Dealing with Members
                 Titus 2
               By Paul Robison

For many years Monterey, a California coast town, was a pelican's paradise.  As the fishermen cleaned their fish, they flung the leftovers to the pelicans.  The birds grew fat, lazy, and contented.  Eventually, however the leftovers were utilized to make another product, and there were no longer any snacks.  When the change came, the pelicans made no effort to fish for themselves.  They waited around and grew gaunt and thin. Many starved to death.  They had forgotten how to fish for themselves.  The problem was solved by importing new pelicans, birds accustomed to getting food for themselves.  They were placed among their starving cousins, and the newcomers immediately started catching fish.  Before long, the hungry pelicans followed suit, and the famine was ended (Bits & Pieces 94).  We live in a world where people are starving spiritually.  Can we as Christians show them a better way? 
In the opening of Titus, Paul told his trusted ally Titus to set in order some things that were lacking in the churches scattered throughout the island of Crete.  Paul gives his advice on how to deal with deceivers in the rest of chapter one.  In chapter two, he tells him how to deal with members.  Paul knows that the members' actions will either be a stumbling-block or a stepping-stone to converting the unbelievers of Crete, where so much of this wicked culture was known for its lying, drunkenness, licentiousness, piracy, and trickery.  Let's look at four ways that Paul tells Titus to deal with members.
 
First of all, concentrate on specific behaviors.  There are five groups mentioned in verses 1-10.  See if you can discover them.  Let's read this passage now: "But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things―that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.  Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works, in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.  Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things."   In contrast to the false teachers, Titus is to provide sound or healthy teaching.  The healthy teaching are the specific behaviors on which each group should concentrate.  The elderly men are to be sober or dignified, reverent or serious, and temperate or not given to access in anything.  These traits are very counter-cultural and go against the grain of what Cretans' highly valued.  Paul is revealing to us here God's desires for these various groups.  Then he tells elderly men to be sound or healthy in faith, in love, and in patience.  Next Paul gives the elderly women several instructions.  They are to be reverent or serious (there it is again; the same word as applied to the elderly men), not slanders or false accusers, not given to much wine (against a culture that was very prone to drunkenness), teachers of good things (and this was probably not classroom teaching but informal teaching).  It is interesting that Paul gives the assignment of teaching and admonishing the young women to these elderly women, and not to the elders nor to the evangelist.  It is good to see in our Ladies Bible Class, which meets weekly, that the women are teaching and admonishing one another.  Next, there are many instructions for the young women.  Each of them is to love her husband and her children (remember that most of the marriages in Roman society were arranged by families and were not the result of any romantic courtship).  They are to be discreet or devout, chaste or sexually pure, homemakers or keepers at home (which is counter-cultural for us), good, and obedient to their husbands.  Why were there more instructions for young women than for any other group?  Someone made this interesting observation: "The world still judges Christianity by the character of the young women produced by the church" (Coffman).  What an awesome influence a godly young women can have when she makes her family her second priority!  The young men are encouraged to be sober-minded, and Titus is admonished to set an example for them by focusing on integrity, reverence (that's the same word again as we saw earlier), incorruptibility, and sound speech (the young men should also follow Titus' example).  The slaves in Roman society often had a very difficult life; they had no "legal, civil, or natural rights of any kind" (Coffman).  Titus is to admonish them to be obedient, to be well-pleasing, to hold their tongues, to avoid taking a portion of whatever has been entrusted to them, to show good fidelity or reliability, and to adorn or to display God's teachings in all that they would do.  Christianity should make a difference in how we live, and it is interesting that Paul, inspired by God's Spirit, had certain behaviors in mind that he saw very fitting for each group.  Someone has noted that we aren't too good about making up our own rules: "If ethical behavior is to have any meaning at all, it must be anchored in authority that is external to man.  Without that guiding restraint of external authority, morality is progressively downgraded until it disappears altogether" (Coffman).  All of these practices would still be valid for each of us to put into practice in our lives as well.  Concentrate on specific behaviors.
 
Next, strive to live above others' reproaches.  Notice three expressions in verses 5, 8, and 15.  Notice that at the end of the instructions for the young women, there is the expression: "that the word of God may not be blasphemed."   Now notice the ending of v 8: "that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you."   And then notice the ending of v 15: "Let no one despise you."   People around us are watching us closely, and they are evaluating Christianity by way we live.  Isn't Paul telling the Titus and the brethren at Crete that they should live such exemplary lives that others can't look down on them or say much critical against them?  Such good lives cause the word of God to be admired rather than blasphemed.  Strive to live above others' reproaches.  Paul admonished in Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."   Our study in Nehemiah has shown us that when we do good as Christians, we're going to be opposed, possibly criticized, and maybe even persecuted by those who do evil.  But as much as depends on us, we try to live so soberly, righteously, and godly that our good lives do much to silence the criticism or to shame the critics.  The apostle Peter taught this same concept when he encouraged: "Having a good conscience, that when they [that is unbeleivers] defame you as evildoers, those who revile your conduct in Christ may be ashamed" (1 Peter 3:16).  Mark Twain was once heard to quip: "There is nothing quite so annoying as a good example."  Christians annoy their critics because their exemplary conduct speaks louder than their words to those arod them.  This concept of living above others' reproaches is a tall order, and it takes much commitment, self-discipline, and detrminiation to do God's will in all cirucumstances.  But as much as we can, let's strive to live above others' reproaches!
 
