For the week commencing 7 July 2019
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Titus 3 – Dear Titus… be ready to do good
Our holiday series takes us through Paul’s letter to Titus. Here is the outline:
30 June… love what is good Titus 1
07 July … teach what is good Titus 2
14 July … be ready to do good Titus 3
DAY 1: Read Titus 3
Do good – You will have noticed that the theme of ‘doing good’ continues in Titus 3: ‘be ready to do whatever is good (v1); ‘be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good’ (v 8) and ‘our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good’ (v 14). Paul uses the context of ‘being ready’ in verse 1 which suggests that preparation and determination is necessary. Then in verses 8 and 14 he uses the language of ‘devotion’, which implies effort and single-minded focus. ‘Doing good’ will not be easy. It is not only good for us, it is good for everyone. This is different, however to what is sometimes describes as ‘virtue signalling’ – ‘look at me – I’ve just cooked that sick family a meal’. The ‘good’ Paul describes in verses 1-2 avoid arguments and reduces conflict. Ancient Crete was known for its corruption so obedience to rulers and authorities would have quietly differentiated the believers (see also Romans 13: 1-5). They were to avoid gossip, to be thoughtful and gentle. The good in verse 8 will be excellent and profitable for everyone. The ‘good’ in verse 14 will provide for urgent needs and help the believers to be productive. The ‘good’ we are encouraged to do is ‘other person’ focused so that, as we saw in Titus 2, the message of the gospel will be attractive. Believers who ‘do good’ are encouraging each other to persevere even when life is difficult, even when it feels very lonely to a Christian. By ‘doing good’ in our homes and workplaces we are also doing everyday mission.
Question: Imagine your workplace, school gate or sporting club without gossip or arguments. How can you contribute to that preferred future? When have you observed ‘good’ that is excellent and profitable for everyone? What was the motivation?
DAY 2: Read Titus 3:3
Our problem – Psalm 14:1 says
‘The fool says in his heart “There is no God”.
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good’.
Titus 3:3 reminds us that before we came to faith in Jesus, we were fools and we lived as if God did not exist. There were no expectations, no accountability, no review process and no consequences – well at least in our own minds. Foolishness by its very nature is deceptive. When we believe that we are our own god, we can live any way we like. So we become enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. One of the worst problems facing our society is the growing addiction to pornography. It is free, easy to hide, and Christians are not immune. When we convince ourselves that we can live as if ‘There is no God’, we can tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter, that we can stop any time and that it won’t hurt anyone. The result of our broken relationship with God is that it is reflected in our relationships with each other. If we don’t care what God thinks of our behaviour, why would we care what others think? If we don’t care what others think, then isn’t it easier to live with malice and envy, to hate and be hated? This is what we were like ‘at one time’ (v3).
Question: What choices or decisions have you made today that might be considered foolish? What can you do to restore your thinking and behaviour?
DAY 3: Read Titus 3:4-7
Saved! – The counterpoint to verse 3 is verse 4 ‘But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us’. When God is confronted with our sin, we should expect his righteous anger, wrath and judgment. Instead we are offered his kindness and love. We are not saved by anything we have done, which would be impossible, but by his mercy. In Titus 2 we looked at the idea of grace, which is a free, undeserved gift. Mercy is different. Mercy is not getting what we actually deserve, which is judgment. It’s the ‘get out of jail free’ card. Grace and mercy are linked: ‘But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved’ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Then verse 7 reminds us that we have been justified by grace. Justification is a legal term. We face a charge of being foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved, living with malice and envy, hating and being hated. It’s an ugly list. The worst part is that we have no defence. But verse 4 reminds us that God is kind and in his kindness he, the judge, sends his Son, to do the punishment in our place, so that the charge list disappears, and we are justified, made right with God. Having received God’s kindness and mercy, having been justified by grace we are now heirs of eternal life. We no longer live in fear of judgement but look forward to an eternal future in perfect relationship with God himself (Rev 21).
Question: Many people like to think of God as kind. How has this passage changed your understanding of God’s kindness? How would you explain it to someone else?
DAY 4: Titus 3:4-7
Renewed by the Spirit – Do you think there is an order within the Trinity? Often we think of God as Father, Jesus as the Son and the Holy Spirit as the advocate, the helper who connects us to both the Father and the Son (2 Cor 13:14). In Titus 3, the order is little different. Out of his kindness and love the Father saves us through ‘the washing and rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit’ (v5). The Spirit brings about our salvation through new birth and regeneration (John 3:1-8). The Spirit indwells and sanctifies us (Romans 8:9, 13). Most importantly, the Spirit inspires and illuminates. The Bible itself is the work of the Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The Spirit opens our hearts and minds to understand and believe the gospel (1 Cor 2:12). ‘The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit’ (1 Cor 2:14). We are reborn by the work of the Spirit at God’s initiative, and this enables us to follow Jesus. What was it that made the disciples drop their fishing nets when Jesus said ‘Come follow me?’ (Matt 1:14). The work of the Spirit preparing them to follow Jesus to their deaths. What made Zacchaeus decide to spy on Jesus from a tree? (Luke 19:1-10). The work of the Spirit renewing his heart, preparing to receive his King. How did Lydia become a believer? ‘The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message’ (Acts 16:14). The Spirit’s work of renewal is necessary in order for us to be justified by grace. Something needs to change in us for our eyes to be opened to the glory of the cross.
Question: How should we pray for our non-believing friends?
Resources: 1-2 Timothy & Titus, Philip Towner
1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Gordon D. Fee
Titus for You, Tim Chester