5 BIBLE STUDY NOTES : TITUS 2:15-3:2 BY SHARON DURANT

After we read the passage, I might just sit down, because the Bible’s teaching is so painfully direct tonight that, if we’re honest with ourselves, it probably doesn’t need much explaining from me. All the talking I do is really in danger of taking away from the Bible’s punch and getting in the way of the Holy Spirit speaking to you directly, prompting you to repent, prompting you to walk in grace… So I’m going to (try to) talk only very briefly and leave lots of space this evening for you to reflect, talk, consider and pray.

If you’ve been studying Titus with us all year, you’ll remember that Paul is writing to Titus, his colleague. Titus is on the island of Crete straightening out a few things in the church, setting it up so the church will continue to walk in God’s grace and Christians live a good life. Not a life that makes them happy, necessarily, but a life lived for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

– Sometimes we get those two muddled up, don’t we. We think a good life will be one that is peaceful for me, fulfilling for me, a long life for me…
Good job Jesus didn’t expect those things! Jesus Christ lived a life among us that was poured out fully for us. He got up early to pray because he was followed by crowds. He healed people from dawn til dusk. He taught the people the same thing time and time again with incredible patience. He had 12 disciples – to our children we call them his ‘special friends’ or something banal like that… Anyway he had these 12 fishermen who followed him around and were his ‘inner circle’, who asked him the same questions over and over, who squabbled, they sent the children away!
But Jesus lived the ultimate ‘good life’. It wasn’t about finding peace and quiet, or having a long retirement. Jesus’ lived was lived for God’s glory and the good of others. And ultimately it was best for him, too. Because he brought many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10) and sees the joy of his inheritance. But Jesus the Son’s primary purpose was to glorify God the Father – to make God look great – and to love others.

So that’s the call Jesus gave us. Whoever wants to come after me, he said, must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34). The most important commandment? Love God and Love others in the same way that we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).

Paul’s teaching in Titus, then, is just applying in greater detail what Jesus commanded us.
There is a lot of talk about grace – about being saved and trained by God’s amazing kindness that rescued us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Christine spoke powerfully of God’s grace to us last month.
And there is a lot of talk about living a good life – We have seen the standard our leaders should keep to, from Kathy’s talk on Titus 1, back in October. And we have seen how within the church we pour out our lives for each other, teaching and rebuking and encouraging and caring for each other, from Vicky Stephenson’s talk on Titus 2:1-10. We also heard about how we live good lives out in the world, how we respond to our employers and those we work with.

Being a Christian is a very practical and public thing. It’s not a set of beliefs we keep to ourselves in our heads so we get fat heads and are no good for society. (Remember the GRACE TADPOLES?) God’s grace grows in us to maturity. As Christine said, we track towards Jesus. And that helps us to grow up as Christians, to be leaping frogs.

Paul says to young Titus:

These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
(NIV)

You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.
Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarrelling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.
(NLT)

OK. So this is where I should probably sit down and let the Bible and the Holy Spirit do their thing! It’s so direct isn’t it. 6 clear commands.

As Christians, we are all learning to live out good lives in front of everybody. At home, in the church and in the world. Where should we start with that?

Not disregarding the Bible’s teaching. i.e. Doing what the Bible says.
There’s 6 things in today’s passage. These 6 things are not new. Paul isn’t telling Titus to be innovative or creative. It’s “remind the people”. Remind them of things they already heard. So I hope there’s nothing new here for you tonight. And to prove it’s nothing new, we’re going to spend some time looking around at other scriptures to help illuminate them.

1) Submitting to the authorities
2) Being obedient
3) Ready to do good
4) Not slandering others
5) Being gentle
6) Showing humility to everyone

Here are other places in the Bible where these principles are given. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a starting point to see just how often this good life is shown to us.

1. Submit to authorities: Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-16
2. Be obedient: Exodus 20:12, Hebrews 13:17, Colossians 3:22-23
3. Ready to do good: Deut 15:11, James 2:14-17, Matt 25:34-40, Gal 6:10
4. Don’t slander others: Exodus 23:1, Ephesians 4:29, Prov 26:21-22
5. Be gentle: Proverbs 15:4, Ephesians 4:1-3, 1 Cor 13:4-8a
6. Show humility to everyone: Phil 2:4-11, Mark 10:42-45, John 13:12-15

Paul goes through this quick-fire list really quickly. It takes seconds to say, but a lifetime to put into practice.

What I want to do with our remaining time is think together about how these things are linked to God’s grace, how they glorify God, and therefore why they are hallmarks of a good life.

1) Submitting to the authorities
2) Being obedient
3) Ready to do good
4) Not slandering others
5) Being gentle
6) Showing humility to everyone

HOW CAN OUR BEHAVIOUR GLORIFY GOD?
The world is watching us Christians. And we are presenting the Gospel to them. Christian behaviour is important for sharing the Good News about Jesus. The way Christians behave is linked to the impact the Gospel makes in the world around.

