Let's Talk Week 3: Guardians of the Galaxy
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, the darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
“And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day. And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse...’”
“And there was evening, and there was morning — the second day.”
“God called the dry land ‘earth,’ and the waters that were gathered together he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good.”
“And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day.”
Eric: That’s awesome, man. Hey, before we go any further, I just wanted to say a second thanks to Gabriel for being here today. This is his first time. We’ve been trying to get him here for months, so this is pretty awesome that you’re actually here and you get to read with us. I just wanted to touch base on your interpretation of the creation narrative. I know that there’s a lot of people who have different ideas for the interpretation of days, so can we talk about that before we go any further?
Andy: Yeah. I think that’s really good, Eric. I know a lot of the pastors I’ve heard, that I really respect, they kind of hold to a more poetic view of this passage, believing that a day might be not exactly what we interpret as a day.
Eric: That’s interesting, too.
Daniel: Hold on, guys. Hold on. Hold on. This is ridiculous. It says, very clearly in the Holy Bible — especially when you’re reading the correct translation, which is the King James Version. Not whatever versions you guys are reading. It says here, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” First day. Day. What is a day? A day is 24 hours. It says...
Andy: But Daniel...
Daniel: Hold on. No, no. Hold on. It says, “Morning,” and it says, “Night.” That’s a whole day. Twenty-four hours. It couldn’t be misconstrued in any way.
Eric: Whoa. Daniel. This is Gabriel’s first time here.
Daniel: All the better. He needs to know the truth; the whole truth of the Word of God. If he doesn’t know the whole truth, how can he accept it all? And if he can’t accept it all, then how could he be a Christian? That’s the problem with this lukewarm Christian society. You are not a Christian if you believe this poetic stuff. You are not a Christian if you believe this poetic stuff. It’s ridiculous. I can’t even imagine how you would come to this. It says it so clearly here in the Scriptures. Day.
Narrator: Pause. Sometimes we forget how powerful words really are, so let’s dialogue. Let’s unpack this together. Let’s talk.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. Can we give it up for our creative team? They do a good job, don’t they? Most of you all are laughing, but there’s probably somebody out there right now going, “Oh, my gosh. The King James is the only translation.” You know? But listen, here’s the reality: I think we all know — and I think we can just own this — from time to time this is what people sort of think of us when they think of Christians. Or maybe you’ve seen it, maybe you’ve been one, or maybe you’ve been that person that just feels like it is their job to tell everybody what’s right and what’s wrong. You’re sort of the guardian of the galaxy. You know? It’s just like your job.
So, what I want to do, since we’re in a series called “Let’s Talk” and we’re talking about the power of our words and how those things matter, I thought rather than me just sort of talking as a pastor about why we shouldn’t do those types of things because they don’t really help our witness very well, I thought what I would do is I would take us through an entire epistle this morning. We’re going to work through an entire epistle. I mean, literally, you’re going to be able to read an entire epistle with me today. We’re going to go through it, and then you’re going to be able to go home and read it for yourself. But I thought, working through that, we would be able to deal with almost all of these things that we’re hearing here, and people that sort of feel the need to tell everybody what’s true, pull people aside, deal with stuff and all that stuff. I just felt it’d be better just to let the Word of God speak to us rather than me trying to give you my opinions or my ideas about those things.
So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at an epistle. Some of you may not even know that it’s in the Bible. You may not even have heard of it. It’s one that gets very little love, very little preaching on it. But it’s an epistle called Titus. Titus is an interesting epistle because it falls — in the academic and scholarship world, we have what are called the “pastoral epistles,” and there’s three of them. There’s 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus. These three epistles are the only epistles in the New Testament that were not written to the Church. They were written to an individual. They were written to a person, which makes it interesting when we have to do hermeneutical interpretation. Since it’s written to a person, we need to figure out, “Am I that person or am I supposed to understand about the person that that is?” How does that work for you and me?
So, we’re going to have some work to do in reading this epistle, but it was written by Paul to Titus at the latter part of Paul’s life. Paul had really understood a lot because he’d gone through a lot of things in his life dealing with the Church. And most of the New Testament, if read correctly, really is a progression of how the Church sort of became what it became and how it did what it did. At different times, you see that they were doing different things. It starts to sort of unfold as we get toward the latter part of the Pauline epistles to sort of see what Paul’s real view of the Church is. Because, early on, if you read 1 Corinthians 14, Paul had this great idea that when the Church came together, if you had a song, a hymn, a revelation or a word, as long as everybody sort of took place in decency and order, it was all good. This is the way the Church works.
