God didn’t come in flesh for one part of your life, but for your entire life.

Among Christians in America, there is a regular separation between what happens in church and the rest of life. Work is one thing; church is another. School is one thing; church is another. Our home life is one thing; church is another. The walls of a church building function like a boundary between our Christianity and the outside world. There is a divide between the sacred and secular. But that’s not the way things should be.

God wants to reclaim our entire lives, for this is how he is reclaiming the world. This is profoundly seen in the book of Titus and especially Titus 2:6–10, which offers us instructions on how to advocate for Jesus—in all areas of life.

But First, a Recap of Our Titus Series

Paul opens his letter to Titus by first explaining his personal calling and ministry (Titus 1:1–4). From Titus 1:1–4, we can see what it means to have a Christian identity: our lives will be defined first and foremost by the “hope of eternal life” of Jesus, the savior. But how do we recognize a Christian leader, a person who has been truly transformed by this idea?

Paul tells us in Titus 1:5–9 that Christian leaders have three primary qualifications. Christian leaders are: (1) capable and respected, (2) loving, and (3) experienced at following Jesus. We also see the opposite of this: trend seekers who propagate ideas of legalism (Titus 1:10–16). While these kinds of people are often elevated in our culture, they don’t represent the Christian ideal. “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him” (Titus 1:16). Paul’s instructions are for the purpose of guiding Titus on how to appoint Christian leaders for the churches on Crete, where Paul and Timothy had formally done missionary work together.

In Titus 2, Paul shifts to a series of pragmatic instructions, covering the different demographics represented in the churches: older men (Titus 2:1–2), older women (Titus 2:3–4), and then younger women (Titus 2:4–5). These instructions are highly contextual, geared at the specific situation on Crete (a point illustrated by Paul’s use of a proverb about Cretans in Titus 1:12). What this means is that we should not attempt to verbatim apply these instructions to our modern context. Instead, we should look to the theological principles behind the instructions.

Let's Move Away from Cheap-Grace Christianity

With this recap in mind, let’s examine Titus 2:6–8, where Paul turns to instructions for young men:

"Similarly [to what I’ve told you for these other groups of people], encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2:6–8 NIV).

Here, we first see an emphasis again on self-control. Paul is big on a Christian life of discipline. He is opposed to legalism (Titus 2:14), but that doesn’t mean that he is about an “I’m okay, you’re okay, everyone do what they want, okay?” sort of faith. Instead, he acknowledges that we have to live our faith in how we act.

The basic premise here is that holiness is important to God and that a person who refuses to have self-control will never garner anyone’s respect. If no one respects you, how will they respect Jesus? With this in mind, I’m tempted to ask: What has happened to Christianity in America then, that we so easily accept a sort of cheap grace, without calling people to authentically live for Jesus?

3 Ways to Be a Model for Jesus

We know Paul is against a cheap grace version of Christianity, where we merely use Jesus as a scapegoat without a response to the grace he has offered. But what is Paul for? How does he tell us to advocate for Jesus? How should we show our Christianity to other people? How do we share our faith? Put simply, be a model, “set … an example” (Titus 2:7).

In Titus 2:7–8, Paul tells us that there are three ways we can be a model for Jesus:

  1. In our good works — what we do for other people. For a definition of this, we can look to 1 Timothy 6:18 that defines good works as being “generous and ready to share.”
  2. In our teaching — speaking about Jesus with what Paul calls “integrity and dignity.” This means also living the message. There should be consistency in what we say and what we do.
  3. With sound speech — this means accurate teaching, to the gospel. For a definition of what “sound teaching” is we can look to 1 Timothy 6:3, where this type of teaching is defined as that which agrees with the “instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

These three methods are how we advocate for Jesus, in all spheres of life.

Be a Model for Jesus, Even When Oppressed

After offering the above instructions, Paul then turns to another segment of patriarchal, Graeco-Roman society, slaves:

"Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" (Titus 2:9–10 NIV).

When Paul offers these instructions, he is not condoning slavery. Let’s remember that he diplomatically argues for the freedom of a slave in his letter to Philemon. Paul also advocates regularly for all people, “slave and free” (Galatians 3:28). There is also the contextual consideration: that in Graeco-Roman society working off a debt was a credit system. They used the word slavery for this context.

Paul offers these instructions because he wants people to advocate for Christ, no matter their context. He is also saying that one person’s injustice does not justify doing an injustice against them. Slaves, Paul says, even in their painful and difficult context can “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10).

