The Growth Factor

The Growth Factor: The Power of Good Works

The Power of Good Works Sermon Notes

The Power of Good Works
Titus 3:1-11
Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Sunday October 23rd, 2016
Pastor Paul L. Davis

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the power of good works. (Feel) To realize the transformational power of good works. (Do) To look for opportunities to do good.

Introduction: We are in the middle of a political season like I have never seen in my lifetime. Every day I turn on the news and there is another political scandal. What is a believer to do? Who do we vote for? How do we make an impact? We are in a series called “The Growth Factor,” exploring the book of Titus and looking for elements essential to spiritual growth both as a church and as individuals. Our passage this morning is going to bridge the gap between spiritual growth and spiritual impact. Open your Bibles to Titus 3 and let’s read the passage together.

Titus 3:1–11  
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. 

We need to begin with verse 8 because the apostle Paul wants Titus, his protégé sent to Crete, to “insist” on some things. Literally, he wants Titus to promote the teachings in this passage forcefully. Today’s message is not just a sermon. If we are going to study this passage the way it is intended, we need to realize that the material is not a suggestion, recommendation, or even good advice; these are marching orders. Verse 8 says, 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. What are our marching orders? That we who believe in God may be careful to devote ourselves to good works. The idea is for believers to be constantly thinking about how they can engage in good works which are excellent and profitable for people. 

Background: Why is Paul pushing Titus so hard on this? Let’s remember for a moment to whom and where Paul is writing. He is writing to a pastor who lives and teaches in Crete. We know the reputation of Cretans—they were known for being rough morally. During this time period, Crete was controlled by the Romans; they had their hands full as the Cretans were fiercely independent. The only thing that Romans hated more than rebellious colonies like Crete were religious sects that refused to worship the emperor, like Christians. So imagine the reputation of these little churches. Christians were seen as rebellious subversive sects bent on undermining Rome, and in some ways they were right. The Christians refused to worship the emperor. They met weekly in secret private meetings. Christians would help the sick and dying during plagues when Rome demanded quarantines. Christians followed and worshipped Jesus who was viewed by Rome as an executed criminal. As Christianity grew, the leaders of Rome were wondering what should be done with these Christians. 

Bringing it Forward: As I look at our world today, we are in a similar place. Our culture does not know what to do with committed Christ followers. We don’t believe in gay marriage, but we proclaim Christ’s love for the people who hate us for it. We oppose abortion, but we build crisis pregnancy centers for women in crisis pregnancies. We speak against lawlessness when it comes to borders, but if a hungry refugee came to our door we would feed him. These kinds of actions are seriously politically incorrect. Christianity has always been a little subversive because our allegiance is to Christ first! We love and follow Jesus with all of our hearts and we submit our lives first and foremost to the authority of Scripture. Paul’s instruction to Titus is simple: because of our allegiance to Christ, believers will always be viewed as subversive—but we can overwhelm that reputation by constantly engaging in good works, becoming light in the darkness. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14–16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

Growth factor #6: churches and individuals who grow are continually looking to engage in good works. How does Paul teach Titus to do this? Look back at verse 1. Paul begins by laying out the lifestyle of a church or person who is thinking about “good works.” Paul is giving Titus glimpses of how people who are light act:

1. They are submissive. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient… As we study Scripture we will find that blind, unquestioning obedience to the state in opposition to God’s law is never required (Acts 5:29). But Christians are “to be subject” (that reflects attitude) and “to be obedient” (actions) to the government that God has placed over us.  Submission does not mean “pushover” it means we are, as much as is possible, to be positively and actively engaged with our authorities. This is why Calvary prays for our leaders every Memorial Day. 

2. They are ready. …to be ready for every good work… The Greek word ready has the idea of “making ready” and “being ready.” Good works are not an afterthought. If the church wants to grow and flourish, she must to be prepared for opportunities to do good. There is a lady in our church who keeps a frozen meal in her freezer “just in case.” She understands this verse and how to be ready for every good work. 

