In our society, we spend a lot of time and money taking care of our bodies. The Apostle Paul wants us to give as much consideration to our minds as we do to our bodies. Jesus could have come to this earth as a personal trainer to help us figure out how to care for our bodies, but he didn’t. Jesus came primarily as a teacher. Paul warns us in Titus 2:1-15 that unless we are being taught consistently about how to live wisely we will drift into foolish thinking and destructive behavior. Therefore we need to take responsibility for our minds and allow them to be formed consistently by biblical teaching.
Today we look at Paul’s words to Titus about the value and importance of teaching.
The goal of teaching is changed lives. The goal of teaching is not to fill you with a bunch of knowledge.
It’s when you take that knowledge and apply it to your life and begin to change… that’s when teaching has done it’s work.
And I want to say, that’s wisdom — knowledge applied to your life is wisdom.
This is what Paul says about teaching in chapter 2:
Teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. — Titus 2:1
Teach older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. — Titus 2:2
Teach older women to live in a way that honors God. — Titus 2:3
Teach others what is good. — Titus 2:3
Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. — Titus 2:7
Teach the truth. — Titus 2:8
Make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way. — Titus 2:10
Teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. — Titus 2:15
Do you know the primary reason Jesus came to this earth?
He didn’t come as a ruler or a political figure, although the world needed him in that capacity.
He didn’t come as an organizational leader, although that position can have a very powerful impact.
He didn’t come, primarily, as a counselor, although that’s a noble calling and essential to health.
He didn’t come as an economic figure to redistribute the wealth, although the poor sure need that.
Jesus came primarily as a teacher.
His fundamental task, when Jesus came to this earth, was to teach about God and about life in his kingdom.
Of course, the most significant event in his life was his death and resurrection to bring about redemption for the human race; but his fundamental role in his life on this earth was teacher.
Jesus was called “teacher” by his students. He came to open their minds and move their hearts and challenge their wills.
Why is this? Why would Jesus spend his one and only life, of all things, as a teacher?
I think it’s because Jesus knew human beings were flunking the class of life.
They were filled with distorted understandings of God and his will for the human race.
They kept drifting into wrong behaviors.
They got competitive when they should have been serving each other.
They got greedy when they should have been generous with their things.
They got deceitful when they should have been trustworthy.
Jesus recognized that human beings, that he loved so much and longed to have as his students, were going to fail at the class of life. They were going to fail at what was most important.
And so Jesus decided that teaching was so fundamental to the spiritual growth of human beings that when he came to earth, of all things, he came as a teacher.
And when he came as a teacher, he wasn’t just marking time until he went to the cross. It was absolutely essential to his purpose.
It’s actually because his teaching made so much sense to the men and women who followed him that they trusted in him even in his death on the cross and his resurrection.
Similarly, Paul looks at what’s going on at Crete. He looks at the churches on that island. And this whole passage, this whole chapter of Scripture is devoted to the urgency of teaching.
Eight times in chapter two, Paul talks about the importance of teaching.
He says in Titus 2:1:
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.
Sound doctrine simply means right beliefs.
Why does Paul mention sound doctrine? Why does he start with sound doctrine?
It’s because people were drifting into wrong beliefs.
And then he says in verse two:
Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely.
It’s about living wisely because people are drifting into wrong beliefs and behaviors. So he goes through a whole catalog of seasons of life and what wise living looks like in each one.
And the reality is, we need this teaching in our day, in our culture, just as much as the people in Crete in that day.
If people in our culture don’t believe the right things, they will believe bizarre things.
And this was happening at Crete.
In Titus 1:14 he says, “Stop listening to Jewish myths.”
Apparently there were wild stories (myths) spreading, and people were gravitating toward them and believing them.
In Titus 3:9 we get another glimpse of what’s going on in Crete:
Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time.
There evidently were bizarre stories making the rounds. And Paul says, “If people are not regularly receiving teaching on sound doctrine, they will embrace bizarre ideas.”
And it’s no different in our day.
It’s actually predictable. If people don’t believe the right things; if our thinking isn’t in line with sound doctrine, people will believe bizarre things.
And it happens in churches.
In our day, for example, the gospel gets perverted. False teachers and whole churches turn the gospel of Jesus Christ into a means of acquiring.
And we see this all the time.
