Are you focused upon something in your distant but present future that you’re passionate about?
Have you ‘seen’ the possibilities through your achieving it?
Have you considered the dangers, pitfalls, or obstructions that lay in wait for you?
In today’s message we considered what provokes a person to make decisions that they believe will help them reach their distant goals.
There are more and more young adults leaving college with the blessings of their parents to pursue – what some would call – “pie-in-the-sky” dreams. They see themselves as highly creative and generative people. They also are not afraid of the risks which are inherent for achieving their fantastic dreams.
What is it about such people that would enable them to see something so distant and yet so near that they believe in it at all costs? What are the skills necessary for them to rely upon to achieve such goals?
For many reading this they might cheer such a person and their commitment to dream big and act with such abandonment for their rejection of mediocrity. For others, they would simply strike them off as living irresponsible and inconsiderate of others who would have to care for them when they eventually fail.
In Paul’s letter to a novice named Titus; who’s been charged with the maintenance and management of the small home churches in Crete, a island just along the Northern coast of Africa around 65 A.D.; he hopes to provide guidance and practical instructions to aid Titus in his responsibilities.
Titus would certainly need these instructions to assist him. He was unwavering in his commitment to fulfill his charge to help these new Christians attain spiritual maturity; no matter their reputations of being obstinate, “liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons”, as one of the Cretan poets described his fellow countrymen.
For Titus, the goal or horizon of his ministry was the spiritual and numerical growth of this new evangelistic mission. He was looking ahead to the hope of this people’s salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
In Titus 2:11 Paul deposits this statement that reveals the impetus to how they will grow, and how Titus will arrive at his destination.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bring salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives, in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, etc.”
Paul reminds Titus to be confident in the fact that because Jesus Christ has been preached and revealed to the Cretans, a form of calculation has been initiated.
Just as a surveyor who hopes to learn the distance between their point of origin and a point on the horizon, Titus must also rely upon some proofs that will guide his trajectory for securely reaching his goal.
For example, just as the Pythagorean theory (a² + b² = c²) will give us the distance to a horizon we hope to reach by knowing:
a²= height of our eyes
c²= radius of the earth (3,957 miles)
b² = the distance to horizon
Walk with me a moment…
Imagine, since c² (radius of earth) is constant, we can imagine that God is also, always a constant. He is never manipulated nor changes His position. This is known as one of His immutable (unchangeable ) characteristics.
And since God ‘never changes’, we can now locate the height of our eyes, multiply by 1.5, and locate our estimated a². I say estimated because unlike God, our eye level is not immutable. It is not unchangeable. What I’m referring more specifically to is the degree of clarity our eyes actually have from one moment to the next.
Our eye’s or plane of vision is always susceptible to obstructions or weaknesses.
In a spiritual sense, Paul is warning Titus to learn what the grace of God; that brings the salvation for all; is teaching him. Titus must learn to deny or denounce those who live their lives with ungodliness as a way to live in community. The word ungodliness is packed with thoughts of irreverence and contempt for the things of religious value.
People who are ungodly are people who distain others for their religious beliefs and seek to minimize their value in the community.
It isn’t difficult to identify such people if we listen to, and watch their behaviors. But the word preceding ungodliness is truly the more important of the two. Paul wants Titus to understand that it isn’t just about “not being with people who are ungodly” but rather it means “to make known – NOT TO KNOW” them. It moves the Christian to a place from passive resistance toward active proclamation – that they are not associated with such people.
Along with this proclamation of openly denouncing and rejecting such relationships, Paul uses the description of someone who pursues worldly passions. This person is passionate about those things that are sewn into the very fabric of their culture – avarice, greed, lusts, pride, celebrity and dishonesty. Titus is told that the grace of salvation that appears to the Cretans’ who have aligned themselves with Christ are to treat them just as they would those who are ungodly.
Titus is also made to understand that the ungodly and pursuance of worldly cravings are not the only lessons taught. The appearance of Christ Jesus also initiates a curriculum of self-control and upright, and godly living. Some would call this entire instruction – sanctification – and so it is.
When Christ has become realized through His appearance, these experiences become a part of the life of the Christian. In due course, they transform the person in the very image of Christ; characteristically and spiritually.
Self-control speaks to ones ability to live a life of moderation, not wanton abandonment for sensual desires. Gluttony, avarice, greed and lavishness are no longer drivers for the self-controlled. They are not frequently given to weaknesses of moral indiscretions.
A person who is taught to live an upright life is one who has been deemed by others in their community as someone who makes wise and just decisions. Not easily swayed in their decisions by graft, manipulation or weakness of a ethical constitution.
The final course the grace of God instructs Titus to teach and demonstrate by example is one of a godly lifestyle. This encapsulates the other two, and actually is the opposite of the first characteristic he is told to deny – ungodliness. This person will uphold an affection for a spiritual life.
Therefore, to live a godly life is to live a life holistically fueled and informed with the practices of serving God and His creation. It is one whereby the person loves God and loves others as Christ would through them. It is a person who is learning to “walk in the spirit, that they do not fulfill the lusts or deeds of the flesh”.
Ultimately, Titus is moving towards his horizon of pastoring a first century church, planted by the Apostle Paul and a small band of others. With this letter’s encouragement he holds the combination of calculations necessary to maintain his journey in spite of the obstructions and pitfalls that assuredly await this group of fledging church families.
We, like Titus, must take heed of such instructions. We too, are compelled to learn these lessons as the Holy Spirit instructs us to, with practical moments lived out in community with others. The basic reasoning is simple. If our witness is compromised by a lack of attention to these areas, then the hope that is to be revealed through Christ to others may be lost. Many today may already make such an argument – to our shame.
Let us remember to keep our God constant (c² = radius) – while we work to keep our level of vision acuity and accuracy (a² = height), as clear as possible by not only seeing , but by being seen as well; using a faith for new and farther horizons (b² = distance)- which is ultimately the salvation of our families, communities, and nation. Our true common horizon in Jesus Christ.
ΑΩ A. David Griffin, M.Div.