Bible Study: Titus 1:1-4

Titus is one of three letters known better as the Pastoral Epistles.  The other two letters are both addressed to Timothy.  It was written by the elder Paul to encourage the younger Titus.  Titus was a pastor on the island of Crete.  Paul leaves us instructions that are relevant to pastors and Christian leaders in the present age.  We begin our study by focusing on the letter’s introduction.

Titus 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Now and later

Against the backdrop of ministry, and the entirety of Christian experience is the tension of now and later.  In the tension usually described as already/not yet, the focus in on the promise of the heavenly reality and it breaking into the present age.  Remember the saying, “A little bit of heaven to go to heaven on.”  The tension of now and later focuses on the work of ministry, as Paul points out in this passage.

We are servants of God, sent out by Jesus Christ, declaring the hope of eternal life, which our God, who cannot lie, promised before creation.  The promise of eternal life is something we will enjoy at a later time of our Christian experience and ministry.  Presently, in the now, God has given us the ministry to preach the Word.  The later is when we enter into God’s rest.  The now is the laboring we do in word and deed to point people to Christ.  Isn’t this a lovely backdrop for ministry?  We can labor in the present age with the hope of a future age.  There is another old saying about ministry, “We may not receive much in this life, but retirement is out of this world.

Studying God’s Word

Recently, I was asked how to get deeper into God’s Word.  The inquiry came after a service where I started a sermon series on Jonah.  The person was underwhelmed by the basic Sunday school storyline that had frequently been given and was made thirsty for God’s truth through a fuller look at this familiar narrative.

f25fe-img_0167The same feeling, no doubt, dwells within many believers.  Most teaching and preaching remains abstract, where the practical application is basically to pray about something during the altar call and leave it there.  The problem is that God’s truth is very applicable to everyday life.  Don’t get me wrong; nothing replaces prayer anywhere or prayer at an altar.  Still, the spirit of our age is calling for greater application.  More teeth on our prayers and Christian faith.  People are dissatisfied with only heart knowledge and a little head knowledge.  They want to experience things with their hands.  Head, heart, and hands are what makes the whole person.

This reason is why Bible study is so important.  Proper heart and hand knowledge is required for there to be holy, God-pleasing, and practical applications made.  To increase our ability to study Scripture, I will look at a well-received three-step approach: observation, interpretation, and application.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” -2 Timothy 2:15

Observation

The first task is a serious reading of the Bible.  If the majority of our daily journey through God’s Word is the “daily bread” or the “verse of the day” from YouVersion, then you are not reading enough.  Any decent Bible study should have at least a committed hour or more day.  A significant portion of that is dedicated to reading  At the beginning it is to become acquainted with Scripture.  Then it moves toward asking questions and simple observations about passages we read, and it helps to jot them down as we go.  From here we move toward…

Interpretation

This part of the Bible study process that is skipped or skewed.  Typically, one commentary is looked at, or pastor’s opinion is sought, and a person feels adequately informed.  Even scarier, is some are satisfied with their own interpretation of a Scripture without any outside consultation.  Second Peter 1:20 states that, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”  Theological principles and Bible teachings are done in a community.  Why?  Accountability, accuracy, and authenticity.  So, to make interpretation of a passage, the student of God’s Word has to join themselves to the larger Christian community and seek out the guidance of several commentaries, listen to sermons from different preachers, and the direction of mature believers before coming to any conclusion about what a passage might mean.

Application

After the closest interpretation of a passage to the original meaning is found, Bible study moves into making a practical application.  It is not enough to have our hearts moved, and our heads filled if our hands don’t do the work.  The theological principles and abstract concepts of a verse or passage become reality.  The S.P.E.C.K.S. acrostic is helpful here in making the practical application.

  • S – Is there a sin to avoid?
  • P – Is there a promise to keep?
  • E – Is there an example to follow?
  • C – Is there a command to obey?
  • K – Is there a knowledge about God?
  • S – Is this a Scripture to memorize?

Protecting ministers from narcissism

C.S. Lewis calls pride the “great sin” and “the essential vice.”  Scripture teaches that through the “pride of life” (1 John 2:16) we can be tempted into sin.  There are even more passages show a disdain for hubris (excessive pride and self-confidence) and the need for humility.  There is a healthy level of narcissism that promotes self-care but left unattended, and it can develop it to self-centeredness.

In a journal article in 2004, it was noted that over 90% of pastors fall into at least one of four types of unhealthy narcissism (Zondag, 2004).  The average is greater for young pastors, and it is equally distributed amongst denominations.

Centripetal narcissism (need for affirmation) – feel alive when noticed by others and hurt by minor remarks by others.  This is where the highest concentration of pastors are located.

Centrifugal narcissism (need for comparison) – feel an uncanny ability to persuade others and correct others.

Isolation narcissism (need to feel separate) – feel that when they are alone, everyone is criticizing them and are disappointed that others do not see their isolation.

Self-satisfaction narcissism (need to feed superior) – An overwhelming sense of luckiness to be who they are and well off.

What can pastors do to protect themselves?

  • Seek God’s face through spiritual disciplines
  • Gain an awareness of self – be honest about strengths and weaknesses.
  • Gain insight from authentic relationships with other ministers and lay leaders.  Open to their effort to hold you accountable and to sharpen you.
  • Learn to say no to certain activities until you understand whether you are called to them or whether they feed prideful tendencies.