3. They are courteous. …to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. I want us to catch this, especially in the age of social media. A key part of being “light” or doing good works is watching our tongues. Look at verse 2, speak evil of no one. That includes our parents, our exes, our former bosses, our spouse, and it also includes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If this verse is a verse about anything, it reveals to us how believers are to engage in political dialogue with the world. Before we post anything on social media, it should pass the Titus 3:2 test.
Will this post harm someone’s reputation?
Will this post start a quarrel?
Is this post gentle?
Is this post perfectly courteous toward all people?

4. They are humble. 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. One of the key reasons that believers need to be so courteous and gentle, especially when we are dealing with unbelievers, is because we were once there. We must not forget that without the grace of God we would be right where they are, and in fact we used to be right where they are. Look at verse 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.

These are such humbling verses. Jesus appeared and saved us. How can we be arrogant? We were not saved by our works of righteousness; it was Jesus’ mercy that saved us. Look at how God-centered our salvation is as it is described in these verses: 
Our Savior appeared
he saved us
not because of anything we had done
according to his mercy
by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit
who Jesus poured out
This verse is a powerful theological reminder that God is at the center of our salvation. We don’t deserve it and we didn’t earn it; in his mercy, God did it all.

The humility expressed in verses like these is so easy to forget when our passions are aroused. We are in a political season where idea is clashing against idea; it is tempting to buy into a worldly agenda driven by our cultural prejudices and the political voices we choose to listen to. When we see political elites tucked up in their ivory towers, we want to shoot them down. It is tempting to allow the world to shape our interactions. If they hurt us, we go after them. If they dredge up dirt and scandal, we will too. Except our allegiance isn’t to a political party. We are Christ’s, saved not by our works but his. We identify with him, and our interactions with the world and any national political party should have Jesus’ fingerprints all over them. We are Christ’s; he has a political action plan that is not of this world. 

Look at verse 9 and see how strongly Paul warns Titus to watch how believers interact. 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. There is no end to the controversies that believers could argue about. But Paul takes a hard stance as he guides Titus. If a person stirs up division, warn him twice then have nothing to do with him. Why? Because our mission is not to win quarrels, it is to share Christ with a lost world through our love and good works. So we can lose an argument or two and we do not need to fret or worry about the political disaster if one candidate gets elected, specifically because of verse 7: so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Because we are believers we are heirs according to the hope of eternal life. In other words, we have an inheritance waiting for us—an inheritance of eternal life. The promise of eternal life should inform our actions here. It frees us to obey Christ completely because even when the wrong politician takes power, the believer can press on knowing that this world is not our home. 

Listen to the writer of Hebrews—he sums up our passage so well. Hebrews 13:14–16 (NLT) For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. 15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. 

How do we practically engage in good works? Let me leave you with four “Impacting Action Steps”:

  1. Act submissively. All authority is God-derived. When we obey the laws, we obey God. Let us communicate to the world around us that good citizenship in heaven begins here on earth.
  2. Think proactively. The old phrase “actions speak louder than words” is still true. If our good works truly are “excellent and profitable” to all people, let them communicate loudly. We need to be thinking and planning ahead. People around us will experience crisis; let’s be ready to help.
  3. Communicate graciously. Words are still powerful weapons for change, but let’s make sure our words reflect our true allegiance to Christ—that means husbands and wives speaking courteously to one another; it means our political speech must be gracious. How can we lovingly pursue people for Christ while we alienate them with our communication? 
  4. Live hopefully. Your inheritance is not the winner of this next political election. Your inheritance is the riches of knowing your God for all of eternity—streets of gold, gates of pearl and the presence of the very King himself. 

So let us press on regardless of what is going on around us, and let them see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. That is how we will make an impact!



© 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.

The Growth Factor: The Power of Grace

The Power of Grace Sermon Notes

The Power of Grace

Titus 2:1-15

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the power of God’s grace. (Feel) To deeply love the transformation that grace produces. (Do) To transform the story of our life through grace.

 

Good morning Calvary and good morning Church at Hamilton. This morning is a huge answer to prayer and the result of a unique work of God in our church’s life. God opened the doors to this opportunity, he provided financially in almost miraculous ways, and he has stirred the hearts of dozens of people to lead and serve and give in incredible ways. God is doing a new thing and we rejoice that we get to be a part of it. Just think, you were here the very first day that the Church at Hamilton began.

