Saturday, June 24, 2017
During the Gulf War, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher penned the famous phrase “No Time to Go Wobbly” regarding her conversation with President George Bush in August of 1990. She praised him for his resolve in passing a Security Council Resolution enabling the British to enforce the embargo against Iraqi shipping.
Physical warfare and resolving conflicts among nations require a firm position and holding ground against political enemies. Similarly, spiritual warfare requires that we stand fast, knowing what and Whom we believe (1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 5:1; Philippians 1:27; 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). This was a guiding principle that the apostle Paul stressed in his letters to Timothy and to Titus as he instructed them in how to lead churches.
Titus was Paul’s convert, or son in the faith, whom he left in charge of the churches in Crete (Titus 1:4-5). Although originally a pagan Greek, Titus was saved by Paul’s preaching of the common faith, meaning the plan of salvation open to Jews as well as Gentiles who trusted in the death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) of Jesus Christ as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).
Soon after his conversion, Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas on missionary journeys (2 Corinthians 7:5-7, 13-14; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18) and also to the Jerusalem council (Galatians 2:1-3). There Paul persuaded the church elders that salvation is by God’s grace through our faith alone, and not by any works such as circumcision or baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). Thereafter, Titus was responsible for building and leading the churches Paul planted in Crete.
At that time, Crete was ruled by Nero, a cruel, deranged Roman emperor who persecuted the Christians and had them fight to the death for his amusement. It was an especially difficult time to be a Christian, as it is even today. We are blessed thus far in the United States to be able to worship freely, but Christian persecution is rampant and festering in many regions including the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Headlines (more so from Christian sources than from mainstream news) inform us of Coptic Christians and even children beheaded for refusing to recite the Islamic creed or to renounce Jesus Christ. We should not be surprised if persecution increases as the End Times draws near (1 Peter 4:12-16).
The letters of Paul to Titus and Timothy therefore have special relevance today, because the devil knows that his time is short and is doing what he can to destroy Christians, their families, and their churches (1 Corinthians 10:10). Now more than ever we must know what we believe and pass it on to our families and communities directly and through our churches.
No wonder Paul urged Titus and Timothy to hold firmly to the truth Paul had taught them, so that by preaching sound doctrine they could overcome the damage done by false teachers, encourage the faithful, and even convert the false teachers to the truth of God’s Word (1 Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 1:15; 4:6; 2 Timothy 3:14).
Effective spiritual warfare requires putting on the whole armor of God, each piece applied with prayer (Ephesians 6:10-17). We must resist the devil (James 4:7) as he attempts to seduce us into compromising our position. Just as he deceived Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit by twisting God’s Word (Genesis 3:1-6), he will try the same trick on us if we believe his lies (Revelation 12:9).
Satan attacks us through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) Sometimes he attacks believers in general through false teachers (2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1) or through worldly distractions, and sometimes he aims his fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16) directly at our own unique weaknesses and areas of vulnerability.
When Satan strikes, as he will in the life of anyone who is saved, we must stand fast to resist him. This involves being aware that he seeks to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8), not believing his lies, and remaining firm in our beliefs taught in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16) and in our commitment to continue in God’s work and will for our lives.
Once we are saved and become productive for God, Satan does all he can to bring us down, undermine our testimony, and stop our work for God. Just as we laid down our sin burden at Calvary’s cross, we must hand over all our fears (1 John 4:18) and doubts (which are sins also) to Christ so that His love and His completed sacrifice can remove them (1 Peter 5:7-11).
1 Cor 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Paul urges Christians to be as firmly planted in our faith as a statue, or a wrestler or warrior standing his ground against the enemy. May none of Satan’s weapons keep us from our purpose of serving God in all that we do (Colossians 3:23).
Even when no one seems to appreciate our efforts and the devil tries to discourage us, God notices our service and will reward us for it (1 Kings 7: 13-22), sometimes here on earth, and ultimately in Heaven when we hear Him say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21).
Hebrews 6: 10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Let us learn from Paul’s letters to Titus and Timothy the importance of souund doctrine in our hearts, minds and churches. Like Paul, let’s keep the faith, finish the race, and fight the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) until Christ comes again!
