For the faith of those chosen of God (Titus 1:1–4) – Part 2: The objective of the church’s mission

Author’s note: My faith is in Jesus Christ; therefore, I must rest in the Scriptures, which are inspired by God, inerrant, absolutely authoritative, and utterly sufficient. I am convinced the issues churches and individual Christians are facing today, including the controversies, could been null and void if we would only submit to the word. For that reason, I am blogging through Paul’s letter to Titus. You can find all of the posts in this series here.

The first post served as an introduction to this series and began to address the opening section of the letter, Paul’s introduction and greeting in Titus 1:1–4. Specifically, I wrote about Paul’s authorship, his statement of being a slave of God, and his affirmation of his own status as an apostle of Jesus Christ. As we continue, here is that text again, Titus 1:1–4 (NASB):

1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, 3 but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,

4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Ask your average attender of a modern evangelical church what the purpose of the church is and you might get as many answers as there are people whom you ask. Hopefully part of the answer includes something about the propagation of the gospel, the only means by which sinners are saved.

The content of the gospel of Jesus Christ – what it is and is not – will be the subject of one or more future posts in this series; however, in looking at Titus 1:1 we see the purpose of the church boiled down to rudimentary basics.

Paul introduces his letter by calling himself God’s slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Implied in that is obedience to what God desires and has decreed, and the reality that as those who have been freed from sin to become slaves of righteousness, we are His ambassadors, the plenipotentiaries of the Lord, to carry His message to the world. Yet, how is that accomplished?

“Evangelism” is the answer, right? But what constitutes evangelism is a matter of far too much debate nowadays. Some believe the church’s goal, or at least one of them, is to redeem the culture, such that those outside the church will come to see how much greater Jesus is and come to Him. That is a laudable aspiration, but misguided.

If you really want to get down to the brass tacks, the objective of the church’s mission is laid out very succinctly in verse one. It is “the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is in accordance with godliness.” Sadly, as I see it, this runs very much against the grain of modern evangelical churches – even a great many which would identify as conservative and with an inerrantist position on Scripture.

Continue reading “For the faith of those chosen of God (Titus 1:1–4) – Part 2: The objective of the church’s mission”

For the faith of those chosen of God (Titus 1:1–4) – Part 1: Identity, slavery, mission

Author’s note: My faith is in Jesus Christ; therefore, I must rest in the Scriptures, which are inspired by God, inerrant, absolutely authoritative, and utterly sufficient. I am convinced the issues churches and individual Christians are facing today, including the controversies, could been null and void if we would only submit to the word. For that reason, I am blogging through Paul’s letter to Titus. You can find all of the posts in this series here.

Along with the two canonical letters to Timothy, Paul’s letter to Titus is often referred to as a pastoral epistle, for the contents of the letter are, to a large degree, intended to instruct Titus, and by proxy local churches, how they ought to conduct themselves (c.f. 1 Tim 3:15). In other words, the pastoral epistles are about telling (no, commanding) the church how to be the church.

And I feel the need to emphasize from the outset that command part, because ours is a day in which many evangelical Christians are quick to say the Bible is the word of God. Many of those will also be quick to say the Bible is inspired by God, inerrant, authoritative, and even sufficient for us. Many say those things. But let’s be honest. Ours is also a day given to pragmatism in the church and the exaltation of feelings above all.

Pastors avoid preaching on hard topics because of how it might make someone feel (or the backlash they’ll get because of those feelings). Very few churches take the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin seriously enough to practice church discipline. Why? More than any other reason: feelings. And as a I write this, the biggest controversy on Christian social media is about comments one pastor made regarding Beth Moore, specifically, and women preaching more generally; and I would argue that controversy would not be a thing if many in the church weren’t, whether they realize it or not, elevating feelings even above their commitment to the word of God.

Now I realize that last statement might be enough to cause some of you to stop reading, or if you’ve clicked on this through Facebook, leave an “angry” face instead of liking it. I encourage you to wait, though. Be patient.

I realize in the age of Instagram, Facebook, and 280 character Twitter posts blogging is passé. Nevertheless, what I intend to start now and follow through to completion over the next few days or weeks is walk through Paul’s letter to Titus, one of the three pastoral epistles, and think through what it says, what it means – including what it means to the church and the implications thereof. So join me, and let’s look at Titus.

