Sunday, November 30, 2008

When Chaos Hits Home, Go Home! – Luke 1:26-50

When Chaos Hits Home, Go Home! – Luke 1:26-50
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 30, 2008 AM

What do you do when you hear news that will change your life? When the chaos of life hits home? Most of us immediately turn to those who love us, our family. For many of us when we are going through a tough time in life, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!” I can remember being far from home in California and wanting more than anything to be home for the holidays. That is the way family should work, when times get chaotic you immediately think of heading home because those are the folks who understand you and love you the most. For the believer our home and family is not just with our biologic loved ones but also with our Heavenly Father as well. We discover that no matter what happens in life or where we are, God is right there and we can head for His loving arms anytime we desire.

We discover that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was no different. When she was faced with the realization that she was not only pregnant out of wedlock, and that her birth was going to be miraculous, she needed advice and comfort that not many would be able to give. While the townspeople, even others in her synagogue, would have disdained her, she knew of two places she would be accepted as this chaos hit home. Mary knew what to do when chaos hits home, she went home. Let’s discover what that means for us this morning…

READ: Luke 1:26-50

Mary did not seem surprised that the Messiah was to come. Rather, she was surprised that she would be His mother since she was a virgin (literally, “since I do not know a man”). But the angel did not rebuke Mary, as he had rebuked Zechariah (Luke 1:20). Instead He tries to comfort her. This indicates that Mary did not doubt the angel’s words but merely wanted to know how such a miraculous event would be accomplished. The answer was that the Holy Spirit would creatively bring about the physical conception of Jesus. Can you imagine what went through this young girl’s mind? When chaos hit home for Mary…

I. She goes home to those who can relate to her condition (vv. 36-40)!

1. Families are not just biological, they are soteriological! They are relevant to our personal salvation in times of crisis! Mary was given a sign: “Elizabeth… is going to have a child.” Mary affirmed her part in her own son’s birth by submitting to the plan of God: “May it be to me as You have said.” She willingly accepts God’s plan, calling herself the “Lord’s servant” (doule, “slave”). She was at the will of her God, but notice what she does: “Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea.” She heads home to the one person at the time who could completely understand her condition, Elizabeth. Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah lived in a town in the hill country. Possibly the hills surrounding Jerusalem. As Mary arrived, Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb for joy, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (More about that in a moment.) I believe that the Lord in His infinite wisdom knew that this young girl would need the comfort and assistance of her family. She would need to know that God was working all around her and she graciously found security in her miraculously pregnant relative Elizabeth. Elizabeth would fully understand what Mary was going through. She was also submitting to the plan of God. When others would have mocked Mary, Elizabeth would have hugged her. In a beautiful poignant way Mary finds her comfort with her family. When chaos hits home, Mary goes home to those who can relate to her condition.

EXAMPLE: Whether it is a biological family or a church family, God’s children need to find comfort with those who understand them best. I believe that is why God has given us our families and our church. This is why the church is often referred to as “family.” Paul writes, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10) I must confess that while my biological family means more than anything to me, my church family does as well. It is a sin and shame when God’s children cannot find the love, acceptance, and forgiveness they need from their physical families, but they must always find it in their church home. These few verses should give us pause to remember that we need to make sure our own familial home is always full of love, acceptance and forgiveness, but that also our church family is a place where we can go when chaos hits home.

I cannot fathom being a teenager, living in an environment where your strict religious adherence dictated every action and thought of your life. We may falsely conclude that our Christianity does as well, but folks, Christians enjoy a wonderful freedom in Christ that those of Mary and Joseph’s day would not have known. Believers now live in the grace of God. That’s why Paul says we are free in Christ, but we are not to use our freedom for ungodliness. This is why these verses relate such a gracious picture of God’s mercy. What do I mean? We discover that when chaos hits home for Mary...

II. She goes “home” to her Father’s arms (vv. 41-50)!

1. “Whatever challenge or opportunity we face, there is security and peace in His everlasting arms!” - David C. McCasland. Elizabeth’s loudly spoken words, “Blessed (eulogemene, literally, “well spoken of”) are you among women,” carry the idea that Mary is the most honored of all women. Mary carried within her young body the Messiah. The hope of the entire world! Elizabeth called her the “mother of my Lord.” In Luke the term “Lord” (kyrios) often describes Jesus. It has a double meaning. “Lord” would be more important for a Gentile, non-Hebrew, reader than would the term “Christ” (meaning “Messiah”), for the Gentiles had not been anxiously awaiting the Messiah. On the other hand the Hebrew into Greek Septuagint often used the word “Lord” (kyrios) to translate Yahweh. Elizabeth said Mary was blessed (makaria, “happy”) because Mary believed what God had told her. This suggests that Mary visited Elizabeth not with a skeptical attitude but rather joyously knowing God was with her. God confirmed through Elizabeth what had been announced to Mary! And notice Mary’s response! She sings a wonderful song which praised God’s favor on her and her people. “The Magnificat,” as the song is often called, consists almost entirely of Old Testament references. Mary saw herself as part of the grand scheme and plan of God for His people. She called God my Savior (soteri mou) showing an intimate acquaintance with Him. She spoke of His faithfulness (v. 48), power (v. 49), holiness (v. 49), and mercy (v. 50). Mary knew where to go when chaos hit home for her, she ran to the arms of her Heavenly Father who was faithful, powerful, holy, and full of mercy for her! WOW! And this is certainly true for anyone who faces difficult times in life. For Mary, when chaos hit home, she goes home to her Father’s arms.