Almost 150 years ago, pastor and preacher Dwight L. Moody said this, “Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian.” The Bible is the book on God’s grace—how God made us and loved us and sent his son to redeem us and make us his very dearest treasure. But to Moody’s point, few people actually read it. What many people do read is the life of a believer. This morning in the book of Titus we are going to explore the power of God’s grace and yes, we will be some of the few who actually read the Bible. But my prayer is that we will leave this morning with God’s grace written all over our lives. We are in a series called “The Growth Factor,” exploring the book of Titus and looking for the key elements essential to spiritual growth both as a church and as individuals. Open your Bibles to Titus 2. Three parts of our passage this morning are about grace. We are going to explore the power of grace in salvation, which forms the transformational power of grace, which in turn leads us to the hope of grace. Let’s read Titus 2:1–14[1] together.

1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 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.

It is easy to read this and quickly get lost in the “older men, older women, younger men” part of the passage and miss the core message which is grace, and specifically the threefold power of grace.

 

1)       Grace is the power of salvation (vs. 11)

Sometimes when I use Bible words like “grace,” I see a lot of furrowed brows out there. It’s like, “I know I should know what grace is…but if I had to define it, I’m not sure I could.” What is grace? At its core, the idea of grace is “delight.” In ancient times it was used to describe a ruler’s favor; the word carries the idea of a ruler who stoops down to be kind to a subject. A gracious king was a king who had an inner kindness that led to thoughtful compassionate action. So when we think of the “grace of God” (vs.11), what we are speaking of is the inner kindness of the Father that led him to the thoughtful compassionate action of sending his son Jesus Christ to humble himself, become man, walk among us and then die on the cross. God the Father’s compassion overflowed through the cross, sending his own son—beaten, nailed, mocked, crucified and killed—to pay for our sins and to break down the barrier between his sovereign holiness and our mortal sinfulness. I John 2:2 says, He himself (Jesus Christ) is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

It is Christ’s work on the cross which makes us say that salvation is “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8). God’s grace makes a way for us to God through faith, so that when we finally make the determination in our minds that our sins horribly offend God and need to be paid for, we know who to turn to. We turn to Jesus and then again by faith we settle in our hearts once and for all that it is impossible to be right with God without the price Jesus paid on the cross. We trust that, we receive that, we believe it, and it brings salvation. Look at the end of verse 11: for all people.

 

2)       Grace is the power of transformation (vs. 12; 1-10)

12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age… The amazing thing about God’s grace is that his compassionate action extends far beyond salvation, because it is also God’s grace that transforms us. In fact, in verse 12 we see that God’s grace is (present tense, so this is always happening) training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. This is so important. God’s inner kindness that leads to thoughtful compassionate action is daily, all the time training us—literally providing instruction—with the intent of forming proper habits of behavior.[2] How does God’s grace train us? I want to know. I’m not sure about you, but I would like to renounce some ungodliness, and there are some worldly passions that I could also use help with. God’s grace to train and transform is accomplished through the church. Growth Factor #5: growing churches and individuals understand that the church is an extension of God’s grace to transform their lives. Paul spells it out specifically in Titus 2:2-10. Every person in the church is mentioned. Let’s walk through the passage.

2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older men, you are God’s grace to our church. You train us to be like Christ when you are sober-minded (clear, wise thinking). Your self-control will give hope to younger people struggling to master their impulses. Your love (idea is ‘acts of love’) will create a culture of love and compassion within the church. In a culture where people change churches more often than I change my oil, steadfastness is so needed.

 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. The power of grace is so evident in how God uses women within the church. Please, ladies, never underestimate the power of God’s grace flowing through you to help individuals and the entire church to grow. Paul lists several ways older women in the church function as God’s grace gift. Reverent behavior describes how to worship, specifically in a priestly way. She is careful with her tongue; the word slanderous is “diabolos” from which we get our word “diabolical”—the idea is broken relationship because of a complaint. Her tongue brings people together; it does not cause conflict. She is not addicted to wine, and here is a tremendous grace, she is to teach what is good, thereby training young women.

