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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Eager To Do Good

Craig Smith - Eager To Do Good

Craig Smith - Eager To Do Good
TOPICS: The Good Life

Angela: Growing up, I’d say church was a top priority for our family. From a young age, I could recite many stories from Genesis, along with all the Old Testament, holy days, Ten Commandments, numerous Bible verses, but this head knowledge never quite made its way into my heart. During college, I walked away from church and anything related to God.

I never doubted his existence, I just wanted nothing to do with him. I wanted to live life my way, for me and no one else. If you had asked me if I was a Christian, I would not have hesitated to say, yes. Did I believe God was real? Absolutely. Did that belief change me? No. I spent years living a self-destructive life. I looked everywhere, except to God to fill the emptiness in my heart, only to find that emptiness grow.

Around the same time, God sent me an amazing gift, named Murray. Despite the difficulties that she faced in life, there was this joy and peace about her that defied logic. Through my darkest years, Murray was a steady light in the distance, always loving, always sharing the truth of Christ with me. Most memories I have of her include her Bible that was all tattered and marked up, falling apart from use. When I found myself pregnant and alone at 23, I knew that something had to change. This child deserves so much more than the life I was living. He deserved that joy and peace. So I began to search for what Murray had. I bought a Bible, and I started reading. I finally saw the God Murray had been telling me about. He was not this distant rule giver. He was my Savior and Redeemer, my Healer and Helper, my gracious and loving Father. I fell to my knees one night, tears streaming down my face, and I cried out to God. I was done living life my way. I wanted his.

Craig: Thank you, Angela. I’m so grateful for your honesty and transparency. In Mission Hills, we strive to be real, messy, and new. None of us are perfect but God is in the process of making us new and I just so appreciate Angela’s authenticity there about parts of her life that are messy. I’m also really grateful for Murray, for that woman who began to show her a different kind of life. I think we all probably have a Murray in our lives, whether we’ve paid attention to them or not is sort of the question. And here’s a really scary thought, some of us are Murray to other people. How scary is that thought? Can I tell you the most terrifying day of my life? It was June 10th, 1999. That was the day that Coletta and I drove our firstborn daughter home from the hospital. And they just gave her to us. It was the craziest thing. Like, and there was no instruction manual, there was no educational DVDs, just here’s a tiny person. Good luck with that.

And I remember driving south on I-25 to Castle Rock where we lived, and I remember being incredibly paranoid about every bump that we hit. I was like, is that gonna break her? Is that gonna break her? Is that gonna break her? So I was driving like 20 miles an hour, and people were backing up. It was just the first time I realized what that “Baby on Board” sign is for, I think it’s for new fathers who are driving so far under the speed limit that they’re ticking everybody off because we’re so afraid that we’re going to hurt that little, tiny human person that we’re suddenly kind of in charge of. But that wasn’t the really scary thing. The really scary thing was somewhere on that drive, I looked in the rearview mirror and I saw Coletta looking down at our daughter and I had this thought, and the thought was that “She’s gonna look up to me. Oh, no.” It was in that moment. It was actually it was terrifying, but it was also a pivotal moment in my life because I realized, in that moment, if she was going to look up to me to figure out what this whole life business is, then I need to be living a life that’s worth looking up to. And that was a really scary moment in my life. But as I said, it was a pivotal moment in my life.

And what we’re gonna lean into today is really that truth, that we have people that we look up to, but also, we are people that others are looking up to, to see a life worth living. The reality is I was a little bit late to the game that day. The truth of the matter is there were already people that were looking up to me and there are people that are looking up to all of us. If you’re a parent, obviously you have people looking up to you. If you’re a grandparent, you have people looking up to you. If you’re an older brother or sister, you got people looking up to you. If you’re a little bit farther ahead in school than another grade, you got underclassmen that are looking up to you. If you’re a coach or a teacher, you have people looking up to you. If you’re an owner of a business or a manager in a business, you have people looking up to you. If you’ve just been doing whatever it is that you do a little bit longer than somebody else, you’ve got people who are looking up to you. And if you’ve ever made the mistake of letting people know that you’re a follower of Jesus, and I mean that a little sarcastically, if other people know you’re a follower of Jesus, you have people…if they’re not looking up to you, they’re at least looking to you to figure out what that’s all about.

