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.

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.

    How are we to distinguish authentic Christian leadership from those who are trend seekers? How are we to know what’s proper engagement with culture and what is simply emulating culture? How are we to discern these matters as Christians?

    There's a Problem in the Church

    There are many people who pretend (or feign) that that they are Christian leaders. Think of the type of people who pretend like they are seeking the betterment of a church while they are really interested in building their own platform. These type of people are sure to be in all the right places at all the right times and are always quick to offer their piece of input or advice. But we all know what many of these people are really about: They are seeking some sense of belonging or power and because they lack maturity, they ultimately cause harm to other people.

    This problem isn't new. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he offers some brilliant advice for distinguishing between authentic Christian leaders and trend seekers. He directly connects this advice to how Titus should distinguish people who are ready to be Christian leaders from those who are not (see Titus 1:5–9).

    “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:10–16 NIV).

    False leadership (or power seeking) can come in many forms but Paul tells us to be on the lookout for three particular kinds.

    1. Look Out for Legalism

    Historically, in Titus 1:10–16, Paul first refers to those who want all Christians to act like Jewish people (the circumcision group; see the letter of Galatians for a detailed account of this). In today’s context, we would call these the legalistic people—those who want to distinguish what is Christian and what is not purely on the basis of outward signs or actions. Paul tells Titus to silence this group and substitute in truth.

    2. Look Out for Laziness

    After discussing legalism in Titus 1:10–16, Paul then looks to those who are lazy, which may include some people in the first group. Here he cites a common proverb of some sort. Paul is not being racist here, but instead is joking in jest. But there is a truth here we need to remember: trend seekers are rarely willing to work hard for the betterment of a community. Be suspicious of people who are quick to take advantage of resources but not so quick to work to grow the church (compare 2 Thessalonians 3:6–10).

    3. Look Out for Mythology

    Finally, in Titus 1:10–16, Paul looks to Jewish mythology—or perhaps re-references the impositions being imposed upon non-Jewish Christians by Jewish people. He critiques this too. In today's world, we can think of those who become obsessed with a particular worldview or brand of theology to the point that it becomes the only measure for truth in their mind.

    Define Your Life around the Gospel

    In this, Paul shows us how easy it is to be led astray and to misunderstand God and his ways. When this happens, everything in our lives becomes corrupted. Wrong beliefs, then lead to wrong actions. We cannot claim to know God and not live completely what he is calling us to do.

    We must define our entire lives around the saving work of the gospel. This is what is good and "pure." We must show other people that we need God and God alone and declare that only he can truly save.

    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.

    How was Jesus poor and why did he become poor? Why would God come into the world as a man in poverty? Paul the apostle provides an answer.

    “But just as you excel in everything—in faith and in speaking and in knowledge and with all diligence and in the love from us that is in you—so may you excel in this grace [of giving generously] also. I am not saying this as a command, but proving the genuineness of your love by means of the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, for your sake he became poor, in order that you, by his poverty, may become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:6–9 LEB).

    In making the case for living graciously and generously, Paul pulls in the example of Jesus. He states that Jesus became poor for the sake of the world. The implications of this for our lives cannot be overstated.

    How Was Jesus Poor?

    The first level of Jesus’ poverty came in his decision to become a human (see Philippians 2:5–11). When Jesus decided to become human he moved from being crowned in glory in heaven to being mortal. He went from being able to move like a spirit to being stuck in flesh. But Jesus took it on gladly, for our sake.

    Jesus took on poverty for our sake. He even became poor in a very ordinary way: He grew up in poor Nazareth and was a traveling preacher, who was basically homeless (see Luke 9:57–58).

    If Jesus had not chosen to become human, he would not have been able to save us. If Jesus had not become physically poor, he likely would not have been as effective as a minister. Even in his poor appearance, Jesus was an attractive teacher—a stark contrast to the rich teachers of his day (compare Isaiah 53:1).

    What the Poor Understand that the Rich Do Not

    Jesus understood that it was through enduring poverty that he was able to reach and save humanity. On his way to dying for the world—on the cross—Jesus became a poor man. Those of us with much must realize how incredibly far we actually are from the state Jesus lived in. We must also keep in mind that our poor neighbors understand many things about Jesus that we do not.

