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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Put your sound doctrine into practice!
Text:Titus 2:1-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-01-31
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 148:1,3                                                                                     

Ps 119:49,50

Reading – Titus 1

Ps 71:3,9,10,13

Sermon – Titus 2:1-8

Hy 50:1,2,3,4

Hy 26:1

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in the Lord, what does it mean to be a Christian? How would you answer that question? I think we’d start with what we believe. As Christians, we believe in the Bible as God’s Word. We believe that our God is Triune, that all people are dead in sin, and that we have new life through faith in Christ. As Christians, we’d say all this, and more. We’re defined by those things we believe. But we also know being a Christian is about more than just good doctrine, it’s a way of life. This set of truths is so powerful that it shapes everything we do: in the home, and church, and at school, in marriage and friendship, in our work and play.

The theme of faith-in-action is key to Paul’s letter to Titus. Here he writes to another co-worker in the gospel, just as he wrote to Timothy. Titus was a church leader who was working on Crete, which is the island south of Greece.

Now, this was one tough place to be. Even among the worldly folks of the Roman Empire, Cretans were known for their bad behaviour! Titus had a big job: organize the churches there, contend with false teachers, and teach the believers how faith impacts all of life. Listen to how Paul condemns the heretics on Crete in 1:16: “They profess to know God, but in works they deny him.” The churches were being influenced by people who said a lot of godly things but who lived in a godless way.

And this is still the challenge we face. How can we let faith in Christ touch more and more of what we do? How can we keep bringing God into our ordinary moments, and live out our Christian faith? Paul instructs Titus, “Speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (2:1). And then he spends the chapter not explaining what sound doctrine is, but what sound doctrine looks like in real life. Sound doctrine—when you study the Bible, when you sing the creed, when you know your Catechism—all this must lead to a holy life! I preach God’s Word on this theme,

Put your sound doctrine into practice! A command for:

  1. older men
  2. older women
  3. young women
  4. young men
  5. the teacher

 

1) older men: “Speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine, that the older men be sober, reverent, sound in faith…” (2:1-2). As we listen to these words, first about the “older” and then the “younger” men and women, we wonder what category we belong to. For who is “older?” And who wouldn’t want to be known as “younger?”

There was a Roman writer around Paul’s time who commented on the different stages of life. And he said that a person more than fifty years old is “older”—so anyone else is “younger.” That’s a bit helpful, but Paul is using these terms in a relative sense. For he’s writing to an entire congregation. Some were children, others teenagers; some were single adults, others married with young kids; others had seen their children leave the home, while others were in their closing years. So it is today in our congregation: compared to the age and life situation of the other members, some of us are definitely “younger,” some are “older.”

And in our text we see that every Christian needs to learn and grow, not just the young, but the older ones too. For God’s work in us is always ongoing. It’s been said that there are only two directions for our life as Christians: forward and reverse—you can’t put it in neutral. If I’m not walking any closer to Christ (even a little closer, year by year), or not making any progress in my fight against sin, then I need to give this serious attention. There’s no point when we’ve learned enough, no age when we stop needing instruction in the Word.

So when Paul explains the Christian lifestyle, he begins with the older members of the church. Back then, just because you were older didn’t mean you’d been a believer for a long time—the churches were filled with new Christians. All the same, he begins with words for those who might’ve been expected to have the deepest knowledge and the greatest maturity.

In our congregation, the older men (and women) have lived out their faith for a long time. They have a wealth of life experience, they’ve studied the Word from cover to cover, and served in the church in many ways. But again, no one is finished growing, no one is ever done serving—rather, these older members must set a good example of a living faith.

To the men who have children that are already married (and even some grandchildren), and the men who’ve belonged to the church for long decades now—to them, Titus must teach, “that the older men be sober, reverent, sound in faith, in love, in patience” (2:2).

Let the older men be sober. Being sober isn’t just about limiting your number of glasses of wine each week, but it means you shouldn’t be given to any kind of overindulgence or excess. With older age sometimes comes more spare time, and more spare money. And the desire for nice things and comfy pleasures doesn’t grow any less. So the Spirit says that older men must be sober, fighting the old temptation to follow their selfish desires. They shouldn’t just buy whatever they want, or do whatever they want, or to live however they please, even if the world tells them they’ve earned it by now.  

We can enjoy the good things God gives. But let them be enjoyed in an obedient way. For the men must also be “reverent,” or worthy of respect (v 2). We always tell children to respect their elders. Yet how shameful when an older man acts without maturity! So may our older men be worthy of respect—may they earn respect by their godliness, their love for Christ, by their commitment to studying and doing the Word.

Paul also urges them to be “temperate,” or self-controlled (v 2). He’ll exhort the younger women and younger men in a similar way. Because in an ever-sinful world, with our still-sinful hearts, self-control is necessary—necessary at every age.

Older men, control yourselves! That’s not just mastering your sinful desires, it’s using your whole life to serve Christ. For example, when you’re doing business, let God’s law control all your conduct, even when you know you can get away with something. When you’re enjoying leisure, let God direct your pursuits and purchases, even if you’ve got money to spend. When you’re with your children—or your grandchildren!—let God’s Word shape how you treat them.