We all have these people who are looking to us, if not looking up to us. And so the question we want to wrestle with today is this, “Am I living in a way that’s worth looking up to? Am I living in a way that’s worth looking up to?” And we’re going to dig into a teaching from God’s Word that’s going to give us the surprising key to living that way. The one thing that if we can get ahold of it, if it can take root in us will actually allow us to live in a way that others can look up to. So why don’t you go and grab a Bible and join me, we’re going to be in Titus chapter 2 today, starting in verse 1. And while you’re making your way to Titus 2:1, well, let me just say this, if you’re joining us for the first time, the Book of Titus is a letter. It was written by a man named Paul to a man named Titus. And Titus was Paul’s problem solver. And Paul had sent Titus to the Island of Crete off the coast of Greece to do some work in the churches there because there were some people that had come into the churches on Crete, they were taking the churches off mission. They were teaching a bunch of things that had nothing to do with the Gospel that Christianity is centered around.

And so Paul had sent Titus and said, “Hey, you got to shut those people down.” We talked about that last week. And now we’re going to see what he says Titus needs to do instead of what they were doing. And he says this, he says, “You, however, you must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine, because you’re gonna shut them down, but you’re gonna fill that vacuum with teaching that is appropriate to sound doctrine.” And doctrine might be an unfamiliar word to some of you. The word doctrine literally just means a set of beliefs. Now, a sound doctrine or a sound set of beliefs, beliefs that can be trusted, beliefs that will hold us up if we put our trust in them. And he’s talking about the Gospel. He’s talking about the good news that God loves us, that even though we sin, that are separated from God by our sin, God loves us so much he sent his own Son to pay the price of our sin. And Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sin. He rose from the dead three days later. And he offers us forgiveness, he offers his relationship with God, and he offers us the eternal good life, simply by putting our faith in Jesus himself. That’s the Gospel he’s talking about. That is a trustworthy truth. That is a trustworthy set of beliefs.

And so he says, to Titus, “You have to teach what’s appropriate,” meaning what’s in line with. In other words, he’s basically saying, “Hey, you’ve got to teach people to do what lines up with the Gospel.” He says, “Live in a way that lines up with the Gospel.” That’s what he’s saying Titus has to do. He has to teach people to live in a way that lines up with the Gospel because the false teachers weren’t doing that. They were teaching people to live in ways that had nothing really to do with the Gospel. They were saying, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, the Gospel is really, really important. That’s great. But you also have to get circumcised. You got to do that. And you also have to eat kosher. You got to do that. And you also got to go through this ritual and that ritual. You got to do that.” And Paul says, “None of that’s appropriate, none of that lines up with the simple Gospel message.” So he says, “You got to teach people to live in a way or to do the things that line up with the Gospel itself.”

Okay, well, what does that mean? And so what he does next is he kind of goes through a series of groups of people. And what we need to understand is that with each group, he deals with certain things that they might be tempted to do that don’t line up with the Gospel. And he wants to encourage them to change that in the line up with the Gospel itself in their lives and in their actions. Now, he’s gonna hit almost all of us in one way or another in this list. And so he says, “So teach the older men…” And by the way, older men in those days was anybody over 30. So a lot of us qualify, and some of us have qualified for longer than we’ve been younger men, actually, at this point. “So teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.” He says, “Here’s kind of what the older men need to focus on.” He says, they need to be temperate. Now, temperate, literally just means not getting drunk. He says teach the older men they shouldn’t be getting drunk.

