Why You Need Other Christians to Stay Strong

December 11, 2016

Message Series: Titus

Message Title: Titus 3.12-18

Good morning everyone.  I hope you have had a good week and if you haven’t you are in the right place.  Celebration is a place of hope.  Celebration is a place of God’s promise.  And if you had a great week then C3 is the place for you ‘cause Celebration is a place of thankfulness to our heavenly Father who provides all good gifts.  It is a place of celebration of God’s victory over evil.

Today we are going to wrap up our study of this this letter the apostle Paul wrote to Titus.  This coming Sunday we will start a new series called “Celebrate Christmas” and what we are going to do is take these parties and feasts celebrated by ancient Jews- and see how they relate to God’s Son, Jesus, leaving heaven and coming to earth.  It should be fun.  Plus next week we will have children singing as a special and the “Circle of Love” gifts will be prayed over.  Then our Christmas Eve service.  How fun!  Bring a friend.

Today, though, I want to take you back a couple weeks or so to the other holiday, Thanksgiving and a tradition our family does.  Our Thanksgiving has all of Lisa’s family coming to our home.  Tim’s family comes from Martinsville, Julie comes from Newport News, and her parents come up from Grandy, North Carolina.  After we eat the BIG meal and before we eat dessert we have this tradition of going around the table and saying what we are thankful for each year.

 

Now, with all due respect to my wife’s family, this is not something I really enjoy. What we do is not say two or three items and move on to dessert.  Everyone really shares- like a while-except me.  I have a hard time getting into it.  I mean, it’s good to be thankful and all, but it’s just not my thing.  I always feel a little awkward.  In my family growing up we just didn’t share stuff like that.  So I am the weird one because I have the shortest thankful thing at all.

 

Anyway, this year, everyone had some pretty significant stuff happen in their lives and had a lot to be thankful for.  We had financial situations, job situations, child issues, and more.  Lisa, my wife, mentioned her 7 eye surgeries this past year.  In her turn, she said something really cool.  She said, “Even though the doctor told me I had to look down I just kept looking up.”  Me, I said I was thankful that Lisa could see and was not blind in that eye.  Short and nearly as spiritual as you would think about a preacher.

Lisa’s Dad wrapped up the whole time this year saying: I see we have been through a lot this year as a family, but I see really, really big faith in Jesus. And I’m thankful for that.  Then it hit me.  I just saw faith in Jesus get really real.  It’s one thing to read about faith in the Bible.  To hear the stories of Noah building an ark, Abraham following God’s command to leave home not knowing where he would end up, and Peter walking on water and be inspired.  It is quite another to see it lived out right there in front of you, with your family- with your wife.  I just saw faith get real.

 

The same thing has happened to me in the different small groups or Go Groups I have been a part of over the years.  I’ve been in several and each time I see faith lived out with my friends in difficult situations.  I have the Las Vegas rule in my Go Group which means what is said in my group stays in my group so I cannot share, but over and over again it’s in these groups, in these relationships, as we get to know each other, where I see faith get really real financially, in family situations, in different stages of life like moving or having a child, I see fear overcome, and I see souls restored, and I see trust in God.  It’s here I see faith become really real.

 

And also, here at C3, part of our Go Group agenda is to something good in the community- simply because this is what we are commanded to do by Jesus.  And I’ve learned over the years that on my own I might do some good at my convenience, but doing it with my group makes it a part of my faith in Jesus.  And that is so important. I have done more good with my group than I ever would have alone.  I need my group for my faith to be true.

 

One of my big goals as your minister here is I want you to see you grow as a disciple of Jesus- and I know you cannot do it alone.  Perhaps, Christianity was sold to you as an individual sport, make a personal decision to follow Jesus and have your sins forgiven, and that’s pretty much it.  Go back to the day you started following Jesus, that day when you had conviction, the day you were baptized.  On that day, you thought commitment was enough.  Your individual decision was enough.  I just make this decision and everything will magically get better.   Any mature Christian will tell you different.  You cannot be successful in following Jesus, of seeing faith get real, unless you do it with someone else.  On your own you might get pretty far, but together you will go farther- like geese flying together to go hundreds of miles.

 

In our study of this letter written to Titus we have come to the end- and it’s quite interesting.  If you read through it and you get to this part, you can tend to overlook it.  It just a list of some names that have no meaning to you, no relationship to you, no relevancy- but if you pay attention to this end it can have a huge impact on you and how you think and practice your faith in Jesus.

 

Who is Titus?  Titus was an apprentice of the Apostle Paul.  Paul planted churches all across ancient Rome and wrote a good portion of the New Testament.  Paul led Titus to the faith and saw Titus a competent leader.  Together they established several small churches on the island of Crete and Paul left Titus there to straighten what they started.  This letter sent to Titus was instructions what to do.  In this letter, Paul gives instructions on church leadership and how Christians should live in an unchristian culture.

 

This last little part of the letter though gives some insight on how Paul practiced his faith- and you’ll notice, he did not do it alone.

