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WORLDLY SAINTS...being salt and light in a pagan society

WORLDLY SAINTS
...being salt and light in a pagan society




Let us press on then, beloved, to see how the Lord gave Paul clear instruction for young Titus facing a difficult culture and society on the island of Crete. The Apostle Paul answers the Evangelical Co-Belligerent dilemma completely in Titus 3:1-8. Four key things he instructs Christians learning to live in a pagan society: 1. recognize your duty; 2. remember your depravity; 3. rejoice in your deliverance; and 4. render good deeds.

1. Recognize Your Duty
Paul says in Titus 3:1-2, Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

Notice here that the Apostle is calling for believers on this very troubled and immoral island of Crete to honor those in authority over them. Listen to how he describes their culture: "who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 12One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed" (Titus 1:11-16).

Their culture was full of false teachers propagating philosophies for money-destroying families; they were liars, evil beasts (in other words, slaves of depraved instincts) and lazy gluttons. They turned aside from the truth of God's Word to myths and the commandments of men; their minds and conscience were defiled (tested, tried and found useless); they deny the Lord by their evil deeds; are detestable and disobedient-worthless of any good work. Even a form of "terrorism" was present; pagan gods abounded; evil was rampant in the streets; and sexual immorality was unbridled. This was a very corrupt and morally destitute place.

What does Paul offer as a solution to Crete's unrestrained lasciviousness? Picket them? Boycott them? Try to bring a surface cultural spiritual morality through the political powers that be? No. He encourages Titus to do the unthinkable: evangelize! Bring them the transforming power of the gospel (Titus 2:11-13); call them back to sound doctrine refuting those who contradict (Titus 1:9); and live the transformed life in the marketplace of paganism (Titus 3:1-8). No political legislation could turn back the tide of moral decay; no governmental body would change the human heart and make it pure; no co-belligerent rally around even the most noble of social causes could add one drop of righteousness to please God and regenerate sinful mankind to new life-to moral rightness. Paul would never stoop to such trivial means as these in the struggle for the soul. He only took the spiritual weapons of prayer, the Word, the gospel, and the testimony of righteousness lived out by genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. In short, only through life conversion through Christ Jesus the Lord can there be any real morality whether you reside on Crete, in Corinth, under Nero, in Washington D.C., in Wheaton, in Nashville or even in Colorado Springs. The new life in Christ evidenced by a new way of living is the "salt and light" that impacts our communities and brings glory to God (Matthew 5:13-20).

the Biblical imperative
Paul desires Titus, "[his] true child in the common faith", to "speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1); "in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2:7-8); to be dedicated to "the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness" (Titus 1:1b); and that he "would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you" (Titus 1:5).

And how does this transformed life manifest itself? Paul begins precisely at the crossroads of where church and culture find themselves today-in the arena of government-living under God's appointed authority (Romans 13:1-2).

The Apostle Paul begins by saying, be subject to rulers, to authorities. He is speaking here of magistrates; governments and its leadership. He is encouraging submission to the governing authorities as a sign of their salvation (Titus 2:11-13). They were in danger of forgetting their duty, though knowing it. They were prone to disregard what is a basic principle in Christianity-submission. And here the Apostle says to be submissive to the powers that be-and even if those authorities are ungodly (cp, 1 Peter 2:11-17). Cretans were marked by what Diodorus Siculus calls a "riotous insubordination"-not a comfortable or easy place to live for the Lord. The Christian was not to be identified as being insubordinate to those whom God had sovereignly placed in society to restrain evil and keep societal order-but to be known for being submissive.

The fruit of that submissive will manifested itself by being obedient, ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to peaceable, gentle and showing consideration to all men. He is describing the fruit of real regeneration in how they are to live their lives in a culture that is adverse to the gospel and to Christ. All of these qualities are in direct response to the political authorities over them. Be obedient to them-that is, in all that is not contrary to the Word of God; ready for every good deed, willingly, in response to the magistrates, the governing laws and all that is good-beneficial in society; to malign no one – not speaking evil of others, especially of those in authority over you is prohibited. Peaceable, not a brawler, quarrelsome, not attacking others or being contentious; but in stark contrast be peaceable (not being a political agitator, (cp, 1 Peter 4:15). Showing consideration to all men, in acts, if at all possible, the opposite of passionate severity-demonstrating meekness (having a small opinion of self and a high esteem of God); and this to all people as a witness of the gospel of grace. There is no "selective consideration" in Christianity; it applies to all people equally (cp, Matthew 5:40-48).

