Passing it on. From one generation to the next. From your DAD you might have learned how to change a washer, or how to kick a football, or ride a motor bike, or hang a picture. From your MUM you might have learned how to sew on a button, or bake a cake, or read music.
What sort of things did YOU learn from YOUR parents?
Well, I learned ALL those things from my parents. And more of course. But the most important thing I learned was THE GOSPEL. The message of how Jesus died for me. How God wanted to forgive my sins. And how he wanted me to spend my life serving and honouring him. That was the most important thing I ever learned from my parents. And I saw them MODEL that message, too.
I’d see Dad creep downstairs every morning before we got up to read his Bible, and to pray. I saw his huge wad of prayer guides stuffed into the front. I saw his hand-written scrawl over every inch of spare space in his Bible. And when I crept downstairs, I saw him on his knees praying through those lists. Praying FOR US.
And I saw the way he read the Bible and prayed with us after dinner. Even when we didn’t want to hear, and made things difficult.
And I saw Mum live out the truth in relationships with people. Teaching, training, loving. Serving in lots of ways. Cheerful, hospitable, generous. Encouraging others to follow Jesus.
I know, that for Mum and Dad, passing on the truth of the gospel was the most important thing they could do for us.
And, now, as a parent, the same thing’s true for me too. The most valuable thing I can teach MY kids is the truth about Jesus. About the importance of living for him.
And it’s this same desire Paul’s got for HIS CHILDREN.
He and Titus had visited the island of Crete. And people had become Christians. But Paul had to move on. And he’s concerned for his new children. Babes in Christ. He wants to make sure they keep following Jesus.
And so he leaves Titus behind. To finish the job. To set things up for the long haul. To pass the ball on. And then he writes him a letter to help him DO that job. See there in v5?
(Titus 1:5 NIV) The reason I left you in Crete was that you might STRAIGHTEN OUT WHAT WAS LEFT UNFINISHED and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
Paul’s passed the ball to Titus. Who’s going to pass the ball to the elders. Who’ll pass the ball on to the rest of the people in the churches.
But before Titus passes the ball on, Paul wants to make sure he’s passing it to THE RIGHT PEOPLE. BECAUSE WHEN YOU’VE GOT A MESSAGE AS IMPORTANT AS THE ONE PAUL’S GOT, NOTHING’S MORE IMPORTANT.
In Paul’s day, just like ours, there’s plenty of people in churches who SOUND impressive. Who SOUND like they know the truth. But who are just PRETENDING.
You don’t have to travel too far this morning to here FALSE TEACHING in churches. People who get it WRONG. People who say you don’t need to listen to the Bible anymore – that’s old fashioned – we’ve moved on these days. You can decide which bits you like, and which you don’t.
But the most DANGEROUS mistake false teachers are making. Right here in Sydney. Is that you don’t get to heaven simply by trusting in the work of Jesus. Salvation comes by SOME OTHER WAY.
Some people will say it comes in MANY ways. Other religions are FINE – as long as you’re SINCERE.
It’s the nonsense of post-modern relativism – You have YOUR religion and I have MINE. And they’re both TRUE FOR US.
Or they say that as long as you try and be a good person, then God will accept you.
Teaching like this SOUNDS nice. Inclusive, and tolerant, and politically-correct. But it’s DEADLY. Because it’s leading people STRAIGHT TO HELL. Eternal separation from God.
Paul want to make sure Titus isn’t passing the ball on to people LIKE THAT. Because the message is FAR TOO IMPORTANT to leave to UNRELIABLE TEACHERS.
But how can Titus BE SURE who’s UNRELIABLE, and who’s reliable?
Paul’s answer is that knowledge of the TRUTH ALWAYS leads to GODLINESS. Knowledge of the TRUTH ALWAYS leads to GODLINESS.
So look for the GODLY ones. That’s the measure of truth. The measure of A SOLID TEACHER.
Paul’s burden is to make sure HIS SOLID MESSAGE IS GIVEN TO SOLID TEACHERS, TO BUILD SOLID PEOPLE.
1. Solid Message (1-4)
Now, SOLID isn’t normally a flattering description for someone – “He has a very SOLID build” is a nice way of saying he could lose some weight.
And to say “Good old Jim, You can trust him – he’s SOLID” Is a nice way of saying Jim’s not really exceptional – pretty BORING really – but he can be relied on.
But in Ch 1, Paul goes out of his way to show that SOLID is a real POSITIVE. A compliment. First, he shows us his solid MESSAGE.
