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Character in the real world: teachers in the church
Scripture: Titus 2:1, 7-8, 15
Track 7 of 9 in the Living as disciples in the "here and now" series
Running time: 28 minutes, 28 seconds.
The need for Godly men and women to teach

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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, February 15, 2004
"Character in the Real World: teachers in the church"
Living as Disciples in the "here and now"
(Titus 2:1, 7-8, 15 )
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

We call it sweeping the floor. It's when, as a way of getting to a point, you say, it's not this and it's not this and it's not this and it's not something else, but it's this. When we come to Titus, we're wrestling with lots and lots of issues of what it is to live in the "here and now" in this striking contrast between our culture and what it means to be Christian. We started out the book in looking at the eldership and that key leadership in the church and how it stands in such striking contrast to the leadership that would have been available among those Cretan Christians. We came to the older men and how significant it was for older men to have godly character if they're to raise up a generation of younger men of character. And older women who needed to be women of character who were to train up to teach younger women to be wise ahead of their years.

We looked a bit at what it means to live in the "here and now" as an employee, as someone who is under somebody else, and try to live that out with character and dignity.

We come today to Titus himself. He shows up in Chapter 2:1, 7-8 and 15 and I think he becomes for us, something of a model of what it means to be called to be a teacher in the Kingdom. But we need to give this caveat. I don't know that there is anybody that quite fits who Titus really is, because we don't have apostles sending out people to certain churches to do certain things. Titus has a unique authority. It was given to him because of his relationship with the apostles.

But there are some ways, in which people like me, who supposedly stand up and talk for God on Sunday, have some similarities to him and I think anyone who teaches Scripture, falls into some of those same categories of what it means to do what Titus is doing. What I want you to hear is, when we talk about teachers at Madison Park and what we want to raise the question is, what can you expect from us? What do you expect from the person who stands up here on a Sunday morning or is in your adult discipleship class or your Wednesday Bible study or the person who leads your women's study? What kinds of expectations can you have?

Well, let me sweep the floor just a little bit. Don't expect them to be perfect people. We ran out of those right after Easter Sunday 2,000 years ago. Don't expect them to have all the answers. I do expect them to raise great questions, but I don't assume that anybody has all of the answers. In fact, my kind of nature is that if somebody's got all of the answers, I'm probably not going to believe it anyway. Don't assume from them that they will necessarily be able to meet every one of your expectations because, well, quite frankly, we sometimes have higher expectations than any human being can meet. But what could you expect from them?

Well, let's look at the text. Titus 2:1, 7-8, 15. Unfortunately here the NIV doesn't translate the word that's such a strong reversal. When you get to the end of verse 16 of Chapter 1, you have just gone through this strong statement about how bad the Cretan culture is and the text says, But You, (the NIV simply says)You must teach (it leaves out that important turning word.) Titus, this is what the world is like . . .But you (do ya hear that?) There is to be this contrast between Titus and the rest of those people. But You Titus teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Verse 7, after he's talked about the young men. 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. And verse 15. These then are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

So what can you expect from teachers at Madison Park Christian Church? You can expect sound teaching. Look carefully at verse 1; You much teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. There is something about this text that reminds us that there are some things worthy to be taught and some things that are not healthy to be taught. There are some things appropriate and some things not. The language that is used here, when it talks about sound teaching, is the kind of teaching that looks right, that appears right, that has the sense of appropriateness about it. Now I understand there's a bit of mystery in knowing what that is, but it ought to look right on a Christian. It ought to sound right coming out of the mouth of a Christian teacher. See, some things are just inappropriate. You recognize them pretty regularly when you see them.

I remember the first marathon I ever ran was in Los Angles, California where all of the weird people go to run marathons, including me. Except that there are people running down the street dressed in, (well, like a dragon costume, seven of them, all linked together in one big line) and there's a guy dribbling a basketball the entire 26 miles. There's a couple wearing a wedding gown and tuxedo, she the wedding gown. You might not expect that in California. You think to yourself, that's just not appropriate wear. It just doesn't look like it belongs here with 18,000 people, most of them dressed in little skimpy shorts and tee shirts.

