Advice on Impacting Culture

This will be the last sermon on the book of Titus, and I hope you have gained a new appreciation for this little book. For Paul, ministry covers all of life. We have looked at godliness in the church (chapter 1), in the home (chapter 2) and merging from the last part of chapter 2 into this chapter we have been looking at godliness in culture. And one of the big challenges that these Christians had was — how do we influence culture when we are being persecuted by world? They don't want to be influenced! Right? In fact, if you are determined to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts like 2:12 says that we must, that's going to get us into trouble with people who like ungodliness and worldly lusts. If you are determined to avoid every lawless deed and to be zealous for good works, like 2:14 says that we must, then that law of God is going to stick in the craw of some people. These Christians were living a life of antithesis, and when you do that you will attract persecution, or at least opposition and slander. So how can you be effective? It seems the harder you try, the more opposition you get.

Paul tells Titus that we can't just escape from the world. We are called to transform the world! And in verses 1-2 Paul tells them how to be more effective in doing that. Verses 1 and 2 are not a sudden shift that is calling Christians to ignore the law that he has just finished mandating. They are not dealing with content — they are dealing with methodology. He tells them to be a loyal opposition, a winsome opposition, a gentle opposition, a humble opposition. He basically gives seven characteristics of godly citizens that would make it much harder for pagans to dismiss them. He contrasts that with seven characteristics of ungodly citizens in verse 3. And when you contrast the two, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which kind of citizen is going to have more long term influence. You can think of Ronald Reagan: he exemplified the seven virtues in verses 1-2 and he was hard to hate, even by his opponents.

Now it's tough to have those attitudes toward your opponents in government, especially when they are persecuting you. But when we are armed with the motives and with the understanding of grace that's listed in verses 4-7, then it is possible. Nero had already declared an all-out war of hate and slander and killing. And Paul insisted in the first few verses of this chapter that if we are to be successful, then while we apply the law of God (mentioned in chapter 2), we must do it in the context of an all-out war of love, and integrity and good works. Their conquest of love was to be patterned after Christ's conquest of love in verses 4-7. Nothing more and nothing less. And the grace that is discussed in those verses gives them encouragement that God can easily change opposition into submission to Christ. Paul was an example of that himself when God converted him out of his persecuting ways.

And that brings us up to today. Paul ends the chapter with miscellaneous pieces of practical advice related to being effective in impacting culture. We will look at the importance of teaching, avoiding unnecessary social tensions, having wise administration and leadership in place, getting legal help, brining in expertise, having a working church membership and three other small points.

Some Hindrances and Helps You May Encounter in Promoting a Godly Citizenry (vv. 8-15)

Teaching on Practical Issues (v. 8; cf. 2:1-15)

The first principle that Titus needed if he was to win this war in the Roman Empire was training of the troops. And that's what verse 8 is dealing with. And though some Christians might prefer to skip the teaching and get into the practice, teaching is absolutely foundational if Christians are to have any impact upon the world. I think part of the reason the church has had so little impact upon the culture recently, and that, despite their numbers, is that they have not been discipled into the whole counsel of God. They are living their Christianity in the church and in the home, but not in the world.. He has already dealt with the centrality of teaching several times, but he reminds Titus of it one more time in verse 8. Verse 8 says, This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. He's already called for good works in the home, and good works in the church, but now he is reminded to constantly promote good works in society. We are not to be recluses who go into a monastery or stay in a ghetto.

You may have noticed as I was reading along, that some of your versions have the word "confidently" instead of constantly. The Greek word (Bebaiousqai) actually means to establish firmly. Paul is saying, "I want you to speak in such a way that these things that I have mentioned in the first part of the book are established firmly. Translators are divided on whether Paul means that these things are to be established firmly in the mind of Titus (in other words "confidence") or in the minds of the hearers (firmly establishing it by repetition). I'm not sure that we have to choose between those translations because Paul no doubt intended these things to be firmly held by all, right?

But its true that the word confidence is a little closer to the original so I'll stick with that. There needs to be a confidence, a certainty about the things that we believe or we will have nothing to offer the world that it does not already have. We are living in a world where there are no absolutes. What are people looking for? A foundation; an absolute. We are built to need it. Somerset Maugham said, "The only thing I know for sure is that I don't know anything for sure." And there are a lot of people out there who have the same sense of frustration; who have no foundations; who say with Pilate, "What is truth?". Even the dogmatists of this world are often brought to the place of total uncertainty when their plans fail and their world comes crashing around their ears. Whether you are a citizen in Rome going through the turmoil of the years under Nero, or whether you are in communist Russia, or whether you are in America, Christians need to be able to offer unbelievers certain, confident answers. Why bother trying to influence if we don't have a good alternative.

