The Growth Factor: Servant-Messengers

Servant-Messengers Sermon Notes


Servant-Messengers

Titus 1:1-4

Sunday September 25th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis 

Key Goals: (Know) To understand two key growth factors. (Feel) To sense our obligation to share Christ. (Do) To serve and share Christ. 

Introduction:  When I was in the fourth grade, Mrs. Start had each of us pick what she called a “Learning Center.” We could choose any area of study from sewing to archeology. I chose botany because I have been fascinated with growing plants for as long as I can remember. Once we had our chosen field, we had to do intensive research, write papers, and give presentations. Back then if you were to ask me what a garden or a tomato plant needed to grow, I would have listed the big three: sun, water and soil. With those three in place, any tomato plant will grow. Pretty simple. 1,2,3, right? As an adult who now grows tomatoes, I have discovered that is “kinda” true, but there is a lot more to the story. You also need:

·      Air—which is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide (all of which are vital for photosynthesis)

·      Potassium—adds vigor and keeps the juices pumping through the plant

·      Phosphorus—helps the plant produce flowers, deep roots and fruit

·      Nitrogen—builds strong green leaves

·      Micro-organisms—bacteria and decaying organic matter help plants break down nutrients

·      Temperature—not too hot, not too cold—tomatoes love warm summer nights

·      Space to grow—a plant will stunt unless it has room to spread

·      Trace elements—copper, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, iron, cobalt, chlorine, manganese, zinc, even boron. These are essential! A deficiency in any one will cause problems with tomatoes.[1]

 

What is the point? Growing tomatoes seems simple at first, but when you look closer there are many essential components to growing healthy tomatoes. While this is true of plants, it is also true of growing spiritually. If I asked you what a church or an individual believer needs to grow spiritually, almost everyone could give the big three: prayer, Word of God, fellow believers. That is “kinda” true, but there is a lot more to the story, which is why we are going to plunge into the book of Titus. Titus is like a “DIY” book on how churches and individual believers grow. Titus is going to give us the “trace-elements” that are essential to spiritual growth, and this is going to be a key series as we begin the launch of our new campus.

Let’s open up the book and read the beginning verses together. Titus 1:1–4 [2]

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; 4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Titus: Of Paul’s thirteen letters, this was one of the last two books he wrote. Titus is part of Paul’s letters known as “the Pastoral Epistles or letters” (I & II Timothy, Titus). In them Paul teaches his disciples, Titus and Timothy, how to establish and provide leadership to local churches as well as how to encourage individual godliness. Of the three books, Titus may have been written first because its introduction is so lengthy and it is much more theologically intricate. Who was Titus? Titus was one of Paul’s most trusted and closest co-workers for the gospel. When Paul saw churches that were in trouble, he sent Titus first to Corinth and then to Crete and eventually to Dalmatia (modern day Croatia). He was a full Gentile, converted under Paul’s preaching (Paul refused to circumcise him in Gal. 2). He is often mentioned in Paul’s letters (2 Cor. 2:13; 7:6–15; 8:6–24; 12:18; Gal. 2:1–3; 2 Tim. 4:10). Titus is described as being a constant encouragement to Paul because of his hard work in sharing the gospel. While he often shows up in Paul’s letters, surprisingly Luke does not mention Titus one time in Acts.

Why this letter? When Paul was released from his first imprisonment in Rome, he journeyed south to the island of Crete where he established several small churches. Crete is an ancient island with a rich history dating back over 3500 years. Just before Paul’s time period, Crete had become the center of piracy in the Mediterranean world, so the people—especially the sailors—had a brutal reputation.[3] Also around this time, the people believed fanciful tales about the Greek gods that made even the Greeks think they were liars and story tellers. In fact, in the Roman world the verb “to Cretize” became slang for lying or cheating.[4] Look at verse 1:12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” When Paul sailed away continuing his missionary journey, he left Titus behind to set in order the things that are wanting, and to ordain elders in every city (1:5). Titus was thus given the task of discipling new believers and then pulling together, organizing and growing the new churches that Paul had begun.[5] So this letter, a short one, was Paul’s effort to help Titus accomplish that mission.