EXAMPLE: Where do you go when chaos hits home? Do you seek out the Lord who loves you or do you head for the world and its spiritual blindness? Far too often believers can find solace in sin rather than comfort in God’s guidance. The story is told that after a pre-concert rehearsal in New York City’s Carnegie Hall, Randall Atcheson sat on stage alone. He had successfully navigated the intricate piano compositions of Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt for the evening program, and with only minutes remaining before the doors opened, he wanted to play one more piece for himself. What came from his heart and his hands was an old hymn by Elisha Hoffman:

What have I to dread,
what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace
with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Those words echo the truth in the final blessing of Moses: “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.(Deuteronomy 33:26-27).” Mary discovered this for herself as well. Have you? While our strength is limited, God’s boundless power on our behalf is expressed in His might and gentle care. For Mary, when chaos hit home, she goes home to her Father’s arms.

Conclusion:

When chaos hit home for Mary: She goes home to those who can relate to her condition, and she goes “home” to her Father’s arms. Do you?
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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Productive and Proper Living -- Titus 3:8-15

Productive and Proper Living -- Titus 3:8-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 23, 2008 AM

There is s difference between “goodness” and “godliness.” One is defined as the quality of being good, while the other is displaying the divine qualities of God. It is interesting to note that the English term for “goodness” was derived originally from the Old English word “godness,” but there are too many folks in our day that confuse goodness with godliness and there is a danger in doing so. Why? It implies a reward for your actions as in “so be good for goodness sake!” When the first Pilgrims landed on the rocky cold shores of North America they had a truly tough time. Many, over half, died within the first year of exposure, starvation, and disease. They determined from the beginning that since they were in this all together they would share everything they had equally, but there was one problem they forgot to bank on, not everyone in their community was godly, and not everybody would work hard enough to support the concept of goodness. That’s exactly what happens when you give people the choice to allow their sinful nature to rule their lives. It was the first instance of socialism in America, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” – Karl Marx, and it did not work because folks aren’t inherently good. They had to learn productive and proper living, that goodness comes from godliness.

Paul understood this and wanted Titus to teach the new Cretan Christians that while many did good things in their lives lived before Jesus, their lives in Christ now should make them not just to be good but to be godly as well. Paul would argue that being good may have “some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) In fact, Paul would admonish that Christians should “flee” from pursuing a life lived for oneself and instead “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:11) For Paul it was a way to productive and proper living. Let’s find out why…

READ: Titus 3:8-15

My mother used to say that “goodness has its own reward.” Of course she said this in order to get me to be or do good things instead of fighting with my brother, terrorizing the neighbors, or getting into trouble in general. Many believers have forgotten the importance of productive and proper living. Paul returns to the main subject of his letter to Titus. Paul wanted Titus to “straighten out what was left unfinished” when Paul had to leave. These churches needed leadership that could lead and the congregations needed to be the churches of Jesus they were supposed to be as well! Therefore, for productive and proper living Paul related that…

I. Christians need to be doing what is good! (vv. 8 & 14)

1. Goodness is truth and beauty displayed in human behavior! Paul knew that the rest of the world of his day saw Cretans as “liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12) and to overcome this moniker, the Cretan churches and individual believers needed to be about doing good. They needed to prove their neighbors wrong about their false impression of Cretans. This could not be more true than in our day and age as well. Simply ask your unbelieving neighbor what they think of most conservative Christians and you may get an earful of something you may not like. Way back at the beginning of his letter, Pau told Titus that Christian leaders needed to be “one who loves what is good.” As I stated earlier, goodness is to be the outgrowth of godliness. (More about that in a moment.) Goodness is more than feeling good about oneself. Goodness for the believer should not be done out of selfishness to make one feel better about them self. It is done because Christians are called to be and display God’s goodness because he first displayed it for us! Remember Paul wrote that Christians have “been justified by his grace” and are “heirs having the hope of salvation,” Paul knew it was “trustworthy” or rather a dependable faithful truth “that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” Why? Because Paul knew that “these things are excellent and profitable for everyone” to do! Titus was to promote good works, for they go hand in hand with sound doctrine. If you love God, you will love others and it will be seen in what you do! Christians need to be doing what is good because it displays for the world the outcome of their faith! This is productive and proper living for the believer, Paul would say.

