It's All Good Week Three - "Good News"

This week I am preaching the third installment of our four-part sermon series on the book of Titus, entitled "It's All Good."

This week's sermon is entitled, "Good News," and as you might imagine by the title (or maybe not) we're going to be talking a bit about evangelism.  Come to think of it, it's not that evident by the title exactly what we'll be covering in this sermon.  Oh well, we all need a little mystery, don't we?

I am going to start with a parable that I ripped off and paraphrased from the great Peter Rollins, who wrote this in his book The Orthodox Heretic, which will blow your mind if you read it.  So, if you prefer your mind unblown, don't buy it.

It seems there was a pastor, who had a gift for preaching.  He was a fiery preacher, who was highly sought for revivals, conferences and the like.  He also had a gift that he kept a secret.  It seemed that whenever he prayed a blessing over someone, they would immediately lose their faith.  After this happened a few times, he learned that it was best not to pray a blessing over people, no matter how they might desire it. 

So one day he was flying on an airplane and found himself sitting next to a well-known businessman---a CEO, with a ruthless reputation.  He was both feared and respected in the business community.  When he discovered that he was sitting next to the famous preacher, the businessman began relating how important his Christian faith was to him.  "I love going to worship and to Bible studies," he told the preacher.  "Those things remind me of what's really important when the stress of my business gets to me.  It reminds me of who I really am."  

As he listened to the man, the preacher grew heartsick.  He decided to use his gift, and prayed a prayer of blessing over the man.  Immediately the businessman discovered that his faith was a distant memory.  "What a fool I've been!" he said, "The most important thing is my own happiness and success.  All of this belief and Christian living has gotten in my way all of this time."  

When the businessman returned to his life, however, he soon discovered that his ruthless ways and fearful reputation led him not into happiness but deep despair. He eventually left his vocation and devoted himself to charitable work, philanthropy and the like.  His soul became renewed and he discovered true joy and bliss.  

One day he saw the famous preacher on the street and ran to him.  He fell to his knees, grabbed the preacher's hands and began to weep. "Thank you for helping me find my faith again!" he said through the tears.  

I read Pete's interpretation of his parable, and he essentially breaks it down to this:  Sometimes our Christian faith gets in the way of our truly being Christian.  In the parable, the man has to lose his faith in order to find it.  Someone fairly important said once that in order to find our lives, we need to lose them.  Yeah, that would be Jesus.

What evidence of your faith is visible to others?

Do people know what you believe based on how you act?

I was in the University of Georgia football teams locker room once.  Yes, I just said that.  I saw a sign on the wall that head coach Mark Richt had placed there.  It read, "There can be no success if what you do is different than what you believe."

I think one of the main reasons why so many people don't really see the point in being Christian anymore is because Christians have lost their passion.  And we've lost our passion because we've lowered our expectations.  And when we lower our expectations, people (like us) lower their standards in order to meet them.

People in our culture are desperate to believe in something worth believing in.

Let's say that we made the following announcement on Sunday:
Monday evening we will be gathering together for a little door to door witnessing in our neighborhood.  We're going to knock on people's doors, tell them where we're from and then find out the status of their immortal soul, by asking them where they would spend eternity if they died right this minute---in Heaven or Hell.  

Would you show?  Probably not.  I'm fairly sure I would have something else to do, too.  It's impossible to truly witness to someone about your faith if you don't spend time with them first.  There has to be a context for your evangelism, right? Most of us would agree that we should evangelize with our lives.  "Just let me live my life, and be a witness wherever I happen to be."

But we're not doing a very good job with that, are we?  If we were, then there would be a whole lot more people desiring to hang with us.  Instead they're going in the opposite direction.

And don't blame Jesus.  They like Jesus.  They just don't think we represent him all that well.  And we don't because we are in love with the idea of Jesus, instead of being in love with Jesus himself.

Here's something my congregation has heard a few times:
When you KNOW Jesus, you SHOW Jesus.

