Tight Knit People of God: Part 1 - The God Who Provides - Hope 103.2

Tight Knit People of God: Part 1 – The God Who Provides

Many of you would have heard of William Booth who in the 1870s began a Christian mission in the East End of London. And he called his little group of volunteers a Volunteer Army, which was ridiculed by the press. And some of the leaders came to him and said, We can’t call ourselves the […]

By Simon ManchesterSunday 21 May 2017Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 17 minutes

Many of you would have heard of William Booth who in the 1870s began a Christian mission in the East End of London. And he called his little group of volunteers a Volunteer Army, which was ridiculed by the press. And some of the leaders came to him and said, We can’t call ourselves the Volunteer Army. It just sounds wrong. So William Booth got a pen, and he crossed out the word Volunteer, and in a stroke of genius, he wrote Salvation Army. And he then wrote to all the members who were with him, and he wrote this;

“We are a salvation people. This is our speciality, getting saved and then getting somebody else saved. We believe in salvation. We believe in the old fashion salvation.
We have not developed and improved into any other form of infidelity nor do we expect to. Ours is the same salvation taught in the Bible, proclaimed by the prophets and the apostles, preached by Luther, Wesley, and Whitfield, purchased by the sufferings and agony and blood of the Son of God. We believe the world needs it.

This and this alone will set the world right. The worst man that ever walked will go to heaven if he obtains it. And the best man that ever lived will go to hell if he misses it. So, publish it abroad. There is a hell, a hell as dark and terrible as use the description gave it by the lips of Jesus Christ, the truthful. And into that hell, men are departing hour by hour. While we eat and drink, sleep and work, and rest, men are going where the worm dies not and where the fire is not quenched. So, wake up, my brothers, be a Salvationist. Oh, for a brave year, we shall have one and you will fight and drive the foe and rescue the prey. And we will enter the record of multitudes rescued and saved.”

It’s a great and stirring letter as the foundations of this Salvation Army were established. And you can see the original priorities of a man like William Booth. Now, I used to live in the east end of London, and there is a statue in the middle of Whitechapel Road, where Booth has a bible in one hand, and his finger is pointing like this, and he’s preaching to the people of the East End. What would he make of the present Salvation Army? The priorities, the message, there’s many in the Salvation Army who would like to go back to those early days.

But how easily a movement loses its way, how easily a church declines, how easily we lose our way and decline.

For six Sundays, we’re gonna study the little book of Titus, not the easiest book in the scriptures. And it’s actually not much more than a page in the New Testament. We’re going to study this little book of Titus for six Sundays, and it gives us a blueprint of what God wants to happen in a fairly ungodly part of the world. And this is going to focus our attention and our priorities on the church and on the home, and also on the city in which we live.

Titus, if you’re not familiar with him, was a co-worker of the Apostle Paul. He’s not mentioned in the book of Acts but he’s mentioned a lot in the letters.

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Crete was a very tough place to live, described in Chapter 1 as a place of liars and lazy people. The church was probably very young because Titus is being told to appoint elders. And what would you do if you were Titus, left by Paul on the island of Crete to see the word of God spread? Well, that’s why this letter has been written.

Paul wants Titus to know two essential things;

  1. God is a God who provides for the world the truth of Christ (Verses 1-4)
  2. God is a God who provides for the church, the servants of Christ

God Provides The World With the Truth of Christ (Titus 1:1-4)

We could spend all our morning on just Verse 1. In fact, we could spend all our morning on just a couple of words of Verse 1. And I’ll be very happy for you to quote Titus 1:1-4 anytime you want, to me. And I’ll be happy for you to come and read Titus 1:1-4 when I’m on my deathbed. Read these verses to me, they’re wonderful. We read Paul as a servant, and he’s an apostle. It’s a nice mix of humility and authority. It’s an excellent way to do ministry: humility, authority, in relation to self, humble, in relation to God, bold.

One of the Apostle Paul’s priorities, they’re in Verse 1. The first thing is he wants people to come to faith in Christ. This is his first priority. He is an apostle to help people have faith in Christ. And we want the same, just as we are so glad when an aeroplane safely lands? Or we’re so thankful when a lost child is restored to its parents, or we’re thankful when a sick person finds the right doctor. We rejoice when a sinner finds Christ. The way to be saved, the way to exercise faith is to go to Jesus in prayer and say to Him, “Lord Jesus, I give my whole sinful self to you. I’m asking that you’ll forgive me and that you’ll indwell me, and that you’ll lead me, and that you’ll use me. I give my whole sinful self to you.”

And the Lord Jesus responds in the gospel, “And I give my whole perfect self to you.” And there is a relationship.

There’s nothing more wonderful than seeing a person coming to that relationship. The Apostle Paul is confident about doing this work of helping people come to faith because God is at work bringing through His elect. God is producing faith in people through a whole series of circumstances. It could be that a friend is being an example to them, and they’re beginning to rethink. It could be that their circumstances are falling apart and they’re beginning to think again about what’s important.