By the end of Paul’s life, he’s going, “That wasn’t really a good plan at all because it didn’t work in Corinth. So, let me sort of tell you what you need to do.” You can see these progressions. I mean, even the early Church, they were like, “What do we do with Gentiles? I don’t know.” Then, by Acts 15, they’re like, “Well, maybe we’ll bring them in, but they can’t do this.” You see how the Church is sort of unfolding as the Spirit’s unfolding the Church. So, by the end of Paul’s life, he’s got it dialed in. Paul is convinced that when the Church gets together, it’s to get equipped so that you can understand who you’re supposed to be as a Christian, and so that you can go out into the world and do what he calls good works. And good works are things where people see in our lives what God has done in such a way that they ask us why we’re doing the things that we’re doing so that we can tell them about Jesus. You’ll see as we go through this epistle that this is the case.
So, here’s the background: Titus is on an island. It’s called Crete. Crete is off the coast of Greece. It’s a small island. People that were in Crete were known all throughout antiquity for being sort of a real wild group of people. In fact, their own poets wrote poems about how bad they were. A bunch of liars, brutes, cheaters and all this stuff. So, Paul and Titus has gone and planted a church in Crete and the different cities on the island. So, Paul had left and now Paul is writing to Titus a letter. He’s got to do this because there are people in the Church, that we’re going to learn as we go through this epistle, that feel like it’s their job to pull people aside and tell them all the intricacies of all the stuff, all the details, argue about issues and argue about this stuff.
Paul says, “Hey, time out. That’s not helping the Church. When we come together for the Church, we need to understand who we are in Jesus, what God’s called us to do, and then we need to go out as soon as we leave and be these people that do great things in society.
So, we’re going to read these things as we go through Titus. I’m going to let the Word of God speak to you and me rather than me doing it on my own. So, let’s get started. It starts off at the very beginning, in Titus 1, where Paul says, “Hey, listen, here’s what I want you to do: I want to make sure that the people of God...” — he calls them the “elect;” the Church — “...really understands the knowledge that God has for them. I’m writing to you, Titus. Here’s what I want.”
“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order,”
“So, Titus, I’m trusting you. You’re my guy that’s over the island. What I want you to do is I want you to get people in different cities that understand what to do so that we understand how this thing is. I’m going to teach you and show you what I expect in a local church. I want you to put things into order. The reason you need to put things into order is because there’s a group of people...” — that Paul’s very aware of. He calls them “they.” He doesn’t name them by names. A lot of times in the New Testament they don’t name people by name because that sort of would be insulting. He calls them “they.”
“They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”
In other words, they’re pulling people away and actually upsetting all families. They’re going into their house and they’re telling them things. And we’re going to figure out what they’re telling them later on. It’s at the end of the epistle, but right now he’s just addressing him. He’s saying, “Hey, listen, there are some people that are teaching things that they shouldn’t be teaching.”
He says, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.”
So, the things that they’re doing don’t really make for someone that really is following God. He’s not saying they’re absolutely not Christians. He’s just saying they surely don’t look like it right now because what they’re doing is not good.
He says, “They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”
Now, when you’re reading Titus, this phrase, “good work,” is going to appear over and over and over and over again as we go through this text. You’re going to see this idea that Paul really believes when we come together for church that we learn about what God wants us to be so that we can go do it in the communities in which we live in.
He says, “These are these people, they.” Right there as Titus 1 ends, Titus 2 begins. Oftentimes, we just sort of read chapters and not consecutively. So, what Paul does is he says, “These people, they, are doing this.
“But as for you,”
This is Titus. “You’re not like these guys that are pulling people aside and teaching all this stuff. We’ll get to that in a minute. But don’t do that.
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”
And the word “sound,” we get our word “hygiene” from that word in the Greek. It’s a healthy doctrine. And I want to just make a note here. This is really important because I hear Christians all the time saying, “It’s my job to go teach people sound doctrine.” Hermeneutically speaking, this is being written to a leader that it’s his job to do the sound doctrine. So, just think through this as we read these things as to what’s you, what’s others and how all this works out biblically because we sometimes confuse, when we’re reading these things, who they were to, what were they written for, and what should I be getting out of this?