EXAMPLE: Just as the early Pilgrims had to learn productive and proper living, Christians do too. There are so many things as individual believers we can be part of: 1) Adopting a child from a gift tree, 2) provide heat for families with Operation Warm Heart through Clark Public Utilities by designating extra funds to it on our CPU bill, 3) calling Share or Open House Ministries and ask what items are needed during this time of year, 4) simply make a plate full of Christmas goodies for a neighbor, 5) give the same amount spent of gifts to missions or a ministry, or 6) purchase a coat for a child at a low income school or volunteers to read to students or be a mentor. Just go to the office and ask how you could help. Then as you do these “good” things give God the glory and honor for allowing you to serve others in his name. Christians should not be falsely accused of being “liars, evil brutes, or lazy gluttons,” but rather that we are more than willing to do what is good for the Lord.

Now do not make the mistake many do thinking that by doing good things, you are living a godly life. You are not. Godliness is quite different from simply doing or being good. Godliness comes from the inner spiritual quality that has changed your very being. It is an act of your inner nature being changed and then displayed in your character. It is the transforming power of the grace of God lived out in the lives of his people. It is the very reflection of the Lord himself. This is why Paul writes Titus that for productive and proper living…

II. Christians need to be doing what is godly! (vv. 9-11)

1. Worldliness is simply pursuing the activities of your present life with no thought to God! Notice Paul gives some character qualities to Titus for displaying godliness: he relates that Christians should “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law.” There were those in these churches who wanted to endlessly debate stupid theological issues that were not good for anyone. In our day Paul would say that Christians should “avoid foolish controversies” within the church that would pull the church apart. Godly people do not to get involved in ungodly gossip. They are not to be argumentative or try and find fault with how other people live like those who did in Paul’s day. They held up the law of God instead of the grace of the Lord. Paul told Timothy, “Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23) He tells Titus they are “unprofitable and useless.” Paul dramatically warned the Ephesian church: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) Why? Because as a Christian you can “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption!” (Ephesians 4:30) In fact believers are to practice godliness by being “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) This is why Paul makes the disciplinary statement to Titus that Christian churches should “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.” For productive and proper living Christians need to be doing what is godly.

EXAMPLE: Governor William Bradford was amazed at the miracle that occurred when people were given their own land and taught godliness out of their goodness. He wrote in his book “Of Plymouth Plantation,” “This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.” From the first winter where they had just a few kernels of dried corn each to eat, to a bountiful feast the next year. It was a miracle. So much so that they celebrated several days of thanksgiving to God for His blessing in teaching them to live productive and proper lives. Paul wrote Timothy that productive and proper living takes much more than a relaxed approach: “Exercise [train] yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things” (1 Timothy 4:7). Our bodies and our minds are to be dedicated to God and prepared for His service (Romans 12:1-2). The goal is godliness—a life that is pleasing to the Lord. Paul told Titus to “avoid” ungodly things that were “unprofitable and useless” and to warn those who did not. Paul knew that For productive and proper living Christians need to be doing what is godly.

Conclusion:
For productive and proper living, Christians need to be doing what is right and Christians need to be doing what is godly.
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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Proper Christian Citizenship – Titus 3:1-7

Proper Christian Citizenship – Titus 3:1-7

By Pastor Lee Hemen

November 16, 2008 AM


Mark Twain wrote in an article published in Collier’s Magazine in 1905, “Is there such a thing as Christian citizenship? No, but it could be created. The process would be quite simple, and not productive of hardship to anyone. It will be conceded that every man’s first duty is to God; it will also be conceded, and with strong emphasis, that a Christian’s first duty is to God. It then follows, as a matter of course, that it is his duty to carry his Christian code of morals to the polls and vote them. Whenever he shall do that, he will not find himself voting for an unclean man, a dishonest man. Whenever a Christian votes, he votes against God or for Him, and he knows this quite well. God is an issue in every election; He is a candidate in the person of every clean nominee on every ticket; His purity and His approval are there, to be voted for or voted against, and no fealty to party can absolve His servant from his higher and more exacting fealty to Him; He takes precedence of party, duty to Him is above every claim of party.” [i]


While I disagree with Twain’s statement that Christian Citizenship does not exist, it does, I do agree with him on his emphasis that “every man’s first duty is to God; it will also be conceded, and with strong emphasis, that a Christian’s first duty is to God.” But not every man nor certainly every Christian lives this way. The question this should bring to mind is simple: Why not? When Paul his letters he had much to say about Christians being proper Christian citizens, and when he wrote Titus he addressed this issue as well. Let’s discover what Paul wrote about proper Christian citizenship…


READ: Titus 3:1-7


Christians do not live in a societal vacuum. We live in the world. We interact with our school, jobs, neighbors, and communities and country. In so doing we are to live as Jesus would live and be the example he would desire us to be. We discover that for Paul, proper Christian citizenship means…