It could be that they’re reading the New Testament. It could be that they’re sitting in a church, but God is at work bringing His elect, His chosen people. And so as God works in people, the Apostle Paul works on people and faith is born. This week, one of the young men from the evening congregation came to see me. Some of you know him. His name is Frank. He comes from China. He came out when he was 17. He’s now in his early 30s. He said to me, “Simon, you know, I spent 13 years sitting in Christian circles: school, cathedral, churches. Thirteen years,” he said, “and I never really understood the gospel.”

And he said, “I’m just impatient for other people to come to Christ faster.” So before work and in his lunch hour and after work, he just goes and talks to people. He said, “This morning I took one of the girls from the evening congregation, and we went out. There was a whole group of trainees sitting there. She was a bit nervous; I was a bit nervous: tattoos, singlets. And we said to them, ‘What do you know about Jesus Christ?’ We started a conversation. And then we left them with copies of Luke’s gospel.” This is a stimulus to me and an incentive to me, and a reminder to me, that when God is at work by His Spirit, in the truth, He makes a person keen for others to have faith.

That He would revive us all with that kind of enthusiasm. That’s what Paul wants; he wants people to come to faith in Christ. And then he also, Verse 1, wants them to grow in knowledge, or we might say certainty, assurance, conviction, to get the reasons for the faith, not just the facts, the basic facts, but more and more maturity.

I remember Paul Little, many years ago wrote a book called, “Know What You Believe,” that’s good, and then he wrote a book called, “Know Why You Believe.” All the reasons that a person will be able to say, This is why I believe.

I don’t think there’s anything sadder than asking a person, maybe somebody in this building, who knows their business. And could explain their business and could explain the reasons for their business, and justify their business. And then you ask them about their salvation, and it’s like a vapour. It’s mystical; it’s mysterious. It’s got no foundation. And there’s nothing more wonderful, I think than seeing a person who begins by putting their faith in Christ and then moves into maturity, collecting the doctrine and the reasons, so that their faith is not just emotional but evidential. The Apostle Paul wants people to have faith and knowledge.

That’s why we have a bookstore, that’s why we have Cornhill, that’s why we have home groups. He wants all these to lead to godliness. It’s not just to lead to knowledge and stop, but it’s to lead to godliness. And this is a very big theme in the letter to Titus, because again and again through the letter, we’ll see this over the next few weeks. The Apostle Paul says he wants the believers to live godly lives and good lives, and have a healthy faith. Because the Island of Crete was very ungodly and he wants the believers to stand out and commend the gospel so that more and more people come to faith, knowledge, godliness.

John Stott says in his little commentary on Titus, “If your faith and knowledge don’t lead to godliness, your faith is bogus.” So a real warning to us, isn’t it? Especially when we’re conscious of our ungodliness, that faith, knowledge should lead to godliness, because if a new life has come into you, there will be some transformation, great transformation.

How does this Godliness happen? We discover in the letter of Titus; it doesn’t come naturally, God is at work. He’s at work supernaturally. And nor does it come easily, again, most of us here this morning are very conscious of our ungodliness.

But God is patient, and He’s powerful, and He’s working not just to save us from the penalty of sin but to save us from the power of sin, and one day from the presence of sin.

See what the Apostle Paul is committed to,

  • he wants people to have faith
  • He wants them to have conviction
  • He wants them to be godly.

God is at work behind the scenes, bringing people to faith and knowledge and godliness. And this is what we must seek. One of the things we’ve been talking a lot about as a staff, recently, is introducing or re-introducing this phrase of all of us helping people move to the right. Not politically to the right or some weird way to the right. I can’t think of anything more privileged than to just help a person by the way you praise, speak, or live, to move into the position of faith. And then to help them move into the position of conviction, assurance, and then godliness, and then usefulness.

And each one of us, as we come and we’re tempted to think as we come, “Gee, I hope it’s good today.” You know, “I hope I survive today.” Is to say this simple prayer, “Lord, help me to have good influence on somebody, moving them to the right.” I can’t think of a greater privilege, and that’s what the Apostle Paul is modelling here for us, and wants Titus to do as well.

Now, before we leave the first four verses, I want you to notice in Verse 2, that what undergirds all of these is the hope of eternal life. So imagine you’re walking down the street, you hear the news of Christ, you come to faith. You then grow a bit; you come to conviction, assurance. You then begin to grow in godliness. “And underneath this,” says the Apostle Paul, “is the hope of eternal life, and the hope of eternal life was promised by God before the foundation of the world, and it’s gonna take you beyond this world. And you stand on this hope of eternal life. And underneath the hope of eternal life stands God who does not lie.”

