Thinking Biblically

We need to warn people not to be lulled into a false sense of peace in this world. The peace they feel is not the peace of paradise, but the peace of the morgue. Our ears need to be saturated with the Bible and our minds shaped by the worldview the Bible creates, so that we will recognize the lie when it’s whispered softly and sweetly in our ear.

Michael Lawrence, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church, 134

Be Devoted; Acts 2:42

Main Point: Christians are devoted to God and his people.

We are a people who love God, love others, and listen to the Word. God’s Word is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the story of God’s people looking forward to Jesus. The New Testament is the story of Jesus and what it means to live as his people. Today we are in the New Testament book of Acts. We are witnessing the formation of the New Testament church through the apostles’ preaching, the people’s repenting, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Last week we looked at the marks of conversion in Acts 2:37-39. We saw how those people were convicted of sin, they repented, they were baptized, and they received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in each of them brought them together. The Holy Spirit in each of them caused them to treasure Christ and care for one another. The Holy Spirit created the church.

There is a key word in verse 42 that we need to define. The word is devoted. We saw this word in Acts 1:14 when the 120 “were devoting themselves to prayer.” Basically, devoted is the opposite of dabbling. To be devoted is to continue steadfastly or remain constant. To dabble is to be occasional, infrequent, or irregular. Speaking personally, I am devoted to drinking coffee and I dabble in the game of Twister. I am devoted to Bible reading and prayer but, to my shame, I dabble in Scripture memory. To be devoted is to give yourself to doing something regularly and well.

In Acts 2:42-47, we learn what the early Christians were devoted to and we see the effects of their devotion. They were devoted to Christ and to one another. May God give us his Holy Spirit so that we follow their example and grow in our devotion to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. Turn with me to Acts 2:41 and I will read through the end of the chapter. Let’s read Acts 2:41-47

What we need to see as we begin is that the Holy Spirit is working in these people. For the 120, the Holy Spirit empowers them to speak in tongues. For the 3,000, the Holy Spirit empowers repentance and faith. In Acts 2:42 we see that the Holy Spirit leads every believer to prioritize the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. We’ll take these four aspects of the Christian life one-by-one.

Here’s what we need from you

I. Join in and build up our devotion to the apostles’ teaching

Remember our two guiding verses that are printed on the wall behind me. We have received the Holy Spirit so we can encourage one another and build one another up. We encourage one another with the truth, with the word of God, and we build one another up by correcting error and teaching the truth. This is what Jesus did

  • Jesus taught the apostles

Read any of the gospels and you will find Jesus constantly teaching his disciples. One day he is correcting error and the next day he is establishing them in the truth. For our purposes today, I want to draw your attention to Luke 24:27 and John 5:39. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” John 5:39 says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Jesus.”

Jesus taught his disciples how to read and understand the Bible as a testimony to Jesus. One of the problems they struggled with back then, and we struggle with it today, is they read the Bible thinking that it was about themselves. They put themselves as the center and star of the show, but this doesn’t work. Jesus is the center and the star of the show. Jesus as the center means the Bible is not a list of things to do and things to avoid. The Bible is the story of how the Father is redeeming all things through and for the Son. The Bible is not an encyclopedia full of articles for holy living. The Bible is the record of what God has done, is doing, and promises to do through the Son and Spirit. Jesus taught the apostles how to read, understand, and live in light of all that Jesus is doing. The Apostles passed this way of reading the Bible and trusting Jesus along

  • The apostles’ teaching was recorded in the Bible

Looking at the New Testament, the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are the record of Jesus fulfilling and explaining all of God’s promises. The remainder of the New Testament (Acts through Revelation) is the record of how the apostles rightly understood and applied the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus. The New Testament teaches us how to live in light of the work of Jesus and the presence of his Holy Spirit. The New Testament has stories showing us how to be led by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament has letters teaching us how to think about living life depending on Jesus.

We need to adopt this Christ-centered way of reading the Bible. The Old Testament is the story of how the old covenant was given and what it looked like to live preparing for Christ. The New Testament is the story of how the new covenant was given and what is looks like to live under the rule of Christ. This means

  • We are a people who submit to the apostle’s teaching

We have six core values; they are printed on the wall so we can remember them. The second core value is the authority of Scripture and our constitution records this commitment, “We cherish God’s Word written and seek to live every aspect of our lives in accord with the whole counsel of God’s authoritative, inerrant, infallible, and sufficient word.”

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 adds an important sentence that emphasizes the necessity of reading the Bible focused on Jesus. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 says, “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” It is the apostles, following Jesus’ example, that teach us how to read the Bible correctly. So, this means we obey their instructions and it means we follow their example of reading the Bible with Jesus Christ as the center.

Now, let’s make this practical by thinking about

II. Ways to join in and build up our devotion to the apostles’ teaching

First, read your Bible, every day, looking for Jesus. For some, the most powerful thing you can do in response to this sermon is to follow through with daily Bible reading. A simple plan is provided on the back of your bulletin. Our New Testament reading is in the Gospel of Mark. You can catch up easily this afternoon. Start there, follow the church Bible reading plan if you don’t already have one. Read it and talk to someone about it. I’m reading it. My number is in the bulletin. Text me and I’ll talk with you about it.

