The First Priority-Part Two
Scripture: Titus 1:5–9
The First Priority-Part TwoTitus 1:5-9
Sunday, October 1, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith
Today's message is part two of a sermon I delivered 14 days ago. During that message we covered the need for leadership in the church. This conclusion, though quite logical, comes directly from our present study in the Book of Titus.
You will remember that Paul and Titus ministered together planting churches on the Mediterranean island of Crete. Paul departed and sent a letter to his spiritual son in the faith outlining his ministry objectives. In verse 5 of chapter 1 we read the following: "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you." Titus' objective was to further the organization and development of the churches primarily through the appointment of leaders, or in this case, elders. And to ensure that the right men were affirmed for these positions, Paul spends verses 6, 7, 8 and 9 outlining the qualifications.
As promised, this morning we will look at the specific qualifications. But before we do that I would like to make a few comments by way of review.
First, with the exception of being able to handle the Scriptures (verse 9), all these qualifications deal with an individual's character. Though many churches employ worldly standards when they select leaders, the Scriptures are emphatic that God puts Christlikeness above education, talents, charisma, experience, wit and popularity. God is looking for people who lead through example; men who don't undo with their lives what they say with their lips.
Second, though the standard for leadership is high and specific character traits are given, the expectation is not perfection. That is why Jesus Christ is the ultimate Shepherd of the church and elders are commonly referred to as undershepherds. The church belongs to Jesus Christ. We are simply stewards of God's household according to verse 7. We sin. We make mistakes. Perfection can only be expected from God alone. What God expects from leaders is an "above reproach" (NASB) or "blameless" (NIV) lifestyle according to verses 6 and 7. Here is the question: Is the leader identified or characterized by a lifestyle contrary to the qualifications mentioned?
Third, we must remember that each of these character traits apply not only to leaders, but also everyone that professes the name of Jesus Christ. These traits are not listed for the congregation to live as they please while they size up the elder board from the sidelines. All of us as God's children are to be on the playing field as we are each called to progressively grow in Christlikeness through the power of the Holy Spirit. Each of us should aim to be "above reproach" in these qualifications. Paul is only telling Titus to make sure those whom he appoints to office are among those individuals.
I believe this thought transitions well into the next, regarding what I would like to do this morning.
I welcome accountability. I say that to each and every one of you. I have blind spots that are more detectable to others. I am as susceptible to self-deception as you are. Therefore I welcome your feedback because growing in these traits means growing in Christlikeness. And growing in Christlikeness is the number one goal God has placed on my heart. That is also why I frequently review this list in prayer, along with the parallel list from First Timothy 3, to continually examine myself according to God's requirements.
That is my aspiration. But I ask you: Should yours be any different? Does God have a different set of standards for you? Do you welcome accountability? Do you wish to grow in these areas of character? Do you want to mature in Christ?
This morning is Communion Sunday. According to Scripture, this day is to be a time of self-examination (1 Cor. 11:28a). We are to examine the reality of our communion with other believers. If we are out of fellowship with another believer, we are out of fellowship with God according to Matthew 5:23-24. Also we are to directly examine our communion with God. If we are in unrepentant sin, our communion with God is also broken. In other words, we should not eat and drink the elements that symbolize communion when the reality of communion with Christ and His body fails to exist. That is what Paul meant when he said, "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner… eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly" (1 Cor. 11:27, 29).
Pulling all these thoughts together, therefore, as we prepare our hearts for Communion and we providentially have these character traits before us this morning, let us engage in a corporate time of self-examination.
Remember, God's desire for you to manifest these traits is no greater than His desire for me as your pastor to manifest them. Sure, failure on my part could disqualify me from office and create greater destruction for the church, but all of us as Christians should equally aspire to make progress in this area. After all, isn't progress in and desire for holiness affirmation that we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit? Should elders pursue Christlikeness just to retain their office or should we all pursue Christlikeness to be found pleasing and more useful to the Master?
So with all these comments as a backdrop, I would like to spend the remainder of our time completing a self-evaluation based on the character traits that define mature Christian living. Though I hope you are able to read between the lines and see how essential these traits are for your elders, my primary goal this morning is to make this list applicable to each of us who claim the name of Christ.