    This is why Jesus says things like, “Blessed are the poor, because yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20 LEB). The Macedonians, who Paul talks about just before the above passage in 2 Corinthians, gave out of their poverty because they understood what it meant to be in need (see 2 Corinthians 8:1–5). The wealthy Corinthians had a harder time seeing the perspective of the kingdom of God and hence Paul's not so subtle rebuke.

    If Paul was alive today, he would probably remind us of the exact same thing he brought up to the Corinthians: be gracious in your giving and your lifestyle, for Jesus was incredibly gracious to us. Do what you can for those in need. And spread the good news of Jesus at all cost (compare James 1:27).

    How does Paul’s perspective on Jesus, giving, and poverty change your perspective? Drop me a comment, I would love to hear from you.*


    Want to go deeper into this subject? 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.


    *This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "What Saint Paul Wants You to Understand about Jesus and Poverty."

    If we want to understand what God desires in a leader (or any Christian for that matter), we need look no further than the book of Titus.

    Near the beginning of Titus, Paul says why he had previously left Titus in Crete. While the book of Acts doesn’t fill is in on the details of when Paul planted a church in Crete, and when he left Titus there, we know from the letter to Titus that Paul saw this venture on the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean as critical. While explaining why he left Titus on the island, Paul gives us a glimpse into his view of Christian leadership, saying:

    “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:5–9 NIV; compare 1 Timothy 3:1–7).

    The 5 Attributes of a Christian Leader

    In Titus 1:5–9, Paul tells Titus that anyone who assumes a church office should have five attributes:

    1. be a respectable person
    2. who knows how to teach others in the ways of Jesus,
    3. who knows how to love their family and others well,
    4. who doesn’t do things that are clearly against Jesus’ teachings,
    5. and is not a recent convert to Christianity (i.e., been a Christian for awhile).

    It also makes sense for people who have the role of overseer to have the ability to do what Paul calls "discern spirits"—to protect the church from heretical teachings is a critical function of church leaders (see 1 Corinthians 12:10; Titus 1:10–16). This could also be defined as an orthodoxy filter and concern for the church staying on track.

    3 Descriptors of Christian Leaders

    If I were to narrow the above list to three overarching attributes or principles, these three could cover all of the above: 

    1. Capable and respected teacher (with discernment)
    2. Loving, in all spheres of life (at home and publicly)
    3. Experienced at living as a follower of Jesus (a true disciple of Jesus)

    Now what I’m not saying here is that these are requirements for God to call a leader. All leaders depend on the grace of God; and God clearly calls the unexpected (e.g., Paul himself; Moses; David). I'm also not saying that a person who falls outside of these requirements is immediately disqualified—again grace and a repentant heart is central. Instead, these are requirements for someone to actually take a leadership position. These are the general rule we look to.

    Live the Christian Principles of Leadership

    Shouldn’t we all strive to these principles? Imagine what could occur in our world if we lived as people who were capable and respected, loving in all we do, and who experienced Jesus daily.

    If we lived Christian principles of leadership, people would certainly wonder, “What is it that makes this person who they are?” They would ask you about the faith you cling to. You would make a true and lasting difference in our world, living as a true missionary for Jesus in everything you do.

    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.

    It is easy to get so caught up with our own problems that we neglect to notice the needs of other people. Giving changes this. It makes us hopeful. It changes our perspective. It makes our problems seem manageable.

    Paul the apostle recognized the power of giving to change our perspective on life:

    "The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NRSV).

    The key to changing our world starts with you and it starts with me. It requires generosity. And when we give generously, we may just find that the gift returns to us in the form of joy, a renewed perspective, and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

    Giving Has Renewed My Faith

    When I think of the power of giving, I come back to how the founding of Jesus' Economy has changed my life. I'm a completely different kind of Christian because of this cause of creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Jesus, by his grace, has shown me how generosity is a gift to my life. It has renewed and strengthened my faith. It has also brought me immense joy, as I have seen God work through the efforts of Jesus' Economy to renew communities.

    People around the globe are in desperate need of our help. They’re suffering from issues outside of their control, but many that are changeable. When we walk alongside them, we can create opportunity out of these seemingly hopeless situations. We can find, and offer, solutions. I believe that now more than ever.

    The Incredible Possibilities of Giving Today

    We live in an interconnected world with incredible possibility: We have an opportunity to bring goodness and peace to the lives of others. There is a better future ahead for all of humanity, if we make it possible. What if the future could look different than the trajectory humanity is currently on? What would you want it to look like?