Next, commit, with the Spirit’s help, to obey the apostles’ teaching. Don’t read it to read it. Read the Bible looking for Jesus. Read the Bible looking for instruction for how to live your life following Jesus. When you get insight or are corrected, pray for the Spirit’s help to act on what you learn.

Finally on this point, show up each Sunday, join in a Sunday school group, listen to the sermon, and then discuss what you hear with your brothers and sisters. One option is to use the discussion questions on my blog. Here’s another option. There are two questions that I ask my children every Sunday either on the way home or over lunch: what did you learn in Sunday School and in what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today? In these conversations be intentional to see how the truth you are discussing points to Jesus. We need you to join in and stir up our devotion to the apostles’ teaching. And we need you to

III. Join in and build up our devotion to the fellowship

Acts 2:42 tells us they devoted themselves to the fellowship. This means

  • The early church enjoyed a profound care for one another

We’ll unpack the details next week, but look now at verses 44 and 45, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

Who do you know that would sell their stuff for you? Who do you know that you would sell your stuff for? With whom are you in fellowship? One dictionary defines this Greek word “fellowship” as close mutual relations and involvement (Louw-Nida). The simplest meaning is sharing. This is sharing-life-together fellowship. Sure, they gathered together on the Lord’s Day. I bet they had the equivalent of coffee and donuts, but that was not the sum or total of their fellowship. The Spirit led them to care for one another.

Ephesians 4:1-3 helps us understand what was driving their fellowship. Paul writes, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Catch this, they had all received the Spirit who is the bond of peace between Christians. It was the Spirit in each of them that united all of them. Connect it to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. Because of the Spirit of Christ in each of them they were helping one another make progress in loving one another, experiencing joy, being at peace, showing patience, acting in kind ways, pursuing the good, growing in faithfulness, dealing with disagreements gently, and in all things exercising self-control.

Meaningful Christian fellowship is not marked exclusively by speaking in tongues. Meaningful Christian fellowship is marked by our shared experience of receiving the Spirit of Christ so that each of us acts more and more like Christ. The apostles’ teaching guides us here, the Word guides us, as we grow in our love for one another. Ok, let’s think about

  • Ways to join in and build up our devotion to the fellowship

Understand that our lack of love for these people in this room is evidence that we are quenching the Spirit. But they’re not like me! But I’m busy! But they are annoying! But they are so immature! But they complain all the time! Loving these people and seeking their good is not an optional part of Christianity but is an essential part of Christianity. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 leads off with love. The whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Gal 5:14). Christian, you have been given the Spirit and you have been placed in this body in order to love us and share the joys and sorrows of life with us. Now let’s state the obvious. Spirit-filled fellowship means you need the Holy Spirit. Maybe you don’t care about these people because you are not one of God’s people. Conversion is demonstrated through love. A lack of love demonstrates the lack of conversion. Repent of your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus, and ask for the Holy Spirit. Let’s get practical now

Come early and stay late every Sunday. Relationships of daily encouragement will come out of the commitment to the weekly gathering. But you have to talk to people and talking to people means you need to come early and stay late. Next, join a Sunday school group. Show up at 9:30 each Sunday so that you can encourage and build up others. Volunteer to be a greeter or to make coffee. Out of this regular exposure to one another comes the opportunity for fellowship. While coming early and staying late each week, look for ways to build relationships where it is normal to talk about living out the apostles’ teaching.

Then make a budget. In order to join in and build up our fellowship, you will need to budget time and money for others. People take time and cost money. Budget the time for one meal a week with others; that can be in your home or out for a meal. Think through your meals, is there a meal that you can spend five or ten more dollars on and have enough to feed another family? Is there a meal that you can spend two or three more dollars on and have a widow or widower into your home for fellowship? Which church members live the closest to you? Start with them.

And I get it, personalities are different, budgets are different, our spiritual gifts are different but there is a common thread running through it all. We are family, we are brothers and sisters because we are all joined to Christ and we have received the Holy Spirit. Let each of us who claim the name of Christ eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit by meeting together and devoting ourselves to the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, and the breaking of bread.

Acts 2:42, and they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. This means you need to

III. Join in and build up our devotion to the breaking of bread

There is a great deal of debate on if the breaking of bread is a reference to eating meals together or eating the Lord’s Supper together. I think the faithful position is to say

  • The early church ate supper and the Lord’s Supper often

The references to meals, love feasts, and the Lord’s Supper in Jude 12; 2 Peter 2:13; and 1 Corinthians 11:21 point to the early practice of starting a meal together by sharing in the Lord’s Supper together. So, it is likely that the breaking of bread originally referred to the Jewish practice of starting the meal by saying a blessing and tearing or breaking a loaf of bread. As the church developed, the terminology of the breaking of bread came to refer to the Lord’s Supper also.

Look at Acts 2:46. We are told that these early Christians were day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts. The picture is a large group of believers gathering together in the temple to pray together and to hear the apostles teach them. This massive group, thousands strong, would then disperse to homes and share in a meal together. The Lord’s Supper was likely a part of this shared meal. Basically, we are seeing the establishment of house churches at this point also. The apostles’ teaching on the big scale was then worked into lives on a small scale in connection with a desire to be together and share in a meal.