In all things, be “sound in faith, love and patience” (v 2). If something is “sound,” it is sturdy, firm and dependable. So being “sound in faith” means having a firm trust in God. By now you should know in a pretty thorough way what you believe about Him, and you’ve also learned that God is faithful, and so you can believe in him with a sure confidence.

Brothers, be sound also “in love.” Over the years, you’ve experienced unkindness from other people. So you could have quite a collection of grudges and complaints against others. But a test of love is when you can overlook past wrongs and you can forgive, when love is “sound,” whole-hearted and genuine.

“In patience” too, let the older men be steadfast. Having lived through many joys and tears, successes and disappointments, you’ve learned that we won’t ever find fulfillment or perfection here below. You are patient as you wait for a better homeland and a lasting city. The older men should remind us often about what Christ still has in store for us.

In so much of this, the older men are called to set a sound example of faith. The men of the church serve in different ways, according to their gifts and life position. But if they have the Spirit, they must all show what it means to depend on Christ and to follow him.

 

2) older women: We’re blessed with other role models too. Together with the older men, the older women are called to be a source of stability for the church. And this means modeling a godly walk to the younger members.

The Spirit begins by saying that older women must be “reverent in behaviour” (v 3). The Greek word for “reverent” suggests someone who has been entrusted with a sacred duty—it’s usually one who serves at a temple. As Christians, we’re all priests, called to present ourselves as living sacrifices, but Paul here focuses on the older women. The older sisters have a priestly calling, to exhibit who they have become in Christ.

As the older men do, you probably have more opportunity now for things you couldn’t do before. Some or all of your children have grown up, your duties around the house are less intense, you might have more flexibility in your schedule—this sets a decision before you: “What will I do with this time and opportunity? Will I keep looking for ways to present myself to God as a sacrifice, in his kingdom and in the church?”

And Paul immediately warns the older women not to fall into sin. He warns them against becoming “slanderers, [and not] given to much wine” (v 3). For these are the kind of sins that can arise when you don’t have quite as much to do anymore.

Slander is one thing that could keep the older women busy. Getting together for a coffee, going for a walk, it’s easy to fill a conversation with harsh words about other people or critical comments. Whether it’s used for slander—or for gossip, or negativity—an idle mouth is a dangerous mouth. Don’t be slanderers, says the Spirit, but use your mouth for something better. Speak words of peace. Give a phone call to someone lonely, make a visit to encourage, and pray for others in need.

An older woman also shouldn’t let wine fill too much of her time. The dangers of excessive drinking wine are clear. So are the dangers of many other things that offer an escape. You could spend many hours each week scrolling around on your device or visiting the local shopping centres. I daresay that even spending too much time on housework can keep you from other worthwhile things!

For instead, older women should fill their time by being “teachers of good things” (v 3). This is the work of giving advice and encouragement to younger women. Sisters, using your experience as a Christian wife, a mother, a woman, you have things to share. By your words and your example, you can help the younger sisters. You can help them live reverently in the roles as Christian women, whether they’re single or married. Let’s be clear that you can teach them good things that a man never could.

I think older women tend to get uncomfortable with this command. “I’m no teacher! What could I ever say to that bright young lady about living as a Christian? I don’t have it all figured out.” Yet notice how God doesn’t give this job to the ladies with a university degree, or the ones who are almost perfect. He gives this task to all the older women in Christ.

For if you’ve tried to live out your faith in your God-given position, then you’ve got something to share with a younger sister. In a humble and personal way, find opportunity to talk about what God has taught you. Be willing to share about the challenges and joys of serving Christ as one of God’s children.

 

3) young women: It’s the younger women whom the older ones must teach, and the Holy Spirit now gives the basics of what a young Christian woman must know and do. Now, He’s speaking especially to young married women, for he mentions husbands and children. If you count up the words, you notice that in this passage the Spirit gives the most instruction to the young women. They can have such a lasting impact on the church and its future!

In their training of the younger women, the older women must teach them “to love their husbands, to love their children” (v 4). The command to love your husband was understandable in that culture, because a husband wasn’t chosen by a wife, or vice versa. Marriages were usually arranged, so notions of “falling in love,” or looking for romantic love, were unknown. Love came later—it had to be learned.

And there’s still a need today for wives and husbands to learn how to love each other in a committed way. Our feelings of love can be so short-lived and weak. Love can be hard when there’s troubles in the home, or when there is financial difficulty, or time just takes its toll. In all this, a young woman must choose to love. That’s true for all of us: love takes an act of the will.

And learning love for the children is vital too. The constant work of planning and preparing meals, taking care of the house, driving here and there—yes, all the parts of a regular day—that can hardly be done if there wasn’t a love for the children. Otherwise, why would you do it? Learn to love them because these are the covenant children God has entrusted you, given so they might come to faith in Christ.

