Seward United Methodist Church
Thursday, July 09, 2020
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Meditation on Titus 2: 11-14

Titus 2:11-14

            Titus 2 is one of many places in the Bible that contains a “code of conduct” for early Christ-followers, a set of guidelines for how they were to behave in different relationships.  Bible scholars tell us these codes were important because in the mid-first century, Christianity was an unpopular, foreign, and minority religion.  Christians were the frequent subject of slander by people who didn’t understand their faith, and the occasional target of violence and persecution.  So it was important for Christians to live in such a way as to counter false accusations. 

God’s gift of salvation is for all, but like any gift, it must be received.  And that won’t happen unless Christians live in such a way as to make the gospel available to others.  The gospel is always going to run contrary to the world’s ways of thinking, but if Christians are despised and rejected outright, that makes it harder to share the good news. 

Paul reminds Titus and his fellow church members here that we are living between the appearances of Christ.  He says, on the one hand, “The grace of God has been revealed,” and quickly follows it up with, “While we look forward to when the glory of our God and Savior will be revealed.”  Christ has appeared and he will appear.  He came the first time in humility, to offer his life as a ransom for sinners.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. 

We live in between.  We live in the now-and-not-yet, the begun but not completed.  All our Christian ethics exist in this not-yet-completeness.  As such, they are inadequate.  They fall short.  The question, “How then shall we live?” cannot be answered completely just yet. 

But our ethics are also oh-so-important.  They’re essential.  Because we are God’s own people.  The Greek word Paul uses here is PERIOUSIOS, and one of the ways that word was used was to talk about “that which belongs to the King.”  We belong to the King.  Our character reflects the character of God.  When people see us, they see a reflection of what God is like.  So we must be eager to do good.  Otherwise, how will people know that God is good? 

In Christ, we have been freed from the penalty of sin.  We call that atonement.  We have been freed from slavery to the power of sin.  We call that ransom; that Christ has paid the price of his own life to buy our freedom.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be free from the influence of sin.  We call that sanctification, being made holy. 

Therefore, “we must turn from godless living and sin to God-filled living of self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God.”  Or as the prophet Isaiah said many years earlier, “Cease to do evil; learn to do good.” 

Paul mentions three specific virtues the Christian life should show.  First, self-control, or in older translations of the Bible it’s called “prudence.”  A self-controlled person is not a slave to passions or desires.  The second is right conduct.  That is doing what is good and refraining from what is wrong.  Such a person renders to God and neighbor what is due to each.  And the third virtue is devotion to God or reverence. To live with reverence is to live with a constant awareness of God, to have one’s mind filled with God.  Such a person knows all the world is God’s Temple.  We tend to act differently when we know we are in sacred space.  Well, we should live differently in all places knowing that the one true God fills all of heaven and earth with his presence.

How we live matters.  It matters because we represent God.  We are his people, and our living reflects his character.  Christ is the light of the world, and if we are in Christ, we are also the light of the world.

I think we should pay particular attention to this idea because it’s important to our witness today.  Christianity is fast becoming a minority religion in the United States.  And we are increasingly seen as an unpopular religion.  Many people view Christians as part of the problem, not a solution to the world’s ills.  Is our living such that others will see it and be willing to hear the gospel because of our witness?  Does our living make the gospel more or less available for other people in our society?  Are we helping God’s gift to be received? 

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