Archive for December, 2017

Titus 2

Titus 2 has Paul giving Titus some direction on how to speak to five different segments of the church.  He makes sure that Titus puts first things first though by saying “teach what accord with sound doctrine”.  It doesn’t matter who you are talking with – speaking God’s truth has to be priority one.  But then he goes on to differentiate between five different types of people:

  1. Older men
  2. Older women
  3. Younger men
  4. Younger women
  5. Slaves

Titus then gives specific direction to each group:

  • Older men – are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
  • Older women – likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine….teach what is good, and so train
  • young women – to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
  • younger men – to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity,  dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
  • Slaves – are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior”

Very specific guidance as to how Titus was to prepare each group to live successfully as a Christ Follower.

Around the word steadfastness for older men, it means a steadfast and active endurance, not a passive waiting.  We are to be in the game and not on the bench. To older women, he warned of a common problem of his day around wine, and gives them something positive to live towards, instead of the negative things of slander and alcohol abuse.  Titus was not to make it his ministry to teach the young women directly but to equip and encourage the older women to teach the young women. And Titus had to be more than a teacher, he also had to be an example. His guidance to others would not be taken seriously if he himself was not walking with the Lord.

Then Paul takes a different tact and instructs Titus about slaves or bondservants.  Titus was to teach bondservants about their specific duties as Christians.  Christians had shocked the larger culture by mixing slaves and masters in the social setting of the church service.  So Titus was to address this potentially charged situation.  And then Paul ends this chapter by telling Titus to “redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works”.  Paul wants Titus to remind Christ Followers that they have been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, and as a result should be zealous to live righteously and focus on doing good works!

Titus 1

In Titus 1, Paul has some strong words for his partner in the ministry, Titus, whom he had left behind in Crete to continue the work after Paul was called away.  They were sharing “the hope of eternal life which God, who never lies, promised”.  We have the opportunity to share that same message today because it is just as valid now as when Paul was preaching it almost 2000 years ago.  Eternal life is God’s gift to mankind, offered as a gift of grace through Christ Jesus our Savior.  But even with such a glorious message, people were messing things up in the church.

After a successful evangelistic campaign on the island of Crete, there were a lot of young Christians to take care of. Paul left Titus behind to build stable churches with mature, qualified pastors for the people. Paul’s answer was to put a leadership structure in place and he charges Titus to make that happen.  “Appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination”.  Paul tells Titus to place these elders in every city on Crete – local leadership is vital to a strong and healthy faith community.

It’s important to note that Paul doesn’t give qualifications related to education or giftedness.  He doesn’t tell Titus to go find the most gifted guys to lead.  He focuses on character and a real relationship with Jesus which supersedes anything we have learned or gifts we might have. The list goes on to say “as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it”.  This is not a rigid list which demands perfection in all areas. It provides both goals to reach for and the general criteria to be used in selection.

Why is it so important to have the right leadership in place?  Because the church was facing “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers…. upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach”.  There were some bad eggs who had the ear of people and Paul wants that shut down and the door closed tightly behind them.  “Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth….They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work”.  Titus had to train the elders he chose to simply “shut up” these problem people.  And he had to be willing to come alongside his leaders to stand with them in shutting down those who did not teach God’s truth.

2 Timothy 4

2 Timothy 4 has Paul exhorting his disciple to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”.  Paul charges Timothy to preach the word – and in the original language that meant to testify or be a witness.  It was a strong command.  Timothy was not required to merely know the word or like the word or approve of the word; he was required to preach the word. And it wasn’t in a way to just tickle peoples ears – strong words like reprove, rebuke, exhort – he was to bring the word to bear on the lives of those in his care.  God’s Word is not just a suggestion for life – it is the way we are to live.  Not a theory or idea – but a guide to living in a way that pleases God.

Back in that day, much like today, many didn’t like what the scriptures said.  “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”.  We really are a gullible bunch. Once we turn from God’s truth, we run to whatever makes us feel good.  When we reject God’s truth, we don’t usually believe in nothing but rather we’ll believe in anything.  Paul wants Timothy to be prepared for the folks who will press him to give them words that make them feel good about themselves no matter how they live.

Paul’s time is quickly coming to an end.  He felt like he was at the train station and his train to heaven was boarding.  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”.  Those are words all of us should aspire to be able to say as we wind down life.  Paul uses the analogy of a race throughout his writings.  We need to live life as a Christ Follower like an athlete where we are training for and running a race to eternity.  It won’t just happen well without some real intentionality, and if we don’t keep the faith we will get pulled off the course and fail to finish well.

