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The Titus Series: The Colour of the Truth

Let me start today by asking you a rather odd question, what colour is the truth? Is it blue, green, purple, mauve, silver, gold, tangerine, is it monotone, is it multicoloured? What does it look like? Is it spotty, stripped, square, 2D, 3D, smooth, pointy? What does the truth look like? This is the question we are facing in our reading today in Titus. And Paul has the answer.

In the previous sermon two weeks ago we looked at the introduction to the letter of Titus, where Paul declared his intention for writing. v1

for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness

Its Paul's desire for the Cretan Church to discover the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. In the rest of the introduction Paul went on to say why he was someone who was worth listening to, why he could be trusted to show them this truth. If you remember his reasoning for this was firstly because he himself was not the source of the truth but rather a messenger sent by God. Secondly, God is truthful, he never lies. And thirdly, that the message which Paul bore was not simply empty unproven words but rather words of power that had been proven by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and words of good news because they meant salvation for mankind.

What does the truth look like?

So having laid the foundations Paul now wants to reveal to Titus and the Cretins what this truth looks like.

Now of course in the context of this letter to Titus, Paul is instructing him in the characteristics to look for when choosing Church leaders. Its clear that Paul had been in Crete with Titus previously and managed to set up a number of basic Christian groups. Although Paul had only intended to pass through the Island probably on the way back to Jerusalem and had not been able to nurture these groups forming them into organised Churches. And so he left Titus behind on Crete with the mission to:

“straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town”

However, this I think is really the secondary purpose of the letter. Paul real purpose is as he says in v1 for the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. So, this instruction Paul gives Titus concerning the appointment of leaders must be seen in the light of this primary purpose of the letter. Therefore, as we investigate these characteristics Paul describes we should see them as an example of how to express the knowledge of the truth in our lives. The men Titus is to choose as Church leaders should have their lives coloured by the truth.

The truth is...

So what is Pauls requirements for a elder, a leader in the Church? A man who life demonstrates a knowledge of the truth. V6An elder must be blameless”. Those are pretty high standards! Any elders wanting to step down now? Anyone here feel they can take their place...no...well Murdo it looks like you might have quieter session meetings from now on! This first requirement does seem at first to set the bar unreasonably high. Although, if we look at the Greek word Paul uses here it does not mean perfect. Paul uses the Greek word meaning perfect only in the context of our eternal life where we will be made perfect in heaven. The word Paul uses here translated in the NIV as “blameless” carries the meaning, without blame, or without accusation. So what Paul means here is that a man who is to become an elder should be unaccused by the Church community and the wider Cretan population. He should be a man of high reputation, one who is trusted by all and respected. This is to be expressed in three areas of his life. In his family life, in his character and conduct and in his doctrine, that is his understanding of the truth. Let us explore each one of these areas in turn, firstly his family life. Paul says an elder must be;

the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”

The reason Paul places an elders family life first in his list of requirements is because as He says in 1 Timothy;

“If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?”

What is initially challenging about this verse is Paul assumes that all Christian fathers should make every effort to bring their children up to be believers. Now in an age of political correctness this doctrine might seem rather barbaric. Do you mean to say Paul that we are to influence our children's choices in such a way as they imitate our beliefs? Oh, but we can't possibly do that, no children must make their own choices, they must decide what is right and wrong, they must find their own beliefs. This is the voice of political correctness in our society that urges parents never to influence their children's decisions. As I told you last sermon the authorities hold this view as one counsel in England demonstrated in its sexual education policy, which encouraged children as young as 14 to explore for themselves what was right and wrong for them. And perhaps we are seeing the results of such a politically correct society in the case of the two brothers aged 10 and 12 who are being charged this week, for torturing two other boy's aged 9 and 11 in Doncaster. Many question whether the parents should also be charged for their children's crimes, after all, these brothers choose themselves what they thought was right. Such political correct snobbery is evidently corroding our society. Paul envisions a very different policy of family governing. One where the father knowing the truth that leads to godliness educates his children and makes every effort to bring them up so that they might know the truth. This is a father's duty. It is his primary task, so much so that he must abandon all other tasks if he is failing in this one.

When is a child not a child?

