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Shared faith leads to productive living
01/11/2004
Scripture: Titus 1:1-4; 3:12-15
Track 2 of 9 in the Living as disciples in the "here and now" series
Running time: 26 minutes, 39 seconds.
Community and good works



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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Sermon for Sunday, January 11, 2004
"Shared Faith Leads to Productive Living"
Living as Disciples in the "here and now"
(Titus 1:1-4;3:12-15 )
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

It's really a rather simple statement. Madison Park Christian church is a community of faith that looks like Jesus. Pretty easy to say it. I don't know how easy it is to live it. But it is certainly our goal. That's what we want to become. We want to become a place where there is a clear sense of community. Where there is this clear sense that we belong together with one another and where there is this common goal where we will all take upon ourselves more and more of the image of what it means to live like Christ.

If you watch on Sunday mornings, if you get here early and you're sitting here waiting, getting ready for church, thinking about what's going to happen, preparing your heart for worship, whatever it is you do once you enter the building and start coming into the worship area. You'll notice as the slides pass by there are a number of phrases like worshipful heart and submissive spirit that show up on the screen. Those are the characteristics that we're hoping will be developed in us.

We're going through Titus as an attempt early this year to try to say, what does a community of faith look like? What does it mean to be a body of believers? Titus was sent to the island of Crete by his mentor, the apostle Paul, in order, the text says in verse 5, to set in order the church. To help the church mature into this body that God had designed for it to be to help each of those people who are a part of that community to become Christ-like people.

I want to read the first and the last paragraphs of Titus1:1-4 and then 3:12-15 and just highlight some things that come in the context of Paul's letter to Titus as he's working with this congregation of people.

Last week we spent some time contrasting the community of faith that Paul was intending to create with that culture in which existed, that culture that was completely opposite.

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word 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.

Now go to the other end, the closing remarks of the book. Chapter 3:12.

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 that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.

I think the point of this text – I think the point of the book – certainly the point of what I want to share with you this morning is that we need each other if we're going to become fruitful. If we're gonna be the kind of productive Christian people that God is calling for us to be, it's going to come in the context of people working together, having a community experience. We will need each other to be able to be everything that God is calling for us to be.

It's interesting that the language of this text – he talks about being God's elect. It's the language of the community of God. It's been in existence ever since creation. He thought of this before the creation of the world, and began to form this elect people that he began to call together out of the world for himself. It started with Israel. It became us. He is still in the process of calling out a people for his own possession. Not individual Christians so much as a people. He talks about Titus, his true son, and yet, the true son is one who is true in the common faith. There was something that was shared among all of those people that was identifiable. There was a common faith. It wasn't your faith and my faith and his faith and some other church's faith. There was a commonness to this faith. In fact, the little book of Jude talks about that common salvation that we all share together.

Back in the latter part of Chapter 3 you notice that the community of faith is to be helpful to Zenas and to Apollos. They are to send them on their way. We'll get to that in a little bit – that community language. He says, Our people. . .community. He talks about everyone. In fact, he even closes the letter with this phrase. Grace be with you all. It's community talk.

It's the language of the faith of a body of people. Not of a collective bunch of individuals sitting together in the same room, but a collection of people who belong together as a community and they're to be fruitful. The NIV translates it, productive. He says in that last part of Chapter 3 that he does not want us to live unfruitful or unproductive lives. There is a goal to this thing. We're supposed to be, he says, in fact, he says it three different times at least in this book – devoted to good works. There's to be something that comes out of this experience that is more than just going to church on Sunday. There's something far bigger than being in this place, at this moment that makes us productive.