I. Reminding one another to live admirably! (vv. 1-2)


1. “Happy are those who reject the advice of evil people, who do not follow the example of sinners or join those who have no use for God.” (Psalms 1:1, GNB) Happiness for the Christian carries with it the mandate to be a witness for the Lord all the time. This is why Paul tells Titus, “Remind the people to be.” Titus was to remind his flock that their commitment to Christ comes first. They were “to be subject (hupotasso) to rulers and authorities” that held political power. All Christians are subject to Christ and are also subject to those God places in authority over them. Paul wrote the Roman church that “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2) In our culture it is difficult for us to sometimes understand this concept because we value our individual freedom so much. While Cretans were not known for their good citizenship, Christians were to be. Paul lists seven qualities expected of Christians: They were to 1) be subject to rulers and authorities; 2) be obedient; 3) be ready to do whatever is good; 4) to slander no one; 5) to be peaceable and 6) considerate; and finally, 7) to show true humility toward all men. Paul wanted believers to respect the government they lived under. Paul wanted Titus to remind his church that proper Christian citizenship begins with living admirably.


EXAMPLE: Lord Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts in England in 1907. The organization had its beginning in America in 1910 as the result of Chicago publisher William D. Boyce who, while lost in the fog on a trip to England, was aided by a Boy Scout to find his way. Boyce was so impressed he met with Baden-Powell to discuss bringing the organization to America. Since then, millions of boys have had their ethical and moral character shaped by the Scout Oath and Scout Law that insist on preparedness and moral straightness. The Scout Oath, which every Scout memorizes, says, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” The Scout Law says, “A Scout is: Trustworthy, Obedient, Loyal, Cheerful, Helpful, Thrifty, Friendly, Brave, Courteous, Clean, Kind, Reverent.” [ii]Isn’t this what Paul was telling Titus? Paul writes Titus that proper Christian citizenship is a reminder for Christians to live admirably.


Living worthy of Jesus is a wonderful witness to the world around us as believers. But in so doing we must never forget our roots. What we once were before Christ entered our lives. Paul also wanted Titus to understand that proper Christian citizenship means…


II. Remembering what we once were! (v. 3)


1. “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” (Colossians 3:7) Paul never forgot the sinful condition from which he and his converts were saved from. This is why he tells Titus, “At one time we too were” the way we were. And how were we all? Paul says we were “foolish,” (anoetos) uncomprehending and stupid to the spiritual things of God; we were “disobedient,” (apeithes) apathetic and unconvinced of Jesus; we were “deceived,” (planao) meaning we were seduced by the desires of the world around us; and in fact Paul says we were “enslaved,” (douleuo) in bondage to our own “passions,” (epithumia) that well up inside of us and our “pleasures,” (hedone) hedonistic and self-indulgent lives! Not only were we captives to this kind of ungodly living, “We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another!” That was our lives before Jesus’ grace entered into our being! Wow! We may remark: “I wasn’t that bad! I may have not known God, but I was a pretty good person.” And when we think this perhaps we have not come to grips with who we truly were before Christ. We forget that even the best of the best, among those who do not know the Lord, are counted with the worst of the worst. Our natural lives were totally hostile to the things of God. We lived to please ourselves. God was not in the picture at all. Paul writes that proper Christian citizenship begins by remembering what we once were!


EXAMPLE: While the Boy Scouts have remained true to their beginnings, the Girl Scouts have dramatically veered left. They have deliberately forgotten who they are and their history. Rather than maintaining its early roots, it has “only grown more brazen lately in its embrace of radical agendas—with some of its councils openly promoting homosexuality and encouraging young girls to interact with abortion-minded groups like Planned Parenthood. At its 50th annual convention they featured Kavita Ramdas—president of the Global Fund for Women, which lobbies for ‘safe and legal’ abortion—as a keynote speaker and role model.” Recently, the Girl Scouts adopted a new direction that is founded on New Age principles promoting social activism, emphasizing the power of self, and jumping on the bandwagon of politically correct causes like global warming. Girls are encouraged to find their “inner guidance” and develop their own inner compass.[iii] The Girl Scout’s unrelenting liberalism is spurring a counterrevolution. In 1995 the American Heritage Girls (AHG) began with just 100 girls and 10 troops. But thanks to the Girl Scouts’ leftward drift, in 2006 the AHG exploded into a nationwide movement. It now has at least 6,500 members, forming more than 153 troops across 34 states. Their target is to be in all 50 States by the end of this year with over 7,000 members.[iv] Small, compared to the Girls Scouts with 2.7 million members, the AHG have remembered their Christian roots. Paul wrote Titus that proper Christian citizenship means remembering what we once were.

