Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday, February 13 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Exodus 37-38; Psalm 32; Mark 4
Today's scripture focus is Titus 1:1-4

Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, 3 but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment 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.

Rayburn talks more about the book as a whole in his sermon, rather than focusing on these four verses, but he says that Titus had been sent to Crete to shepherd the new believers there, and he draws parallels between the Cretans and our society today.  I found this interesting:

The Cretan culture was famous in the ancient world for its sensuality, its covetousness, its dishonesty and its laziness. Paul will quote one of the Cretan's own poets, Epimenedes, to this effect in 1:12. A Cretan should be expected to praise his fellow citizens, or at least, not to slander them. But here one of their own prophets says these hard things about the inhabitants of Crete. Their reputation for telling lies for selfish purposes was so widespread that it gave rise to the noun "Cretism" which meant "Cretan behavior" which, in turn, was a synonym for lying. And the verb "cretize" meant "to tell a lie," just as "to Corinthianize" in the ancient world meant to live a sensually profligate life.

It was a culture corrupt in recognizable ways. But, what is new about that. Our culture is corrupt in very recognizable ways and, were it possible for the apostle Paul to address the American church, he would no doubt have very specific things to say to us about how our behavior, perhaps in ways we hardly recognize, needed to be made subject to the law of Christ. We live and have been shaped by a culture that is materialistic, relativistic, feminist, sensual, and proud of its accomplishments. All of us bear within our hearts the effects of those cultural sins. We breath them in with the air, we drink them in with the water. We may not be precisely the sort of people that Cretans were widely considered to be, but we are a people with a certain character and way of life and there is much of that in us that needs to be changed. Others around the world see that very clearly, even as we see so clearly their faults.

But here comes Paul to Titus telling him to be sure that he tailors his preaching and teaching to the moral, the spiritual, and the material culture of the Cretans. Don't preach to them as if they sinned in the same way as the Corinthians do. Speak to them as Cretans. Address the temptations that they face because of where they live and because of the culture of which they are apart. All of this teaching will be, of course, useful for any Christian living anywhere at any time. But it also reminds us that loyalty to Christ and to his gospel, obedience to the Word of God and to God's law, will mean for any group of Christians particular departures from the thinking and behavior common to their society, to their times, and to their culture.

Much of what we will read in Paul's letter to Titus is what needs to be said to any and every Christian all of the time; some of it is what needs to be said directly to us, in just our kind of culture - so similar is our situation to theirs - and some of what Paul tells Titus to tell the Cretans is what can easily enough be translated from instructions for the Cretans to instructions for us in 21st century America. For example, we may not have slaves and masters, literally, in our day and our country; but we have similar relationships that must also be sanctified for the glory of God.

What I love more and more about the Bible is how perfectly timeless it is. A letter from one of Christ's apostles can be read as if it were written to us today. A letter about what the church needs to hear and needs to do is as relevant to our situation as it was to that of the Cretan Christians in the middle of the first century. Let us hear then the Apostle Paul with the intention that we should believe and obey; that our lives should be changed; that we should be sanctified and made the more holy; that we should, as Paul says in chapter 2, more and more make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

Hmmm, I have a little hesitation about the last part of the sentence above - "make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive" - it concerns me that people make it more attractive by diluting it or leaving out the unpalatable parts.  I'm sure he doesn't mean that we should do that, but I'm curious to know what he means by making the teaching more attractive.  He doesn't say.

Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Titus 1:5-9
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Exodus 39-40; Psalm 33; Mark 5


Curly-T said...

There are lots of ways to make the word of God attractive. Lots of them have labels attached to TV churches.
I, too, am sure that Paul doesn't mean to leave out the tough parts.
In my mind, life, experience, making the Gospel attractive is merely preaching it through love. It isn't fun to hear about sin, to know you're wrong, but when the one teaching you genuinely loves you, it's always easier.
At least, that's my take on it.

TammyIsBlessed said...

The teaching about God our Saviour is attractive, not when we dilute it (and Rayburn spoke specifically against that so we know that's not what he meant), but when our lives match our message, and when we become the aroma of Christ to those around us - and that aroma is love.

I skimmed a few of MacArthur's sermons (he has 4 of them on this short passage!). I do love digging into the text like he does.

Paul identifies himself as a bond-servant of God - just we also should identify ourselves as slaves to Him. He is our master, we have no will but to align our will to His. He was also an Apostle - a messenger of God with divine authority. We, too, are messengers of God. Not Apostles like Paul and the twelve, but messengers nonetheless.

And Paul's mission, which should be the same as every believer's every where, is evangelism (the faith of those chosen of God - for the elect are not redeemed until they activate faith when hearing the truth), edification (knowledge of the truth which produces godliness - sanctification doesn't become reality until there is disciplined obedience to godliness), and endurance (hope of eternal life - motivating purity and service, and sustaining the believer through the sufferings of life). And all of this is found no where else but in the Word of God as planned from eternity past.

God's message is the scripture, and that is what must be preached. The response is up to the Holy Spirit.

I also liked his comment that grace is what brings us salvation and peace is what we enjoy because we're saved. What a great greeting!

Miriam said...

Thanks for the input, ladies.