Tight Knit People of God: Part 3 - The God Who Understands – Hope 103.2

Tight Knit People of God: Part 3 – The God Who Understands

We’re in the New Testament book of Titus, Titus you remember has been left on the Island of Crete, his job is to see the message of Jesus Christ go widely and deeply. I’ve been to Crete, and there are churches all over Crete that are called St. Titus, but in the first century it […]

By Simon ManchesterSunday 4 Jun 2017Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 18 minutes

We’re in the New Testament book of Titus, Titus you remember has been left on the Island of Crete, his job is to see the message of Jesus Christ go widely and deeply. I’ve been to Crete, and there are churches all over Crete that are called St. Titus, but in the first century it was not a Godly place, it was a wild and challenging place, and this brief letter is to tell Titus what to do.

I want to say to you as we get ready to turn to this text, that since God is a speaking God, and does not want us to be confused or demoralised, that there is a word for your situation whatever it is, in God’s words.

  • Whatever you’re feeling
  • Whatever your mood
  • Whatever your battle is
  • Whatever your load, God’s word has power for your needs and light.

And just as God by His word is causing the creation to go forward, so God by His word causes His people to go forward. It may be that He’ll remind you of something, it may be that He’ll teach you something new, but it is His purpose so that you’re not only by His Word know how to have salvation, but you’ll also know how to live for Him in every situation. And wherever there is a sense in you, of helplessness, it’s a great thing to be able to lift up your prayer to the Lord and say to Him, “What is your word for this particular situation?” Because the truth of God sets us free.

And what God has said to Titus so far, is that God is at work to save His people, and He’s at work to look after the church with good leaders who will speak the truth, and who will refute rubbish. If you think this morning, “Well, this is all very nice, and this is all very irrelevant, and I can’t wait to get out of this little book because it’s all about the professionals today,” immediately in Chapter 2 we come to your part. So it is very practical.

This week, I met with some people who were organizing a Men’s Convention that I’m privileged to speak at later in the year, and the organizers said, When we get the feedback from the thousands of men who come to these Men’s Conventions, the feedback generally goes like this, “the clergy say could we have more Bible talks? and the layman say, could we have something more practical?” 

This passage that we come today is very practical. It tells you that you take part in something which is bigger and better than the world. It doesn’t matter what you do for your job; it doesn’t matter what you achieve in your life, you’ll never do anything more significant than playing a role in God’s purposes. And this passage is also utterly realistic because God knows that in the end we can do these things, but He enables us to do these things as we’ll see in a minute.

I want to look with you this morning at Titus 2:1-10, we’re thinking about God understanding His family, that’s us, and then we’re thinking about God understanding the world that He has put us in, and then we’re thinking about God understanding the business of the church to the world.

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There’s a lovely lady I spoke to, and she said that she goes for a walk every day listening to Jonathan’s dad, Michael Youssef. And she said, “Oh, it’s been such a blessing to me.” And then she said, with a slip of the tongue, “There’s nothing black or white about Michael Youssef.” And I said, “You mean there is something black and white?” She said, “That’s it, there is something black and white about Michael Youssef.”

And this passage that we come to today is very plain, very clear, very black and white, practical, privileged, and realistic.

God Understands His Family

Look at Chapter 2, Verse 1. “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine,” says Paul to Titus. God has created a family of believers, the family of believers get attacked from the outside, yes we do, and we get attacked from the inside. Paul has already told us in Titus Chapter 1, that there are liars around the church, and there are deceivers who come into the church, “but,” says Paul to Titus, “you teach sound doctrine.” They may teach poison; you teach well. This little, “But you,” comes five times in the pastoral letters: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, “They do these things, but you, you do something quite different.” I think this is very wonderful.

There are many dangerous ideas that are being pushed on us; you keep going with God’s truth, keep saying what is healthy, even if there’s a lot of poison around. Yes, there’s a lot of poison, keep saying what’s healthy. Are you concerned this morning about what’s being taught to your children? Are you concerned about what’s being taught to fellow Christians? Well, I hope you are concerned. “Well,” says Paul…or God says through Paul to Titus and to us, “Keep saying what God says, and He will create a healthy fellowship, a healthy family.”

Now, in the next verse, Verse 2, Paul addresses five different groups in the church, and everybody, I guess, in the church is given a part to play. So he addresses:

  • the old men
  • the older women
  • the young men
  • the pastor, and
  • the very much maligned slave element of the Church.

The Older Men

First of all, older men. Verse 2, “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled and sound in faith, in love, and endurance.” I don’t know whether you think of yourself as an old man. I personally like that Beatles song, “Do you remember when I’m 64, will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m 64?” I think of an old man as being 64 or older. I think if you’re under 64, you’re still quite young and quite attractive, but if you got to 64 and that is a completely arbitrary comment, isn’t it?

