|THE RIGHT STUFF OF DOCTRINE
Series: The Right Stuff For Sharing The Gospel - Part Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
January 23, 2000
This morning we’re finishing our look at the Book of Titus. For the past two weeks we’ve been following Paul’s instructions to Titus - who was on the island of Crete setting up churches and sharing the Gospel.
We’ve been considering together how we can be spiritually where God can use us as a congregation - and as individuals - to make a real difference n our families - community - and nation. This morning brings us to our focus as a church - sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Specifically - keeping the main focus of the church - sharing the Gospel - keeping the main thing the main thing. I invite you to turn with me to Titus 3:1-15 and we’ll come there in a minute.
How many of you have read “Moby Dick” - the novel by Herman Melville? When I was in High School we had to read Moby Dick. The English teachers loved it. We students hated it.
The basic plot - we know - is that this insane Captain Ahab goes on a quest to kill the great white whale - Moby Dick - and everyone dies - except Ishmael - who lives to write the book.
There’s one scene - when the crew of the Pequod - Captain Ahab’s ship - when the crew is chasing down a group of whales. The crew is in small boats - out on the open ocean.
There are these huge whales - any one of them could have wiped out these small little boats. The crew is rowing for all they’re worth. The freezing water is churning. The boats are filling with water. Its a life and death struggle. All around them is the chaos and confusion of the chase - whales - white water - and these small boats.
In the front of one boat is Queequeg - the harpooner. Amid all the commotion - he stands harpoon in hand - focused on the whale. He’s the one who must get it right the first time - he must harpoon the whale - or everyone is lost.
Here we are - in our society - a spiritual life and death struggle - amid a society of confusion - deceived - moving farther from God. We must focus on the right thing - if we’re to get it right - and make a real difference.
Paul writes to Titus - Titus 3:1 “Remind them - remind the church - to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
Practically - this is how we’re to live in our society. So long as they do not compel you to disobey God - be subject to rulers and authorities. Be obedient. Be eager to do good. Don’t go around slandering and cursing people. Refuse to engage in quarrels and arguments. Be considerate and not stubborn - don’t insist on your own rights. Demonstrate humility and consideration for all men.
But, how are we suppose to live like that in our society? And, would it make a difference if we did?
Today, we look at the gay agenda and watch the homosexual pride parade and listen to the lesbian advocacy groups and we see all of the Playboy mentality and the filth and the pornography of our time and watch this agenda being pushed on our social institutions and taught to our children. We don’t like the politics of our city - what the President’s doing - the kinds of things that our congressman and senators are doing - the decisions they’re making. We’re tired of this philosophy where anybody can do absolutely anything - where our society defines sin as acceptable. It was like that in Paul’s day. Its like this today.
In despair and frustration we wonder if we can do anything. How are we suppose to live like Paul calls us to live and accomplish anything in the midst of this?
The Rev. Jesse Jackson recently showed up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. After the Green Bay Packers played their last football game - January 2nd - the Packers fired Ray Rhodes and his entire coaching staff. It seems that Rev. Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition was wondering how Rhodes and his staff - African Americans - how they could get fired after only 1 year on the job - never mind that the former super bowl champions finished a dismal 8-8. One assumes that Rev. Jackson sees his duty as a pastor to fight injustice and to guide America towards tolerance and the acceptance of all peoples.
Maybe this is how we should live our lives - focused on a Christian call for social justice - for social transformation?
In recent years there’s been a call by the Christian community to “Take back America.” To return the United States to our Christian roots.
In 1990, Pat Robertson held a meeting after the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. That meeting was designed to call for the formation of a Christian anti-defamation league. Pat Robertson said - speaking of our anti-Christian society - quote: “You’ve called us fools so we’ll call you bigots. Christians are tired of being stepped on and the time has come to stand up for Christian’s rights.”
In the summer of 1991 - there was something called “The Joshua Project” - with full-page ads in Christian publications. The Joshua Project aimed - quote: “At taking back the culture.”
Should this be our agenda - our focus - taking back our culture?
All these things are important - they have their place. But - these are the outer layers of the problem - the waves - the confusion - the chaos of our society. We need to hit the heart of the issue - to focus on what really matters.
Verse 3 - Paul describes what the Cretan society looked like: “For we also once were foolish ourselves - we were once like this society that we live in - disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another”
Verse 4: “But” - circle that word “but.” That word “but” means that everything that Paul has said previously - is now changed by what comes next. We were once caught up - living like our society - “but” we’re different now. And - what changed us - can change the heart of mankind.
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us - underline that - its the Gospel of Jesus Christ - God saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness - its not what we did or could do - but according to His mercy - its because of what God did - by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit - God’s work of forgiving our sins and changing us spiritually - whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace - having been made right before God - we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Sharing the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ is the main focus of the Church.