Next, root your actions in God's grace and Jesus' ministry.  Now let's read verses 11-13: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, . . ."  Notice that this verse begins with "for", which can also be translated "because".  Remember the significance of this word from our last sermon?  Titus has just been told to exhort the members to live in certain ways.  They should live like this because God and Christ have already done something.  You see, they are the root for the fruit of our actions.  This is why the third way is root your actions in God's grace and Jesus' ministry.  How wonderful God and Jesus have been to us!  When we had no hope of ever being reconciled to God because of our sinful lives and ways, God's grace made a way for us to become righteous through the Lamb of God that was punished for our sins.  If you were here last Sunday evening, remember the images "P or F?"  and "the cross with drops of blood coming down"?  Would God punish us or forgive us?  That was His dilemma.  And He solved it at the cross where Christ's death became the punishment for our sins so that reconcilation between a holy God and sinful mankind could take place.  "For God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).  In Titus, we learn that this salvation appeared with the coming of Christ and took effect when He became everyone's great Rescuer or Savior.  Now what did we do to merit the gift of God's Son and the pardon that can be found at His cross?  There is nothing good that we have done that caused that birth and that death to take place.  It was God through His good grace that caused it happen: "For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Romans 5:17-18)!   Someone else puts it this way: "As normal in Paul, grace stands for God's free favor, the spontaneous goodness by which He intervenes to help and deliver men" (Kelly).  Isn't this why we are assembled here this morning: to worship this gracious God and to praise His Son Jesus for He has demonstrated to us so clearly—that as human beings we can deny ungodliness, evil, and wordly lusts, and we can live soberly, righteousness, and godly in this world, just as He did it!  And just as surely as Christ has already appeared, He will appear once again!  Jesus is also our key to resurrection, to eternal life, and to a new existence in a new dimension where all the redeemed will be united to live forever without any more struggles with the flesh and with sin!  "Blessed assurance, Jesus is Mine!  O what a foretaste of glory divine!  Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood!  This is our story, this is our song, praising our Savior, all the day long" (Crosby)!  You see, because of God and Christ's great mercy and goodness towards us, because they have already done so much, because they have already made our rescue and our reconciliation possible, shouldn't we be motivated, out of gratitude and appreciation to them, to live godly, and gracious, and holy lives as they have instructed us to do.  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us [or training us, instructing us] that we should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly."   The problem is that Satan and our culture are also teaching us, and they say: "Forget that religious junk!  You have evolved to be a party animal who needs no boundaries, so indulge yourself without limits and live as recklessly as you possibly can for that's where the real excitement is!"  So, my beloved listerner, are you going to buy into Satan's short-term pleasures or Jesus' long-term joys?  That is the question of the hour!  Are you going to build your life on sand or on rock?  "The lawless and immoral life is contrary to the grace of God" (Spain).  Why not root your actions in God's grace and Jesus' ministry?
 
Next, abound in good deeds.  Let's read verses 14:15: ". . . who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.  Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority.  Let no one despise you."  "He gave Himself for us"--such simple words.  Think about them!  He gave every minute, every miracle, every teaching, every drop of blood, every appearane after His resurrection, for what purpose?  To benefit all mankind, and that includes you, whoever you!  "That He might redeem us from every lawless deed."  "Redeem" was a word used in the army and the slave market.  A price would be paid to buy back the prisoners of war, and a price would be paid to the pagan gods in order for a slave to be given liberty.  Think about it: Jesus has paid the price for every lawless deed that you have ever done!  Now why did He do that?  Notice the apostle Paul's answer: "That Jesus might purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works."   Moses cleansed the Jews with the blood of the covenant.  Now listen carefully to his words in Deuteronomy 26:18: "Also today, the Lord has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep His commandments, and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the Lord your God, just as He has spoken."   You see, just as the Jews were God's special people in the Old Testament, Christians are Jesus' own special people.  This group of people is Christ's church, and He only promised to build one church: "On this rock, I will build My church [note its singular, and not plural], and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18)."  But what is that church, that special people, supposed to do?  They are to be zealous for good works!  Because Jesus forgave us, redeemed us, and purified us, we are to be active in performing good works.  Now notice here, these good works are not being done to earn our salvation; no, they are being done because of our salvation!  Abound in good deeds!  Someone else said it like this: "It was precisely to raise men to a higher quality of life that God intervened in history in the incarnation" (Kelly). 
Christians want to make the world better because Jesus has made them better.  You see, on Crete, the wicked island that it was, the Christians' good works were going to be one of the most powreful witnesses to Jesus' ability to transform people!  good works were going to be one of the most powreful witnesses to Jesus' ability to transform people!  In fact, we're going to hear some more about good works in chapter three as well.  The Christians in Crete will overcome evil with their good examples seen in their good deeds!
 
Another preacher once said: "A man's life is always more forcible than his speech.  When men take stock of him, they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies.  If his life and doctrine disagree, the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching" (Spurgeon).  As Christians, our actions today will either be a stumbling-block or a stepping- stone to converting the unbelievers around us.  Have you been living soberly, righteously, and godly, or have you let Satan cause you to live ungodly, wickedly, and lustfully?  Do you need to get back to living according to Jesus' will?  Have you been passive or active in doing good works in Jesus' name?  Do you need Jesus' forgiveness to get back on track?  If you are not a Christian, quit buying in to Satan short-term pleasures and start living for Christ's long-term joys?  God and Jesus have done their parts to make your salvation possible.  Why not accept Jesus' invitation this morning and let all your future actions be lived in thanksgiving for your forgiveness and for your inclusion into His special people?