Thursday, February 26, 2009

The End Is in Sight

Last words are important because of immediacy in the moment. Consider a man dying by crucifixion:
“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:40-42 (ESV)
Remember that he is literally nailed to a beam suffering excruciating pain, yet he understands fully what is most important.
  1. There is a God to be feared. This man was going to die soon. His time was over. Thoughts turned to the fact of life after death and meeting the ultimate authority. No sacrifice could make do for sin at this point, nor would one consider that God would accept it if offered.
  2. Guilt deserves punishment. The criminal knew his course in life deserved the recompense it received. The man beside him was a stark contrast. There was no definable guilt that should bring such an end. The contrast was obvious, but that innocent one was still dying. He did not deserve death much less a savagely cruel one.
  3. There is a savior. Understanding his plight and lack of options, the criminal calls on the only one who can act. Note this was not like as David in Psalm 51 who cried out to God for cleansing. This malefactor turned to Jesus instead. In that relatively short time, the criminal caught a glimpse of who was beside him. He sought mercy and received it.
There is an end. How am I living it now with that day in mind?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Titus: The Handbook on Godliness

Paul's epistle to Titus is literally dripping with references to godliness from the first sentence onward. A simple outline of the book looks like this:

1. Spiritual Conduct of leaders
  • The standard (1:5-9)
  • The purpose (1:10-16)
2. Spiritual conduct of believers in general
  • As a result of sound doctrine through the teaching of God's grace (2:1-15)
  • As a result of a changed life in Christ (3:1-15)

Titus was left by Paul on an island with a rather debauched history. Here was a people who would rather swindle a neighbor than lend a hand. Christians are to be different than that. There are social mores that need to be upheld; evidences of growing maturity; understanding of gender roles; and above these the leadership lifestyle is to be exemplary in order to deal with the disorderly.

Notice the two reasons Paul gives for godly conduct. First mentioned is teaching. Notice the teacher--God's grace. I find this fascinating because we do not think of grace as a teacher. Grace does indeed teach us: of our sinful condition, of a righteous God, of redemption, of faith. Beyond these grace teaches the work of sanctification, which is the theological area Paul addresses through most of this epistle.

Second is the changed life. That is what we were; this is what we are. Now live like a real difference was made. If something real happened, show it.

There is one point that strikes home in the list of elder qualifications. Each of those is a facet of the normal Christian life. Every older man (and woman) should give evidence of the Lord working in him through conduct obvious to all.