Now it's important to realize that the things we say are not certain because we are so clever. No way! It's because the God who gave us Scripture also made all things, knows all things and cannot be mistaken about what He says to all things. And that means that we have an advantage in our warfare. Sure they were a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire, but they know whereof they spoke. The God who made this world has given to us the Manufacturer's Manual that explains exactly why our world is out of sync. One of the verses that I really love is tucked into a genealogy in the Old Testament. The sons of Issachar had so excelled in their understanding of the absolutes of Scripture as they applied to their changing world, that the author of 1 Chronicles couldn't help but interrupt the genealogy and insert an epigram in their honor. 1 Chronicles 12:32 says, of the children of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. Do you have God's perspective on the times we are living in? Do you know the absolutes of Scripture well enough that you could give certain answers to an uncertain world? We need to value the teaching of the things Paul has laid out in the book of Titus.

And notice that these are not just answers for the afterlife, but also answers that affect our day by day living. Titus 3:8 goes on to say, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. That is the result of the Bible. The Bible is a book on living, and throughout this book he has been talking about discipleship, not just head knowledge. But until you know God's Biblical blueprints for all of life, you will not know what God considers as good works.

Paul ends the verse by saying, These things are good and profitable to men. The question to ask is not whether the teaching is interesting and entertaining, but is the teaching good and profitable? Does it lead to good works? Will it make a difference in society? One of the readers of a British magazine wrote an article against preaching thinking it had very little value. He said, "Dear Sir! I notice that ministers seem to set a great deal of importance on their sermons and spend a great deal of time in preparing them. I have been attending services quite regularly for the past thirty years and during that time, if I estimate correctly, I have listened to no less than three thousand sermons. But, to my consternation, I discover I cannot remember a single one of them. I wonder if a minister's time might be more profitably spent on something else? Sincerely . . . "

There was a flurry of repsonses for three weeks both pro and con on sermons until one letter ended the debate. It said, "My Dear Sir: I have been married for thirty years. During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals - mostly of my wife's cooking. Suddenly I have discovered that I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. And yet, I received nourishment from every one of them. I have the distinct impression that without them I would have starved to death long ago. Sincerely . . ." Now I think it is true that in some preaching there is no nourishment and the people do starve to death. But without the teaching of the Word, we cannot produce a godly citizenry.

Hendriksen points out that this is referring to all people (it's profitable to all people, and not just the believers mentioned earlier). When believers appropriate God's Word by faith, they act as salt in the world. Noah Webster (the author of Webster's Dictionary) said, "The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." So, yes, the Bible is good and profitable for all people. So before they could win their war with Rome, they had to have an educated core of soldiers who could begin to be salt and light. This is the desperate need of the hour in the Christian church. It's one of the reasons I am starting up Dominion Institute.

Avoiding Unecessary Social Tensions (vv. 9-11)

Verses 9-11 are also important in this effort to influence society. Paul wants Titus and the church to avoid getting involved in unnecessary social tensions and arguments. And of course, he is opposing the Judaisers once more. He says, But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. Paul is basically saying, "Make sure that the only offense that you have is the offense of Scripture. Don't be making things more difficult for yourselves than they need to be." These Judaizers who hated the Gentiles had all kinds of baggage that would have made it almost impossible to win friends and influence people. God had broken down the middle wall of partition that separated Jews and Gentiles, and these Judaizers were building the wall higher than ever. In Romans 12 Paul gave similar advice. He said, "If it is possible [we know it's not always possible, but he says, "if it is possible"], as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." (Rom. 12:18)

Now let's try to understand and then apply each one of the descriptions of these Judaisers. Paul says, But avoid foolish disputes [Judaism was full of foolish disputes. And you can read some of them in the Talmud. They had disputes about how you cut your fingernails, and proper disposal of them. One group said that if a pregnant woman stepped on a man's discarded fingernails, she would lose her baby. Here's some other disputes you can read in the Talmud: some Jews said that angels were circumcised, and others said no. Some said that angels rested on the Sabbath day. Others said that they did not. And there were hundreds of disputes like this. If you want to have a reputation of being utterly irrelevant, go ahead and have disputes like that. But Paul says, "I don't want you irrelevant." Deuteronomy 29:29 lays down the basic principle: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God (in other words, don't worry about them), but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." The Scripture is relevant. Neither Moses nor Paul wanted their godliness to be deflected by extra-biblical disputes. Our ethics; our system of right and wrong; our blueprints comes from the Scripture alone. Now you might think that we never get involved in things like that. But I wouldn't be too sure. I was in a church where beards were seen as sinful. The argument did not revolve around Scripture. It revolved around staying different from the hippies and failed to ask what Scripture said directly to beards. Now if Scripture addressed the issue, it would no longer be a foolish dispute, would it? Nothing in Scripture is foolish. But if Scripture doesn't address it, there is no way of settling the dispute. It is your preference versus my preference. And there are a lot of issues like this in the church today that bind people's consciences because they do not look to the Scriptures as the only rule to direct us as to how to glorify and enjoy God. And Paul wanted the church to avoid those kinds of disputes altogether. They're worthless. God alone is Lord of the conscience. So verse 8 says "teach the Scripture, it's profitable. But avoid these things for they are unprofitable and useless.].