Now I realise for many elders this can be a very troubling verse and I don't want to add to anyone's troubles. Many families today are divided by faith. There is no guarantee that if parents are both Christians and make every effort to bring up their children to be believers that they will have any success. A family divided by faith can be very troubling and children who actively rebel against their parents every efforts can bring real heartache. Therefore, I think there are two things to bear in mind when we consider the implications of this verse. Firstly, there is a point at which Children become more independent and should be expected and encouraged to make their own decisions. In Jewish culture this point came at 14 and it is probably under 14's that Paul would classify as children. In our society some might say this point comes at 16 or 18 or perhaps 21...but many parents would hope they had flown from the nest by that point! Therefore, after this age when children become more independent all responsibility for the way they choose to live their lives cannot be placed on the parents alone.

A second consideration is that Paul may not be simply damning such fathers by questioning their ability to lead but rather he is recognising the priorities of life. That a father's priority is to his family then the church. God has given us families, children, wives and husband, brothers sisters and parents to enjoy and be responsible for, not to neglect. And therefore, other priorities should be set aside when the family is in need.

Its so wonderful this morning in Kenmuir to see this priority in action through baptism. Such action shows thatFraser will be blessed by responsible active parents who have taken it upon themselves to make every effort to bring him up in such a way as he might come to know God for himself. And it is important to be reminded that it is also the Church congregation's responsibility to support the family in these efforts.

So having checked off the family life, Paul moves on to a man's character and conduct. He lists here 5 negative terms,

“not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain”

And 6 positive terms;

“hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined”

Lets just think about the positives for just now we will come to the negatives later. The meaning of hospitable here is to be loving towards strangers, to provide lodging for those in need. Likewise Paul means by lover of good, to be ready to do what is beneficial for others. Upright means to do ones duty towards man and holy means to do ones duty towards God. We are beginning to build up a picture here. And perhaps it is not one you would initially expect. Paul doesn't expect a Church leader to be a skilled politician, nor does he expect him to have excellent public speaking skills, nor does he expect him to be a proven administrator. Paul expects an elder to be...a servant. He expects an elder to be the kind of man who is ready and willing to serve others and serve God. He doesn't want a go getter, he doesn't want a motivational mastermind, he wants a humble kindhearted servant. This reminds us of the way Paul introduces himself at the very beginning of the letter. Paul, a servant of God. And why Paul had cast aside any self worth because he counted all things as worthless compared to knowing Christ. As such he expected other Church leaders to be of the same heart. To count anything of themselves as dispensable and giving up everything they had to serve Christ. This is a point at which we should examine ourselves. Do we make every effort to be hospitable, to love strangers and live for the benefit of others? Do we see this as our duty towards man and God? Do we serve Christ, not with a spirit of pious self worth but rather delighted to dispense with everything we have and everything we are to receive an increasing knowledge of Him and reveal Him to others? This is what truth looks like. If you want to know it better you must have a servant heart.

How can we see the truth when we can't see?

Thirdly Paul says an elder must;

“hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

Colour blindness is an odd affliction. I've always wondered how people see the world if they don't see all its amazing colors. Or how can you explain to someone what red looks like if they have never seen it. Saying...well its just kind of...red, you know like a rose...kind of falls flat on its face doesn't it? Really the only way someone can know what red looks like is to see it. Until they do they only know what red doesn't look like. It strikes me that we are all like this when it comes to truth. As far as truth is concerned we are colour blind. We have no ability to see it ourselves. Paul recognizes this in his requirements for an elder. He does not expect an elder to have worked out the truth for themselves by meditating in some cave on an island exclusively populated by turtles. He realizes we have no means to know the truth. And so we must be given it. It must be revealed to us. This is precisely what Paul means when he say an elder must hold firm to the trustworthy message as it has been taught. He means that the message of the truth has been given to us by the proclamation of the gospel. And the proclamation of the gospel concerns the revelation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, an elder must be someone who has a firm grasp, a good understanding of the gospel which is the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. This is so important for us to learn. We cannot do anything ourselves to learn the truth other than submit ourselves to learning the scriptures. This is the knowledge of the truth. God has given it to us. God has revealed it, although we were blind, God has made a way for our eyes to be opened. Without this revelation we can have no hope to challenge a world of truthlessness. We cannot teach others and we cannot grow in the knowledge of the truth ourselves. Paul would say to us to give up any attempts at trying to discover what is right and wrong, what is good and bad and rely on the scriptures the trustworthy message as it has been taught.

