Show off the gospel
Series: Titus: A Church That Lasts
So the big idea of the passage is this: Show off the gospel.
1. As men
2. As women
3. As employees
Titus For You by Tim Chester
1/2 Timothy & Titus commentary in the Pillar series by Robert Yarbraugh
Good morning! My name is Tim and I’m one of Citylight’s pastors. I’m grateful to stand here and preach the word this morning. Would you pray with me?
Father, we are here because we need the words of life. Open our eyes so we can see, open our ears so we can hear, and open our hearts so we can rejoice in what your word has for us this morning. I pray in Christ’s name, Amen.
When I was 20 years old, I went to Peru with some other Christians on a short term missions trip. There we met this passionate young pastor named Marco. I will never forget one morning we’re all sitting for a devotional and Marco holds up a Bible and he just walks around with the Bible in his hand, looking each of us in the eye. Every once in a while, Marco says “Do you believe this?” and one of us says “yes!” and he says “how much of this do you believe is true?” and someone says “all of it!” and he just keeps pacing… “mmm hmm”. A few minutes go by. Eventually he opens the Bible and asks a follow up question. “Is there anything in here that you do not fully obey?” We nod… someone says “yes of course”. He looks at us steely eyed and says “if you do not obey it, you do not BELIEVE it!’ and shuts his Bible, and walks out of the room.
Now look, I don’t know if pastor Marco was just having a rough day, and I’m sure he had paradigms for struggling with sin, doubt, and so on. But there is truth in what he said. True belief is not an exercise for the mind alone, but the heart – and it’s revealed in how we live.
The apostle Paul writes our passage today to Titus, a church leader working with churches on the island of Crete. As we saw last week, Cretan culture and false prophets are having a big influence in the churches, telling them who they should be and how they should live. Whether they realized it or not, the church was showing they believed these cultural narratives more than the gospel by how they lived. As a result, there was dysfunction in their homes and in the church.
Paul knows that the gospel has the power to correct the dysfunction by forming a counterculture of people saved by Christ, living for him. And so Paul says to Titus in verse 1 “but as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” The most fundamental teaching of Christianity is called the gospel, or the good news. It’s the teaching of God’s plan to save sinners through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. This is what Paul refers to in our passage as ‘sound doctrine’. Paul knows power of the church lies not just in its doctrine, but in the counterculture formed by that doctrine. The message of Christ has the power to save! But if the culture of a church is awful, no one will be able to hear it.
So the big idea of the passage is this: Show off the gospel.
Throughout this sermon I hope to help you see just how countercultural all of this is for a couple reasons. I don’t want you to be unaware of how culture is shaping your beliefs. But more importantly, I want you to see how the gospel is worth showing off to the world.
SHOW OFF THE GOSPEL…. AS MEN
2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
I’m going to drop a bomb here. I just recently turned 40 – and for any other men here my age, I have the dubious honor of informing you that probably Paul is thinking of men who are around 40 or older. That said, the whole concept of older and younger is a relative one. No matter how young you are, you are probably older than someone in the church. So in a church like ours where we skew a little younger, these words may apply to you if you’re younger but say in your thirties.
These instructions highlight one virtue in particular that I want to take some time to unpack here – and that’s self-control.
Self-control is a major theme in Titus – repeated five times in this book alone. For instance, younger men – listen in. You’ll notice the only instruction for you in this passage is this:
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
Young men – this doesn’t mean you get to ignore everything else – it highlights just how broad and critical the development of self-control is.
Women listen in as well – self-control appears in Paul’s instructions for younger women and implied in the instructions for older women. Basically everyone. It was a big problem in these churches, and it’s a big problem today. It was countercultural then, and it’s countercultural today. Here’s the counterculture of self-control:
Men- Our culture values self-indulgence. The gospel produces self-control.
We can be controlled by a lot of different things: our emotions, ambition, substances, fear, other’s opinions of us, pornography, social media. It’s so easy for ourselves to get out of control.