V1. He’s God’s SERVANT – on a mission FOR GOD HIMSELF. And he’s an apostle of Jesus Christ. He’s been commissioned and sent by Jesus himself. Not a bad set of references.
And his message? V2 It’s to do with the hope of eternal life – A PROMISE FROM BEFORE TIME. By GOD HIMSELF – who DOESN’T LIE. It’s SOLID.
And, v3, it’s a message God revealed, at just the right time, through THE PREACHING HE ENTRUSTED TO PAUL. A royal decree. With the full backing of God himself.
This isn’t something Paul dreamed up this morning over breakfast. It’s not man’s ideas at all.
It’s planned since before time. It’s God’s solid message. A rock-solid hope of eternity. You don’t get any more solid than that!
But notice also, the PURPOSE BEHIND the message. V1. Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ FOR THE FAITH OF GOD’S ELECT AND THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.
Paul’s goal in life is to produce faith, and knowledge of the truth in God’s elect. The message bears fruit of faith and knowledge.
It’s no good having A MESSAGE OF TRUTH, if no-one goes on to TRUST it. It’s TARGETED truth. Truth designed to produce a response. A response of faith and knowledge.
But there’s a third step as well.
Faith and knowledge of the truth are not ENDS IN THEMSELVES. What does the end of v1 say? “the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth THAT LEADS TO GODLINESS.”
True knowledge leads to godliness. True FAITH leads to godliness. Right KNOWING produces right LIVING.
If you really know the hope of eternal life then it will spur you on to want to be more godly. To reflect the character of the one who GAVE you the gift.
And if it doesn’t, it shows it’s not knowledge of THE TRUTH.
How can you tell if someone really KNOWS THE TRUTH? By whether their LIVES REFLECT IT. And that’s the test Paul wants Titus to use as he works at passing the ball on to others.
2. Solid teachers
And once we understand THAT. Paul’s list of qualities for an elder become OBVIOUS.
The proof of a solid leader – someone who can catch the ball, and carry it on – is seen in HIS CHARACTER. That’s the test of whether he really knows the truth or not. The sorts of people Titus should look for as solid teachers.
“You need to choose Elders who are the REAL THING,” he says. Men with REAL CHRISTIAN INTEGRITY. Who are going to WALK THE WALK… as well as TALK THE TALK. Men whose knowledge of the truth has lead to godliness.
Not perfect. Just prepared to live as followers of Jesus: live as if they mean it.
And you’ll see, again, as you read through verses 6 to 8; elders or overseers – different words for the same job. They need to have RIGHT LIVES.
And verse 9, elders and overseers, they need to have RIGHT DOCTRINE. Which is the only remedy – the only way to oppose those who haven’t.
Pick it up in verse 6. And I guess, especially if you’re one of our elders. We need to listen to this stuff.
An elder must be BLAMELESS – not open to any accusation that he’s not living out his faith. And he’s got to get things RIGHT AT HOME in his own family before you can expect him to get things right in the CHURCH family. The husband of but one wife, faithful to her; a man whose CHILDREN are faithful and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.
It’s the TOUGHEST TEST of leadership, isn’t it. The age we live in seems to say kids do what they like, and it’s not the parents’ problem. Paul says, the way you bring up your family demonstrates something about the way you lead.
And Verse 7; the reason it’s important is that THIS IS GOD’S WORK. That’s why he needs to be blameless.
And then a whole string of NOTS. Not overbearing; a bully. Not quick tempered; not given to drunkenness; not violent; not pursuing dishonest gain.
You know, I’ve heard of elders and ministers who’ve blown it on any number of those. The minister who’d been picking up prostitutes in his car. His ministry destroyed, and the church left in tatters. An elder, known in his little country town for his fiery temper. Abused a young mum who was holding up the traffic pushing her pram across the road. And it was the talk of the town. “He calls himself a CHRISTIAN. Why doesn’t he LIVE it?”
Others – pursuing DISHONEST GAIN. Cutting corners in business. Let me tell you, if you think you can be a Christian leader and live like that, you’re not going to lead ANYONE ANYWHERE. And when it comes to fronting up to false teaching, you haven’t got a leg to stand on.
Paul says to Titus, when you’re looking for elders who are going to MODEL HOW CHRISTIANS LIVE, whatever you do… don’t go for people like THAT- who are going to bring the Lord Jesus into disrepute.
Verse 8. Look for someone like this instead. Someone hospitable; someone who LOVES WHAT IS GOOD; who is self controlled; upright; holy and disciplined.