In fact, it's interesting to me that the expectation that he raises here is that there is a knowledge that leads to godliness. Do you notice that over here in Chapter 1. Paul, a servant of God. . . .By the way, that's the only time he calls himself a servant of God. . .He calls himself a servant of Christ in some places. This is the only place where he calls himself a servant of God. . . I find that an interesting comparison, especially in light of Chapter 2, where he directly assesses the role of servants in the community, as if he's creating an identity with those with whom he's talking and he identifies himself as an apostle, which he does often. And it's for, his role is for the faith of God's elect. He serves the purpose. He doesn't preach just on his own. He preaches for their benefit and then, that, he says, is a truth, a knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

Since my wife is not in first service I can say this now and get away with it and then I'll kinda get used to saying it out loud, so that when she is in here I can get it out without getting in trouble. My wife has this strange thing that she likes to do. She finds it highly entertaining. She likes to read recipes. In fact, in the travel time that we experience together back and forth, it's not uncommon for me to hear a half a dozen new recipes. And she will sit in the car and she will read the list of ingredients and she'll say, doesn't that sound good? And I think, NO. It sounds like a recipe. Now you see, my preference is not the recipes. My preference is the meal. See, I figure recipes exist for a reason – to become something that you can eat. You would memorize recipes all day long and probably do better than the Adkins diet, as long as you didn't eat them.

Paul says there is a knowledge that produced godliness. This is not about knowing more stuff. If that's all it's about, then let's just get together and have a little memorizing parties and we'll read the recipes. We'll go over and over the book and we'll just read it and read it and read it and it'll be about – it's not about the recipe. It's about what the recipe produces. The knowledge of what we have of God is not so we can say we have more knowledge. It's so that knowledge can produce in us a God-like character. He wants us to be fruitful. Now you're gonna have a hard time being fruitful if you don't know what it means which is why we keep pushing the idea of study and learning and being part of some part of the church that will help you to grow. But it's not just about getting more information. It's about allowing that information to begin to transform you into the character that he desires you to have. It's a knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness that is at stake here. See, discipleship means beginning to take upon ourselves the character of Christ. That's the goal of all discipleship. You know the text. Romans Chapter 8:29. God has predetermined that those who are called to him will be conformed to the image of his Son. Colossians 1:28 Paul's dream is to present every person mature in Christ. Ephesians 4 God gave psalm to the apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers for the equipping of the saints for works of service that we will all be built up in the body of Christ until we take upon ourselves the stature of the Son of God, and we are no longer tossed here and there by every wind (like a wounded duck????)

The goal of Scripture, the goal of preaching, the goal of the church is to turn us into Christ-like people. We need each other to do that and that's what this text is about.

So if you will allow me to just answer this question or try to answer this question on how in the world does that happen, in the context of the community – look back at Chapter 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior. . . .

We need the preaching, teaching ministry of others. We need it. Paul didn't preach to hear himself talk. He didn't teach in order to say that he'd accomplished thirteen lessons this week. He had his preaching/teaching ministry because God was in the process of using that to bring out the truth, this knowledge of the truth, which was to turn these people into godliness.

There's a Sunday school class or adult discipleship study or whatever you choose to call it going on over here in this room right now.

Somebody in the hallway, who shall remain nameless because I don't have permission to quote them said three years ago we decided that we would make a New Year's commitment to go to an adult discipleship study and so we started. Now, we hate to miss. Then they said this. This is the most telling part. I have gone to church all of my life and I have learned more in the last three years than in all of the rest of my time put together. Why? Because of a fruitfulness of a teaching ministry where you can sit down around the text of scripture and learn the truth and see how that truth begins to translate into your godly character. Now whether you do it formally in one of our settings or in a bridge community or in a women's bible study or at home on your own – as long as you are allowing the preaching and teaching process to get into your system to turn you into a godly person– that's what this is about.

And it's interesting to me, Paul has sent Titus to Crete and Titus is going to have somebody come along and take his place, named Artemas and Artemas is gonna go along and he's gonna train further Cretan Christians to teach and to preach and this book is going to come into the twenty-first century and it's going to land in Quincy, Illinois and it, too, is going to motivate us to go one more step and to take this message another generation. That's how this works! Because, as you become more Christ-like, as you let the message of the truth sink down into your heart, your ministry is to pass that message on to somebody else. Very few people come to faith by themselves. You understand that, right? In fact, I just, out of curiosity, is there anybody in here who became a Christian without the help of anybody else? I mean, you found a Bible. You read your way into the faith. You had no instruction from another human being. You just allowed the text of Scripture to bring you to faith. Anybody have that experience? Not a single person's raising their hand. Now maybe you're just too shy. How many of you who are Christians have been helped along the way in your faith development, either by a teacher or by a preacher or by a parent, or someone who sat and helped you understand Scripture and how to apply it to your life? How many – how many. . . .do you see the difference? See, we need each other if we're going to be able to grow into the nature of Jesus. And we need this preaching/teaching ministry, which is why, as long as these doors are open, somebody will preach and somebody will teach in some setting around here.

