Wednesday, January 29, 2014

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Reputation Among Men

“A bishop then must be… Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:2, 7 NKJV)

How do people in the world see me?  Our reputation either undergirds or undermines our ministry.  Am I seen as a hypocrite—saying one thing on Sunday in the church and living a different way on Monday in the community?

There is no way to effectively reach the lost, if I engage in wickedness while professing holiness.  Sinners may not like what I have to say and what I stand for, but I can have their respect if there is a visual consistency of conduct that connects with the verbal message I communicate.

How people see us in the world will cause us to be either a stumbling block or a stepping stone.  We will prove to be bridges to bring people to Christ or barriers to turn them away.  God help us!

“A good testimony,” is one where the pastor’s words and works are in harmony.  We must share a testimony with our lips, but that will be reinforced or ruined by what we say with our life.  Actions do speak louder than words—an old cliché, but nonetheless true, despite its familiarity.  When all is said and done, I fear there is more said, than done—especially from the pulpit!

The saddest thing of all is that God is grieved by our hypocrisy.  That is something He hates.  But it is also tragic that others are repulsed by it.  We must know that even the hypocrite suffers from it, as we fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

The pastor called to shepherd God’s flock has a high standard set for him.  But, we must, in the power of the Holy Spirit commit to it.


Holy God,
Have I given the enemy an occasion to blaspheme?  Forgive me!  Do you mourn, while Satan laughs at the inconsistencies of my life?  Lord, have mercy!  Deliver us from hypocrisy.  Make us to have a credible testimony—all the way to the end.  Never let us stumble!  If it could happen to David, it can happen to me—and with what bitter fruit!  Too many of your men have found themselves on the spiritual casualty list—grant us grace to overcome and stay true!
In the Name of the Great Shepherd, Jesus,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Importance of Maturity

“A bishop then must be… not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:2, 6 NKJV)

What about Paul?  As soon as he was converted, he began to preach Jesus.  But, we must not argue from the exceptional rather than acknowledging the typical.  Few are like Paul!  Another salient point is this—even though he began to preach immediately, his leadership of the church only began after a period of seasoning.  So, he practiced what he preached.

To be "puffed up with pride" in the Greek literally means to be obscured in smoke—the smokescreen of pride.  Such a man is, “inflated with self-conceit and exaggerated ideas of his own importance, he cannot see himself or others in the true light (1 Ti 6:4; 2 Ti 3:4).”[1] He thinks more highly of himself than he ought.  That is the road to ruin.

This is the hubris exemplified in those who built and steered the Titanic.  Thinking it unsinkable—that not even God could sink it—the tragic consequences are well known.  Our world is full of icebergs as the ship of the church sails these waters.  When a man relaxes his watch, then danger is imminent.  The inexperienced are more likely to be caught offguard.

This term makes me think of our expression, “blowing smoke.”  There are a lot of preachers that do that—not just the young, of course—but that is a particular weak spot for many novices.

“Ancient leadership ideology required leaders to be tested in lower offices, to demonstrate their skills before being promoted….”[2]   If you want to wreck a company, put someone in as CEO who is a young “hotshot,” gifted, yet inexperienced.  They will likely become intoxicated with power and their arrogance not tempered by maturity will be their downfall—bringing down the company as well—or, at the least, setting it back.  Many a church has been damaged or destroyed the same way.


Ancient of Days,
You know all things—the end from the beginning.  You never get in a rush.  As Your Word declares in Ecclesiastes, there is a season for all things.  For all the young men called into ministry, let them be patient and “wait” on You.  May they give themselves to discipline to learn and grow until such a time as they are ready to serve in leadership.  Help Your churches not pick green fruit, jeopardizing the potential of the novice, and threatening the church itself.  For all Your mature men who have so much to share, stir them to invest in young men.
In Christ’s Name and for His Sake,

[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1 Ti 3:6). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[2] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Ti 3:6–7). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Monday, January 27, 2014

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Value of Experience

“A bishop then must be…one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:2,4-6 NKJV)

The experiences a man has in leading his family have great value in preparing him for effective ministry in the church.  That does not mean that a single man cannot be a pastor.  Would you think that the Apostle Paul would be a poor pastor?  What about Jesus?  Neither was married, but both would be eminently qualified to lead a local church—and Jesus preeminently!