Godly self-control is a fruit of the spirit. It is the ability to deny yourself in order to honor God. It is the thoughtful, intentional and prudent of your body, your time, your affections, your commitments and your energies. It is bringing your life into proper order, and proper consistency with your doctrine.
Self-control is the outworking of a proper view of God. If God is in control, we can give ourselves over to his control, and not the control of our emotions or impulses. If he is good, we can trust him and act patiently rather than impulsively, and if he is utterly gracious, we won’t be controlled by ambition because we know we don’t have to prove ourselves.
We will be, as Paul says, men who are sound in faith, love and in steadfastness. This triad: faith, love, steadfastness – are central Christian virtues representing the totality of the Christian life – and they are constantly under attack by cultural narrative.
That’s why the gospel is such good news! The gospel takes men who are riddled with doubt, bitterness and impatience, and from that soil, grows dignified men who believe well, love well and do so over and over, even as the world shakes with turmoil. The gospel turns men like you and me into men like Titus – men who are models of good works, and who teach with integrity and sound speech.
No grumpy old men! How could men formed by the happiest news in the universe be grumpy? How could men who have God’s approval ever be distracted again by (as the song says) “man’s empty praise and treasures that fade” – godly men know these things will never be enough. Only Christ satisfies.
No more men who fail to take life seriously – but men who see the nail scarred hands of their savior and live with the kind of serious resolve that would face even death for the sake of Christ. Men whose lives show OFF the love of our savior. Men whose lives show OFF the discipline and self-denial of our savior. Men whose lives drip with HIS dignity in everything they do.
Men who place their hope and identity in Christ alone. Men who inspire younger men in the church to say “I want to be like them” not “I hope I don’t lose my radical edge like them.”
And listen, young men, adolescence cannot go into our twenties and thirties. There is no room in the gospel counterculture of the church for living for yourself for two or more decades before beginning to live out the biblical picture of a man. Culture says “treat yourself!” but the gospel says “control yourself!”.
Christ was a man like this. The apostle Paul was a man like this. There are men like this in our church. The gospel makes men like this. You cannot do it, but Christ can do it. If you desire to show off Christ, pray that he would do it, and find older Christian men to pattern your life by.
Show off the gospel as men.
Now I want to transition to something I consider a privilege, and that is to speak directly to the women in our church. Our passage also calls you to:
SHOW OFF THE GOSPEL…. AS WOMEN
 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,
Paul begins his instructions for older women with the word “likewise” which is a way of saying “In the same way…” It’s important to recognize the culture formed by the gospel is not unique to men or women, but both are called to lives of faith, love and endurance. And yet, these virtues can play themselves out a little differently for women than they do for men.
Paul says older women are to be “reverent in behavior”. That is, their behavior shows off Christ, not self.
As we walk through these verses together, this is the first countercultural virtue for women:
Culture values self-expression. The gospel produces dignity.
The world has so many confusing messages for young women. I have three little ladies in my house, a 2 year old, a 4 year old and a 6 year old. Culture is already telling them that self-expression trumps any other virtue. I hear them singing with Elsa in Frozen 1 “no right no wrong no rules for me…. I’m free!” In frozen 2 (and I’m sorry if this is a spoiler alert for some of you) – Elsa is haunted by this voice the whole movie until the climactic moment, she’s singing and she realizes… wait for it… the voice has been inside her all this time. She triumphantly sings, spurring herself on to her destiny: “you are the one you’ve been waiting for, all of your life!
Culture says “show yourself”. The gospel makes you women who will show off Christ.
Dignity is that kind of reverent behavior (as Paul says) that comes from the confident, spiritual poise of a woman whose identity is formed by Christ, and not culture, and as a result they have control over their tongues, and their indulgences.
Paul calls older women not to use your tongue to tear down, not to use your time indulging yourself. But to use your tongue and your time to teach what is good. Women who consider it your calling to invest not only in your own children, but in the next generation, especially the young women in the church. We need your voice, and we need your time. Young women in the church need your example and need to learn from you how to attain the dignity you have.
Paul has more to say for younger women.