There’s a television preacher that I’ve seen, and he’s representative of many others who say the primary reason to give to God is if you give to God, you will acquire more possessions. “The primary reason to give,” he says, “is because the more you give, the more you get.” It’s really just a way to get.
This is one of his statements that he made. He said, “I gave away my old watch, and God gave me this new Rolex.”
And you try telling that to a mother in Ethiopia who just watched her child starve to death because she couldn’t find enough food.
You go there and you tell her about how you gave away a watch and God gave you a Rolex because it’s all about acquiring.
You see, sound doctrine doesn’t tell us that following Christ is an escape from suffering. It means we can expect something. “Take up your cross,” we’re told in Scripture.
Our suffering, sound doctrine tells us, can be used by God. And it will one day, be redeemed by God.
But if people don’t believe the right things, they’ll believe bizarre things.
We still hear today of churches that — in the name of Christianity — will say we must not allow white young people and Asian young people and African young people to date each other so that the races can remain “pure and separate.”
This is why sound doctrine is so critical.
Paul in Ephesians 2:14 tells us:
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
Jesus Christ died to make us one.
Sound doctrine tells us that to try to re-erect the dividing wall of hostility and separation is an insult to the very cross on which Jesus died.
And the idea that racial separation honors the God who gave his son to make all people one — well, that’s just bizarre.
Some preachers promote paranoid conspiracy theories according to which any efforts for peace in this world, they say, are secretly steps towards a satanic, one-world government.
And in the name of un-biblical theories, they lead Christians to violate the biblical words of Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
This is bizarre… and sometimes it’s tragic.
If people’s minds and hearts are not being formed by regular teaching and learning from Scripture, they will believe wrong things. You and I will drift into wrong kinds of thinking.
And it’s not just that. It’s that we’ll drift into wrong kinds of behaviors because you build your life on what you believe.
You live at the mercy of your ideas about the way things are. That’s just the truth.
This is why doctrine is so important. It’s real crucial that we as a church understand this together.
Doctrine is not just something that gets taught in the church. Doctrine is just another word for the way things are. That’s what doctrine is. It’s teaching about the way things are.
Jesus came to teach the truth about the way things are — the way things are with God, with life, with human beings, with creation, with sin.
And we get fed doctrine — a picture of the way things really are — all the time.
The office where you work teaches a certain kind of doctrine.
Media teaches a certain kind of doctrine.
Movies and music teach a certain kind of doctrine.
Silicon Valley, they all teach a certain kind of doctrine — a picture of the way things are.
They’re forming your mind, your ideas about the way things are, what you really think.
Not just what you say you think, but what you really think. Who’s blessed and who’s cursed? Who’s secure and who’s poor?
And the reason why it’s so important that you and I come to believe and to trust in right doctrine is not that God’s going to give you a theological exam someday and you need to get an ‘A’ on it.
It’s that Jesus came to speak the truth and the writers of Scripture proclaim the truth about the way things really are.
And if you trust that things really are as Jesus taught them to be, you will live the kind of life that he invites you to live. It will just flow out of you.
You trust that at the very core of reality, there is a Trinity. God is experiencing life in community, love and servanthood between Father, Son and Spirit. That’s at the very core of reality.
And that God who delights in community is watching you, and you are perfectly safe in his hand all the time, and nothing can separate you from the love of God.
Well, that’ll have very real consequences for your anxiety, or your fear, or for how you treat other people.
This is so important… sound doctrine matters more than you can possibly imagine — not so that you can get a theological quiz right someday, but because you live at the mercy of your ideas.
And that’s the other thing that’s so important. It’s important that we learn sound doctrine. But the other thing that happens to people if they don’t experience biblically true teaching on a regular basis is we drift into wrong behaviors. We drift into wrong, harmful, destructive, sinful behaviors. We just do.
And after verse 1, Paul shows Titus how in different eras of life people will drift into different wrong behaviors.
And if you look between the lines of what Paul is saying, you can see the wrong beliefs that address each one of those eras.
Look at Titus 2:2.
After talking about sound doctrine, Paul says:
Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.
Paul says, “Teach this to the older men.”
Now, a quick question of application at this point — how old is “the older men” Paul is referring to here?
Take a second. Turn to the person next to you, if you don’t mind doing this, and just decide together, “What’s the cutoff age? Who is Paul talking about here?”
Real quick, just turn to the person next to you, how old is “the older men?”