Yet, having said that, relationships in the home and the direction of our spouse and children are experiences which are very helpful.  Roman Catholicism takes the approach, that unless you are celibate, you cannot serve as a clergyman.  These verses directly contradict that.

Experience is a great educator—not just in the home, but every dimension of life.  This is why the novice is excluded from serving as a pastor.  He hasn’t had enough life lessons under his belt to prepare him to do ministry in the real world.  Even the failures of life convey important truths that help the pastor grow and serve.  We gain wisdom from walking with the mature—it is a journey with no instant attainment.  It takes time.

So the office of the pastor is sometimes referred to as an “elder.”  This is not strictly a matter of biological age, for Paul was writing to a young man Timothy, who was spiritually maturing and intent on continuing on that course.  I’ve also known a few older preachers who were still big babies!

We must recognize that there is a special peril for the young.  Older men aren’t exempt from it—but young pastors are in the Devil’s crosshairs.  It is this business of pride.  How tempting it is for a young man to let his position go to his head, and be foolish enough to believe all those nice things people tell him going out the door after the sermon.

This sin is so horrible that it turned a beautiful angel into a devil.  Pride can ruin us.  Humility marks the mature man.  Scripture says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet.5:b)  Pastors have enough resistance from the congregation—they surely don’t want to be resisted by God!  They need all the grace they can have—and only the humble receive it!


Father of Light,
Every good and perfect gift comes from You, and one of the best is wisdom.  How we need it!  Yet, You demand that we ask in faith—that we realize we know so little and You must teach us.  How else can we teach others?  Thank You for the life lessons conveyed through experiences—even the painful ones.  Grow us in grace!  Make us seasoned servants.
In the Name of Our Elder Brother and Teacher, Jesus Christ,

Sunday, January 26, 2014

THE SHEPHERD'S STANDARD: The Oversight of Children

“A bishop then must be…one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)…” (1 Timothy 3:2,4-5 NKJV)

There is an art and skill in leading a family.  God sets the perfect pattern, which pastors are to emulate in their home.  Though no mere mortal can attain that, we must strive for it, and thus, give a model to the membership. 

We are reminded that there is an art and skill in leading the flock. 

For Christians, the church and the home are one. We should oversee both of them with love, truth, and discipline. The pastor cannot be one thing at home and something else in church. If he is, his children will detect it, and there will be problems. [1]

Pastors are to “rule” their house.   Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson says the word means, “to stand before.”  As a leader in my home I must accept the weighty responsibility of standing before my family.  I must stand with conviction and consistency.  That is required for faithful and fruitful church leadership also.  They must see the shepherd’s stand and they will follow his steps.
He is to do this “well.”  The word…is kalōs (καλως), ‘beautifully, finely, excellently, well.’” [2]  We are painting a masterpiece.  God’s handiwork is on display.  This touches every dimension in the home.  The finances are in order.  The lawn is neat.  The house is clean.  The work of the kingdom in the home and house of God demands excellence, and ought to be a thing of beauty.

The pastor’s children need to be led to make an effort in their schoolwork, to be exemplary citizens, to have a strong work ethic, and most of all to have a heart for God.  Their development will be challenging—some more than others—but God gives grace.  This is the goal for all church members—not just the pastor’s—and such children often grow up to be solid servants in the church, influencing generations to come.


