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Your Greatest Outreach Tool (Titus 2:1-3:8, 14)

February 8, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Reset: Back to the Basics of Our One Mission

Topic: Titus Passage: Titus 2:1–3:14

Reset: Back to the Basics of Our One Mission

Your Greatest Outreach Tool
Titus 2:1-3:15
(One Mission: I am Not Ashamed)
February 8th, 2015

 

I. Review

As we return to the word this morning, let me very quickly remind you of the foundational truths we talked about last week. If you recall, we spent time working together through a lot of verses. And hopefully you saw how those scriptures undergird three basic truths about Jesus and what it means to follow Him:

1. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets by fulfilling the Great Commands.
2. Jesus fulfilled these Great Commands as He fulfilled God's mission.
3. Jesus continues to fulfill God's mission through His fullness in the Church.

Now of we're honest, so many of us have been content for too long with a counterfeit discipleship, one in which sin management or knowledge acquisition or church service has become the dominant theme. But from those three truths we were able to formulate a purpose statement that applies to every disciple of Christ: The purpose of your life here is to obey the Great Commands as you carry out the mission of God. As we talked about, this is what it means to be “fishers of men”, the very work to which Jesus invited the first disciples.

This morning, we need to look at the question any one of us would be asking in the face of this teaching about following Jesus and the mission of God: “What in the world is this supposed to look like in my life?” To answer that question, turn with me to Colossians 4.

 

II. Continuing the Mission of God (Colossians 4:2-6; I Peter 3:13-16)

One of the most interesting, but most neglected, aspects of this question is the role of the church in the mission of God. How is Jesus continuing His mission through us...through you? The traditional approach has been to look at the original Apostles and to look at Paul, and then define what it means to continue the mission of God based on their example. We think, “Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and he preached and did miracles. And the book of Acts tells us the Apostles did the same. Okay, even though we don't have the authority to do miracles in the way they did, we still need to preach and figure out ways to get the word out.”

Now in one sense, this is correct. The word does need to go out. Only the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). And it needs to be heard and believed.

But when it comes to the preaching ministry, the evangelistic ministry, the church-planting ministry of the Apostles, I do not believe those are the primary examples we should look to in terms of the everyday lives of those in this or any local church. How can I say that? Because never once, does Paul, or Peter, or John, or James, never once do any of them instruct or encourage their readers to do those things.

Can you think of any passage where the reader is instructed to knock on doors, or preach on the street corner, or hand out tracts, or put on an outreach event? Please don't get me wrong. I'm not at all saying those kinds of things don't have a place in the work of the kingdom. But the indisputable fact that the letters of the NT, that those letters to the churches, do not contain the kinds of outreach commands we would expect to find, that should get our attention. It certainly isn't true that Paul does not want the word to forth from these churches.

So how do we make sense of this? Well look at the distinction we find in Colossions 4, starting in verse 2:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. [3] At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—[4] that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. [5] Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. [6] Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:2-6)

Notice what we have here. We do see Paul talking about the kind of ministry we just talked about. Paul is eager for an “open...door for the word”, so that he can “declare the mystery of Christ”. This desire is all the more amazing in light of the fact that Paul is “in prison” because of his evangelistic ministry. But notice how he wants them to be involved in his evangelistic ministry: he asks for prayer.

But the mission of God is still on his mind when he gets to verse 5, right? His direct instruction to them in regard to the mission of God has to do with the kind of lives they are to lead and the kind of words they are to use. “Walk in wisdom”...”speak graciously”. Notice the word “answer” in verse 6. Hold onto that word and turn with me to I Peter 3. Look at verse 13:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? [14] But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, [15] but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, [16] having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (I Pet. 3:13-16)

Did you see how this passage is similar to Colossians 4? Just as Colossians 4:6 spoke of knowing how to “answer each person”, this passage speaks of answering “anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. While this passages seem to paint more of a picture of persecution, both passages revolve around the kind of life you live and the kind of words you use.