    I want to see love, peace, and hope. I desire to see poverty alleviated, so that people can live freely and with purpose—so that they can accomplish good for other people in the world. I long for Jesus to become a major part of people’s lives, because I know the difference he has made in my life and the lives of others. I want to watch transformation in ethics and lifestyles occur. I want to see entire communities renewed. How about you?*

    Help Make the World a Better Place

    Donate to Jesus' Economy

     

    *This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "What Does a Better World Look Like to You?"

    In our culture, when you first meet someone, the first thing you do is introduce yourself with your name. The second thing is to ask the person across from you, “So what do you do?” And by that, we almost always mean, “What’s your occupation, your job?”

    Our culture defines self by a title: what your boss says you can call yourself or if you’re the boss, what you call yourself. In this regard, I recently enjoyed meeting a pastor who called himself, “chief janitor.” He was noting the importance of this primary occupation that keeps everything else running. He was also emphasizing his desire to serve.

    Our culture also searches for other ways to define ourselves: Once we retire, the definition usually comes in grandchildren or in “what I once did, before retirement.” This often leaves me wondering, “Why don’t we redefine ourselves in these years in a different way, seeing them as the time when we can finally be freed up to do whatever it is God is asking us to do?” Why can’t our golden years become golden years of ministry?

    Rethinking How We Define Ourselves

    In the book of Titus, we see Paul’s self-definition—how he viewed vocation (or calling), what he put on his resume or business card. This is not what you would expect. We also see a better vision for ministry, one that doesn’t go it alone but finds unity with likeminded people working together for the furthering of God’s mission in the world.

    At some point in the mid-60s AD, between Paul’s first and second imprisonments in Rome, he wrote to Titus on the island of Crete. It appears that Paul is either on his way (or already in) Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Paul opens the letter with these words:

    “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (Titus 1:1–4 NIV, emphasis mine).

    First Paul tells us that he is here to serve God; and then he tells us that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ—he is sent by Jesus on mission to the world (see Acts 9). Paul then gives us a purpose statement for his life: to further the faith of God’s people and to enhance their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

    Paul here is not interested in knowledge for the sake of knowledge; he wants people to grow as Christians so that they may be transformed by the gospel, the same gospel that had transformed his life.

    This gospel, Paul tells us, is about eternal life and based in a promise of God since the very beginning of time (John 3:16). That is, God in his providence, understood that if Adam and Eve were to sin—to go against his will—that a new plan would have to be put in place. Furthermore, Paul is emphasizing that the personhood of Jesus has always been present: It is through him and by him that the world was made (John 1:1–4; Hebrews 1:1–2). This is the message of Jesus, that we may have life and life abundant (John 10:10).

    How Do You Define Yourself?

    Paul sees his entire vocation as wrapped up in this message—in the gospel, in Jesus. This is why he preaches. This is what he lives for. This is how he defines himself. And this is why he has enlisted the help of, and partnered with, Titus.

    Shouldn’t we see our vocations and callings in a similar manner? Shouldn’t we define life by what Jesus is doing among us, through us, in us? Drop me a comment to let me know what you think. Have you tried changing how you define yourself and what were the results?

    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.

     

    At this time of year, it can seem like a lot is asked of you. While much of the Christmas season in the U.S. is rooted in consumerism, there are some tangible (and profound) reasons why Christians give. By taking hold of these truths, we can honor God through our donating and gift giving.

    At the start of our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, here are four reasons why Christians give.

    1. God Began Everything by Giving of Himself

    Creation itself testifies to the giving Spirit of God. In the beginning, God creates (Genesis 1–2). The act of creation is rooted in love and compassion: When God sees that Adam may be lonely, he creates a companion in Eve (Genesis 2:18–25).

    From the divine imagination, comes creation. And God looks at his creation and gives again. Everything good in our world is based in giving.

    2. Jesus Is a Great Gift from God the Father

    But after creation, humanity went astray and mucked it all up. This put us humans out of alignment with God; and it put us out of alignment with the intention of God's creation (Genesis 3).

    God once again looks at his creation and decides on a solution; he decides to give. That solution is the gift of Jesus (God the Son). And that's what we celebrate at Christmas time: God becoming flesh in Jesus (Luke 1–2). In Jesus, we have salvation (John 1; 3:16).