This is an essential book as we look to plant a new campus. All of us, whether we serve here in Holland or help plant Hamilton, need to know and understand what it takes to grow and bear fruit. Let’s look at verse 1 where Paul introduces himself: Paul, a servant (slave) of God and an apostle (messenger) of Jesus Christ. I love the way Paul speaks about himself. Think about it. He is the key player in Christianity at the moment. He is the greatest church planter and the most prolific author. He performed miracles, survived beatings and saw visions from the Lord. The Holy Spirit specifically directed him where to go, and this guy introduces himself as a servant and a messenger—not a powerful leader or dynamic chief strategist of Christianity, but a servant-messenger. You have heard of being a servant-leader, but Paul viewed servant-messengership as important or perhaps more important than servant-leadership. If we as a church or individual believers want to grow, we need to have that same servant-messenger mindset.

A messenger is a person who attentively receives a message and then delivers it faithfully to the intended audience. The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word “sent.” Prophets in the Old Testament were messengers sent from God. Their job was to faithfully pass on God’s words to God’s people. In the New Testament, the word “apostle” was used as a special office for those who witnessed Christ’s life, death and resurrection and who, filled with the Holy Spirit, were sent to begin the church. But there is also a general sense of the word that all of us need to cling to today because we have all been sent with a message of good news!

 

Servant-Messengership for today: Servant-messengership is a key nutrient to spiritual growth. But this idea of a servant-messenger is antithetical to American contemporary culture for two main reasons:

1. Servant-messengership assumes a master/servant relationship with Jesus, our neighbors and other believers. Let me remind you of Mark 10:43–45 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. You have heard this many times before, but hear it this way: growing disciples place the needs of other believers before their own. You and I serving each other, caring, helping, giving to one another is not just nice—it is essential for spiritual growth to happen. Here is the ironic thing about church: if we attend church only for what we get out of it, we will get nothing out of it. Serving our bothers and sisters in Christ is an essential element to growth. Turn to Romans and grab a pencil because I want you to underline something. Romans 15:1–3 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Ask yourself this question: do you think the average American Christian makes their decision about coming to church on Sunday morning based on how to best please themself or build up those around them (their neighbor)? Growing churches and disciples place the task of building up other people before pleasing themselves. When we shift into this servant-messenger mindset, it will change our perspective.

Let me tell you how I learned this very practically. It was 1999 and I was the youth pastor here at Calvary putting on a series of youth activities to reach the lost. The problem was, the regular students were not showing up. “Too busy,” they would say. I was so frustrated. I tried everything to get them to come but only a few would. At my wits end, I got real honest one night at youth group and asked them, “Do you guys understand the purpose of this youth activity?” I told them it was not about them having fun, it was about them reaching out to lost friends, putting their friends’ needs in front of their own and bringing them in—as messengers. An amazing thing happened: they got it. Attendance at events where the gospel was going to be proclaimed shot through the roof and the students themselves began to grow. Why? Because they understood what Paul did. Key growth factor #1 in growing both churches and believers is placing the needs of our neighbors and our brothers and sisters above our own needs.

 

2. Servant-messengership assumes that all of us have been sent. I crack up when I hear missionaries and pastors talk about “being called to ministry.” I always want to ask, “Did a 900-foot Jesus appear to you in the sky and say, ‘Paul, go ye to the people of Holland and preacheth to them?’” I have news for you. There is not one verse that teaches that we should wait for a shadowy, mystical supernatural “call” before we start doing ministry and sharing Christ. Don’t wait for a call! It’s already been issued. Mark 16:15 And he (Jesus) said to them (who? all his disciples), “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The Greek word “proclaim” always carries the basic meaning “to cry out loud,” “to declare,” “to announce.” It repeatedly has the sense of summoning someone to something, or appealing to someone, even imploring them![6] The good news of the gospel and its power to transform lives is not a message to be hoarded and kept to ourselves. If we are serious about growing both our church and ourselves, we need to get serious about appealing to and summoning our friends and neighbors to Christ.

