Little Books with a Big Message
Changed People Change People
Pastor Pat Damiani
August 26, 2018
Sarah, the church gossip and self-appointed arbiter of the church's morals, kept sticking her nose into other people's business. Several church members were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the town's only bar one afternoon. She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing.
George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just walked away. He didn't explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Sarah's house.
And left it there all night.
While that story is intended to address the dangers of gossip, which is not the main issue we’ll be addressing this morning, it also reminds us of the importance of appearances, which is more relevant to the main message that we’ll be thinking about this morning.
For the most part, the world does not judge the church based on our creeds, but rather on our conduct. They aren’t nearly as influenced by what we say as they are by what we do. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most people ultimately make their decision about whether the Bible is really true, and powerful and life-changing, which I think all of us would claim that it is, by observing whether or not it actually changes our lives.
That is the main idea we’re going to find as we study Titus chapter 2 together this morning.
We are now in the next to last week of our current series, titled “Little Books with a Big Message”. The book of Titus is the 8th and final little book that we’ve studied over the past several months and hopefully you still have it bookmarked from last week so that you can find it easily.
Before I read chapter 2, I want to point out that this chapter is so full of great practical teaching that I can’t possibly cover it all in one message. So I’m considering coming back to this book, and particularly this chapter, some time next year to cover all that I won’t be able to address this morning.
Here in chapter 2, we find that Paul addresses both the why and the what. He covers both the purpose of living in the manner he is going to describe as well as the practices that are to be a part of our lifestyle. So because I believe we almost always need to know the why before the what, that is where I am going to focus my attention this morning.
So as you follow along as I read chapter 2, I am going to encourage you to see if you can pick out the why. I’ll give you a clue. There are three places in this passage where Paul is going to focus on the why.
[Read Titus 2:1-15]
Paul begins and ends the chapter with the same command. Although the command in verse 1 and verse 15 consists of the same underlying Greek word, for some reason the ESV uses two different English words – “teach” in verse 1 and “declare” in verse 15. This is one of the places where the KJV actually translates both verbs more accurately and consistently with the command to “speak” those things that are consistent with sound doctrine in verse 1 and to “speak” these things in verse 15. So the idea is that Titus is to be constantly speaking to the people about all that is sandwiched in between those two commands.
And between those two bookends, we find some very practical instruction about how to live in a way that accords with sound doctrine. But as I said earlier, we’re going to focus on the why and not the what this morning. And here is why that it is important that our lives are lived in a way that is consistent with sound doctrine:
Jesus uses changed people
to change people
We live in a world where people are largely focused on self and the church has not been immune from that influence. And so the usual focus when we talk about holy living tends to be about how that is going to benefit me. But as Paul writes to Titus, he is not nearly as concerned about the effect of holy living on those who are already disciples of Jesus, as he is about the impact it will have on those who are outside the body.
It is a given that living my life in a way that is consistent with sound doctrine is going to result in blessing and joy in my life. But as Paul points out here, the world largely judges the validity of the Bible based on our lives and not just on our lips. People outside the church are watching us to see if our faith in Jesus is really life changing or if we are merely paying lip service to it.
In this passage we find three “purpose clauses” that each help us to understand why God uses changed people to change people.
WHY JESUS USES CHANGED PEOPLE TO CHANGE PEOPLE
1. Changed people keep the Word of God from being reviled (v. 5)
The first purpose clause is found in verse 5:
that the word of God may not be reviled
The word translated “reviled” in verse 5 is literally “blasphemed”. We often tend to think of blasphemy in terms of speaking against God and certainly the word can mean mocking, verbal abuse or speaking in ways that challenge or diminish the name and authority of God. But the way that Paul uses that word here makes it clear that we can also blaspheme God by rejecting His commands and living according to our own desires and purposes.
We are reminded here that the world doesn’t judge the validity of God’s Word based on our theology. They judge that based on our behavior. They determine whether the Bible is really true and powerful and life-changing based on whether it changes the lives of those who claim that it is all those things.
That is why Paul provides Titus and the church in Crete, and by extension, us, with some standards that are to govern how various groups of people in the church are to live. He provides standards for older men and older women, and younger women and younger men. He provides standards for slaves, which we can apply to the workplace. He says, “This is how you are to live, because if you don’t, then the Word of God is going to be mocked, disregarded, and dishonored and that is a form of blasphemy”.
Do you see what is at stake here? Far too often, we focus on what Christianity can do for me and we forget the impact that holy living or the lack of it can have on others.
This week I read the story of an evangelist who preached a message on the text “You shall not steal.” The next morning, he got on the bus, and gave the bus driver a dollar bill for his fare. In counting his change he discovered that he had received a dime too much. But instead of pocketing that 10 cents, he went to the driver and said, “You gave me too much change.”
The driver replied, “Yes, I know. I was in your audience last night and heard your sermon. So when I recognized you this morning I thought, ‘I’ll see if he practices what he preaches. If he does, I’ll go hear him again tonight, but if he keeps the dime, I’ll know he’s a fake.’” So because that preacher lived his life in a way that accorded with sound doctrine, the bus driver returned that evening and committed his life to Jesus.