The word translated “young women” here is “neas,” literally the feminine form of the word “new one.” So this could be a very young woman (girl), a new believing woman, a woman who is a new mother, or newly married. Because of the ministries listed here, I think she is one who is “newly married.” Why? Because she is to be God’s grace to us through (verse 4) loving her husband and children. Verse 5 highlights the importance of her purity and self-control. This is a specific reference to sexual purity. Young women, do not let our culture deceive you into flaunting your sensuality. Purity is a blessing of God’s grace to you, your husband, your future children, and to the entire church. This verse goes on to list a “homeworker or homemaker.” Again, if she is a newly married woman, building a grace-filled home is a grace to her family and to the church. Her kindness and submission to her husband are also listed.

We could devote a sermon to each of these ideas, but let us not forget what Paul is trying to teach Titus: every single person in the church is an extension of God’s grace to transform others’ lives. There is a saying that is very helpful when counseling people struggling with addiction. It goes like this: “We sin in isolation, we heal in community.” The enemy’s game plan has always been the same: isolate us so we have to fight temptation on our own; keep us apart; keep us separated, because the enemy knows by God’s grace we are much stronger together. You and I were never meant to fight our battles alone. God’s game plan is simple: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

The next people group mentioned are “neos,” the “new men.” 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. This is the fourth time this one word has shown up in this passage (1:8; 2:2,5,6). I have emphasized the sexuality aspect of the self-controlled life. It is literally a “moral life that makes sense.” If you have ever seen someone do something and thought, “Why would they do that?” This is the opposite. Young men, as you make wise moral choices that make sense, you are acting as God’s kindness to us.  7Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching… Notice that Paul assumes something here. He assumes young men will want to teach and disciple others …and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. If you and I are going to grow spiritually, if our church is going to grow, it will happen as every one of us realizes that we are not just church members or attenders—we are God’s act of compassion flowing from his inner kindness. God’s grace is why we grow, give, serve, love, and plant new campuses.

 

3)       Grace is the power of hope (vs. 13-14)

Verse 11 began this way: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation…training us to renounce ungodliness… and now verse 13 …waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…“Waiting” is not the word I would have used when translating this verse because I hate to wait. Waiting has a negative connotation in my mind. The word is more like “confident and eager expectation.”[3] It is how you felt as a child on Christmas Eve, dreaming of what would happen the next morning. The grace of God gives us that eager expectation that we will one day see Jesus. This hope is God’s grace for us to endure suffering. It is God’s grace to help us stand when the world mocks us, persecutes us, or rejects us. This hope allows us to hold our possessions loosely and give generously. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom… Sell your possessions. (Lk 12:32, 33a) Hope in Christ’s coming is God’s grace that stimulates us to purify our lives. 1 John 3:3 (NCV) Christ is pure, and all who have this hope in Christ keep themselves pure like Christ. The glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ will soon be revealed, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

 

God’s inner kindness has caused him to act compassionately.

He has graciously given you his son—trust him

He has graciously given you his church—grow with them.

He has gracious revealed his return—have hope!

 

© 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] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 413.

[3] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996).

The Growth Factor: Safeguarding the Church

Safeguarding the Church Sermon Notes

Safeguarding the Church

Titus 1:10-16

Sunday October 9, 2016

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the importance of rebuke. (Feel) To develop an appreciation for those who speak truth to us. (Do) To listen and change.

Introduction: I haven’t talked to him in years, though I still keep tabs on him. What a great guy. I loved doing stuff with him. We were very close, but things changed when I had to say something. He had a problem; it was affecting his wife, his kids, his ability to do anything in ministry, and I could see it. I could see the train of his life headed toward a collision. There was no way the trajectory of his life was not going to end badly. I loved him so I had to say something, right? So I did. And I’ll tell you how that went in a moment. 

We are in a series called “The Growth Factor” from the book of Titus. Who was Titus? Titus was a co-laborer with the apostle Paul, a fellow missionary committed to going into all the world to share Christ. As a part of their work, Paul sent Titus to the island of Crete to establish and grow the churches Paul had planted there. The letter of Titus is Paul’s instructions to Titus on how to do just that. As we study this book, we are finding the key elements essential to spiritual growth both as a church and as individuals.