If I am claiming to be a Christian, but my life is exactly the same as people who do not, then the watching world says, “There’s nothing to this Christianity lark! There’s no power in the Gospel! What’s the difference? Why follow Christ?”
And yes, since I am a sinner, I am the same as my friends who are not Christians.
BUT I believe that God’s grace has saved me. And that God’s grace is training me to be like Jesus, not like my human great-great-great-great-grandfather Adam.
And my behaviour is therefore different. I’m in a different family now.

That was true in Crete, for people living in a hostile Roman, pagan world, and it’s true now for us living in a hostile, British, secular world. Those who have trusted in God devote themselves to doing good, just as we have been taught.
It’s all over the letter in Titus (2:5, 2:8, 2:10, 2:14…)
and it should be all over our lives, too.

People in the world watching us might think we’re crazy because we believe that prayer changes things. Or because our hope is for the life beyond death. That’s fine!
The preacher Alistair Begg puts it like this,
“Christians may be disregarded as naive or weird… but we are not to be dismissed because we are bad, intolerant, disrespectful or rebellious.”

It’s ok for people to think we are weird. What we believe is foolish to them (1 Cor 1:18)! If someone who is not a Christian thinks you are weird for your beliefs, this probably means you are doing something right!!!If someone who is not a Christian thinks you are weird for being humble, for showing forgiveness, for doing good even when your boss wasn’t looking, or speaking encouragingly about your friend when she wasn’t there… If people think you’re weird, you are probably doing something right!! We are supposed to be salt and light in the world. The world is tasteless and dark, so salt and light are going to seem a little out of place, a little uncomfortable!

It’s OK to be persecuted for being naive and weird…. But not OK to tear down the Gospel by your behaviour. To bring the Gospel into disrepute. Not OK to suggest by how you live that God supports gossip. Or bitching. Or unkindness. Or pride.
We are not to be bad, intolerant, disrespectful or rebellious. We are to be ready to do good. Eager to do good!

Because of the grace given to us, we can pour it out onto others. We can be trained by the Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus. Everyday we can read the Bible find out more about the Lord Jesus and how he has called us to die to ourselves, but to find our new life in Him.

These 6 things glorify God because they show God’s character to the world. They are counter-cultural, unexpected ways to live — which are the ways that Jesus lived.

How can my good life make the Gospel attractive and glorify God?

– when it reflects God’s character to the watching world
– when it points to how great God is, not how great I am

1) Submitting to the authorities.
Those of you who did the Study Buddy Study will have spent some time looking very seriously at this issue, about submitting to rulers and authorities. When I did this study with my buddy we ran out the clock on it, just applying it to the rulers and authorities we are subject to, like our bosses, our husbands, our government.

Although we were looking in particular at “being subject to rulers and authorities”, we found that these principles are all working together, too. Being subject to the authorities, involves not slandering them (not slagging them off), involves showing humility, involves being gentle…

There are plenty of opportunities in a school staff room to be bitchy about politics. And

I’m going to name the elephant in the room and talk very briefly about Brexit – a real challenge to be godly about Brexit, isn’t it?
sometimes yes we need to vent. So how can we be godly about it?
And how can submitting to the authorities actually glorify God?
The vote in June 2016 was really close. So whichever way you voted, I’m sure you have people who disagree passionately with you about Brexit – Plenty of people I love and respect, my family, my friends, people at church…

Now, many of my colleagues are not Christians but they know I am. When I’m in the staff room, the world is watching. Here is my chance to make the Gospel attractive.

So. Do I really need to get bitter about Brexit? Do I go around grumbling about Leave or Remain voters? Using insulting and abusive language? Do I need to make a cheap joke about Brexit in the staff room which makes me look witty but makes the government look bad? No! God wants me to be a good citizen. To uphold the rule of law, not to delight when there is chaos and rub my hands with glee when I see injustice or the poor are suffering. Regardless of whether I voted Leave or Remain, I need to uphold the rule of law and seek justice for the poor and oppressed. If I hear of a consequence of Brexit which is putting people out of jobs, I don’t celebrate and say “ha they got what they deserve” – I’m a Christian, I talk about grace all the time and that means I celebrate that I don’t get what I deserve.
And when I’m with friends and family who voted the opposite way to me, do I let politics be the defining factor, or Christ? In this room tonight, is it more important to have politics in common, or Christ?

Good news: Brexit will not last forever. At the final Judgment, God is not going to ask, Did you vote Leave or Remain?
But he will ask, Did you trust in Jesus Christ? And did your life show it?

