Avoiding Controversies and Quarrels -Titus 3: 8-11-

 

©Katie Lloyd Photography

 

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Titus 3:8-11 ESV

Some more thoughts on Titus (I am sure you don’t mind, right?), but I have just been thinking on these words a lot.

“We struggle with these commands to ‘avoid…. arguments’ because we know there are things worth disputing, and because it seems divisive to separate from divisive people… there is a difference between needing to divide and loving to divide. A divisive person loves to fight. The differences are usually observable. A person who loves the peace and purity of the church may be forced into division, but it is not his character. He enters arguments regrettably and infrequently. When forced to argue, he remains fair, truthful, and loving in his responses. He grieves to have to disagree with a brother. Those who are divisive by nature lust for the fray, incite its onset, and delight in being able to conquer another person. For them victory means everything. so in an argument they twist words, call names, threaten, manipulate procedures, and attempt to extend the debate as long as possible and along as many fronts as possible.

Divisive persons frequent the debates of the church. As a result the same voices and personalities tend to appear over and over again, even though the issues change. Paul’s words caution us about the seriousness of being ‘divisive.’ Though ego and entertainment may be served by argument, such engagement damages the church and should be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary.

At times we must fight (1:9). But if we love the fight, we must question if we are following God’s priorities. Do we really want to devote our lives to quarreling, criticism, and argument? The man of God must not strive (2 Timothy 2:24. 25). He is by nature peaceable and gentle (Titus 1:7; 2:1; 3:2). He stands where he must, but he takes no delight in debates among brethren and does not make them the priorities of his ministry. Nothing other than grace must be the priority of the gospel-centered church.”

 Bryan Chapell



Only God our Father can help us find the balance which is much needed today.

 

Becky

On Titus 3: 1-15 Living Out Grace

 

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.

How we need these reminders, to be submissive to the authorities God has appointed over us, starting with our own husband, and keep an obedient heart is pretty easy to forget. And this is specially difficult when the wife seems to be the one studying and reading all the books, and even being more concerned for the spiritual life of the family. If this is your case, sister, I want to encourage you to get rid of a mind-set that wants you to rise above your husband. He is God’s authority appointed in your home. Always pray for him, honor him, give him your advice, share your thoughts but at the end, bless his decision and hold his hand tight.

Another word on submission and obedience is that we must be extremely careful not to give any kind advice to any of our friends against the authority God has placed over them.  If your friend comes and asks you some advice, make sure that she is not only trying to find in you an ally against her husband’s decisions. This is a very delicate matter. We don’t want to sow disagreement between our friend and the authorities God has placed over her. The same principle applies if a young woman asks you some kind of an advice only to find more support to rebel against her parents. The odds are that her parents know a side of the story that you don’t.

Next we have some characteristics that should govern all our relationships.  Attitudes through which we’ll show all others, Christians and non-Christians alike,  the Grace of God in our lives.

Consider them carefully:

* Be ready for every good work.
* Speak evil of no one.
* Avoid quarreling.
* Be gentle.
* Show perfectly courtesy toward all people.

The easiest way to live a life that is always giving grace, is remembering our own condition. Not forgetting how our former lives without Christ looked like will keep us humble, and always with a desire to give and serve more and more.

Don’t judge the one who denies Truth;
you once were fool like that.
Be merciful to the disobedient;
you once lived loving anarchism.
Don’t quit on those who are being led astray by false teachers;
you once were one of them.
Love those who are slaves to various passions and pleasures;
don’t forget how much you loved your own sins.
Don’t forget those who pass their days in malice and envy;
remember how you used to spend your days, your nights.
Give grace to those who only know how to hate;
you once hated the Light, Jesus.
Don’t forget how grace appeared to you in Jesus.
Don’t forget how goodness and loving kindness reached for you
when you were in the most desolate pit.

Don’t forget how “when the goodness and loving kindness of God and Savior appeared to save us not because of work done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

All this “remembering” is so that we may keep ourselves humble, grateful, and “so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” It is interesting to note the words Paul chooses, “be careful to devote themselves…” If we are not careful, most likely we will soon find ourselves caught up in foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about all kind of Theological issues, while loving to stir up division and hating our neighbor in need by neglecting him. Sin of omission is real and it is very subtle, beware of its presence; it crawls in the heart and feeds on pride and arrogance.