Let’s make this practical and we’ll save being devoted to prayer for next Sunday. Here are some

  • Ways to join in and build up our devotion to the breaking of bread

Invite people into your home for a simple meal; Saturday evening and Sunday lunch are good places to start. Let me emphasize the word simple otherwise we will wear ourselves out with the food and fair. There are good reasons we eat Thanksgiving dinner only once a year. One it’s expense, two it is time consuming, and three all the stress and work usually distract from meaningful fellowship. A simple meal is beautiful in the fact that the fellowship is the focus not the food. Make fellowship the focus not the food. Don’t think about stepping up your game in order to impress your brothers and sisters. Instead, think about increasing the amount you are already preparing so that you can more easily bring people in. On this point, don’t wait to be invited. You take the initiative and invite people in. It doesn’t matter if you are a new member or an old member. It doesn’t matter if you are single, married, with children or without children, invite people into your home for a simple meal and discuss the sermon or something from your daily bible reading. Keep it simple.

Next, mark the last Sunday of each month on your calendar and commit to being a part of every Lord’s Supper service. You know when we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper; the last Sunday of each month. Make it a priority to be here by planning your month around the Lord’s Supper. Likewise, mark the 5th Sunday fellowship meals on your calendar and commit to sharing a meal with your brothers and sisters.

Side note on side dishes at our 5th Sunday meals: ask yourself if your family was going to only eat this for lunch would it be enough? Be generous and volunteer to stay and help clean up the kitchen or put away the tables and chairs. It would be great if we had a church member volunteer to clean up the Lord’s Supper trays each month. Next week you can stay and serve and help us fellowship. After the 5th Sunday meals, washing the tea urns and putting away serving spoons will give you opportunities to get to know your brothers and sisters. Storing away tables and sweeping the floor are acts of love that put others first. At this point I’m asking you to make minor changes to your schedule so that you can be around others and while there ask good questions like, “How are you doing spiritually?” or “In what way did God comfort, challenge or correct you today?”

These large group gatherings to hear the apostles’ teaching, share a meal, and eat the Lord’s Supper will provide exposure to the church. Look around when you sing. Who isn’t here this week? Who looks tired or discouraged? The way God usually meets individual needs is through the loving service of church members. God plans to use you to help me, and her, and him. But you have to show up and pray for opportunities to encourage and build up.

Let’s wrap it up with this question

What would it look like for you to take one step forward in your devotion to God and his people?

For some of you one step forward would be the step of repentance, faith, and baptism. You realized your lack of love for other people is caused by your lack of the Holy Spirit. Let’s talk. Some of you haven’t committed to church membership yet. Come this afternoon at 3 and learn more. For others, the Spirit is convicting you to commit to reading your Bible and praying every day. In others, right now the Spirit is bringing a brother or sister or family to mind. Invite them over or invite them out with you.

In all of this remember Christian, you have been given the Holy Spirit so that you are able to love God and love others. You can love us. You can’t do it in your own strength, but the Lord’s grace is sufficient for you. You can eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit so that we can all enjoy being the church. You can be devoted.

Toward a Gospel Culture, Titus 2:1-6

Main Point: Healthy doctrine produces godly people.

We live in a day when gospel-fueled men, women, and families shine brightly and are attacked ferociously. The apostle Paul wrote in a day when gospel-fueled men, women, and families shone brightly and were attacked ferociously. Christians have always stood out for blessing or for persecution because of the healthy doctrine that men should look and act like men and women should look and act like women.

In this day, our call as a church is to be counter-cultural. But we are not to stand on the outside of our culture blowing the whistle and throwing the penalty flag. Instead, we are called to live out the implications of sound doctrine in the culture. We need sound doctrine and faithful teaching in order to shine like lights in this crooked generation. We are here because healthy doctrine produces godly people. The deeper we go into the reality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the more winsome we should become. Sound doctrine produces sound men. Healthy doctrine produces healthy women. A robust church family produces robust biological families.

I want to take the opportunity provided by Mother’s Day to teach what accords with sound doctrine. I want us to consider the implications of the gospel for the family. We’ll take up Titus 2:1-6 as our text today. Working through the passage, we will give some attention to older men, older women, and younger men. The majority of the text is devoted to younger women, mothers in particular, and so we will give the majority of our attention in this sermon to mothers.

Together, let’s take another step in our growth as a gospel-fueled church filled with godly men and women. Let’s read Titus 2:1-6. This is what Christ has purchased and grace produces.

In verse 1, Titus is commanded to teach what accords with sound doctrine. Pastors are called to help the church work out the implications of good healthy doctrine. It is not enough to teach the truth; pastors must help the members live in step with the truth.

Let’s look at how older men, older women, young women, and young men are called to live. First, lets define those categories. We can’t be dogmatic, but it is safe to say the young would start with the teenage years and the old would start with the 40’s. Let’s start with

I. A vision for older men

Verse 2 addresses older men, “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”

  • Older men should be godly pillars

I chose the word pillar because when I think of a pillar, I think of that strong support that holds everything up. The presence of older men should produce a sense of safety and strength in the members. He is godly, honorable, selfless, and dependable. In an ever changing world, we should look at the older men and say, “Thank God he is here.”

