Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday, February 21st

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Leviticus 13-14; Psalm 38; Mark 10
Today's scripture focus is Titus 3:1-2

Titus 3:1-2

English Standard Version (ESV)

Be Ready for Every Good Work

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Christian's Responsibility in a Pagan Society Part 1
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: Being Good

Sometimes it seems like no matter how often we've heard something, another reminder is in order.  That's what our passage today suggests.  "Remind them".   Obviously these were things the Cretans knew or had heard before, but about which they needed to be reminded.

There are two reasons why these Christians especially might need to be reminded of these duties. First, the Cretans were notorious in the ancient world for their rebelliousness and insubordination. Second, new Christians, with their glorious new sense of loyalty to the Almighty God, might think the pretensions of human rulers of little consequence. Why should they obey petty human rulers when their allegiance is to the Triune God, the Maker of heaven and earth? But Christians have obligations as citizens of this world and it is particularly important that theymeet those obligations precisely because they are Christians. In the then current situation, the last thing the gospel needed was unnecessarily to be associated with political rebellion....

Not easy commandments to keep when you are surrounded by people whose view of life and of morals you are now convinced is profoundly wrong. Not easy commandments to keep when you are likely to be the butt of a great deal of negative comment by those who think your conversion to Christianity passing strange.

Interestingly, “peaceable and considerate” are found again as a pair in the qualifications for elder in 1 Tim. 3:3. We are reminded again that the qualification for an elder is simply that he be a mature, practiced, and faithful Christian man. Nothing is required of him that is not required of us all.
“Meekness,” what the NIV translates here as “humility,” is the Christian’s attitude not toward God, but toward man and, clearly in this case, toward all men, not simply fellow Christians.

we are living in a sub-Christian America. We want to say we're Christians, we just don't want to commit to what Christianity is. Our Christianity has become hollow. We are clearly pagan but we wear the mask of religion. 

It really is the unfortunate reality that we're living in a pagan culture, and it's so easy to get caught up in our cultural worldview and lose sight of a biblical perspective.  But we need to keep this perspective in mind - our mission is to bring people to God.  It is not to moralize the nation, it is to save the nation!  That can only happen from the inside out.  That doesn't mean that we don't care who becomes Prime Minister (or President, depending where you live), but it means that we shouldn't be spending all our energy into trying to legislate morality, but rather we need to realize that the issue is salvation.  And a huge part of demonstrating the saving, transforming power of God is by living that transformed life.  The way we live, among Christians and non-Christians, is crucial in order for our proclamation to be believable.

Then Paul lists some very practical ways in which to do so.

We need to be subject to rulers and authorities and obey them - whether they're good ones or bad (unless obedience means violating God's commands).
We need to be ready for every good work - we need to be aggressively good, purposefully good, intentionally good.
We are not to speak evil of anyone - pretty self explanatory.  Note this doesn't mean we cannot confront people, but we need to do so in respect and with pure motives.
We are to avoid quarreling.  We should not be hostile or argumentative, but rather peaceful and friendly.  Again, this doesn't mean we never have confrontation when necessary - but we don't go looking for a fight.
We need to be gentle - kind, considerate, patient, and reasonable.
We need to show perfect courtesy - we don't fight for our rights, we don't have an agenda.
And we're supposed to do this for all people - that means everyone.

God loves all men. God desires that all men be saved, he says. God wants you to pray for all men. The grace of God has appeared to all men. You live your life before all men so that they can see the transformation.
Only Christians can live like that. That's our duty. That's how we have to live.
For His glory and the salvation of His people.

Rayburn finishes it off with a bit of a sucker punch....
There is a kind of public goodness that is uncontroversial. We shouldn’t lie about others – slander – we ought to be considerate and kind. Being so is more difficult than people think and Christians have access to a power for living this life that others do not; but the idea of goodness itself is not controversial in many of these ways. But the combination of virtues is another thing altogether. To combine sexual purity with kindness in this modern culture; to combine willing obedience to the government with an absolute and uncompromised loyalty to the living and true God; to combine a genuine meekness and humility before all men – grounded upon the knowledge of our own sinfulness and unworthiness and Christ’s love for us while we were his enemies – I say, to combine that humility in a husband with his wife’s submission to him in their marriage; to combine strict and conscientious truth telling with a genuine love for other people; to combine a saying "No" to malice toward others and saying "Yes" to love; it is in this fullness of goodness, in this life of comprehensive virtue that a distinctly Christian goodness is found.

Don’t ever forget this! Being kind from time to time is not what Paul means by devoting oneself to being good. Not slandering someone is not what Paul means by doing whatever is good. If that is all we do we might as well be Muslims or secular humanists. You cannot live a Christian life piecemeal. It is in the wholeness of goodness, in goodness practiced in many directions at the same time, in this goodness that is attitude and speech and behavior all at once that we find the goodness of which Paul speaks. It was that goodness that Christ practiced in his life and by which he left us an example that we should follow in his steps. In part this goodness mirrors what other people recognize as goodness and in part it is distinctively and uniquely Christian; but both parts must be present in us at the same time. If we are comfortable in our Christian living, it is a certainty that our view of the Christian life is too small; we are thinking of and caring for too few things; we are thinking the whole thing too easy.
That is why we must have Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in us and on our behalf. To be good in so many ways at once is beyond the ability of any frail and fallen human being. We can hardly keep in our heads at once all the things required of us that we should live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age. There is a sense in which the serious Christian will be gasping for air, sucking wind, as long as he lives in this world for all the straining his mind, heart, and will must do to present himself pure and holy before God....the Christian life is difficult and especially for this, that you have to do so many things at the same time.

But how like Paul and how like the rest of the Bible to pile it on. Not one virtue, but many at once. We would prefer that he speak about self-control and talk at length about that. We could get our minds around that. We could commit ourselves to that. But Paul urges upon us self-control and temperance and love and kindness and truth-telling and peaceableness and obedience and everything else that he assumes we know he means by saying that we are to devote ourselves to doing what is good. What a world heaven will be, full of people who are all those things, all the time! You and I set our sights too low. We content ourselves with one virtue or another, when we ought to be seeking a dozen at the same time. If we do not feel that without Christ we can do nothing, and if we are not always, almost in desperation, looking to him for the grace and help to enable us to live a truly godly life, it is almost certainly because we have a view of the Christian life that is altogether too simple, too easy. We have made it a few things, when it is really many things. True goodness is many things all at once!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Titus 3:3-7
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Leviticus 15-16, Psalm 39, Mark 11

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