Our Father in Heaven,
Your very name is to be revered!  May it be spoken frequently and fervently in our home.  Let our children learn that Your name represents all that You are and that all You are is incredibly glorious!  May Your kingdom come, first in my home—making my children to become Your children.  Help us set the standard of skillful leadership.  We need You to empower us!
In the Powerful Name of Christ,

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 221). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[2] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (1 Ti 3:4). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Leadership of Family

“A bishop then must be…one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)…” (1 Timothy 3:2,4-5 NKJV)

Our home is a laboratory for leadership.  God has ordained the father to shepherd that little flock.  If a man fails to lead those lambs, he will fail in other leadership areas as well—and especially in the church.  The same skills in leading a family are required to lead a congregation.  It may prove to be the greater challenge!

The reality is that when children have become adults, they will chart their own course—often, if pointed in the right direction, they will set sail on a life of following Christ.  Sadly, some will choose a different way, much to the heartbreak of godly fathers.  But, while the children are at home, they are under the supervision of God’s man and he is responsible for leading them.

It is a grave responsibility, and Satan will try to find a way to destroy the pastor’s home.  Therefore, the man of God must give his children much attention.  If we are not careful, we can become so consumed with leading member’s children to Christ that we neglect to win our own!

This is no easy task.  Yet, guiding our children to Christ and growing them in Christ is our duty.  The lambs of our household must be fed, led and protected just like those in the house of God.  Tender love and sacrificial ministry is to be rendered to the pastor’s sons and daughters.  The word, “care” is the command for what we are to do—and that is most suggestive. Lange in his commentary remarks about the same Greek word, “It is used in Luke 10:34, of the care of the Samaritan for the wounded Jew.” [1]  Our children will sustain many a wound along the way—physical, emotional, relational and spiritual.  We rightfully attend the church member in such a case, so let us not dare to ignore these hurts in our home.

A pastor’s reverence and submission to his Heavenly Father should move him to teach his children to respect and submit to their human father.  Instructing children to respect authority is one of the indispensable lessons needed.  May we renew our commitment to it.


Perfect Father,
I am not!  A fallen man, filled with flaws—yet, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb—how much I need your wisdom and work in and through me on behalf of my children.  Enable me to be a good model for my wife and children to follow.  Have grace and mercy on my family!  Overrule my errors and guide me so I know how to guide them to heaven!
For the Sake of Your Son Jesus,

[1] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., & van Oosterzee, J. J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Timothy. (E. A. Washburn & E. Harwood, Trans.) (p. 39). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Friday, January 24, 2014

THE SHEPHERD'S STANDARD: The Craving for Success

“A bishop then must be…not covetous…” (1 Timothy 3:2,3 NKJV)

Already the pastor has been warned of the danger of greed—how the passion for possessions has a corrupting influence.  None can serve God and mammon—let the pastor not think he will be the exception to the rule!

Covetousness includes the desire for money, but goes beyond that.  One of the powerful temptations in ministry is the coveting of success.  This is more than a passion for possessions, it is a passion for position—and the celebrity status that comes with it.  Lurking in the shadows of a preacher’s heart may be the lion of lust waiting to pounce, and in this case, not craving riches, but recognition, not stuff but status. 

“If I could just be in that prominent pulpit, my gifts would be acknowledged!”  Instead he chafes in the obscure little chapel where he labors unnoticed by the denominational hierarchy.  It is one of the most common, and yet most cancerous temptations for the minister of the Gospel.

An obvious symptom of this malignant spirit is a critical tongue that is always finding fault and cutting down other pastors—especially those deemed successful.  “They are compromising the Word to get a crowd!” we may sneer.  We might charge, “They are entertainers and not expositors!”  While sometimes these things may be true, more often it reveals the sin of covetousness in the critic’s soul.

The man of God is acting more like the spawn of Satan when he yields to this temptation.  Was it not covetousness for position that led a remarkable archangel named Lucifer to become the Devil?  Such a desire for success will destroy—it will disease your mind, discourage your ministry efforts, damage your members and defile your message.  Repent and seek God’s grace to overcome. 