Believers who regularly share their faith grow (period). It is almost impossible not to, because non-believers have questions, so you have to study. Then they don’t believe, so you pray and you love on them and you open your house to them and visit them when they are hurting. Before you know it, you have become a surprisingly mature Christian. Churches that faithfully proclaim the gospel grow (period). While in Slovenia last week, Martha and I saw many church buildings—one was the Chapel of Bernardin. It was built in 1452, exactly 40 years before America was discovered. It was built because of a deacon named Janez Kapistran. He shared Christ so vigorously he became an incredibly popular speaker in the region. The church had to be built because there were so many converts. It flourished for 300 years. The church was abolished in 1806 as were many other churches in the area. The church is just a shell today with a pretty bell tower. One guy gets excited about the gospel and a church is born that reaches people for 300 years. An entire church gets lethargic with the gospel and the shell of a building sits empty for the next 200 years.

 

Let’s wrap up by looking at the reason Paul was so serious about being a servant-messenger. Why a servant-messenger? The end of verse 1 says…for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth. Paul was preaching for the sake of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth. He understood that our loving and sovereign God through his love, mercy and grace has chosen many to put their faith in him and have a clear knowledge of the truth.[7] But Paul also knew that truth and faith come…at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior. Paul believed that when Jesus told his disciples to go and to proclaim the gospel to all people, it was a command entrusted specifically to him. He owned it! He did not think it was someone else’s job to share Christ; it was his. How will people around us—hopeless, addicted, riddled with guilt, entrapped in lies—break free? Only when we proclaim to them the gospel that was entrusted to us. Key growth factor #2 is that growing churches and believers assume that they have been sent—sent into our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and around the world. Whether you serve in AWANA, Equipping U or the nursery, assume that you have been sent with a message! So let us go and share the good news of God’s gracious gift of his son Jesus Christ. Let us be lights in the darkness, challengers of lies and proclaimers of the truth of the gospel that has been entrusted to us! 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

[1] See: Trace Elements in Soil and Agriculture, http://www.fao.org/docrep/017/d4779e/d4779e.pdf

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[3] Colin J. Hemer, “Crete,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 365.

[4] Walter C. Kaiser Jr. et al., Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 676.

[5] Robert G. Gromacki, New Testament Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1974), 309.

[6] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 697.

[7] The doctrine of election inevitably produces a certain intellectual tension, particularly with regard to “free will” or personal activity in one’s own salvation (cf. Rom 5:18; 1 Tim 2:5; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet 3:9). Such tensions are also to be found in other New Testament doctrines, most notably in the fully divine and fully human natures in the person of Jesus Christ. Balanced biblical theology requires that such tensions remain. Rejecting clear biblical teaching because of limited human understanding is dangerously shortsighted. After setting forth the doctrine of election in Rom 9–10, Paul said: “Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and paths beyond tracing out!” (Rom 11:33). The doctrine of divine election firmly establishes the believer’s eternal security. God has not left the believer’s assurance of salvation captive to changing feelings or faltering faith. Rather, the faithfulness of God demonstrated in his divine election secures the believer’s salvation in the will and purposes of God himself. In addition to giving assurance of salvation, the doctrine of election leaves no room for human pride or an “elitist” Christian mentality. Rather, it is a source of genuine humility as believers recognize that their salvation is in reality God’s work alone. Finally, the doctrine of election is best, and possibly only, understood within the context of the believer’s personal experience of salvation. Most believers, when reflecting upon their own salvation, will attribute it totally to God’s working in their lives. They understand that they are redeemed only because of God’s love and grace. The doctrine of election, although partially eclipsed by our finite minds, ultimately rests here, in God’s love, grace, and mercy. Once grasped by the believer, it offers a foundation for comfort, security, and true worship, not uncertainty and confusion. Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 265–266.