I understand, in the paper yesterday, that middle age now is 40 to 75. I heard this week that Australian men are the number one longevity men in the world. Australian men live longer than any other national group of men in the world. Women are number five in Australia, Australian men, number one.

What does it mean to be an older man? What Paul is saying here is if you’re on the older side, start to think about your role in the church. And this older man is to be, verse 2, this is my translation, “level-headed, respected, and sensible. Level-headed, respected and sensible.” Now, why would God say that to older men, and why would He begin with the older men in the church? Why would He start by talking, if He was here this morning, to the older men in the church? And the answer I think is, because the older men who are Christian and Godly, are such a blessing to a family, they are such a blessing. Older men bring wisdom, they bring leadership, they even bring a sense of human security to the family of God. Just as a good grandfather or a good father is a gift from God, the older Christian men in the church is a gift and a blessing.

Why does Titus need to teach the older men to be level-headed, respected, and sensible? Because it’s easy for the older men to give up. It’s easy for the older men, especially in our culture where old is undervalued, and the older man feels as though he’s finished, and his influence has diminished, he no longer works and gets his glory from his work, and he’s starting to have physical difficulties and discouragements, no wonder the older men by nature, is prone to get grumpy and even depressed.

And this is what the Apostle Paul says to the older Christian men, “Do not give into false thinking. Do not give into false thinking.” As far as God is concerned, your place in the family of believers is crucial and vital. And, therefore, He says at the end of verse 2, “Keep the faith. Keep it with joy,” you know better than most young people; there is no alternative but Jesus Christ, keep the faith.

And keep your love, keep your love for people. Your kindness, rather than your grumpiness in the local church, is such a blessing. Work at your kindness. And keep your endurance, don’t resign, don’t give up, don’t fall for the lies around, outside and inside, go to the end with God-given determination. He’s given you a role in the church family, which is wonderful. That’s the older men.

Older Women

Verse 3. “Older women,” says Paul, “are to be reverent in the way they live.” This doesn’t mean acting like a reverend or being sort of falsely pious, or pretending to be a Pharisee or something like this; this means that you’re to think of yourself, and this is critical, as being on a kind of a sacred duty. God says you’ve got a role to play; God gives you a mission. This is entirely true; you don’t need a human institution to come along and say to you, “If you’re an older woman, you need to go and get a special certificate.” It’s right here in the New Testament, and nobody can take this away from you, it has been given to you by God, and you’ve been called and chosen by Christ.

And this is your mission, Verse 4 of Chapter 2, take an interest in the younger women. You’ve learnt a lot over the years, hopefully, in the Word of God, you’ve learnt a lot in your life, work out a way to help the younger women. Notice that Titus has not told himself to take a role with the younger women, probably very wise. And see that this verse assumes that younger women will appreciate older women. And that may not always be the case, but the older woman is asked or told here, to take an interest in the younger women of the church.

For example, what is the best way to go on loving your husband? That’s not an easy task. What’s the best way to go on loving your children? That’s not an easy task. And here the older woman can help the younger women with very practical wisdom, and I suspect the older woman has got more than 1,000 books stored up in the mind and the heart. And if a Godly, mature woman is willing to talk and to pray with a younger woman, it is something that money cannot buy. If an older woman in this congregation is ready to meet with a younger woman in this congregation, and together they can look into God’s word and learn from one another, especially the younger from, the older, that is an untapped blessing.

And it’s happening in the church; it’s happening in this church. There are older women, I don’t mean old women, but it could be old women, but there are older women meeting with younger women to the benefit of both.

Why would Paul talk like this, why would God instruct like this? Well, because it’s easy, especially in the first century, for a woman to get older and see her children leave, and be deeply neglected and then quite quickly, deeply depressed. And you’ll see in Verse 3; this is so practical, she’ll start to say unhelpful things, why? Because she is so unhappy. She’ll just keep on saying unhappy things because she is unhappy, and she’ll probably try and drown her sorrows in drink, Verse 3. When, in fact, as far as God is concerned, her life is extremely valuable. And to take a younger person, a younger mother, a younger girl under her wings, so to speak, and love her, and help her to love her home, is an incredibly far-reaching ministry.

If you think you’re incapable of this, you are not incapable of this. It simply requires some love, a Bible, some prayer and some humility. And if you don’t believe you can do it, get hold of the little book by Dave Helm, Reading the Bible One-to-One, and you’ll see how straightforward and simple it is to meet with somebody and read the Bible, and have an incredibly rewarding ministry.

Notice the little phrase for the younger women to be busy at home, God does not rule out, of course, that a wife may need to work outside the home, but she’s not to neglect her home. A wife may need to work outside the home, may need to work outside the home to survive financially, but, I guess the Apostle Paul would say, if it’s just for greed, if it’s just for selfishness, if it’s just for neglect of your children, it will become a very serious failing. One commentator says very wisely, “Paul does not say you cannot leave home, but he says you cannot let home suffer.”