One of the best pieces of counsel was given to me by a dear friend, Dale Fisher, who has served as a Director of Missions for decades.  At the outset of my ministry, he said, “God knows where you are and can get you where you need to be.”


Blessed Sovereign,
I bow to Your sweet will.  You place Your servants where You want them to work.  Forgive us for trying to climb the church ladder.  Deliver us from this toxic craving for fame as a religious icon.  Must we have our name in print?  Nail our egotism to the cross!  Heal us of this soul disease.  Renew our mind and let us stoop to serve with humility as Jesus did.  Lord, may we wash the feet of the saints, instead of hoping they will bow at ours!
In the Spirit of Jesus,

Thursday, January 23, 2014

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Rejection of Contentiousness

“A bishop then must be…gentle, not quarrelsome…” (1 Timothy 3:2,3 NKJV)

These two words taken together mean that a pastor rejects a contentious attitude and refuses contentious acts.  Gentleness is the attitude we embrace and saying kind words is the activity we evidence rather than being quarrelsome with our talk.  It is first an attitude before it is an action.

Mark it down—find someone who is always trying to start a conflict with someone, they are experiencing conflict in their soul.  The tension between the flesh and the Spirit, doubt and faith, obedience or disobedience—too often yielding to sin rather than surrendering to God in this war within, with accompanying guilt and shame—is the source of strife with others.  We must be at peace in our souls, submitted to the sovereignty of God, if we would exhibit peace with those made in His image.  Bitterness toward God and His dealings with us—our disappointment with Him—leads to belligerence toward others in our dealings with them.

But do we reject all contentiousness?  Is there not a time, “to contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3)?  Absolutely!  There will be need to stand for truth, yet we can do it compassionately as well as clearly.  Our message may be confrontational, but our motive and manner can be caring.  The preacher who has a disposition marked by ill-will is what is forbidden.  Such a man is always spoiling for a fight—eager to cast down the gauntlet over trivial matters.  We must contend for things that are essential to the Gospel, and stand for principle, while not being contentious about preferences in extraneous and peripheral issues.  The pastor dare not be a “Bible bully!”

The ISV renders this, “He must not be argumentative,” and The Message paraphrases it, “not thin-skinned.”  Beware having an ego that is easily bruised with its accompanying reactions.  Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest commented that a pastor, “does not go about with a chip on his shoulder.”  If you do, someone will knock that chip off and then there is a brawl.  How this undermines the credibility of our message of love—such a contradiction!


Tender and Long-suffering Lord,
How much You put up with concerning us!  We are so grateful that You are not thin-skinned!  If you were, there would be no hope for us.  Help us be patient in our dealings with others.  Remind us that to skin the hide of the sheep is to slaughter them!  Rather, let us lead them with kindness instead of driving them with contentiousness.  May our souls be calm in submission to Your will, whatever our circumstances may be.  Help us be led of the Spirit and not reacting out of fleshly impulse.  Remind us to take a deep breath, and think before we speak.  Cause our faces to be warm and inviting, instead of wrathful and rejecting.
In Christ’s Name and for His Sake,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Quality of Peacemaking

“A bishop then must be…gentle…” (1 Timothy 3:2,3 NKJV)

If we have peace with God, then we can have peace with man.  The quality of peacemaking is to be present in the house of God and the pastor is to lead by example.  Paul, thus, instructed his young preacher protégé, Timothy, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all” (2 Tim.2:24a).

Warren Wiersbe notes, “The pastor must listen to people and be able to take criticism without reacting. He should permit others to serve God in the church without dictating to them.”[1]  John MacArthur comments that such a pastor is, “Considerate, genial, gracious, quick to pardon failure, and one who does not hold a grudge.”[2]

Amplifying this, Paul states that the pastor is, not quarrelsome” (1 Timothy 3:3).  He is not “Pastor Nit-picker.”  There are several of those around.  These are heirs of the Pharisees who seemed always eager to spot a flaw and start a fight.  Such are quick to administer a verbal tongue lashing.  Experts at making mountains out of molehills, this is their modus operandi.