 

Listen to Paul’s final instructions to Titus, “As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.  Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.  Grace be with you all.”  Titus 3:12-15

 

What I want you to notice and pay attention to is the network of people Paul surrounded himself with.  He did not practice faith alone.  When Paul became a Christian he made a personal decision to follow Jesus, but he did not grow in his faith alone, but in community, with others.  Throughout Paul’s life as a Christian, he constantly was doing it with others.  He never did it alone.  This is what I find fascinating at the end of this letter.

 

In a sense, you get a little glimpse into Paul’s Go Group.  You see them supporting each other while also working together to make difference for the Kingdom of God.  This is the purpose of our Go Groups here at Celebration too.

 

These are real people.  The first two people listed Paul was sending to replace Titus to complete the work in Crete- he had not just decided who yet.  We do not know much about Artemas except this his name.

 

Tychius we see throughout scripture.  He traveled with Paul planting churches throughout the region of Macedonia (modern day Greece).  Paul sent him to the church’s in Ephesus and Collosae’ to tell them how he was doing.  Paul calls him a dear brother and a faithful minister.

 

Then you notice he tells Titus to winter with him in Nicopolis.  In ancient times, you did very little, if any, traveling during the winter.  It was too dangerous to be exposed to the elements.  So Paul wanted to spend time with Titus and continue their growth in the faith together.

 

Then Zenas the lawyer.  Zenas is a Greek name so he probably was a lawyer in the Roman courts.  Paul probably led him to the faith. He along with Apollos (who we will look at next) probably delivered this letter to Titus.

 

Apollos is a huge name in the New Testament.  Paul mentions him several times in his letters.  Apollos was a Jew from the Egyptian city of Alexandria.  The Bible says he was a well-educated man with an excellent knowledge of the scriptures.  He became a believer and was a fervent and influential teacher about Jesus in the churches Paul planted. Paul used him as an example of what it looks like to follow Jesus.

 

Apollos and Zena most likely brought this letter to Titus and notice Paul’s instruction, “See that they have everything they need.”  In other words, be hospitable to them.  Open your home to them.  Again, this is a key factor in our Go Groups.  We meet in each other’s homes and we do life together, serve together, and grow in Christ together.

 

I’ll come back to verse 14 in a moment.  Verse 15 can be easy to overlook too, but don’t miss what Paul says, “Everyone with me.”  Paul is not alone.  He is probably writing this letter from Ephesus.  Again, Paul did not do his faith alone.  He constantly did it with others.  And notice how he says “grace be with you all.”  He assumed that Titus wasn’t practicing his faith alone.  He was doing it with other believers.

 

Now after checking out these people, notice what Paul writes in verse 14, “Our people (who he just talked about, Apollos, Zena, Tychius) learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.”

 

I want you to notice something here, and that is the word “daily.”  That means helping each other, praying for each other, on a regular basis.  And it’s together that we learn to do what is good.  It’s not an individual achievement.  We learn to do what is good together, daily.

What does this tell me about living out my faith?  Commitment isn’t enough have a great faith.  Connected is the path to a great faith.  If we want a productive faith, if we want a provides for us on a daily basis- then we must do it together.

 

You see this is how you will know if you have a productive faith- you are devoted to doing good.  As Christ followers we must be careful though.  We live in a culture today that loves the idea of doing good for the community- and that’s a good thing.  However, our culture likes to choose what is good by its own moral thought, and not necessarily what is good in God’s eyes.  This is why we do this together- so we can hold each other accountable to doing what God says is good.

 

What does God say is good?  Let me give three scriptures to tell you:  “(Your heavenly Father) has shown you what is good.  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

 

Your heavenly Father said through the prophet Isaiah, “Learn to do what is right, seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”  Isaiah 1:17

Or check out what God says in Zechariah 7:9-10, “This is what the Lord Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.  Do not plot evil against each other.”

 

This is what doing good is and what Paul illustrates to us in these final verse of Titus is you cannot do good alone.  When you made that original decision, when you had that original conviction, the day you were baptized, you thought of it as a personal thing.  You thought I made a personal decision to follow Jesus.  It was all about commitment.  You did, but you also joined a family, a community of faith.  You relate to brothers and sisters in Christ- not with natural blood- but through the sinless blood of Jesus- which cleansed you of your sin.

 

Here is the problem with doing good as God sees it.  It’s a nice idea but do we really follow through?  I have learned I get sidetracked easily.  And it’s not the big things.  It’s the small things that get in the way and I walk away from God’s command.  I hear in different ways, “I met someone…”  I got a new job.  I’m stressed out at home.  I had a baby.  I am going through a divorce.  I moved.  Someone made you mad at church. I need to clean my garage.   Life in this world happens and it’s easy to put it aside because we think, I still have my personal decision.

 

However, Paul knows that is a false security when it comes to living our faith daily.  We need each other.  “Our people must learn..” Notice it is in the plural.  We learn to live Christ’s commands together.  It’s where we see faith really come alive, and that provides the daily faith we need, to stay on course.

 

Commitment isn’t enough to have a great faith.  Connected is the path to a great faith.  If we want a productive faith, if we want a faith providing for us on a daily basis- then we must do it together.  Tychius, Paul, Apollos, Timothy, and more understood this in the scriptures.  May we follow them as they follow Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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