He says, “But as for you, Titus, the leader over the whole Island of Crete, I want you to teach sound doctrine.” And then comes the question: What is sound doctrine? For most people, they think, “Well, that would be theology. Getting this right and that right. Sound doctrine. Isn’t that ecclesiology, eschatology and soteriology? The ordo salutis? Foreknowledge, predestination, calling, election, justification, glorification? Don’t we understand the order of salvation is regeneration before repentance, or is repentance before regeneration? When we’re looking about incipient Gnosticism in the Johannine epistles in contrast to the realized eschatology of the Corinthian correspondents, isn’t that sound doctrine? Isn’t that confessions, catechisms or whatever else?”
No. It’s interesting what Paul considers to be sound doctrine. He’s going to tell you right next. Sound doctrine to Paul is teaching people in the Church what they should be like, as Christians, so that they can go live it in the world. That’s sound doctrine. It’s not an intellectual capacity, trying to figure out all the nuances of who were the sons of God in Genesis 6, did Adam have a belly button and all of this stuff that we argue about, debate about and all of these things.
He says, “What I want you to do is teach sound doctrine.” And then what he does is he does that. He says, “Older men, older women, young women, young men and bond servants.” As he goes through Titus 2, he lists this group of people. He says, “Listen, the older men, here’s what I want. Younger men, this is what I want. Younger women, here’s what I want. This is what I want.”
Just sort of placed within each of these as he’s saying, “Let’s be these people. Because we’re Christians, let’s live this thing out because this is who we are.” He says, “There’s a reason why we should be living this out.”
Titus 2:5: “That the word of God may not be reviled.”
That’s by those on the outside of the Church. In other words, we’re living a life that is consistent with who we are in Christ so that we don’t say things and then go live something differently out in the world because we don’t want the Word of God to be reviled.
In Titus 2:8 he says, “So that an opponent may be put to shame,”
That they can’t even say anything bad about you and me. In other words, sound doctrine is learning about who we are in Jesus, learning about what God wants for you and me, and then living it in the world. He says, “Adorn the doctrine of God. Make sure that we live this thing out. Make sure that as you teach the people, Titus, that you’re teaching them something that’s practical. Not just something intellectual. Not something that goes off and we’re trying to argue about all these things. Make sure they understand what’s happened.”
Here’s the reason. Teach sound doctrine to these people. For. This is the “for.” This is the reason.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,”
The reason we’re so meticulous about this, Titus, the reason we want to make sure that our doctrine is sound, that it leads people to live the life that God has called them to lead is because grace 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,”
“See, Titus? Jesus has come. The grace that’s come not only meets us where we are, it doesn’t leave us where we are. It changes us. There’s a transformation in you and me.”
And what we want to do is we want to preach sound doctrine, not all this arguing and stuff, which he’s going to get to in a minute in Titus 3. He says, “We don’t want to do that. We don’t pull people aside and mess them up. We want to stay on task. The job of the Church is to equip the saints so they can go work the ministry. Equip the saints so they know what they’re supposed to do so that they can go out and do good works in society.”
And the reason we know that is because the grace of God has appeared, and it has brought salvation to everybody. And we know that what it does is it trains you and me to reject worldly passions, to reject the way we used to live and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
“Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
He says, “Here’s the deal, Titus: We live between the appearing of grace and the appearing of God’s glory. We live in between these times. In between these times, we have been being trained to live godly, righteous lives in this present age while we wait for the return of the Lord. We’re on task. We’re at business.”
I just want to say one thing here that’s important textually for you to see. He says, “The glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” I think this is really important because people ask these questions all the time. Paul, without question, not mincing any words, is absolutely, in this text, calling Jesus our great God and Savior. He’s calling Him God. So, “Knock, knock. It’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Jesus isn’t God.” You can say, “No, Titus 2:13. He is God.” I just want to help you out there with your Bible so that you understand what’s going on here.
“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 do purify for himself a people for his own possession...” — listen — “...who are zealous for good works.”
He says, “Titus, I want you to put things in order. I’ve got some people that are detracting from the Church. I’m sort of getting old. I’m probably going to die soon. I want to make sure the Church goes on. I want to make sure that I’ve poured into you and Timothy. I want to make sure that you understand how this thing’s going to work. I’m pouring it into you. I want you to lead. I want you to guide. I want you to set in order the things that need to be set in order on this island. And I want to make sure that you understand there’s people that are detracting. That’s not for you. You keep preaching sound doctrine. You keep preaching things that help people to become who they are in Christ so that they can live this thing out because Jesus has come and His grace has come and He’s trained us to renounce all the things that are ungodly, to live godly lives in this present age while we wait for Him because He gave Himself for us, those that are following Him, so that He could have a people who are zealous for good works; that really want to get out in the world and do the things that God has called them to do.”
