Titus 2

Read Titus 2.

Self-control is a key theme of this chapter. Older men are to be taught to have it (v. 2), older women are commanded to teach it to younger women (v. 5) and Titus was to encourage young men to be self-controlled as well (v. 6).

Why all this emphasis on self-control?

One reason is that a lack of self-control feels good. It is always easier and more fun to eat an entire pizza or cake than it is to eat one modest slice–or none at all. The same is true when buying clothes or cars, expressing your opinion, or venting your frustration and anger. And we haven’t even talked about intoxicants or sexual activity. These–and other–things promise an immediate hit of pleasure and they usually deliver, at least at first. Self-control is hard when pleasure is easy. We all struggle with it at times and in various aspects of our lives.

Verses 11-12 told us that it is God’s grace in salvation that teaches us “to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit makes us desire to be self-controlled as does the gospel (again, here in Titus 2:11-12). Desiring self-control, however, doesn’t make exercising self-control easier. That’s why it is something that has to be taught (vv. 2, 4), encouraged (v. 6) and modeled (v. 7).

Do you have an area in your life where you need to work on self-control? Have you sought out someone who is self-controlled to help you, just as Titus was to help the older and younger men and older women were to help the younger women?

Some self-control can be learned by modeling, as Paul commanded Titus to do in verse 7. Would Jesus click on that link? Would Paul order another round of beers in this situation? Would John MacArthur (or John Piper or whoever) take a hit from that bong?

While we don’t worship men and women as idols or slavishly copy them, we do follow the example of others as they follow the Lord. When we wonder if it would be OK to indulge in something, it can be helpful to ask ourselves if someone we respect in the Lord would do it. In those situations we are not subjecting ourselves to someone else’s morality; we are learning self-control by following “an example [of] what is good.”

So consider where you need to learn more self-control, trust God’s power and teaching on that, then look for other believers who can coach you, guide you, and model it for you.

Titus 1

Read Titus 1.

Over the course of my lifetime, I have heard of and met some highly authoritarian pastors. Once I was running a conference for pastors and one pastor who called to register for the conference lectured me for three or four minutes about an aspect of our ministry that he did not like. Then I told me he would like to attend our conference. I asked for his first name so I could enter it into the registration form. Then he lectured me about how he never lets anyone use his first name. To show respect to him and his office as a pastor, he insisted that everyone call him “Dr. S__” [name withheld]. So, his first name became “Dr.,” at least for the conference registration form and badge.

On another occasion, I heard from a very reputable source about a pastor who told a man he needed to remodel his home–not the pastor’s home, the home of the guy receiving the instruction. The guy gutted his house and took years to remodel it, in part because he needed the pastor’s approval for every major decision–floor coverings, wall placement, paint colors, etc.

I guess some pastors feel that they have a prophetic gift or at least that they have a level of wisdom that the average guy in the pew can never have. Probably, though, they just like to control people. Maybe somebody thinks this makes for good pastoral leadership, but not God. God said here in Titus that a pastor (or elder or overseer–it’s the same office in scripture with multiple names) “must be… not overbearing” (v. 7b). Why? Because, verse 7 says, he “manages God’s household.”

That last phrase is key. If Calvary Bible Church were my household, I could run it any way that I wanted. But it isn’t my household; it is God’s. Part of being a faithful manager, a good leader, is to run God’s household in his way which means being a servant-leader, not a dictator who insists on honorific titles or tries to control every decision of everyone’s life.

I had a guy ask me once if he should get a reverse mortgage. He wasn’t asking me if it was biblical or moral to do so; just whether or not he should. I guess I could answer those kinds of questions. I supposed I could  make another man’s decisions for him.

But that is not what elders do.

If an elder in our church–me or one of the other men who lead with me–starts acting like this, it is a key sign that we are spiritually unfit to serve as leaders of God’s household.

It is important for you to think about your role in the church as well. I cannot make you live a godly life. I could bully you about reading the scripture or coming to church or something else, I guess, but that’s not what God called me to do. What we as elders are charged to do is “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph 4:12) It is our job as elders to lead, to teach, to encourage, and to rebuke sometimes but it is your job to put the truth into practice.