We never know when someone might be watching our lives like that.
When we live in a way that is consistent with what we find in the Bible, we keep God’s Word from being reviled. And in turn, Jesus uses changed people to change people.
2. Changed people silence their detractors (v. 8)
The second purpose clause is found in verse 8:
so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us
Obviously, living a holy life does not mean that our critics are going to vanish. Jesus warned his disciples that as long as we’re identified with Him and doing our best to live according to what He taught, we will face opposition in this world. There are a lot of people in this world who are just waiting for you or another Christian to fall so that they can justify their unbelief.
The verb “to put to shame” literally means “to blush because one is so embarrassed”. The idea here is that someone would look foolish to bring charges against someone when there is absolutely no basis for those charges.
Some of you may have seen the story of Sherell Bates who was shopping for school supplies in a Staples store in North Carolina just a couple weeks ago. While paying for those supplies, she was confronted by a store manager who suspected that Bates was shoplifting. That manager reported her suspicions to a nearby police officer, who then asked Bates to step aside and explain what was under her shirt.
Bates explained that she was 34 weeks pregnant with twins, but the officer didn’t believe her. So she lifted her shirt just enough to expose her belly. Not surprisingly, that manager at the Staples store was not only “put to shame”, but she was fired because Sherell Bates had done nothing wrong. I couldn’t find out anything about what happened to the police officer, but at a minimum he had to have been quite embarrassed at his actions.
When we live holy lives that are consistent with sound doctrine that’s exactly what we do to our critics. They not only have nothing evil to say about us, but they are actually embarrassed when their accusations are proven to have no basis or merit. And in turn Jesus uses changed people to change people.
3. Changed people make sound doctrine attractive (v. 10)
Our third purpose clause is found in in verse 10:
so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior
Before we look at the purpose that we find here, let me point out that Paul is clearly declaring the deity of Jesus here when he calls Him “God our Savior”.
Paul moves from a more negative approach in the first two purpose clauses to something more positive here. He writes that we are to live holy lives so that every area of our lives will “adorn” the doctrine of Jesus.
Because it is such a key term, we need to spend a few minutes talking about the verb ‘adorn” here in verse 10. It is the Greek word “kosmeo”, which literally means “to arrange” or “to put into order”. It is the antithesis of “chaos” – a state of random disorder. We get our English words “cosmos” – the ordered universe, “cosmopolitan” – a citizen of the world – and “cosmetic” – which literally is the idea of bringing order out of chaos – from that Greek word. I’m probably going to get myself in some deep trouble here, but did those of you who used cosmetics this morning realize that you were literally turning chaos into cosmos – disarray into beauty and order?
That is what we do when we live holy lives that are consistent with sound doctrine. We take that doctrine and we adorn it and make it beautiful and attractive to the world that is watching. And Paul tells us that we need to do that in everything.
Let’s suppose that I came to one of you and began to expound upon the benefits of the new diet that I had been on for the last month. I told you how good the food tasted and that was never hungry. I didn’t even have to exercise on this diet. It just magically melted away the pounds. But as I was saying all those things, you looked at me and thought to yourself “but it looks like he has actually gained 10 pounds in the last month.” You probably wouldn’t be too interested in trying that diet, would you?
But let’s say that instead, I just gradually lost weight over a few months to the point it really became noticeable. And one of you came to me and said, “Pat, you look like you’ve lost some weight. How did you do that?” Now if I began to tell you about my diet and exercise program, wouldn’t you be much more likely to pay attention because you see evidence of change?
The same thing is true with the gospel. If we just talk about the gospel, but people can’t see any evidence that it has actually made any difference in our lives, then that isn’t going to be very beautiful or attractive. But when people observe our changed lives, then that adorns the gospel and makes it beautiful and attractive to others. And when we do that Jesus uses changed people to change people.
Changed people keep the Word of God from being reviled, they silence their detractors and they make sound doctrine attractive. That is why Paul gives the instructions to the various groups in the church about how they are to live. Once again this morning we’re focusing on the why rather than the what, so we’re not going to have time to look at that part of the chapter in detail this morning. But that part of the chapter is important enough to return to some time in the future and give it the attention it deserves.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some practical applications that we can take away from the message this morning that are based on the why.
IMPLICATIONS FOR US
I’m going to return to the wording that we employed earlier this year in our study of the book of Acts and address how the idea that God uses changed people to change people ought to impact how we bring the kingdom of God near to others.
Bringing the kingdom of God near to others requires…
1. an outward focus
I have officiated basketball and volleyball at various levels over the past 20 years or so. And what I’ve found is that there are two kinds of officials. There are the ones who are in it for themselves – some of them for the money, some of them for the recognition of working playoff games and state championships. And then there are those who are there primarily for the sake of others – particularly for the student athletes who play those sports.