Knowing where the Christian comes from and encouraging them to live lives worthy of Christ is important. But how is it possible for us to live as proper Christian citizens? Paul finishes by telling Titus that proper Christian citizenship means…


III. Grasping the generosity of Jesus! (vv. 4-7)


1. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” (1 Corinthians 15:10) Just as Paul’s past had changed so did the lives of those who trusted in the grace of God through Jesus. Paul related “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared” things changed! God in His grace “saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Paul uses three wonderful words to describe for us the aspects of God’s grace: Kindness, love, and mercy. Paul reminds Titus that it was God who “saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior!” God’s purpose in pouring out the Holy Spirit was “so that, having been justified by His grace, we (believers) might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” In fact, the Holy Spirit is the Christian’s “mark” and “seal,” a guarantee of “our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession.” (Ephesians 1:13-14) Because of this all Christians are God’s children and “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ!” (Romans 8:15-17) This is why Paul would tell the Roman church, “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.… He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:8 & 32) Paul wanted Titus to understand that proper Christian citizenship means grasping the generosity of Jesus!


EXAMPLE: Americans are extremely generous. In 2004 the US Federal Government gave out 20 billion in foreign aid, however, according to the Hudson Institute, individual Americans, through private charities, gave over $242 billion in 2004 to world aid organizations and charities! The fact is, when you combine government and private giving, America is the most generous country on Earth. According to a professor, an expert on charitable giving interviewed by ABC’s John Stossel, Americans give three and one-half times more per capita than the French, seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians. Several years ago John Stossel set up an experiment to see who gives more to charities, liberals or conservatives. He placed two Salvation Army buckets in two places. One in liberal San Francisco, CA and the other in church-going Sioux Falls, SD. They were placed in similar spots with similar foot traffic. Sioux Falls won hands down. In fact, the church goers gave over four times as much! Studies have shown that the folks who give the most usually go to church and earn far less per capita in income. [v] The richer you are, the less likely you are to give and you give less percentagewise. Why? Folks forget what they own their success to. Christians can as well. Paul told Titus that proper Christian citizenship means grasping the generosity of Jesus!


Conclusion:

Proper Christian citizenship Paul told Titus was found in: 1) Reminding one another to live admirably, 2) remembering what we once were, and 3) grasping the generosity of Jesus.



[i] Christian Citizenship – General, by Jerry Price, The Ethics and Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Online at: http://erlc.com/article/christian-citizenship-general.

[ii] Scouts anniversary week & ACLU attacks, by Rees Lloyd, WorldNetDaily, February09, 2006. Online at: http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=48756.

[iii] . The Girl Scouts' new radicalism, by Marcia Segelstein, OneNewsNow.com, July 1, 2008. Online at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/Perspectives/Default.aspx?id=160368.

[iv] Girl Scouts' journey to the New Age, by Jane Chastain, July 17, 2008, WorldNetDaily. Online at: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=69778.

[v] American Generosity, by Tom Purcell, December 3, 2006, Pittsburg Tribune Review. Online at: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/columnists/purcell/s_482341.html.

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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Proper Christian Teaching -- Titus 2:11-15

Proper Christian Teaching -- Titus 2:11-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 9, 2008 AM

Christians have adopted a convoluted myopic self-centered view of what the grace of God is all about. Some have bought into the idea that God has got to love us no matter what, forgetting we are called to holiness. Holiness is not a “sacred” feeling. We cannot do whatever we want, worship however we want, and think we can enjoy “the grace of God!” This is sickening in its spiritual stupidity. God’s grace certainly is his love extended to sinners, but we dare not presume upon it. God is not some elderly gentleman who winks at our indiscretions and dotingly waits for his wayward children to “come home.” God’s grace is found in Jesus who died for us when we did not care, did not deserve it, and did nothing to show we loved him for it. The grace of God is wrapped up in his plan to redeem mankind. Grace is the extension and expression of God.

This is why Paul would write Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11) Knowing and understanding what this grace is all about is extremely important for the life of the believer. But what should this grace teach us? (I am glad you asked!) Paul related several life-changing aspects that this grace should express in the lives of Christians. This, Paul said, is proper Christian teaching…

READ: Titus 2:11-15

Today’s worldview teaches us that everything in life should revolve around us as individuals. When believers adopt this philosophy of life, they are in contradiction to the grace of God. God’s grace is unmerited on our part. We do not deserve it. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Paul faced a society that was used to very hedonistic excesses. Titus being the pastor of the newly established Cretan church needed to hold out a difference for the lost in Crete. Paul related that proper Christian teaching instructs us to say…

I. “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions!

1. We live in a time whereby we think we should do whatever we want whenever we want. In fact, to be told “No” is now seen as hurtful, harmful, and narrow-minded. Paul warned that there would come a time when people would prefer sin over godliness: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3) He also wrote that when people turn away from God they “become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.” They become “gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they [will] invent ways of doing evil; they [will] disobey their parents; they [will be] senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:30-31) Sound familiar? If Christians live for themselves, instead of the grace of God, they become part of the world’s spiritual problem. Jesus reminded us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) John related, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) Paul would teach, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:16) Proper Christian teaching instructs us to say, “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions.