Okay, that’s long enough. You don’t have to convince the other person.
My guess on this is it depends on how old you are… don’t you think?
A young college student in love had written his girlfriend a love letter. It went something along these lines:
“We’ll still be in love when we’re old and gray; when we’re teetering feebly at death’s door; when we’re in our 50s, we’ll still be in love.”
I would say the definition of older men really depends on how old you are.
But notice what it is that Paul says. He says:
Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.
His last word is patience… or endurance.
Paul knew the temptation for men when they grew old would be to think that they might have nothing to contribute anymore. And they might grow isolated and give up.
He knew about the wrong belief that society might shape in them. They might be tempted to think, “I don’t care any more. What matters is youth and physical attractiveness and having a long future, so my significance is gone.”
Now, let me ask you a question. Do you think this wrong teaching about older men occurred only in Paul’s day?
This idea is prevalent in our society just as much as it was in the first century.
In our day, by a considerable margin, the group that has the highest suicide rate of all groups in our society is older men.
And Paul says, “Don’t let older men get taken in by this idea… or they’re going to flunk the endurance class. Titus, don’t let them flunk the endurance class. Teach them that they matter. Challenge them to be patient.”
And then he goes on, in verse 3:
Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good.
“They must not slander,” he says, “live in a way that honors God.”
Have you ever heard of gossip going on in churches?
They had slander then, and it’ll destroy community.
There was a retirement party for a pastor, and everyone was telling stories about this pastor. One of his board members got up and said he was part of a tennis group that this pastor played with once a week.
One time this pastor said to two of the guys, “You know, I think we need to get closer. I think we should talk about something that we’ve never told anyone else before.”
And so one of the guys said, “Well, all right. I have a gambling problem. I’ve never told anyone about this, but I sometimes take money out of the church offering and I gamble it.”
And the second guy said, “Well, I have a drinking problem. I’ve never told anyone this, but I sometimes take the communion wine and I drink.”
And then they looked over at the pastor, and he said, “I have a gossip problem. I just can’t keep a secret.”
Gossip really is the anti-community sin. It’ll destroy community.
Now, here’s the question: Who’s likely to gossip?
Well, people are likely to gossip about community when they feel like they’re not a part of it anymore. It’s people who feel like they’re on the outside. And Paul recognizes this.
Here’s a group in the church that are likely to feel on the outside. These are not just elderly people. They’re also women, probably widowed, given death rates in that day.
No one is going to marry them. They’re not going to have children. And their society would teach a false doctrine. They’re not too useful.
Paul says they might get tempted to gossip to try to get even. And they’ll flunk the communication class. They’ll flunk the loving speech class. Paul says, “No, don’t let that happen. Explain they still have a role to play.”
In fact, he says quite a remarkable thing. He says, “Titus, challenge them to teach what is good.”
Now I just want to pause here for a moment and say a word about maturity and our community.
I wonder if you’ve ever thought about how a community — a church — is impoverished if it does not honor those who bring the most wisdom, and the most experience, and the most life, and sometimes the knowledge, and the heart that grows from walking with Christ, decade after decade after decade?
Do you know how poor a community is if it doesn’t acknowledge and honor that?
I want to do something right now. It’s kind of a risky thing. But I’d like to ask those of you who are roughly in this category — maybe mid-sixties and over — if you’d stand for a moment right now, because I’d like to say a few words to you.
You don’t have to do it if it would like give away a secret or something like that. You don’t have to, but if you don’t mind, if you’d just stand for a moment.
I want you to know something. I’m very serious about this. I want you to know, you are honored in this church.
I want you to know we cannot be the whole Body of Christ without the wisdom and life-long learning and maturity that God wants to bring through you.
You know, when I talk to people in their late twenties, early thirties and ask them, “What do you need for spiritual growth?” Almost without fail what they need is mentoring from someone who has experience and wisdom in walking with Christ… and you have that.
And we live in a society that teaches this false doctrine that says, “The appearance of youth and the culture of youth are all that matters.”
It’s not true! Your gifts and your endurance that you hold matters more than you could imagine.
So we just need to go on record as a church today to say, “You are needed and you are valued, and every Christ follower in this room is a beneficiary of your faithfulness and your endurance and your perseverance and your devotion, and you are honored in this body of Christ.”
Alright, you may be seated.
