Summary: We need to avoid spiritual arrogance and not look down on those who sin differently than we do.
The last two responses on that clip were pretty unsettling but they serve as summary statements for many today. The one guy believes that people can’t really change and that if we wanted to get rid of evil, we’d have to destroy the whole world and start over. Unbelievably, the woman replied that she doesn’t run into evil very often. In other words, evil is pervasive or it is private; but most people would say it’s not personal.
I’d like to suggest this morning that evil is not so much “out there” as it is “in us,” or at least it used to be for believers. As the Pogo comic strip used to say, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Let’s listen to how God describes depravity in Titus 3:3: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”
Last Sunday we were reminded to live out seven virtues in verses 1-2 and now we’re to remember seven vices that are used to describe our lives in verse 3.
Remember What You Were
This verse begins with the phrase, “at one time we too.” In our past, we used to act just like those who don’t know Christ. We need to avoid spiritual arrogance and not look down on those who sin differently than we do. Many of us used to do the exact same thing that lost people are doing today. In order to respond properly to a Cretan culture we must remember our previous condition. Let’s look at this descriptive litany. Let me warn you in advance that this contains some pretty bad news. But hang in there because the good news comes in verses 4-7.
1. Foolish. A foolish person lacks understanding, or literally, one who is senseless or “not having a mind.” A lost person is described in Ephesians 4:18: “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” No matter how smart someone is, if they are not alive spiritually, they are considered foolish. Proverbs 10:23: “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.”
2. Disobedient. A person apart from Christ is by nature rebellious, willfully disregarding authority. This word refers to one who refuses to be persuaded, or one who persists in doing what he wants to do, no matter what God says. Proverbs 14:19 tells us that “fools mock at sin.” To paraphrase Jonathon Edwards, every unbeliever is hanging by a thread over the fires of hell. And the only thing that keeps them from falling into the flames is the hand of God. Disobedience is nothing more than saying to God, “I dare you to let go” (idea from Stephen Fournier).
3. Deceived. This Greek word describes a wandering and is the root for our word “planet.” We are all prone to wander. 1 Peter 2:25 says that before we were saved, we were “like sheep going astray…” I heard someone capture the meaning of this when he said that Jeremiah 17:9 was written with him in mind: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” This individual then said that his biggest problem is not with other people; his biggest problem is with his own heart. Satan, the ultimate deceiver, works at keeping people in the dark as stated in 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
4. Enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. Jesus taught in John 8:34 that those who sin become “slaves to sin.” The nature of sin is that it will make you its slave. Like the country of Crete, our culture is filled with “all kinds” of passions and pleasures, and these sins will enslave as 2 Peter 2:19 teaches: “…for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” The phrase, “all kinds” refers to a manifold diversity of longings and unhealthy pleasures. “Pleasure” is from the root word that is translated “hedonism,” which is the belief that indulgence is the chief end of life. We hear this all the time, don’t we? People say things like, “I just want to be happy” or “I deserve to have fun” or “I just gotta be me!” Those who want freedom to do whatever they want will eventually end up in bondage to that which they are pursuing.
5. We lived in malice. This word basically means “badness in quality.” When we first got married I had some Wisconsin venison in our freezer. We must have kept it in there too long because when we thawed it out, it smelled rotten. Malice is repugnant rottenness that is directed at someone else. A malicious man is one who desires to destroy or causes distress and rejoices in doing so. One example of malicious behavior was when material was passed out in Ohio to tell people that they could vote on November 3 instead of November 2, just to get some to stay away from the polls.