 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
These instructions probably come off pretty countercultural to you. They were countercultural then. In the surrounding Roman society, and especially in Crete, there was immense dysfunction in the household. Men were behaving like men often do, lacking self-control, sleeping around and so forth and it was increasingly common for women to do the same. There was even a kind of empowering cultural narrative that celebrated this behavior in women.
For young women, here is the counterculture offered by the gospel.
Culture despises or idolizes the home. The gospel transforms the home.
Culture goes back and forth on the domestic life. One the one hand, it seems to despise it, valuing career women more the stay-at-home moms. I know you stay-at-home moms feel this because I’ve been in conversations where I ask you “what do you do” and what’s the response? “I’m just a mom.”
On the other hand, moms are constantly bombarded in our Instagram mommy culture with pictures of the perfect domestic life. The do-it-all mom who is always innovating, whose house is always spotless, who has white furniture (what?!) and is a full time influencer.
The common thread is this: you are what you do. Your performance is what matters. Can’t cut it as a mom, pour yourself into your career. Can’t cut it having a career and managing your home – pour yourself into your home and make sure it’s all over Instagram.
The gospel is so freeing. Your worth is not in your performance as a wife, mom or career woman. The gospel says that God so values your husband and children that he gave you to love and serve them. And he so values you, that he has freed you to do so with dignity and great honor. Young wives and mothers, God’s word places an enormous value on your role in the home. He sees how you lay your lives down for the sake of your families. You’re never “just a mom” or “just a wife.” What you do makes the gospel sparkle.
Women like this will be a gospel counterculture that helps the word of God shine.
I don’t want you to get the wrong message. The wrong message is thinking Paul is saying women should work in the home as opposed to in the marketplace. Rather, Paul is saying women should work in the home as opposed to not working in the home. In other words, this is calling women regardless of career to prioritize their households. This means more than just being not lazy at home – but also not over busy elsewhere. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a career. It means watching out for any temptation to find yourself looking for a life beyond what God has given to you.
I want to pause for two quick application points here. First, if you are struggling with either despising or idolizing your domestic life, consider where you may be hearing that narrative reinforced. Maybe you need a break from social media, or maybe you need to cut back a little at work. Maybe you need to make it a more regular point to get together with your friends in Christ and remind each other of how loved by God you are, and how free you are then to love your husbands and children.
Second, what if you’re here, and you’re unmarried or do not have children. If you are in Christ, the home is merely a picture of the reality which you already have. You have all the riches and treasures of Christ and every bit of dignity that comes with that. Secondly, God has adopted you into his family, the church. Our passage highlights the high worth given to your example of Christlikeness, and to your teaching. You can devote yourself to the household of God in a way that is perhaps unique even from the wives and moms.
Your lives are like jewelry that shows off Christ. No one wears jewelry thinking “you know what setting would make this diamond really shine… my ear lobe” – no, good jewelry calls attention to the beautiful features of the one wearing it. Similarly your lives call attention to the beautiful features of Jesus.
Show off the gospel as women.
Third and finally,
SHOW OFF THE GOSPEL…. AS EMPLOYEES
Paul closes with these words:
 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,  not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. (ESV)
Paul extends his instructions to show off the gospel to employees, or what in the first century were bondservants. Now when you see bondservants in the Bible, don’t think American chattel slavery. The word servant is an accurate one. Greco-Roman bondservants were in a kind of employment agreement that was basically a last resort form of social welfare, like what bankruptcy law is today. They had more rights than American slaves, but less than modern employees. Because of this, you’ll see this class of people described in most translations as bondservants.
Here’s the thing, bondservants were coming to know the Lord, and Paul wants to see the gospel spread subversively through them to entire households. So he makes sure they understand something immensely countercultural today:
culture values independence, the gospel produces humble submission.
Today, probably the closest application is employment where you enter into a contract with an employer for a set time. Paul highlights the importance of working to please your boss, not talking back, not using the company card for personal expenses, doing your job- and doing it as well as possible – all for the sake of the gospel.