One of the ways that submissiveness manifested itself was through being gentle. The word gentle here is very powerful. At face value, people may construe this to mean a soft, introverted, quiet, shy demeanor that is sheepishly easy going. However, that is not the case. Instead, it has a profound meaning, that by God's grace, should characterize every believer in the Lord. It means: to submit to maltreatment, hardship, persecution; knowing that God is sovereignly in control of your situation; doing acts of kindness to your accusers; free from revenge, malice and retribution. It carries with it the idea of the complete personality of the individual brought into submission to Christ so that you are not demanding your own rights out of desire to get even through retaliation, but to stay in the provocation until the breach is mended. Wow! I don't know about you, but I surely haven't even begun to arrive at that quality in my life. No wonder the Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 10:1, "…I am mindful of the meekness and gentleness of Christ…" This is my daily prayer for my life-Lord make me a "gentle" man. And this can only be accomplished by God's grace (cp, Titus 2:12). Living this way in society will make impact for the gospel and the cause of the Lord. Not co-belligerence-but Christlikeness!

2. Remember Your Depravity
What is the motivating factor to surrender your rights, trust in God's sovereignty purposes and plans, living free from revenge and being able to submit to ungodly governmental authority? Because we were once foolish ourselves.

When unsaved people mistreat or take advantage of us; or are engaged in all kinds of acts of lasciviousness, that should not drive us to disdain or criticize them, but to show empathy for them. Why? Because "we were once foolish ourselves." Listen to how Paul describes any believer in the Lord before coming to salvation in Christ: we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

We cannot minimize this beloved. This was you and I before we met the Lord. This is our testimony. We were foolish (thoughtless, wicked, living without God), disobedient (to law, to parents, to civil authority, to God), deceived (by the enemy Satan, by false teachers, by our own hearts, by the flattery of others), lustful (indulging corrupt passions and propensities-slaves to…), malicious (in evil intent), envious (displeasure of the prosperity or happiness of others), hateful and hating (our conduct was worthy of the hatred of others; with no real brotherly love or true affection of others).

This is a hopeless condition that all have; worthy only of inheriting hell itself for all eternity (Romans 3:10-18; Ephesians 2:1-3). The Apostle Paul also described the sinfulness of sinful mankind in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 as made up of fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and swindlers. In Galatians chapter 5 he describes human fallenness as engaging itself in immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and things like that. And to the Ephesians he gives this description, they are futile in their minds, darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, ignorant, hard of heart, callous, sensual, practicing every kind of impurity with greediness.

And in Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul sums up the depraved life we are all conceived into (Psalm 51:5) by saying, "they walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience. They are driven by the lusts of their flesh, the desires of the flesh and of the mind and are by nature the children of wrath." That is a description of man before he is rescued, before he is saved. I was born in a wonderful Christian family and raised in a very religious town-Wheaton, Il. But even with that evangelical pedigree, I had known a more hellish iniquity than any prostitute that ever walked the evening boulevards; I had a worse sin issue than any heroine addict ever dreamed of having; and I was more trapped in sin than any alcoholic could imagine. What was my transgression against the Lord? I was full of self-righteous religious pride! It's the worse of all sins, isn't it? It's the cocaine of the church; we sell, snort it, and call it "normal" Christianity. It took a profound work of God's grace to save this wretched man; religion numbed my sin sick soul to the wrathful condition I was truly in. Don't minimize this. There are millions of people in churches all over America in the same state I was-they are what Matthew Mead calls, "the almost Christian." They come to church, but have never come to Christ. They love religious things, but have not taken up their cross, denied themselves and followed the Lord. They give Sunday to God, but Monday through Saturday is "their" time. Almost Christians…

Paul completely shatters the notion that good works are sufficient enough to produce salvation for anyone. In order for us to be saved we had to be regenerated, invaded by the grace of our Lord, granted saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No Pope could redeem us; no prayer to Mary could help us; no purgatory could cleanse us; no Treasury of Merit could make us righteous; no mass could propitiate our sin; no saint could pray for us or us to them; no priest could absolve us of our sins (mortal or venial). We were hardened in the clay of our rebellion against a holy God. We were enslaved with various lusts, terribly lost. This is how the Lord found you; this is how He found me.

Therefore, shouldn't this produce empathy in our lives for those that don't know Christ? We shouldn't display attitudes towards unsaved people which are full of self-righteous religious pride; spiritual arrogance; or a Pharisaic condescending manner of "I am glad I am not like that sinner…" This is sadly, though maybe unwitting, the attitude that pervades much of ECBers and especially the tone of FOTF's attitude toward those they challenge in the marketplace-homosexuals, politicians, abortionists, etc. We should rightly ask the sobering question of FOTF, "How would you all be living if you didn't know the Lord?" The Apostle Paul gives us sobering words about the unregenerate: "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness" (Romans 6:20). Did you hear that? Unsaved people are free in regards to righteousness before coming to Christ. We should not be accusing an unbelieving world for acting like an unbelieving world; but we should be concerned when Christians are living like an unbelieving world when claiming to know Christ (1 Corinthians 5). That is why church discipline is invaluable for dealing with unrepentant sin and guarding the purity of the church (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-3).

