Today’s reading is drawn from Titus 3:3-8.
DON’T GET SO FAR from the world that your neighbors feel uncomfortable talking to you with a beer in their hand. I don’t mean you should violate your conscience or join anyone in sin, but remember well that God reached us while we were “slaves to many lusts and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). We were living empty lives, and God broke through. He didn’t save any of us “because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” After He saved us, He “washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). That is regeneration—starting again. When God breaks through, He does it by showing us His light through light bearers, revealing to us His love through love givers, and giving us examples to respect through respect earners. Suddenly, we realize that salvation lies in what Christ has done for us, not in what we do for Him. We were made right by grace through faith in Jesus. We were justified: God sovereignly declared us righteous when we believed in Him, even though we were still in a sinning state. Even when we were engaged in acts of unbelief and sinfulness, the Lord captured our hearts through faith. That’s His grace!
With that background in mind, we are reminded by what Paul says in this passage: that we live before a watching world. Our lives are an integral part of our witness on every level. None of us is perfect; therefore, this is a calling to ever-increasing maturity in Christ. A couple of lingering principles can bring this idea home.
First, it takes authenticity and integrity to win a hearing. Be real. If you’ve wounded or offended another person, believer or not, go and apologize. Have you been holding a grudge against someone? Then admit it to them and tell them you’re sorry. Have you formed a wrong opinion about them? Tell them you jumped to the wrong conclusions or were going through a tough time and reacted poorly, even though you know that’s no excuse. Then apologize. That’s authenticity. More often than not, it will give you an open door over time—it will win you a hearing.
Second, it is impossible to convince anyone of any truth that you are not living. Do you want to talk about the forgiveness of God? Great, but do you forgive others? Do you want to talk about the love of God? Begin by loving your family as Christ loves His people. This can have more influence than you think. It is often an amazing thing for younger couples just to see older husbands and wives who still love each other.
If you’re a leader in a church, do you want to know how to increase your influence? Live in the way that Paul instructs Titus to live throughout this letter. The community outside your church has no idea what true Christian fellowship is about. They’re most likely scared or put off or confused about Christians. But if you live like this, they will find it contagious. They will want to know what being a Christian is all about.
[call out text: We live before a watching world. Our lives are an integral part of our witness on every level.]