Women, what type of man are you looking for? Men, what type of man should we strive to be? Verse 2, older men should be sober-minded. The simplest meaning here is don’t be a drunk. A drunk old man is a great shame. But this word means more than never drunk. It is right to expand the requirement to sober-minded. Godly older men are called to be thoughtful, clear, and discerning. Add the next word, “dignified.” We are beginning to see the picture of a man who thinks clearly about what needs to happen and he carries himself in a way that is worthy of respect. He’s not a fool or a goober. He has wisdom and is worthy of honor because he is living obviously for the glory of God and the good of others.

Older men should be sober-minded, dignified, and self-controlled. Self-control is an important word in this letter to Titus. According to Titus 1:8, elders must have self-control. Older men, young women, and young men must be self-controlled. In Titus 2:12 it is God’s grace that trains all of us to live self-controlled lives. Grace trains us to turn away from selfishness for the good of others. In Titus, the emphasis on self-control is matched by the call to be devoted to good works. Doing good works is mentioned seven times in this short book (1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 5, 8, 14).

Older men should be marked by good sense. Knowing the good, and possessing control of themselves, they should pursue the good in an honorable way. So, the wisdom of the aged is displayed in men who know what is good and pay the price to attain the good.

Verse 2 goes on to call men to the standard of sound in faith, love, and steadfastness. To be sound is to be correct and accurate. Older men, we need you to master the faith. Let the world figure out how to make more money. You figure out how to follow Jesus. And instead of pulling away from relationships the older you get; we need you older men to keep loving. Keep giving, keep serving, keep sacrificing. Old men should be models of biblical conviction, sacrificial love, and enduring strength. Sure, you can’t dig postholes like a 20 year old, but you know how to endure the ups and downs of culture and suffering and loss. Older men, man up! We need you. We need godly pillars. Now,

II. A vision for older women

Verses 3-5 develop a picture of godly womanhood. Women receive more instruction here, not because more is required of them than men, but because so much of Scripture is already addressed to men. Right now, let’s honor women.

Read verse 3 with me, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women.” The expectations for older men are matched by the expectations for older women.

  • Older women should be godly priestesses

We need godly pillars and godly priestesses. I get priestesses from the word behind our English “reverent in behavior”. Her actions should be the obvious product of her religious beliefs. She should live out the pursuit of holiness. Sound doctrine must be the reason for her good works. This means a godly older woman enters every situation like a priestess entering the temple. She serves her family and her church with the understanding that she is serving her God.

It is unthinkable that there would be gossip or slander on her lips. Dirty old men are a shame and gossiping old women are a disgrace. The warning concerning alcohol is also here. Older men must be sober and older women must not be slaves to much wine. Ladies, you know your life is a waste if you are sitting around drinking wine and talking about other women. God doesn’t want you to gossip about other women, God wants you to teach younger women.

Verse 3 commands older women to teach young women what is good. Now, there are more women on this earth than ever before and there seems to be more confusion about being a woman than ever before. Why is that? Older women are not rising up to their calling. Older women, we need you to teach young women what is good. Older women, God expects you to be actively teaching young women what is good. Show them and lead them to live out the glories of womanhood. In a culture pressing men to act like women and women to act like men, we need you to shine brightly. The vision for young women creates the lessons plans for older woman.

III. A vision for young women

Older women we need you to pursue this vision, verse 4, “so train the young women to love their husbands and children.”

  • Young women should be taught

The big and broad great commission, “go and make disciples,” finds its feminine expression here. God does not want young women to figure life out on their own. We need godly older women to teach. Many young women are frustrated in life needing a godly priestess. So what verse 4 does is give young women the freedom and encouragement to ask older women for help. Verse 4 gives older women the freedom and encouragement to ask young women if they can help. God expects older women to teach young women. Now back to those lesson plans

  • Young women should be loving wives and mothers

The world has puppy love and maternal instincts. We must go beyond infatuation and nesting. The older women of the church should be actively raising up the joyful, intentional, and sacrificial love of Christ in the church. In Crete, where Titus was serving the churches, the world was telling women to love themselves and look after themselves. Abandon husband and child for self! Against this cultural pressure Titus was called to teach sound doctrine in such a way that older women took up the responsibility for teaching young women how to love. We need a solid definition of love. Here it is: love is the giving of self for the good of others. Love is the sacrifice of self for the good of others.

Warm mushy feelings come easily early on but unfortunately, they will soon fade. The requirements of marriage and parenting will soon tempt each young woman to resent husband and children. A mother of small children is exhausted by sleepless nights. A mother of grade school children is exhausted by the never-ending pile of laundry, dishes, schoolwork, and events. Constantly teaching, correcting, comforting, and refereeing can be grueling. Without the careful craft of older women, young women will become bitter taxi-drivers fantasizing about a better life with someone else or a more glorious life by herself.

So many Christian young women are suffering silently with this thought in their minds, “I don’t know how to love these people.” Older women, we need you. We need you to teach young women how to love and how to be godly.

  • Young women should be godly

Verse 5 repeats that word, “self-controlled.” Remember, it means sensible. There is a progression here in discipleship. An older woman brings a young woman to her senses, she’s being trained. She’s growing in the ability to pick the good and pursue the good. She’s learning to be pure. At a basic level this is sexual purity; it means she is chaste. The push for sexual freedom was as alive and well in Crete as it is today in our culture. The world is training our daughters, the world is awaking our daughters’ senses, are we answering with a better more joyful way?