Don’t follow an overbearing church leader, but do take what we try to do for you seriously so that our church will grow in Christ.

1 Timothy 6

Read 1 Timothy 6.

What motivates teachers of false doctrine?

According to verse 4, it is pride: “they are conceited.”

And, wouldn’t you have to be?

To set forth your own ideas as if they were scripture, someone needs an over-inflated self-confidence.

Another motivation is greed; verse 5 says that false teachers “think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

Godliness comes from different motivations. Instead of bringing us wealth, however, it teaches us contentment. Verses 6-8 say, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” This world has many nice things to offer but the person who accumulates them all will leave them all behind when he dies.

When Steve Jobs died in 2011, he was worth over $10 billion but a beggar who died with nothing on the same day took the same amount of wealth into eternity. As Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” If you walk with God, however, and learn to trust him, having the basics will be all that you need. Again 1 Timothy 6:8 says, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

This is what false teachers miss. They think that novel ideas about God will be a path to wealth that will given them satisfaction. Instead, they may find prosperity but miss the real gain of walking with God–a life of true satisfaction.

Are you content with what you have? Or do you think that more of something (or everything) will bring you more satisfaction? Money doesn’t by happiness but godliness brings contentment. Focus on your walk with God and let him satisfy you as no material thing can.

1 Timothy 5

Read 1 Timothy 5.

Our faith as Christians is about more than our beliefs. It is a gift from God that transforms us, including the way that we think about and act toward other people. Here in 1 Timothy 5, Paul spelled out some of the ways in which Christians should regard and act toward other Christians who are of different from us are in age, sex, and social status.

People in our society make money and succeed politically by segmenting the population into categories like age, income, race, sex, and other things. That segmentation makes it easier to market specific products to specific types of people. If a person can be clustered into a category and–especially–if their tastes can be influenced, then new products can be sold to him or her. Pickup trucks, for example, are sold to industries and contractors who find them useful for work. But they are also marketed to young(ish) men who live in the suburbs (see here). I’m sure they also know that these men watch sports, which sports are most popular among them, what kind of music they like, and other personal preference details.

Segmentation like this creates peer pressure to conform within that segment. The more a person conforms to what is “normal” in his or her demographic, the more that person differs from people in other demographic groups.

And, the more that people-groups differ from other people-groups, the more distrust and even disdain can exist between these groups.

All of this is reflected in the American church. Instead of seeing churches that are multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-economical (what? I couldn’t think of a word for diverse in income), we have white churches, black churches, cowboy churches, hipster churches, churches for baby boomers, and on and on (and on).

Our church is no exception to this although I wish we were and I’d like to get there someday, somehow.

That’s because of passages like the one here in 1 Timothy 5. Instead of looking down on older men, they should be treated like fathers in the church, according to verse 1. Instead of viewing younger men as slackers, they should be treated like brothers. Older women in the church should be valued like we value our mothers and younger women should be loved and treated as sisters, not exploited or abused.

Widows shouldn’t be relegated to the sidelines; they should be “caring for their own family” (v. 4) and be cared for by God’s people when they are “really in need.”

The church has paid a high price for this kind segmentation.

The transfer of knowledge and wisdom from generation to generation gets lost when all the baby-boomers go to one church an all the hipsters have a church of their own. Instead of learning to love others of a different race or income level, too many Christians ignore or even distrust them because they look or act differently than we do.

I don’t know any way to solve this other than sacrificial love from the spiritually mature. If you love Jesus, make it your goal to befriend some people who are as different from you as possible. Learn how to listen to their needs and problems and do what you can to serve them.

If you are a teen or young adult reading this, please know that middle-age, older, and even–especially–elderly people could help you grow in your faith and avoid some of the mistakes that we’ve made.

Give us a chance; we’d love to encourage you and disciple you if you’re open to it. Maybe one way to practice this is for you to join one of our small groups and let us talk with you and get to know you. Your life as a Christian will be enriched for it.

1 Timothy 4

Read 1 Timothy 4.