Last week we closed with verse 9 revealing three tasks of elders or leaders of the church:

1. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. Elders are the caretakers of the gospel. We are not to make up our own teaching; we are to faithfully pass down what was taught to us. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul told Timothy how to do this: and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.[1]

2. He must be able to give instruction in sound doctrine. This is both the ability to teach as well as the character to be able to teach.

3. He must be able to rebuke those who contradict it. Our passage this morning focuses in on that last task of church leaders—being able to rebuke people who contradict (or oppose) sound doctrine.

Let’s begin reading in Titus 1:9.

He (a church leader or elder) 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. Why? 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.

 

When I first read this passage, I wondered what in the world was going on in these churches that Paul would use such strong language. Did you catch the end of verse 16? He says of some of Titus’ church people, “They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work!” The Greek words for detestable, disobedient and unfit are three of the harshest words Paul could have chosen to call someone:

Detestable—Loathsome, disgusting, abhor

Disobedient—The Jews had four words to describe people who rejected God. They called them: ungodly, uncontrolled, deceitful and also used this word “disobedient.[2]

Unfit—Worthless or disqualified

 

Loathsome, disgusting, worthless—this is harsh language, especially coming from the guy who wrote Eph. 5:2, “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…” He also wrote I Cor.13:4. Love is patient, love is kind…” Those words don’t sound very kind. He even wrote in I Timothy 1:5 that “…the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart.” Paul’s sharp language is coming from somewhere. Let me give you some background and I think you will understand his tone.

 

A background of controversy: It was the apostle Paul who led Titus to Christ. Titus grew up a Greek who had most likely worshipped Zeus. He had no Jewish blood in him at all, so he would have never read any of the Old Testament. David, Moses, and Noah would have all been unfamiliar to him when he came to Christ. In contrast, most of the early believers in Jesus came from Jewish backgrounds and would have large chunks of the Old Testament memorized, especially the laws. This quickly became a problem because some of the Jewish converts to Christianity who loved the Old Testament law taught that in order to be a Christian you had to believe in Jesus and follow the law. They took things that Jesus said like Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” and they said, “See, Jesus never did away with any of the law, he was just fulfilling it.”

The people who taught this were called “judiazers” because they were not inviting people to faith in Jesus as much as they were converting people to a Christianized Judaism. They would tell people who heard about Jesus that they had to put their faith in Jesus and then get circumcised and start following the Old Testament laws like good Jewish people in order to be acceptable to God. In fact, we know that a group of judiazers in the church at Jerusalem specifically wanted Titus to be circumcised, but in Galatians 2:3 we find that the circumcision did not happen because it would have been a perversion of the gospel. Let me read to you what Paul wrote in Galatians 5:2–4 (NLT).

 Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

 

One must either obey the law perfectly (impossible, right?) or place their faith in Christ. The law of the Old Testament had one job, and that was to bring us to Jesus (Gal 3:24-26)—to help us clearly see how flawed and broken we truly are for us to understand how badly we need a Savior.

 

Paul’s command to Titus in our passage this morning is found in verses 10-11. Titus was to silence all the insubordinate people who would pervert the gospel, but not because Paul was a hater! Look at the end of verse 11. Why silence false teachers?  “…they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” That word “upsetting” literally means “to turn over one’s faith;” it can also mean “to overthrow, subvert or destroy.” So let’s piece together what was happening here. Since Paul left Crete, many people took the gospel they received and perverted it in such a way that the faith of entire families was being subverted, destroyed or overthrown. Verse 14 references “Jewish myths;” these false teachers were making up Old Testament stories to sell their viewpoint. Look why they are doing it too—verse 11 says for “shameful gain.” They were teaching this so they could make money which, according to verse 12, would be just like an unregenerate Cretan.