There is some teaching that strikes you that this is not appropriate. It doesn't look right cause it isn't healthy. See, the teacher in the church that you should be able to listen to is one who has understood what it means to teach the truth, to teach that which is healthy.

They tell me, I've never had the privilege of experiencing it and frankly don't want to. They tell me that one of the worst sicknesses in the world is food poisoning. Comes and goes fairly quickly, but I guess it's really nasty while you've got it. That would be the exact opposite of this word. This is to be healthy teaching. The kind of teaching that you could take to be the truth. It is truth. Scripture tells us that we are to teach the truth. To teach it in love, but to teach the truth.

Now I hope that what you get in our discipleship studies, in our women's Bible studies, from this pulpit, wherever you happen to be learning, that in the church what you would hear is the truth. Even though sometimes the truth is extremely uncomfortable. And by the way, it's just an uncomfortable to say it as it is to hear it. But if it's the truth and we're going to be faithful to the text of Scripture, then you should expect to hear teachers here tell you the truth, even when the truth makes you very, very uncomfortable.

Well, what could you expect? You could expect solid character. Look at verses 7 and 8. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. And then, In your teaching show these various characteristics. Here's the word. In fact this word, they didn't know it, I'm sure but the Lincoln Courier gave us a great illustration of this word the other day in the front page story. There's a new business opening up and I don't know why they're doing this but, they took a facial casting of the owner and then they peeled this cast off and they're going to use that as a mold for something. I don't know for sure why you would want to do that, but that's what they're gonna do. That's this word. This image, this type, this example. The idea is that you reproduce the character of the one you're trying to be an example of. A good teacher exhibits the solid character of Christ by doing what is good. They live as an example, an image.

As Brian said, leading in to this message, one of the things that we come to understand is that when we listen to a teacher who is there sent from God, we are in essence listening to Christ himself. And that person, this is an onus on all of us who teach, are to live like Christ. We're to set an example by doing that which is good. Now, will we always succeed? (You can nod your head) No we won't, because you know as well as I do that we don't always succeed in being the examples we would like to be. There are days when you wish that you could retract what you just did, what you just said, even though you've been called to teach.

I can think of way too many stories that embarrass me about the way I have responded to students, when, as a teacher I ought to be setting a model of what it means to live this kind of different life. I don't want to embarrass myself so I'm choosing not to tell you any of those stories.

Do good and let your teaching, he says, let your teaching and there are three terms here. Let your teaching be that which demonstrates integrity, shows purity.

I didn't realize it was twenty-two years ago this coming fall, but it has been actually, two decades ago, some of us will remember when we picked up the newspaper and we read about these people, or we heard on the news, about these people buying Tylenol capsules in Chicago. Seven of them on the west side of Chicago died because some strange guy filled those capsules with cyanide. They were poisoned. They were (here's the word) impure. You took this pill you thought was going to help you assuming it had a certain ingredient in it and it didn't have it.

The life of a teacher the teaching of a teacher is supposed to be that which is pure. That has integrity, that you can trust what comes. If you open the package assuming your going to get Tylenol, and you get Tylenol, not cyanide. When you come to a church, when you listen to a sermon, when you attend a Bible study, what you ought to expect is when that word is opened, what you're going to receive is pure truth. Not alloyed, not filled with poison and that the person's motive, who is teaching it, will be pure. That's part of the struggle in this culture, was the impure motives of the teachers. Remember Chapter 1, verses 10 - 16. They teach out of greed. They teach for what they can get in return. For me the motive was mixed.

I trust when you sit in one of our classrooms, when you attend one of our Bible studies, when you come into our worship that at least you can assume that the teacher who is standing there will only have the best motive. They may sometimes err in their life, but it will never be because they are trying to manipulate you, to trick you or to harm you.

This teaching, he says, is to be noble. It is to be serious. It's the word that was used earlier about older men, being respectable. We assume that our teachers will teach you from a perspective that says this is worth venerating. This is noble. These people are worth following. This truth is worth believing in. And we assume that they will, in fact, give you Biblical truth. You notice that in verse 7 and 8. Seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned. There will be a truthfulness about this. Sometimes we're gonna mess that up, by the way. I trust we'll never do it on purpose, but there may be days when we mess it up.