And what is really interesting to me is that the best officials almost all come out of that second group. I think that is because they are constantly working on becoming better officials so that they can do a good job for those kids. Now they still get paid and they actually end up getting more playoff assignments because they are better officials, so there is a degree to which they benefit personally. But that is not their main focus.
The Christians who are most effective in brining the kingdom near to others are a lot like those officials. They are primarily focused on how God is going to use their changed lives in the process of changing the lives of others. And so they are constantly evaluating how the way they live their lives is going to impact others. And as a result, they will avoid even the appearance of anything that might reflect poorly on Jesus and the gospel.
And guess what? Those are the Christians who end up with the most joy in their personal lives as well, even thought that is not their main focus.
Bringing the kingdom of God near to others requires…
2. both lips AND lives
Several years ago I met a man named Bill at the gym where Mary and I work out. I’d seen him around at a previous gym where we had gone so one day I struck up a conversation with him. Eventually we began to work out together on a regular basis and became good friends.
I think at least for the most part, my life was a good witness to Bill. I didn’t cuss, I didn’t speak negatively about others, I treated my wife well. But when Bill’s leukemia returned, I knew that I couldn’t just let my life speak the gospel into his life, I also had to talk to him about Jesus.
You’ve probably heard this well-known statement:
Be careful how you live. Your life may be the only Bible some people ever read.
Although I wouldn’t argue with that statement, I would suggest that it doesn’t tell the whole story. Let me remind you once again of the command that Paul gives to Titus in both the first and last verses of this chapter. Does anyone remember that command? [Wait for answers]. That’s right – “speak”.
Even within the church, it wasn’t enough for Titus to just be a good example for the other believers, as important as that was. He also had to be constantly speaking about sound doctrine, exhorting people to live in accordance with that doctrine and rebuking them when they failed to do so.
And the same thing was true in my relationship with Bill. It wasn’t enough just to let him observe my life. And so over the next several months I talked to Bill about Jesus. I invited him to church and he came several times, including one Easter, where he heard me proclaim the gospel message verbally.
Bill passed away suddenly one Saturday morning not too long after that. As far as I know, he never responded positively to the gospel and put his faith in Jesus. But I am still hopeful that I’ll get to see him again some day because I know he was exposed to the gospel through both my lips and my life.
Bringing the kingdom of God near to others requires…
The fact is that no matter how hard we work at it, our lives are not always going to match up with the doctrine of the gospel. We are all sinful human beings who are not capable of living sinless lives.
So when we do mess up – notice I didn’t say if we mess up – there are going to be those who are ready to pounce and point out our failures. Obviously, there is a time and a place to lovingly help our brothers and sisters see the sin in their lives and help to restore them, but I’m primarily talking here about those outside the church who delight in finding Christians doing things that are inconsistent with what they profess.
How we handle those situations is going to play a big part in how effective we are in bringing the kingdom of God near to those people. If we try to make excuses for our sin, or explain it, or say it’s not as bad as someone else’s sin or even try to turn the tables and point out some sin in that other person’s life, we are only going to drive a bigger wedge between that person and the gospel.
But if we’re humble and we admit our sin and express sorrow over that sin and seek forgiveness from others when that is necessary, that is going to go a long way in making the gospel attractive others. When we use that opportunity to explain that we are also broken sinners who have been forgiven and made right with God not through any effort of our own, but only through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, we adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
Jesus uses changed people
to change people
Do you understand what is at stake here? The eternal souls of our family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors who have not yet placed their faith in Jesus. Jesus could have chosen any method He wanted to make the gospel a reality in their lives, but in His sovereign, infinite wisdom, He has entrusted that task to us.
And when the life changing power of Jesus and His Word reaches into our lives and changes us from the inside out, Jesus uses those changed lives to make the gospel a reality in the lives of others so that He can change their lives, too. Don’t you want Jesus to use you like that? I do.
In just a moment, we’re going to close and give you an opportunity to respond to God in prayer. While each of our responses is probably going to be at least a bit different, here are some things that I want to encourage you to consider praying. I’ve listed them on your sermon outline so that you can use it as a guide as you pray.
Respond in prayer
1. If you have never experienced the changed life that comes with placing your faith in Jesus, would you commit your life to Jesus today?
2. Thank Jesus for changing your life through His death and resurrection.
3. Ask God to reveal anything in your life that might cause others to revile the Word of God, give cause for someone to speak evil of you or detract from the attractiveness of the gospel. Confess that to God and ask for His help in overcoming that sin in your life.
4. Ask Jesus to make you more outwardly focused.
5. Ask Jesus to help you be bold with your words as well as your life with those who are not yet disciples of Jesus.
Discussion questions for Bible Roundtable
1. There are some who say that doctrine really isn’t all that important. What is more important is how we live our lives. How would you respond?
2. Why do you think Paul addresses all the different groups within the church individually? What implications does that have for us as a church?
3. What are some practical things we can do to avoid becoming self-centered rather than others-centered?
4. How would you respond to someone who says: “Be careful how you live. Your life may be the only Bible some people ever read”?
5. When others outside the church see us sin, what are some practical ways to demonstrate humility? Why is that so important?