Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: healthy teaching

Guard well

Paul’s letters would typically end with a goodbye and a few greetings for specific people.  Take for example, how he closed his letter to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 4:21-23
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.  Those brothers who are with me greet you.  All the saints greet you, but especially those from Caesar’s household.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Sometimes the greeting was brief, but other times it was quite lengthy.  Out of all the letters Paul wrote in the New Testament, only two have no ending greetings – Galatians and 1 Timothy.  It’s almost as if Paul was “all business” when writing these two letters. 

In fact, he ends 1 Timothy with the same emphasis that he started the letter with, warning Timothy to protect the truth of the gospel and to watch out for false teaching from deceived believers:

1 Timothy 1:3-4,6-7
…command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies.  These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith…some have deviated…and turned aside to fruitless discussion.  They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

Now compare that to Paul’s final words in the letter:

1 Timothy 6:20-21
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding irreverent, empty speech and contradictions from the “knowledge” that falsely bears that name.  By professing it, some people have deviated from the faith. 

Grace be with all of you.

From start to finish, Paul’s focus has been urging Timothy to be watchful – of his own teaching and of what gets taught on his watch as leader of the church in Ephesus.

In a very real sense, the church at Ephesus has been entrusted to his care.  Timothy needed to guard both the gospel message and those who had believed the gospel.  It was an important task, and Paul believed Timothy could handle the responsibility.

Closing out this letter from a mentor to his protégé has left me thinking about the people God has entrusted into my care…and how much the written encouraging words from my mentor has helped sustain me when challenges arise.  I still have most of the emails Joe sent when he was writing THE WORD, and I go back through them from time to time.  I’m sure Timothy did the same with Paul’s letter.

The gospel message has been entrusted to each of us, as well as certain people we are responsible for.  Make sure you guard them, and are also mentoring them to carry the message of salvation to future generations.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

 

The damage caused by false teaching

In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote:

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

Any attempt to fuel ourselves on anything other than a relationship with God will not work.  This is why the teaching we listen to matters so much.  Even if what the teacher proposes begins with a Scripture, we must be attentive to the content of their message.  When we listen to “Bible teachers” whose teaching does not align with what Jesus taught, we are attempting to use a fuel that we were never made to run on.  We may start out alright, their teaching may seem to work…but the eventual consequences are rather severe, like an engine that was given water instead of gasoline.

Paul warned Timothy about the eventual damage that comes from the application of bad teaching:

1 Timothy 6:4-8
From these come envy, quarreling, slanders, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among men whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain.  But godliness with contentment is a great gain.

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.

What fuels the false teachers isn’t God; therefore, their teachings are not able to point others toward God.  The result of this incorrect fueling is rather nasty and harmful – envy, quarreling, slanders, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement.  These qualities are opposite of what Paul stated at the beginning of his letter:

1 Timothy 1:5-7
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.  Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion.  They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

When we get right down to their core motivation, many of the false teachers are really doing it for the money and comfort.  They imagine that godliness is a way to material gain, and this greed is what drives them.  They are focused on themselves in the here and now.  Their focus isn’t on God and Who He Is.

However, being in relationship with God has its rewards, just not the way the false teachers are aiming.  Paul is very clear here – there is something to be gained by imitating God.  When we fuel ourselves with God, and so much so that we take on god-like-ness in the way we think, speak, and act….we do end up receiving other rewards and benefits.  However, instead of temporary material gain, we are promised something far greater.  Just as Christ told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), the great gain that comes from having godliness with contentment right now will not be found in this world, either.

But if we’re not fueling ourselves on the right teaching – the kind of instruction that points us toward God – then we will miss out on both Him and His greater rewards.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The Teacher Test

Lots of people claim to teach and preach for God.  But how do you know if what they’re saying is actually from God?

One test could be to measure how much Scripture is quoted during a sermon.  The more the better, right?  That would make it easy…if they only quote one verse, we should be suspicious…but if they quote many verses, then their teaching must be “good”.  But that doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

Another test could be to gauge how we feel after listening to a sermon.  We know that the Word of God should inspire us, right?  So, if we leave feeling inspired and motivated, then the message and the messenger must be “good”.  But then doesn’t seem quite right, either.

