I Am Responsibleby Ed de la Cour on June 28, 2015
Titus 2: 11 – 15
June 28, 2015
“I AM RESPONSIBLE”
It is no secret that the culture in which we live is in more than a rapid decline; we are in free fall. Standards of morality that seemed rock solid only a generation ago are already viewed as being long out of date. The values that once shaped our lives are understood as having originated in rigidly oppressed olden times. The other day, a friend sent me a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” My friend applied those words to the news of the day, but those words originally were Jefferson’s take on the institution of slavery. Indeed, God did pour out His wrath upon our nation during the great and awful Civil War that engulfed our country from 1861-1865. That conflict was in no small measure due to our embrace of slavery as a nation. Even today, we are still reaping the consequences of centuries of slavery and the de-humanization of native peoples.
In our response to the societal changes we see happening all around us today, we Christians are in danger of allowing our anger to overwhelm our sense of mission. Some of us are paying far too much attention to politics, while others of us have begun to feel hopeless about life and about our country. We’ve started to believe we are no longer able to offer a positive message that will have a helpful effect on our society. Many are feeling that loss of hope. They believe things have gone downhill too long and too far.
Do not lose hope! Instead, I encourage us to focus our energies on our Prime Directive. As Christians, our Prime Directive is to make disciples. That’s what Jesus said in the Great Commission. Jesus never asked His followers to challenge the Roman Empire, even though the empire was running amok with lawlessness, idolatry, immorality, and all kinds of sinful behavior. The job of the apostles, the calling of the early Christians, their prime directive was to make disciples. Our job and calling is no different. We are here to make disciples.
Paul’s letter to Titus is a three-chapter handbook on the making of disciples. It’s a straightforward encouragement to Titus in which Paul instructed him to work hard to build up the local churches on the island of Crete. Because of the word about sanctification we received last Sunday, Glenn and I believe it is important for us to emphasize what God seeks to find growing in our lives.
God wants His Church to be a holy Church. God wants His holy church to build holy disciples. A disciple of Jesus is not someone who has memorized Bible verses and doctrinal statements. A disciple is a person who is growing in holiness, growing in godliness, growing in Christlikeness.
A person who is failing in holiness is unable to grow as a Christian and will remain stunted. In the kind of culture in which we are living, such a person is in deep spiritual trouble. A person who claims to be a Christian and cannot live a holy life is ineffective as a Christian. He or she is spiritually unstable. They are double-minded, just as James said in his letter. They are unproductive and are of little use in the Kingdom of God. They are a drain on the spiritual economy of the church. If that describes you, no wonder you are depressed! No wonder you are unable to concentrate on your walk with Jesus. You need to get right with God today.
Let’s begin our thinking where Paul started in verse 11, with the grace of God. You were saved by grace. Your relationship with God does not come because of your cuteness or your goodness, but by grace alone. God’s favor upon you is His free gift to an undeserving world. But the grace of God never stands still. The grace of God is dynamic and it is transformative. Here is where many begin to have a problem. Some people want to be free to live their lives unaccountable to either God or man. Others want to pile on strict rules, regulations, and religious guilt. And still others want to lay back in their recliners and wait for heaven.
If you are not living for Christ every day and are therefore ineffective as a Christian, there are real consequences and repercussions of being so unproductive. You and I have a responsibility to live for God. We are responsible to grow in grace, according to 2 Peter 3: 18. Downstairs in our Fellowship Hall there is a small blue sign with gold lettering that says, “I am Responsible.” I’ve been thinking about that. You and I ignore to our shame the responsibility God has given us to grow up in our faith. You and I are responsible to learn how to be faithful servants of Christ. You and I are responsible to teach new believers to live for God and not for themselves. You’re an ambassador for Christ. You can’t escape your responsibility. You and I are responsible to God to live our lives for Him, because there is far more to life than waiting for heaven, a lot more. There’s more to life than rules and regs and guilt, a lot more.
The same grace in verse 11 that brought us to Jesus so our sins would be washed away will now lead us into holiness. It is not rules or regulations that drive holiness but grace. We do not seek holiness or godliness because we must, but because we’re invited.
The big word for that is sanctification, and it is the process by which the believer in Jesus grows to become like Jesus. Children grow to become like their parents not only because they share the same DNA, but also because they spend day and night in the presence of Mom and Dad for years and years. Over time, they develop similar mannerisms, patterns of speech and thought, even facial features, and posture. They grow to become like their parents and we are grow to become like our Father, if we share the same spiritual DNA and spend significant time with Him. That is what Paul is urging Titus to teach and to give himself to for the building up of the Church on that island.
If you and I are going to be Christians, then we have to learn to live with, become comfortable with, and embrace the concept of saying “‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.” Saying no to myself is self-denial and it is certainly not a lot of fun, but it is absolutely essential to my life of faith. A Christian cannot be an idolater. A Christian cannot be filled with anger, lust, greed, addictive substances, or any other thing this world believes is our right to own, and at the same time try to make a convincing claim to a saving relationship with God.