Now, you need to understand that this was kind of a problem not just for older men but for everybody in the first century, especially on Crete. If you remember back to your grade school days, where you study Greek mythology, remember those gods so you had Zeus and Poseidon and Apollo and those kind of things? Well, in the first century, the worship of those gods had kind of been on the decline for a long time. You didn’t have a lot of people doing a lot of worship of those gods, it was still here and there, but it wasn’t a big deal. But there was one god in particular that people still worshiped a lot. It was one god that people really were pretty keen to worship. And that was the god, Bacchus. And if you can remember back to your middle school days, and you maybe when you studied this, Bacchus was the god of? Anybody? He was the god of wine. And as you might imagine, worshiping Bacchus remained popular, because the way you worship the god of wine was to drink a lot of his stuff, right?

And so this was actually still an ongoing issue for a lot of people. So he says, “Hey, the older man, I don’t care what the culture is doing. You can either stop going to festivals, you need to not be getting drunk.” He says, “You need to be instead, you need to be worthy of respect, you need to live in a way that invites respect, that invites people to look up to you and figure out what this life business is all about.” Now, I remember a man in my life early on that was that he was somebody that I couldn’t help but respect. He was worthy of it. His name was Coach Williams. He’s my track and field coach. I was a pole vaulter and a sprinter in high school. And I just revered Coach Williams. I just looked up to him. I respected him because he was worthy of it. He’s just a man’s man, okay? I mean, man, he was solid, he was stable, he had a deep, low voice that I’ve never been able to emulate, but it just kind of commanded attention. And yeah, he could shout, you could hear him across the whole field or the stadium. And he kept everybody on their toes. He made everybody work hard. He never let any of us slack off. It was constant. And we all respected him. And it’s interesting, Coach Williams was a follower of Jesus, and every time that we had a track meet, the whole team gathered around him, and we had a prayer.

And some of you are like, “Oh, I wish that we were still in those days.” We weren’t in those days in those days, either. Actually, you weren’t allowed to do that. In fact, I remember a couple times the administration came to him and said, “Hey, you can’t make the team pray with you.” And he said, “I don’t.” They said, “Then why is every member of the team there?” “Because I don’t know.” But I knew. So even the non-believers, even the guys who didn’t want anything to do with church, who didn’t want anything to do with Jesus, they wanted something to do with Coach Williams. They looked up to him. They respected him. He was worthy of respect. And so they were all there because he was what Paul saw. He was worthy of respect, in spite of all of his pushing us and challenging us, he was also deeply kind and he cared about each of us individually. And we knew that and we felt it. He was worthy of respect.

So he says, “Teach the older men not to get drunk and to be worthy of respect, to be self-controlled.” Now, that’s an interesting word. If you look into the original Greek, what that means is that they need to control themselves. It’s actually not that complex. So here’s the thing, sometimes… By the way, we’re past the election, so is everybody’s done being offended with everything? Because I’m about to offend some people. Sometimes, older men are not self-controlled. Sometimes older men cannot control all the parts of themselves. The tongue, in particular, is one thing I noticed that sometimes older men get to this point where like, “I’m allowed to say anything, I think, to anybody I want, at any time.” There’s a reason why we talk about grumpy old men because older men don’t necessarily do a great job of controlling their tongues. But he’s not just talking about controlling their tongues. It’s about controlling all parts of themselves. It’s also you know, their mouths that are taking in too much wine, it’s the ears that are listening to things, it’s the eyes that are looking at things they shouldn’t be looking at.

And ultimately, one of the other issues that was going on in the first century was a lot of sexual promiscuity. And so he says, “You got to be self-controlled.” You never age out of the need to be self-controlled. He says, “The older men they need to be sound,” meaning solid, or consistent in faith, trusting in Jesus, in love, loving others, and in endurance. It’s another issue I think older men can struggle with sometimes that they get to the point of like, “I’ve done my time. I don’t really need to keep serving others. Other people can take over that.” One thing I love, I get to see it every week here at the Littleton Campus of Mission Hills is there’s a group of older men who come and they help maintain the building. They get in the lifts, and they change lights that are crazy high and they do projects around the streets. And they keep this place looking fantastic for people who come here to worship on the weekends and throughout the week for all kinds of ministries. This group of older men has not gotten tired of doing good. They’re enduring, even though they’ve gotten older. And I love that example. They’re giving an example of exactly what Paul’s talking about here.

