Good Directions audio (2.6MB)
There are two words that Micah loves to hear. Two words make his day. These two words are, ‘Good boy.’ They’re words that we all love aren’t they. We want someone say that we’re a ‘good person’, a ‘good man’ or a ‘good woman’. We love to be told, ‘Good job’ or ‘good work.’ We all have a desire to be good, to do good.
Over the next three weeks, we’ll be looking at Paul’s short letter to Titus. It’s all about being good. In it, Paul says we’re to:
Love what is good (1:8)
Be fit for any good work (1:16)
Teach what is good (2:3)
Zealous for good deeds (2:14)
Ready for every good work (3:1)
Devoted to good works (3:8, 14)
Paul doesn’t just tell Titus that we’re to be good, he also teaches us how to be good. Each week we’ll be looking at a different aspect of Paul’s guide to being good. As I’ve read through Titus, I’ve been struck at how each chapter matches up with our mission at St. Thomas’. Paul doesn’t quite get the order right though! Next week we’ll see that being good involves good relationships, or ‘Building Community that reflects God’s love’. On the 20th, we’ll see we need to be Good to Go, ready to ‘Speak the Gospel’.
But today, in chapter 1, Paul says the foundation of being good is being pointed in good directions, which comes from having good leaders, who faithfully ‘Teach the Bible’.
The people of Crete were in desperate need of being taught how to be good. Without any other background we can see that in verses 10-16. Paul reports them boasting;
‘Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.’
This is something they were proud of. We know that in Crete, lying was culturally accepted, the people were quite boastful, proud, and self-centred. They were, Cretans. There's a reason we get that word from them.
It’s into this situation that Paul has sent Titus. He’s to carry on Paul’s work of teaching the truth that is in accordance with godliness, or goodness (v1). Titus’ mission is to straighten out the new church in Crete, to put it in order (v5). The first, and most important, step is to ‘appoint leaders in every church’. Verses 6-10 show that the current crop of leaders in Crete aren’t any good. Rather, Paul says they’re false teachers, in it for themselves, leading the people into destruction, rendering them incapable of doing good. What’s needed is good leaders who won’t lead God’s people astray. Leaders who will remind us that our destination is eternal life with God, and will keep us pointed in the right direction.
We still need good leaders today. As much as he might like it, we don't tell Micah he’s a good boy all the time. We’re always reminding him what it means to be a good. Gently correcting, guiding, directing him. As Christians, as a church, we need leaders who will point us in the right direction if we’re to be good. Paul tells us what to look for in a leader in verses 5-9.
I wonder what your checklist would be? If you were responsible for selecting a new leader in the church, what would you look for? What kind of person would keep us pointed in a good direction? Who do you think would lead us in doing good for the gospel? These are the questions we must ask when we appoint any leader within the church.
It’s true that Paul’s criteria are particularly relevant to those who are ordained, to elders and bishops as the NRSV translates verses 5 & 7. But what Paul says applies as much to every leader within the church. We need to pay attention to what Paul says a good leader looks like so we know what kind of people to appoint as small group leaders, as wardens, as vestry, as youth group or kids club leaders, as service leaders.
For those of us who are already leaders, we need to pay extra attention. We need to think about what Paul says good leaders look like and ask, ‘Is that me?’ or ‘Are there any areas that I need to work on?’ At the start of the year to think about resolutions perhaps there’s an aspect of our leadership or life we need to focus on growing in.
Well, what do good leaders look like? Paul says three things about them. They are blameless in their personal life, blameless in their public life and blameless in their teaching.
Leaders need to be... blameless in their private life
Verse 6 says that leaders should be:
6someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious.
For the early church, there wasn’t really such a thing as a private life. The family unit was the cornerstone of society, and of the church. In Crete, as elsewhere, churches would have been based in people’s homes. So Paul says, leaders need to be blameless in their life at home. If they’re married, they need to be completely faithful in their marriage, which is perhaps a better translation than, ‘married only once.’ And if they have children, they need to have demonstrated an ability to lead, to guide, to teach in their homes. We’ll look more at this next week as we delve into chapter 2, and Paul’s advice for good relationships. For the early church, the home was the small group, the proving ground for leaders. As we think about leaders today, we need to ask, not just what their home life says about them, but if they’ve proven they can lead in small groups, before they’re given greater responsibilities.
Leaders need to be... blameless in their public life
In verses 7-8 Paul says a leader must also be blameless in their public life, in their work and ministry.
7For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; 8but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.
These verses are often divided into two checklists. Verse 7 outlines the five traits that leaders should never have. Verse 8 is then the six characteristics of a highly effective leader. This is a good list for those in leadership to think about, to use for self-evaluation. How are you going in your self-discipline? Do you get angry? Do you dominate? Do you instead love what is good? Do you serve for the sake of others, not for just what you get out of it? It’s clear the Cretans failed this test of leadership! More than just a checklist, Paul presents a comprehensive character profile of good leaders. This is the kind of people they should be.
Leaders need to be... blameless in their teaching
But it’s not just about character because the final thing Paul says is that leaders need to:
9have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that they may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.
Paul says leaders need to be grounded in God’s word. They need to literally cling to the Scriptures with all their might. It’s only if they do this that leaders will be able to set God’s people in good directions. For it’s knowledge of the truth that directs us to godliness (v1).
Sound doctrine is the foundation of good living. So leaders must be able to teach the Bible, in accordance with the truth. It’s God’s word that will help bring those in error to their senses, which will correct our course and ensure we stay sound in the faith. Leaders need to have a firm grasp of the Bible if they’re to direct us in doing good.
If we want to be good, we need to look for leaders who are like Paul has described. And we need to encourage our leaders to grow in these areas. We know that no one is truly blameless. But our leaders need to be good examples, good models,
Leaders lead where we all should go
This is the final reason why these verses are important for all of us. In 2:7 Titus is told to;
7Show yourself in all respects a model of good works.
Leaders are a model for everyone else. It’s vital that leaders are blameless, because all God’s people are meant to be blameless. Leaders lead by example. Leaders are to show what God’s people are to be like, what you’re to be like. So what Paul has to say applies to everyone here! We’re all to strive towards being blameless, towards being good. That starts with good directions, with good leaders, grounded in God’s word.
How to be good...
Each week I want to give us something very practical as we look at the question, ‘How to be Good.’ Today, I want to focus on the last characteristic that Paul spoke of, having a firm grasp on God’s word. This isn’t important just for those who have to Teach the Bible. It’s important for all of us. Regular, disciplined reading of God’s word is essential if we want to stay pointed in the right direction. It’s vital if we want to be the good people God calls us to be.
On the inside of the pew sheets are a number of resources you might like to try to help your bible reading this year. If you already do, great, just file them away. If not, you might like to consider trying one of them. There are ‘traditional’ reading plans like Scripture Union’s Daily Bread. This year I’m setting myself the goal of reading through the entire bible. I’ll be giving a different method a try. It’s a chart, with every chapter in the bible listed, that you cross of as you read them. It allows more freedom, and recognises we read the bible in all sorts of situations. We could all mark of Titus 1 after this morning! I’ll be keeping this in my diary. As a leader, I invite you to ask to see it, to ask how I’m going with my reading. But if you do, be prepared that I might ask how you’re going too!