© 2017 Laurie Collett
Saturday, June 17, 2017
A dear sister in Christ asked me if we could begin a ladies’ Bible study on Titus 2, as her interest in this passage was stimulated by her reading of Adorned, a book by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. The idea intrigued me, as this single short chapter has so much to say! It addresses Christian women’s role and relationships with one another, with their husband (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18), with their children and family, with their church and community (Proverbs 31:10-31), and ultimately with God (Luke 1:38-48; Titus 2:1-5).
Thanks to its vast connections to other passages essential to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1), Titus is an equally fitting guide for the whole church body to glorify God: church leaders and members; men and women; elders and youth.
As I began to study in preparation for teaching this series, the title “Growing Together in Grace” seemed fitting. It describes the “win:win” situation that would result from born-again (John 3:3-8) sisters in grace applying to their lives the principles of the book of Titus. Ideally, this would result in women of all ages learning from and uplifting one another -- seeking Godly counsel (Psalm 37:30) and being unafraid to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; Titus 2:8) or to hear and act on it (Romans 2:13; James 1:22).
Women who are older chronologically or who have had a longer relationship with Christ as their Lord and Savior could mentor younger women or those who have only recently trusted the Lord. In turn, the older women could learn from mentoring and be blessed and rejuvenated by serving in this way (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).
Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Women who have trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) have much to learn from one another about living out this glorious Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Timothy 1:11)!
Studying God’s Word, hiding it in our hearts as an emotional response to its truths, and applying it to our lives (Psalm 119:11-17) leads to knowledge, wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 9:10; Daniel 2:21; Colossians 1:9). Only in this way can we fulfill God’s perfect and specific plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11).
Women of Christ encouraging one another can and should learn and teach from Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), as well as from life experiences that grow and shape us. Praise God that the Master Potter uses these to form the imperfect clay into vessels fit for His purpose and pleasure (Isaiah 29:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:4; Romans 9:20-23).
Looking back on my life before I was even saved, I see His hand at work, equipping me through life experiences to be shared with others much later. I was raised in a predominantly female environment, not only by my mother, who worked outside the home, but also by her mother, who came to live with my family shortly before I was born.
“Baba” (the Russian equivalent for “Grandma”) emigrated from the Ukraine to Canada when she was only sixteen to a life filled with love, yet with trials and hardship. She birthed ten children, including three sets of twins, but my mother was the only one to survive past infancy. Baba’s husband died from stroke at age 35, after which she and my mother moved to New York City, where Baba worked tirelessly in a bakery for many years.
As I have described previously, “Baba” had many of the qualities of the ideal Proverbs 31 woman, including her faithfulness, hard work, wisdom, thrift, resourcefulness, generosity, hospitality, faith and service. I was not saved until decades after she died, yet I still remember her devotion to prayer and to her Russian Orthodox church. She was illiterate and never really learned to speak English, yet she taught me by example so much of the importance of being faithful to God (1 Corinthians 4:2) and trusting in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).
My father often traveled on business, so much of my daily home life was with Baba and my mother. I attended an all-girls’ school with all female teachers, and when I began ballet classes, I enjoyed the company of many other girls who were budding ballerinas.
These situations taught me much about the value of female friendships, for women often understand, identify with, appreciate, and nurture one another more so than they sometimes experience in their relationships with men. Yet predominantly female environments in which the Gospel is not the guiding principle can quickly degenerate into unhealthy competition among girls and women, if they resort to envy, backbiting, and slander among themselves (Romans 1:28-30).
From these largely female settings in which God placed me until high school graduation, He then thrust me into a man’s world. This seemed threatening at the time but ultimately challenged and then strengthened me. The year I entered Princeton University as a freshman was only the second year that the school had begun accepting a few women. All of my teachers were male, and during my first year, I was the only woman in most of my classes.
How I missed the daily support of girls and women who loved and understood me, despite my many flaws! I turned for advice to a leading dancer in the ballet company I had joined, but in retrospect, she was poorly equipped to guide me, based on her own behavior and life choices. I was still unsaved, and it was not until I came to know the Lord that I fully appreciated the value of sisters in Christ whose strong faith and faithfulness led them to mentor me.
May we apply the principles of Titus 2 to nurture and mentor sisters in Christ through Godly relationships with one another! May we use this passage as a guide to living out the Gospel, as we shall explore in subsequent posts!
© 2017 Laurie Collett