Now, listen to what he says here because this is important. He says, “Declare these things.”
Don’t just sort of talk about them. Declare them.
“Exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
You tell your people this is where we’re at. We’re not going to go over here and mess people up and get all in arguments, debates and all of these things. We’re going to stay focused as a church. We’re going to do the things, read the things, become the things and hear the things that God has for us. And then, when we leave, we’re going to be people that are zealous for good works, to go out in a community and live the Gospel life.
He says, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
He says, “Remind them...”
In other words, they should know this because they’ve been taught.
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every...” — look — “...good work,”
You say, “I don’t like my rulers and my leaders. I only like the ones that I like. The other ones, I don’t like. I’m going to tell everybody that I don’t like them.”
No. He says, “Listen, bottom line is we’re in this thing for the long haul. We’re in this thing to lead people to Jesus. What we’re going to do is we’re going to be submissive to those that God has put over us,” which could be your boss, it could be somebody in your life, it could be anybody. And he says, “Be obedient.” Be after it so that when people go, “Man, you’re actually a good employee. You’re on it. Why?” So that you can be ready for every good work. Because when you’re not obedient and when you’re ripping people and when you’re saying bad things about people, you’re not going to be ready for every good work because nobody’s going to want to hear what you have to say in the first place.
Listen to what he says here: “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,”
“I want to speak evil of that person that I don’t like. I want to tell everybody on Facebook that I don’t like them.”
Speak evil of no one. Why? Because when you speak evil of someone, then what you’ve done is 50% of your friends don’t like you anymore. Speak evil of no one. Why? Because we want to be people of good works. We want to be people that let people know about Jesus. Speak evil of no one.
Listen: “Avoid quarreling,”
“Well, I like to quarrel.”
Well, you may, but Paul says avoid it. It doesn’t help any. It doesn’t help the mission of the Church to quarrel.
“I don’t want to be gentle.”
Okay. Well, be gentle.
He says, “And show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
Why? Why would I do all that to all people? Why would I speak evil of no one? Why would I be gentle? Why would I be kind? Why would I show perfect courtesy to all people? Because Jesus came and died for all people. It’s our witness that’s at stake here. We get caught up in the things of the world, we get caught up in the things that we say, the things that we bicker about and all this stuff. He says, “Don’t do those things. Live this thing out.”
He says, “I get it. I know.” Paul knows, as he’s writing this, that there’s going to be that, “Yeah, but, you know. Yeah, but, you know. Yeah, but, you know. Yeah, I hear that, but there’s got to be a time.”
He says, “No, listen.
“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.”
You know, when you start to go, “Yeah, but I don’t want to be gentle to everybody. I want to get somebody back. I don’t want to hear that from Pastor Chip. I don’t want to hear that I’ve got to watch my mouth. I want to say what I want to do.”
Paul says, “Okay, do you know what? That’s what you once were. You once could just do whatever you wanted to do and act however you wanted to act.” If that’s where you’re at, then you need to ask the question, “Did I ever really, truly understand what God has done for me? Did I receive His grace?” Because that’s what you would’ve once been if you truly are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We’re not this thing anymore. He says, “We once were this way.”
He says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,” — nothing we could’ve done to earn it — “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,”
And just so that you want to see something here, I’ll show you real quickly here. God, Holy Spirit, Jesus. The Trinity was involved in your salvation.
“So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
So, what he says is, “I know I just gave you a mouthful. Be submissive and obedient. Be kind and ready for every good work. Don’t speak evil of anybody. Don’t quarrel and all that. You’re going, ‘Oh, man. There are times and places where I just feel like I want to get it.’”
He says, “You once did whatever you wanted to do. Doing whatever you wanted to do, living however you wanted to live, hating on people and saying things about people. That’s what you were. But when the goodness of God appeared and saved us not because of works, but according to His mercy, so that being justified by His grace we could be heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Then listen to what he says as he’s just dumped that really great understanding on us.
He says, “The saying is trustworthy,”
“What I just told you 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.”