The next word is genealogies [Now I don't want you avoiding the Biblical genealogies because of this verse. Paul in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 says all Scripture is profitable. So that includes even the genealogies. So it can't mean that Paul wants us to avoid Biblical genealogies, or there would be a contradiction. What Paul was blasting was the Judaizer's caste system. If you could trace your genealogy all the way back to Abraham, you were a first class citizen, if you couldn't, you were suspect. If you are a Gentile, well, that's another story. Paul wanted to deemphasize this religious pride in ancestry and make them realize that they were now on an equal footing with the Gentiles.

How does that apply to today? Well, wherever you have ethnic churches, there is the danger of the same sort of thing happening. I was a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and even though there were some members who made an effort to be nice to me, there was a clear pride in ancestry that tended to exclude those who didn't have a Mac in front of their names and couldn't tell what clan they came from. I have been to churches where people proudly displayed bumper stickers saying, "If you're not Dutch, you're not much." And when a church exudes that sort of feeling, it is highly unlikely that it will grow by encorporating pagans from the non-ethnic community . Paul is not saying, "Don't have pride in your ancestry. But he is saying, "Don't dispute over it and make it a test of fellowship," which is precisely what the Jews were doing. Better to have no genealogies at all than to do that.

Some of the same attitudes can be evoked in the North versus South debate. We don't want people to feel second class because of the state they came from, or their ethnic background.

He goes on to say], contentions and strivings about the law [Which law is he referring to? Is it the Biblical law of chapter 2 or the commandments of men who turn from the truth in chapter 1:14? Well, obviously you know the answer. He is opposed to the man-made Talmudic law of these Judaisers. And he didn't want Titus even arguing with them. If they can't prove it from the Scripture, reject it. Don't get into endless arguments based on man-made authority. Stick to the authority of the Word. Why? Because the moment you add to God's law, we are involved in legalism. And I tell you, the legalism of fundamentalists has made it much more difficult for Christians to get a good hearing from the world. It's an embarrassment. The word has heard so much nonsense that they brand all Christians with that stuff.

But don't give up hope. Titus faced the same problem with the legalists of his day, and yet the church won the culture wars with Rome by the time of Constantine. We just need to make sure that we persevere in following Paul's advice.

Now don't get me wrong, tradition can be OK if it doesn't get elevated to the status of law. But it's so important that we make that distinction. When you abandon the Scriptures of verse 8, you are left not with certainty, but with vain arguments. All of these things, he says are unprofitable and useless.

And all of these areas contributed to social tensions both outside the church, and inside the church. Now some people just won't let go of an argument. You can insist that there is liberty outside of the Scripture, but they will keep hammering and hammering until they cause turmoil in the church. Verse 10 says, Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. Man! Those are hard words! But they are necessary words. The church must show a united from to the world. I would encourage you to take this admonition seriously in your dealings with Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. By all means share the gospel with them, but if they show that their only interest is in converting you, reject them. I have told those who come to my door after the second time that this is the last time Scripture allows me to talk with them, and it may be their last opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel. So I use my rejection as a last appeal to their hearts. But it is important that we not ignore their evil influence. Paul said, "Bad company corrupts good morals," and the rejection of a divisive man is important so that we do not get sucked into their ways. As nice as they may appear to be, Scripture says that when they abandon God's word in this way they are warped and sinning, being self-condemned. So avoid getting involved in non-Scriptural debates and social tensions and divisions.

Leadership Training and Deployment (v. 12; 1:5-9)

A third piece of help that Paul brings is leadership training and deployment. Verse 12 says, When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. Titus needed to come away for awhile for further training. Artemas and Tychicus were sent to help with the work. And Zenas and Apollos have already been there helping. The point is that no one person can possibly do everything. We need the help and expertise of others. We as pastors need to go get further training. There needs to be a networking to be effective. We have benefited enormously from the godly conferences, materials and leadership of godly men in other cities. I hope in the future to put on conferences that can help other pastors and community leaders in our city. But leadership training and deployment is needed if we are to be effective in transforming America for King Jesus.