Or John Stott says, “If you accept the vocation of marriage, you set yourself to love the members of your family.” And I want to say to those who do work at home with their children, that it is not only very hard work and very deep work, but it is very vital work, and it is profoundly useful. And for those who do it, do not think for a second, that you have done anything but something excellent. That’s the older women for, the younger women.

The Younger Man

Thirdly, the younger men, Verse 4. One verse, it looks kind of like mission impossible, doesn’t it? Paul says to Titus, “Tell the young men of Crete…” and we might say, tell the young men of Sydney, “…to be self-controlled.” The word in the original is the word, sensible. It means in the original language, save your mind. Save your mind from error, save your mind from evil, rescue your mind. And it’s the same word that’s used of the older men in Verse 2, and of the younger women in Verse 5, and here it is, again, in Verse 6. We might say, “Be sensible, be sensible, be sensible.” And then you think, “How is a young man possibly going to be sensible?”

He’s got a temper; he’s got opinions, he’s got ego, he’s got desires. And so the Apostle Paul says, “You, Titus, help him.” And this is not a stupid sentence to help a young man to be sensible; this is a very careful, ongoing ministry, remember Chapter 2, Verse 1, “Keep saying, keep saying, keep saying.” And it’s attached, I suspect, to a mentor, because Verse 6 leads into Verse 7, which is all about Titus himself.

In this city for a few decades now, there have been older men meeting with younger men and older women meeting with younger women, for decades across the city, you may not even be aware. But there’s a vast army of people being raised up. This never happened to me, nobody ever took me under their wing when I was a young Christian, I just plotted on myself, and now I discover that for the last few decades, people have been trained so well in taking young people under their wing and helping them to grow in their knowledge and love of the Lord. And there is an army of young people being raised in this city, who, God willing, we will see in the next decades take up the leadership of the church. It’s a very, very wonderful thing; it’s happening on the campuses, it’s happening in the universities, there is this mentoring.

The Pastor

That’s why the Apostle Paul, Verse 7 and 8, goes on to Titus. This is the fourth: older men, older women, younger men, Titus, verse 7 and 8. And he says to Titus, “You set an example as you teach.” In other words, bring your walk and your talk together. “And if people do oppose you,” Verse 8, and it’s inevitable they will oppose you, “make sure they don’t have much to say.” Jesus was slandered, but the mud did not stick. Paul was slandered, and I suspect the mud did not stick. And the apostle says to Titus and to those of us who’ve got a role to play, “Make sure that you’re living and teaching together, and avoid the complaints, the criticism that are legitimate, avoid them.”

The Slaves

The slaves, verse 9 and 10, and this is the section of society or the section of the church, very common in Paul’s day, the least powerful members in society and in the church, and Paul says, “There is a role for you to play.” You may think of yourself as being completely helpless and hopeless, and he says, “Yet you are to serve well, and you are to control your speech, and you’re to be honest, and you will command the gospel.” Because I suppose your boss will recognise a very different type of person, your boss will recognise a Godliness, a transformation, a character, which cannot be easily explained, there will be no easy answer. And the explanation will be. Eventually, you’ll discover, Jesus Christ. Wonderful, saviour, Lord.

So do you see, friends, looking at these five little groups here, that God is completely disinterested in the camera of this world? He’s not interested in the camera facade. “They’re old, they’re no use anymore, they’re young, they must be wonderful,” God is not interested in that. God is interested in the truth and the roles that are to be played, especially in the church family, for His praise. And if you belong to Jesus, race does not matter; class does not matter, work does not matter, age does not matter. It may take a while for us to absorb this, but as we read, again, in Chapter 2, Verse 1, we need to keep saying this, keep saying this, and replace poison with good.

God Understands His World

I was reading in Spurgeon’s biography sometime ago, that two men were on a bus on one occasion, and they were going past the church, Spurgeon being the great 19th-century preacher in London. Two men were on a bus going past the church, they saw the big crowds outside and walking into the building, the two men on the bus sitting together were not Christians, and one of them said to the other one, “A hypocrite always draws a crowd.” And the other man turned to him and said, “Would you not be very pleased in your business if you had as many customers? I don’t think that man could be selling a bad product if week after week people are going in and coming out changed.”

And the words had such a significant effect that the man who’d made the original critical comment took himself off to the church, heard the gospel, was saved and gave his testimony later in the church. It is true that God uses His people to draw in outsiders. And I want you to notice in our ten verses that we’ve looked at this morning, that all the teaching on usefulness is not just for a happy church. When the old and the young are doing their part, there is a bigger agenda then we would have in-house harmony. In-house harmony is fantastic, growth is wonderful, but three times Paul says, look at Verse 5, that God’s word would not be criticised. Verse 8 that the teaching would not be condemned, and Verse 10 that the teaching would be presented well adorned, made attractive.