“That’s what I want, Titus. I want your people to understand, when they come in, what God wants, what God has said. And we’re no longer doing our own thing. We’ve decided that Jesus is not just our Savior. He’s also our Lord. So, we’re going to do the things that He’s asked us to do. We’re going to be people that are dedicated and devoted to these good works. We’re going to make sure that we watch the tongue that we have, the way that we do things because this is important.”
He says, “These things...”
“These things,” grammatically, refer to the good works.
“[Good works] are excellent and profitable for people.”
They’re profitable for you when you do them and they’re profitable for those that receive them. Now, listen, this is huge. This is why I sort of stay with the Bible and let it speak rather than me, because I really want you all to like me. Get mad at Paul, not Chip. Okay? Here’s what he says.
“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
Good works are excellent and profitable, but arguing about things — and listen, I just want to say this. Those that are listening via the internet and mobile app, and you all that are here, just please listen to me here. Understand my heart. I’m a systematic theology teacher. When I teach systematic theology, I always tell everybody, “These are complex issues. Theology should be humbling.” My students readily intuit that when we’re done with these classes. They go, “This is really complex stuff.” Listen to me. Whatever side of whatever issue that you are on, will you just please be open and humble enough to realize that you really don’t have all the data to really be as assured about what you think about believe about those things as you think you do? You don’t know those people. You don’t know them personally. You just know what the echo chamber that you listen to on whatever side tells you about the other people so that you can believe. The bottom line is we are Christians. We are not one side or the other. We are people that follow Jesus. We don’t get bogged down on the left or the right. What we do is we follow Jesus.
All the foolish things and the controversies that we argue about, and all the things that we get all bent out of shape about — you know, you hear it all the time. Have you ever met End Times Ernie in church? He’s the one that’s got to tell you everything about the book of Revelation, what the crowns and the horns and everything are all about. He’ll say, “Man, it’s really clear.”
Listen, I’ve got three master’s degrees and two doctorates. The book of Revelation is not clear. Okay? It’s not clear. I don’t care what anybody says. They’ve been arguing about that book for 2,000 years. You don’t have the interpretation of it. I can assure you of that. It’s a foolish controversy.
Have you met Political Paul? He wants to tell you everything about politics like he knows these people, like he eats with them on a regular basis, knows everything that they think or believe. Politicians lie. That’s what they do. They lie. That’s how they get to what they do. Stop following all of that garbage and let’s start being Christians. My goodness. It’s just controversy after controversy after controversy. Let’s talk about Christ rather than controversies. You know?
And then you’ve got people that are conspiracy theorists. They go, “Oh, if you really knew what’s going on. You know that church, Grace Community Church? The pastor is an alien from Area 51. That’s why he goes through all the Bible and tells you all this. He shouldn’t be telling you good stories and making you laugh.”
So, foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about Scripture and all this stuff. He says, “Stop it.” Now, listen, I didn’t say the next two verses. Paul did. Okay? They’re rough. They’re rough.
He says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,”
I love you all. Y’all can love me. It’s that Paul. Paul. He is a scoundrel, isn’t he?
“As for a person who stirs up division, Titus, get him in church, tell them what Jesus has done and send them out to do good works. It’s real simple. Let’s not get it bogged down. I had it bogged down in the latter part of my life. I get it here. This is what we’re going to do. Anybody who’s creating divisions on any of this stuff, pulling people aside and trying to argue about all this stuff, just tell them to stop it. If they don’t listen to you, tell them again. Just tell them, ‘Bye, Felicia.’ Have nothing more to do with them. Okay?”
Then this next one is really rough.
He says, “Knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
That’s tough. That’s why I just decided to let the Bible speak rather than me get up here and try to tell you whatever. Just let it speak. You all can take it for what it is and understand what it says. That’s all I’m trying to do. No agenda here other than I just want to see Jesus lifted up in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton. I want us to live out the things that God has for you and me. No other agenda. None at all. So, let’s talk about it for a second. I’ve got a few things I want to say, then we’ll get out of here.
First of all, and this is really important to me and really important that we all understand this: Grace is a two-sided coin. Unfortunately, grace just gets sort of disseminated with one end or the other. It’s either just say a prayer, whatever and you’re good, it doesn’t make a difference what you do, it doesn’t make a difference how you live, God’s got you covered, it’s all good, it’s all easy and whatever. Then you’ve got people over here going, “You’ve got to work, work, work, work, work. You’ve got to jump through the hoops and maybe God will love you. He might not love you.”