In today’s chapter, Paul turned to address Timothy personally.

After warning him about prophesies that some would abandon the faith (vv. 1-4), Paul spoke about the importance of tending to his own spiritual life in verses 6-10.

The key verse in this paragraph is verse 7b: “train yourself to be godly.” The word train is deliberately chosen from athletics. We see this in verse 8 which talks about the limited value of “physical training.” Godliness, according to Paul, is like working out in that it must be done consistently.

You can go to the gym today and work out until you are so depleted and so sore that can’t walk anymore. But tomorrow you will see no difference in the mirror. If that’s all the training you do for this month, you won’t be any stronger or faster on October 1. Or November 1. Or any day in the future. One day of strenuous workout does not change the way your body looks or works.

But, if you work out regularly, you will build muscle and you might burn some fat. Those effects of regularly working out will start to affect your appearance. In addition, you will be able to perform better athletically over all.

So it is with godliness.

If we become godly by “training ourselves,” we need to work on cultivating godliness regularly. That means daily Bible reading and prayer. It means giving regularly and serving routinely.

It also helps to take a class in some aspect of Christian living. It helps to talk about your faith and your struggles with other believers in small groups. Getting stronger spiritually requires you to reach outside your comfort zone to help someone who is needy or struggling. It strengthens you to share your faith in Christ, especially if you fear being rejected.

Once we’ve been taught by the word, we need to do what the word commands us to do through obedience. This is how we train to “be godly” (v. 7) not just aspire to godliness or know what it means to be godly.

By the way, God brings trials into our lives to test the quality of our faith. These trials are like games or races; they reveal in real-time how good our training is and how much progress we’ve made in spiritual strength.

What are you doing to train yourself as a Christian? What should you add to your training to take you to another level?

1 Timothy 3

Read 1 Timothy 3.

If you were starting an organization and looking for leaders to help it succeed, what kind of person would you look for?

  • You might look for wealthy people who could donate financially to the organization and help manage the money the organization receives.
  • You might look for people who have been successful elsewhere—starting a successful business, becoming a college president, holding a prestigious political office.
  • You might look for someone famous who can draw attention to your organization.

These are all reasonable things to look for, humanly speaking, but not one of them is reflected in the list of qualities God tells us to look for in church leaders.

Here in 1 Timothy 3, Paul writes out for Timothy a description of the kind of man (or woman, in the case of deacons, see verse 11) that the church in Ephesus should be choosing. Paul had no interest in finding those who were successful in business or politics. He said nothing about finding someone famous. He also, by the way, didn’t tell them to look for someone who can speak piously or impress people with their spiritual-sounding words or unique theological insights.

Instead, Paul commended as leaders those who live a life consistent with a heart that has been changed by the grace of God in salvation. That kind of leader is “above reproach,” meaning that nobody can bring forth evidence that would call into question his moral character.

The phrase “above reproach” in verse 2a, and the similar phrase “worthy of respect” in verses 8a & 11a are blanket statements that summarize a person’s character. The phrases that follow “above reproach” such as “faithful to his wife, temperate,” etc. give more specifics about all the areas Timothy should consider when he judges whether a potential elder or deacon is truly “above reproach.”

All the things on this list are outward evidences of godly character within. The only task-oriented qualification is for the overseer (which is an other word for the office of pastor or elder) is that he must be “able to teach” (v. 2).

Our world cares about people who can perform in the marketplace. If a man can sell, his employer doesn’t care if he is “faithful to his wife” (v.2) or if “his children obey him” (v. 4).

Verse 3 details several sins that must not be true of elders in God’s church; these sins—drunkenness, violence, quarrelsome, lover of money—have led leaders of secular organizations into sins and crimes that embarrassed and tarnished the entire organization. Those are bad enough when you’re trying to sell a product but when you represent God and claim to have a life-changing message of grace that transforms and liberates sinners from these kinds of sins, an elder or deacon who is known for such things undermines the message of Christ.