Notice the pairs in verses 4 and 5. Love husband is paired with love children. Self-controlled is paired with pure. Working at home is paired with kind. Add verse 11 to this, “grace is training her to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life in the present age.” Older women, your discipleship of young women doesn’t depend on you. Older women, of course you don’t have what it takes to disciple young women. God will give you the grace you need. Training young women depends on God’s grace. The God who saved her is the God who is strengthening her to devote herself to her husband and children. God will provide what we need. We all need God’s great grace as we seek to follow Jesus.

Think about the cross. The cruciform life is a life shaped by the cross. In Ephesians 5 husbands are called to live cruciform lives, lives of loving self-sacrifice for the good of their wives. The paradigm of Christ is now laid upon young ladies. Deny yourself for the good of others. Tell yourself no so that you can say yes to others. Loving those people will require you to pay a cost that a solitary existence would never require. Love calls for the greatest of sacrifices and grace empowers joyful living.

To the world, working hard at home is anything but glamorous. Cooking meals, doing laundry, caring for sick children, and teaching children is hard work. Motherhood is a 365 day a week 24 hour a day job. Motherhood is a God-glorifying sacrifice of self for the good of others. Yes, being a mother and a wife looks like a waste. You have so much to offer in the work force out there while the kids and husband don’t seem to care. It’s just like the sacrifice of Christ for sinners like you and me. The humiliation and sacrifice of the glorious Son of God looks like waste. Jesus is so smart and resourceful. He’s such a powerful thinker and leader. Yet there he is doing nothing for 30 years and then spending himself with those 12 misfits. Then he dies! What a waste and what a love. Young mothers, work hard at home, your work is glorious. Work hard and be kind.

Kind appears so strange at first, its strange to everyone except the sacrificial and submissive young woman. That young husband is often foolish and fearful; he lacks self-control. Submitting to him is hard. Submitting to him with kindness is even harder. Those children are so demanding. The moment the laundry is folded, or the meal cleaned up, or the home tidied, it all needs to be done again. The most natural thing for a young wife and mother to become is harsh. Older women and grace are given to train her to be kind and submissive.

Look at the middle of verse 5. Train them to be “submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Her looking after their good is submission. Her following his leadership is submission. As the husband gives himself for his wife, the wife gives herself for her husband. I really don’t think our problem is with sacrifice- people sacrifice all the time for their careers, health, and hobbies. The problem is sacrificing for the good of someone who doesn’t deserve it. The problem is sacrificing career, health, and hobbies for the good of someone who doesn’t deserve it; someone like your husband and your children.

Here is teaching that accords with sound doctrine. The gospel of Jesus’ self-sacrifice must work into husbands who lay their lives down for their wives and wives who submit themselves to their husbands. Mean, selfish, resentful, bitter women cause the gospel to be mocked as a fairy tale. Foolish, selfish, weak, faithless men cause the gospel to dragged through the mud. The gospel calls us to a better way. The gospel calls young men to a better way.

IV. A vision for young men

Look at Titus 2:6, “Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.”

  • Young men should bring all of life into submission to the gospel

At first glance verse 6 sounds like a copout compared to the laundry list given to young women. But consider two points, first, we see that the vision for young men is that they will learn to master themselves for the good of others. Look at a 13 year old male and consider what it will mean for him in every area of life to sensible. In his work, in his education, in his relationships, in his soul, in his humor, in his love, in his care for others he must be sensible. Young man, master every desire and bring every thought captive to Christ. Young man grow up. Church, boys will stay boys if we don’t urge them to grow up. Titus 2:6 is an all-encompassing command.

The second reason this is not a copout is because Titus is a young man. Every command given to Titus needs to be translated and applied to his fellow young men. Young men must renounce ungodliness and worldly passions to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Their hope must be the appearing of their great God and savior Jesus Christ. Young men must be zealous for good works.

Titus must set the example for young men and call them to a better way. Titus must preach the gospel and apply the truth in such a way that moves every age group toward a gospel culture. We must move

V. Toward a gospel culture

This passage points us in a thousand directions as we consider older men, older women, younger women, and younger men. There is so much for me to work on. For simplicity, I want to give us two broad categories that I hope can help each of us.

  • First, consider your own situation

How does this passage encourage you in your particular situation? Where do you need to make progress? Where is the disconnect in your life between sound doctrine and godly living? Get precise. In what particular area of life is the Spirit calling you to make progress? Fill in that blank

Sound doctrine is calling me to grow in _________________

What is your next step toward greater health? Is it repentance? Is it faith? Is it the pursuit of accountability or discipleship? Take that step today.

  • Finally, consider your fellow church members.

We provide a church member or family for prayer each week in the bulletin. Use the paradigms of Titus 2:1-6 to pray for those members. Is it an older man? Pray for him to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Is it an older woman? Pray for her to be reverent in behavior, not a slanderer, not a slave to much wine, and pray she makes disciples among the women of the church. Is she a young woman? Pray for her to love her husband, love her children, to be self-controlled, pure, diligent at home, kind, and submissive as a display of the glorious gospel. Is he a young man? Pray for self-control in every area of his life.