This is what you hear. They’re like, “Oh, yeah. God saved you, but if you don’t get it all right and run the hill every day and do all this, pray 19 hours and read Scripture for 45 minutes and all this stuff, then you’re not in anymore.”
You know? Neither one of those things are right. The bottom line is this: Jesus didn’t come to just simply save us. He came for that reason, but He also came to change you and me. It’s a two-sided coin. Grace meets you and me where we are. There’s nothing that we could do. You don’t have to clean up to come to God. You don’t have to get it right to come to God. It meets you where you are, right there in the middle of sin, depravity and all of that stuff. It meets you there, loves you where you’re at and all of those great things.
But it doesn’t leave you there. He wants to create in us a new creation. He wants us to be different than we were before. I always say you may not even be better than your neighbor, but you’ll be better than you were before you met Jesus. That’s what we want to talk about just for a minute. Grace is a two-sided coin.
Second, and this may be a revelation for some people: The respect of the wider community in which a church finds itself is to be prized. I don’t know why in America we’ve got this idea that we’ve got to shun everybody out when Jesus is the one that’s going and meeting with everybody. If you read the New Testament epistles — read them — it doesn’t say go out there and cause war with people in the community. It doesn’t say, “Go out there and yell and scream and them.” It says, “Use nice words. Be gentle. Do the things that are good.” You should want the community to love the church. And some of you are going to go, “Yeah, but persecution and whatever.”
Listen, the Bible is very clear that if we’re persecuted for preaching the Gospel, that’s okay. If we’re persecuted for Jesus’ namesake, that’s okay. But if you think you’re being persecuted because you’re standing on some issue that other people don’t agree with you on and you go, “Oh, I’m being persecuted,” no. You’re creating that misery for yourself. That’s your own stuff. If they tell us at the end of December, “You guys can’t do Christmas on Main anymore because we don’t want you up there telling people about Jesus,” I can live with that. What I can’t live with is, “You guys can’t come back because 18 of your people had found someday and they were yelling at him, ‘Turn or burn. Get right or get left. Eat the bread of life or you’re toast,’” or whatever it is that people would say, “and we don’t want that going on.”
“Oh, the world’s getting me.”
Listen, can I just be honest with you? If you think that you are under some severe persecution in America as a Christian, let me wake you up: Five times every weekend I get to get up here and talk about Jesus in every way that I want to talk about Jesus, and I never even question whether or not somebody’s going to come in here and shut me down. I get to go to Lakewood Ranch, and we get to go to Lakewood Ranch and preach the Gospel. We live in a very, very, very small arena of persecution. Don’t let the people on TV push fear on you. We live in an arena where we should be out there doing everything that we can to let the communities out there know how great Jesus is instead of hunkering down like, “They’re coming to get us.”
Let me tell you something: When they come in and shoot me and lop my head off, then we’ve got persecution going on. You know? And when my head’s there, right before I do, I’ll say, “Okay, that was persecution.”
We should prize this. He says, “The word of God may not be reviled, an opponent may be put to shame. Adorn the doctrine.” This is all for the outsiders, that they should look at us and go, “Man, these people are good. They’re doing good works.”
That’s Acts 2. What does it say? It says, “They sold everything, distributed everything and they had favor with the people. Because they had favor with the people, God was adding to the church daily those who were being saved.” I don’t know where we get this thing wrong. People out there in Lakewood Ranch, if we disappeared, they should be like, “Man, where did they go? Those were really good people. Those were great people.”
What you do is you win when you have the opportunity, when you are people that are zealous for good works, you can say what James Dunn, one of the great New Testament scholars says: “It is divine grace expressed in the quality of basic human relationships that will be the most effective witness to the character of God’s saving purpose.”
See? You win. You win when people go, “Why did you all do this?” Because of Jesus. See? They want to hear that. When you’re like, “Don’t do that, don’t do this. You’re going to hell. You’re wrong. King James only.” Whatever it may be. All that stuff, you just push people away. Let’s not be those people.
And here’s the last one. This is one to take home. Good works are greater than being right. I know some people are out there going, “No, no. You’ve got to be right because if you’re wrong, then the good works that you do might not be right. So, you’ve got to be right before...”
No. Listen to me. I didn’t say the Gospel was less than good works. The Gospel is what we preach. We’re not guardians of the galaxy. We’re proclaimers of the Gospel. But good works will always trump being right. They always will because they’re excellent and profitable for people. That’s what Paul says to Titus.