The NASB renders the Greek word for the quality pastors should have as, “peaceable.”  It is that attitude and activity which Jesus called for when He said, “Blessed are the oeacemakers” (Matt.5:9).


God of Peace,
Thank You for the peace You have made with us through the humble sacrifice of Your Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We marvel how You took the initiative in reaching out to make peace with us, and now we are reconciled to You!  We rejoice that You paid such a price to purchase that peace.  Your wrath, which we deserved was restrained and instead You gave us love and forgiveness.  Please help your church to be challenged to have that same quality of peacemaking, and make your pastors to be the models for it.  Lord, help me be one who brings people together rather than having a divisive spirit.  If some are offended, let it be the Gospel that offends and not that I am obnoxious.  If truth polarizes then let it be the message and not my manner, their response and not my pettiness, that produces it.
In the Name of the Prince of Peace,

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 220–221). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 3:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.  To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:28-29 NKJV)

What gets you up when your get up and go has got up and gone? 

The alarm clock goes off and you know you should say, “Good morning, Lord!”  Instead your say, “Good Lord, morning!”  Then you cast your feet over the side of the bed, they fall with a thud to the floor and you trudge to the bathroom.  Looking in the mirror, you see the dark circles under the eyes, a furrowed brow—how you wish you could just collapse back on the mattress, cover up your head and forget it.

On Sunday morning, it’s even more tempting.  It’s not like you have to go to work or school!  Well, unless you are the pastor!

I must confess that sometimes I have similar thoughts.  The older I get and the more pressures that arise, physical strength ebbs and emotional stamina fades.  Yet, as difficult as it is to keep moving ahead, it is harder to quit!  There is something deep inside that is greater than the burdens outside—God’s Spirit working through His Word—those truths indelibly marked on the heart that beats strongly with a passion rooted in His promises.

Such fuels faithfulness—verses like that of Colossians 1:28-29—which I have claimed as my life verses, and express my mission statement.  I know what I was placed in this world to do.  I cannot evade it; I dare not try to escape it; I must embrace it!

After countless sermons—eighteen years of them in the pulpit of Pole Creek Baptist Church—I still stand on Sunday and preach Christ.  So long as there are sinners to be warned, I must be a watchman, faithful at my station, lest their blood be required at my hands (see Ezekiel 3).  While there are truths to be taught to edify the saints, then I must share that wisdom.  This will fuel the faithfulness of the flock—and one day I will stand before God and give an account, whether men approve of my message and manner or not.  The Chief Shepherd will look at my ministry and judge me by whether I have fed the flock!

How long must I stay at my task?  Until we reach heaven, there is work to do.

There is only one way to accomplish a job this big—that is with a power surpassing human might.  Paul acknowledged that it was the power of God working through him that kept him going and caused him to be effective.  Today I lean on Him.  This doesn’t deny the frailty of my flesh.  It’s early morning when I type these words and I am truly tired.  But, I have work to do—and it is a joyous privilege to serve Christ.  In that Day I see Him, it will have been worth all the toil.  May God make my labor productive and use me for His glory!

What is the fuel that keeps you going?  Do you know your mission in life?

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Spirit of Gentleness

“A bishop then must be…gentle…” (1 Timothy 3:2,3 NKJV)

Gentleness is an attribute of Jesus, the Great Shepherd.  In this, as in everything, He is our Model.

Christ’s ministry was in fulfillment of Isaiah 42:3, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (ESV), as quoted in Matthew 12:20.  Picture a plant whose stem has been bent and bruised.  It must be cared for with great tenderness or it will break and not survive.  A smoldering wick is almost gone out.  It requires a gentle breath to reignite the flame—blow just a little too hard and the fire is gone forever.

There are people like that we encounter all the time in ministry.  Life has bent them over with crushing burdens.  They are bruised and at the breaking point.  The fire of hope which once burned so brightly has been virtually quenched.  Good shepherds reach out with tender touch, and gentle voice, lest we do more damage than good.