Again on verse 14 Paul says it again, “let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” If it is mentioned twice, it must be urgent. Let us not forget that this is the way we live grace, devoting ourselves to good works, loving the unlovable, and reaching to the one in need. This is not easy, at least it is not for me. The excuses are always there, but light has shown in the darkest corner of my heart and now those excuses, have been exposed by God’s Word; I must repent and reach with grace towards those around me, in a more significant way.

Thank God, for His Word, and for the wonderful gifts He has given us: Memories to remember His Word, hearts in which to treasaure it and daily lives to practice it.

Grace be with you all,

Becky

On Titus 2: 11-15 -When God’s Grace Appears the Training Starts-

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

These verses are incredible, and studying them has brought to me a greater and more in depth understanding of the meaning of grace, and how it look like in a day to day basis. Isn’t it wonderful how the Word of God is alive? How it speaks to us? No matter how many times in my life I have read Titus; this is the first time I see this:

“[T]he grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”

If the grace of God has appeared -and it has appeared- then it means that I did not expect it come. I was not waiting for it. It just appeared; all of a sudden. It broke right in the middle of my situation and did not ask me permission. It appeared, just like the angel appeared to Mary, and her life was abruptly changed. Grace appears at the moment when the world seems to be falling apart, and hope seems impossible. The Grace of God appeared in the person of Jesus.  “Grace is not some abstract doctrine or theological construct. Grace comes as Christ does. Grace is as personal as He is.”

God’s grace comes in the person of Jesus to bring salvation to His people and to train us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. WOW! I had never seen this! The grace of God not only saves us, but trains us to renounce  ungodliness and worldly passions. How many admonitions and instructions Paul has given to the church through Titus; at times it seems impossible to live up to those standards; but here is the key: Just as Grace appeared to save us; it has appeared to train us in holiness.

Bryan Chapell says,

“Such grace should make us so in love with God that we cannot stand whatever in our lives re-soil us and offends him. Biblical grace makes us intolerant of evil in our lives.”

This grace of God that appears the moment we are drowning in sin, saves us and trains us to say no to sin. Saying “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions is possible only because the grace of God has appeared. Only because of Jesus.

“When we see God clearly in the appearance of His grace, we have an intense awareness of our unholiness… A true apprehension of grace instructs us of the magnitude and repugnance of our sin.” Bryan Chapell

But is not enough to say “no” to all ungodliness and worldly passions;  we must, by God’s grace, say “yes” to God’s requirements: to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (v.12b)

I love the way Chapell explains this,

“If being a Christian only involved self-control over passions and upright’ behavior before others, we might get the idea that the Christian life was only a matter of living according to certain rules or performing in an acceptable way. By adding the word godly to the ways of grace teaches us to live, the apostle reminds us that the Christian life is one of dependence on God. Godliness is not a consequence of human resolution or willpower. It is a relationship with God that results in a life honoring to God.”

And in this grace we live. “Godliness remains our obligation until Jesus returns.” It is in this state of training, of working in godliness that we wait for our blessed hope. Let us persevere in this training always depending on his perfect grace.

Becky

On Titus 2: 6-10 -Living the Gospel in Community -part 2-

 

“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:8-10 (ESV)

One of the things that has been notorious after studying this epistle, is how many times Paul addresses the importance of self-control. The elders must exercise it (1:8), as well as the older men (2:2), the older women (2:3), the younger women (2:5), and the young men (2:6). This makes me think that one of the character traits that should define us as Christians should be “self-control.” But how much we fail to be self-controlled. How much I need the Spirit of God to help me in this area!

J.R. Miller said,

“There are men who rule other men—but cannot rule themselves. They are victorious in battle—but they cannot control their own temper, restrain their own speech, or calm and quiet their own hearts. There is nothing beautiful in such a life. Nothing more effectually mars a life—than fretfulness, discontent, worry, or impatience. Nothing is more pitiful—than a life which is made to be strong, kingly, noble, calm, and peaceful—but which is, instead, the slave of every excitement, every temper, every resentment, every appetite and passion.”

John Piper writes, (I encourage you to read this short article in its entirety)

“The very concept of “self-control” implies a battle between a divided self. It implies that our “self” produces desires we should not satisfy but instead “control.” We should “deny ourselves” and “take up our cross daily,” Jesus says, and follow him (Luke 9:23). Daily our “self” produces desires that should be “denied” or “controlled.”