For the rest of us, I really want us — every one of us in here — to remember, and just to kind of live out an attitude of honor and value for people who bring so much to our community that our society teaches a false doctrine about.
Are you with me?
Alright, Paul goes on in verse four:
These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands.
I’ll just say a word about this.
In those days, young women pretty much had no other avenues available to them. There were no freedoms, no options, no choices, and it can get real easy to resent the people who are closest to you.
Paul recognizes they’re likely to flunk the resentment class. And in a community where Christians are told, “Submit to one another,” they’re most likely to fail in the submission class.
So they need to be challenged to love. And maybe you do to.
How are you doing at loving those most close to you in your home?
On to verse six:
In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely.
Young men are likely to believe, “My impulses are so strong, I’ve got to gratify them. Life with ungratified appetites is no life at all. I’m just like Cookie Monster, ‘See cookie, want cookie, eat cookie.’”
Paul says, “Titus, teach the young men to live wisely. Help them to realize they’re more than just a bag of appetites. Give them maturity beyond their years to look a little farther on down the road… to see where the gratification road leads.”
And then he says:
And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind.
Then on to verse nine:
Slaves must always obey their masters and do their best to please them.
Now this would have been a very large contingent. It’s estimated that up to one-third of the Roman Empire was made up of slaves.
And Paul recognized here that they’re going to be tempted to believe the false doctrine that God doesn’t really see them.
They’re going to be tempted to resent their masters — maybe to steal when they’re not looking, try to get away with whatever they can. They’re going to fail the trustworthy class. Paul says, “Titus, don’t let that happen.”
Paul talks here and in other places about the importance of helping them to see what you and I need to see, which is that our work is really for God.
We really are working for God.
It doesn’t really matter who is above us on the human chain of command, our work really is being done to serve God.
And maybe some of you are bringing wrong attitudes into your work — attitudes that do not reflect well on Christ and are not in line with what the Bible teaches about the fact that it is a good thing to be able to work, and it can be an offering to God.
This is a very remarkable statement. Look at what Paul says in verse 10:
Slaves must always obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back or steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good.
It’s like we’re about to fail the integrity class. “But must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good,” and then, here’s the phrase:
Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.
Will you just take a moment right now and reflect on your work?
Do you work with such diligence and integrity and love that your life at work makes the teaching of God attractive?
Do you work in such a way that people look at you and they think to themselves, “I’d like to know more about a God who can create and lead someone who would work with that kind of heart and that kind of joy and that kind of love”?
That’s what Paul says to do. And he gives that command to people who are in a much tougher situation than most of us are in.
You see, Paul is saying to Titus, “Everyone in the church is in danger of drifting into misguided beliefs and destructive behaviors. They’re going to fail the belief class. They’re going to fail the behavior class. And they desperately need to be taught.”
And the reality is… so do I. Because I can drift.
And so do you. Because you can drift too.
So what I want to do now is challenge you in this way.
You must take responsibility for having your mind and your soul formed by learning from biblical teaching.
You must take responsibility to have your mind and your soul, your beliefs and your behavior, formed and regulated and corrected by regular teaching from the Word of God.
But you must take responsibility for this, because for sure you’re going to get bombarded by a whole lot of false doctrine from a whole lot of other sources.
And it’s going to cause you to drift all the time.
Whenever the people of God live right and do community right, they do this.
Go back to the Old Testament when Moses would teach the Law to the people.
In the Book of Nehemiah there’s a tremendous section where it says in Nehemiah 8:8:
They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.
Now, I want you to think about something. Think about attention spans in our day.
Now here’s the real remarkable statement in Nehemiah 9:3:
They remained standing in place for three hours while the Book of the Law of the Lord their God was read aloud to them.
And they did this every day for an eight-day feast.
And they rejoiced at being able to have their minds and hearts and spirits formed by the words of God — by the thoughts of God — to be exposed to what is right and noble and good and excellent and true.
And so I thought we would try that today, so if you would all please stand… and I’m going to teach the Bible for the next 3 hours.
This is why in Acts 2 we’re told:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
The believers devoted themselves to the teaching of the word of God — the apostles’ teaching.
No one forced them; no one “guilted” them.
They devoted themselves to it.
In Acts 20, Paul is at Troas. And it says Paul was teaching.
On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight.
They started at the breaking of bread, probably around dinnertime… and he kept talking until midnight.
The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below.
And Paul realizes that the people need a little break at this point. So the text says:
Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left.