Now we come to verse 10. Paul has explained the characteristics required by a leader of the Church and now he intends to uncover those who would lead the church astray. What to look out for in misleader's. It seems that as I have already said Crete at the time contained many Jews. Among these Jews were members of the circumcision party. A group of Jewish Christians who demanded that Greek Christians become circumcised if they were to believe in God. They probably regarded their own circumcision as a mark of superiority, entitling them to be heard and looked up to by others. Furthermore, they taught the Greeks Jewish myths and Rabbinic commands. Exotic fictitious tales about the Jewish forefathers Moses and Abraham were very popular in Greek society at the time. Such was their influence among the fledgling Christians that they were deceiving some and upsetting the faith of others. Paul could not of disliked these Jewish deceivers more. And his advice to Titus about how to deal with them is remarkably strong. He says Titus should muzzle them. They should not be tolerated but silenced. Perhaps, we might think Paul is too condemning of these misguided Jews. He is too quick to judge. But Paul knows what he is doing. He knows that such misleading speech is too dangerous and can only be met with sharp rebuke. Paul is zealous for the truth and he is seeing what little good seed he has sown among the Cretan being blown away. His passion is that they know the truth. This is a zeal we desperately need today. The church all around us seems to be totally lost concerning what is true. No-one can agree on anything, some are lead by the commands of people, what society thinks is right, some have devoted themselves to myths and some are motivated by shameful gain. We must consider carefully the Church today. Before we get mislead by deceivers. Why? Its no big deal, surely we can just all agree to disagree and live life in peace! You go your way, I will go mine and we will meet some day in the middle. Why is Paul so rilled by the circumcision party? Because such false teaching leads to us becoming detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. The one thing Paul says he is writing his letter to prevent, that they not be unfruitful. He doesn't want them to waste their lives being lead astray by false doctrines and teachings. He has so much more to give them!

Live a life truth coloured!

Let me conclude with two points. If you don't remember anything else from this morning please try to remember these and take them to heart. Firstly, Beware of a wasted life. There is so much in todays society that pulls at us and does all it can to mislead us. Advertising for example always wants us to buy and buy and buy. Teaches us that each new thing we buy, whether its a new ipod, a widescreen tv, a new car somehow defines us. They give us an new identity and new is always better than old. The politically correct culture around us tries to teach us to live as a community of individuals. Living with each other but never living for each other, never really loving each other. The media does all it can to create a false world around us. False hopes, false fears, false dreams. Society has converted so many to its empty words and only for shameful gain as bankers and business executives line their pockets with other peoples suffering. Beware of a wasted life. Don't follow their falsities. And if society wasn't enough even our own hearts mean to lead us astray. A Cretan prophet said about his own people "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.", I haven't heard a better description of Glaswegians. This is the nature of our hearts, and our society is the result. If we have any desire, and hope not to waste our lives we need to find it outside our society and outside ourselves. We need to find it in the knowledge of the truth. Here is the knowledge of the truth dwell on it, study it. Take time to understand it. If you do I promise you you will not waste your life. But this banner of truth isn't really about ethical codes and requirements, its not really about what is the best way to live your life. You see like I said at the beginning Paul was laying out to Titus what the truth looks like...how it is demonstrated in a believers life. Not what the truth is itself. Men and women who know the truth reflect it in their lives. But what is this truth itself? What is the essence of it? Well we can work it out from verse 16 where Paul tells us

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.”

What Paul is telling us here is that the Jews of the circumcision party do not know God. Even although they claim to it is obvious by their actions that they don't. However, those whose lives demonstrate the truth know God. Because He is the truth. Therefore, knowledge of the truth can be rephrased simply as knowing God. I urge you brothers and sisters, make every effort in your life to know God and I don't mean know about Him. If, I was to go to 10 Downing Street and ask the nice police man to let me in to see Gordon Brown he would thrown me out cause it doesn't matter if I know about Gordon Brown. However, if I know Gordon Brown and he knows me I could walk up to his door and be lead straight in to have a sit down a cup of tea and a chat with the pm. In the same way you could spend all your time coming to church reading the bible and only know about God without really knowing Him. And that I believe would be the worst kind of wasted life. Instead I urge you to make every effort to know Him, He doesn't want a bunch of students studying Him, He wants sons and daughters. Therefore, live you lives as His children, for that is what He has called you to and that is the greatest way any man or woman can live.