Well, it's not just that. He also says that we need the companionship ministry of others. Go over to Chapter 3. . .I. . .this is an interesting comment. It's just a passing remark. It's actually just Paul's travel plans. I'm gonna send Artemas or Tychicus, he wants, sure, apparently, at his time, which one it was going to be. As it turned out it was Artemas because Tychicus went to Ephesus to replace Timothy. So he's gonna send somebody to take his place. He says, do your best to come to me at nicapolus because I've decided to spend the winter there.

Paul is about to spend the winter in Nicopolis, which is probably one of six or seven cities that were by that name. This one, more than likely, was the one up on the east coast of Greece directly opposite of Italy where the Appian way made its way to Rome. It's a major crossroad city. It's as if Paul were saying, I can't do a lot of traveling during winter so I'm going to position myself at one of the crossroads so I can continue my preaching and teaching ministry, and frankly, Titus, I'd like you to be there with me to spend some time with me.

In fact if you read the tail end of most of Paul's letters, you'll find him encouraging people to spend time with him. He talks about his travel companions of Luke and others who spent time with him. There is this sense that he doesn't want to be this on his own. In fact – remember – Titus is his son in the faith – in fact, his son in the common faith. There was this shared relationship that they had with each other.

We need this kind of ministry with each other. We need the companionship of other people in the community of faith. It's the value of being part of the smaller group of people than this worship context. I think I told you this before. Forgive me I have a habit of repeating myself.

When I became a Christian in high school, I entered into a church that had a youth group of about 30 kids – junior high and high school kids – and what I discovered was this very tight knit group of young people. In fact, probably there was 15 -20 of us that you could just expect would be at anything that was going on. And in spite of the fact that sometimes we were typical in the sense of treating each other like high school kids treat each other, we really were a pretty close knit group. Pam was four years younger than I was which meant that when she was a freshman in college at the University of Idaho, I was off preaching in Oregon. She lived about two miles from my house where I grew up. She was dating at the time, the principal's son, from the high school where I went to school. John was to pick her up at the end of fall break and to take her back to school. And it seems like he just never showed up and he never showed up and he never showed up and Pam was sitting there waiting for him to drive into the driveway when the phone rang to let her know that he'd been killed in a head-on car accident on his way to pick her up. It was about nine o'clock that night when I was able to get through to Pam on the phone from Oregon. I was the last person from the youth group to make contact that day. Every other person that was in that group had already contacted, either been to her house or had talked to her by phone from somewhere in the United States. It's the value of that small group experience of becoming a community. That's the value of getting yourself into somebody's small circle. That circle may be for you a choir. That circle may be for you a worship team. That circle may be for you may be one of the bridge communities. That circle may be for you one of the women's bible studies. But can I somehow appeal to you to find a place where you plug in, whether it's a Wednesday morning breakfast or the Saturday mornings men's studies – someplace where there's a smaller group of people where you enter in to relationships where people can actually get to know you and you can get to know them and there can be this community experience because we need the companionship of each other.

And as wonderful as it is to be in this room with all of you sharing worship, that's not the same as being able to look you in the face and pour out my heart when my heart breaks or to share with you the absolute joy of my life when I want to share. Make some friends here. Create some relationships here. Step out of yourself far enough to find somebody that you connect with and go to lunch.