Here’s the reality: Doing good in a community is better than being right on every issue because, listen to me and hear my heart here, if you could get everybody at your place of work to agree with you on every little theological issue, every little political issue, every little social issue, they’re still lost. They’re still lost. Do you want to spend all that time arguing with people for those things or do we want to be people that are out doing good works so that we have a place where people ask us why we do the things that we do so that we can tell them about Jesus? That’s the message. He’s the message. He’s the message.
How does Paul end it? He says, “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.”
Then he says to greet so-and-so, and grace to you. That’s the way he ends the epistle. You’ve read the entire epistle. So, here’s what I would say. When you’re out in the world, tip the waitress better. Don’t leave her a track. “I didn’t leave you any money because I don’t want you to succumb to the [unsure] of the world. I want you to know Jesus.”
No. A waitress is looking for a tip. When you don’t tip them, your witness goes down really bad. Tip them. When you’re in the store and it’s busy and you see a woman with a bunch of kids — it’d probably be my wife — in line, let them go first. When you’re at the gas station, if you can, when you see somebody with a car that you know they’re probably struggling, say, “Hey, can I fill the tank up for you?” At the cooler at work, rather than talking about the boss, say, “You know what? None of us know what that guy or girl’s going through. Have you been to lunch with them lately?”
“How do you know?”
“Well, I just know.”
“No. We don’t know. Do you know what we need to do? We need to support him. We need to pray for him.”
Do you know what your boss is going to do? Your boss is going to promote you. Your boss is going to say, “Man, thank you for being for me.” Then he’s going to say, “Why did you do that?”
“Let me tell you about Jesus.”
It’s not that difficult. We make it difficult. We want to pull people aside, “Let me tell you about this. Let me tell you about this issue. Let me tell you about that. Let me tell you about this.”
No. Listen. If we would just come here and really understand who Jesus is and then go out and do the things that God’s called us to do, we’ll be great. And let me brag on you. I’ve bragged on all the services and I’ll brag on the next one, too. We’re doing a great job, folks, at doing this in this community. We really are. You should be proud of yourself and proud of your church. We really are doing great things here. But let’s not get distracted, let’s not get caught up in the moment, let’s not get caught up in between right now and something going on in early November where everybody gets real distracted, fired up and arguing and wrangling or whatever. That’s not going to save the world and that’s not going to lose the world. The person that we need to be telling people about is Jesus. Don’t get distracted. Don’t get pulled down into the quarrels and the foolish controversies and all of those things. Let’s make sure that we teach and preach Jesus.
So, there you go. Now you can go home, read Titus and go, “Wow. I sort of know what’s going on. All three chapters.” We heard what Scripture says. We can all digest that personally, how that works for us, and then we can walk out of here and let’s go do something great today. If you’re at a gas station, a restaurant or whatever, let’s go out and be Christians. Let’s just be people that do good works and love on people so that when they ask us why, we can tell them why. His name is Jesus. And I’ll tell you what, we live that we and we’re going to make a difference in this community. And I do. I think there’s really going to be something great that happens in Lakewood Ranch over the next several years. I believe God’s going to just drop a bomb on this place. I think a large portion is going to be because of what this church is doing to sow seeds into this community to see God work.
So, let’s bow our heads. Amen. The Lord’s good. Amen. We’re doing good stuff. Let’s bow our heads and let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. Thank You, Lord, that we can just read Your Word publicly and it just reads our mail. I mean, it’s like it was written last night to all of us. Lord, I just pray that we would digest it, that we wouldn’t just be hearers only, but we would be people that actually are doers of Your Word, that we really would take into account what Paul told Titus, and really try to live the things out that are important.
Lord, help us to be that church. We want to be the church, Lord, that understands what You’ve done for us, and then we want to go live it in the community for Your glory and for Your honor. Lord, we thank You for such a time as this. We thank You for being a part of something that You’re doing here that’s obviously supernatural and ordained by You. So, Lord, we just want to walk in it and we just want to be what You’ve called us to be for Your glory.
And, Lord, at the end of the day, we just want to be that church that shines so bright that it makes it really difficult for anybody to choose anything other than Jesus in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton. So, Lord, we love You, we thank You, we praise You. We ask that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us. Bring us back safely to when we meet again. Lord, I just pray that You would continue to keep us focused as to what You’ve called us to be, and that’s the church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We love You, we praise You and we honor You. In Jesus’ name, and all of God’s people said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.