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Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Change Agent

I, Paul, am God's slave and Christ's agent for promoting the faith among God's chosen people, getting out the accurate word on God and how to respond rightly to it. My aim is to raise hopes by pointing the way to life without end. This is the life God promised long ago—and he doesn't break promises! And then when the time was ripe, he went public with his truth. I've been entrusted to proclaim this Message by order of our Savior, God himself. Dear Titus, legitimate son in the faith: Receive everything God our Father and Jesus our Savior gives you! (Titus 1:1-4)

Paul opens this letter to Titus with his usual flare for explaining what "credentials" he has as a minister of the gospel and what his "purpose" is in writing.  It is kind of like those "abstracts" you find of one of those very intense research articles in a trade journal - it gives you the meat of the article in a concise few paragraphs so you can know if you are interested in delving into the next ten pages of study information, statistics, and outcomes.  I think Paul did a great job of defining his purpose in each of his letters to the churches we find recorded in the New Testament.  We are going to spend some time on Titus, so let's dig in.

Paul says he is both a slave and an agent of Christ.  Interesting contrast in terms, huh?  Most of us think of a slave as one in bondage or service to another, while we think of an agent as one who acts in the place of the other.  Let me begin by saying that "slave" has several meanings in the Bible, depending on which Hebrew or Greek word was used.  In this case, Paul was referring to himself as one who is toiling in service for another (Christ).  When he refers to himself as an "agent", he is likely referring to the fact that as one in service to Christ, he is acting as an instrument by which Christ can receive results.  He is acting in the place of Christ as his messenger - under the authority of the one he serves.

His mission is quite plainly established in this passage:
  • To promote the faith among God's chosen people - bringing people to the foot of the cross and leading them into a deeper walk
  • To get out the accurate Word of God - not just a semblance of the truth, but the accurate Word we can stand on with assurance
  • To show how to respond to the Word - it is one thing to hear it - it is quite another thing to know how to respond to it
  • To raise hopes by pointing to eternal life - if we understand the reward at the end of the journey, the steps along the way may be a little more bearable
  • To build trust in God's promises - not just a casual acquaintance with the Word, but an intimate knowledge of the Word that produces a deep trust in the covenant God has made with us within the promises recorded there
As Paul moves on in the letter, he advised Titus to appoint leaders in the church that have several character traits that will make them the best leaders for God's people.  Briefly, we will examine these character traits:
  • They are able to welcome people - wouldn't it be a shame to have a pastor or leader of a church that had absolutely no ability to establish relationships and make people feel unconditionally welcome in the walls of the church?
  • They are to be helpful - speaks of a servant's heart
  • They are to be wise and able to exercise wisdom - it is one thing to possess the "book knowledge" of the Word that one can get from Bible College or Seminary - it is quite another thing to know how to apply it
  • They are to be fair - try leading a group of people and having "favorites" - it just doesn't work
  • They are to be reverent of God and others - God first, held in a place of absolute honor and respect - then it flows to every relationship
  • They are to have a good grip on "self" so that they are not a stumbling block to others - can I say more?  What leader could lead well without first understanding his/her own limitations, strengths, etc.?
  • They are to have a solid grip on the Word of God - because that is the most important instrument they have to set people free and to bring the sheer enjoyment of serving Christ into full understanding in their lives
The last trait he outlines in this chapter of a leader of the faith is one who is able to use the Word to produce a robust faith.  We kid about this word "robust" in my work setting because we have heard it used (perhaps over-used) for everything under the sun.  We want "robust" outcomes - financial, service, employee satisfaction, etc.  Paul describes the role of the leader as one who is able to spur people in their knowledge of God until they come into a place where their own faith is "robust" - flourishing, deeply-rooted, well-established.  He points to the fact that this type of robust faith is able to stop sinners dead in their tracks!  No wonder Paul emphasizes this ability for a leader - reproducible faith that brings conviction and changes lives.

As we dig into this book over the next several days, keep in mind that Paul is like a father to these church leaders.  He is giving advice, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that if embraced by the church will produce a group of lively, spirited believers - intent on following Christ with all they are.  It is that intensity of spiritual character that makes it possible to stop those that oppose the faith "dead in their tracks".  Paul wanted to establish a church that not only sheltered the believers so they could grow in Christ, but a church that welcomed the hurting and was skilled at shutting down those that stood in opposition to their faith.  May we become strong in our belief, capable of standing strong in our faith, and confident in our position as a child of the King!