And at the bottom line, really, what he’s saying is that older man, you need to live lives that are worth looking up to. Live lives that when people look at you, they see a life worth living. And he says in verse 3, he says, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way that they live, not to be slanderers, or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” He says, “Likewise,” he says, “this is the same obligation that we find coming to older women as well, that they’re supposed to live reverent lives.” And that word, reverent, basically just means to be focused on living in a way that lines up with your beliefs. So again, what we’re being told here is teach them to live in a way that lines up with their belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He says, “They’re to be reverent in the way they live.” And he gives a couple of examples, he said, “They’re not to be slanderers.”

I remember a few weeks ago in our series on “Toxic Talk” we talked about slandering is basically it’s tearing people down. You could also translate that word as gossips. And listen, I’m not saying that older women are more likely to be gossips than any other group. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is… Nah, nah, nah, nah. Yeah, older men can be grumpy, maybe older women can be a little more prone to being gossips but this is something we all face. We have to pay attention to all these instructions for all of us, right? He says, “Don’t be tearing people down with your talk.” He says, “Don’t be addicted to much wine.” Again, that apparently was a non-gender-specific problem. He says, “But to teach what is good.” And that actually is a very interesting word. In the original Greek, that word only shows up one time in the whole Bible. Actually, I had to go reading some other Greek literature to find other examples to get a handle on what it means. Because it doesn’t mean to teach what is good by talking about, it’s literally more like, teach what is good by being good. Does that make sense? It’s this huge word in the Greek.

But the idea is here, it’s talking about showing people the good life by living the good life. It’s an example based word. And really, what he’s basically saying is this, he’s saying, “Hey, older women, you need to model what you want others to mimic.” Model what you want others to mimic, because people will do what we do. Sometimes they’ll do it consciously, and sometimes they’ll do it unconsciously, but when they’re looking up to us, for whatever reason, their temptation is always going to be to get in line with us and to live the way that we’re living. So he says, “You need to model the life that you want others to mimic.” So here’s an interesting question, as I look what he says to both older men and older women here, I want you to do something for me, I want you to think about someone that you’re frustrated with. Just look right at me, it’s really important. Don’t look around, just look right at me. Think about something you’re frustrated with. And I don’t mean that you’re frustrated because they’re not doing something that you really want them to do for your sake. I mean somebody who’s not living life in the way that you know God intends it to be lived and who’s not experiencing the good life that you know God intends for them to experience.

I want you to think about somebody, and I want you to ask yourself this question, “Who’s not doing what I want them to do for their sake? And is my failure to model part of the problem? Is my failure to model part of the problem? Have they not seen in me what I wish I could see in them?” It’s an important question because sometimes that’s the problem. Sometimes we tell people, but we have not demonstrated for people. That’s what Paul’s getting at here, be someone who teaches what is good by being an example of good. Teach them the good life by living the good life. And he says this, he says, “Then, they can urge the younger woman,” I love that he says, “Then.” After they have been that example, then they can urge, and urge is a talk word. He says, “You can start talking to the younger women, but only after you’ve modeled what you’re asking them to mimic,” right? If they haven’t been given the example, then you can’t bother telling them or admonishing them or rebuking them or any of those other stronger words, you can’t urge them to do something that you haven’t. In other words, it’s basically saying, “Hey, you can’t demand what you haven’t displayed.” You can’t demand what you haven’t demonstrated. You can’t get on them for something that you haven’t shown them.