When he wrote to encourage and direct Timothy in his mission to the Ephesian church, Paul repeatedly addressed the topic of false teachers.  Closing off the previous section’s teaching on the church’s support for widows, honoring elders, disciplining elders, and the slave-master relationship, Paul says:

1 Timothy 6:2-3
Teach and encourage these things.  If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but having a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words.

Did you catch Paul’s “Teacher Test”? 

If what that person teaches does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching the promotes godliness, then we should not be listening to them.  We need to keep this in mind:

Since the aim of a Christian’s life is to be like Christ, any teaching that doesn’t match up with what Jesus taught will not make us more like Him. 

That statement is so simple, we don’t even bother to think in those terms.  However, when we forget why we need a constant relationship with Jesus, we tend to let the Christian life make us comfortable.  God richly blesses us in many ways, but our selfishness still drifts us toward a life of ease. 

There are many consequences to focusing on getting to the “good life” instead of aiming for the “Christ-like life”.  Paul will deal with several of them as he closes out his letter.  The one he points out here is that false teachers will come sounding “good”, but they will end up pulling us away from our aim of being like Jesus.

Our Teacher Test isn’t to count the number of verses or rely on our constantly changing feelings.  Taking what is taught and comparing it to sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ will show us if our teacher is pointing us in the right direction.  Every time we’re presented with a new Bible teaching, we need to be asking “Does this teaching promote god-like-ness?”.

We must be alert in this.  Don’t go on auto-pilot just because someone claims to have a message from God.  Our relationship with Jesus depends on it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Do we have to follow the Law?

Every so often, the modern church wrestles with problematic question of what to do with the Mosaic Law.  Do we still have to obey the 10 Commandments?  What about the other parts, that nobody does…like animal sacrifice, dietary restrictions, and ceremonial washings?

The early church dealt with the same questions, and some people were trying to add the law’s requirements in addition to following Christ.

1 Timothy 1:5-7
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.  Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion.  They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

A little cultural context will help here.  If you were a Jewish teacher of the law, then you were at the pinnacle of the Jewish social, religious, and political society.  For those who became Christians and had come out of Jewish culture, their understanding of who the top people are was formed by looking at the lives of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

Paul had to spell out the relationship of the law to the believer for the church in Galatia also:

Galatians 3:23-26
Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.  The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.  But since that faith has come, we are no long under a guardian, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Since Jesus came to fulfill the law’s requirements for all of us, those who trust Jesus for eternal life have been declared righteous (i.e. – not guilty) and will not be judged by the law.  As such, the Mosaic Law no longer governs the life of a believer.  Apparently, these wannabe teachers Timothy was encountering in Ephesus were so blinded by status-seeking that they did not grasp this foundational truth…and so they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

Does this mean that the Mosaic Law is useless and should be set aside entirely?  Paul doesn’t think so:

1 Timothy 1:8-11
Now we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately.  We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but
for the lawless and rebellious,
for the ungodly and sinful,
for the unholy and irreverent,
for those who kill their fathers and mothers,
for murderers,
for the sexually immoral and homosexuals,
for kidnappers, liars, perjurers
and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching based on the glorious gospel of the blessed God that was entrusted to me.

The law still serves a legitimate purpose in this world – it continues to show sin for what it is.  The law clearly points out the ways in which humanity has driven a wedge between us and God.  The law points out that we can’t bridge that relationship canyon with our own efforts.

Given the multicultural mix that was the city of Ephesus, the law was certainly applicable to those outside the church…and so was the law’s penalty – eternal separation from God.

When used legitimately, the law is good because it reminds us how much we needed to be rescued, and how much those outside the family still need that rescue.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The heart condition of our teachers

Have you ever listened to someone giving a presentation or a training and realize that they don’t know what they’re talking about?  How frustrating is it to recognize that they haven’t completely thought through the plan they are advocating…and, in fact, what they plan to implement will be detrimental or even harmful?

Unfortunately, this kind of thing can even happen in the church.  Paul warned Timothy about fellow believers acted in this manner:

1 Timothy 1:5-7
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.  Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion.