Continue reading “For the faith of those chosen of God (Titus 1:1–4) – Part 1: Identity, slavery, mission”

What’s on your mind, Christian?: On the use of social media by those who claim Jesus as Lord

It happened again tonight. I was just scrolling down my timeline on Facebook and there I saw it. Again. Someone I know who claims the same faith as I do, faith in Jesus Christ, sharing something containing vulgarities (in this case, what Ralphie in A Christmas Story called “the queen mother of all dirty words).

As a Christian it’s so discouraging to see this. As a pastor I’ve seen it among those I’ve shepherded just too many times.

If you are in Christ there is no place for this. Continue reading “What’s on your mind, Christian?: On the use of social media by those who claim Jesus as Lord”

Petra’s albums: #2 – More Power To Ya

Introductory Note: In appreciation of Petra’s fortieth year in music and ministry, I am ranking their albums from least best to greatest. You can read my opening post here. [Now, it should be noted that Petra’s fortieth year was in 2012, when I started this series. Better late than never in winding down to the end.]

More Power To Ya (1982, StarSong)

Lineup: Greg X Volz (lead vocals), Bob Hartman (guitars), Mark Kelly (bass), John Slick (keyboards), Louie Weaver (drums)

If there are two Petras — the first with Greg X Volz on vocals, the second with John Schlitt — then More Power To Ya is widely considered the pinnacle of the Volz era, the opener in a trio of great studio albums which vaulted Petra to the top of Christian pop/rock acts in the 1980s. You get plenty of guitar and drums on the album, of course, but the use of keyboards and modern synthesizers is elevated, creating a warmer overall sound. Continue reading “Petra’s albums: #2 – More Power To Ya”

Jewels amidst dung: The heights and depths of a flyover chapter, Genesis 38

The thirty-eighth chapter of Genesis is one of those which, if you’re on a “read the Bible in a year” plan, you’re probably tempted to skip, or at least read in fast-forward. It’s a chapter in which the word God is not found, and the name of God is mentioned only twice (both times in terms of stark judgment), and contains such vile behavior the reader might even question why it’s in the Bible and/or what kind of spiritual or practical benefit it might have.

Such treatment of any passage of Scripture, though, betrays a conviction the Bible is inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient for everything pertaining to life and godliness. It contradicts anyone who believes Paul was right and truthful when He said “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16). The task of the pastor-teacher and the student of Scripture (which should be everyone) should be to mine the depths of any passage to find the precious jewels, trusting that the Lord would not have spoken it in His word in vain.

Just what are the jewels, then, from a chapter like Genesis 38? Well, they are found in the midst of much dung, much sin. But just as 1 Corinthians 10:6 teaches us that episodes of the Old Testament happened, in part, as examples for us, “so that we would not crave evil things as they [Israel] also craved,” we find in Genesis 38 some bad examples to avoid.  Continue reading “Jewels amidst dung: The heights and depths of a flyover chapter, Genesis 38”

The Christian and the Bible, Part 2: The source

Author’s Note: If you are just joining us I encourage you to read Part 1 of this series.

Having established the Scriptures are inspired by God, inerrant, supremely authoritative, and sufficient for everything pertaining to our faith and practice, in this post I wish to explore some ways in which God uses His word in the everyday lives of His people (those who have come to Jesus by grace alone through faith alone).

The Bible is the source of truth.

In a post-postmodern age in which truth isn’t merely relative any longer, but feelings have been elevated so that they are equal or above perceived truth, the Christian takes comfort and gains confidence in the words of Christ: “Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Jesus spoke those words to His Father in Gethsemane, mere minutes (or at the most hours) before He was arrested, tried, and crucified. In a moment which could fairly be described as His deepest human crisis, He was praying for His disciples in the world that they would hold fast to that which God had revealed.

The Lord knew full well the value He wanted His people to place upon Scripture, because throughout His earthly ministry His disciples had seen Him value Scripture. Matthew and Luke both record the wilderness temptations of the devil himself, to which Jesus responded each time with biblical texts, notably from Deuteronomy. The one which screams to us as it pertains to this topic is, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4; c.f. Deut 8:3; Luke 4:4).

The God of the word, in the flesh, relied on, obeyed, and trusted in the word of God. The One who is the way, and the truth, and the life pointed to what God has revealed (Scripture) as the truth which sanctifies, or makes us holy.

Practically speaking, we do not reconcile the Scripture to the world (rather it be history, science, or any other discipline), but we start with the word of God and reconcile everything else to it. And time and time again, the Scriptures have been proven to be exactly what Jesus said they were: the truth. Continue reading “The Christian and the Bible, Part 2: The source”