This is the spirit of gentleness.  It is the spirit of Jesus.  This is the fruit the Holy Spirit will produce in us, if we but cultivate it.  God help us to do so!


Gentle Shepherd,
How grateful we are for your tender touch!  Where would we be today, if You had not reached down into the mud and gently lifted us?  You might have stomped on us—we had no business being there—but instead You stooped and scooped us up in Your arms.  Lord, there are so many in Your flock that are struggling today—just ground down to the verge of despair.  We see it in the weariness in the eyes, the slump of the shoulders and shuffle in the steps.  We hear it in their sighs.  Please give me the breath of Jesus to rekindle their zest for life and zeal for the eternal.
In the Name and in the Spirit of Christ,

Friday, January 17, 2014


looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) 

The hope that commenced when we received Christ, and that continues to build as we walk with Christ in this life, will consummate in all its fullness when we see Him face to face.   Having been saved from the penalty of sin in justification, and being saved from the power of sin through sanctification, I will be saved from the presence of sin.  That’s glorification.

I’m "looking for the blessed hope," aren’t you?  Some golden daybreak Jesus will come!  The Savior whom we have heard of, we will see with our eyes! 

This has a very practical effect during this present time.  John wrote, "everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:3).   The blessed hope of Titus 2:13 is set in the context of verses12 and 14.   I paraphrase:

teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, [and what motivates us to live godly in the present age is that we are] looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, [the One who saved us and we will see someday] who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Some decry prophecy and say, “Some are so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good.”  If that is true of anyone, then they have missed the whole point.  Immersed in end-time charts and running from one prophetic conference to another, they are “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim.3:7)

The most important aspect of prophecy is a call to readiness.  I would state it this way and can back it with Scripture, “Only those who are truly heavenly minded are of any earthly good!”  Heed what Peter wrote:

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 
12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 
13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 
14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; (2 Peter 3:10-14).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


“teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age…who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:12, 14) 

I am being saved from the power of sin.  That is the work of God’s Spirit in sanctification.  That is an on-going process from the moment we are saved until we reach heaven.
How are we purified?  Paul mentions the key element of “teaching” in Titus 2:12.  The Psalmist said it this way, "Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." (Ps.119:11). Old D.L. Moody said it well, "Either this Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book."

First, we are instructed by God’s Word to avoid, "ungodliness." Ungodliness is all that is contrary to the nature of God.  Imagine, a sculptor taking a hunk of rock, then with an image of a horse in his mind, his skilled hands take a hammer and chisel and knock off everything that doesn’t look like a horse.  God is refashioning you into His image, and so knocking off all that is ungodly.  The Word is the hammer He uses.  Jeremiah said, “Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jer.23:29)
Secondly, we are taught to avoid, "Worldly lusts."  Those are the perverse passions of our nature that are informed by the putrid philosophies of our culture.  It’s impossible to wallow in a cesspool and stay clean.

This is why we must be instructed by the Word—to have a renewed mind.  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom.12:2).  This sets the choice before us—conformed to the world or transformed by the Word. 
But the Christian life isn't just about what we avoid, but what we apply.  

"We should live soberly."  This is our inward disposition.  We take our walk with God seriously. Then we are to live "righteously." This is our outward demonstration.  My conduct is to be right—especially in how I treat my fellowman.  But further I am to live "godly."  This is our upward devotion.  This is particularly in reference to my relationship with God. 
We must be different to make a difference "in the present age."  Jesus said we would be in the world, but not of it.  A boat is of no use unless it's in the water, but get water in the boat and you're sunk!  Paul says that Christ has purified us "for Himself."  We belong to Him—all we are and all we have. We are "His own special people."  Paul reminds us that we are to be "zealous for good works." Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.  I am like Him when I do that.  While I am not all that I ought to be, I have hope for progress.  That hope should be seen in the change happening in my life.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men… who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us…”  (Titus 2:11, 14a) 

I have been saved from the penalty of sin.  That's justification—the work of the Spirit whereby we are placed in right standing with God by faith in Christ.  What an incredible hope we have experienced in having our sins blotted out, the stain and shame of our guilt removed, and the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, so that we need have no fear of condemnation.