They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

Why do they want to be teachers of the law?  Given Paul’s comments, they were likely after the things that come with leading and teaching, namely status, popularity, and authority – all of which are easily self-focused and not God-focused.  The goal of their instruction would be the promotion of themselves, which is the exact opposite of agape love.  Instead of leading for the benefit of others, these wannabe leaders are focused on themselves. 

If you replace the word ‘love with ‘self-focus’ you quickly realize that Paul’s statement becomes almost ridiculous:

Now the goal of our instruction is self-focus from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

Their self-focus betrays the true condition of their heart.  Jesus similarly cautioned His disciples about inter-family relationships:

Luke 6:43-45
“A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit.  For each tree is known by its own fruit.  Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. 

A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart.  An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”

Since these wannabe teachers in Ephesus have deviated from their pursuit of God via a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, what comes out of their mouths isn’t agape love – it’s just fruitless discussion.

Later on, Paul tells Timothy that it is a good thing to desire a leadership position and that those in charge reap extra rewards from God.  However, Paul will also caution against appointing someone before they are ready.

That’s the situation here – this group that want to be teachers has an incomplete knowledge base, an incorrect understanding, and as a result, they are focused on themselves.  Because of all this, the logical conclusions of what they are insisting on is either harmful to others or contradicts what God actually meant.

After we believe in Jesus for eternal life, the early steps of Christian living are more focused on us “being” rather than us “doing”.  God cares more about our character as a reflection of Him than He is about us doing “big things” for Him.  After we have the foundation of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, the agape love pouring from that character will give us opportunities to lead – at church, at work, or in the home – and then we will produce good fruit

However, without that character foundation, we are prone to self-centeredness, fruitless discussion, and teachings that misrepresent God.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Correcting bad teaching

When Paul sent his letter of instruction and encouragement to Timothy, the very first area he discussed had to do with Timothy’s authority in the church family.

1 Timothy 1:3-4
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies.  These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.

Right away, we see that Timothy is in charge.  The Greek word Paul uses for command means to instruct, charge, or declare a message to others.  This word was often used by the gospel writers to describe Jesus’ teaching to both the crowds and to his disciples.  Paul wants Timothy to exercise his authority in the church at Ephesus, as evidenced by him using that particular Greek verb five different times in this letter.

Given the multicultural makeup of the city, its inhabitants, and their multitude of religious practices, the church would have been inundated with many competing ideas about who God is, what He is like, and how a relationship with Him is supposed to happen. 

Whenever Timothy would encounter these incorrect ideas about God, and the time came for him to command people not to teach these false ideas, it is easy to understand how tense of a situation that could be.  No one likes being wrong, and no one likes being called out for being incorrect – especially on something they are passionate about.

Oftentimes, when a person’s doctrine beliefs are discussed, there is a tendency for pride to creep in.  We fight in order to show that our understanding is right…rather than taking the humble route of wanting to make sure we are rightly aligned with God. 

That balance between humility and authority will be challenging for a leader, so Paul makes sure that Timothy understands where his motivation comes from:

1 Timothy 1:5
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

Timothy is to give commands because he genuinely loves the people he will be shepherding in Ephesus.  While Timothy’s instructions will be authoritative, they will be given for the people’s benefit. 

We need to correctly understand who God is and what He is like if we’re going to have a strong, life-giving relationship with Him.  As such, correcting false doctrine and false teaching is of paramount importance within the church family.  However, to be effective, the goal of our instruction must be love.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Dangerous rules

We like rules.  We like them a lot.  Rules seem to make things easier, right?  Everything boils down to either black or white.  “Do this.  Don’t do that.”  No in between, no grey, no guesswork, and no mess. 

While there are clear-cut areas in life, the unfortunate truth is that most of our lives aren’t lived in black and white – not only are there grey areas, but life comes at us in a full spectrum of colors.  How do we deal with such a variety of circumstances and people?  How would God want us to deal with them?  When faced with difficult questions and situations in our relationship with God and with others, we often start looking for rules to clarify our course of action.

