Too many pastors have been measured by worldly standards of success in this past year in the midst of all the distractions life and culture have brought our way. The real measure of successful ministry is what the all-powerful grace of God is doing in people's lives. Only Jesus Christ can transform a life so completely.
No one enjoys growing pains, but most would rather have pain than not be growing. The Bible repeatedly tells us that painful times are divinely appointed for our growth. As we go through these times, God’s grace is an unlimited available resource we can utilize in every natural rhythm of life. God’s grace saves us and continues to compel us to grow in our Christian walk.
We're taking a break from our series on 2 Corinthians for a few weeks to study Titus 3:1-11. This passage will be our ultimate focus; but first, we need to know the context of the whole book.
Paul's discussion of ministry with integrity permeates 2 Corinthians through chapter 7. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 can be divided into 5 sections which we will study over a couple weeks.
2 Corinthians 3:4-6 compares a life lived under the Law with a life lived under grace. Paul knew the Corinthians had begun to lose their Gospel influence when they began embracing the false message of the Judaizers. The Law, even though divinely given, could not transform a person. No standard can change a heart. Its splendor is to convict.
The best way to protect the church from religious racketeers is to compare the nature and practice of the false and genuine.
The word "suffering" appears 16 times in the book of 1 Peter. The recipients of the letter came from different backgrounds and were facing the difficulty of persecution. Peter emphasizes God's grace as the only thing that helps in such times. It helps us stand firm and endure (1 Peter 5:12).
In our American church context, we are all wealthy compared to the rest of the world. So there is much for us to learn from Solomon's wisdom for wealthy people in this section of Ecclesiastes.
Solomon's examination of the apparent anomalies and contradictions that confront our lives every day continues in Ecclesiastes 4. Walter Kaiser describes the progression of thought from chapter 3 to chapter 4 as follows:
We have divided the third chapter of Ecclesiastes into 3 sections.
This week, we will examine several plain truths to apply God's wisdom to our lives.
In every period of time, God gives His people time to stop, worship, and celebrate. Nehemiah 8:1-12 shows one of those occasions. The nation of Israel was back from exile, rebuilding Jerusalem, and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. Scholars tell us the book of Ecclesiastes was usually read publicly at this festival. Nehemiah's admonition to the people to rejoice, not grieve, is a similar message to Solomon's. The best way to enjoy life is to enjoy it with God, by living according to His Word. Conviction should be a quick work, with grace then bringing joy.
As a child, were you fascinated by small wonders like lightning bugs? G.K. Chesterton said, "What is wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.”
As Christians, God has placed us in a miraculous world of wonder. He calls it Christ's body, the church. As we move into the practical portion of the book, Romans 12:3-8 gives us the first practical aspect of our salvation.
We live in the most informed generation possibly of all time. We have an enormous amount of information available to us, whether it is legitimate or not. Thomas Jefferson used the phrase "knowledge is power" in his letters at least four times, each time regarding the establishment of a state university in Virginia. He also believed in the power of knowledge to bring safety and happiness.
Despite the amount of knowledge acquired by all generations leading to ours, we still have not curbed societal ills of hatred, violence, immorality, and addiction. Knowledge cannot control our passions. It cannot change the human condition.
There is only one kind of knowledge that can permanently change a person. "Only intelligent commitment of a life in light of God's gift of salvation can curb the human condition" (Bennett). Only God receives the glory for changing a human being and sustaining that transformation (Romans 11:36). Sinful people need to hear of Christ and surrender their hearts to His authority.
What Paul says about Israel in his context can be applied to religious people in our context. Even those who are stuck in their ways have not stumbled so badly as to never have opportunity to be saved again. The offer of salvation is always given to them. What Paul says of Gentiles in his context applies to irreligious people today. As they accept Christ, religious people see the joy that results and become jealous.
In this section of Romans, Paul has been working through his sorrow and grief at the unbelief of his fellow Jews (Romans 9:1). He reminds and comforts his heart that God saves faithfully, mercifully, and righteously. His deep prayer and desire is that they would understand and accept salvation through Christ (Romans 10:1). Religious people misunderstand the righteousness of Jesus and the grace of God. In Romans 11, Paul dwells on God's mercy to both Jews and Gentiles.
In most of Scripture, God speaks to mankind. The poetic books of the Old Testament are unique because in them, man speaks to God. Human authors used the poetic structures available to them in attempts to surpass the limits of human language and recreate their experience with God.
When religious people hear the Gospel, they respond to it sincerely from a heart that has been trained religiously. They generally reject God's free offer of grace without knowing so as they continue to work for God's favor. God never intended people to work for salvation; it is impossible! In fact, "religious good works shipwreck grace." God offers the free gift of eternal life only through His Son (Romans 6:23).
We live in a culture of self-indulgence. Because of the pervasive influence of sin, humanity can't help but ruin ourselves even if we intend to do right. Titus 1:10-16 illustrates that Paul was writing to a pastor ministering in a similar society. False religious teachers in Crete had head knowledge of God without true heart knowledge, so their actions were ungodly. Both religious and irreligious people miss the mark because they seek to do things their own way.
Humanity left to itself always brings its own ruin personally and corporately. Paul's letter to Titus presents the solution: a body of true believers led by a good pastor-shepherd and sound doctrine taught by older examples.
We continue to study the hymn of security and assurance in Romans 8:31-39.
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