Is it worth the hard work to fight and finish?  Paul makes it clear that it absolutely is.  “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing”.  Remember where Paul came from.  He was a persecutor of Christians and killed many.  Yet as he winds down life on earth we are reminded that Christ’s grace covers any and all sin if we accept his grace and make it our own.  We’ll all stand before God some day and have to give account to a righteous judge.  If all we have to talk about is how we have lived, we will be toast and fail to enter eternity with God.  But if we have prepared by receiving salvation through the shed blood of Christ, we’ll end up with a crown of righteousness as well and spend forever with Paul in God’s presence!

2 Timothy 3

2 Timothy 3 has Paul warning Timothy that people are going to be people.  “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”.  These were the words describing people ‘in the last days’ which sure sounds a lot like where we are living today.  People will be people which means they will be self centered and full of sin, which is why we need God’s grace and a Savior.

So what are we to do with folks who are like this?  “Avoid such people….these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and  disqualified regarding the faith”.  We need to be careful who we hang around.  We are impacted by those whose company we keep.  Paul reminds Timothy of the impact of his life on him: “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings”.  We don’t have to act like the lovers of self Paul described to start this chapter.  We can choose to live like Paul and set an example where people can see Jesus in every area of our life.

But it isn’t easy as Paul warns that “all who desire to  live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.  The world and our very real enemy in Satan himself will seek to derail and destroy our faith and foundation.  We need to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.  We need to hang onto the truth of God’s Word and make sure we are walking in faith as Christ Followers.

The truth comes directly from God through His Holy Scriptures.  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work”.  The Word is all we need.  It tells us a truth that means more than our opinions, tells us when we are wrong in our thinking or conduct and tells us how to live rightly before God and men.  It is all we need.  Guzik writes it is a “spiritual work, a spiritual blessing which God works in us as we come to the Bible and let Him speak to us. This goes beyond our intellectual understanding. It is filled with great spiritual power beyond our intellect:

  • The Bible gives us eternal life (1 Peter 1:23).
  • The Bible spiritually cleanses us (Ephesians 5:26).
  • The Bible gives us power against demonic spirits (Ephesians 6:17).
  • The Bible brings spiritual power to heal our bodies (Matthew 8:16).
  • The Bible brings us spiritual strength (Psalm 119:28).
  • The Bible has the power to spiritually build faith in us (Romans 10:17).

2 Timothy 2

2 Timothy 2 begins with Paul reminding Timothy how to make disciples and take the world for Jesus.  The formula is exactly the same as it was some 2000 years ago – “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”.  Making disciples is not magic.  It is about learning what it means to be a Christ Follower, and then finding someone else you can build into that can take it forward and build it into another person.  It may seem slow and inefficient – this idea of raising up disciples one by one – but it actually is built upon the concept of multiplication where one becomes two who become four who become 8 who become 16.  In 40 years, if each person in the chain just found and discipled one person for a year who went and did the same, the entire globe would be Christ Followers.

We can never get there through adding people one at a time, which is unfortunately how the church attempts to reach the planet for Christ today.  Paul’s formula started with himself -> Timothy -> faithful men -> others.  That’s how God designed the plan to reach the world.  So what is the problem?  “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops”.  We get distracted.  We don’t follow the plan and soon we’re back to adding people one at a time rather than multiplying disciples one by one.

If we truly are Christ Followers, Paul tells us we need to live that way.  “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself”. We need to focus on how we live our days in this earth as they matter.  God cares about how we live.  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth”.  We need to know the Word and live the Word with those in our patch.

But things get in the way.  “So flee  youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord  from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant  controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will”.  We have to stay away from the things that derail us on our walk with Jesus.  The enemy is after us and is focused on helping us into the ditch so we fail in our mission to live a life pleasing to God that brings others to Him as disciples.  We have to make right choices and hang around right people if we want any hope of reaching God’s plan for our life!

2 Timothy 1

2 Timothy 1 begins Paul’s second letter to his protégé Timothy.  He begins like he does in all his letters, reminding us that he is an apostle according to the will of God, not because of what he or any other man plans for him.  Paul is in prison in Rome as he writes and was facing execution.  So this letter has some intensity behind it.  Paul begins by reminding Timothy of his heritage.  “I am reminded of  your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well”.  Timothy’s genuine faith was due, in no small way, to his godly upbringing and the influence of his grandmother and mother.