Well we need the preaching/teaching ministry. We need the companionship ministry. We also need the helping ministry of others. This is an interesting statement here in Chapter 3:13 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 that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

This is missionary talk. We're just not used to it cause this is not the way we do things, but this is first century missionary talk. Missionaries would travel throughout an area planting churches, preaching the gospel and they would show up in a community and the expectation was, they could come to your house and you would put them up. And you would keep them there as long as they were there and when it was time for them to leave, you would then send them on their way and that was more than with a pat on the back and have a good day, that was loaded down with whatever the travel needs were going to be until they could get to the next place.

For those of you who like to do a little extra study, go read the book of 3John. Verses 5 through 10 particularly are about a church where the preacher was discouraging that kind of helping ministry and John condemns him because he's trying to control the church and keep the church from sharing in this helping ministry. It was the nature of the church to pour itself into the needs of others. There's something fruitful about relational ministry in the church where we help each other.

I hope you're at least aware that we have our own missionary couple here with us right now. Benjamin and Colleen Matthews are among us for the next month or two. But while we're having church here today, Ashley Leenerts is in Russia doing missionary work from this congregation. We have opportunities to do those kinds of encouraging works among us. We have more benevolent work that we could do in this community than we can shake a stick at. We can become fruitful in those kinds of ways right here among us. In fact, some of you have had that experience in either doing the helping or being the helped. There's something fruitful about ministry when it's poured out into the lives of other people.

See, once in a while, people make the mistake of saying to me, if you're ever in town, let me know. If you ever need anything, say something. Ya know, that's a dangerous thing to say, cause I'm just apt to do that. In fact, I was driving through Rushville, Illinois one night when the lights went out in my car. So what did I do? I called my local friend, the preacher, and said, guess what? Remember that offer you made? Here I am! One of their four children had to give up a bed that night. But why wouldn't it be that way? Why wouldn't your home be open? Why wouldn't your table be open? Why wouldn't your wallet be open? Why wouldn't your heart be open to a helping ministry to other people, if this is, in fact, a community of faith where we all look like Jesus? Is that not his nature to pour himself into other people?

I read this yesterday and it struck me as so obviously true why I'd never seen it before. The fruit is never for the benefit of the tree. And what God produces in you is never for your benefit. It's for the benefit of those around you who can be blessed by it. Which leads me to ask you to make one or more of these three decisions. In the context of this simple truth that we need each other to become fruitful. In the context of recognizing the need for the ministry of others, whether it be their preaching/teaching ministry or just a helping ministry or merely their companionship, I'm gonna ask you to consider one of these three things.

Would you pray that God will open a door into somebody's life this week where you can simply share the gospel with them? It may be that you can say a good word about Jesus. It may be that you can invite them to church. It may be that you can actually explain to them what it means to be a Christian. Would you pray that God would open a door for you to simply share something of the goodness of his grace?

I'll give you a second option. Is there someone you would befriend this week? Would you go out of your way to kinda look around and say I wonder who could use my companionship? Who could I call on the phone and just chat with for a few minutes? Who could I take to lunch? Who could I invite over to our house for supper just for the sake of creating a greater sense of community? Just working at the friendship –

This third one – is there some ministry that you need to perform this week? Is there somebody that you just need to help? Whether it's to volunteer to serve more formerly in the children's ministry as a sponsor or whether it's just to go across the street and help the neighbor. Is there something you can do in the name of Jesus to demonstrate the fruit of his life in you?

We are a community of faith where our dream is that everyone of us will begin to look like Jesus. And we're going to need each other to accomplish that because quite frankly I'm not sure that we can handle this on our own. So I'm just gonna pray and ask that God will work in us to become more like him.

Father, you demonstrated in your Son what it means to pour out your life for the sake of other people and I'm praying that as a community of believers, that we can look around us and recognize that there's a whole body of people here where we can pour ourselves, that they can become more like your Son. Shape us Father, into that incredible image of Jesus. I pray in Jesus name.

Some of you have been coming here, hearing the messages. We talk about this journey that we're on toward faith in Christ. If there's something down inside of you that says I need to go one more step in my journey, but I don't know what to do, would you come and let us talk. Just step down to the Hospitality room and just let me know that you're ready to take that next step in your journey and let us see if we can figure out what that next step is together.

Let's stand and sing.