 

III. The Passage: “Adorn the Doctrine” (2:1-3:8, 14)

With that in mind, let's look together at our main passage and see how those ideas are connected to this larger block of teaching to the local church, specifically local churches on the island of Crete. Turn to Titus chapter 2. Listen very carefully to how Paul encourages Titus to encourage the churches in regard to the mission of God in their communities.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. [2] Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, [4] and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, [5] to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. [6] Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. [7] Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, [8] and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. [9] Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, [10] not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn [beautify] the doctrine of God our Savior. [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. [15] Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. [3:1] Remind them [Titus] to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, [2] to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. [3] For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. [4] But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, [5] he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, [7] so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [8] The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people...[skipping down to v.14] And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

Did you hear how Paul was encouraging Titus to encourage these believers in terms of the mission of God? There are two ideas here that dominate these 24 verses. And not surprisingly, these two ideas point us back to the Great Commands.

First, these disciples are being encouraged to love God with their all by living for God in all things. When Paul talks about living self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, he is talking about loving, grateful obedience to God. And as we see here, not only does this kind of lifestyle honor God, but it speaks volumes to others about the God we serve. As Paul says in 2:10, this kind of life “adorns” or beautifies the very teaching, the very gospel to which we hold. And so it's not surprising that when we struggle to obey, when we live more like the world than like Jesus, it's not surprising that we give ammunition to those who don't believe the truth; ammunition to use against us.

But if these chapters are anything, they are specific, they are detailed in terms of what it means to live for Christ, what it means to reflect Jesus, and what that means for all different sorts of people, in all different areas of life. But there's another dominant theme here...

Second, these disciples are being encouraged to love their neighbors as themselves by being zealous for, ready for, and devoted to good works. There's no way anyone can read these chapters and not sense the emphasis here on “good works”. Paul uses that phrase five times! And the last time he uses it, in 3:14, he gives us a little more insight into what he means: And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

Verses 4-7 of chapter 3 remind us that it is the goodness of God that these Christians had come to know through Jesus, by grace alone, through faith alone, it was THAT goodness that was to compel them to choose the good in all their decisions and to express that goodness by serving, by helping, by blessing, by meeting the needs of those around them. Those are the “good works” for which we should be zealous, for which we are to be ready, to which we should be devoted.

Now at this point, I want to remind you of what we saw in Colossians 4 and I Peter 3. In the letters of the NT, those letters written to and written for believing churches and individuals, we do not see the writers instructing believers to carry out the mission of God in ways we might expect. What we do see, as Titus 2 & 3 demonstrate, what we do see is line after line, letter after letter, in which followers of Jesus are called to obey the Great Commands; to live the kind of life that inspires questions from, that results in dialogue with those on the outside.

 

III. Harvesting in Your Field

Is that how you think about the mission of God? Do you realize that your greatest outreach tool is not an evangelistic video or clever booklet, it is not an invite card to church or some special event, it is not what you learned in an apologetics seminar or by watching Billy Graham. Those certainly can be good things, but you need to know your greatest outreach tool is your life; your everyday life lived in obedience to the Great Commands; to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

If following Jesus means going where Jesus is going, if the body of Christ is continuing the work of Christ in this world, and if that work involves fishing for men, and seeking and saving the lost, then is THIS, is your everyday life your strategy for reaching the lost?

But wait a minute. Which lost people are we talking about? Who exactly are YOU called to reach? Well, think about that for a minute. If the kinds of lives we live and the kinds of words we use, if those things in conjunction with a commitment to good works, if all of it is to be used by God to inspire questions and spark conversations, then doesn't it make sense that it is the people in YOUR circle right now that God has called you to reach?

Listen to several passages from God's word and tell me what they all have in common:

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. [19] And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” [20] And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:18-20)

And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends...[33][And Cornelius said] Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” (Acts 10:24, 33)

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” [28] And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. [29] And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. [30] And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” [31] And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. [32] I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32)

Did you notice the common thread? As God brought these people to Jesus, He immediately began to use them in the lives of others. Which others? They went to or gathered together or made dinner for their family and friends, the people in their cirlce. Don't misunderstand me. God does call people to ministries of evangelism and church planting, but not everyone. And yet, this is the common denominator: have all of us been faithful to live out the Great Commands before the eyes of and in the lives of those people in OUR circles?

As Martin Luther declared: “It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbor.”

