness to the belief in many gods so that all people of the empire might be peaceful under one corpus of beliefs. There was a god for all occasions in the Greco-Roman world. If you wanted an abundance of crops, wine, woods or pastures then one would pray either to Demeter, Dionysus, or Pan. If you wanted wisdom you prayed to Athena. If you wanted love you prayed to Eros. And if you were in dire need you prayed to Zeus, the King of all gods. There were so many gods in this time period that the people of Athens erected a statue to an “unknown god” just to be safe that all gods might be honored. To make matters even more difficult the early church was composed of both Jews and Gentile converts to Christianity. Can you imagine how hostile the debates between those stiff necked, lovers of the law must have been with the Gentile dogs that were grafted into the vine? The gulf between those standing on a mountain of laws and those standing on a mountain of grace must have been at times a valley too deep to apprehend!
Paul left Titus on the Island of Crete in order for him to appoint elders in every town and to teach those who “were always considered liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12) how to overcome their bad reputation so that they might effectively preach the Gospel message. If the Cretans wanted to be true lights unto the nations and ambassadors of Christ then they must learn to improve community relations by obeying the authorities, by not slandering the people, by being peaceable, considerate and gentle to everyone, especially to those who still believed in multiple gods. Paul reminded the Cretans that it was not that long ago that they too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by their sinful passions and pleasures. The Christians of Crete did not earn their salvation by works but received it by the mercy of God. Christ who washed their bondage of sin away and rebirthed and renewed them by the power of the Holy Spirit could do the same for the non Christians of Crete as well. So instead of trying to win over the Cretans by judging, slandering and hating them; they were to do good works so that they might point to God who loved and wanted to redeem them.
Remember your Identity in Christ
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
Titus 3:1-2, NIV
Paul begins by telling Titus to “remind the people.” I got thinking about how hard it is to remember certain things in life. The first time I came to this church I was concerned that I would forget people’s names. I remember how impressed I was with the pastor of the Wesleyan church in Moncton. When my first wife passed away the people of my home church felt awkward around me. Since they did not know what to say they would either avoid me altogether or give me some kind of comfort slogan in hopes that it would help. It did not help! To make it easier on them and me I decided to go to a church that did not know my name or life circumstances. I went to the Moncton Wesleyan church and stayed there for a couple of months. I met pastor Buckingham who asked my name once and remembered it week after week. Ten years after having moved on from that church I went back and visited them. To my surprise and delight the pastor still remembered my name! It meant a lot to me because for him to remember me out of the thousands that he would have encountered over the decade, meant in my mind that I mattered to him. I still repeat your names every time I meet you lest I forget and give you the false impression that you may not be important to me when in fact you have become part of my family!
While physical names are important to remember how much more important is it to remember our spiritual identity in Christ? When one is in the church singing the worship songs, reading the Bible, praying and having fellowship with like believers; it is easy to keep one’s focus on God. Memory, of God however is truly fickle when living in a fallen world that is constantly enticing us to sin! For good reason Jesus warns us that when we leave the church to go out into the world we must be very careful to not fall in love with their sins (1 John 2:15). The Devil uses the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life to ensnare and keep believers focused on his kingdom rather than on God’s.