Where do you need to grow? How can you build us up? Identifying these areas will cause you to become a person who stirs us up to love and good works. As each of us grows in godliness we will shine brightly in a confused culture. May God display his glory through godly men, godly women, and godly families.

Discuss Titus 2:1-6

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. How do you define a godly man?
  3. How do you define a godly woman?
  4. What are pastors called to do in Titus 2:1?
  5. Consider the marks of an older man in Titus 2:2. Who do you know that lives out these characteristics? Pray and thank God for him.
  6. Older women should enter every situation like a priestess entering the temple. Discuss how this should workout in everyday life.
  7. Who are older women called to teach and what are they called to teach?
  8. Thank God for the faithful women in your life. Pray for God to raise up faithful women who will disciple women in the church.
  9. If you are a young woman, what characteristic do you find easier to live out? Which do you find more difficult?
  10. Pray for the young mothers in the church. Pray that God will give them great grace as they love their husbands and children.
  11. Young men, in what areas of life are you lacking self-control? Are you enslaved to some appetite or attitude? How does Titus 2:11-14 help you?
  12. Pray for the young men in the church. Pray for them to offer themselves to Christ as slaves of righteousness.

Listen, Repent, & Believe; Jonah 3:1-9

Main Point: God’s people continue in repentance and faith

Aren’t you thankful God is a merciful God who gives second chances? We’re back in the book of Jonah today, Jonah 3:1-9. Remember what we have seen. God commanded Jonah, Jonah ran from God, God pursued him with a storm, Jonah was hurled into the sea, he cried out to be saved, the great fish swallowed him, Jonah gave thanks to God, and at the Lord’s command the fish puked him out onto the beach.

We pick up there, Jonah is on dry land. We don’t know how much time passed between Jonah 2:10 and Jonah 3:1. Maybe Jonah had time for a bath. Maybe he had time to go to the temple, make a sacrifice, and pay his vow (Jonah 2:9). We don’t know, but I picture him looking like Will Smith from the first Men in Black movie after being swallowed by the alien. I see Jonah laying face down in the sand, covered in fish vomit, and the word of the Lord comes to him a second time. Go to Nineveh and preach my word.

Jonah gets a fresh start. Jonah gets a second chance. Because God is merciful, we are a people who get fresh starts. If you feel the weight of your sins and your failures and your mistakes, you have joined in with the right group of people. We are a people of second chances.

There on the beach, Jonah realized the futility of further disobedience (Kennedy, 50). He rose, went to Nineveh, and preached God’s Word. With a fresh start, Jonah did what God told him to do. Let’s read it: Jonah 3:1-9.

We are going to tackle these verses by looking at the central themes of listening, believing, and repenting. We’ll start with Nineveh then move to the Israelites who first received the book of Jonah, and then we’ll seek to apply what we learn to our lives today.

I. The Ninevites listened, believed, and repented

Write “Jeremiah 18:7-11” in the margin of Jonah 3. The true God wants all nations to know he is God. God will not clear the guilty, but he will show mercy to those who repent. In Jeremiah 18:7-11, God says, “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I have intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, everyone from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’”

God wants us to repent, so he warns us about coming judgment. God warned his people and he warned Nineveh in order to turn them from their sin. This is how it went, Jonah 3:2, God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and call out against it the message God will give. Verse 3, finally willing, Jonah went and proclaimed God’s Word to the people. Verse 4, Jonah called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Look what happened, verse 5, “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” Let’s dig into that

  • The Ninevites paid attention to God’s word

The Ninevites listened to God’s word and it was a word of judgment for sin. This is obvious so we won’t spend a lot of time here, but it’s so obvious it can be missed. Why did the people of Nineveh repent? They repented because God sent his word and the people listened to God’s word (see Matthew 10:14-15; 11:20-24). This doesn’t discount the necessary teaching work of the Holy Spirit in repentance. It is God who grants repentance (2 Tim 2:25; Acts 5:31), it is the Holy Spirit that enables repentance (1 Cor 2:12), and repentance always happens in connection with the faithful telling of God’s word.

We can’t control God, we can’t force repentance, but we can put ourselves in the place where God works. God works through the right preaching and correct understanding of his word. Like Jonah, we need to stick to the Word. Like the Ninevites, we need to pay attention to God’s word. Here’s the product of understanding God’s word

  • The Ninevites believed in God

Look with me at verse 5, “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” The NASB translates it literally, “And the people of Nineveh believed in God.” What happened? The Ninevites believed God and acted upon the truth of the true God (Kennedy, 50). The Ninevites heard and believed God’s word. They believed God’s word is true; it’s going to happen.

The message proclaimed to the Ninevites was simply this, “You’re going to die.” Look back at verse 4, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Jonah warns that what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah is about to happen to Nineveh. Genesis 19:14, “Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.’” Genesis 19:24, “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah Sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities.” This is the Lord’s fierce anger toward sin.

The king of Nineveh understood. In verse 9, he called the people to repentance saying, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” The people were locked into living an evil way. The people were given to violence. Their hands were stained with evil. They understood that their evil was about to be punished by God’s fierce anger.