The younger women also must be “discreet,” which Paul combines with the need for being “chaste” (v 5). The point of these two words is that a younger woman must give attention to being sexually pure. And so in the clothing she wears, in the way she talks and behaves around others, a young woman who loves Christ will seek purity. With a dose of godly caution, with discretion, she can help her brothers in the faith to be pure also.

If God blesses a woman with a husband and children, she should strive to be a good “homemaker,” or as the NIV puts it, to be “busy at home” (v 5). Caring for and nurturing the children, cleaning and maintaining the household in all its many respects—there’s much to do in the home, more than I know.

It’s no surprise that our society rejects the old-fashioned idea of homemakers. But here is God’s holy truth: this is not an embarrassing chore, a waste of talent and time, but it’s an absolutely vital task. It’s in a peaceful and stable home that eternal lesson are taught. It’s a Christian home which becomes a place for things like family worship, and loving nurture, and holy fellowship. In your humble home—chaotic as it sometimes is, maybe messy, filled with broken people—children can be raised to fear the Lord and to embrace his promises. And that is something that lasts forever!

The Spirit’s last word to younger women is that they “be obedient to their husbands” (v 5). Again, what the world rejects as outdated is beautifully Biblical. As the church is subject to Christ, a wife ought to be subject to her husband. Married to a husband who fears the Lord, who leads with humility and gentleness, a woman can thank God for the good order that He has given. This order provides stability and security, and it receives God’s blessing.

The final phrase: “[Do this], so that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (v 5). Paul is thinking here about the message we send to our neighbours. Even if they don’t care what a Christian believes, they want to see how a Christian lives. And a godly family sticks out. In an age of feminism and divorce and dysfunctional families, a godly family—with a Christ-like husband, and a wife who happily fulfills her calling—such a family brings honour to God.

But if our neighbors see no difference in the lives of young Christian women (or in any of us), then the Word of God is blasphemed. Seeing our worldliness, our immorality, a nonbeliever will conclude: their doctrine is dead, so their God must also be dead. May none of us bring such dishonour to God. Instead, may we live to hallow to God’s Name wherever He’s put us.

 

4) young men: To the young men, Paul says very little. All that we must learn is “to be sober-minded” (v 6). It’s a short instruction, but comprehensive. To the young men still in school or getting their trade, or the recently married, or those with a carful of young kids, the Spirit says “Be sober-minded!” Or as another translation puts it: Be self-controlled!

Isn’t it true? Younger men need to have their desires restrained, their impulses controlled for a good purpose. A young man typically has heaps of energy and he’s ready to pour himself fully into some pursuit. There is excitement calling from every corner, adventure and fun and pleasure. Now is the time for living wild and free! But Christ says that younger brothers need to get a grip, to be sober-minded.

For many temptations lie in wait. We need God’s grace for self-control when we’re pulled toward pornography, or when we feel like drinking a few too many beers once again. And then young men need to think about what they’re giving all their enthusiasm towards. Is life really all about sport, or our four-wheel drive, or girls, or video games? Do we think soberly about these things, or do we let them consume us? Do we have any time and energy left for God’s Word and his Kingdom? That’s where real life is.

We said before that self-control isn’t an end in itself. Being sober-minded is about being ready to serve God with your whole heart and soul. And you need to be sober-minded if you will grow up into a godly leader, one who can lead your family and lead in the church. Brothers, let us learn to control ourselves in every respect so that we can be good soldiers of Christ. Fall into line with his Spirit, that He may use all your energy and strength for his kingdom.

 

5) the teacher: Finally, Paul has words for Titus, starting with the phrase, “showing yourself to be a pattern of good works” (v 7). Titus was a valuable co-worker in the gospel. When Paul went on his third missionary journey, Titus joined him. When Paul wanted a collection to be taken, he let Titus take care of it. It was Titus who first preached with Paul on Crete. And after his mission there, we know that Titus journeyed elsewhere to keep preaching the gospel. This was one hard-working minister of the Lord!

Paul tells him to “be a pattern of good works.” A pastor must always be concerned about his image—not for vanity, but for the example he sets. His words will never be effective if his teaching doesn’t get shown in his life.

So Titus must show “integrity” (v 7). That is, a teacher of God’s people must be completely devoted to his work, without any desire for financial gain or praise. He must also be “reverent” (v 8), bringing the Word in a way that honours the holy God who gave it. And in speech, a preacher must be “incorruptible” and “sound” (v 8). They must be God’s words that come from his mouth as he holds fast to the truth.

This is this way that people who oppose God’s Word will be ashamed. For when we live faithfully, the wicked will “have nothing evil to say” (v 8). Falsehood can never overcome the Truth. When you hold onto the Truth, and you put it into practice, it might take a while, but God’s enemies will always need to fall silent.

Paul’s words for Pastor Titus underline the truth for all of us, that the sound teaching of God’s Word must be our life. For the time ahead, for our many and varied tasks, for our life together as congregation, it is Christ’s Word and Spirit that must shape us.

So take it with you—whether you’re an older man, an older woman, a young woman or a young man, a child or an office bearer. Let God’s Word fill you and move you. May it be said of us, “Those are people who really know what the Bible teaches. And they also put it into practice.”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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