The believers in Colossae were dealing with a “new” teaching that was likely taught as a guideline for interacting with God and others, but it seems that the teachers were also insisting on rules to prove one’s spirituality.  From Paul’s letter we see that the rogue teachers were advocating rules for food, drink, festivals, sabbath days, worship of angels, and visions.  Paul took issue with these performance-based, surface-level-focused teachings primarily because they took the believer’s focus off of Jesus and put the attention on themselves. Paul summed it up this way:

Colossians 2:20-23
If you died with Christ to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?  Why do you submit to regulations: “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”?

All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are human commands and doctrines.  Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value against fleshly indulgence.

In the centuries since Paul wrote these words, the church has struggled with human commands and doctrines.  Attempting to earn God’s love, people have given in to legalistic, rules-focused teachings.  Teachings such as earning one’s salvation by doing enough good works, or maintaining one’s salvation by doing enough good works, or trying to live under the Mosaic Law are all examples of false teachings based on human ideas and desires.

Others have tried fasting with the intention to force God to decide in their favor.  Some have lived in isolation with the intention to avoid the temptations that could arise when around other people.  People have even gone as far as self-mutilation to try to keep their sinful urges in check.

On the surface, these ideas seem to have merit…but the truth is they’ve all failed to do what God desires to do in our lives.  God desires to make us Christ-like.  Paul was right when he said that the man-made rules have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, [but] they are not of any value against fleshly indulgence.

These practices don’t get to the heart of the problem – because our ultimate problem isn’t our behavior, it’s our sinful nature.  These practices distract us from the real solution.  So we have to be just as careful as Paul wanted the Colossians to be – watching out for false teachings and ascetic practices.

Warren Wiersbe accurately described the dangers that modern believers must be wary of:

“When we make Jesus Christ and the Christian revelation only part of a total religious system or philosophy, we cease to give Him the preeminence.  When we strive for ‘spiritual perfection’ or ‘spiritual fullness’ by means of formulas, disciplines, or rituals, we go backward instead of forward.  Christian believers must beware of mixing their Christian faith with such alluring things as yoga, transcendental meditation, Oriental mysticism, and the like.  We must also beware of ‘deeper life’ teachers who offer a system for victory and fullness that bypasses devotion to Jesus Christ.  In all things, He must have preeminence!”

If the purpose of the rules, principles, or guidelines we follow are doing anything other than pointing us toward Christ or making us more Christ-like…then they are a waste of time and they will eventually lead us astray.  Our first clue that a particular practice is potentially dangerous is to ask the question “Where is the focus placed, on Jesus or on me?

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Just as you were taught

Contrary to what advertisers want you to believe, “newer” does not automatically mean “better”.  This applies to many areas of our life, including our spiritual maturity.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems like the American church is always on the lookout for the Next Big Thing.  Every couple of years, we jump at a slick package of formula-prayers, diets, or new techniques which claim to develop spiritual maturity.  Unfortunately, it seems like most people’s idea of spiritual maturity is nothing more than being good at convincing God to give us whatever we want at the moment.

As we continue through Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae, we find that they were also being presented with a barrage of “new” ideas and techniques that would supposedly make them spiritually mature.  We’ll take a close look at each one as we come to them in this letter, but before Paul specifically addresses these other teachings, he gives the Colossians a broad statement about the true path to spiritual maturity:

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Notice how Paul lays out the path before the Colossian believers – they are to root themselves and build up themselves in Jesus – just as you were taught.  No new techniques, no additional rituals, no special sacrifice or vow.  They don’t need a “new way” because they’ve already been shown the way, and it was up to them to walk the path laid out before them.

Many years prior, God gave a similar warning to the nation of Israel:

Jeremiah 6:16
This is what the Lord says:
Stand by the roadways and look.  Ask about the ancient paths:
Which is the way to what is good?
Then take it and find rest for yourselves.

But they protested: We won’t!

The Israelites refused to listen to God’s timeless advice and directions for how they were to live as His people.  They still belonged to God, for they were God’s chosen people.  However, their refusal to acknowledge God’s rightful place as King made them rebellious children.  God had shown their forefathers the path for relationship with Him and for peace in the land, but instead

Jeremiah 6:19
…they have paid no attention to My word.  They have rejected My law.

The Israelites shunned God’s revelation and His previously revealed path.  For their choices, they were susceptible to attack, both spiritually and physically.  Keep in mind that this prophecy was given to the generation that was eventually led into captivity in Babylon.