The fourth way in which Paul helped was with the legal involvement of Zenas and Apollos. He wasn't too spiritual to avoid the legal issues that the church faced. Zenas means gift of Zeus, and Zenas was a pagan convert who had been trained in Roman law. He was a Roman lawyer whose services had been needed in the Roman courts in Crete. Now Zenas's services are needed elsewhere.

Apollos was a Jewish lawyer who was an expert not only in the Jewish law, but he was also said to be "an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures" (Acts 18:24). He was an orator.

Why were Zenas and Apollos sent on this journey to Crete? It is obvious that they were not merely errand boys bringing this letter. They were much too busy to be errand boys, and there were any number of people who could have brought a letter. They were sent with this letter because they had a work to do in Crete before they left. And part of the reason for the instructions in this chapter is that Paul doesn't want the congregation getting feisty and undoing the work that these two men were trying to accomplish in the courts.

And just as a historical note, the reason both were working in tandem was to answer the charges that Jew and Roman were bringing in tandem. The irony is that Jews were never able to see eye to eye with Rome on anything. But during that two year period, because of the Sandhedrin's hatred for Christians, they made a special appeal to Nero to help them prosecute Christians. So Christians were in both the Jewish and the Roman courts. And it was here where Zenas and Apollos were critical. Zenas had a knowledge of Roman law that would enable him to be an advocate for those being persecuted, but also to inform Christians as to what their options were. This was the Christian equivalent to the ACLU. And sometimes it's necessary for the church to hire the services of lawyers to protect their citizen rights.

Remember that when we were dealing with verses 1-2 we saw that Paul was not advocating total non-resistance. He himself was in and out of jail for non-compliance with tyrannical laws. But Paul wanted these believers to be model citizens. It was their duty, but it was also to their benefit. We have records of magistrates who recognized the Christians as model citizens and were baffled at their refusal to offer incense to Caesar. One man is said to have pleaded with a Christian to at least pretend that he was offering incense because he didn't want to have to punish him. Paul wanted the conflict to center around Christ, not around the fact that they were suffering as poor citizens. And all of his admonitions, if carried out by these Christians, would have left no doubt that Nero's quarrel was ultimately with Christ. And I believe that just as Paul used the law to his advantage in the book of Acts, he was asking the church to do the same through these two gentlemen.

Scriptural Expertise of Apollos (v. 13; 1:9-14)

A Working Church Membership (vv. 8,14; 1:16; 2:1-14)

Another bit of counsel given by Paul was already alluded to two weeks ago, but that was to have a working church membership. And specifically to be involved in good works in the community. Verse 1 said, be ready for every good work. Verse 8 said, that those who believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. 14 says, And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. And the church did exactly that. When an earthquake struck a city (and several cities were hit hard by earthquakes during this period leading up to 70 A.D.), who was first on the scene to help? Christians were there, clearing the rubble, burying the dead, providing food and making it clear that they had society's best interests in mind. That they were not the haters of the human race that Rome claimed. Their works showed that the slander of Nero was totally false. And during times of persecution, the charity and good works of Christians was one of the things that made the church grow by leaps and by bounds. Tertullian reports the amazed comment of one pagan, "See how they love one another."

Now, we dealt with this adequately in another sermon so I won't elaborate, but a church without good works might as well stop witnessing to the world. If you are all talk and no walk, the world will see you as hypocrital. Christ said, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. That is the result Paul wanted: to see people coming to Christ; verse 5: to see them fruitful.

Moral (v. 15) and Practical (vv. 12-13) Support from Other Churches and Presbyteries

One last principle that we see, was the encouragement that came from other churches and Presbyteries. When one church came under attack, other churches came around them. You know, one of the strategies that the ACLU has used over the past few years is to pick on a small, independent church that has no resources to defend itself, and to win the case and to set a precedent. And to me it really doesn't matter what denomination is being attacked, the whole church needs to rally round them if it's an important principle that is under attack.

But there were other ways in which other churches brought encouragement. Simple communication can be an enormous encouragement to a small, struggling church. In verse 15 this letter says, All those who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen. For me, the highlight of Presbytery is the time when churches share their praise and prayer items and we pray for one another and wish one another well. The moral support of fellow ministers is something that can be very encouraging. There is a connectionalism. We are one body called out from the world, and when the world opposes an individual church, we are all in it together.

And what is true of church is true of individuals. If you have been tempted to go it on your own, and not come to church, then here are some good reasons not to do that. We need the regular teaching of God's Word. We need church government. We need the skills and resources of others whom God has given to the church. We need to be a working membership, and we need each other's moral and practical support. May God make our church effective in being salt and light in society. Amen.

Advice on Impacting Culture is part of the Titus series published on December 5, 2004

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