ONE PERSON CAN CHANGE A COMMUNITY
After being in this city for a while, they walked the streets together. You never get used to the stark reality of the openly immoral life of these people. This incredible place was surrounded by mountains, as high as you could see covering the length of this island, so it’s cities were few. Their prophets describe the people “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” These people lack ethical principles, stealing and harbouring robbers and pirates were the norm. A Greek historian Polybius described this place:
“Cretans by the ingrained avarice are engaged in countless public and private seditions, murders and civil wars…. Now, with few exceptions, you could find no habits prevailing in private life more steeped in treachery than those in Crete, and not public policy more inequitable.”
This is the city to which we had entered, the city to which we would preach the purity of the gospel, a gospel of holiness, a life lived in service to Jesus Christ and for his glory alone, a gospel of humility and servanthood and a gospel of power and freedom. It was, as I pondered the stark contrast of this society with the gospel we preach, this moment that Paul turned to me and said: “Titus stay in this city, put the church in order, appoint elders, change the community, it’s time for me to move on!”
Welcome to Crete, the place where Titus is the Senior Pastor, and his community is one that only Tortuga on the Pirates of the Caribbean could parallel. So how does Paul expect this church birthed on the day of Pentecost within a Jewish community to change this city? How would you do it today? Evangelistic crusades, street teams of people going into the city; how do you impact a community like this?
Titus is an incredible book written to one of Paul's sons in the faith (the others Onesimus in Philemon and Timothy); it is part of the pastoral letters that Paul wrote, so the name of the book is going to be the name of the person the letter is written to. The author, Paul, left Titus in the city to take care of things and this letter is his letter back to Titus with instructions. Titus is one of the few letters we have with instructions for church leaders, how to appoint deacons, instructions on family life and employment. Most of Paul’s letters don’t cover specifics like this, so if you are a Pastor today, this is your letter.
So again considering this city, you would expect Paul to write about evangelistic campaigns or care centres but he doesn’t Paul writes about changing yourself to impact the community. Paul explains that transformed people transform a community!
You are going to love Titus – this is a book of instructions. Highlight all the traits that you can see in the book, meditate on what this means and perhaps what you need to develop in your life.
When you start reading Titus you see Paul jumps straight into the description of the Elders or Deacons and the list is long, but notice that he doesn’t talk about giftings or making sure they preach well or make sure they can heal people but within this community he knows that the rise and fall of the church will be on personal integrity and character and he goes after that with all he has.
Every trait he mentions in this book is about integrity; it’s about what you are like behind closed doors not what you are in front of the crowd. It’s about self-control, humility, integrity in your family life, be sound in your faith and in your doctrine, pure and not corrupted. Don’t be a Christian of words but be a Christian of actions!
Then he goes through each generation and people group in the church and shows Titus what to instruct them in, and again it is more about character than gifting. Teach the older women to be reverent and get them to teach what is good, teach the young me to be self-controlled by doing what is good, teach the slaves not to talk back, to be fully trusted.
And how are we to do this? He gives us the answer in 2:11 'For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people; it teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age...'
And then he finishes with 'eager to do what is good'.
As you read Titus you can see the 'do what is good' scriptures over and over again, let me show you
2:3 Older women teach what is good
2:7 Young men – be an example by doing what is good
2:14 Be eager to do what is good
3:1 Be ready to do whatever is good
3:8 Devote themselves to doing what is good
3:14 Again devote themselves to doing what is good
I know sometimes we think that keeping our lives and character in place is either self-focused or unnecessary but in a city that was completely immoral Paul knew that if these people lived a life that glorified God and did what was good, the community would notice and see the difference!
As you read Titus remember the city they were living in, Paul is passionate about getting the church in order so that the people will see it and receive the grace to live their lives the same way. In a day like today where character is at times overridden by gifting and ability, Paul swings it back and says, in the church, what we are behind closed doors, with our family and in our lives is more important than what we do in front of people. Live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives, in the grace of God and in the kindness and love that saved us because of his mercy and the washing of the Holy Spirit; be eager to do what is good. The people around you will notice, and that difference will change your community!