Today we began Sunday school. This lesson will proceed more in that format than a sermon. I will define each trait and then provide some specific and general thoughts in the form of a question that will assist you in your personal analysis. The evaluation sheet is located in your bulletin. Circling a one indicates that you have much from for growth whereas a five designates a large degree of satisfaction in that particular area.
Are you ready? Let's begin!
The General Qualification
First is the general qualification that is mentioned first and even included twice in Titus 1. It is the term entitled, "above reproach" (NASB) or "blameless" (NIV). As I mentioned earlier, this is an all-embracing, overarching quality that should mark every believer.
So I ask you…
- Is there anything that identifies your life that is contrary to the character of Jesus Christ?
- Do you have a clean moral and spiritual reputation?
- Can others discredit your Christian testimony?
- Are people at work surprised when you claim the name of Christ?
- Do you stand out from unbelievers?
- Do you find yourself being confronted repeatedly for the same sin by a variety of people?
- In a general way, are you able to lead by example?
Following are two domestic qualifications found in verse 6. For an elder, a man's home life with his wife and children reveal a great deal about his character and ability to lead. In First Timothy 3:5 we read, "If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?"
The first qualification deals with our relationship with our spouse. The text literally reads that elders must be "one women men." As you will see, many of these questions apply to single people as well.
- Are you faithfully devoted to a monogamous marriage?
- Do you seek to love and serve and cherish your spouse above all except Christ?
- Do you have eyes for your marriage partner alone?
- Is your thought life pure?
- Do you have the reputation of being a flirt?
- Are you emotionally or physically getting too close with someone of the opposite sex?
The second domestic qualification deals with the conduct of our children.
- Generally speaking, are your children submissive, trustworthy, dependable and obedient?
- Do they honor their parents?
- Do they have a reputation for being disorderly, disrespectful and rebellious, especially to others in authority?
- Do they give evidence of the parent's instruction, discipline and love?
As we move to verses 7 and 8 we find Paul listing specific character traits. Verse 7 lists 5 traits spoken of in the negative followed by verse 8 where we observe 6 traits spoken of in the positive.
First, the child of God must not be self-willed.
- Are you the type of person that always has to have it your way?
- Do you pout and moan when you need to play by another's ideas or rules?
- Are you stubborn, arrogant or inconsiderate of another's opinions, feelings or desires?
- Are you a team player or a lone ranger?
- Do you breed a general unwillingness to submit to the authority God has placed in your life?
- Can you take "no" for an answer?
- Do your personal goals take precedence over God's glory and the greater good for the whole?
Second, we must not be quick-tempered.
- Are you known as one who is short-fused or prone to anger?
- Do people need to "walk on eggshells" when in your company?
- Have you ever been referred to as a "walking time bomb?"
- Are you in control of your emotions?
- Are you relentless in your personal attacks?
- Is there unrepentant anger in your heart often displayed in sudden outbursts of ugly words, explosive tones and crude body language?
Third, the Christian must not be addicted to wine. Literally it could be translated, "not alongside wine."
- Are you preoccupied or overindulgent with alcohol?
- Are you viewed as a drunkard or heavy drinker or lover of liquor?
- Does alcohol damage your testimony or example for Christ in any way?
- Generally, is there any substance of addiction that controls your body beyond the Holy Spirit?
Fourth, we must not be pugnacious. This comes from the Greek verb "to strike" and is translated elsewhere as "violent."
- Are you known as a fighter or brawler either through physical or verbal assaults?
- Do you enjoy faultfinding and picking fights?
- Are you a person often surrounded by conflict and controversy?
- Do you use your temper in order to control or intimidate others?
- Do you lash out at others through irritable, violent or out-of-control behavior?
Fifth, we must not be a lover of money.
- Is all-American dollar your true god?
- Does money control your actions or preoccupy your thoughts?
- Have you ever used personal ministry to pursue financial gain?
- Are you content with God's provision?
- Is your greatest concern worldly wealth or laying up treasures in heaven?
In verse 8 we encounter the first positive character qualification. Christians are to be hospitable. Literally this means "a lover of strangers."
- Do you demonstrate Christian love and care for others?