Paul’s letter doesn’t give any direct evidence that the Colossians were rejecting God or a relationship with Him.  However, the temptation was certainly there as other philosophies and human traditions were pressing in to the Colossian church.  Paul gives these believers a good self-check reminder here – they need to actively consider the path they’re on.  Will their actions truly lead to spiritual maturity, or are they trying to manipulate God?  Are they walking in the paths just as you were taught, or are they trying something different just because it’s “new”?

Keep in mind that “new” doesn’t automatically mean wrong, either…but we must make sure it follows with what Paul said to the Colossians:

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Healthy teachings for slaves

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Paul has one last group within the Cretan believers to address.  Slavery was quite common within ancient Rome; so much so that historians believe that the slave population would vary between 30% to over 50% of a given city.  While some slaves toiled under harsh conditions, others appeared to be normal businessmen; however, the function and authority of both were under the supervision of their individual masters.  Invariably, with such a sizeable population, there were slaves who became Christians.  So they also would wonder “What’s next?” after choosing to trust Christ for their salvation from the penalty of their sins.

Titus 2:9-10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

One source I found made this point: “Paul’s instructions on the respectful attitude of slaves toward their masters comes against the backdrop of a standard theme in ancient comedies: the arrogant, back-talking slave.  Over and over the Greek and Latin comic playwrights present slaves as mocking their masters behind their backs, talking back to them with barely disguised contempt when they could (often getting a cuffing for comic effect), and generally being villainous characters.  Admittedly a large measure of this picture was simply the comedic portrait, but it no doubt contains an element of truth…”

What’s helpful here is that Paul gives instructions for “What’s next”, but he also provides the why for doing these things.  Did you see it at the end of verse 10? 

so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive

Paul wanted the Cretan slaves to recognize that their work for their earthly master was their way to demonstrate who God is and what God has done in their lives.  Against the cultural joke backdrop of the back-talking slave, a servant who is trustworthy in front of his master as well as when his master is not around would stand out. 

The slaves were to recognize the authority of those above them, work to please them, be respectful, and not to misappropriate the resources they were in charge of or came in contact with.  Their trustworthiness would gain them an audience with their master and those around them…their audience would find their motivations to be attractive.  Titus was to make sure that the slaves knew that their everyday choices would build the platform from which they could share the good news of gospel.  Every slave, from the one with huge responsibilities to the one who did the most menial of tasks, could make the gospel attractive by how they worked.

Although we do not find ourselves in the same employment situation as the Cretan slaves, there are some clear parallels and applications for all of us.  In a culture that seems to take work less and less serious…how a Christian works is important, no matter what job we have in front of us.  We represent our Savior in the everyday choices we make in our work.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Healthy teachings for the younger men

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Paul has listed teachings for the older men, the older women, and for the older women to teach the younger women.  The specific lessons tailored for each group would have presented a special challenge for the original Cretan audience…and now we come to Paul’s prescribed teaching for the young men in the Cretan church:

Titus 2:6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

Paul has given the older men six things to learn, the older women get three things and a direction to be mentors, and the younger women get six things…while the Cretan younger men are only given one topic that is in accord with the healthy teaching of the gospel.

Is this an indication that the young men have it easy or does this imply that there is a male bias in the text?  To solve a question like that, we must first look at the context of the surrounding verses.

Paul’s direction in this verse begins with the word similarly, so we need to ask “similarly to what?”  Since the immediate previous context is Paul explaining how a younger woman’s walk is to be one so that no one will malign the word of God, that same expectation is placed on the younger men as well. 

Also, to encourage means to urge strongly, as well as to invite and exhort…which implies some sort of relationship between Titus and the younger Cretan men.  Paul develops this idea as he continues:

Titus 2:7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Although these directions are for Titus, they are also what Titus needs to be modeling to the younger men.  Whether they are actively looking or sub-consciously scanning, young men are constantly watching for another man to be an example for them.  Oftentimes, an older man becomes a role model without even being informed by the younger man.  Perhaps that is why Paul emphasizes several ways that Titus can model self-control.

