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The Way We Were

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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March 25, 2022 4:00 am

The Way We Were

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 25, 2022 4:00 am

Social and political tensions often bring out the worst in us. Our reaction can either alienate others or build bridges for the Gospel. Learn how to turn potential conflicts into life-changing opportunities, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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The media is full of reports of social and political tensions. So how do we as Christians respond in the midst of strife and division? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains that our response will either alienate others or will build a bridge for the gospel.

We begin today in chapter 3 of the book of Titus. Alistair is teaching from verses 1 through 3. What should be the hallmark of a Christian citizen? And at the very heart of this chapter, and indeed running through all the three chapters, there is this emphasis on goodness and of good works and good deeds. So, for example, in verse 8, I want you to stress these things so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. So if the congregation in Crete is to be peculiar, it ought to be peculiar on the basis of its distinctiveness in relationship to a transformed life within marriage, within work at a routine, within the culture, and so on, and within the church. And this particular chapter leaves us in no doubt that we are saved not by good works, but we're saved for good works—the good works, which Paul says in Ephesians 2 10, God has ordained in advance for us to do. The Christian should live their life in such a way that the very life we live commends the gospel. And we noted last time that even the response of employees to their employer may be such that it adorns or makes attractive the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The believers in Crete could so easily find themselves fretting and fuming because they were living under the oppressive rule that came from Rome itself. And Paul, as a wise man and Titus as a good pastor, recognizes that it would be possible for the people in Crete to adopt one of two polar opposites—one, to seek to isolate themselves almost entirely from the matters of community life and to take no part in things.

And Paul says, No, you're not gonna get away with that one. Or the other extreme, of course, is that it would be possible for them to become so involved in things and allow their frustration to become agitation, their agitation to grow into insurrection, and for them just to be a complete and total nuisance in the community. And as a result of that, either by their non-involvement or by their over-involvement, fail to do what God intends for them to do—namely, to commend the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that in the realm of public life, to live in such a way that it builds, if you like, bridgeheads for the gospel itself. Now, you will notice that Paul begins with the phrase, Remind them to be. Remind them to be. The role of the pastor is essentially the role of reminder.

It's not really the role of innovation. Most of us don't need, you know, peculiar insights into new truth as much as we need to be reminded of the things that have been taught to us for a long time. And so, here they are to be reminded of what it means for them to live in the environment of rulers and authorities.

So notice that, then, as the first point. The instruction is in relationship to civil jurisdiction, if we might refer to it in that way. For rulers and authorities are put in place by God, they are the civil authorities, they are established by God. The view of the world that is encapsulated for us in the Bible is a view which then helps us to understand the flow of human history and contemporary history. So believers are expected, then—and Paul says this in 1 Timothy 2, you can check it—but they are expected, we are expected, to pray for kings, to pray for those who are in high positions, because it is pleasing to God. God has established these authorities, and he wants us to pray for them. The byproduct of it, says Paul in 1 Timothy 2, is that that will enable us to live peaceful, quiet, and godly, and dignified lives. In other words, there are good pragmatic reasons for upholding the rule of law.

You don't want to live in anarchy, you don't want to live under oppression. Therefore, he says, make sure that you're praying for these things. And it is in that context that the gospel is then to flow. Because when you check it in your homework and you go to 1 Timothy 2, you will realize that it is right there that he then says, For God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. I bet many of us wouldn't have been able to say where that verse came. And some of us, I was a little surprised, I'd forgotten that it comes right on the heels of the exhortation to pray for kings, for authorities, to live within the framework of civil society. Then he says, For God wants all men to be saved. The implication being that our lives lived in that realm must be, as in every other realm, oriented around the gospel itself.

Now, there's no difficulty in grasping what's being said here. The congregation would understand it, we can too. Remind them to be submissive, to be obedient, and to be willing servants. Submissive, obedient, and willing servants. Isn't that what it is in verse 1? And so we have to ask ourselves, How well are we doing in relationship to this?

How well did they do in Crete? But, says somebody, if you're teaching this in a classroom setting, somebody almost immediately puts up their hand and says, Oh yeah, but aren't we supposed to disobey the authorities at certain times? I always want to say, Why do you want to raise that question first? Why do you want to raise the question of the exception? Which, of course, comes very quickly in the Acts of the Apostles. And they commanded them, No more to preach concerning Jesus. And they said, You judge for yourselves whether it is right for us to obey God who told us to preach, or to obey you who told us not to preach. There is an exception there.

But that's not the point that it's making here. Some of us like to immediately go to the exception, because we don't want to face the rule. And the rule is, don't worry about exceptions right now.

Worry about living an exceptional life. Because this is exceptional in society. And this is the life that is to be the life of the Christian. The demands with which we comply the things that are made up for the establishing of society are there under God, in the same way as the nuclear family is there under God.