This generation in Nineveh understood their sin and God’s just wrath. Fast forward a century and the Ninevites have forgotten. Look at Nahum 1:2-6 with me and see the fierce anger of God. (Read Nahum 1:2-6).

Repentance starts with turning to God’s word in order to understand his ways. Seeing God’s truth exposes our sin, our failure. Seeing God’s truth warns us about the coming wrath of God. The Ninevites believed God had the right to punish them severely for their evil ways and violent hands. Did they shrug that off? No, look what they did. Read Jonah 3:5-8

  • The Ninevites repented

As the word of God spread through the city, repentance followed quickly after. It started with the people, with the every-day-Joe. The people believed in God and called for a fast and put on sackcloth. Everybody joined in from the greatest to the least. Repentance went city wide- nobles and common folks. Verse 6, the word reached the king of Nineveh and he followed suit proclaiming a fast, putting on sackcloth, urging mighty prayer, and calling on the people to stop doing evil. What would it take for this to happen in Granbury, Glen Rose, Bluff Dale, and Tolar?

Let’s work through these marks of repentance here in Jonah 3. One, they took God’s word seriously. They listened, understood, and believed God. They trusted God would do what he said he would do. God is going to destroy us. And they rightly hoped that the 40 day warning was a sign that God might relent if they turned from their evil. They took God’s word seriously and they hoped God would forgive.

Two, they called out mightily to God. The people devoted themselves to prayer. They cried out with force to God. No lame confession here. No one was saying, “Dear God, I’m sorry you got angry.” Or, “Dear God, I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt.” Their prayers were an expression of their hatred of their evil. The violence of their hands was out-matched by the violence of their prayers. “God, we have done evil. God, our hands are given to violence. You are rightly coming in judgment, but please forgive us.” Like a prisoner headed to the executioner’s block, the Ninevites were begging for forgiveness.

But these were no empty words. Along with mighty prayer there is the third mark of repentance: the commitment to turn from your evil way. It is pure hypocrisy to ask for forgiveness for something you plan to continue to do. True repentance turns from evil. Additionally, the Ninevites committed to turn from the violence in their hands. They were awful people who committed sinister and intimidating evil in order to force their enemies into submission. Worse than murder is torture. Worse than torture is the celebration of torture. The Ninevites were guilty of all this violence and more. Then they repented. Repentance is the commitment to turn away from the evil being committed.

To be clear, repentance is an inward change of heart that shows up in your actions. Another common mark of repentance is fasting. What do the people call for in verse 5? They call for a fast. What do the nobles call for in verse 7? They call for a fast from food and water for man and beast. In the context of sin and judgment, fasting is an outward way of expressing one’s faith. Namely, I believe I have sin and I believe God is right in punishing that sin, yet my hope is that God will relent. So, I will fast and devote myself to pleading for mercy. Fasting can reflect the serious nature of our sin.

The Ninevites’ fast was like Moses’ fast. Listen to what Moses did when he learned about the people’s sin and God’s coming judgment. Deuteronomy 9:18-19, “Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, for forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you.”

Fasting is an outward expression of the inward desire for forgiveness. Fasting provides time away from regular responsibilities in order to pray. In this situation, the sinner devotes himself to praying for God’s mercy. Repentance is demonstrated in devotion to prayer, often accompanied by fasting.

Here’s our final mark of repentance in Jonah 3, repentance demonstrates itself in humility. The repentant are humble. In verse 5, the people put on sackcloth. In verse 6, the king gets down off his throne, takes off his royal robes, covers himself with sackcloth, and sits in ashes. The repentant go low. The repentant do not make excuses. The repentant do not blame others. The repentant do not bristle at their punishment. The repentant go down low. Again, the inward attitude of humility expresses itself in outward deeds. No one claims power. No one claims an exemption. Their outward show of poverty, which was sackcloth, and their outward sign of mourning, which was sitting in ashes, demonstrated their inward regret over their sin.

Ok, grab onto this concerning repentance, in order to repent a person must identify and turn from her evil ways. Repentance is an inward attitude toward God and sin that shows up in outward actions. The Ninevites repented.

Now remember, who was the book of Jonah written to? Jonah was not written to the Ninevites. The book of Jonah was written for the Israelites.

II. Jonah called the Israelites to listen, believe, and repent

  • The book of Jonah was written first to the Israelites

In the days of Jonah, Israel was just as godless and evil as the Ninevites. The question is, will they repent like the Ninevites? Will God’s people turn from their evil ways? Will God’s people turn from the violence in their hands? This is the point of Jonah 3. The nations are repenting and turning to God. Will Israel turn? Will you?

Earlier I read from Jeremiah 18, how God warns the nations and will relent from punishment if they will turn from their evil. Through Jonah and Jeremiah, God is calling his people to repent because God is merciful. What will the people do? Jeremiah 18:12, “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.”

The Ninevites repented but the Jews refused! The Ninevites listened to Jonah but the Jews refused! One of the most stunning refusals comes in Jeremiah 36:23. Here Jeremiah’s words of warnings and promises of mercy are read to the king of Judah and as they are read, the king cuts the verses off and throws them into the fire! The king rejected God’s word and went his own way.