We read the Gospels and Jesus talks about himself as Messiah, as God’s chosen King. And whenever we read the Gospels we are quick to point out that Jesus’ primary mission was not to overthrow the Romans and start a political revolution for the Jews. No! Jesus says “my kingdom is not of this world…” SO let us not allow Brexit to divide Christ’s kingdom in the church. And out there in the world, in the staff room tomorrow, I need to show compassion and mercy, not bitterness and malice. (Quick nod to verse 3 – that is what some of us were like – ME for certain! “malice and envy…”)

So I’ve shown you how not being a good citizen, not being subject to rulers and authorities, can make the Gospel look unattractive.

Using Jesus as our example, he didn’t fight the Romans. He didn’t lead a political movement to get rid of Pontius Pilate. There was plenty that was wrong with the world he lived in. But Jesus said, Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; give to God what is God’s. He confronted the Pharisees and Sadducees and showed they were wrong to their very faces! Not slandering them behind their backs! But he was submissive and silent when he was arrested, tried and crucified. God was glorified and made to look great when Jesus submitted to the authorities.

We can also glorify God by submitting to the authorities because it points to God as the ultimate authority. We can show that we take paying our taxes seriously, our responsibility to vote and be engaged in dialogue. We give to the authorities the respect that is owed them and we give to God the respect owed to God. This is counter cultural.

The watching world will see we are different when we behave like this. They might think we are naive or weird for not using the tax dodge, for not insulting Teresa May or Donald Trump when the chance comes… but they will not be disregarded us (and with us, The Gospel) because we are Bad, Intolerant, Disrespectful or Rebellious.

2) Being obedient. The Bible says that Jesus was obedient to death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:7-9). We show that we respect God’s authority when we respect the authorities put over us. We are not a political rebellion here this Monday night. Jesus has rescued us for HIS kingdom.

3) Ready to do good. Eager, not reluctant!
Salt and Light. As I said earlier, this might make us stand out in our tasteless and dark world. But it’s ok to be thought of as weird or naive – rather than to be thought of as bad. When there’s opportunity to do good, DO IT! Why would you hold back?

4) Not slandering others
Begg: “Christians in society are to be clearly distanced from insulting or abusive language.” When we slander, we lift ourselves up by putting someone else down, someone who isn’t even there to defend themselves. We are treading on someone else to pull ourselves up. As we’ve seen, this isn’t how Jesus lived. And so it doesn’t show the Gospel and God’s grace to those around us when we speak badly of others behind their backs.
Just ask yourself – if that person was here and heard me say this, would they be encouraged and built up? No? Then does it really need to be said?

5) Being gentle/considerate/peaceable
Not a fighter. Not quarrelling and picking fights, but being considerate. Considering others’ feelings, considering others’ holiness. And. Being considerate to the people who are still fallen. How can they live a life of grace if they haven’t experienced God’s grace?? We’re studying 1 Corinthians at CotG and Rob has been showing us week after week that we expect Christians to live God’s good life based on the grace of God. If the world outside has not experienced the grace of God, how can we expect them to be trained by the grace of God?!?!

6) Showing humility to everyone
“Patiently bear the wrong done to me while acting quickly to alleviate the wrong done to others.” (Begg)
This is the hallmark of humility. We see Christ acting like this all the time, don’t we. Most of all on the cross. When we show that same humility, we reflect God’s character to the watching world. We make the Gospel attractive.

Consider: Can you think of real life examples of Christians living this good life? How can this sort of “Good Life” make the Gospel attractive to the watching world?

Our belief leads to our behaviour.
If we believe that Jesus has lived the Good Life, the BEST life in fact, and then sacrificed himself for us and poured out grace upon us… if we believe that grace is training us and making us more holy like Jesus… if we believe that this life is not all there is, that heaven is where we’re going and that holy character lasts for eternity…

We will be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit. To throw off the things that distract us. To bite back a cutting remark that is just slanderous. Because my life is not lived for my glory, it’s lived for God’s, and to tell people about his grace through the way I live my life.

Don’t make light of sin. The only thing that separates us from those outside the Church is God’s grace. And God’s grace came to us not because we were nice, or we graduated top of the class, or earned a particularly large bonus, No God’s grace came to us by God’s gift. Through the humility of Jesus Christ. So we show humility not just to our friends, or people in the church, but to all.

How can we live Christ-life without Christ’s life inside of us? How can we live a life of grace without God’s grace in us?

So we don’t make light of sin. These 6 commands we’ve looked at tonight set the standard of holiness high. But remember we come to the Cross, where Jesus poured out grace upon us, and we receive grace upon grace (James 4:6). We come to Christ who gladly pours out his spirit in our hearts (Luke 11:13, Rom 5:5). Grace trains us every day.

Take time to repent and receive God’s grace. The standard of holiness is high. Ask God’s Holy Spirit to pour that grace into you, overflowing, so you can live a good life which glorifies God and benefits others.

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