The nuclear family is not a human invention. Therefore, family is as God has established. Civil jurisdiction is as God has established. And therefore, the Christian of all people ought to be prepared to deal with this. So the believers in Crete are called to uphold the rule of law and to be willing to render whatever good service they can. Secondly, in verse 2, the instruction is given not simply in terms of top-down or bottom-up, as it were, to the rulers and authorities, but on a more lateral level. And notice how comprehensive it is to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, to show perfect courtesy to everyone.

Quite a tall order, isn't it? And you will notice that this immediately takes us into the realm of the tongue, to speak evil of no one. The tongue, remember James said, we all stumble in many ways.

If anyone doesn't stumble in what he says, he's a perfect man. But the tongue, he says, is a fire, is an uncontrollable fire of unrighteousness. It's a ruthless evil.

It's full of deadly poison. Now, let's just be dead honest about this. Is it not true that within our kind of circles, we have decided that there are certain big sins in which we're not engaged, apparently, about which we can comment using lesser sins—not least of all, the sin of slander—so that we somehow or another have decided that it is legitimate for us to say all kinds of things about all kinds of people under some semblance of righteous indignation, when in actual fact we may be guilty of slander? Of using our tongues in such a way that doesn't commend the gospel and doesn't make it possible for those who are listening to us to say, Now, that's the kind of person that I would really like to hear their views on such and such, because of the use of our tongues.

Tell the people in Crete to slander no one, and make sure that they are courteous to everyone. Well, they're really supposed to be like Jesus. Because after all, Paul had explained to the church in Rome that the reason that these believers had been predestined and chosen out by God was in order that they might be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. For those whom he foreknew—this is Romans 8, 29—those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. So all that Paul is saying here to Titus is, If God has redeemed your people there in Crete, his purpose from all of eternity is to make them like Jesus. And if they're going to be like Jesus in terms of civil society, then you must remind them to say no to slander, to be courteous, not to be argumentative, not to be contentious, and not to undermine the system.

And the comprehensive nature of the challenge is quite remarkable, isn't it? And so it's good to pause there before you go to verse 3, because you pause before that—I find myself pausing before that—and say, Man, oh man, how am I going to be better at this? Then he says in verse 3, For we ourselves were… Now look at this ugly list that follows. Here are these believers in Crete, and the temptation is for them to forget what they were before Christ saved them. And what you have is a diagnosis of the human condition in all of its hostility towards God. If you want to know what society is like in its hostility towards God, this doesn't give you it all, but this gives you a large part of it. Foolish, disobedient, astray, passions, pleasures, malice, envy, hatred, and so on. Here is society. Here is first-century Crete, and here's twenty-first-century Cleveland, right before your eyes. And these are the characteristics of a life that is lived in alienation from God.

Look at them. This is true of us. If I had not been brought to faith in Jesus Christ as a boy, I would have known in actuality every aspect of this, and maybe to unbelievable dimensions.

And some of our backgrounds are such that we can tick off this list and just stand up and say, What an amazing thing the grace of God is! Because that verse 3 says the person, Describe me to a T, one foolish. That's not an expression of the absence of intellectual capacity. It is a statement concerning moral perversity. It is the fool that said in his heart, There's no God.

It is Romans 1, exchanging the truth of God for a lie and worshiping the creatures rather than the Creator. Foolish. Secondly, disobedient.

Disobedient. Apart from Christ, you never listened to the voice of your conscience. You never listened to the voice of your mom and dad. You never listened to the voice of authority in your life at all. And you certainly didn't listen to the voice of God.

You knew there were Ten Commandments, but you thought if you tried three out of ten in any given week, you were doing a good job. You were disobedient. Thirdly, you were deceived, led astray. Choosing not to believe in God, we started believing all kinds of things. Started to believe that we're actually free, when in actual fact we're enslaved. That's number four. Slaves to various passions and pleasures.

Succumbing to the mantra, If it feels good, just go ahead and do it. Fifthly, living in malice and envy. You say, Surely not. Isn't that a bit over the top?

Well, think about it. What disrupts a home? What is it takes an office that has been functioning very, very well, and all of a sudden it begins to creak and groan and buckle under the weight of things? You'll find somebody in there that says, I should have had that office.

I should have received that remuneration. And I hate you for the fact that you did that to me. By nature, living in malice and in envy. Hated and hating.

It's not a nice list, is it? Now, Paul's point is shown up in verse 4. For we ourselves were, verse 3, verse 4, but when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared.

It's twofold, really. It's one, as a preventative measure, to stop us from treating the culture around us in such a way as to use it as an opportunity simply to point out everything that is wrong and everybody who is wrong, so that from that perspective we end up viewing the culture as simply an arena for us to be engaged in admonition, as opposed to seeing the culture in which we live, the society, the environment in which we live, as an opportunity for mission. So, mission versus admonition. And the antidote to admonition, says Paul here, is in reminding ourselves that were it not for the grace of God, we would be in the same place. This is the life, this is a natural life in hostility towards God. Men and women are opposed to God. They're not seeking God. They run from God. They don't want his scrutiny, they don't want his rules, they don't want his love.