EXAMPLE: Recently, I was in the grocery store WinCo. There was a young mother with her children. Two were in her shopping cart and one was sort of following along as they went from aisle to aisle. One of them in the cart began to fuss. Louder and louder came her protests. She wanted this, she wanted that, she began to wail with intensity. What did this mother do? Did she say, “Stop that!” Did she dare swat her little darling? Did she take them out of the store, because the other two were now in three part harmony with the one in the cart? NO! She looked around, saw a bulk cookie bin, wheeled her cart over to it as fast as she possibly could, reached in and drew out three cookies for her little protestors. Now, what do you think this mother just taught and reinforced in her bellowing brood? This is exactly what the modern church today is reinforcing in the lives of many self-centered Christians. Instead of everything being about the worship of God, everything is about pleasing the protesting crowd. When the church of God begins to measure itself by the worldly passions of the irreligious hoard, what does that teach the world about the grace of God? Paul instructs Titus to say “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions!

The call to the holy life is not something we naturally desire as human beings. We like ourselves too much. When Moses saw the burning bush, God did not ask him if he was comfortable, needed a drink, or if he liked his surroundings. Instead, we basically see God telling Moses to shut up, take off his shoes, and listen! He was in the presence of God. Did this disappear with Jesus? No. He related that unless our righteousness surpassed that of the Pharisees we would not see the kingdom of God! How is this possible? I thought that we if loved God, he’d love us, and in that we were worshipping him? Right? Paul would disagree and writes that proper Christian teaching instructs us to say…

II. “Yes,” to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives!

1. We live in a time when Christians need to be reminded of who they follow and why. The word here for “teaches” is the word paideuo which literally means to discipline as in giving a child a beating! WOW! I wonder how far that would go in today’s church for those who were not self-controlled? Remember Paul was writing Titus who was part of a church where “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” (Titus 1:16) Christians are to live sophronos, there’s that word again, meaning “seriously” or with a sober intent. Reigning in our own wants and desires and making them obedient to what we believe. James, Jesus brother, said that Christians “all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.” (James 3:2-3) Believers are to reign in their ungodly behavior, keep their lives in check, and live godly lives so that their worship of God is pure and holy. This is why Paul told the Roman Christians “I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) And the writer of Hebrews admonishes that “since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28) Paul tells Titus that proper Christian teaching instructs, disciplines, us to say “Yes,” to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives!

EXAMPLE: Christians do not discipline themselves anymore because we have lost what it means to worship God with our lives. Christians are trained to think that worship is to be enhanced and structured for their pleasure, when in fact true worship of God comes from within the life of a believer. It is the actual overflow of a person’s spirit, which is the heart, mind, and soul, as it is directed toward God because of his grace. Richard Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, states that for many Christian students their love for Jesus “primarily stems from the benefits He brings to them. They almost see Jesus as a little friend who can ride in their shirt pocket, always available to poof their problems away. … And where did they get this idea? Just listen to adults sharing prayer requests at church. It often is an organ recital -– adults reciting which organs they want Jesus to make better. Virtually no one lifts his voice in prayer to declare the majesty and grandeur of the King of Kings… Almost no one is preaching or teaching about the glory and majesty of God's Son as He sits enthroned in heaven.” D. A. Carson writes, “In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God himself. Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God. As a brother put it to me, it’s a bit like those who begin by admiring the sunset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset.” Paul tells Titus that proper Christian teaching instructs us to say “Yes,” to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives!

Carson continues by stating, “We do not expect the garage mechanic to expatiate on the wonders of his tools; we expect him to fix the car. He must know how to use his tools, but he must not lose sight of the goal. So we dare not focus on the mechanics of corporate worship and lose sight of the goal. We focus on God himself, and thus we become more godly and learn to worship—and collaterally we learn to edify one another, forbear with one another, challenge one another.” Proper Christian teaching instructs us to…

III. Encourage and rebuke with all authority!

1. We live in a time when we need to be able to tell one another to get back on track for the Lord! Far too often Christians forget that it was “Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14) Turning again to Titus, Paul told him “These, then, are the things you should teach,” the specific aspects of godly behavior. Titus was to “encourage” parakaleo, call himself alongside of another believer, in order for proper instruction to be done correctly. Paul is describing mentorship. Discipling others in Christian principles. And, he was to “rebuke” elegcho, convince and admonish until they understood clearly what it meant to be a Christian living in the grace of the Lord! The Contemporary English Version translates Paul’s words: “Teach these things, as you use your full authority to encourage and correct people. Make sure you earn everyone's respect.” Christians have lost the respect of the world because they have become so much like the world. God’s grace is different from the world’s philosophy. If you lower your Godly standard, God’s grace, what will the world think of it? Why should it want to change? What hope do you give it? Jesus reminds us that “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19) He told the church at Laodicea “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19) Paul would say that proper Christian teaching instructs us to encourage and rebuke with all authority!