That path that leads to heaven is narrow and strewn with suicidal temptations to abandon the way. Therefore Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). The Greek word for “strive” is agonizesthe, in which you correctly hear the English word “agonize.”

The truth is that maybe we know not what “agonizing” over our sins and temptations is like; most of the times we just let them remain in a secret corner, somewhere in the depths of our heart. We let them stay… a little bit longer. Why not?

To close, I’d like to share the words with which Bryan Chapell concludes his commentary on these verses,

“Prayer, praise, instruction, fellowship, and the service of the church do not fulfill their purposes if we don’t function corporately and in community. There is always the temptation to privatize and individualize our faith experience. We tend to make decisions about whom to hear, what to do, and where to serve largely based upon what will be good for us personally. Paul’s instruction to Titus prick our consciences in order to make us sense the importance of responsible for others and living our lives in community. The hope we possess and pass in community should force us to consider the interests and needs of others than our own (cf.Philippians 2:1-5).”

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

On Titus 2: 1-5 Living the Gospel in Community -part 1-

 

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2: 1-5 ESV

We live what we believe in our community. We just can’t live a godly life in isolation; we live and move among people: believers and non believers as well. We have heard so many times that “our relationship with God is personal,” and while this is true in an extent, it has been carried too far as to deny our responsibility on how we live among the people around us, especially our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

In these verses Paul urges Titus, a young man, to teach in the church.  But there are some guidelines he must follow; first of all, he is to teach in accord with sound doctrine. Bryan Chapell explains in a few words what sound doctrine is:

“The words ‘sound doctrine’ are used by Paul to refer to the teachings passed on approved by Christ’s apostles, teachings meant to guard and guide the church.”

And John MacArthur says,

“[T]he theme throughout not only Titus but 1 and 2 Timothy is the teaching of sound doctrine and the call for consequent sound living, healthy doctrine which produces healthy living. That’s crucial.

Now this is all set against the backdrop of unsound doctrine which produces unsound living, or unhealthy doctrine which produces unhealthy Christianity.”

 

“So holy living is proper. Holy living is suitable. Holy living is fitting. Holy living is inseparable from sound doctrine. That’s the point.”

I firmly believe that the importance of having sound doctrine is not necessarily to crush someone else’s arguments, win debates, point out those in error and so on. The most important reason for us to pursue sound doctrine is that we may live accordingly to it. That we may live holy lives in a day to day basis. Down-to-earth-holiness, if so to say.

Instructions for older men are found on verse 2 and I do not intend to explain these, because I would never like to teach “older men” their place in the Church. However, I would like to point you to one sermon that may help you understand more about this verse:  God’s Plan for Older Men and Women by John MacArthur

Now we come to the instructions for older women -including myself-. These verses (3-5) are worth studying carefully as they are very practical and are a perfect guide that shows us how our sound doctrine must be manifested in our way of living. It is also a good way to help us choose our friends; we want to be close friends with women who display these characteristics.

1. Reverent in behavior:  A mature woman should always seek to honor God and demonstrate this reverence in all her conduct.  Our being close to God in prayer and through the Word, should be evident in all our manner of living.

2. Not slanders: No gossiping, not at all. MacArthur says,

“You know what the word is for malicious gossips? It’s the Greek word diabolos, 34 times in the New Testament it appears as a name for Satan. Nothing is more Satanlike than slander. And whereas men tend to sin and violently react physically, men prove to be rough or violent in their action, women have a tendency to be rough or violent in their words. Satan is a malicious slanderer, slandering night and day. Don’t be Satanlike.”

3. Not slaves to much wine: Not slaves to much wine or to anything that may not be reverent and godly.  We must not lack self-control. Any behavior that is out of control will certainly “damage the credibility of the life-changing power of the gospel” in Chapell’s words.

4. They are to teach what is good: And what is good? Those teachings that are in accord with sound doctrine. (v.1) Ladies, let’s take the big books and study, Let us go deeper in the Word taking the time to study it in-depth. Let us not be afraid to be Theologians, and go beyond our most-loved passages.