So they go in search of other things that will try and make sense of the big questions of life. And so he says, now listen, make sure you remind the people so that they are slandering no one, they're courteous to everyone, they're not aggravationists, they're not insurrectionists, they're good souls in society, they're upholding the civil jurisdiction, and if they're tempted to get that wrong, remind them what they once were. We too were foolish, disobedient, slaves. I once was a stranger to grace and to God. That's Murray McShane. He died in 29. I once was a stranger to grace and to God.

What are you talking about, Murray McShane? You haven't lived long enough to be a stranger to grace and to God. Oh yes, I was born as a stranger to grace and to God. I was born in iniquity, I was fashioned in that way.

I emerged from my mother's womb as a rebel. Here's the plight of humanity. This is the news.

This is the whole thing. Where is our world? It's marked by folly, disobedience, deceit, enslavement to passions and pleasures, malice, envy, hatred and hating. You say, But isn't there good in the world?

Of course there is. But at the very core of things, why are things out of kilter? Why are they wrong? And if that is the plight of humanity, then it isn't going to be solved by any other means than the means to which Paul is coming here in verse 4. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not by works that we had done in righteousness. In other words, the God who has made us for himself, to whom we have turned our backs, is the God who actually pursues us. So it's not actually that we are out in the world looking for God, roaming around Cleveland trying to find God. And the mystery of it is that this God, against whom I have offended, is the God who pursues, the God who comes down into time, the God who doesn't ask us to climb up a mountain to try and find him. He doesn't ask us to do these things.

In fact, he tells us that all of the things that we endeavor to do in that way, even if we put them all together on our best, they would never amount to much. But the good news is that when I face that predicament, the solution is provided. Now, if you think about it, people recognize things are wrong.

They recognize they were wrong in Crete, they know they're wrong in Cleveland. How are we going to fix them? These are the answers that are given in our culture today.

Not all of them, but the main ones. Number one, education. Number two, we can fix this just with good examples.

Or number three, we'll be able to fix this with some kind of experiential encounter. The latter one being, look inside yourself and you'll find the God, you know. You don't want to breathe a little more and look in there, because you look in there, what do you find? You're foolish, you're disobedient, you spend your life in malice and envy, you're like, oh man, I don't want to look in here.

No, looking inside is not going to help. The good example, it's great to have a good example, but the fact that your uncle is a good example to you, has that fixed you? Or that your grandmother is a great prayer? Aren't you still envious?

Are you still jealous? Well, how about education? That's all we need is education. Just go to the Cleveland Clinic and watch the people standing out there at the circle, smoking. Doctors and nurses and people with wheelchairs, it's the saddest picture. What's up with these people? Didn't you read the sign for goodness sake? Didn't you see that thing? You're killing yourself, it's on the sign.

Everywhere you come, there's a sign. You do this, you kill yourself. Can you read? Of course I can read, but I can't stop.

You can't educate this out of me. Don't give me that horrible story, as if I'm a dimwit and I can't fix it, or as if I can't understand the example of somebody and try and do it. I can do it, I need somebody else to do it for me.

I need somebody to do something for me, something that I can't do for myself. That's the good news. But when the kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not by works done in righteousness but according to his own mercy and his grace.

This is the good news. So let me finish in this way. Here's the deal. Christians in Crete, civil government, pay attention. No monkey business.

With your friends, slandering no one, courteous to everyone. If you're tempted not to do it, remember what you wear apart from the grace of God. And when you remember life apart from the grace of God, then that will remind you of the predicament that is in face in our society, and that will then give you the opportunity to go back into the world of Mundi and to say, now there's a reason why my work colleague here says what she says, does what she does. Why is that? It must be Titus 3.

It is Titus 3. So wait a minute now, I'm not supposed to educate her or example her or ask her to look inside herself. No.

No, I'm going to tell her the good news. The good news is that God has done something. You remember Horace the Latin dramatist I mentioned to you some months ago? He instructed his students as playwrights, as follows, a God must not be introduced into the action unless the plot has gone into such a tangle that only a God can unravel it. And the plot of humanity is in such a tangle that only the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ can unravel it.

Has he unraveled it in your life? If you don't have a volume 2, you're still in volume 1. Volume 1 has just been described right there in verse 3. We are either living there or we have been removed from there. And the removal is as a result of God's grace.

What a story. Our assignment as followers of Jesus is to live the kind of grace-filled lives that draw others to the gospel. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg and a message called, The Way We Were. We often hear Alistair say the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things when we're studying the Bible. So what exactly are the main things?

Well that's covered in a very comprehensive way in a book we're talking about this week. It's titled, Know the Truth. This is a book that takes you through the central themes of the Bible chapter by chapter. The book addresses core Christian beliefs. Things like the nature of God, the nature of man, the saving work of Christ. You can request your copy of this book when you give a donation to support the teaching you hear on Truth for Life. Just visit slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to worship with your local church. On Monday we'll find out why God doesn't give out gold stars for good deeds and why that's more than okay. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-17 21:00:09 / 2023-05-17 21:08:58 / 9

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