In addition to giving us guidance about what kind of leaders to choose for our church, these paragraphs give us some character qualities to evaluate in our own lives. Not every Christian will become an elder or deacon, but all of us should desire and strive for a genuine walk with God that leads us to holiness. As we become holy by the power of God’s grace, these qualities will emerge like fruit in our lives. If you find yourself convicted because you’re lacking one of the godly characteristics elders/deacons should have or if you see in your life one of the sinful qualities that should not be true of godly leaders, ask God for grace and help to grow in that area because you want to be like Jesus.

1 Timothy 2

Read 1 Timothy 2.

One of the common objections heard against our faith is that it is exclusive. If Jesus is the only way to God, then what about people who worship God through other religions? Will they miss salvation even though they have a desire to know God?

The answer is yes, according to verse 5 of our passage today: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.”

It is common to hear that every religion is worshipping the same God, just by a different name. The Bible, however, calls worship of any other god than the true God idolatry. The reason is that “there is one God.” Verse 5 went on to say that there is “one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” The only way to know the one true God, to worship him, and receive his forgiveness is through Jesus.

Why?

Because he “gave himself as a ransom.”

Only the death of Christ on our behalf made reconciliation with God possible. Any other religion, in addition to saying things about God that contradict the Christian description of God, lacks a solution to the problem of sin.

But notice the next phrase in verse 6: “…for all people.” This truth goes against the idea that our faith is unjustly exclusive.

Our faith is exclusive in the sense that there is only one way–Jesus. He is the exclusive way to God.

But our faith is not exclusive in the sense that it is restricted to only one type of person. The salvation Jesus purchased, and the good news about knowing God he brought us, is for every kind of person on earth–Jew or Gentile, slave or free, wealthy or poor, male or female, Japanese or Lebanese, or any other way that people can be categorized.

This is why Paul began this chapter by urging us to pray “for all people” (v. 1). We should pray for the gospel to go everywhere there are people. In verse 2, Paul specified that we should pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives….” This is a request for the authorities of the world to leave us alone so that the gospel can advance to all the world without interference or persecution.

When you pray today, remember to pray for the world. Specifically, pray that people all over the world will learn about the one true God and the one mediator, the man–our Lord–Christ Jesus. Pray that those who are taking the gospel everywhere will do so without being persecuted or interfered with so that all kinds of people will be “saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (v. 4).

Pray also for our government here in the U.S.–not that Team A or Team B will will win the next election but that whoever wins will leave us alone to spread the gospel message. That is the message of 1 Timothy 2:1-8.

1 Timothy 1

Read 1 Timothy 1.

Ephesus was an important place in the story of the New Testament.

Paul spent two years there on his third missionary journey according to Acts 19:10. Paul travelled to other cities after those two years in Ephesus, but toward the end of that second missionary journey, he stopped nearby and called the elders of the Ephesian church so that he could speak with them and pray with them (Acts 20:17ff). Of course, he also wrote the New Testament book we call “Ephesians” to that church as well.

When Paul wrote this letter we call 1 Timothy, things were not well in the church at Ephesus. Paul had been released from the house arrest we read about in Acts 28 and was out planting churches again when he heard reports of false doctrine in the church at Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). He sent Timothy there to “command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer.” In verse 5, he said, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” These verses indicate how important good doctrine–pure doctrine–is to the health of the church. Good doctrine creates “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” which produces love in God’s people which makes the church a loving, Christ-like place.

Bad doctrine, then, corrupts one’s faith and one’s “good conscience” (v. 19) which inevitably leads to problems in the church–both problems between people and moral problems within people.

Doctrine is not a popular subject in the church. Instead, churches today run on emotionalism, entertainment, and self-help. Emotions have an important place and making disciples involves helping believers deal with their problems but if that plus entertaining services is what a church is about, that church will not be able to withstand the winds of false doctrine. False doctrine hollows out a church, corrupting the pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith (v. 5) God called us to have as followers of Christ. So, never denigrate doctrine or underestimate its importance in your life or in the church. Instead, learn the great doctrines of our faith and let them purify your heart and strengthen your conscience. Then, as we learn and grow together in the truth, we will become a loving place.

Mark 16

Read Mark 16.