I want you to stop for a minute and think about the 10-15 closest people God has placed in your circle. They are the people on your street, they are your co-workers, they are your family members, they sit with you at Little League games, they are part of your Zumba class, they are the people that God has placed in your life. Some of these people you know fairly well. Other are just acquaintances.

But you might say, “But pastor, the people in my circle are all Christians.” Well if that's the case, then it might be time to join a softball team, or volunteer someplace, or start to meet you neighbors when you see them standing or working outside. Wherever you find them, are you looking for ways to be a neighbor to these people?

What does that mean? Well, think about what we've already seen. It means walking in wisdom toward these people. Thinking about the example you are setting and the message you send with your lifestyle. Are you laughing at the dirty joke making its way around the office, or are you instead asking your co-worker about his mother who is in the hospital, or maybe surprising your co-workers with do? Do your neighbors only see you yelling at your kids, or laughing with them as you spend time with them? Are you always in a hurry or do you take time for people? Are you gracious in your speech? Do you take an interest in other people, or are you quick to give your opinion on this, that, or the other thing?

It also means being devoted to good works. Maybe it's time to have a couple or family in your neighborhood over for dinner. Maybe you could give that young couple up the street a date night while you watch their kids. What about having all your co-workers sign a card for the lady in the office whose daughter is in the hospital. Maybe you help a neighbor with his weeds, or make a commitment to bless that unsaved spouse in a new way every week. Maybe it's just being there to listen, to encourage, to hug, to let someone know you are praying for them.

Remember what we saw last week. Paul had talked in I Corinthians 9:22 about how he had “become all things to all people, that by all means [he] might save some”. But in I Corinthians 10:27, Paul described a context for the Corinthians' ministry...If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner...And that was the everyday context for the Corinthian believer to live out his or her faith in regard to sticky question of eating meat and the worship of idols.

Whatever it looks like specifically for YOU, all of this assumes you being will to enter the lives of people in your circle in a more deliberate, thoughtful, and prayerful way. Will you do that? Isn't that what Jesus would do, and wants to do through His body, the church?

Now notice what I did NOT say. I did not say being a neighbor to the people in your circle simply means giving them a Bible, a Christian booklet, or inviting them to church. I absolutely hope that will happen at some point, but remember what we've seen from God's word. We are called to live the kind of life that inspires questions and sparks conversations. When you love and serve and pray for the people in your circle, when you truly devote yourself to those things, God will open doors for you to share Christ with them. In fact, that's the very thing we'll talk about next week.

But it takes time. Too often, we Christians begin to reach out to someone, then invite them to church, and when they decline, we move on. But not everyone is ready to come to church. Not everyone is ready to talk about God. Some people just need to know they can trust you. They just need to know you care. And when I seek to love God with my all and to love my neighbor as myself, God uses that in amazing ways in the lives of those who are far from Him.

Again, think about it: if you are the kind of person who listens and loves, and has shown that you are willing to go the 'extra mile' for those around you, if you are the kind of person who unabashedly loves God, who do you think these people will come to when their marriage is falling apart, or their job is in jeopardy, or their children are in trouble, or when they have a question about religion or spirituality? They will most likely come to you.

And if you are using your life as your greatest outreach tool, then God will give you wisdom about when to pass along that Christian booklet, or when to invite that person to look at the Bible with you, or when to invite them to church. Again, am I saying you should never share the gospel right away with the people around you? Of course not. But you should do so with discernment, remembering that in general, the best foundation is the testimony of your life and your love. That's how the Apostles seemed to encourage the churches.

God has placed YOU in a field, it is YOUR field, and He wants to use you for harvesting that field. Do you believe that? Remember, this is not some kind of extra-curricular activity or seasonal program in the church. As we saw last week, this is central to what it means to follow Jesus; this is central to what it means to be a Christian. Apart from the mission of God, our spiritual lives begin to make less and less sense, and we are prone to accept counterfeits instead of true Christlikeness.

Brother, sister, you are not alone in this work. We are on this mission together, and through His Spirit, Christ is with us...”and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

More in Reset: Back to the Basics of Our One Mission

February 22, 2015

Get Ready to Stir (Hebrews 10:19-25)

February 15, 2015

How You Ought to Answer (I Peter 3:9-16)

February 1, 2015

But Where is He Going? (Matt. 4:18-20)