The problem is that every single Christian has a struggle in one or more of those areas. So, whenever I have to talk about holiness, I become very uncomfortable in my spirit because by nature, I am not a holy person. My weaknesses and shortcomings are plain to see. It is impossible for me to pretend I am something I clearly am not. I don’t feel holy, and neither do you. I have decided that feeling holy has very little to do with holiness. Feeling as though you are holy probably means you’re just too full of self.
That is not to say I must become perfect and sinless before I can claim to know God. But it does mean I have a strong and ever present need for my gracious Savior and Lord Jesus. I need Jesus to guide me through the minefields of my own addiction to lust and sin, and to guide my path so I can avoid catastrophe. Jesus will hold me accountable and He will not let me get away with half measures. Your Savior will hold you accountable also. God wants His Church to be a sanctified Church, a holy Church, and He wants His children to be a sanctified people, a holy people. 1 Peter 1: 15 says, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
Our behavior is characterized as “self-controlled, upright and godly” because we are waiting for Jesus to be revealed at His Second Coming. Jesus gave His life to purify us, to remove our impurities, to change our nature from enjoying evil to being “eager to do what is good.” At first we may not believe it, but the power of God resident in you and me is sufficient to take out the trash that is overflowing out of our lives and give us a thirst for personal holiness. Having our trash removed and being hungry for more of Jesus is a great definition of sanctification.
If you are being sanctified, it means you are have been officially set aside by God for God to use. The Word for the Week today is 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” That means I belong to God and I do not belong to myself. It means my salvation cost God a lot, and I ought not throw away my eternity as though it were nothing. Being sanctified means I am not the boss of me, nor am I the judge of me. It means I have decided to follow Jesus with my life. I have decided to allow Him to rule my coming and my going, my sitting down and my getting up. I am not going to wait passively for heaven, but I am going to grow in godliness. I am going to live in an accountable relationship with God and, as a consequence, I will increase in holiness. In short, that’s the life decision each one of us has to make. Will you decide to live your life as one who is given over to God?
Why am I encouraging us to make that bold choice? As our culture fails, people all around us deserve to see friends and neighbors who have the power to live in this world but not be consumed by this world. Because Jesus has revealed Himself to us, because we have come to Him for our own salvation, we have something people around us need to see live and in living color: the confidence to live for God.
Confidence comes from having assurance. I want to point out 1 John 2: 3 – 6. Let’s think about this with respect to our growth in holiness. <.v.> Assurance in our life of faith is gained through obedience. If we know we are walking on thin ice, we will have very little by way of confidence in our relationship with God. We know we’re in trouble! Moreover, we are also made aware that we are not living in truth. The conviction that we are lying to God and lying to our neighbors is a powerful conviction and surely it must provoke us to repentance.
Going to church, claiming Jesus as your Savior, being baptized, making a commitment to the Membership Covenant – all those are external things; they are surface facts. Whether those statements are true and for real is seen in whether we are obeying God. If we are obeying, our confidence in God grows. Our holiness increases. Our assurance of salvation is made greater. Assurance comes to the one who walks as Jesus did. According to 1 John 2: 5, we want to live for Jesus so that the love of God is made complete in us. I don’t have a full understanding of what it might mean for the love of God to be made complete in me, but I do have an idea that it would be pretty wonderful to know God’s love in all its fullness.
In Titus 2: 15, Paul closed out the chapter with an admonition that these “are the things you should teach.” I think I know why Paul wrote this way, why he specifically said to “encourage and rebuke with all authority.” It’s because these are the teachings we would rather ignore, leave out, or let slide. In our wicked hearts, we would prefer a kind of laissez-faire Christianity, where people could live as they please and do what they want. That would be a fairly accurate representation of the Christian church in America, but it is not a biblically faithful Christianity.
We are not a disciplined people, and it’s not just alarm clocks we hate! This morning, I think most of us are squirming. Our egos deflate whenever the subject is godliness. We know intuitively this is an area of weakness in our lives. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us down and keep us away from being close to Jesus, and so, we are not having a good time today! To live like Jesus lived is seen as a hopeless impossibility.
I will take the advice of Paul, who must have felt the same kind of discomfort as he considered his own struggles with holiness, when he wrote 1 Corinthians 11: 1. He said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” It’s not that we are trying to create monuments to our own holiness, but we are trying to encourage one another to live transparently before the world so that folks will be better able to see Jesus in us and therefore find hope for the salvation of their own lives.
We are quickly arriving at a time when great numbers of people will start falling away from churches because they will claim the plain and accurate teaching of the Gospel requires too much of them. Wickedness is already increasing by geometric proportions in the land and many will not have the strength to withstand it. Coldness of heart will drive people away from the warmth of the love of God. Even though thinking about the state of your own soul may seem depressing at first, please make the choice to prefer God’s way of godliness rather than the world’s way of living in a recliner, just sitting around waiting for judgment.
Remember, we are responsible before God to disciple people into a saving and growing relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches we must learn how to say No to the desires that wage war against our souls. I am responsible. You are responsible. We are responsible to grow in holiness and in personal dedication to Jesus.
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