Self-control is the underlying current that flows through a young man’s life.  To maintain a right frame of mind while the world rages around you and to have sober judgment of the people and situations you daily encounter are life-preserving skills for a young man.  Many younger men have had their lives and their faith shipwrecked due to a lack of self-control.  Notice that Paul says that opposition will come; however, he expects that Titus will be ready for it because his self-control in previous situations have kept him from having a reputation that can be attacked.

Nowadays, a common political trap is to bait your opponent by saying something completely ridiculous, even false against him…and then sitting back and waiting for his response.  This kind of trap is based upon the assumption that the opponent will respond forcefully and quickly…but also recklessly.  A reckless response will typically dig a bigger hole, one that the man will not be able to politically escape from.  His fate is sealed by his own lack of self-control.

Paul doesn’t list one trait for the younger men to learn because he is taking it easy on them.  In fact, the opposite it true!  By narrowing it down to one item, Paul is emphasizing the importance of a young man’s self-control not only in his own life, but also in how he lives out the gospel message.  After coming into a saving relationship with Jesus, in order to represent that relationship so that no one will malign the word of God, the most important lesson a younger man needs is self-control!

If you fit the category of a younger man, ask God to show you the importance of living with self-control.  He will give you the strength needed to bring your passions and emotions under proper control, so they can be put to good use.

If you don’t fit the category of a younger man, please pray for those you know.  Ask God to give them a mentor that consistently displays this characteristic of a Godly man.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Healthy teachings for the younger women

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Although it is Titus’ responsibility to teach the Cretan believers how to do life in light of Christ rescuing us from the penalty of our sins, Paul specifically states that

Titus 2:4 [the older women] can train the younger women…

It is within this relationship framework that younger women can learn to handle life’s challenges.  Paul identifies several lessons that the young women of Crete will need help in both understanding and applying…and Paul recognizes that they will need the guidance of an older woman to get there.

Titus 2:4-5 Then [the older women] can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

An easy, knee-jerk response would be to start picking off individual items from the list and turning them into arguments.  However, before we do that, it would be wise to consider why Paul is listing these specific topics for the Cretan women to learn and apply.  Paul gives his reasoning at the end of the verse five:

Titus 2:5 …so that no one will malign the word of God.

Other translations render the phrasing as so that God’s message will not be slandered or discredited or dishonored.  Paul is indicating that if the Cretan young women were to choose against the listed character traits, then there is the possibility that God’s message would be poorly represented or the reputation of the gospel could be damaged…even to the point that outsiders might ignore the good news of the gospel.

The heart of what Paul is getting at is this: that a young woman’s walk needs to match her talk.   Her life should mirror the good news of Christ’s salvation, and to live otherwise would discredit God’s life-changing message.  Remember that the Cretan reputation and accepted daily culture was to be always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.  Living in accordance with the healthy teaching of the gospel would be clearly counter-cultural.  A quick look at the opposites helps demonstrate this point:

What does a young woman communicate about the gospel
if instead of aiming to love [her] husband and children, she lives selfishly?
if instead of aiming to be self-controlled and pure, she lives reckless and immoral?
if instead of aiming to be busy at home, she is consumed by exterior passions?
if instead of aiming to be kind, she chooses to be cruel?
if instead of aiming to be subject to [her] husband, she undercuts her husband’s role and authority within the family unit?

All these lessons derive from one point of contention – a woman’s relationships, especially those within her own family.  These difficulties find their root all the way back to Eve’s part of the curse.  Adam and Eve’s sin introduced different, specific consequences into the world.  One of the consequences that God told to Eve was that:

Genesis 3:16 Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

Sin broke the natural order of what God had created all life to function under.  Part of the curse clearly damaged a woman’s relationship with her husband – that from then on, he will rule over you.  The effects of this curse (and Adam’s) have echoed throughout human history ever since.  For the Cretan women to decide live in such a way that mirrors Christ’s love and Christ’s life would be absolutely counter-cultural.  Her choice to love her family in this sacrificial, dynamic way would produce a life that would force those around her to recognize that the gospel she believes in is both revolutionary and life-changing.