I remember. I'm sure I will always remember having said in a sermon at one point that the apostle Paul was chained to two Roman guards, only to have a gentleman in our church confront me about that. As a matter of fact, the fellow in the church was correct. He was only chained to one guard. Now I don't mean to make light of the fact that that's a small issue. He was correct that I was incorrect. I don't mean to be incorrect. You should assume that what you get from this pulpit or one of our classrooms, will, in fact, be the truth, even in the details. And we'll do our best. That's our commitment to you, to give you the truth even in the details. And I do appreciate the fact that the man had the courage to ask and to confront and that's an appropriate thing. If you think that something has been said that isn't correct, you need to say something to us. Don't say it to somebody else. Say it to the teacher. Say it to us. Don't say it the way he said it, however. Huh! Which is another story for another day.

There is this strong statement about the power of teaching and the character of the teacher that ends up down here in verse 8 in one of those three places in this Chapter where Paul talks about this . . . . .so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. If your life is what it's supposed to be as a teacher, then you should find nothing to condemn in those who are doing the teaching not in their life and not in their words. So we expect that you should trust the teachers in this place.

There's a third characteristic here of expectation. There's a third expectation that's verse 15. I suspect that you can expect from our teachers passionate ministry. They're gonna believe this down in the soles of their feet and it's gonna come out. Do you notice the progression of language here? Teach them, urge them, rebuke them and do it with authority. Don't let anybody despise you. Now that's language specifically to Titus, but I think it reminds us that there is this progressive nature. I can't imagine what, well, I can, I've been in those places where the teacher didn't seem to care much about what they were talking about. It was just information, just kinda coming out. I'd prefer not to have that, thanks very much.

It's interesting bookends, verse 1, verse 15. Both use exactly the same word. Teach. Teach them. Titus you're responsible to teach them. There's something about that teaching process that is so incredibly important in the shaping of the life of the person who is listening.

Paul would say it this way in Romans Chapter 12 the conforming of our life begins with the transforming of our minds and so in the church we make no apologies in asking you to let Scripture begin to invade your mind.

I reflected a lot this last week and I couldn't find a creative way to say this. The very thing that Brian was talking about when he said, the world is full of teachers. Have you thought about that? How many people are trying to teach you something? Will and Grace are trying to teach you. Katie Curic is trying to teach you. Christian music groups are trying to teach you.

See, every person who has access to your mind is trying to teach you something. The question is, who you going to listen to? What voice is going to be your teacher? When a child comes home from school and you sit them in front of a television for three hours in the evening, guess who's doing the teaching? When your child has their own video machine in their bedroom. Who's doing the teaching?

We have a friend whose son is now starting to play basketball. And John was in Gail's shop the other day and he was talking about how well Jordan played in the ball game the other night. We're talking about a guy who's 12, 13 years old so he's just really getting into some basketball. And, actually, John was kind of bragging on Jordan's play so I just he really did some pretty good moves under the basket and he said, Jordan, where did you learn how to do that? He says, oh they do that on that video game I play. Who's your teacher?

Not only do we teach, however, we also urge. Encourage is the word used in here. It's literally the word that means to come alongside somebody and to try to draw them along. To whisper in their ear come on come on ---- come on, you can do this. Come on, let's go, let's go. If you ever get the feeling that sometimes the person standing up here on this stage on Sunday morning is more excited about this than you are, it's probably because he really wants you to be excited about it. And if you ever get the feeling that you're kinda getting this crammed down your throat a little bit, or as one of our folks said after visiting another church that preacher over there didn't shout nearly as much as ours. There's an urgency about this thing.

We expect every teacher who teaches in our program to sense that sense of urgency. And they're not just here to give you more Bible information, but they're here to call you to that information and to call you to the Christ that the information represents. They're here to call you along in the God given Christian life that they are desiring for you to also possess. And they will sometimes go so far as to have the audacity to stand in front of you and say something like this. Some of you are allowing your children to dress in inappropriate ways and then they'll shake their finger at you and say something like SHAME ON YOU! And then they'll go home after church on Sunday and think boy! I sure said that a lot stronger than I intended. But we'll do it because the Bible says that we're also supposed to rebuke always with love and hopefully always with grace. But there is a passion that comes with a call to teach that says,

This stuff matters!