After Jesus was crucified, Matthew 27:57-61 records that Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who became a disciple of Jesus, received permission from Pilate to bury Jesus’s body. Remember that Jesus died on Friday and that, in the Jewish world, sunset marked the beginning of the next day. That sunset meant the start of Saturday and if they had taken time to properly embalm Jesus’ body, they would be breaking the Sabbath command. So, Joseph (with the help of Nicodemus, according to John 19:38-40) wrapped Jesus’ body in a clean cloth with some spices (Jn 20:40) and placed it into the tomb Joseph had purchased for his own burial place.

In today’s reading from Mark 16, three women came on Sunday morning to do the job right (vv. 1-3). The stone in front of the door to the cave seems to have been a standard practice since the opening to Lazarus’ tomb was also covered by a stone (Jn 11:39). The women were concerned that that no one would be there to roll the stone away for them (v. 3) but that turned out to be a non-issue. Jesus had risen from the dead (vv. 6-7) and angels were waiting to give the news to the women and the disciples.

This is how the gospel according to Mark ends–with the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection and a record of the fear the women experienced. It seems like a strange ending which is why other verses were added by well-meaning Christians in later manuscript copies. But Mark is complete as it is, ending at verse 8 because it records the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection of Christ is just as essential to his story and our faith as his crucifixion is. Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 15 that, without the resurrection, there is no forgiveness of sins (1 Cor 15:17). Without it, there is no hope of eternal life (1 Cor 15:17). No resurrection means that our faith is a lie (1 Cor 15:14) and the apostles are all liars (1 Cor 15:15).

Fortunately, Jesus did rise from the dead as we read here in Mark 16. The fact that his disciples were willing to be persecuted and even martyred for Jesus is a key point on the subject of the resurrection. These were the same men who abandoned him and fled when he was betrayed. Peter, who denied him three times, later gave his life for Jesus as did many other early disciples. They were willing to do that because they saw the resurrected Lord. Having seen him, they knew that his testimony about himself was true and that promises he made guaranteed eternal life to those who believed in him. As 1 Cor 21-22 says, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

This is the hope that will sustain you through the trials and problems of life. It will encourage you when those you love die and it will calm your fears when the time comes for you to die. Jesus rose from the dead and he promises to raise each of us from the dead when he returns. There is no fear, no problem in life, nothing that is bigger than that. It is a promise that you can hold to and that will hold you no matter what life has in store for you.

Mark 15

Read Mark 15.

Yesterday, when we read about Jesus’ arrest in Mark 14, we read these words in verses 48-49, ““Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Christ was pointing out how absurd it was to be arrested by so many men who were so heavily armed. Jesus was a peaceful man and a public man who could have been arrested easily many times.

The reason for the precautions, of course, was the miraculous power he displayed. If you were Judas and had seen him casting out demons and walking on water, you’d bring an army to arrest him, too. Had he chosen to resist, of course, all the armies in the world could not have detained him. Although he had shown miraculous power, it was never violently directed. Though Christ arrived in Jerusalem like a king and exercised authority, he never attempted a military coup.

Barabbas did, though. As we read today in Mark 15:7, “A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.” Not only did Barabbas try to overthrow the government, his group killed a man while doing so. Yet, when given the choice to release either Jesus–the merciful healer or Barabbas, the violent revolutionary, the crowd wanted Barabbas, not Jesus, released.

Why?

Because of how dark the sinful heart of humanity is. Given a chance to kill God, the author of life, humanity jumped at the opportunity to rid the earth of him. Only the sinful heart of man would think it was better to have a killer like Barabbas on the loose than the merciful son of God.

This is why we needed Christ’s redemption. Humanity longs for God, but not not the true and living God. The true God is holy and we are accountable to him. In order for any one of us to be reconciled to God, God the Son allowed himself to be taken into the hands of sinful men so that he could die as our substitute. Due to his death, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” giving those who believe in him free and open access to God the father.

This is something to praise God for; it is also something that should draw us in to speak with God in prayer. The way is open, the channel is clear, and God is listening because of the atonement of Christ.

What will you asking him for today?