Titus Tell ‘Em: Do Good Already

“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 to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)

Titus was a missionary and pastor on the island of Crete. It’s a gorgeous looking place, judging by the pictures I’ve seen online. It’s a big, sunny Greek island with beautiful beaches and rocky cliffs and mountains that get snow in the winter.

crete_350Apparently, it was also a hard place to be a Christian. Even Paul confirmed the reputation of the culture there: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” He wanted the Cretan Christians to stand out for being the opposite of that—to live like they really believed God’s Word is true.

Today’s verses bullet-point some action items for all Christians, including us non-Cretans: Obey authorities, don’t talk mean about people, think of others, make peace, don’t make it all about you—no matter who you’re talking to.

Come back this week to find out why it matters how we live.

Think: How would you stand apart from your friends or peers if you lived the way these two verses describe? Would people think you strange if you were obedient and respectful to authorities? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God to help you 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 to show true humility toward all men.”

Do: Go to Crete, and lay on a beach while you really think about this book. Or read a little about the biblical history of the island. Whichever works better for you.

Titus Tell ‘Em: No Good without God

“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.” (Titus 3:3)

I wonder what kind of response someone would get if he ran with this description of himself for an online dating service.

crete_350“I’m looking to make a real connection with someone special. I’m a fool, meaning I make lots of stupid decisions. I’m disobedient. I’m into passion and pleasure in an awkward and ugly way – to the point that I don’t know right from wrong anymore. I’m a slave, really, stuck in the same rut of sin I’ve always been chasing. I hate almost everyone, and I haven’t found many people who don’t hate me, too. Call me!”

The strange thing, though, is God knew our status—and he called us, anyway. Paul wanted Titus to tell the people of Crete to be honest with themselves that they did nothing to earn God’s love. We are not good without him. But because he loved us first and is powerful enough to change us, we can be transformed.

How? Come back tomorrow.

Think: How do you feel about the Bible’s teaching that human beings are not good on our own apart from God? If God didn’t love you because of what you had to offer him, why did he call you to trust in Christ?

Pray: Thank God for sending Jesus to die for your sins even before you wanted to be saved.

Do: Make a quick list describing how we can live now through the power of God’s Holy Spirit with us – by writing down the opposite of every item in today’s verse.

Titus Tell ‘Em: Because of His Mercy

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:4-5a)

Remember verse 3 from yesterday? It read like a job description for a position at Evil, Ugly, and Stupid, Incorporated – but it was describing each of us. Human beings are not good, attractive, or wise without God.

crete_350So why does he offer us a place in his family through faith in his Son? Because he is good. Specifically, he is full of love and kindness. He is full of mercy. He didn’t save us for what we had to offer to him, but because of what he had to offer to us.

Paul wanted to make sure the people of Crete left no room in their heads and hearts for spiritual pride. It would be silly for the drowning victim pulled from the waves and resuscitated to brag about his swimming skills. We don’t get points for sinking. God gets all the points for saving.

And we get to live.

Think: If the Bible teaches that we can do nothing to save ourselves, why do you think so many people think of Christians as being self-righteous? Do you think that’s a fair criticism? Do you think you’ve been guilty of that?

Pray: Thank God that when his kindness and love appeared, he saved you through faith in Christ because of his mercy.

Do: Make a quick list of what God gained by saving you.

Titus Tell ‘Em: Not the Same

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5b-7)

Why and how are very different questions. Yesterday, Paul urged Titus to tell the Cretans why God would save people like them – like us – who had nothing good in them to give to God. (Because of his love, kindness, and mercy.)

crete_350But how did he save them? Yes, God can do anything he wants, but he won’t be with sin. And we – they – were full of it. So he takes action in the lives of those who trust in Christ. He cleans. He renews. He uses the power scrubber of the Holy Spirit to make us brand new, like fresh babies. His kids.

He changes us, gives us credit for the life and death of Jesus, to make us “justified” even though we deserved to be convicted and condemned. And with our new standing though faith in Jesus, he makes us family like Jesus, family with an eternal future at home with him.

Think: Why do you think some people would rather believe that God saves us because of our goodness than in spite of our lack of goodness? Why do you think some of us think we might be able to earn our spot in his family by being good enough?

Pray: As a believer in Jesus, thank God that he saved you through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit so that you could have the promise of eternal life.

Do: To really understand these ideas, I think it helps to try to say them out loud in your own words. Practice explaining to a parent or Christian friend why and how God saves those who trust in Christ.

Titus Tell ‘Em: Trust and Do Good

“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:8)

“Stress this to the Cretans, Titus,” Paul wrote. “People who say they believe God should act like they believe God—and people who trust God do good. Then everyone wins. It’s not just right, it’s fantastic.”

crete_350Then, as now, some Christians misunderstood what God wants from us. They thought all that mattered was signing on the dotted line to believe in Jesus and go to heaven. What happens between then and now . . . stays in Vegas (so to speak).

But Paul wants Titus to insist to those people that just as trusting God for our salvation is an act of faith, so is trusting God by doing it his way right now and right here. People who trust God don’t turn around and say, “If I obey him now, though, I’ll miss out on something good.”

Faith in God shouldn’t have an on/off switch to fit my circumstances.

Think: How often do find yourself reaching for the temporary off switch on your faith because you’re not convinced God knows what he is talking about when he tells you how to live?

Pray: If you have trusted in Christ, ask God to help you to be careful to devote yourself to doing what is good.

Do: Make a quick list of 2-3 areas of your life where your actions might not line up with what you say you believe about God.

Titus Tell ‘Em: Skip Worthless Debates

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3:9)

There’s nothing wrong with a good debate – even just for the fun of it. It’s a valuable skill to be able to research and make a case for a position, to be able to construct a persuasive argument that follows the rules of logic. And a good debate can be very satisfying.

crete_350Paul was a skilled debater. His command of logic and vocabulary were impressive and highly valued in his culture. But he knew that, like everything else, argument can become an idol to itself. We can come to love the competition – and the victory – more than the truth or the people we’re arguing with.

The Cretans, apparently, had come to see arguing as a big part of their Christian experience. Coming together included taking sides on the hot-button religious issues of the day to the point that it was tearing them apart.

Paul told Timothy not to join in. If the debate isn’t essential and if it has become personal or prideful, skip it. Opt out. Walk away. End it. Nobody will win even if you win.

Think: Do you know any Christians who cares more about winning arguments than living like Jesus? What’s wrong with that?

Pray: Ask God to help you to avoid foolish arguments and debates that are a waste of time and/or unloving toward the people you’re arguing with.

Do: Listen this week for Christians stuck in foolish and unhelpful arguments.

Titus Tell ‘Em: Don’t Be That Guy

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)

You know that guy? The one who seems to enjoy finding the cracks in every group, the stress points, the small disagreements, the old wounds – and then bringing them up over and over again until he breaks the group or the friendship or the church in half?

crete_350Yeah, that guy (or girl). Paul wanted Titus to give that guy in the Cretan churches two chances and then let him go. That guy is serious trouble for churches and groups of friends. If nobody’s fighting, he’s kind of bored. If everyone is just getting along, he’s not having a good time. He lives for the drama of collapsing relationships.

Paul calls him warped, sinful, and self-condemned. In other words, he’s not good to have around. The person who wants to break up your family shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the house for very long.

Think: How many people do you know who seem to enjoy breaking up groups or friends? Have you ever noticed that tendency in yourself?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to be a divider but to find joy and purpose in keeping groups of Christians together and being a peacemaker.

Do: Notice who in your world seems more driven by drama than peacemaking.