So as men, as women, and as employees, Paul wants to see the churches in Crete to collectively be a counterculture that shows off the good news of Jesus.
In contrast to today’s culture, this means as the church we value self-control, not self-indulgence. We value dignity, not self-expression, we value the home in a culture that despises or idolizes it, and we value submission over independence. These values make the church particularly countercultural.
[if time – megan illustration]
Why would we want to live this way? Because the gospel of Jesus is the only thing worth living for. The gospel starts with a loving God, creating all that is right and beautiful in the world, including men and women – made in his image for the purpose of spreading his beauty and glory throughout the world.
Then something went badly wrong. Adam and Eve lacked self-control. They asserted their independence – it an act of creature supremacy — they stubbornly rebelled against God. All that is wrong with the world now is the result of their sin, and the sins of all their descendants, including you and me.
But God saw humanity suffering in sin, and sent his son Jesus. Instead of indulging himself, Jesus came as a bondservant. Instead of living for his self-expression, he lived for the sake of others. Instead of staying independently detached, he identified with us, with you and me, and instead of asserting his will, he submitted to the will of the father, laying his life down being nailed to the cross.
The father’s wrath against sin was appeased by the sacrifice of his son. On the third day, the father was pleased to raise Jesus to life and through Jesus he is now extending the offer to you and to me – to raise us from death to life. To count our sins to Jesus and count his righteousness to us.
How can we apply this today? Well, definitely go through these virtues prayerfully, and if you are living hypocritically as a Christian, know that the gospel frees you to confess your sins to another brother or sister, and humbly repent. But beyond this, my goal for this sermon has been to unpack just how countercultural all of this is. I’m not trying to rail on culture, it’s not all bad – much of our culture is reflective of God’s grace. But I want to show you that the world is teaching you, and its teaching leads to destruction in the home and in the church. I want to raise your awareness of the cultural narratives that undermine faith, hope and endurance in your life. I want to see our church be this counterculture by the grace of God. It’s possible if we embrace the counterculture, and devote ourselves to not just knowing the gospel but believing it and living it.
The hope for change comes in next week’s passage. I’ll read it today as a preview, and because it puts our passage into perspective and leaves us on a hopeful note.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
That’s the beautiful news of the gospel. Christ doesn’t just turn bad people good, but raises dead people to life. As the church, we strive to live in a way that calls as much attention to this happy news as possible.
We cannot do it in our own strength, but by his grace we can be a gospel culture.
Statistically, it’s likely nearly half of us sitting here have been impacted by a broken home. My own parents divorced when I was 22 years old and my sister was 19. I’m old enough where several of my friends have now gotten divorced.
I’ve now been a pastor for 17 years. I can tell you, broken homes are a problem here in the city, and back where I was a youth pastor in redneck central Pennsylvania. In 2011, Sarah and I and our church in Penns Valley founded a youth center, not knowing who might show up after school for our programs. As it turns out, a vast majority of the students who showed up were fatherless in some capacity.
I remember one girl in particular who had been coming a few weeks and we started noticing that she was asking other kids for a ride home after the program. So one day we offered to give her a ride home and she kind of sheepishly declined. Over time she opened up that her family was living in the local hotel, and had only about 10 days before they had to move out.
I can remember our church coming alongside this family, providing groceries, helping them scrounge together enough money for a sedan. A member of the church gave a trailer to the family to live in, which they put on a small plot of land they owned. The dad worked tirelessly to get the trailer ready for his family to move into and our church praised God for his restorative work in this family.
A few months later and the family was no longer homeless, the dad had a decent paying job, they had a home and a car. A couple months later, the father received a small inheritance from a family member, took the money and skipped town and to our knowledge never saw his daughter again.
Who taught him to behave like that? I’m telling you it was false teaching. Western Culture taught him that nothing should get in the way of his self-expression. It taught him that he should be able to do whatever he wants sexually, that he should live his best life. It never mentioned the shame and regret, or the rejected and lonely family on the other end. In the end, he didn’t see himself as a father or a husband and when self is supreme, that’s all that matters. It leads to disorder and destruction.