What is Titus to do? Verse 13 is the hub of this entire passage and the core of our growth factor this morning. What is Titus to do? “…rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” The Greek word translated rebuke is “eλέγχω” (el-lang-kho). The word was closely associated with the discipline and education process of parenting. Parents must teach children what is right and what is wrong, but then they must discipline their child when they choose wrong in order for them to choose right. That is the idea behind this word: to rebuke is “to show someone their sin and to summon them to repentance.”[3]

Here is the growth factor #4: growing churches and believers understand the importance of rebuke. This is not a popular concept in our culture. We highly value our privacy and our self-determination. If you were to create a motto for America today it might be, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” But people who desire to grow spiritually understand how important it is to have people who will honestly and lovingly call us on our sin. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”

This is already uncomfortable but is going to go one step further. Look at verse 13 again because Titus is about to rebuke them “sharply.” Again, the word used here comes from the word “to cut.” The idea is a very sharp blade that cuts cleanly and purposefully “with exactness and resolve.”[4] Why? Why sharply? So that “they may be sound in the faith!” People who desire spiritual “soundness” (the word literally means healthy), people who want to be spiritually “healthy,” surround themselves with people who understand the power and helpfulness of rebuke. It is uncomfortable, it can be painful, it is never fun, but it may be the most important part of being in a community of believers.

A personal rebuke: It was 2004. I was the head of Calvary Schools, and a father (with whom I am dear friends to this day) asked to meet with me. After several minutes of small talk, he looked me in the eye and smiled. He then told me multiple things that we had done over the last several months that had improved the culture of the school. He said, “I love you for making that happen.” I smiled and he smiled. Then he turned serious and said, “We’re still broken.” My smile left as he went on, “You are still trying to change kids’ hearts by making better rules. Paul’s rules will never change a kid’s heart, only Jesus will.” I was rebuked. Straight up rebuked. I had become more worried about the behavior of the students than I was about their relationship with Jesus. It was a powerful moment in my life for two reasons. 1. Remember last week when we looked at all the godly qualities listed in Titus 1:5-9? We said when those qualities are present it gives one a platform to speak from. This man had a platform. 2. His rebuke was simple and sharp like a surgeon with a scalpel—he pointed out my failure and called me to change. That was it. No complaining or judgmentalism. It was simple, sharp, and loving.

Let me wrap up by going back to those three words we looked at a few moments ago: detestable, disobedient, and unfit. Just like Cretans, all of our lives are still messy. Every one of us has detestable and disobedient areas in our lives, areas that we may not see, and we all need a Titus. If we are going to be healthy spiritually, if we truly desire to get rid of the detestable disobedience in our lives, we are going to need help! This is the very reason we look for opportunities to break the church down into small groups (community groups, Equipping U, women’s and men’s Bible study, Man2Man etc.)

How did that conversation with my friend go? It went ok. He listened; I was careful but clear. He owned his sin, but not really. It was more like he admitted to it. I wish this was a “happy ending” story, but it isn’t. His spiritual life is not healthy nor is his marriage. His kids are struggling. His church life? Non-existent.

Let me end by asking you these questions: Men, are you developing any relationships with a small group or another guy who will speak truth to you? Ladies, do you have anyone in your life who will really tell you the truth—not what you want to hear? If you are married, have you ever sat down with your spouse and asked them if they see anything in your life that you need to change? Students, you are in the process of making some big life decisions. Are you isolating yourself from or surrounding yourself with wise people who know you well, who will rebuke you when you need it?

© 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] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 471.

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 474.

[4] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 1169.

The Growth Factor: Missional Leadership

Missional Leadership Sermon Notes (download)

Missional Leadership

Titus 1:5-9

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Sunday October 2, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis 

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the growth factor of qualified leadership. (Feel) To feel a desire to become more like Christ. (Do) To build the character in our lives in order to be effective platforms for the gospel.

 

Welcome back to the book of Titus: a “DIY” book on how we might grow our church and ourselves as individual believers. Growth is important because the gospel was not meant to transform just you; the gospel is meant to transform the entire world. Your growth and my growth and the growth of our entire body is how the gospel will transform Holland, our state, and the world! The book of Titus will provide us with the key elements essential to spiritual growth, which is critical if we truly desire to passionately pursue Christ and lovingly pursue others for Christ.

