We had the privilege of having Pastor Tyler Johnson, our lead pastor over all of Redemption Church, preach on Titus 1:10-16 last Sunday (if you weren’t there or would like to listen again, here is the audio). As you may recall, Pastor Riccardo kicked off the series the week before, covering the first nine verses, which touched on the Apostle Paul being called by God, who never lies, to preach the gospel and then on qualifications for elders in the church.
Last Sunday’s text continued from where we left off with elders, by continuing to discuss leadership—but only the antitype of what godly leadership in fact is. As mentioned last week, Paul is writing to Titus in order to have him confront corrupt leadership in the Cretan churches and ensure that certain criteria are met. Tyler then spent the bulk of his time contrasting godly leadership with that of empty talkers. Tim Chester, a pastor in Sheffield, UK, aptly paraphrased Paul’s concern with the Cretans by citing contemporary follies in leadership that are commonly seen in the West.
Living the good life of the gospel is always a challenge when we live in a wider culture that defines the good life in other ways. It is particularly hard in a culture where newspapers cannot be trusted and politicians are corrupt; a harsh, selfish, racist culture in which there is a fear of crime; a culture where people are reluctant to do manual work, which is therefore left to migrant workers; a culture in which people routinely overeat.[i]
Rather than untrustworthy leaders, corrupt leaders, or selfish leaders, Tyler said we need modeling leaders, convicted leaders, and all of life leaders.
Modeling leaders. As we mentioned last week, Paul doesn’t only lay out instruction for how to be a godly leader; in his own character, he models it. Paul identifies himself in verse 1 as “a servant (or slave) of God and an apostle (one sent) of Jesus Christ.” He’s a slave sent from God, carrying Jesus’ message. As a slave, he’s wholly devoted—he’s all in. He’s not doing what unfortunately far too many Christian leaders have done throughout history, claiming they’re sent from God, yet living a life that is far from modeling godly character. As one carrying Jesus’ message, his teaching must reflect Jesus’ teaching—and Jesus’ character. Paul’s message to Titus, to then be proclaimed to the Cretan leaders, thereby was free of his own preferences, biases, distortions, or manipulations (though how many times have those sermons been preached?).
And the qualities of modeling leaders aren’t just for apostles, like Paul, or pastors, like Tyler or Riccardo; it’s for all of us who are undoubtedly leading in some capacity, whether in our homes, Redemption Communities, or places of work, or in being a role model to a friend or leading by serving a neighbor, much like Jesus did.
Convicted leaders are to hold fast to their beliefs in the face of opposition. And they are to do so with a game plan to both follow through and hold themselves accountable and to hold others accountable, too. These leaders will continue to model godly character even when what they model and proclaim is despised. After all, Jesus never promised us his message would be well received, which certainly wasn’t the case for him, as he was tortured and murdered over what he had to say. Instead, he tells us we will be “hated by all for (his) name’s sake.”[ii] We will—and I’m sure many of us have—faced opposition.
And Paul faces opposition with tact. In his letter to Titus, rather than only accusing the Cretan leaders based on the Word of God, which they were ignoring anyway, he uses their own prophet, Epimenides, to self-indict them. In verse 12, he quotes what’s attributed to the poet, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” One can assume that though they ignored the Scriptures, they wouldn’t have ignored their own revered prophet. Similarly, Paul quotes who was likely Epimenides on another occasion as well as Aratus, another Greek poet, in his address to the Athenians at Mars Hill.[iii] Paul wasn’t a synchronist, but he was contextual. Out of his conviction, devotion, and passion for the truth, he speaks in ways his hearers desire to listen. This is worth taking note of.
All of life leaders see all things as created good by God, which we are to both be thankful for and use to bless others.
We read in verse 15 that “to the pure all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both (the Cretan leaders’) minds and their consciences are defiled.” These leaders relied on Jewish myths and so-called ritual purity to make themselves righteous—things that are neither commanded by the Torah nor by Jesus’ teaching. They preached a false gospel that they could both control and use to control others. Does this sound familiar today? As Paul writes elsewhere:
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.[iv]
False teaching, such as this, does not make one holy; only Christ’s finished work on the cross and the washing of the Spirit can do that. So, instead of placing restrictions on the good things God gave us, we ought to embrace them, with discernment, as elements of all of life…since all of life is all for Jesus. As Tyler said, while the Scriptures command us to not get drunk, we can indeed, for example, responsibly enjoy an alcoholic beverage (even Moscow Mules!). Or while we mustn’t look at pornography, a corruption of sex, we ought to fully enjoy sex in the good and perfect context in which God created it. As an aside, we should also note that many people will have certain convictions to not do or consume something that you aren’t convicted about, but, assuming they aren’t trying to achieve greater holiness or be saved by their efforts, encourage them to remain steadfast in their convictions rather than trying to pull them in your direction.[v]
Godly leaders ought to use their skill, intellect, and passion, as well as the resources God created, to flourish in their communities. They should bless others through what God has blessed them with, rather than hoarding God’s blessing to themselves.[vi]
In sum, let’s be modeling leaders, who consistently demonstrate what living in light of the gospel looks like; convicted leaders, who are unwavering and steadfast in the truth; and all of life leaders, who gladly receive all God has given them and joyfully use it for the common good. This is true worship that brings glory to God and shows that the kingdom of God has entered our hearts and is flowing through our mouths, hands, and feet.
[i] Tim Chester, Titus for You (Purcellville, Virginia: The Good Book Company, 2014) 10.
[ii] Mar. 13:13.
[iii] Acts 17:27-28.
[iv] Col. 20:20-23.
[v] See Rom. 14.
[vi] See Gen. 12:2.