You know, sometimes people say, he sets the bar too high. No one can be like that. Which is RUBBISH. The fact is, he’s just describing what ANYONE who’s serious about following Jesus is meant to look like.
Find some of those in every town, says Paul… and appoint them as leaders. Who’ll show people in Crete HOW REAL CHRISTIANS LIVE.
But more than that… verse 9; remember the two things that have to always go HAND IN HAND. It’s not just about LIVING RIGHT. It’s about RIGHT TEACHING as well. Holding on to THE TRUTH. Read it. An elder, verse 9, he must hold FIRMLY to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by SOUND (or SOLID) DOCTRINE, and refute those who oppose it.
Right living Right teaching. Right living right teaching. Hold on to the truth. So you can DEFEND IT. Live it out. So you can ENCOURAGE people to stick to it. And fight off those who don’t.
When it comes to the message Paul’s preaching, when it comes to the message we call THE GOSPEL… it’s not a matter of ANYTHING GOES. Make it up however it suits. It’s a matter of sticking EXACTLY to the trustworthy message that you’ve been taught. And passing it on INTACT. SOLID.
Like you’re in a relay race. Pass on the baton. And don’t drop it. And stand up against anyone who wants to change it.
It’s a SOLID message that’s communicated best by SOLID teachers. Who back up their words with SOLID, blameless, godly lives.
Unreliable teachers (10-11, 14)
And then Paul mentions the OTHER extreme. The ones Titus needs to STEER clear of. The ones the SOLID teachers need to be refuting – UNRELIABLE people to be passing the ball to.
Look at v10. He calls them rebellious. MERE talkers and deceivers. In other words, there’s no ACTIONS behind their words. No WALK to go with the TALK.
Remember, for Paul, that’s the test. Because knowledge of the truth leads to godliness.
And he gives an example. The circumcision group. Ex-Jews, who didn’t MIND the idea of Jesus. Just that the cross WASN’T ENOUGH. “Yes, yes, Jesus is the Messiah. Yes, he died and was resurrected. Yes, we’re accepted by God because of Christ.”
“But to REALLY make sure, you need to get circumcised. Or follow these food laws. Or observe the holy days. Like we did BEFORE Jesus. After all, it says so in the Scriptures. Right there in the Law.”
Persuasive arguments. But look at their FRUIT. V11. They must be silenced because they’re RUINING WHOLE HOUSEHOLDS, teaching rubbish, and DOING IT FOR DISHONEST GAIN.
They SAID they were teaching God’s Word, but their LIVES said their priorities lay ELSEWHERE. Their hip pocket.
Or down in v14, Jewish myths and THE COMMANDS OF MEN meant more to them than the TRUTH.
Solid People (12-16)
And so , in v13, Paul tells Titus and the elders to REBUKE them SHARPLY. Put them in their place. Tell them to pull their heads in.
Why? “So that the people will be SOUND in their faith” It’s that “SOLID” word.
Solid Christians. Those with unshakeable FAITH and knowledge of the truth. Are produced when SOLID dependable, blameless teachers pass on the SOLID message of the gospel.
That’s the picture Paul wants to see being painted on Crete. It’s the picture he wants to see being painted here at Western Blacktown.
Now I guess with a passage like this, it’s easy, isn’t it, to focus on OUR ELDERS. And I trust our elders are taking a passage like this one to heart. As I am.
But I want to take it further than that. And say, what’s it like with YOU? Because the point is, the elders are meant to be people of integrity FOR A REASON. To encourage YOU… TO BE THE SAME. It’s not ONE standard for leaders and ANOTHER standard for everyone else.
And while I want to say to the elders and leaders in our church, let’s GET SERIOUS…
I want to say the same to EVERYONE. We’re going to see more of that next time… what’s meant to be taught to different groups in the church; and the fact is, it’s not that different.
And so for each of YOU… can I ask you to think on this? Is what you believe… SHOWING THROUGH IN THE WAY YOU’RE LIVING? Or isn’t it?
Is YOUR knowledge of the truth leading to GODLINESS? To a genuine CHANGED LIFE. With new attitudes, and priorities and words.
Are you growing as a follower of Jesus to be someone who LOVES WHAT’S GOOD? Or do you still secretly delight in what’s not? How deep can you scratch and still find a Christian there?
We’ll be a strong church if our leaders lead by example; and if we’re determined to hold on to the truth. But only if, FOR ALL OF US, the faith we’ve come to, and the knowledge we’re growing in… is a faith and knowledge that leads to CHANGING LIVES. A faith and knowledge that leads to GODLINESS.