He starts teaching at suppertime, teaches right straight through until midnight. He takes a break to resurrect a dead guy and have a little food, and then goes on teaching until sunrise. And it says in verse 12:
Meanwhile, the young man was taken home unhurt, and everyone was greatly relieved.
Were they relieved because this guy was resurrected or because Paul finally quit teaching? It doesn’t say which.
Think about the devotion that’s implied there, the desire to be shaped and formed by the Word of God.
Now, contrast that with the casual attitude in our day when biblical illiteracy in the church is at an all time high.
Far too many Christians lack adequate grounding in what Paul calls, “Sound doctrine.”
So how about you? Have you made the commitment that you will regularly place yourself under the teaching of God’s word?
Here’s the irony to me. We all make choices to do what matters most to us, or what our society says should matter most to us.
We all make choices to take care of our bodies for example. How often are you going to feed your body? How often are you going to wash your body? How often are you going to brush its teeth or give it exercise?
It’s part of growing up. You make those decisions pretty early on and you’re pretty committed to them.
We’re surrounded by magazines that are full of articles telling us how much time, money and effort to spend every day caring for our bodies, making us feel guilty if we don’t.
That’s not a bad thing. Our bodies are important things. But they’re finite.
But let me ask you a question. How often do you pick up a magazine with an article titled:
How to Lose Five Pounds of Ugly Sin in Two Weeks.
Spiritual Exercises for a Fitter, Firmer Conscience.
How to Drive Your Spouse Wild When You Read The Bible Together.
No one will do that for you. And we do not live in a society where you will drift into it. You will have to choose.
I’ll just tell you for me… I need to have personal private times of study and reflection on Scripture.
I need this discipline because my mind is getting bombarded with foolish messages, false doctrine, all the time…
You must be strong.
You must be rich.
You must be successful.
You must have lots of stuff.
You must have security.
And I know my response to this.
If I don’t place myself under the teaching of God’s word on a regular basis, I will drift into foolish thinking and destructive behavior. I need it just as much as you do.
I want you to understand something we never do around here.
In the church where I grew up, the idea often ran like this. Those of us who attended the church often felt like this: “We’re having a service today, so I guess I’d better go to support the church so the pastor doesn’t feel bad.”
We thought our job was kind of like pastor-esteem maintenance.
He was kind of like a leaky tire, and we had to keep him inflated by showing up each week.
The Bible does not say, “Let us not give up meeting together so that we can keep inflating the pastor that’s got a slow leak.”
So let’s be real clear. May this church never, ever fall into the mindset that pastors do ministry and people support them.
The reality is as simple as this: Given my individual falleness, the messages that stream into my mind, and my own depravity, I don’t have a chance of living the way I want to unless I regularly immerse my mind in whatever is true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable.
And I need to do that privately, in my own study and reflection on Scripture, on my own. And I need to regularly gather together with the church.
I need to place myself under the teaching of God’s Word. My mind and my soul and my growth need that.
And maybe you’ve been lax on this. Maybe, if you’re really honest today, you’ve been drifting into foolish thoughts, into wrong behaviors. You’re not doing too well in the belief class and the behavior class.
If that’s the case, I want to challenge you today. Make your own personal covenant with God.
Say today, “God, just between you and me, I promise to place my mind under the teaching of your Word on a regular basis. I will not be casual or haphazard about this anymore. Privately I will study and reflect on your Word regularly, I will listen to podcasts or read books or whatever resources are most helpful to me.
“And at Blue Oaks I will arrange my life and schedule as best I can so that it’s a priority for me to be here on Sunday morning… and to be in a group during the week to receive teaching from your Word. I will sign up for a group and I will commit to being there to receive teaching from the Bible in a community where I find encouragement and accountability. And I will not just hear the teaching, but I will diligently seek to put it into practice. I will let it shape my thinking and my doing… and from this point on, I will be a lifelong learner in Jesus’ class of life.”
Paul says to Titus, “This has got to happen in the church. Everyone will drift otherwise. Older men, younger men, older women, younger women, slaves — whatever categories you want to pick — they’ll just drift, Titus, and that must not happen.”
Now, if you need to make this commitment, this is just between you and God.
So will you just take a moment right now to pray. Talk to him about the decision you need to make. And then Michaela and the team will lead us in a closing song.
Blue Oaks Church