- Do you open your home to edify believers and evangelize unbelievers?
- Do you welcome newcomers to the church?
- Are you able to see and meet the needs of others?
- Do you minister to others through friendly, kind and sacrificial service?
Next is the call to love what is good.
- Do you thank God for His goodness?
- Do you try to emulate His goodness to others?
- Do you love that which God loves?
- Is your relationship with God and people a priority in your life?
- Are your priorities in order?
It is important that we also be sensible. Some translations prefer the word "prudent."
- Are you a person that is sober-minded, reasonable and discerning?
- Are you imbalanced and prone to overreact?
- Do you know which "hills to die on?"
- Are you able to exercise proper judgment and wise behavior?
Next, it is important that we be just.
- Are you outwardly upright and righteous?
- Do you live in accordance with God's standards?
- Are you a person of your word?
- Are you impartial, truthful and loyal?
Moving along, we come across the trait called devout. Literally the word means, "to hold fast" or "be devoted to."
- Are you firmly committed to God? Is it reflected in the way you read the Bible, pray, attend church, seek spiritual growth, serve and fellowship with other believers? Could you be considered devout in these things?
- Do God's goals for you conflict with your goals for yourself?
- Is your character, commitment and conduct an example for other believers?
- Does your life give evidence that your heart is centered on God?
- Are you devout?
The final trait in this category is self-controlled. Sometimes this word is translated "disciplined" (NIV) or "temperate" (KJV).
- Do you manifest this fruit of the Holy Spirit? Are you controlled by the Holy Spirit or by the flesh?
- Are you able to follow through on actions pleasing to God?
- Have you mastered passions detrimental to the Christian life? Are you able to overcome lust and laziness and anger and unwholesome speech and a critical spirit?
The final section, found in verse 9, deals with doctrinal qualifications. Paul said the man of God must "(hold) fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."
First, are you devoted to Scripture?
- Are you convinced that Scripture is God's inerrant and inspired Word, the final authority on all matters?
- Do you have a fervent commitment to the Bible? Is it supported by your lifestyle?
- Do you read, study and live by the Word of God on a regular basis?
Second, are you able to explain Scripture?
- Do you know the Bible well enough to explain it to others?
- Does you lifestyle support your words and instruction?
- Are you communicating the Bible with your family and others God has placed in your life?
- Can you handle the Word of God accurately? Are you firmly committed to sound doctrine?
Third, are you able to refute critics?
- Do you have the ability to recognize error?
- Can you prove what you believe to be true from Scripture?
- Do you have the courage to confront people who are thinking or acting contrary to Scripture?
This concludes our list from Titus 1 and ends our personal examination. How did you do? If you want to take this a step further, have someone who knows you well (a spouse, roommate, best friend) also evaluate your character. Choose someone who listened to this message or read to them the transcript that will be available on the website in a few days
Please don't let the results get you down. On the contrary see it as evidence that God is presently working in your life by changing you and revealing areas for further development. Remember, God is more impressed with a baby Christian that is growing than a "mature" believer that is stagnate. Since Christ is the standard and perfect fulfillment of these traits we must not lose heart, but we must also stay humble and realize all of us have tremendous room for potential.
And as we now turn our attention to the Lord's Table, I ask you this question: Are you walking in communion with God? As we remember the Lord's death and resurrection, we remember the grace that He brought into our lives.
God's grace tells us we are forgiven and accepted. "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life" (Tit. 3:4-7).
In many ways all of us could put a "1" for every trait we covered. That is why we need a Savior. That is why we need Someone to live the perfect life that we could not and then die in our place as a substitute. Thanks to the atoning work of Jesus Christ, we have been cleansed and declared justified in the sight of God. When God sees you, Christian, He sees you with the righteousness of Christ. When God sees you, He sees all "5's."
But grace teaches us more than the wonderful truth of forgiveness. Grace empowers us to have our present life conform to our holy position before God. Though forgiven we still sin, and grace "(instructs) us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Tit. 2:12). For God desires us to progressively become more like His Son, to change (Tit. 3:3), to move from the filth of sin to life indeed (Jn. 10:10) as He provides sufficient grace to "purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Tit. 2:14).