What can you expect from the teachers at Madison Park? You can expect them to have this passionate ministry that they desire for you to listen to what God says and it's not because they have some inherent authority in themselves. See, that's what's different about Titus and us. Titus did! Titus was called by the command of God through Paul to do these things. He had an inherent authority. He could speak on behalf of God because an apostle had challenged him to do that and empowered him to do that. The language exists in Chapter 1, verse 3 the command of God. It exists in Chapter 2, verse 15 exercise this authority. I can't do that. Nor can any of our teachers have that kind of authority. But this we have. We have a word from God that we can place in front of you that does have authority.

My daughter and I have been running together some. We had this interesting conversation the other morning while we were running. She'd gotten involved in a rather elaborate conversation with a whole bunch of folks who had quit going to church and they were talking about their feelings of guilt and all this kind of stuff. And what's right and what's not right, and which church and some other church and all these questions were floating around, and I'm listening with utter fascination in to this conversation and never once am I hearing what I think is the most fundamental issue of all. And that is, how do you solve this problem? How do you answer those questions? Based on what, would you ever resolve any of those issues. We could sit around all evening long and have a group grope and come up with everybody's opinion about what's the right thing to do. The ultimate question becomes, where are you going to ultimately turn to solve the problem? If there is not some standard of authority against which to measure these questions, how do you ever answer the question?

And so I would say to her, what I would say to you, which I have said on a hundred other occasions, I'm just old fashioned enough to believe that this is it. That this provides the only standard of measurement we have whereby we can come together and get some answers that transcend your opinion versus my opinion versus your church versus my church.

The only authority that I have as a preacher is right here. And the only reason you would have to listen to me is if what I said says what this says. Then you're not disagreeing with me, you're disagreeing with HIM! You can disagree with me all day long. It won't cost you anything but lunch. Disagree with HIM I'll let you figure out what it costs!!

So what do you expect from the teachers at Madison Park? I think you expect people who care. I think you can walk in to a Bible study or conversations over coffee or you can come to a Wednesday night study or you can come to church on Sunday morning and you can expect that the people who are teaching are people who care. They care enough to tell you the truth and not to hide it even though it hurts. They care enough to risk putting themselves in front of you as a teacher knowing that they're gonna be judged more strictly, because you're gonna decide whether or not to listen to them based on what you see in them. They care enough to confront you when confrontation is necessary, even though they recognize that often in confronting you they take the very risk of pushing you away, rather than drawing you near.

I pray regularly for our teachers. Oh, by the way, I pray regularly for our teachers from this congregation who teach in the public school system, but that's another matter. I pray regularly for our teachers that they'll tell you the truth, but more than that, I pray that you'll listen to the truth because ultimately, truth matters.

In a world that you live in like I live in, truth is harder and harder to come by and the mystery of the whole thing becomes more difficult to solve all the time. There are so many people clambering to tell you that they know the truth. I understand that we always face the difficulty of interpreting this word correctly and that not everything that we say this word says is necessarily true, but I am also confident that we come back to this again and again because in here at least we have the hope that we're going to find the truth. A truth that will set you free. A truth that will give you life. A truth that will make an ultimate, eternal difference.

And so, without apology, first of all I thank you because a great number of you have taken up the challenge of coming to a Bible study or getting involved at another level and I just want to say thank you. I hope it's paying off. We issued that challenge. Give it a month or so, see what it does, if it doesn't help, okay. Many of you have taken that challenge and I want to thank you and encourage you in it. But if the rest of you haven't I want to stand here and say, you need to get into the Scripture. If it's at home, on your own fine. If it's in a women's Bible study, great. If it's in one of our adult studies on Sunday morning, good. If it's a bridge community alright! If it's conversations over coffee - terrific. If it's fuel - go for it! What I'm suggesting to you is, if you want to have the truth set you free, you gotta know the truth and that's why we're here, to try to teach you the truth and to call you to listen to that truth. To respond to it, to believe it not because we said it, but because HE did.

Let's stand!