It is so crucial, you see, to God’s people that you and I see ourselves as not just existing for ourselves, but we exist for a cause beyond ourselves. You remember Israel in the Old Testament, they were told, “Be wise as you live among the nations and as the nation’s watch your national life, your church life, they may say, ‘How great is the God they belong to.'” And we read in the New Testament, 1 Peter 2, “Live wisely among the pagans, so the day will come where the critic observing will say, ‘Glorify God.'”

This doesn’t mean, I think, that the cars that drive down the Pacific Highway are going to look left as they go down the highway, and look through the little gap between the shops and see us in our building, that’s not going to happen. But if they do, people come close, and they see something of the kindness and the consistency of God’s people, it may have a real life-changing effect. And when you and I leave here, and we go out of this building, we are to live as consistently as we can, being as clear a signpost to Jesus as we can.

So, why do we play our part? According to Chapter 2 of Titus, Verses 1 to 10, because God has designed a display that goes beyond ourselves, He’s interested in lost people meeting found people, and working out to save the people, that’s what God is at work for. Or to put this round the other way, if we fail to take Him at His word, or we just decide that His word doesn’t matter, and people see nothing among us except religious varnish and paganism with a kind of a religious coat on it, the word and the work are going to be greatly hindered. We need to listen carefully to why God is at work in His church.

God Understands His Business

So God understands His family, what we are to do, God understands His world, why we are to do it, and finally, this morning, God understands His business, how we are to do it. Do you think it is a good idea for me to say to an older man, who’s very stuck in his ways, “This is God’s way for you to live.” Is that going work? If I was to say to an older woman, who’s very trapped in her sadness and her bitterness, “This is something you can do.” Is she gonna listen to me? If I was to say to a young man, who’s full of testosterone, “God wants you to be very sensible.” Is that going to work?

The answer is, it is going to work for two reasons. One, these people who are being addressed in Chapter 2 of Titus, are not just dead dogs being told to perform the impossible, these people are very much alive. We’re told in Chapter 1, Verse 1, that they have come to put their faith in Christ. They have worked out that when He died, He shouldered their sin, and that by putting their faith in Him, they’re able to receive forgiveness and eternal life, which is a brand transforming life. That’s who they are.

And they’re a little bit like outback homesteads, who’ve suddenly put the power on, or suddenly put the water on. So the Apostle Paul is not saying, “Do the impossible,” he’s saying, “Turn the tap, flip the switch, God is going to enable you to live this way.” That’s the first reason why these verses are not a waste of time.

Second, these verses in Chapter 2 of Titus, this Word of God here, is not a ridiculous request. These are the very train tracks which if we walk on them, or drive on them, or ride on them, will bring us the most freedom, and, of course, the most blessing. So not only does God’s word in Titus 2, have high authority, but it also brings great liberty when we do it. You know that we’re not going to get much wisdom for how to live from the television, I don’t need to tell you that whatever your favorite show or shows, you’re going to get to the end of that show, and you’re not going to be given a great deal of wisdom on God, or Godliness, or eternal life, or eternal usefulness. You’re going to be told about how to love yourself and how to look great, and how to chase your own goals, and how to do whatever you like. That’s the sort of stuff you’ll get from the television.

But these ideas which are here in Titus, are going to bless. Poisonous ideas ignore God and ruin people, these words here in scripture, make you healthy, useful, and joyful. And you, like Titus, and I, we need to be listening very carefully to what Paul says, the world is saying this, we are to say this. The world says walk in that direction; we’re going to walk in this direction. So God is not only telling us what His way is, Titus 2, but He’s also telling us why it’s important, it’s got a global significance, and He’s also telling us how this will be possible by His grace and Spirit at work inside us.

I want to guess this morning, as I finish, that everybody in the building is one of three kinds of homestead. Some of your homesteads connect to Christ, the power is on, the tap is on, the switch is on, you are playing a part in God’s Church, and you’re playing a part in God’s world, which is wonderful. Other people in the church are homesteads connected, but taps are not on, switches are not flipped. It is a time to say, “I’ve received a lot, and I must give out.” And then there may be some, there may be a handful here this morning, and you’re not yet connected to Christ. No wonder it’s so difficult to know what to do, no wonder it’s so difficult to live with Him, and the word, of course, to you, is to seek Him on your knees in prayer, asking for that forgiveness and eternal life which will cause a new life to be in your heart, and a new lifestyle to be lived in the church and beyond, to His glory.

Let’s pray, “We thank you our gracious God for not only giving us new life through Christ, but also giving us a role in your world which is beyond our imagination, and for these instructions: so wise, so clear. Help us to walk in them as you have called us to. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”