If we have tasted and drank deeply of His grace (1 Peter 2:3) isn't the natural inclination of our hearts to share that good news with another so that they can be free from their sins and know the sure forgiveness of a living God for eternity rather then condemn them for being faithful to their depravity?

3. Rejoice in Your Deliverance
This is praise and worship to the Lord for the great salvation He has wrought for us. Paul says here, "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

This is one of the richest passages of our great salvation we have in Christ Jesus our Lord found anywhere in all of Scripture. Notice the banner of our salvation surmised in three key words: He saved us… This again is cause for great humility. We couldn't save ourselves not [even] on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness. Our best works, our best religious works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) sufficient only to damn us to hell, but save us? Never! This is the nail in the coffin of Romanism-of any good works/human achievement system of obtaining favor with God. All our good works, even religious ones, are nothing but rubbish, human excrement compared to knowing Christ Jesus as Lord of our lives by grace through faith alone (cp, Phil. 3:1-8). We were only saved according to His mercy (not our works); by the washing and renewing of the Holy Spirit (not by our merits plus grace or our works plus faith); through Jesus Christ our Savior (not through a surrogate Christ in the Roman Church; or Mary; or Papal infallibility); justified by His grace (not through infused righteousness of works, but through the imputed righteousness of Christ alone) made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (not through the suffering in purgatory to be purged of our sins and then maybe one day will be made good enough to enter glory). We have hope beloved, eternal hope, in the Lord alone!

4. Render Good Deeds
What is the Christian's responsibility in a pagan society? How are we to live? What does the Lord require of His people? Paul doesn't say, "Organize, boycott, picket and petition against sinful, immoral, cultural moorings. Make sure you politically align yourselves with the right conservative constituency so that you can create a good and pure social goodness for your fellow man to ward off the wayward indulgences of a liberal society." Nonsense! Here is what the Apostle calls, a "trustworthy statement": This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. The trustworthy statement is what has been stated in verses 4-7-the great doctrine concerning our salvation. Paul is saying that it is the highest of importance; entirely worthy of belief; and is God's gratuitous gift to us. This is what the Holy Spirit places as a priority to what should occupy our speech; our emphasis in message is the gospel of Christ. Concerning these things I want you to speak confidently… This is what the gospel produces and what we are to declare with confidence-that it leads people to holy living. No wonder he commands us all to be careful to engage in good deeds. Good deeds is all that is holy, true, honest, upright and good-the fruit of regeneration in our sanctification. We are to render works concomitant with our salvation. This is good and profitable for men. Is there anything sweeter, more joyous or hopeful to the ears of sinful man than forgiveness and peace before a holy righteous God is possible through our Lord Jesus Christ?

Jesus Is the Answer
This is how we are to live in a pagan society. Not in prideful arrogance, battling the powers that be to insure our religious rights or produce the veneer of morality absent of Christ; but in submissiveness to all authorities for they are ministers of God. We are not to live in prideful self-righteousness forgetting the depth of depravity we have been saved from. The world does not need to hear our scorn over their immorality or wayward living. They need to hear the good news of the gospel of grace; they need to hear of Christ and Him crucified; they need to hear of repentance from sin and eternal life through faith in Christ alone. And lastly, as we rejoice in our deliverance from sin, we should always remember that it was He who saved us and not we ourselves. Again, this should give us a burden to call others to salvation-not to a political civil cultural form of Pharisaic righteous morality.

Political reform, Evangelical Co-Belligerence, moral rightness, culture of life is nothing but the crumbs off the "rich man's c0-belligerent" table to the hurting Lazarus's of this world. They can offer no hope, no peace, no promise of life, no genuine morality, no impact on society. It is the message of pubescent believers who are either ashamed of the gospel; who've lost their confidence in the gospel; or have an integrated view of "culture plus Christ" that is unbiblical at its core values.

The secret longing of all God's creatures is how to have peace with God; and the great work of the church is to bring that "good news" of the gospel to all, urging all men everywhere to repent from their sin and turn to Christ to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God is sovereign over all earthly governments beloved. May we each dedicate ourselves afresh to do the work of the gospel and in doing so you will love our neighbor as our Lord Jesus Christ has intended.

As the Day draws near,
Steve
2 Cor. 4:5-7