There are three great Gospel words in our text: "grace" and "salvation" in verse 11 and "redeem" in verse 14.  Grace means that I have freely received the gift of eternal life that I could never deserve, solely because of the merits of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.  This is salvation.  Salvation means that I was hopeless and helpless myself to better my situation.  I was drowning in an ocean of iniquity when His love lifted me!  The word redemption means to be set free by payment of a price.  We have been purchased.

When Paul wrote these words, men and women were sold in the marketplace like commodities.  Spiritually, we were in the slave market, held fast in the shackles of sin.  Christ paid the price to free us—and the price He paid was His own blood!  He "gave Himself for us" and the great exchange took place—Christ took my sins and gave me His righteousness—all that He is for all that I am. 

That sealed the deal!  Nothing can ever alter that.  My everlasting hope is secured because the debt was marked, “Paid in Full!”

How thankful we should be!

Monday, January 13, 2014


“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,   looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,   who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)

You can lose all your worldly possessions in a flash.  All it takes is one house fire.  I received a phone call last night that one of our deacons and his wife, Chase and Katie Harris, had a house fire.  Thankfully, the family wasn’t home, but the house was badly damaged.  It broke my heart to see it, but I rejoiced that I heard no cursing, just the giving of thanks.  A circle of family and friends gathered and prayed.  I never heard, “Why us? Why God did you let this happen?”  Not that they may not have the subtle hint at those questions creep into the shadow of their thoughts in the future—or even that it is necessarily wrong to wonder what God is up to when some things don’t make sense.  Here is the reality I saw in the face of tragedy: there was no expression of bitterness, but there were several expressions of blessings.  That is what hope produces.
It was evident that their hope does not rest in the things of this world, but in the certainties of eternity.  They might have been shaken, but they stood because they are grounded on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Their house might not have been saved, but Chase and Katie are! 

Do you have such a hope?  You can.  The Harris Family is a faithful one, but still a frail one.  They are not exceptional in the sense that they are people of flesh and blood.  Yet, they are exceptional in that they have chosen to trust in God’s good hand and gracious direction. 
But—and this is so important—all of us can join their ranks if we wish.  It is possible to put your hope where it will stand—not wishful thinking, not hope so, maybe so—but a resolute confidence in Biblical truth.

Paul wrote a preacher named Titus and told him how.  He in turn was to share it with the congregation.  The Holy Spirit means for us to apply it today. 
We see salvation is in three tenses—all bringing hope.  There is a past dimension whereby we have been saved from the penalty of sin.  There is a present dimension meaning we are being saved from the power of sin.  There is a promised dimension when we will be saved from the presence of sin.  Here’s hope!  We’ll explore it further this week.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

OUR WORK: How Hope is Shown

"Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need." (Acts 2:43-45 NKJV)

The reality of our hope is shown in the priorities we flesh out in daily action.  We are demonstrating whether our hope is fixed on things that are eternal or that which is temporal.  We can claim we have our heart set on heaven, and yet how we invest our time, talent and treasure contradict that.

Jesus did many mighty works while on earth in His mortal body.  He would keep on working after He ascended to heaven, through His spiritual body, the church.

As seen in our text, these Christians loved each other.  They helped each other.  They shared life together.  If a man or woman faced a seemingly hopeless situation, they refused to allow it, but lifted them up and gave them hope and help.

Just read in the next chapter of a hopeless cripple, consigned to poverty, begging for a few coins outside the Temple gates.  Peter and John didn't ignore him, but intervened in the name of Jesus and his life was changed forever.  He found hope!