5. They are to train the young woman to…

* Love their husbands and children: Bryan Chapell hits the nail on a very important issue concerning young men teaching, counseling or giving advice to young women:

“Paul does not tell Titus to teach the younger women. This non-instruction probably reflects Paul’s concern that a young woman perceive her husband (or father-my inclusion) as the male who is her primary spiritual instructor (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:35). Paul also apparently desires to establish a pattern of instruction in the church that does not lead to sexual temptation.”

Older women are called to train younger women in the matters of family -marriage and child-rearing- What an enormous privilege is this! We are not called to preach from the pulpit on a Sunday’s sermon; we are called to train younger women how to live a godly, pious life that accords with sound doctrine in a day to day basis. What woman wants a pulpit to preach if she has a beautiful family to minister, children to teach, and young women around her to train?

* To be self-controlled: If we are called as older women to teach self-control, let us first of all, exercise it in our own lives.

* Pure:  It is true that many women struggle with pornography, but many more struggle with a false notion of what a romantic marriage should look alike. They are addicted to a romanticism that only happens in Hollywood. They are not pure, and in their hearts are not being faithful to their husbands, but are always in discontent, always wishing for a more “romantic” relationship.  This is not pure, and does not accords to godliness.

* Working at home, kind: These three go hand in hand. And it is important to note that real issue here is not if a wife can work or not outside her home. The heart of the matter here is this: Is her home her priority? If she stays at home what is her attitude? Kind or resentful?

Chapell has some good words here,

“Any woman who makes career status or financial advantage a higher priority in her life than the welfare of her marriage, children, or home transgress Scripture as well as the signals of a heart sensitive to God’s Spirit. Perhaps this is the reason Paul urges that young women not only be taught to be productive at home but also to be “kind.” A sensitive heart will not get so caught up in the routines of homemaking, that compassion for a husband’s or child’s needs get lost, nor will such a heart be dissuaded by the callousness of the secular world regarding the value of the homemaking routines.”

* Submissive to their own husbands: Because this is such an in-depth topic, I would like to poin tou to Nancy Wilson, a woman who has written several books on marriage and child-rearing, as well as some great articles on submission, for example this one: Stick to your Duties, in which she answers questions such as: “[W]hat about the women who are married to men who are not interested in leading, who have neither drive nor direction? What can a woman in a marriage like that do?”  (other articles are: Submission Requires Courage, and First Duties)

All these lineaments are there so that the word of God may not be reviled. I love the way Chapell concludes hos commentary on these verses,

“The wonderful message implicit here is that what happens in the home as a result of a woman’s care is a powerful tool for the progress of the gospel.”

Let us not be deceived, sisters. Our duties at home have an eternal effect; let us be diligent in doing what we have been commanded to do. Our joys will be multiplied!

Becky

On Titus 1: 10-16 – Stamp Eternity On My Eyes, O Lord-

@Annie Pliego Photography

 

“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.  One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.  To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”
Titus 1: 10- 16

Bryan Chapell in his commentary on Titus says the following about these verses:

“If our deeds do not conform to the gracious character of our God, then we deny his nature and deny ourselves the opportunity to serve him.”

We know that is grace that upholds us, sustains us, and lead us to repentance over and over again. But this week, as I have been mediating on these verses, I kept thinking on how many times we –I– have hide under the precious truth of His never ending grace to excuse a sinful behavior in our lives. No, I am not talking about those who abuse grace by openly sinning against God saying that God is always merciful and all good, and will always forgive. No, I am talking here of the subtle lie, the one that is not easily seen. The one that hides behind a pious character, behind empty talks and deceitful appearances. I am referring to the sinful ways in which we live while excusing ourselves saying, “That is the way I am. I am a sinner. I am still living in this sinful body” while at the same time we wrong our families, and our family in the Lord’s Church.

The Word of the Lord has rebuked me sharply. If by faith I live,  then I must live accordingly to it. My deeds must show Christ, and do not deny Him.

J.C. Ryle said,

“To say that we are sorry for our sins is mere hypocrisy, unless we show that we are really sorry for them, by giving them up. Doing is the very life of repentance.”

 

Father, deliver me from loving Theology and not loving YOU. 
Deliver me, from professing that I know You while at the same time, 
I live denying You with my words (spoken or written) and deeds. 
Give my an obedient heart, 
one that pleases you, 
so that I may be fit to serve you where you have me this day.
 
Father, stamp eternity on my eyes so that all I view would be seen in the context of its eternal consequences.*

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

*This last line is based on one of Jonathan Edward’s prayers