Paul never says this list is easy.  He never indicates that a young woman will get it right on the first try.  But these choices are so important that Paul specifically states that the young women will need to be taught and mentored by an older woman in order to live them out.  The young women aren’t supposed to “just figure it out” all on their own.

If you fit the category of a younger woman, ask God for an older woman to come along side and mentor you.  You have a tough job, but you don’t have to do it alone.

If you don’t fit the category of a younger woman, think of those you know.  Ask God to give them the desire to ensure that their walk reflects God’s impact on their lives.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Healthy teachings for the older men

After giving instructions on how to recognize those who teach what is contrary to the gospel and how deal with their corrupted teachings, Paul then turns his attention back to Titus:

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

In direct contrast to the false teachers, Paul exhorts Titus to present teachings that line up with the gospel message that Christ alone has paid the price for our sins.  No matter how high we pile up good works, we cannot pay back our wrongs.  However, after we place our faith in Christ, when we trust him and his payment…we are no longer held guilty in the eyes of God.  This “not guilty” verdict isn’t an isolated chapter in our lives; instead it bleeds over into every part of who we are and how we live. 

After accepting Christ as Savior and becoming “not guilty”, the Cretan believers needed help in figuring out “What’s next?”.  We often have similar questions.  Thankfully, Paul gave Titus some topics to go over with the new Cretan believers.  No doubt they found them challenging, and I bet we will too.

Christian Living literature sells quite well.  It seems that everyone is asking “What’s next?” and that many people believe they have the answer for men, or young women, or wives, or retirees, or young parents, etc, etc, etc…every division of people groups you can imagine.  Paul divided his Cretan audience into four groups: older men, older women, young women, and young men.  He gave direct, tailored advice to each group.  Even though each of us only fit into one of these categories, it will be beneficial to look at each one and consider why God is asking for these specific traits at this specific point in our lives. 

Titus 2:2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith in love and in endurance.

Each of these characteristics look toward the highest level of maturity.  Older men will not reach this level of maturity by accident, either.  By default, men will grow increasingly self-centered as we grow older, so these traits are to be reinforced and taught to the older men.

So how does an older man keep from becoming increasingly selfish?

The second half of the verse is key – to be sound in the faith, in love, and in endurance.  The Greek word for sound is the same one used in Paul’s direction to Titus for sound doctrine.  A healthy faith, a healthy love, and a healthy endurance will guide an older man into clearheaded, dignified, and sensible living.

Faith, love, and endurance are kept healthy as they are related back to the sound doctrine of the gospel.  In God’s salvation plan, we find a place for our faith, our greatest example of selfless love, and the ultimate model of endurance.

If you fit the category of an older man, look to Christ to keep your faith, love and endurance healthy.  These should be your aim as you live out your relationship with Jesus.

If you don’t fit the category, I’m certain you know someone who does.  Will you pray for them today?  Ask God to give them the desire to be sound in the faith, in love, and in endurance.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Healthy teaching

Titus 1:9 [An overseer or elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

The trustworthy message was that only Christ’s death on the cross could rescue us from the eternal penalty of our sins.  Paul refers to this as sound doctrine.  While the term “doctrine” might feel stuffy or foreign to us, a direct translation of the words would be healthy teaching.  If Titus chooses leaders with unhealthy teachings, the message would become muddied up with other ideas, philosophies, and sinful human influences.  When the message is muddied and is no longer sound, it is open to corruption.

Paul then explores the contrast between those who hold to sound doctrine and those who have muddied the gospel message:

Titus 1:15-16 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.  They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.  They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Although these other teachers claim authority and claim to represent God, their actions betray them:

How do they treat their family, conduct themselves, and interact with others?
Is their teaching healthy, do they speak of faith alone in Jesus…or do they add in other conditions?

Paul calls those that proclaim to be teachers but are actually corrupted and do not believe to be detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  While those terms might seem harsh to us, it is their muddied message, the unhealthy teaching which does not rely on Christ that makes them this way.

If their teaching disqualifies them from doing anything good, obviously those that listen to them won’t fare any better.  Which is why Paul says to Titus in the next verse:

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

It matters who we listen to.  Don’t believe what they say, just because they claim to know God.  Check them out, make sure their teaching is sound and healthy.

Keep Pressing,
Ken