Philippians 3:20 states that “our citizenship is in heaven.” A citizen is an individual who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to that nation or country’s protection and rights. As Christians we are nationals of heaven – not earth.
One of the most wonderful things about the Apostles is that with all their heavenly knowledge they are probably among the most practical group of people that you’ll ever meet. They understood that though our heads and hearts are in heaven, our feet for the meantime remain planted on earth. The question, “Between now and then, what are we supposed to do?” is one that I see the Apostles addressing quite frequently.
Sound Doctrine: In the tiny epistle of Titus, the Apostle Paul writes a letter in which he provides very specific and practical instruction regarding affairs within the church. Paul states in Titus 2:1, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Doctrine refers to the principles and beliefs that are taught, advanced, and accepted by a group. What is the significance of this? Sloppy doctrine equals sloppy living; sound doctrine equals sound living.
There is way of living that conforms to the gospel and there is a way of living that runs contrary to the gospel. In Crete the believers were in fellowship but were slack in doctrine. They needed to be taught. There is a direct correlation between our doctrine and our outward lives. If doctrine is neglected – like it was in Crete, then irresponsible, uncontrolled, and undisciplined lifestyles will follow. Many things have their place in the Christian life but nothing will produce the inward growth that only sound doctrine can. Moreover, Paul knew that unless the church in Crete was built up in sound doctrine she would not stand firm in the days ahead.
Party Politics Has No Power: Of all people, Jesus appeared on the scene in a highly politicized and charged environment. Many of his followers indeed had hopes that he would “restore the kingdom” of Israel in the natural sense. Fortunately for us Jesus had far bigger fish to fry than party politics – namely redemption of the human soul.
There is something far more powerful than the politics of man and the humanistic methods whereby his ends are achieved. Paul tells Titus to“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1-2).
Christians are not engaged in a natural war but a spiritual one. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Paul was not suggesting that Christians stay out of government. Clearly, we are charged “to be ready for every good work” in civil affairs (Titus 3:1) however, it is the unregenerate man who responds with malice, envy, and hate. He quarrels, argues, and is divisive. To God, these kinds of responses are foolish. At one point we lived like that too – “hated by others and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3). But like our Lord, we now make our appeal through the meekness and gentleness of Christ.
Devotion to Doing Good: Good works are also a major theme in Paul’s letter to Titus. While good works alone are insufficient for salvation they can be evidence of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit. Paul provides specific instruction to men and women of all ages on how to conduct themselves. He tells the men to be temperate, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and endurance. To the women he charges them to be reverent, and cautions them not to slander. He exhorts them to be self-controlled and pure. He highlights the importance of the older being the role model to the younger. He stresses the importance of integrity and seriousness. He underscores the value of trustworthiness.
Peter states, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (I Peter 2:12b). Real and last ing influence are the product of a life devoted to Christ. Good deeds, if done in the holiness and humility of Christ will point others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Upward Bound: The Apostle Peter, when preparing the believers in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) for the persecution and difficult times ahead, reminded God’s elect that they were to live as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). Peter wanted his readers to know that just as Abraham “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) so should the Christian be looking upward.
The Apostles made it clear. The directive is as significant now as it was when Paul wrote his letter to the church in Crete. Between now and then build yourself up in the most holy faith, live a life of devotion to Christ, and set your hope on the blessed return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14).