There’s another interesting question. Think of someone in your life that you’re struggling with, who is a point of conflict and maybe you’re deeply concerned about the trajectory of their life right now and ask yourself this, “Am I demanding something I’m not displaying?” Maybe I’m full of talk. I’m telling them what to do but maybe I haven’t displayed what it looks like enough yet. This is then and only then after you’ve done that, can you urge the younger women to love their husbands and their children to be self-controlled, pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands? Oh, boy. Kind of some red flags there, right? Especially like, you know, to be busy at home and to be subject to their husbands. So, is Paul saying that women can only do their stuff in the home, they have to stay at home, and they have to do everything and anything that their husband tells them? That’s not what Paul’s getting at here.

In the first century, there was a rise of something called The New Roman Woman. And the New Roman Woman looked around and they looked at the men, who are going off to these wild parties, and they were getting drunk and they were sleeping around, it was often one of the consequences of those festivals. They said, “Well, if the men can do it, so can we.” And so they were out doing it. And it was being neglect for children and sometimes it would mean being sexual unfaithfulness. And so when he talks here about being busy at home, he’s talking about stay with your family. Don’t be going out and doing these things that cause you to neglect them. When he says, “Be subject to their husbands,” there’s a bit there about loyalty, that remaining loyal to and faithful to your husband, and not to other men, not giving yourself to other men. And it’s interesting, all of this has a purpose. And now Paul brings us to that purpose. Before we get to upset about specific things that he’s told any of us, he says this, he says, “And you’re going to do all this so that no one will malign the Word of God.” That’s the ultimate purpose.

Okay, hang on a second there. Before we talk about this, the business of maligning the Word of God, let’s ask ourselves a question, “Am I distracted by something that the world offers, that’s leading me away from the good life that God calls me to?” See, that’s what he’s saying to these younger women, it’s what he’s saying to the older women, it’s what he’s saying to the older men as well. He’s saying, “Don’t let the world’s version of the good life distract you from a truly good life, from God’s version of the good life.” Remember, God says, “The good life is all about giving good to others,” the world says, “The good life is about getting good.” And it says, “Oh, this would be good, and yes, you should do this, and this and this and this, oh, these are all good things, you should be involved in those.” And what Paul’s saying is, “Hey, don’t let the world’s version of the good life distract you from the truly good life that God calls us to.”

And so here’s a question, “Are there any cheap imitations of the real thing that are distracting me? Are there any cheap imitations distracting me from the real thing?” Because what the world says, “Oh, that’s good, sleeping around, that’s good. Getting drunk, that’s good. Having a good time, that’s good. Partying, that’s good. Doing these things, that’s good.” And there’s sometimes there’s a temptation even among us to go, “I know that’s not the real good in life,” but sometimes it comes at us so much that we find ourselves going, “Well, maybe it is a little good, and maybe I’ll just take a step in that direction, and then another step.” And pretty soon we’re in a place where we’re not experiencing the good life because we filled our lives with things that the world says is good, and now we’re looking at them and go, “But these are cheap imitations.” We all struggle with that on a regular basis. There’s no way that you can live in this world and not face that temptation. So ask yourself the question, “Are there any cheap imitations distracting me from the real thing of doing good for others?”

Again, Paul says, “There’s a reason for this.” And some of it is so that you will experience the good life, but also, there’s something even more important at stake. He says, “Do this so that no one will malign the Word of God.” In other words, so that no one looks down on the Gospel because of the way that we live. Here’s the reality, this is a scary reality, but we seem to face it, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re not just a follower of Jesus, you’re the clearest picture of Jesus that some people will ever see. Anybody find that intimidating? Online, go ahead and type in super intimidated, right? Yeah, we’re the clearest picture of Jesus most people will ever see. We don’t know what Jesus looked like. I know we got these pictures that float around out there. It’s always interesting to me how often the pictures of Jesus show him as white, with long, straight hair, which is kind of an odd thing for a Jewish man.