Last week we learned that Titus was a pastor sent to Crete to establish the churches Paul planted there. Crete is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean and is located an almost equal distance from Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is a big island, some 3,200 square miles in area. It is 160 miles from east to west, between 6 and 35 miles from north to south,[1] and is about the same size as Jamaica. We also learned that by New Testament times, the moral condition of the Cretans was notorious. “Their ferocity and fraud were widely attested; their falsehood was proverbial; the wine of Crete was famous, and drunkenness prevailed.” [2] The Greeks actually made a verb of the word Crete, “cretize,” which meant to lie. These are messy people with messy lives, messy relationships, and much sin to overcome. How do you build and grow churches and individuals in an environment like that? Paul begins with leadership. Let’s read our passage this morning. 

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— 6 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. 7 For an overseer, 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, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 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.      Titus 1:5–9 (ESV)                                    

How do you spread the gospel on an island full of gluttonous pirates? First, you look for a group of people whose lives are being transformed and are on a trajectory to be radically different from the culture around them. This is why Paul sent Titus to Crete. Look again at verse 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. Two reasons Paul sent Titus to Crete: to put the churches “in order” and to “appoint elders” in every town.

The Greek word for elder is “presbuterous.” The Presbyterian denomination takes their name from this word—their churches are elder led. The word in general refers to an “older male influencer.” It is a man you want to listen to because of his great wisdom that flows from his character, age, experience and relationship with God. [3] Paul wants Titus to find men who have been deeply transformed by the gospel and appoint them as leaders. The question immediately comes up, could a woman be an elder? Should Titus look for women too? The answer for this passage is “no.” The word used here is specifically a masculine word. Paul is telling Titus to specifically look for male leadership. There is a feminine version of this very same word that Paul will use in chapter two. I think we will find when we get there that wise and godly female influence is just as important in the body of Christ as male influence, but that influence will be asserted in unique and specific ways. For our passage this morning, Titus is to look for gospel-transformed men.

 

As we look into the qualities that Titus was to look for and develop, this message will help us in several ways:

1. Clearly understand the level of maturity God desire for leaders in our church.

2. Clearly provide a non-preferential[4] grid for us to use in evaluating our current leaders.

3. Clearly see the areas where the Holy Spirit desires transformation in our lives—areas of transformation that are essential for leading a church but also for leading a family and being a light in our community.

 

You may never want to be an elder, and not everyone can or should be one. But the qualities that Paul lists here describe what it looks like to be “light.” These qualities will help us clearly see what Jesus meant when he told us to be light in a dark world (Matt 5:14-16). As we dissect this passage, we will find three specific areas of spiritual maturity that are needed in our lives and are essential for spiritual leaders. Verse 6 begins with an interesting statement: if anyone is above reproach (“anageletos” legal blamelessness). This phrase is an umbrella thought for the whole passage. The idea is this: elders are to be men first and foremost against whom one could not build a case because their character is blameless.

 

1. A Blameless Family Life v.6a

An elder must have his family life in a state of “anageletos.” Remember, this word is a legal or a civics word. A person who is “anageletos” has no charges against him. In verse 6 this is specifically in regards to his wife and children. He is the husband of one wife, literally a “one woman man.” An elder does not have multiple women in his life, no rumors of affairs or adultery. Obviously, this phrase would eliminate a bigamist or polygamist from leadership. In the early church this also prohibited anyone in a second marriage from being an elder,[5] but this verse does not specifically say that. What it does say very clearly is that a person’s faithfulness to their spouse is an incredibly important part of their testimony and ability to be chosen to lead.

Look at the end of verse 6 …and his children are believers. Paul defines “anageletos” parenting literally as “faithful children” or children of faith. The idea is that if a man is to lead the church to Christ, he should lead his children first. This is a high bar. It is important to remember that no family is perfect; there are no perfect marriages and zero perfect kids. The idea with “anageletos” is that there is no case to prosecute. When you look at this leader’s family, you come to the conclusion that the gospel has radically transformed this man, his marriage and his parenting—his wisdom and godliness will be valuable in leading the church.

