Living as Kingdom Citizens
Titus 3:1-7 is a wonderful letter, full of wisdom and practical instruction, most importantly it is a letter that points to Jesus. The first verse of the letter gives us all the most basic information: This Letter is written by Paul to his brother-in-Christ, Titus. The traditional understanding around the timing of writing timing for this letter is between Paul’s 1st Imprisonment (Acts 28) and his second one that would lead to his death.
This is a pastoral letter of concern from a spiritual father in the Faith to a son who he has walked with and is fond of. Throughout the whole letter the link is clear: What we Believe, effects how we behave; Faith and practice are not two separate things, but intrinsically linked: Our Doxy influences our Praxis. Let’s remember that then as we consider this wonderful section of the passage.
Paul is writing to address the dangers posed by false teachers to his new Churches. To do this he seeks to address Firstly: What a healthy church should look like; Then, what the life of someone should look like who have encountered the risen Christ; Furthermore, Paul write about Proper Leadership; then, proper handling of the error. Finally, we find ourselves looking at how the Good news of Christ should shape how we live in a world that is not our own as Kingdom Ambassadors. Kingdom living in a world that is not our own.
KINGDOM CITIZENS (1-2)
Don’t ask me where I heard it, but someone smarter than me, once say: “we are not what we do; nor, what we own, we are simply that which we think and that which we think about.” Or to put it more plainly: What we believe about the world shapes how we act in the world. Paul, writing to Timothy reminds him to tell all who are with him that the Gospel changes every aspect of their lives, it is not simply a one time moment that saves us for eternity, it is a daily existence of difference as we seek to live to God’s Glory, and, for his purpose in all that we do. Even in the normality of the ‘everyday’ and as citizens of nations that are not our home, the Gospel calls us to live differently, to stand out, to be more than just that which is acceptable, that which is normal.
“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”
CS Lewis – Mere Christianity
Polybius, the Greek historian, said of Cretans, that they were constantly involved in ‘insurrections, murders and internecine wars’. So Paul reminds Timothy that the Holy Spirit that is in those who are with him should be challenging every aspect of their lives. Cretan Christians should not be known as murderers, or troublesome. These two (1-2) verses lay down 6 standards for Kingdom Citizenship:
- Kingdom Citizens are Law Abiding: There is a recognition that unless laws are kept then life can become chaos, true freedom has limits that control it and define it. So, Kingdom Citizens keep the law as long as it is in accordance with Scripture. Additionally, we give due respect to those in authority in recognition that the Sovereign God of Heaven still sits on his throne – even when we think or feel otherwise – and will work through even Babylonian kings to achieve his purpose.
- Kingdom Citizens are active in service: They are ready for every work that is needed to be done, in service and in reward. They are willing and eager to offer their time and effort to something, as long as it is of Good merit and brings Glory to God. They will seek it and do it, with the spirits help. That are not lazy people who stay out of the things of this world because they think all things are evil, Kingdom Citizens are people of the Marketplace who seek to honour God in all areas of society and culture.
- Kingdom Citizens are careful in Speech: They will not slander, They will speak only of others as we would wish them to speak of ourselves.
- Kingdom Citizens are Tolerant: Not in the modern sense of the word, but in the full sense of the original Greek: “not a fighter” meaning not that we will never stand for what is right, but, we will never think that which we hold to is the ultimate standard of truth. Orthodoxy is Christ. not a mirror.
- Kingdom Citizens are Kind: In the sense of not holding strict to the law, They are people who know the letter of the law, but, more importantly also its heart. Not always tight to the letter, but a people who show grace and patience when their people stumble and sin.
- Kingdom Citizens are Gentle: They have their anger under control, they know when to clean out the temple and when to bear patiently with sin.
What Paul describes in the first two verse in this passage is simply this: That kingdom Citizens through the power of the Holy Spirit working in them are to be like Christ and to seek more of him.
REMEMBERING WHAT WE WHERE (3)
Paul is reminding Titus, the Church and us what it means to live as a Christian in the now. Additionally, Paul reminds all of us that before the cross of Christ, we were no better than the world around us and not different to it: We indulged in the same sins; held the same attitudes; and thought in the same way.
Verse three tells us that we were once subjected to the waves of culture and our feelings, going this way and that way; We were foolish, disobedient (to God) and enslaved to the passions and desires of our sinful hearts. Now it is so different: Hear Paul as he declares triumphantly that while we might have thought ourselves free, the reality was so different, we were slaves to ourselves. It is only now that we know true freedom. Freedom in Christ.
Yet, the freedom we know in Christ should never make us proud, it should never lead us to puff out Chest’s when we think of others, it should make us eternally humble. We should be like George Whitefield who said of the criminal on the way to the gallows: ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ These few verses call us to Trust always the Wisdom of Christ over the ways of the Wisdom of the World, by remembering what we once where so we can celebrate who’s we are now.
THANKFUL FOR WHAT WE ARE NOW (4-7)
The knowledge of betterment only through Christ comes from the realisation of Grace that is available through what Christ has done for us on the cross. Amazing. The Goodness and Kindness on display in verse four stand in stark contrast to the sinful state of humanity as described in verse 3, the Different? The Appearance of God our saviour.
Verse 5, goes on to affirm to us that Salvation and Goodness come not through any effort or action of our own, it comes only because God willed it and acted it in us through the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit working within us.
Verse 6 & 7 remind us of how gracious God is as he poured out abundantly on us the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. Who Justified us – made us right before God – by his grace. That is, Christ paid the price for our sin, a price that we could never pay and made us right before God. We moved only from the sinful state of enslavement to the desire of the Flesh because of Jesus, there is none of us in there. We have nothing on which to boast. Not only are we justified by Grace and made new, we become heirs of eternal life: We become part of Gods Family and receive the blessings that he promised to his Children.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13
So this day, as we hear these seven verse of scripture let us be reminded of what it means to be followers of Christ, how it calls us to be different to the normal, no matter what the normal may look life, how it calls us to stand out in the world and be known not for negativity or always speaking out but as a people who are Good Citizens, Kind, Active in Service, Gentle, Tolerant, Proper in Speech. A people who mirror Jesus. Let us Remember that which we once where so we can celebrate who’s we are now because of the gracious acts of God. And let us live as those who are heirs with Christ. Living for his Glory now, but eager and trusting for the inheritance that is still to come.