Read Titus 2:1-15

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, "I fear that Christians who stand with only one leg upon earth also stand with only one leg in heaven."  We aren't engaged with our neighbors, and when we are, we don't seem to demonstrate how awesome the Gospel really is.  And lets be honest.  We don't really care a whole lot about the people on the outside of the walls of our church buildings.

We don't mind talking to them about Jesus once in a while, as long as it doesn't take a lot out of us, or move us out of our comfort zone.

But our task is not to talk to people about Jesus, but to show Him.

In Titus 2 Paul helps Titus out with his problems of evangelism in Crete.  He addresses three main areas in the culture at the time where Titus needs to pay close attention.  He speaks to Generations, then to Gender and then to Class.  These were the hierarchical ways that the Cretan culture would have divided itself.

What Paul is doing here is exhorting Titus and his flock to acknowledge the things that were important to the culture around them, and to make sure that they were living exemplary lives in those areas.  Because those were the areas of life that the Cretans would be really watching.

You see what Paul understood was this: "The Christian message is the source of Christian life."  There is no Christian life apart from the saving grace we have through Jesus Christ.  But Paul also understood that "our greatest witness is when we live in a way that adorns the gospel and makes it attractive to look at."

All of his exhortations were done with the outsider in mind.

He tells "Senior Men" that they should be sober, prudent and basically be aware of the gravity of life.   He tells "Senior Women" that they should be free from gossip, sober and engaged in "sacred things."  He also encourages them to tutor young women.  He tells "Young Women" to be submissive.  We'll come back to that. He finally tells "Young Men" to use self-control and prudence.

Now to the "submissive" issue:

There are some "temporary" aspects to Paul's letter.  It was, after all, written to a particular context.  There are also some "permanent" aspects to Paul's letter that are universal in meaning and applicable today.  We also don't have all of Paul's teachings on the meaning of mutual submission here either.  We can assume that these issues were of great importance in the culture of the day, regardless of what Paul might have taught elsewhere.  Again, he's speaking to how Christians should act, keeping their neighbors in mind.

He goes on to write that Christians are "periousios" which means "reserved for."  Through the work of Jesus, the Christian becomes fit to be the special possession of God---ready to be used for God's work and to be a living witness of God's grace through Jesus.

When I was growing up, I heard more than a few people in the fundamentalist churches I went to say, "Be in the world but not of the world."  The truth of the matter is that most of those people never really lived in the world.  They lived in their own little world---a Christian ghetto filled with people who looked, thought and acted just like them.

We live in the world, but we don't do it uncritically.
We also don't live in it selfishly and unaware of our calling.
We're not in this for ourselves.

When you KNOW Jesus, you SHOW Jesus.

Years ago, when I arrived at my first ordained call as an associate pastor, I preached a sermon on Sunday morning to my new flock and everyone was excited and happy to hear it and to welcome me and my family.  Later that week I had to go to Walgreen's because we needed a prescription filled.  This Walgreen's repeatedly messed up our orders.  They would not have them filled, have a problem with them, not have our information up to date---again---and much more.  When I arrived I was expecting that there would be a problem, and the technicians did not disappoint.  They had no record that we had called the prescription in earlier that day.  I had been standing in line for ten minutes already, and was just told that I would have to wait another 30 minutes.  I started to open my mouth and say some choice things to the tech.  For some reason, I thought better of myself and just smiled a sad smile and said, "That's okay."

As I turned around I stood face to face with one of my new parishoners who had been sitting in the pews the previous Sunday when I preached.  She had been standing right behind me.

What if I had blessed out that tech right in front of her?

This kind of thing happens to me all of the time.

I was in Five Guys burgers the other day and a lady asked, "Are you a pastor?" I said that I was.  She told me that she recognized my voice from a funeral I had just preached that she attended.

What if she heard that familiar voice saying things that were not godly?

Everyone reading this is thinking, "But you're a pastor!  That stuff never happens to me."  Really?  People are always watching.  What sort of witness are you being with your life?

If you say you know Jesus, then why aren't you showing him?

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