Consider How You Can Be a Model for Jesus

My question to those of us that are free is: If that’s the case, that even those in slavery can glorify God in their actions, what then is holding us back? Our brothers and sisters who have incredible injustices done against them may very well be showing Jesus more than us. In our freedom, are we abusing the freedom Christ has gained for us?

“In everything set … an example by doing what is good. … In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech” (Titus 2:7–8). Bring unity to your beliefs in the church building and outside of it. Advocate for Jesus in all that you do, whatever that may be.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

Global inequality is the root cause of much of the world's problems. If you can't feed or educate your children, you will become desperate. Desperate people do desperate things. Desperation even breeds terrorism. But we can do something about it. We have the power.

Impoverished communities are especially vulnerable to corruption and exploitation. If we could fix these ethical problems and create fair-wage jobs, we could cut off the problem at its source. We could change the world. The key to all this: technology, organization, and simple choices. We need action and we need the right plan. In this talk, I explain how we can leverage our interconnected world to fix global inequality.

I believe in these ideas so much that my wife and I gave up our former lifestyle to make it happen: selling our house, our possessions, and quitting a great job. In this talk, I explain what motivated me to make these drastic decisions; and the part I believe we all can play in transforming our world.

This talk was delivered for a special event at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center in Ithaca, NY on April 21, 2017. The talk was sponsored by Bethel Grove Bible Church.

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Today is World Fair Trade Day, when people around the world come together to support products that lift people out of poverty. In honor of World Fair Trade Day, here are four ways that fair trade is a Christian value. But before we jump in, you may be wondering, what makes a product "fair trade"?

Defining Fair Trade

The term “Fair Trade” describes an economic exchange in which laborers receive a fair living wage. The basic goal of fair trade is to create a more just and equitable world, where people are paid wages that adequately provide for their needs and are commensurate with their labor.

Fair trade matters for the sake of our world. And it matters for Christianity—here are the four primary reasons why all Christians should support fair trade.

1. We Are Opposed to Exploited Labor

The majority of what we purchase in the U.S. is based on unjust economic exchanges. The exploitation of labor in developing nations reduces the costs we pay here in the U.S. And as such, a large portion of clothing manufactures, and producers of other items, aim to pay people the smallest amount possible. This is a practice that we as Christians should oppose—not just with our words, but also with our wallets.

While it is not possible yet to buy everything you need from a fair trade manufacturer, there are many fair trade options. One day, God willing, we will be able to buy everything we need at fair trade wages and fair trade will be the norm.

2. The Bible Advocates for Justice and Equality

Fair trade represents justice and equality. And justice and equality are key tenants of Christianity. On this point, the prophets especially come to mind. Over and over again the prophets call us to live the principles of justice, mercy, and humility (e.g., Micah 6:6–8). Near the beginning of the book of Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah records God saying:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:16–17 ESV).

We should plead the widow’s cause by buying products that empower women. We should learn to do good by understanding the implications of our purchases. We should live the principles of justice. If we desire justice, then we should make justice a priority when it comes to our purchases. If we believe in equality, then we should back that with our entire lifestyles.

3. Fair Trade Creates Jobs for the Impoverished

Work is central to who we are. It was a major part of the lives of the apostles and something they advocated for (e.g., Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). But work is not an option for some—they lack the opportunity. And where work is available, it is not a fair exchange. We can change that through creating fair trade jobs.

If done right, fair trade is one way to change lives through business. Fair trade products are purchased at a price that allows for people to overcome poverty. Fair trade creates safe, sustainable, and profitable jobs. It also provides high quality products for people around the world to use and enjoy. 

4. We Can Create a Jesus Economy

If Jesus was to create an economy, it would be based on love and self-sacrifice. But fair trade isn’t even asking for self-sacrifice; it’s asking that we simply respect people—that we show them the dignity of being paid what their work is worth.

Fair trade represents life transformation for impoverished artisans. It represents a chance for their dreams to become real. It means their families having sustainable incomes and real money coming into their economies.

Jesus envisioned a world where we truly loved our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Fair trade is a way for us to show his love. It’s a way to live what we believe.*

For more on fair trade, see the Jesus’ Economy Fair Trade Standards. Also, check out the Jesus’ Economy online Fair Trade Shop, where you can alleviate poverty simply by shopping. 

Shop Fair Trade

 

*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "Why Fair Trade Matters to Christianity." The artisan featured above, Benson, is a living example of why fair trade matters: Read Benson's fair trade story.

Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." There are many players in the biblical story. In this grand play across time, with God as the great author of history, we are invited to see ourselves in the characters. There is one act in this grand play that stands above the rest: the great moment of the resurrection. But in this story, there are characters who have been neglected, forgotten, overlooked. Yet, they are the greatest source of inspiration. They are the women who stood by Jesus.