 

2. A Blameless Personal Life v.6b-7

Paul moves from family life to personal character. Look at the end of verse 6: not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. (Notice again Paul emphasizes the standard of “above reproach.”) The Greek words for debauchery and insubordination go together. The idea is an uncontrolled lifestyle dominated by drunkenness or recklessness. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain… Arrogance is being self-willed or stubborn to the point of always having to have your way. Arrogance destroys a person’s ability to share the gospel. Neither can he be “quick tempered,” or we might say “short tempered.” Patience and humility are both fruits of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Paul is teaching Titus to look for men who evidence the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Then he lists three character areas that the Cretans were famous for. An elder must not be a drunkard, that is, a person who is addicted to or who habitually drinks too much alcohol. He must not be violent—the Greek word here carries the idea of force, forcing or bullying people by strength or power. Lastly, in their personal life they cannot be “greedy for gain.” Your version might say “shamelessly greedy.” A person who pursues church leadership for personal financial gain or to enrich themselves has absolutely no place in leadership.

 

3. A Blameless External Life v.8

…but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Titus was to look for men who must have a reputation for some things:

  • Reputation for hospitality—Hospitality is a kindness and openness to strangers and those outside the community. A hospitable person gladly welcomes people into their homes, greets warmly, shares meals, gives generously.
  • Reputation for being a lover of good—Literally in Greek “good lovers” or someone who loves well. This is an important one. The early church fathers used to call pastors this who cared well for their flock. Leaders must have reputations for loving people well!
  • Reputation for self-control—In this time period, “self-control” had a very specific connotation; it was sexual self-control. A man who desires to be a spiritual influence must have a positive reputation for being able to control his sexual impulses.
  • Reputation for being upright, holy and disciplined—Remember, there are no perfect men. Especially on Crete, Titus was going to have his hands full looking for men like this. He was not looking for perfection but trajectory!

 

That is what we need to think about this morning. I will never attain perfection in these areas, but what I am working on is that when you look at the trajectory of my life—the direction my life is headed, my marriage, my children, my character—you see a guy whose life has gospel transformation written all over it. And this is the platform of transformation (not perfection) from which I will be able to share the gospel with others and do the three jobs of an elder that Paul lists in verse 9.

 

Three tasks of an elder or pastor:

1. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. Elders are the caretakers of the gospel. We are not to make up our own teaching but instead faithfully pass down what was taught to us. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul told Timothy how to do this …and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

2. He must be able to give instruction in sound doctrine. This is both the ability to teach as well as the character to be able to teach.

3. He must be able to rebuke those who contradict it. Next week we will discuss this at length, but a key reason that leaders need the trajectory of life we have looked at is so that there is enough transformation in their lives for them to say hard things when they need to be said.

If a man is arrogant, self-willed and insubordinate, he will never hold firm to the faith that he was taught; he will make his own way. How many churches have you seen destroyed by arrogant men who had to have their own way? If a man is uncontrolled sexually, a drunkard, angry all the time or violent, how can he teach or disciple believers? How could you listen to a pastor teach on biblical giving and finance if you knew him to be a greedy swindler?

 

Key growth factor #3: Growing churches and believers develop their character so that they can be effective witnesses for the gospel. Most of us will never become pastors or elders in the church. But what we have looked at this morning is not just for elders. We have been given a gift this morning—the gift of knowing the qualities of a person who is ready to be an effective witness for Christ. These are the qualities we need in our homes; these are the qualities of great dads and moms who impact their kids for eternity; these are the qualities of bosses and employees that are bright lights at their work places. So men, let us be bold and build a trajectory of life that will cause people to look at us and ask us to lead our congregation. Church, let us look for men to lead whose lives reflect a trajectory of gospel transformation. But let us not forget that there is not one of us here this morning with this trajectory of life that would not make a great witness for our Lord Jesus Christ. We all change for him, we all grow for him, and we all live to serve him! 

[1] Charles F. Pfeiffer, Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia (Moody Press, Chicago, 1975), electronic media.

[2] D. Edmond Hiebert, Titus and Philemon (Moody Press, Chicago, 1957), 29.

[3] This word is used almost interchangeably in other passages with church leaders called bishops, overseers, or pastors. We at Calvary use the word “pastor” more than “elder” because pastor refers to role or function of “shepherding the flock.”

[4] We must not measure or evaluate our leadership by how much we “like” them. Leaders are commanded to say and do things in our lives that may cause us for seasons to very much dis-like them.

[5] Mounce, William The Word Biblical Commentary, Pastoral Epistles Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN 2000. Pg. 388.

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.