Thursday, May 23, 2013
Growing in Godliness
Individual Christians and churches should aim to grow in godliness. When we look at Titus 3:8-14, we discover in the concluding paragraph of a letter from a spiritual mentor to his evangelist protege several insights as to how to become more like God. When we examine the entire letter to discern what strengths and weaknesses the evangelist Titus and the church on Crete had, we discover that what Paul the mentor encouraged and what he said to avoid probably reflected what was happening there. We discover also that those Christians were like many of us today. Some Christians' lifestyles had not changed much since their conversion, and they should have! Older men had not earned the respect of younger men. Older women slandered. Servants conspired against their masters, did as little work as possible and stole. In response, Paul set down principles for godly living so that "those who have believed in God might take care to practice good works" (Titus 3:8). Christians must concentrate on doing what is good. We must make a conscious effort to do the right thing. If you have tried to catch a football that was thrown to you, you know that the football was not drawn to your hands by electromagnetic force. Growing in godliness is like that. You have to decide to do it, whether the good work is sharing food with the hungry, taking care of your children or telling someone about salvation through Jesus. To grow in godliness, Christians and especially evangelists, must avoid controversial questions. That does not mean that they tolerate heresy or promote lax behavior. Christians should focus on positive aspects of following Christ rather than arguing about every little thing that comes up. Paul warns Titus here to go out of his way to avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, quarrels and disputes about the law. He says that these activities are useless and idle. They do not produce growth in individuals or churches. Christians must avoid enforcing traditions as God's law and arguing over unimportant issues if they are to grow in godliness. Paul had left Titus on Crete for two reasons - to appoint elders and to set in order the things that were lacking (Titus 1:5). One might infer that Titus had been so busy trying to resolve every little dispute that he had not taken the time to what Paul had told him to do. To grow in godliness, Christians must correct divisive personalities who threaten to disrupt the unity of the church. Remember that Paul wanted Titus to appoint elders and set in order the things that were lacking. Elders, as mature spiritual leaders, would possess the credibility to address such problems. Paul told Titus, as an evangelist, to " convince them rigorously so that they might be healthy in the faith." Sometimes even the most patient counseling and thorough, sound teaching by well-grounded elders and evangelists fails to correct a problem situation in the church. IN this concluding passage of Titus, Paul tells what to do when troublemakers refuse to heed the warnings of the evangelist and elders. First, warn the troublemaker. If he refuses to repent, warn him again. If he still keeps on causing problems. drive him out before he cause more hamr to the body of Christ. His own actions have testified that he is not a godly person and that he intends to hurt the church. Divisive actions within the body of Christ are like cancer in the human body; if not treated early, they prove fatal. Note that the expulsion occurs only after several attempts to reason with the individual. Loving biblical discipline seeks first to restore the sinning Christian. Then all Christians can concentrate on doing good. But why this emphasis on doing good? Why avoid controversial questions? Why discipline divisive personalities? Paul writes in Titus 3:14, "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives." Older men will deserve and receive respect; older women will win the respect of younger women who will follow their examples in living for Christ. Younger men will use common sense and accomplish far more. Employees will earn respect from supervisors. We don't do this to earn salvation, but to demonstrate that we have received it and are grateful to the God who "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).