In this sermon, I examine Mark 16, suggesting that we should all emulate the women who stood by Jesus. We should be witnesses in God's grand story like the women were.

This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 21, 2019 (Easter Sunday).

Subscribe now to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

We’re given a story in our culture: We’re told what it means to live, what we should value. And then there’s the biblical story, which is in in sharp contrast to the story of culture. This makes authentic Christianity difficult to come by. Every Christian faces the challenge of discerning how to authentically live for Jesus. What is it that makes an authentic Christian? And how can we live as authentic Christians? How can our lives tell a different story, a better story? For the answers to these questions, we can look to Titus 2:1–5, which records some instructions Paul the apostle gave his young apprentice, Titus.

The Backstory of Titus on Crete

Paul had left his young apprentice Titus on Crete, to appoint leaders for the fledgling church(es) there and to inspire them to live authentically for Jesus. Crete is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, located southwest of modern Turkey. Paul wrote this letter at some point in the mid-60s AD, between his first and second Roman imprisonments.

In Titus 1:5–9, Paul has explained to Titus how to identify authentic Christian leaders, noting that they must be:

  1. Capable and respected;
  2. Loving, in all sphere of life (at home and publicly); and
  3. Experienced at living as a follower of Jesus (a true disciple of Jesus).
From here, Paul told Titus how to discern the difference between a truly Christian leader and a trend seeker, by explaining what inauthenticity looks like (Titus 1:10–16).

    In Titus 2:1–15, Paul now tells Titus how to minister to specific people groups on Crete, explaining what each of them will need to hear. From these very specific instructions, rooted in the cultural issues on Crete, we can derive some principles for how to authentically live as Christians and then apply these principles to our present circumstances, to our lives.

    How to Find Sound Doctrine

    In Titus 2:1–5 (NIV), Paul says to Titus: 

    You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

    Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

    Paul first reminds Titus of the value of sound doctrine, which can be defined as that which is consistent with the gospel message—of Jesus’ saving act on the cross and his resurrection—and with the teachings of the apostles (Titus 2:1; compare 1 Timothy 1:10). Paul gives to Titus here a principle that is applicable to all situations: If you want to know how to live, look to the Bible as your guide.

    From here, Paul turns to what he believed older men on Crete needed to hear (Titus 2:2). In the first-century AD, “older men” would have referred to those over age 50. From this advice about "older men," we can learn how to live sound doctrine.

    4 Disciplines for Christians to Live By

    From Paul's instructions about teaching "older men," we see four practices or disciplines emerge:

    1. Temperance, that is the ability to be restrained or not give into extremes. (This seems to imply even consumption habits, such as alcohol [compare Titus 2:3].)
    2. Respectable, or worthy of respect.
    3. Self-controlled. This aligns with Paul’s instruction that younger women live pure lives (Titus 2:4).
    4. Sound in faith, knowing and practicing the values of Jesus. This is shown in how we love and what we endure.

    The recommendation of Paul for older women is similar to that for older men (Titus 2:3). Likewise, Paul reflects the value of garnering respect in the teachings he offers for younger women (Titus 2:4–5), which in his context would have been women between the ages of 20 and 30, but this also seems to be a general reference to women younger than the older women group (over age 50). In Paul’s first-century context, the values he gives for young women would have all been cultural norms; Paul’s concern seems to be that violating a cultural norm so central to Graeco-Roman culture would have brought unwanted scrutiny to the fledgling church.

    What the 4 Disciplines for Christian Life Teach

    What these four values or disciplines show us is that at its core, Christianity is not just about belief, about a commitment to a set of religious standards; it is also about practice. It’s about what we do with our time, resources, and energy. Christianity is not just about what’s coming, going to heaven, but about the now—what we will do with the fact that heaven has come to earth in the personhood of Jesus, the one who suffered, died, and rose on our behalf. What will we do with sound doctrine? That’s the question of Paul for us.

    What Will You Do with Sound Doctrine?

    Jesus came to reclaim our entire lives. About this, Paul elsewhere says: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1–2 NIV).

    This reminds me of a line from the band All Sons and Daughters song “Dawn to Dusk”:

    Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender

    We come before you [and] lay our burdens down

    We look to you as our hearts remember

    You are the only God

    You are our only God.

    So let us surrender, lay our burdens down, and embrace the open arms of the God of the universe. Let us authentically live our beliefs.

    This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


    Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

    “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV).