So we know we can’t trust those pictures, so where can we look? Where can we get a true picture of who Jesus is? Where can the world look to see who Jesus really is? And the answer is me. The answer is you. Every single one of us is to the world a picture of Jesus. They’re looking up to us to see who Jesus ultimately is. Here’s a really hard question, “Am I making it easier for someone to reject the Gospel? Am I living life in a way that’s making it easier for them to say no to following Jesus, making it easier for them to say, I don’t need to put my trust in this Gospel business? Am I living in a way that’s making it easier for someone to malign, to look down on, to reject the Gospel?” I’m gonna be honest with you, I realized as I wrestled through this, that I have a pretty easy answer. Here’s how I’m doing it. I’m not a good enough neighbor. I mean, I try to be friendly and smile and wave and have a conversation here and there but I realized this week, I’m not being the kind of neighbor that God calls me to be. We had two different people move out of kind of our extended community, and one of the families I realized, I don’t know their names. Yeah, I’ve said, hi, I’ve had a couple conversations, but I don’t even know what their names are.

So we’re beginning to change that where we’re reaching out to the new families that are coming in and getting…try to connect with them because I realized that they know that I’m a follower of Jesus. Worse, they may know that I’m a pastor, which means that when they look to me that they need to see an example of someone who cares deeply about their good. And I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of that. And maybe that’s it for you, or maybe it’s something else but that’s the question, how am I making it easier for people to reject the Gospel? How am I making it possible for someone to look down on the Gospel message itself to reject following Jesus? He says, verse 6, he says, “Similarly, in the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled,” which is interesting. The young men only get one, just be self-controlled. And I don’t know if that’s because he’s like, you know, you guys are so good overall, but this is really the only thing you need to work on, or if he’s looking at the young men going, “Oh, boy.” How about this? Let’s focus on this one.

All right, okay. And I can say, listen, I didn’t raise boys, we have two girls, so I can’t say that I fully understand this. But I can tell you this, my girls, we had issues raising them but at no point did my small, little girls ever headbutt me. And no point did they ever bite me hard enough to draw blood. I have friends who had little boys that had to deal with both of those things. We had trouble when my daughters were teenagers, we had the same kinds of struggles that everybody has, but they never offered to fistfight me, and I got friends with teenage boys who have had that. You want to take it outside, Dad? What? That’s a lack of self-control. And I can tell you as a younger man, that is an issue that we all have to push into. It’s not something that comes naturally to younger men. And at the same time, it is the foundation. Everything else that follows that he said to everybody else really depends upon whether or not you’re able to exercise self-control, right?

So he says, “Encourage the young men to be self-controlled.” Over and over again, in this section, he’s saying, “Hey, no matter who you are, do whatever you have to do to live a life that’s worth looking up to so that no one will look down on the Gospel.” He says this, he says in verse 7, he says, “In everything, set them an example by doing what is good.” And then that’s interesting, because, you know, you start with older men, and then he had older women, and then he had younger women, now he’s got younger men. He’s kind of…everybody sits in there somewhere, right? And he says, “Okay, Titus, now I’m talking to you, and I want you to set them, all of those people we’ve talked about, I want you to set them an example by doing what is good.” He says, “I’m not just sending you there to teach, I’m not just sending you there to urge them to live these lives that are worthy of looking up to, to live lives that will keep people from looking down on the Gospel, you’ve got to set the example. They have to see in you an example of the kind of life that you’re calling them to live.”

So he says, “In everything, set them an example by doing what is good,” by serving others, by caring for others, by advancing the Gospel. He says, “In your teaching, show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” I love that. Because many of those who oppose you, and I don’t think he’s talking here just about false teachers in the church, he includes those, but he’s talking about the world who might be tempted to look down on the church. He says, “I want you to set an example for the whole church so that as a whole church, you live in such a way that no one has anything bad to say about us.” How about this? Let’s flip that around and go, how about what if this…what if we lived in a way that they had so much good to say about us that they’re willing to overlook anything bad they might be tempted to say? What if they were more impressed with how much good we had for them?