Billy Graham - on December 15th - speaking to a dinner for United Nations diplomats said this, “I salute all of you for your dedication and the work you do in the U.N. You serve in a great humanitarian organization, but the greatest problems that face us are spiritual in nature... In the midst of all you are doing around the world to alleviate suffering and bring about peace, I pray you will not starve your own soul.”
The focus of the church is not to reform or reclaim America - or Armenia - or any other nation or culture. Our focus is to preach and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verse 8: “This is a trustworthy statement: and concerning these things - everything I’ve just said about society and the Gospel - concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.”
Notice Paul’s emphasis: “Those who have believed God.” Not those who “believe in God.” But those who “believe God” engage in good deeds.
Believing in God is popular today. There’s a tremendous renewal of interest in things spiritual or supernatural. According to the people who research these things - about 70 to 80% of Americans “believe in God.”
This is the confusion our society is trapped in. Satan working to deceive people - to keep them ignorant of true spirituality and Godliness - to confuse them about the Gospel and who Jesus really is. Its no wonder our society is in the shape its in.
Today, there are a growing number of churches in America that are echoing the confusion of our society. Satan has side-tracked them into believing that God is some sort of social engineer who’s focused on human rights. He’s kind of warm fuzzy feeling God who asks nothing of us but to believe in Him.
In contrast - those who “believe God” are those who take Him at His word and live in faithful obedience and surrender to Him.
Paul says - speak confidently to those who know God - not just believe in Him - speak confidently to those who know God - and tell them that it is important to engage in good deeds that promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Focus on the Gospel - and then live the Gospel. That’s what will make a true difference in our families - community - and nation.
Paul echoes this point in verse 14: “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful” - so that they will be able to reach others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ - to make a real difference in people’s lives.
Verses 9 to 11 are a warning. Before we close we need to hear what Paul says - to be on our guard. Because there are many alluring voices - in the church - and outside the church - which would like to side-track us - to confuse us - to tell us that there are other priorities for us - not just the Gospel.
Back when the telegraph was the fastest means of long-distance communication - there was story told - about a young man who applied for a job as a Morse code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the address that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, noisy office. In the background a telegraph clacked away. A sign on the receptionist’s counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office.
The young man completed his form and sat down with seven other waiting applicants. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. Why had this man been so bold? They grumbled among themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons yet. They took more than a little satisfaction in assuming the young man who went into the office would be reprimanded for his presumption and summarily disqualified for the job.
Within a few minutes the young man emerged from the inner office escorted by the interviewer, who announced to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has been filled by this young man.”
The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and then one spoke up, “Wait a minute - I don’t understand. He was the last one to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair.”
The employer responded, “All the time you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse code: ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. So the job is his.”
If we are going to stay focused on the Gospel - its important that we listen to God’s voice - His word - and avoid the distractions of all the other voices around us.
First warning - verse 9: “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
In Crete there were those in the church who gave great importance to the discussion of genealogies and Jewish religious history. It was a kind of union of culture - ethnic identity - and religion. That same combination is a real danger for us as Armenians.
In 301 A.D. we became the first Christian nation - every Armenian knows this. Through-out our history - our faith - and the Armenian Church - have held us together. Being Armenian has become almost synonymous with being Christian. To the point where some look on the Armenian Church as the protector and promoter of Armenian culture. Somehow culture and Christianity become intermixed - culture becomes equal with our faith - in some cases culture is seen as more important than our calling as Christians.
Paul says that culture - if it is the end - the focus - and not the means of reaching people with the Gospel - culture is unprofitable - worthless. Don’t pay attention to the voice that advocates culture at the expense of the Gospel.
Second warning - verses 10 and 11: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”
This is hard for us. It almost sounds unchristian. We want to include people. To give consideration to people’s ideas and suggestions. To share God’s love with others and win them to the Gospel.
But, Paul warns us: There are some people who will not buy into the church being focused on the Gospel. They will have other agendas - other suggestions - other ideas. There will be some who believe in God - but do not believe God. They’ve never come to know Him personally.
Paul says that these people have a perverted sense of what the church is all about. These people - Paul says - are “factious.” They grumble. They complain. They accuse. They reject correction. They may even talk Christian and promote Christian ideas. But, ultimately they stir up trouble and create division among the members of the church. Paul says that these people are living in sin - they’re focused on themselves - and not on God.
Warn them - appeal to them - lovingly try to reach them - twice. But, if they don’t repent - reject them - avoid them - have nothing to do with them.
The focus of the church is not up for debate - or a vote by the majority. It is not established by the opinion of our community. Our purpose is not shaped by those who complain the most or argue the loudest.
The focus and purpose of the Church was set by the Head of the Church - Jesus Christ - through His death and resurrection. We have been commissioned by Jesus Christ to share His Gospel with our families - our community - our nation.
The ultimate need of our society is Jesus. He has called us - us! - to share His Gospel with them.