    Happy Earth Day! Today is for celebrating the beauty of all God created. Look around you. Do you see these trees and canyons and oceans and stars that surround us and declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1)? We are meant to enjoy this earth and care for it.

    Enjoying creation is part of what God commanded humankind in the Garden of Eden. But what he said was bigger than just enjoying the Earth.

    “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28 ESV).

    The other part of enjoying creation is taking care of it. The type of "dominion" Genesis has in mind is stewardship or care taking. Taking care of our planet is our mandate as humans. We have this absolutely beautiful planet, and we get to nurture it and help it thrive. It's awesome that God has trusted us with this Earth.

    10 Ways You Can Love the Earth Today (and Every Day)

    1. Get outside and take a walk. Remember what God has given us, be grateful for it, and really soak it in.
    2. Clean up trash. If you see food wrappers and garbage on the ground, pick it up and throw it away. Maybe even organize a beach cleaning party or roadside trash pick up.
    3. Plant a tree. Don’t have room in your own yard? Find a local group that plants trees in your community and volunteer to help.
    4. Use less water. Don’t use more than you need.
    5. Ride your bike. We know this isn’t possible every day, but do it whenever you get the chance. Carpooling is also a great way to cut down on carbon emissions.
    6. Cut out single-use plastics. Did you know there are hundreds of tons of plastic in the ocean right now? An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic are put into the ocean every year, according to Scientific American. (For reference, 1 metric ton is equal to 1,000 kilograms or approximately 2,204 pounds.)
    7. Shop Responsibly. Consider buying products that are made ethically and with renewable resources. Check out our Fair Trade Shop if you’re interested.
    8. Make some art. Sit outside and draw what you see. Write about it. Reflect on the gift of creation.
    9. Unplug from technology. This is essential for enjoying God's creation. And it goes hand and hand with the next point.
    10. Slow down. It’s easy to forget about the Earth when we’re so busy all the time, especially when our faces are glued to screens, even if that’s a screen at work. But take some time to unplug, remember, and truly celebrate our current home.

      I know we have a lot to worry about, and I know the weight of all the pain the world is feeling right now makes it difficult to act, but it’s so important. It seems like the Earth is dying a little more every day and it’s getting out of control—it’s easy to be cynical about all of it. And we all realize that a huge component of environmental decay is consumerism and pollution. We all know we can’t turn it around in a day or by ourselves. But we can do something together.

      Let’s start small, start talking, start walking, start acting, and start loving the Earth how it deserves to be loved.

      Want to Shop Eco Friendly?

      Shop Eco Friendly on JesusEconomy.org

       

      Over 500 years before Jesus came in flesh, a prophet proclaimed that one would suffer, die, and rise again for the sin of humanity. It was also prophesied that the resurrection of a Suffering Servant would lead to resurrection for every single person. Here is the gospel according to Isaiah and Daniel. This is Easter proclaimed 500 years before Jesus came in flesh.

      In this sermon, I utilize the research from my first book, The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, to explore Isaiah 52:13–53:12.

      This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday).

      Subscribe now to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

      Who do you say that Jesus is? This is the question that Jesus' disciples were confronted with when Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified. This is the core question of the Gospel of Mark. It is also the core question behind what it means to be human. Your answer to this question will change everything about your life.

      To explain the message of Mark 8:22–38, I draw on my own life story of God working miraculously to help me overcome a severe speech impediment, as well as a miracle I saw in Bihar, India while I was there designing the Renew Bihar project. I also tell a story from my time in New York City at The Bowery Mission.

      This sermon was delivered on September 30, 2018 at Third Christian Reformed Church in Lynden, WA.

      Subscribe now to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

      How often have we thought that we know exactly what God needs? Or that we understand what God is doing, just to realize later that we were mistaken? That's what happened with the crowds who welcomed Jesus on Palm Sunday; and with King David, who thought that God needed a temple. 1,000 years before Jesus, Nathan prophesied to David that God had different plans. Those plans centered on an eternal king. Those plans prophesied Palm Sunday.

      In this sermon, we examine 2 Samuel 7:1–17, an ancient prophetic text that points to Jesus. This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 14, 2019 (Palm Sunday).

      Subscribe now to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

      Love and religion should go hand in hand. But, as we well know, religion is often used for hate. What does a better ideal of religion look like? For Jesus of Nazareth, religion meant self-sacrificial love. God is love.


      This talk was delivered on April 22, 2017 (Earth Day) in Ithaca, NY at the "Believe in Love" Conference. I was invited to speak on the topic of "Love and Religion." You can also read the transcript version of the my "Love and Religion" talk here on the Jesus' Economy Blog.

      Subscribe now to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

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