    3. God Often Provides for Us Using the Ordinary

    In Jesus, we see the miraculous. But the way God comes in flesh should tell us something: Out of what seems to be ordinary, God will do the extraordinary. God chooses an ordinary Jewish family and the savior is born in an ordinary place, in impoverished circumstances. The miraculous comes through the unexpected.

    God certainly provides via the completely miraculous: We see this when God provides for the Hebrew people while they're roaming in the wilderness (Exodus 16). But more often than not, God uses other people to bring about his provision. And that also seems pretty ordinary.

    This is why Paul pleads with the Corinthian church to honor their obligation to help the impoverished church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 9:1–15). He knows that God will use ordinary people to accomplish his work. Paul himself also depended on other people when he was imprisoned and mentions these types of moments often in his letters (e.g., Philemon 1; Philippians 5:25).

    4. Through Giving, We Ourselves Are Changed

    When people helped Paul, or those he advocated for (like the Jerusalem church), they themselves were changed. Paul emphasizes this:

    "You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV).

    Generosity gives us an opportunity to honor God with what he has given us. It enriches our souls. Paul explains this another way earlier in this same passage:

    "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NIV).

    We as Christians are expected to steward the resources we are given. If we give generously, God will give generously to us. That giving from God may not come in the ways our culture can measure, but it will come.

    At the core of the Christian value is a value of giving. Let's give this Christmas season.

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    We look around us and are daunted by the poverty and suffering and darkness we see. We know it will take a lot of work to change, and we know God asks us to, but we often choose to sit back and wait.

    It’s easy to be lazy and complacent and wait for other people to do the work. But these are some of the most dangerous ideals. They threaten the kingdom of God. The whole body of Christ needs to be working together if we are going to get things done. Even if the hands are equipped with a hammer and nails, they can’t get anything done if the feet don’t take them to the construction site. We simply have to rely on each other. Paul uses the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians to remind the church of the importance of unity. He says:      

    “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:24b-26 ESV)

    We have our own jobs, families, and lives, and these things help us justify spiritual laziness in the church. Sometimes, we don’t even notice we are failing to act because we feel like it’s a positive thing to be investing in ourselves. Laziness can, and often does, mask itself as selfish hard work. We might be working for recognition and self-righteousness instead of in love and for Christ. But we have to acknowledge that work done for the wrong reasons has no place in the kingdom of God.

    The body of Christ needs to be operating together—and it needs to be moving with the intent God desires. When believers do things for the wrong reasons, the action itself is rooted in selfishness and sin. The action may be fruitful for a time, but it will crumble because it has the wrong foundation. The church cannot stand on actions carried out without love. Paul understood that it is difficult for believers to be united for the right reasons:  

    “And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:1 ESV)

    I know we’re all a little tired; it seems like less work to focus on our lives than it is to participate in a body of believers. It’s especially hard when we don’t call all the shots. Listening to God’s direction, and any leader’s direction, makes us incredibly vulnerable. When we start putting others first, we stop guarding ourselves as much as we like to.

    But it is vital that we do this. We radiate God’s love when we love others. And the body of believers will not lose anything by rejecting selfishness, and choosing love instead. Paul reminds us:

    “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV)

    It’s not enough to have action without love, and it’s not enough to love without action. The things we do on a daily basis should be in response to the callings God puts on our lives. We need to be giving it all we have. Paul returns to this issue in his letter to the Colossians:

    “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 ESV)

    Let us, as the church, check our motivations at the door and leave our selfishness at the foot of the cross. Think of what we could accomplish together, if we truly acted as one, with a heart of love and thankfulness:

    “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23 ESV)

    Satan wants a lazy church. We fail when we work for people and not for the Lord. But if we, as different members of the same body, rely on love—if we root ourselves in the foundation of God’s love—we can bring real change and light to the world.

     

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    Prayer has the potential to completely change our lives. Yet we often treat it as if its a side note. In this sermon, I examine Saint Paul's view of prayer focusing on Acts 16. While exploring how prayer changed Paul's life -- and the lives of others in the first-century -- I share how I have seen the miraculous happen through prayer.

    This sermon was delivered at The Table, a missional church plant in Bellingham, Washington on May 22, 2016.

     

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