It wasn’t enough that this genuine faith was in Timothy’s grandmother and mother; it had to be in Timothy also. Our children, once of age to be accountable before God, must have their own relationship with Jesus Christ. Mom and dad’s relationship with God will not then bring eternal life to them.  Because of his history, Paul encourages Timothy to pour gas onto his faith fire.  “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God….for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”.  When it comes to our faith, we must be bold, get going, go for it.  It should drive us and we need to keep poking at it so the flame continues to burn and grown.

Paul challenges Timothy to stand tall and firm in his faith.  “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do”.  That’s a mouth full of words.  Paul challenges Timothy to recognize just how special and amazing God’s gift of grace is through Christ, and the eternal outcome He gave of victory over death and the promise of eternal life to all who believe.  That’s the message Paul taught and is encouraging Timothy to shout from the rooftops.

It’s a personal mission for Paul.  “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day  what has been entrusted to me”.  He sits in a Roman prison but has assurance of his salvation through Christ at a level that cannot be shaken.  We must know what we believe; but it is even more important to know whom we believe.  Paul knew exactly what he believed. Paul had committed everything to Jesus – his life, his body, his character and reputation, his life’s work, everything that was precious.  Paul knew he could not keep his own life; he knew that only God could keep it.  Paul was all in for Jesus.  That’s what he calls Timothy, and each of us as Christ Followers to do as well.  We need to be all in for Jesus.

1 Timothy 6

1 Timothy 6 has Paul writing to Timothy about riches and godliness.  “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world”.  There is a false doctrine that teaches godliness as a means to get material gain.  If we live as a Christ Follower, we’re going to have financial blessing.  That’s just not true.  God wants us to become godly, but also content.  Our focus in life should not be getting more, which is actually greed.  Our focus needs to be on gratitude for what we have recognizing that everything in this world is not ours, and it certainly won’t go with us into eternity.  Our stuff does not corrupt us, it is how we think about our stuff and our desire to get more that is the issue.

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs”.  Money is not bad in and of itself.  It’s the love of money and making it the priority that causes our heart to be drawn away from the eternal riches God desires us to pour into and get caught up on earthly riches which will go away.  Chasing wealth can lead us away from walking with Jesus.  It messes up our priorities and causes us to make bad choices.

Rather than chasing money, Paul challenges us to “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness”.  These are the things that God wants to see as the priorities of our life.  They don’t just happen because we become Christ Followers.  We have to pursue them, and work to build them.  And it is a battle every day.  “Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. We have a very real enemy who wants to distract us with earthly things like money and stuff and divert our pursuit from that of God, to the things of this world.  We have to stay focused on eternity and what we have been called to be and do.  We have to fight to walk moment by moment with Christ.

We’ve been given the commandments to effective living – to love God and to love others.  Paul reminds us to keep those main things the main thing.  “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Our charge is to live our lives as a testimony of our faith in Christ.  We are to stay the course and walk the walk before all those in our patch.  To do that, we have to focus on godliness, not gaining riches.  If we don’t we certainly are at risk of being pulled away from God and focusing on the wrong things.  Godliness is our charge.  God will take care of the rest!

1 Timothy 5

1 Timothy 5 has Paul directing Timothy around how to treat people of all ages in the church.  He divides them into four different segments.  “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity”.

  1. Older men – fathers, treated with respect, not rebuke
  2. Younger men – brothers, or partners in the ministry of the gospel
  3. Older women – respect and honor as mothers caring for those in their patch
  4. Younger women – sisters, treated with purity above reproach

Paul doesn’t define the exact age at which you move from one area to another.  Bottom line, there is a way we are to treat each other, and in every case, it begins with recognizing the value and importance we have in God’s plan.

He goes on to address how the church is to assist widows and those in need.  There is no doubt that God has a special place in His heart for widows and those in need.  Back in the day Paul wrote this, there was no social assistance from the government.  The church was the only place providing support.  But just because the government has created some level of support doesn’t relieve the church of the responsibility to care for those in need.  Paul is clear that in addition to the church, families carry some responsibility to help their own as well.  “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for  members of his household, he has  denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”.  Strong words about our responsibility.

Paul also addresses how we are to treat elders – both those who lead and those who teach or preach.  “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching”.  Paul tells us that those who lead and preach need to be given ‘double honor’ or basically taken care of financially.  In his time, and he is a perfect example, many who were preachers and leaders had a full time day job to support themselves and did the work of the ministry on the side on their own time.  We are to take care of those who serve the church well.