You know, a couple of years ago, I was in Peru with Compassion International…and I’d always known Compassion as an organization that did the child sponsorship stuff, right? They take care of kids, and we sponsor a number of kids. But we were there to visit their church planting operations. And I thought it was interesting, I didn’t know that Compassion did church planting. And they said, “Yeah, basically, you know, we’re committed to working in child poverty, we’re going to end childhood poverty, but we do it through a local church. We always do. We’re committed to that.” And he said, “We have these communities around the world that are in abject poverty, some of the worst poverty on the planet, but there’s no church that we can work through in that community, so we realized we’re gonna have to plant churches in those communities.” And so they have this system where they partner with a U.S. church to basically pay for the building of it, and then they work with local denominations, and they get a pastor raised up and they do this incredible ministry. And I said, “Oh, that’s interesting.” You know, in America, United States of America, 80% of church plants fail. Do you know that? Eighty percent, which means, 3 years after a church plant starts, 80% of them are defunct.

So I said, “I’m curious, Compassion, you’ve been doing this all and it’s been for 12 years, like, oh, that’s a good test case. What’s your success rate?” They said, “100%.” I said, “No, it’s not.” I said, “You must not have understood the question.” I said, “You know, 80% of church plants fail in America, here, and around the world when you do this, because you’re in a lot of different cultures, so there’s no way it’s 100%. What percentage three years in are still in existence?” And he said, “Well, that’s not our standard.” They said, “We want to know five years in that they’re still in existence and that they’re growing, and people are continuing to say yes to Jesus, and they’re self-sufficient financially.” And I said, “You’re telling me that 100% of the churches you planted over the last 12 years are that?” And they said, “Yeah,” and I went, “Okay, talk to me. Show me this.”

And it was fascinating, and I came to know exactly why it is because, see, what happens is they go into this community where there is no church, but there’s all this poverty and they begin to enroll kids in that community in their program, they get sponsors for them. And those kids are given food, they’re given clothing, they’re given medical care, they’re giving them education, and they’re giving them the Gospel. And while they’re doing that, they’re building the church, but they don’t have any church services. And then eventually that church gets finished, and they open the doors for service, and typically, the service is flooded with people from the community who come and go, “We have no idea what this Christianity business is all about, but you guys have rescued our children. You guys have saved hundreds of lives and families. We don’t know what we think about Jesus, but his people are impressing us. They’re so good, and we want to know why they’re so good.” That’s why those churches succeed because they have a reputation for good.

That’s what Paul’s talking about here, he says, “So that no one will have anything bad to say about us,” because they got too much good to say about us. He says, “Teach the slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted.” And don’t get hung up on the slave-master language. It was the social institution of that day. But what he’s talking about here is how we deal with people who are in authority over us, whether that’s a boss, and an employee, or whether it’s government officials and citizens, he says, “Live in a way that people will look up to and then past you to this God that you say is good and is causing you to do good.” He says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation…” No, I’m sorry, he says, “So that in every way, they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive, for the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”

He says, “The goal here isn’t to convince anybody that you’re good. The goal here is to convince everybody that God is good. That when you live this way, you make the Gospel itself attractive.” And it is the Gospel that has offered salvation to all people. No one is excluded from this offer of the good life that God always intended us. Nobody is excluded from the opportunity to be forgiven of their sins and have eternal life with God by faith in Jesus. He says, “But your job is not to save anybody, it’s to make the Gospel attractive, by the way that you live your life.” He says, “This Gospel teaches us to say no to ungodliness and to worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age. While we wait for the blessed hope, the certain hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” I love that.

