|Photo by Jennifer Huber 2013|
In any gathering of two or more, there will be politics, and even when two or more are gathered in the Name of Jesus Christ (Matthew 18:20), there will be impostors who claim to be Christians but who do not know Christ (Titus 1:16). These “talk the talk,” putting on a good front, dressing up for church and sitting in the front pew, giving regularly and doing good works (and making sure everyone knows about it!)
But how many actually walk the walk? More so in the past than in the present day, there were social, political, and networking advantages to being a Christian, even if in name only. But all the religious works even the best person could muster cannot save the soul – only the shed blood of Christ can do that, by His grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
It is easy to want the blessings God has promised His children, and even to praise Him when things go our way. But do we praise and thank Him in the trials (Ephesians 5:20), realizing we are meant to share in His sufferings (2 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Peter 4:13; 5:1) as part of our spiritual inheritance? (Romans 8:17). Are we willing to take up His cross and follow Him? (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).
I believe there will be many surprises regarding who is “left behind” after the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17), including many regular churchgoers, church leaders, and even pastors who treat their vocation as just a job to generate income rather than a calling to serve Christ and feed His sheep (John 21:17).
Even among the original twelve disciples who walked with, learned from and served Jesus for more than three years, there was an impostor. Judas Iscariot, in a position of leadership as treasurer (John 13:29), was actually the “son of perdition” (John 17:12). Satan entered Judas (Luke 22:3; John 13:2,27) and used him to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15; 27:3,9), the going price in that day for a common bondservant.
In the ultimate irony, Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss so that His captors would recognize Him (Mark 14:44; Luke 22:48). As our pastor likes to say, “The lips that kissed the Door of Heaven went straight to hell.” So we cannot assume that anyone sitting next to us in the pew, or even in church leadership, is saved, for only God knows the hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).
That is why the apostle Paul, under Holy Spirit inspiration, so carefully explained not only sound doctrine, but the need for discernment regarding teachers and teachings. We must know what we believe and compare what we hear from others with the absolute truth of the Word of God.
As we continue our study in the book of Titus, we see that Paul established qualifications for pastors that ultimately serve as an example for all of us. Pastors must be blameless (Titus 1:6-7), which is impossible in the natural, for all of us have a sin nature since Adam disobeyed God and brought the curse of sin upon mankind (Genesis 3).
To be blameless, therefore, we must be born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, placing our faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Only then can we be blameless in God’s sight, for when the Father looks at His children, He no longer sees our sins, but only the perfect righteousness of His Son (Romans 3:22-25). Jesus Christ paid for all our sins (John 1:29), crediting His righteousness to our account and reconciling sinful man to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Paul writes that the pastor must be married with obedient children (Titus 1:6), which is surely no guarantee that a man is saved. Yet it gives him an opportunity to live out the Gospel in his own home, loving his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, and demonstrating his leadership in Christ by encouraging his own family to grow in God’s grace (Ephesians 5:25-33; 6:4).
The pastor must be a faithful steward of God (1 Peter 4:10; 1 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 3:15), putting the needs of others before his own; controlling his temper, not drinking or being violent, and not motivated by greed or financial gain (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Peter 5: 2). While abstaining from these negative behaviors, the pastor must also demonstrate positive qualities of hospitality, loving good things, sobriety, justice, holiness and temperance (Titus 1:8).
Hospitality was especially important in Bible times, when Christians travelling to spread the Gospel depended on the generosity of their brethren to open their homes, their hearts, and their purses to further God’s kingdom (Romans 12:10,13; 3 John 5:).
Although many men are hospitable by nature, others believe “My home is my castle” and tend to prefer their privacy. Or they may be reluctant to open their home to others if their pride leads them to believe their home doesn’t measure up to self-imposed standards of wealth, decor or housekeeping.
We tend to think of hospitality as more of a female trait, and this may be yet another example of where Godly Titus 2 women may encourage and facilitate this quality in their husband. Opening the home to others may be a more natural outgrowth of the Proverbs 31 woman’s role in caring for her husband, children and household, regardless of whether it is a mansion or a thatched hut.
But it’s not really hospitality if we resent doing it! It should be practiced with an open, accepting and loving heart (1 Peter 4:9), anticipating the blessings of giving to others, and realizing that by practicing hospitality, we may be entertaining angels without even realizing it! (Hebrews 13:2)
Are we walking the walk, or just talking the talk? Only God knows our hearts, but our behavior and lifestyle can communicate volumes to those who can be inspired or discouraged by our testimony.
If we tell others we’re committed to improving our physical fitness, and we even sign up for a gym membership and buy exercise equipment, it’s just a lot of hot air unless we work out regularly and intensely. When friends come over and notice dustbunnies on our free weights, and piles of clothes hanging from our treadmill, they’re not going to follow our advice for them to exercise. Especially when they notice that we’re still out of shape!
Similarly, if our church family sees us skipping church to hang out on the beach or at the mall, or drinking and partying with friends, or losing it when things don’t go our way, we’re being a stumbling block to their spiritual development (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9). We can't rely on "Do as I say, not as I do," for we must lead by example, as did Paul (Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 3:14).
© 2017 Laurie Collett