We still have work to do.  Help someone find hope today!

Friday, January 10, 2014

OUR WITNESS: How Hope is Shared

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. …And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41, 47b) 

Good news is made for sharing!  There is certainly a plethora of bad news in our world.  The resistance of hardened sinners, however, often leads us to be mute, when we have the very thing they need to hear.

The first Christians might have made the same excuse and been silent.  Jesus had preached in the temple at Jerusalem, and they rejected Him.  Never was a greater evangelist present than Him!  But, they stopped their ears, despised the truth and cried out, Crucify Him!  That was the very crowd which the church was sent to preach toan audience that had nailed Jesus to a cross. 

Peter underscored this as he proclaimed, Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…” (Acts 2:22-23).

That would not seem to be a hopeful situation to find a positive response to the Gospel.  But the first altar call is given and thousands were saved.  Not a day went by that the church wasnt reaching people.  So, through the ages the church has faithfully sown Gospel seedsome on stony ground, some shallow ground, some choked with weeds, but also, always some fertile soil that has yielded eternal fruit.

In a world that is desperate for hopethat is the message God has given us.  There is hope for new life, hope for forgiveness, hope for peace with God, and the hope of heaven when we die!  The church says to the lost world, there is hope and you can find it here. 

We have prospects everywhere!  You dont have to look for pagan peoplethey are proud of it.  They parade it and proclaim it on their bumper stickers.   Have you seen this one, Tree-hugging Dirt Worshipper?

Despite our fearful, sinful reluctance to give the Water of Life to those that are dying, the fact is there is a great spiritual thirst and willingness to discuss spiritual things.  People are trying all kinds of ismsonly we have hope!  God will bring you into contact with some hurting, helpless, and hopeless soul today.  As the Christ denier who became a Christ declarer said, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Pet.3:15 ESV).


Thursday, January 09, 2014

OUR WORSHIP: How Hope is Sustained

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. …So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.”  (Acts 2:41-43,46-47a)

There is no blessing God makes available that Satan will not try to steal.  Our gracious Lord bestows bountiful hope on His children, and the Wicked One sets out to drain away every last drop.  How is hope sustained?

All we must do is look at the first-century saints and see how they did it.  The church was birthed in a hostile climate, but there is no sense of gloom and doom detected in the second chapter of Actsjust the opposite.  There was joy and enthusiasm.  They met together in celebration. 

It would not be long until severe persecution would eruptPeter and John would be locked up in prison.  The godly deacon, Stephen would be put to death, and the first of the Apostles to be martyredJames was beheaded.  Yet, no matter their circumstances, you find a people who were full of hope. 

Heres why: they didnt look around, they looked above.  Thats what worship does.  It realigns our focusand when we do hope rises within as our hallelujahs rise up. 

We hear so much pessimism about the wickedness of the world and the weakness of the church.  That is undeniable.  But, to focus on that is a hope killer.  Instead, we are to gather for worship, and look up.  God is still on the throne, Jesus is still alive, the Holy Spirit is still at work, the church is still the bride of Christ, and the Gospel is still changing lives!  Is that not the ultimate reality?  None of that has been diminished by the deteriorating spiritual state of the world and decline of many a local church.  Indeed it cannot be, for God is eternally the sameand theres hope!

Thats how Paul and Silas raised their hands in chains and their voices in a prison cellfull of hope (Acts 16:16-39)!  Their mission had met with great resistance, their backs were beaten to bloody ribbons, it was dark midnight in a dungeon, but they lift their hands, even as the chains rattle, dangling from their wrists, and sing their version of the Hallelujah Chorus!  Such hope shakes iron bars and liberates them.  It wasnt some phony smile pasted on their face and an attempt at positive thinking.  Their problem was real; their pain was intense.  It was a choice of focus.  They worshipped.  Old Job did from a heap of the ashes of financial ruin and family lossand so can we (Job 1:20-22). 

That is how hope is sustainedand that very hope then sustains us.