Paul ends reminding us that how we live matters.  “The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden”.  It is easy to see the struggles and sins some have; but with some others, the sins are hidden.  But hidden sins don’t mean they are excused and given a pass.  Sin is sin whether anyone else knows about it or not.  Sin will come clear when we stand before God on Judgment Day.  These words are guidance to Timothy that there is more to a person than what is obvious on the outside.  God’s discernment is critical to helping us know exactly what lies in the heart of man.  He’ll make it clear when we stand before Him, but until then, we have to seek His guidance in selecting people to lead and preach.

1 Timothy 4

1 Timothy 4 has Paul warning about what was to come.  “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth”.  The Holy Spirit gives Paul a revelation about what will come:

  • The danger of apostasy (some will depart).
  • The danger of deception (deceiving spirits).
  • The danger of false teaching (teachings of demons).

The enemy wants to destroy God’s truth and the way it will happen is by raising up people who will teach something contrary and deceptive.  These false teachers at one point may have believed, but have had their consciences burned to the point they no longer respond.

Paul is clear on how we need to deal with this false information.  “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come”.  Paul cautioned Timothy to keep focused on the Word, not on things that come from man. The greatest effort must be put into God’s Word, not man’s word.  The same work and commitment that others put towards physical exercise should be put toward the pursuit of godliness.  It doesn’t just happen – we have to work toward it.  But it is the promise for the future.

Here is the focus we need to have: “we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe”.  Our hope should not be in ourselves and what we think we can do.  God alone should be the source of hope.  He alone is the Savior of all men.  It is Jesus and Him alone.  Clarke says this: “What God intends for ALL, he actually gives to them that believe in Christ, who died for the sins of the world, and tasted death for every man. As all have been purchased by his blood so all may believe; and consequently all may be saved. Those that perish, perish through their own fault.”

Paul charges Timothy with carrying the torch.  “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers  an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity….Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress”.  Timothy was a young preacher and had to fight for respect.  Paul makes it clear that it is through how he lived that he would earn that.  Our speech, conduct, love, faith, purity – these things let the world around us know who lives in us.  It’s about character and integrity and staying true to God’s Word.  No matter our age, how we live matters and gives us a platform to share the good news of Jesus in our life!

1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3 has Paul addressing the topic of leadership.  He specifically addresses two key positions – that of an ‘overseer’ (bishop/elder/pastor) as well as that of a ‘deacon’ (worker/server).  He begins by defining what it takes to be a good overseer.  “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task”.  It’s important to note first of all that leadership is something to aspire to.  This isn’t just a description of preachers, but those who ‘watch over’ the church.  Clarke wrote “The state has its monarch, the Church has its bishop; one should govern according to the laws of the land, the other according to the word of God.”  First and foremost any leader must be under the authority of God and His Word.

Paul goes on to make a list of characteristics that define this oversight leadership role.  “Therefore an overseer must be:

  • above reproach
  • the husband of one wife
  • sober-minded
  • self-controlled
  • respectable
  • hospitable
  • able to teach
  • not a drunkard
  • not violent but gentle
  • not quarrelsome
  • not a lover of money
  • must manage his own household well, with all dignity 
  • keeping his children submissive
  • not be a recent convert
  • must be well thought of by outsiders”

Paul doesn’t focus on the structure of leadership in the church, but rather the character of the leaders themselves.  God has specific qualifications for leaders.  They shouldn’t be chosen at random, or by merely a willingness to say yes when asked to serve.  Leadership is about character.  And God gives us a very defined list of what matters to Him when it comes to character.

But it doesn’t end here with defining the character of an overseer.  Paul goes on to define the character of deacons or those who lead by serving.  These are typically not the folks who are up front but quietly doing the work of the ministry behind the scenes.  They make it happen.  “Deacons likewise:

  • must be dignified
  • not double-tongued
  • not addicted to much wine
  • not greedy for dishonest gain
  • must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience]
  • be tested first
  • prove themselves blameless
  • must be dignified
  • not slanderers
  • sober-minded
  • faithful in all things
  • the husband of one wife
  • managing their children and their own households well

There are some similarities between the two lists for certain.  Leadership matters to God, and to His church.  Some believe that anyone can serve in the church, but clearly God has very high standards for both those out front and those in the shadows when it comes to leadership.  Character matters no matter what we are doing.

Paul goes on to remind us that God rewards those who lead faithfully.  “For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus”.  Not only does God remember faithful service, but it is a great reward for us as we serve too.  Some feel the role of deacon which is often done quietly and behind the scenes is not all that important.  But the reality is that there will be far more who serve in that role that receive a great reward than overseers.  There are far more needed to serve, and we have to remember to equate servanthood with leadership.  The ultimate leader is a servant leader and the role of deacon affords both.

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