Good To Go audio (3MB)
The wait is over. Not the wait for the building to be finished. There’s still 61 sleeps to go for that. No, I’m talking about something else that some of us here have been waiting anxiously for. On Thursday the first round of university offers came out. Across the state students and their families have discovered if they’re good to go. Good to go to the university they wanted, good to go for the course they’d hoped to get into. I’m sure many here can remember that nervous wait, wondering if we, or our children, were good to go.
Chapter 3 of Titus is a little like the Tertiary Offer Guide. It tells us if we’re good to go. It doesn’t cover our entry into university, but into heaven. It’s quite a bit shorter than the TOG, as there’s no need for individual results. Paul says we were all, each and every one of us, anything but good. Verse 3 states:
3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.
As we’ve seen throughout Titus, the Christians in Crete had been led astray by false teachers. But Paul says none of us are innocent. At heart we’re all disobedient to God.
Our post-modern world teaches us that personal freedom and personal choice are paramount. Our society stresses that we should be free, free to indulge in whatever we like. The bible tells us a different story though. It says we’re actually slaves to our passions, and desires. Paul says we’re all slaves to sin, and death.
We’re also taught by our society that the most important person in the world is ‘you’. We’re told that ‘I’m number one.’ But the end result of that thinking is what Paul talks about in verse 3. If I’m number one, well everyone else must be number two. We spend our days in malice and envy. We become envious of the good that comes to others, thinking we deserve it ourselves. We end up wishing bad things would happen to them.
This week was the end of a dream for me. I’d long hoped that the allegations against Lance Armstrong were untrue. But he finally admitted to them. And when he was asked why, his reason came straight out of verse 3. It was all about him. He’d come to believe that he deserved to win, no matter what it took. It’s symptomatic of the sin that we all suffer from. It’s no surprise that Paul says we’re despicable. We deserve to be hated and we get what we deserve.
Verse 3 says that none of us are good to go. None of us would get into heaven. Not even the ‘good’ things we managed to do, the works of righteousness, qualified us. None of us were good to go.
I wonder how that makes you feel? Some people I know, say they trust that they’ve done enough good to get into heaven. That God will look and see that they tried hard, they did more good than bad, and that will be enough. Titus tells us that’s not the case.
But, verse 4 says that something amazing happened. Not something we deserved. Instead, God chose to act out of his goodness and loving kindness. Out of his mercy and love, God sent his Son to save us. As we read last week, in Titus 2:11, ‘Christ gave himself to redeem us from all iniquity’. And what Jesus accomplished on the cross is made effective in us through the Holy Spirit;
6through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Instead of pouring out his wrath upon us, God has instead poured out his Spirit, richly, generously, lavishly. Paul says it is the Holy Spirit who works within us, to wash us of our sins. I remember when I first prayed to God, asking him to accept me, I felt this amazing sense of being clean. The washing we receive from the Holy Spirit leaves us not just sparkling and clean, but reborn and renewed. The outward action of our baptism is a symbol of this inner washing by the Holy Spirit.
And having been justified by God’s grace, we’ve become heirs with Christ. We’ve received the promise of eternal life. We’re simply waiting for Christ to return in order to collect our inheritance.
Verses 3-7 are an amazing summary of what God has done for us. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have worked together in order to save us. Out of God’s mercy we, who were once bad have been made good. And so, not because of our own merit, but because of God’s grace we’re good to go.
This is an important message, the most important in the world. So it’s no surprise that Titus is to insist upon it. Rather than getting bogged down in foolish arguments with the false teachers about speculative things, he’s to bang on about this true and trustworthy saying. At every opportunity he needs to tell people that in Christ they’re good to go.
But there’s another reason Titus is to repeat this message. It’s;
8so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.
We’re to set our minds doing good, thinking through the practical implications of our faith and putting them into action. That’s the meaning behind being careful to devote our selves to doing good works. Back in verses 1-2 gave us an indication of what that looks like. It involves relating well to civil authorities and to all people.
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 quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.
Instead of self-centered, egotistical living, we’re to defer to authority, to respect it. Instead of malice and envy we’re to speak evil of no one, to show gentleness and courtesy to all. We’re to show that we’re people who have been washed, cleansed and renewed.
These things are excellent and profitable to everyone. True that if we all obeyed law, our society would run really well. If we truly loved one another our world would be a much nicer place. But there’s more to it than that. Verse 8 says that it is those who have come to believe in God who are to be committed to good deeds. The result is that everyone will profit. The ‘everyone’ refers to outsiders, those who don’t yet believe in God. Christians are meant to make their lives a positive demonstration of what it means to be truly good, in the way we act, think and behave.
The whole of chapter 3 has a missionary edge to it. We are living witnesses to the gospel. We touched upon this in chapter 2 last week. In the instructions to various groups within the church we saw a repeated focus on those outside. Our lives are meant to be ornaments to the gospel. We’re living expression of God’s grace and kindness.
You might have heard the quote that is often attributed to Francis of Assisi, ‘Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary use words.’ It’s not something he actually said. And not something he actually did. Like Titus, Francis preached a lot. Words are very necessary, if we’re to speak the gospel. If we want people to know the truth of what God has done for us, we need to speak. There’s no way to communicate that without using words and speech.
But we are to ensure that our lives are in tune with our words. The reality is that people see our lives and our actions long before they listen to what we have to say.
We’re almost good to go back to Station Street. As we do, we’re praying and planning for lots of people to visit us at the opening. But we mustn’t kid our selves that the church will grow just because we have a new building. It’s no Field of Dreams. People might visit, but why will they come back the following week? What will make them choose to return? More importantly, what will make them think about choosing to believe in God? No program can make them do that. It’s the people, the community they find at St. Thomas’ that will speak most loudly to them.
In all we do we must ensure our lives reflect the gospel. We’re to be devoted to good works. Doing so is a double blessing to outsiders. They might benefit from what we do. But the real goal is that they see that it is God alone who has made us good, who equips us to be good.
Paul ends his letter with some personal instructions to Titus. Along with preparing to be replaced so that he can rejoin Paul, he’s to
13Make every effort to send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way, and see that they lack nothing.
It’s likely that Zenas and Apollos were the ones who delivered the letter to Titus. He’s to make sure their needs are met. But it doesn’t fall to Titus alone. Rather the whole church is to provide for their needs:
14And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.
One last time Paul is emphasizing the theme of the letter. Our doctrine must manifest itself in practical ways.
That includes providing for those involved in gospel ministry. We’re to give generously to support the work of this church. And we’re to give to those missionaries we’ve decided to be linked with. In two weeks we’ll be hearing from the Oates. As we hear from them, we need to remember that we were joined in their work. As they spoke the gospel in Africa, we were there with them, because we gave to support them.
Over last three weeks we’ve asked the question, “How to be Good?”
In Titus we’ve seen that the answer is being good starts with being pointed in the right direction. Being good starts with Teaching the Bible. So we’re to be firmly grounded in God’s word, because sound doctrine is the foundation of doing good.
We’ve seen that we must learn from, and teach one another. We’re to model to each other what it means to be good. In doing so we Build Community that reflects God’s love.
How we act and relate, comes from the gospel. God has saved us. He has made us good to go to heaven. Not on the basis of our own deeds, our own merit, but according to his mercy and grace. We’re to look forward in hope to the return of Christ, to the eternal life which we will inherit through him. And as God’s people who have been given new birth through the Holy Spirit, we’re to be devoted to good works, so that the world might see, and believe. We’re good to go, to go into the world to do good, that they might come to the God who is good and be saved.