Good Relations audio (3MB)
If someone asked how they could be good, what would you say? What does it take to be good? What do you need to do?
Last week, we saw that the foundation of being good is being pointed in the right direction. It comes from having leaders who are good models for us. Leaders who have a firm grasp on the word of God. Good leaders who faithfully ‘Teach the Bible’. It’s not just leaders, we all need a solid grasp on the Bible if we’re to be good. In the pew sheets are the Bible reading plans that I mentioned last week. I’ve been told that Jack Giles is the man to see if you want to get your hands on the Daily Bread reading plans. And here’s the chart that I said I’d be using, but had left at home. Being good starts with being pointed in the right direction, by leaders, by God’s word.
So Paul begins chapter 2, charging Titus to;
‘Teach what is consistent with sound doctrine.’
We saw in chapter 1 that false teachers had led the church in Crete astray. They’d been ‘teaching for sordid gain what is not right to teach’ (1:11). Their dodgy teaching lead to lives that were anything but good. They ‘professed to know God, but denied him by their actions’ (1:16). They were, ‘unfit for any good work.’ The answer to this was ‘teaching which is consistent with sound doctrine’, it’s ‘truth that is accordance with godliness’ (1:1).
But knowledge itself doesn’t lead to us being good. Simply marking off every chapter on my reading chart won’t make me a good person. There’s more to being good than that.
Which is why Paul tells Titus to teach sound doctrine in verse 1. And then he immediately instructs Titus to ‘tell’ or ‘guide’ the people in how they should behave. Through verses 2-10 six different groups are addressed. There’s the old men and old women, who were probably those over forty of fifty. Then there’s the young women and young men. There are some instructions for Titus himself. And there’s a final word to slaves or servants. Paul gives concrete, practical instruction on how the gospel is to shape how the whole church lives and acts. He gives them guidelines on how to be good.
Last week I mentioned that Micah loves being told he’s a good boy. For him that means sharing, doing what he’s told, climbing in the high chair and not bitting Joshua! That list would probably look a little different for you! Even Micah’s list will probably be a bit different in the future. We might add doing his homework or keeping his room tidy.
We need to approach verses 2-10 with a similar mindset. In directing particular instructions to particular groups, Paul isn’t saying that they only apply to them. Older women are the only ones who are told not to be slaves to drink, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK for everyone else! In Crete there’s evidence that heavy drinking was seen as a virtue. At that time, there was a movement in the Roman Empire that saw women encouraging each other to drink, gossip and be sexual promiscuous. This might explain why Paul directs these particular instructions to them. We’re all to be sober, but Paul is addressing something that was a particular issue for the Christian women in Crete at that time.
Other instructions on the list address what we might consider to be timeless issues. The only instruction given to young men is that they be ‘self-controlled.’ This is something young men in every age need to work on, control of their passions, their anger, their sexual impulses.
And there are instructions that are clearly universal, across time, gender, and context. Every group is to be reverent, temperate and faithful.
As we read verses 2-10 we should pay attention to the words that are addressed to whatever group where in. But we’re not think it’s an exhaustive checklist. That all ‘older men’ need to do is be ‘temperate, serious, prudent and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.’ Or that the only way young women can be good is if they’re married, mothers and housewives.
Sound doctrine is the foundation of being good. But more than mere knowledge, the gospel is meant to transform and shape our lives. It dictates how we act and behave, how we think and speak. As James says, ‘We are not to be just hearers of the word, but doers of the word.’ In vs 11-15, Paul explains why the gospel doesn’t just tell us how to be good, it’s also our motivation for being good.
I want to stop for a minute and set you a little challenge. Look behind you for a second. Now look in front of you. Now do both at the same time. It’s impossible isn’t it! But Paul says we’re to do spiritually what’s impossible to do physically. Being good involves looking backwards and looking forwards.
We look back to the first appearance of Christ. We look back to Christ’s incarnation, his death and resurrection. Paul says we must look back and remember that Christ came to save us. And at the same time we have to look forward to Christ’s second coming. We’re to look forward to his glorious return. Our lives are framed by the epiphany of grace and the epiphany of glory. Both of these should drive us towards being good.
It’s important to realise that Paul isn’t implying that we do good in the hope of earning salvation. Rather he’s saying that because we have been saved, we strive towards being good. Salvation involves us being trained;
‘to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly,’
Notice that we’re not expected to become perfect, or good, overnight. We’re being trained to renounce evil and trained to be good. We’re to work daily at being people whose lives are shaped by the gospel. Becoming like Christ is a life-long endeavor. In Romans, Paul pictures it as a continual struggle to put off the old and put on the new. But it’s one that we are to persevere in, because Christ;
‘gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.’
We’re to be known as people who are zealous for good deeds. We’re to strive towards being the good people that God created us to be.
Notice too that Christ came not to save us as individuals, but as ‘a people.’ Throughout chapter 2, being good is a communal thing. There’s a relational dimension to all the instructions given to the different groups in the church. Older generations are to be a model to younger generations. Those who are mature in their faith are to teach and train those who are younger. Titus is instructed to be a model of good works.
Paul makes the relational aspect of being good even more clear in chapter 3. We must relate well to the government and society, and to all the people around us; 1Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.
In seeking to be good, we must build community that reflects God’s love!
What’s more, Paul says how we behave, how we act, reflects upon the gospel. If we aren’t good, if we’re more like the Cretans than Christ, what Paul warns in v. 5 will happen;
‘so that the word of God may not be discredited.’
Paul’s instructs Titus to be good, so that ‘any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.’
If we allow the gospel to transform us, to train us in goodness, then,
‘in everything we may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Saviour.’
If we want to be good, we need to have a firm grasp of God’s word. Sound doctrine is the foundation of being good. But we need to do more than just read our bibles. The gospel tells us how we should live if we want to be good. It also reminds us that God sent his Son to redeem us, so that we might be good. And our lives should reflect the love of God, because that will attract people to the gospel.
Well practically what can we do? Last week I encouraged us all to be diligent in reading our bibles in 2013. But we mustn’t think that just reading our bibles will make us good. As we read we need to ask, ‘How should this change how I live?’ We need to think about how our actions reflect the gospel. We need to ask what our lives say about what we believe in. We need to ask am I being an ornament or a discredit to the gospel?
And we need to think about how we can train others, or be trained by others. This involves sharing our lives, sharing our journey with others. This week I’ve head some great stories of some long term members of St. Thomas’. I’ve heard of the great faith of some of the more ‘mature’ amongst us. And I’ve heard how their examples have inspired others. We need to engage in this sort of activity. Seeking to learn from each other, to be trained in goodness by one-another.
The best way I think we can do all these things is in small groups. In meeting together with others to study God’s word and asking ‘how does this speak into our culture, into our context, into our Church?’ It’s in small groups were we seek to train and encourage each other, as we strive towards being good. So let me encourage you to join a small group in 2013!