What can congregations do to protect their pastors?

  • Ultimately, this is a two-way street, but it the best place to start would be in prayerful support.
  • Don’t be yes-people.  Generate your own ideas and bring them forward.
  • Hold the pastor accountable in a loving way.
  • Encourage and affirm your pastor.

 

References

  • Lewis, C.S. (1980) Mere Christianity.
  • Zondag, H. J. (2004) Just like other people: Narcissism in pastors. Pastoral Psychology 52(2), p. 423-427

Psalm 46:10

One of my favorite verses of Scripture is Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”  The theme of the entire Psalms is God’s abiding presence that gives us comfort and protection.  In the middle of our chaos, we can be still or be at peace and know that God will take care of the situation.   The problem is that it can be very hard for us to be still.  We like our activity, and a lack of doing makes us feel hopeless.  To be still is not stopping all activity, but to act in a way that declares faith in God.  Here are a few practical helps to “be still.”

Learn to say to no.  There are a lot of good things that we can be involved with every day.  But, what is good is not always great for us and what is perfect for us may only be good for someone else.  It is better for us to find the three to five activities that are great for us than to have our hand in ten good things.  To accomplish this, we have to learn to say no to certain things.

Develop spiritual disciplines.  When we mention spiritual disciplines, we typically think of studying our Bible, praying, going to church.  These disciplines do help with learning to be still, but there are others that have a greater emphasis on teaching us to be still. Spiritual disciplines such as simplicity and solitude are excellent for teaching us to be still.  Another is learning to celebrate blessings.  Focusing on these are wonderful for teaching us to be still.

Access to the Throne

Our testimony is that we have access to the throne of God.  Many believers have not taken advantage of this beautiful reality, though they should.  Several passages in Scripture share this fact.

“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” – Eph. 2:18

“In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” – Eph. 3:12

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” – Heb. 4:16

I am sure that it would be a great honor to stand before men of high stature in our world, but there is nothing comparable to the time spent before God.  Imagine a situation of a person receiving an invitation to meet the president and declining.  It would be unthinkable.  This behavior is exactly what people do to the Lord.  They turn away His invitation to meet in prayerful repentance and devotion.

We should not neglect the invitation to the Lord to meet with Him in worship and prayer every day.  Even, multiple times within a day.  Let us make a resolution, and follow through with it, to come before the throne of God every day and speak to Him in prayer.

Is there not a cause?

One of the most loved narratives in the Bible is David and Goliath.  A truly inspirational piece of history about the physical underdog proving to be a spiritual giant.  One of the neglected parts of this section of Scripture is the conflicted interaction between David and his brothers. When David began to make an inquiry as to why nobody stood up to Goliath, David’s brother became defensive.  To which David replies,

And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? (1 Samuel 17:29)

Several translations take the phrase, “Is there not a cause” into, “I just asked a question.”  Either way, David is implying that there are grounds for questioning their inactivity.  Is there not a cause to question our inactivity as believer’s today?  What are some of the causes that were important to David and us?

God’s glory

David was concerned that Israel and the Philistines would be reminded of how Yahweh, the God of Israel is to be feared and honored.  Verse 47 states this as David’s purpose.  God certainly does not need us to do anything to “help Him” but it is a most worthy cause to demonstrate our faith in God for His Name’s sake.  We should be concerned about bringing glory to God with every thought, word, and deed.

Families

Israel’s army was the only thing standing between the Philistines and the Israelite cities.  Defeat here would also signal the demise of the Israelites families and homes.  Another great cause worth fighting the evil in our world is for the sake of our families and friends.  We are too concerned about pleasuring self and what makes us happy.  We need to focus about those around and look after them.

Way of Life

Goliath’s challenge was that loser would have to identify as the servant of the other people.  If Israel lost the challenge, it would prompt a change a lifestyle.  Our way of living is worth protecting.  There is nothing wrong with living right and we must contend for its validity in our current culture.

Gymnastics: a lesson in spiritual development

I am sitting, waiting on my five-year old daughter in her gymnastics class. She loves and it brings her a lot of happiness. At times, the activity is beyond her skill. Sometimes, she is distracted.  There are also times when she forgets to do what she was taught.  Hold your horses, that sounds like belivers in spiritual development.


2 Peter 1:5-8

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are to mature in the faith but it comes by excercising our faith. Just like my daughter gymnastics class, our development can be frustrating.

  • Lacking maturity: some tasks are to by for us. God does allow more to come on us than we can handle. Why?  To show us that when we are weak, He is strong. Much of our immaturity comes from a lack of faith in how awesome our God really is.
  • Distractions: Life has it easy when it  comes to throwing distractions in front of us. Finances, family, friends, job, health, entertainment, and bad theology can distract us from growing up in God.
  • Forgetting: I hate walking into a room and not remembering why I went in. That’s not the only forgetfulness I am talking about. There is this innocent forgetfulness in my daughter because she rushes.  She forgets to keep her legs straight or arms tucked in. She’s also new and still discipline her thinking and movements. You won’t remember what you don’t keep practicing. When you learn something new, apply it immediately and keep doing it over and over.