This morning I woke in a cloud. I think much of this is due to some new medication for my headaches, but none the less it is annoying and takes a while to clear. I pray for clarity and an open mind and I surf Facebook and some other photography sites just to help the fog dissipate. This morning’s surf took me to a passage in Titus on kindness and self-control.
Initially, I blew by it with only passing interest, but it kept nagging at my spirit until I had to look at it more closely. I could not remember the chapter or verse, only that it was in Titus. Knowing that Titus is a short book I just started reading.
I love the way Paul opens his letters to people. He includes the exact words they need to hear, and in Titus, he spells out who he is and what his role is in spreading God’s Word. He also defines that he brings this message to God’s elect.
Titus 1:1-3 (ESV) 1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
Now I am not Paul, but I am a child of God, and as I read this passage I realize that I may not be called to preach, but I am called to serve, and I need to do those things God places before me.
I read on as Paul started directing Titus to his tasks.
Titus 1:4-5 (ESV) 4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. 5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you
I can imagine the letter that Titus might have sent Paul that prompted this reply. I have struggled with things in prayer struggling with a task that just seems beyond me. There was likely some complaining about how hard it was for him when I read verse 5. The task he gave Titus was clear. He was there to finish getting things in order’
I read the attributes of an Elder that Paul outlined and hit versus 10-16. Paul speaks of those “insubordinate empty talkers.” He speaks of this group that spreads false doctrine and points out those in the “circumcision party” in particular.
Titus 1:10-16 (ESV) 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
You know I see stuff on television, even “Christian” programming that I cannot find support for in God’s Word and this passage reminds me that I must be diligent testing everything against God’s Word. I have this Book, the living Word of God, that I can trust. It is the only source of absolute truth. It is the definition of sound doctrine that Paul speaks of in this chapter.
Build Your House on the Rock
As I pondered the Titus 1, I was reminded of a passage in Matthew about building a house.
Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
I read this passage and got this sense of warm reassurance. I am building my house on the rock. That rock is the Holy Word of God. Regardless what storms or trials might come He is my strength and sound foundation. Without Him, I would be lost in the world.
As I read through chapter two, I found comfort in what Paul taught. He outlined our roles in life and the things on which we needed to focus. Verses 10-14 struck me.
Titus 2:10-14 (ESV) 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
We are to live and be good examples, putting on the wonder of God’s Word in all we do. Giving up those things Jesus saved us from and being zealous for good works.
I read Titus 3 his teachings in the rest of Paul’s letter. This whole letter to Titus was a vital teaching and enough so that Paul emphasized over and over proper behavior of the children of God. It is not enough to simply teach sound doctrine but remind them of our place in the world.
Titus 3:1-11 (ESV) 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
The part that strikes me in this passage is that before Jesus saved us from ourselves, we too were lost and driven by our human passions. Paul reminds me that I am to be “to be gentle and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray.” (Titus 3: 2b-3a).
It is easy to forget that, and it is a very short walk to self-righteousness.
Closing – Loving Kindness
You know every day I am faced with one challenge or another; one distraction or another. It is easy for me to get frustrated and caught up in myself and my problems. It is easy to become angry with the way I feel I have been mistreated. But God gives me a choice every day. Today it was Paul’s letter to Titus. He reminded me that I am above no one nor am I a door mat. I am a child of the one true God. That does not give me authority over anyone but charges me to be kind and subordinate. He reminds me to treat all people with kindness. I am also reminded of a passage in 1 Timothy.
1 Timothy 4:12-14 (ESV) 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you
I thank God for all He is! I am thankful for His sound council.
Father thank you for the foundation of your Holy Word. Thank you, Father, for the strength you give me when I listen to you and keep my focus in Your Word.
Help me, Lord, to be a gentle man patient and kind that I might not speak ill of anyone but live a life of kindness.
Lord, I know I fall short here. But my strength is in you and I hold fast to you in all things, and am thankful for the gift of repentance and grace when I fall short.
In Jesus name, I pray, Amen!