EXAMPLE: Discipleship, mentorship, or being an instructor in another’s life is a grand calling. All parents are called to it to a certain extent. We learn not just from the good things we see, but from the mistakes we make as well. When another is able to relate to us that we are headed in the wrong direction and point us in the proper one we learn how to live correctly. Paul would say, “Look at my life as I have lived for the Lord!” In the movie “Wagons East,” John Candy is hired to be a wagon master to lead a wagon train people sick of the west back east instead. He begins the journey by grandly riding his horse out of town in the wrong direction. No one follows him, until he is called back, and told that he is headed the wrong way. The church as a whole and individual Christians are to lead a sinful world out of the darkness and into the light of Christ. Even if some Christians want to live like the world, it is the believer’s calling to discipline them and bring them back. As Jude writes, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23) Paul would say that proper Christian teaching instructs us to encourage and rebuke with all authority!

Conclusions:
Paul writes that proper Christian teaching instructs us to say, “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions. He tells Titus that proper Christian teaching instructs, disciplines, us to say “Yes,” to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives! And, finally, Paul would say that proper Christian teaching instructs us to encourage and rebuke with all authority!
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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Proper Christian Behavior -- Titus 2:1-10

Proper Christian Behavior -- Titus 2:1-10
November 2, 2008 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

“Behave” is kind of a strange sounding word. I mean, listen to it as you say it slowly: BE…HAVE. It comes from Middle English “behaven,” meaning “to have” or “to hold.” Perhaps this is why “to have and to hold” was originally inserted into our marriage vows? Could it have meant to “behave,” to have or to hold onto someone else? To mind them? The Old English was “behabban” and it meant to keep oneself in check. We get the word “behavior” from this. My mother used it to mean we were to reign ourselves in and be good. She would say, “Behave!” and we knew immediately what she meant. If we did not, there would be consequences. Proper behavior is important and this is certainly true for the believer as well.

Proper Christian behavior is important for the believer to understand its “consequences” for their lives and the blessings it brings. God loves us and desires we live holy lives for Him. Going back to his instructions on to Titus, Paul compares false teachers and their false teaching with “sound doctrine.” Paul direly warns Titus, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” We might ask, “What is in accord with sound doctrine?” Paul teaches Titus exactly what this means, therefore, let’s discover what he writes Titus. For Paul, it meant proper Christian behavior.

READ: Titus 2:1-10

We forget, far too often, that our lives are not our own if we have trusted Jesus Christ. We are to now “live and move and have our being” in Him alone. (Acts 17:28) But how are we to live and move and have our being in Him? Titus was to teach in the Cretan congregation what was in accord with sound doctrine, or more literally, “healthy teaching.” Paul, in trying to show that every member of the church has a responsibility, gives Titus some ideas for proper Christian behavior for…

I. Older Men (vv. 1-2)!

1. Wisdom does not necessarily come with age, but with maturity! Titus was to teach “older men” to manifest the characteristics of true spiritual maturity. Paul writes that older men are “to be temperate.” The word here is nephaleos which means to stay attentive and to keep oneself clear-headed. It carries the idea of not getting drunk or fuzzy-headed about what you believe. He continues by saying they should be “worthy of respect,” which is the word semnos, meaning “honorable” or someone who is honest and respectable. He writes they should also be “self-controlled,” which is the word sofrone. It meant to have control of your emotions or being “sound-minded.” Paul continues by giving Titus three Christian virtues of being “sound in faith,” sound “in love,” and sound “in endurance,” meaning patient. Older men were to have proper Christian behavior.

When old men try to act like young ones, we call that “middle age crazy.” God says it is immature. Someone who is clear-headed and honorable in their faith will show it in what they believe. Older Christian men should be leading the way in the church by their spiritual maturity. Paul wrote Titus that older Christian men were to manifest characteristics of spiritual maturity. But Paul does not just write that it should be older men, in fact he continues by giving Titus some ideas for proper Christian behavior for…

II. Older Women (vv. 3-4)!

1. A pretty young girl may be an act of nature, but a beautiful older woman of God is a work of art! Paul would agree. He told Titus to teach the older women to behave reverently, in a way suitable to sound doctrine. Older women are “to be reverent in the way they live.” The word here literally means “holy continence” or “holy demeanor.” It carries the old fashioned idea of deportment. Paul continues by saying that they are “not to be slanderers.” He knew that a woman who gossips can bring dissention and destruction to a church community. It had happened in Corinth, Paul did not want it to occur at Crete. The word he uses here is “diabolos,” which is often translated “devil.” WOW! A deceitful tongue can be used by Satan for evil purposes. Older women were not to be “addicted to much wine” either. Evidently, some older women in Crete had more time on their hands than what was good for the church or the Christian community as a whole. Instead of being involved in the cause of Christ they may have been alcoholic gossips! Paul relates that they should instead be training younger women to be godly in every area of life through their example. Older women are to have proper Christian behavior.

