Friday, March 26, 2010

Live What You Believe

If I were to rename the book of Titus I would entitle it “Practice What You Preach", as this is Paul’s charge throughout this letter to Titus.

Amidst false teachers, and a relatively unestablished church, Paul writes to Titus with encouraging words and advice as to how to address the problems, deal with various groups in the congregation and get the church in order. I particularly love the book of Titus, as I am passionate about how our saving faith transforms our lives and is evidenced through our day to day living

As with the false teachers, there are a lot of people who “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” ~1:16 So Paul begins his theological teaching on deeds and doctrine. In verses 11 & 12 of Chapter 2 Paul teaches that it is God’s grace that enables us to live lives honouring to God. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” Given the actions of the false teachers it is apparent that they had not received the grace of God that brings salvation, nor anyone else who were living ungodly, worldly lives.

It is interesting that all the things that Paul was instructing Titus to teach to the older men and women, younger men and women, slaves and masters all had to do with their behaviours.

I often think of our lives as a case being made for our faith. Is there enough evidence for others to recognize that I am a Christian, that I am set-apart, that I have been transformed and am continuing to be transformed by the grace of God?

Paul cautions Titus, reminding him that good deeds are to accompany the receiving of the truth and thus serve as a defence of the gospel. The gospel itself is as much to be put into practice as it is to be preached. Paul in no way suggests to Titus that salvation can be earned through works, but that they are the evidence of a genuine, saving faith in Christ, provided by His grace. This serves as a trust worthy saying “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. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. 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 Saviour, so that, having been justified by grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” [3:3-7]

Paul is calling the leadership to authenticity, to pay as much attention to their behaviour as they do their beliefs. Paul was encouraging Titus to model the gospel in His life. This is exactly what Jesus Christ did – he modeled the gospel and we are in turn called to be imitators of Christ. Titus found himself in a cess pool of debauchery, and ill living and he needed to step up and be the example of something better, to show them that there was another option, that it could be done and was worthy living even amongst the competing opposition.

This then sums up my favourite verse from the Titus epistle, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” [2:7-8] God helping me, may it be true of me.

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