Isn’t that a lovely phrase in Verse 2? It comes from God who does not lie. Literally, the unlying God. Crete, full of liars, God never lies. And that’s why eternal life is not a pipe dream. It rests on the promise which rests on the person. And eternal life is not just a vague hope, but an assurance, a conviction, an expectation. Not only has God promised eternal life but if you look at Verse 3, you’ll see that eternal life is going to be revealed. And how do you finish this sentence? Eternal life is going to be revealed by?

And you think, Well, probably by the resurrection. Yes, the resurrection is a great revelation of eternal life. But the Apostle Paul doesn’t say that he says, “The promise of eternal life is going to be revealed,” Verse 3, “by preaching, by telling, by proclaiming, by announcing.” Whether it’s from a pulpit or whether it’s across a coffee table. I think this is an incredibly encouraging reality for me.

Two of my brothers in ministry in the last few weeks have said, “I wanna give up on the preaching.” They’re both excellent preachers. They both said to me in a moment of despondency, “It’s a waste of time. It’s just not doing anything.”

I said this to William Taylor this week, William Taylor who was with us last Sunday. He’s got a nice dose of personal buoyancy, William Taylor. You know what he said? He said, “I’ve given up taking any interest in the outward response to my preaching. I just get on with it.” That’s quite a brave and wise thing to say, isn’t it? And here we’re told that the wonderful truth of eternal life is going to be preached, which will bring it to light. So God is providing for the world, these wonderful gifts through Jesus Christ, of being saved, of being sure, of being new, and of being these things forever. Many, of course, refuse the news of Christ, many are receiving the news of Christ. And we are to seek to be faithful knowing that God is at work, bringing His people to life.

One of the commentators on Titus, an excellent commentary by Tim Chester. There’s just one copy on the book stall if you would like to have it, you must ask me first. He tells in his commentary the famous account of where the gospel came to a section of England in the seventh century, and the king and his counsellors were listening to these Christian missionaries, “Should we receive Christianity or not.” And one of the counsellors stood up, and they said this, “Your Majesty, life on earth is like a sparrow flying into our banqueting hall. A brief moment of warmth,” we know what he’s talking about, before leaving for the winter outside. We know nothing of what went before us, and we know nothing of what will follow us. But this teaching of Christ has brought such information as we lack, and we should follow it. And so they did. God provides the truth of Christ for the world.

God Provides the Church with the Servants of Christ (Verses 5-9)

Look at what Paul wanted Titus to do. He says, “I left you in Crete to straighten out what was left unfinished.” Ortho is the word straighten out; orthodontists, straightening teeth. Orthopaedics, straightening children. Ortho, straighten out.

If you want to know how to sort out a church spiritually, the answer is in Verse 5. It’s got to do with leadership. Now, of course, if you’re in the headhunting business you know this is 101, find the right leader, which is pretty obvious, isn’t it.

The Apostle Paul says to Titus, “Put elders in place in every town.” It doesn’t take a very big brain to work out that if you put a good elder or two in every town, that these elders if they’re godly and gifted, will cause the news of Christ to be preached. Remember that all of these teachings in the pastoral letters, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, remember that it’s all pre-denominational. There’s no Anglican structure here; no Baptist structure, no Presbyterian structure, the Bible is bigger than our structures. But Titus in a strange way is given a national job to look after the whole of Crete, so he’s a little bit like an archbishop, even though the letters are not thinking in Anglican terms.

Nor is the Apostle Paul here speaking about whether you should be a clergyman or a layman. He’s not speaking so much about deacons; they don’t seem to have been put in place yet. He’s not so much talking about Bible studies or even youth leaders. This is what he says the church needs. “It needs some men with character and capability.” And I don’t think we should be nervous that he is quite specifically talking here about some good men exercising some good leadership in the family of God, in the same way, we expect good men to exercise some leadership in their own homes.

That character, that’s the first few verses, capability, Verse 9. If you don’t have character and capability, there is often great trouble ahead. If you have character and capability, there can be great blessing ahead. Well, let’s think about character quickly. He says, Verse 6, “They should be blameless.” This doesn’t mean faultless, otherwise, nobody would be in the ministry. But it means there should be no obvious glaring question mark that causes a barrier to coming to the ministry. “The elder should be,” Verse 6, “husband of one wife,” in other words, interested in the covenant of marriage, faithful to vows, wanting a commitment to the spouse.

I don’t need to tell you that this simple text which appears in other pastoral letters shows that a church leader ideally could or should be married. The idea of celibacy in the Catholic Church is not part of scripture, and no wonder it leads to so much trouble, danger, and damage.