Age does not bring about godliness. If it did, we would see a lot of older wiser and godly people! To this day I still remember the first time I heard an older grandmotherly-type swear like a sailor. I was both saddened and shocked. I discovered that wisdom is not found with growing older. Senior adults can live deceptive, deprecating, self-centered lives. Older women in the church are to be above reproach and examples for others. Paul continues by giving Titus some ideas for proper Christian behavior for…

III. Younger Women (vv. 4-5)!

1. A young woman in love with the Lord, is like a flower whose scent fills the room! Older women could help the younger women in at least seven areas. This list emphasizes, in the original, first what young wives and mothers are to be, and then only secondarily what they are to do. They are to 1) “love their husbands,” (philandros) meaning having an affection for their man; 2) they were to “love… their children” (philoteknos) which referred to their maternal affection; 3) to “be self-controlled” which is so?phronizo? meaning to “discipline one’s self;” 4) to be “pure” (hagnos) which, interestingly, meant “innocent, modest, or chaste”); 5) they were to be “busy at home” (oikouros) literally “keepers of the home,” 6) “kind” (agathos) meaning “good;” and 7) finally, “subject (hupotasso?) to their husbands,” which is the same word Paul uses in Ephesians 5:22 when he writes, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” It referred to their servant-like heart, not a subordinate servile demeaning relationship. Why? Paul wrote, “so that no one will malign the word of God.” This included the young woman’s household and those outside of her house that she influenced! Younger women are to display proper Christian behavior.

A young Christian woman’s sphere of influence extends beyond her front door. How her children act, dress, are cleansed, and what they ultimately believe are a reflection of her life. In fact, many a godly young woman has cleaned up the life of many a young man. Like the bride who hid a small sticker in her wedding bouquet. As she got to the front of the church she patted her future husband on the back, leaving the sticker in full view of the congregation. It read: “A Work In Progress.” Everyone laughed at the young man’s perplexed look, however, Paul would agree. He continues by giving Titus some ideas for proper Christian behavior for…

IV. Younger Men (vv. 6-8)!

1. While we are all young only once, some of us stay immature all our lives! Notice ladies what Paul immediately writes: “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.” Just like the young ladies, young men need to learn how to exercise self-control (so?phroneo?) being “right-minded” in every area of life. In fact, “In everything set them an example,” Paul writes Titus. He was to do this “by doing what is good!” He was to be a model (tupos) of “good” (kalos) things! “In your teaching,” Paul writes, “show integrity,” (adiaphthoria) an “uncorrupted lifestyle,” a “seriousness and soundness of speech” (honest and genuine) “that cannot be condemned.” There are so many bad things said about the church because of the foul language used by young men in the church! Paul felt that young men of God should be so above the world in their lifestyle “that those who oppose [them would] be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say!” (Titus 2:7-8) Young men of God, can this be said of your life lived away from the church? Young men are to live lives of proper Christian behavior.

There are those in our day and age that think they can dress anyway they want, say anything they want, live any way they want to. No one should “judge” them. We live under the false assumption that it is our life and we can do what we want “as long as it does not hurt anyone else.” This is not only a simplistic false way of thinking, it is immature as well. While Christians are free spiritually in their lives with Christ, they are bound by their holy witness to the world. Whatever we do and wherever we go, we belong to the Lord. In fact, Jesus revealed that what comes out of a person’s lips and life reveal what truly exists within their heart. Paul gives Titus some ideas for proper Christian behavior for…

V. And Employees/Slaves (vv. 9-10)!

1. Work may seem like drudgery, but it isn’t slavery! In Paul’s day slavery was a fact of life, which because of Christianity has been condemned in most of the world. Only in non-Christian nations does slavery still exist, and most of these are Muslim. However, what Paul related to Titus will fit well with employees and the workplace today. Paul listed five qualities for Titus which were to characterize Christians who found themselves serving others: They were to 1) “be subject (hupotasso? - obedient) to their masters in everything,” 2) “to try to please (euarestos – be acceptable with) them”, 3) “not to talk back to (antilego? - contradict) them,” 4) “not to steal (nosphizomai – embezzle) from them,” and 5) “show that they can be fully trusted,” the idea being that the Christian’s faith should shine like a necklace they wear! From the world’s perspective a slave should not owe any of these things to his master. People often have the same view about their bosses or their jobs. However, a Christian employee is in fact serving, not an earthly “master,” but the Lord Jesus. In this way his life will prove to be an adornment to the teaching about Jesus. Paul wanted workers to reflect Jesus and display proper Christian behavior.

Conclusion:

“Behave” is kind of a strange sounding word. Proper Christian behavior is important for the believer to understand its “consequences” for their lives and the blessings it brings. Paul direly warns Titus, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” For Paul, it meant proper Christian behavior in older men and women, younger women and men, and in employees/slaves. What proper Christian behavior do you display to the world?
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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.