Jonah’s message of repentance fell on deaf ears. The people didn’t care. It is sobering to realize Jonah’s words are going out again to the people of God. This time it is for us to decide. What will we do with the prophet’s words? Jonah is calling out against us.

III. God’s Word is calling us to listen, repent, and believe

J. D. Greear is spot on when he says, “Christians are known by a posture of repentance and faith” (Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart). The evidence of salvation is continuing in repentance and faith. Now it’s time to apply the message of Jonah to ourselves.

  • Do you have ears to hear?

Are you paying attention to God’s word? Do you see your evil ways? Do you see the violence in your hands? Maybe your evil and violence is clear because of the angry defiling words that you speak. Maybe your violence is hidden because you keep your resentment or lust looping quietly in your own mind. Either way, are you aware of your sin? Do you have ears to hear God’s word that points to your evil and do you have ears to hear the gospel that points to God’s Son? This is evil. Jesus is the way out.

The stone that builders rejected has become the cornerstone. God’s people are brought near, cleansed, and built up by faith in Jesus Christ. Seeing your sin, where are you drawn? Are you drawn to keeping the law? Are you drawn to doing good deeds? Are you drawn to making excuses? Or, is the Father drawing you to trust in Christ’s perfect payment on the cross for your sins? When you think of your sin do you try to cover it with your good deeds, or do you trust Christ to cover it by his death and resurrection?

You are headed toward judgment and destruction. On your own you will perish, but God sent his Son to obey in your place, die in your place, and live in your place. Do you have ears to hear? Next

  • Do you want to change?

Do you see the way of God as better than your way? Do you desire to be with God? Have you seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ so that you want to know him and become like him? Repentance is turning away from sin in order to turn to Christ.

Psalm 34:18 gives us strange encouragement to repent, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” The Lord is near the repentant. The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

We are in a season when we can imitate the pattern of Moses fasting for 40 days. I will say, there is a danger to Lent. The danger is that you consider your fasting a work by which you earn favor with God. This is a denial of grace. But Lent can also be to our benefit when we consider what it looks like to change. What distracts you? What pulls you away from a sincere devotion to the Lord? Do you know where you are tempted? Do you know what slows you down in your obedience? Fasting does not earn you anything. Fasting can provide time to think about where you need to change.

In light of the grace given by Christ to forgive you and empower you for righteousness, fasting can be beneficial for focusing on your growth in godliness. Listen to God’s word, repent, and believe. Here’s our next question

  • Do you believe in Jesus?

Our disobedience, our evil ways, and our violence are storing up wrath on the day of judgment (Romans 2:3-5). A tidal wave of judgment is headed toward you. Like Sodom and Gomorrah you will be overthrown. Or, you can believe in Jesus. You can believe he drank the cup of God’s wrath. You can believe the Father laid on him the iniquity of us all. Something greater than Jonah is here. Jesus did not come simply to tell you God is merciful. Jesus came, died, and rose again to take God’s wrath for your sins upon himself. Jonah couldn’t do that for Nineveh. Jesus did that for you. This is our message, repentance to God and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). You can be forgiven. You can be restored. There are fresh starts for you because of Christ’s payment for your sin. Believe Jesus took your sin. Believe Jesus rose again. Believe Jesus gives you his righteousness. Restored to God, we answer his call to rise and preach.

  • Go to your Nineveh and make disciples

Throughout church history Jonah has been painted in art and portrayed in stained glass. An interesting feature of this artwork is the cities in the background are generally not Nineveh. The church has understood their own cities to be the places where they are to preach repentance and faith. We are a people who preach the truth of the true God (Kennedy, 50). God saves those who believe in Jesus! There is forgiveness and fresh starts with Christ. Go and tell the good news. As you are going…make disciples.

What is your Nineveh? Where do you see people walking in evil ways with violence in their hands? Like God, do you care about your city? Like Jesus do you long for the forgiveness and restoration of the people? The task before us is monumental and the numbers are overwhelming but let’s start with the simple. Let’s start with our own repentance and let’s start with intentionally praying for the salvation of one person. I want you to consider this question today: What will it look like for you to repent to God and put your faith in Jesus Christ? Forgiven in Christ, go and win your one to Christ.

Fighter Verses Philippians 4:10–11

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

  1. How do you rejoice and show your gratitude when others express concern for you or give you help?
  2. Under what circumstances do you find it difficult to receive help from others?  Why?
  3. There may be instances when you need help, but nobody is available.  Is it right to assume nobody cares when your need is not met?  Why or why not?
  4. Discuss what would keep you from being able to meet somebody’s needs.
  5. How can you express your care for someone and your desire to help them, even if you are unable to provide them what they need?
  6. What could make Paul content (that is, believe that what he had was enough), even when he was not receiving the help he needed?
  7. Is it easy to be content when things don’t go your way?  How do you strive for contentment in all things?

Care Group / Midweek Bible Study

Care-Groups

Care Group is our Wednesday Bible study that meets from 6:45-7:45 pm at a members’ house. Care Group meets every other week (9/18, 10/3, 10/17, 10/31, etc.). The time together is spent on a simple meal, praying for one another, reviewing the sermon text from the previous Sunday, then seeking to help one another apply that text to life. It is helpful to look or listen to the sermon and discussion question posted on this blog before attending Care Group.

Comment below if you need more information.