Here is the Apostle Paul speaking very shrewdly, “And the children in the home,” he says, Verse 6, and I presume he means especially young children, “should be responsive. They should not be wild.” So, look at the Apostle Paul. He says, “Look, if you’re looking for somebody, Titus, to run the church in this particular town in Crete, go home to their family. Watch what’s happening in their family. Watch to see perhaps what the neighbours say. Watch to see the quality of the home. Watch to see what the children are like because if the small family is reasonably or strongly and lovingly led, they will be ideally good for God’s family.” It’s so simple and basic; it’s so profound.

Then in Verse 7, he uses the word for overseer. Somebody who’s gotta deal with a lot of people and a lot of issues, and he says, “You want to avoid in an overseer that they are overbearing, domineering, oppressive. Make sure,” he says, “that they’re not quick-tempered,” that is, they fly off the handle, they lose their cool too easily, they’re angry people. “Make sure that they’re not given to drink. We want them to be mastered by the master, not mastered by another master. Make sure they’re not violent,” literally a striker or the word in the original is sort of like a plectrum which strikes a guitar. That’s where we get our word plectrum from, a striker. “Make sure they’re not violent and make sure they’re not greedy.” That is a strange interest in getting as much money as they possibly can. So, not somebody who’s out of control, not somebody who has secret passions, but, and this is the positive, “hospitable, loving the stranger, opening their home, loving the good, self-controlled, upright, holy, disciplined.” In other words, they’ve been moved from faith to knowledge, to godliness.

Watch and see whether the fruits of the new life is very obvious because if the character is there, and this will take time, it’s likely that they are ready for the job. Now, if you’re a nominator in a church like this and your minister is getting old, these are the sort of things that you should be keeping in mind as you think about finding a pastor. Here it is, character.

Finally, this morning, capability, Verse 9. “Not just remembering the truth,” says the Apostle Paul, “not just parroting the truths, but gripped by the truths, loving the truth, concern for the truth,” I remember talking to Peter Jensen, once, when one of my friends was running an area of the diocese very keenly, very enthusiastically, very busily.

I remember saying to Peter Jensen who is the Archbishop, “Why doesn’t he get the job? He’s just marking time, filling in, running the place, waiting for the leader. Why doesn’t he get the job?” And Peter Jensen said, and I never forgot this. He said, “He has no interest in doctrine.” Now, what a telling comment. Because it means that if you put somebody in like that, it’s possible that there will be a lightweight who will not be able to see what’s true and what’s false, and the trajectory of that ministry will suffer.

So Titus is looking for pastors here, those who are gonna lead the flock, not just serve in a valuable way as many people here do at this church. But this is somebody who’ll give some biblical direction, Verse 9. “They’ll positively set out the doctrines for living, and they will also negatively deal with error and evil.”

Do you see how interesting it is that the first four verses connect to the next five verses? The first four verses are so lofty and cosmic, as God is at work, bringing people to faith and knowledge and godliness, and the hope of eternal life. And you look at it, and you say, “Gee, it’s as safe as a bank.” And Paul says, “No, the leaders are crucial.”

Then you look at the next five verses, and it all looks so risky, find the right person, watch out for this. Watch out for this, watch out for this, watch out for this. And it all looks so precarious. And Paul says, “No, God is at work, bringing people to faith, knowledge, and godliness.” Now, why does this matter to you my friends, this morning? You might be sitting there thinking this is all pretty detached from me. What I want you to know, the shift in your life from faith to knowledge to godliness and the hope of eternal life, and the shift in your children and your youth, and the shift in your friends, and the shift in your family depends on a lot on the local church.

The health of the church is going to have a big effect on whether you and your loved ones make progress. And the church is a top priority for God. You may be watching the news this week thinking that it’s the bushfires or it’s what the American president is saying. But in the end, what God is interested in is what’s happening in the local churches because He knows that’s for eternity. C.S. Lewis said, “The church outlasts the universe.” This is big; it’s really important. It’s the changing of lives for eternity. And the leadership of a denomination is very important, or a church, or a small group, because it sets the trajectory for those who are in such care.

The television will love it when a Liberal bishop comes to the city. That Liberal bishop will get prime time on the television, but God is interested to know Titus 1:5-9. A church near us, which has just appointed an evangelical, having not had an evangelical for 100 years, may be disappointed. And say, “Well, we don’t want an evangelical.” But I’m so thankful that there is an evangelical moving in because that church now is going to see people, God willing, come to faith, knowledge, godliness, and hope. A small group may meet this week in somebody’s home. You may have a lot of fun together. You may love each other’s company. You may love your own opinions, but God wants to know whether you have come to faith, conviction, godliness, and hope.

And God is at work giving the truth to the world and giving the servants to the church. He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not along with Him graciously give us all things?

Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for your generosity in giving your son. And we’re so thankful that not only have you given us the supreme servant but you put servants into the churches. We ask, Heavenly Father, that you’ll be pleased to continue to raise up those who will be patented on the verses that we’ve read this morning. We ask it in Jesus name, Amen.