He says, “Everything that God has done for us has been done for two purposes, number one, to make for himself a people of his very own.” And if you’re a follower of Jesus, understand you are God’s treasured possession, do you know that? He went through all this because of his love for you. And he loves to call you his son or his daughter. He loves to call you his child. But that’s not the only reason he went through all this. The second reason he says, “Is that the people who are his very own who are eager to do what is good.” He’s gone through all of this and he’s given us this blessed hope that we know is gonna come true so that we can live lives now that are eager to do good. Not just to do good occasionally, every now and then, here and there we’ll do this good or, “Yeah, okay, I’ll do that,” but no, we’re eager to get after it. We are hungry to do good. We are looking for opportunities to do good. I love it.

Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus, to do good things, which God prepared in advance for us to do. God has scattered good things for us to do so that we can make the Gospel attractive. The problem is that we’re not as eager to do good as we should because if we were as eager to do good as we should, we would see those opportunities, we would seize those opportunities and in doing that, we would make the Gospel all the more attractive. Here’s the bottom line, what he’s saying throughout this whole thing, you know, live lives that are worth looking up to, ultimately though, he says, “It’s our eagerness to do good that makes the Gospel attractive.” That’s the bottom line. Our eagerness to do good makes the Gospel attractive. But if we’re gonna be completely honest with each other, if I’m gonna be honest with you, I would say I know I’m not as eager to do good as I should be. I mean, I want to do good, but I don’t know that I’m as hungry to get after it as I should be. So if you’re listening to this and you’re going, “Okay, I get that, our eagerness to do good makes the Gospel attractive, but I’m not as hungry for it. I’m not as eager to get after it as I should be. How can I grow in that?” Let me give you four thoughts.

If you want to grow in your eagerness to do good, and in that way to make the Gospel more attractive, number one, pray a dangerous prayer. We don’t usually pray dangerous prayers. We usually pray pretty safe prayers, don’t we? I mean, I know at meals, I mean what do you say? I was taught to say, “And bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.” And that seems kind of old school, so when I…I modernized it. And so I prayed in front of my family, “God uses food to nourish our bodies.” Until a couple years ago, my youngest daughter went, “Hey, I’m just curious, do you think if you don’t pray that, our digestive systems don’t function the way they’re supposed to and food stopped?” And I was like, “No. Shoot,” and now I’m all messed up.

But that’s the kind of prayers we pray, like, “God, do the very thing that you designed our bodies to do,” and they do automatically. That’s a safe prayer, right? Here’s the dangerous prayer. God, Lord, make me more eager to do good, that I give you permission to come in through your Holy Spirit and to mess with me, to stir up in me a longing, a hunger for doing good for others that’s not there now. Lord, make me more eager to do good.” That’s a dangerous prayer. I promise you it is a prayer God is longing to answer but it’s going to mess you up. You pray that and one of these is gonna happen is you’re gonna start seeing opportunities to do good, and you’re gonna have to make the choice much more frequently now than you did before of whether or not you’re going to take those opportunities. So that’s one thing you can do. You can pray a dangerous prayer.

Another way you can become more eager to do good is you could hang out with dangerous people. Hang out with people that you look up to because they live a life worth living up to. Hang out with those people because they will inspire you to live more like them. And also, though, there’s dangerous people all around you who are looking up to you. We’ve talked about that. Every one of us has those people who are looking up to us. And just becoming aware that that is happening, if for no other reason, we have people who know that we’re followers of Jesus, and they’re looking to us to figure out what that’s all about, becoming aware that we’re hanging out with those people who are looking up to us can have an incredible impact in the way that we begin to live. As I looked at my daughter in the backseat 21 years ago, and I thought if she’s gonna look up to me, I need to make sure I’m living a life worth living up to. Hang out with dangerous people that you look up to, and that are looking up to you.

Third thing do is this, participate in a dangerous church. Participate in a dangerous church that is constantly reminding you of why we’re here, that never let you forget that. The church, it’s not a building we come to. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. It’s people who got engaged in the mission of God. If God hasn’t taken us out of the world, it’s because he intends for us to be making a difference in it. And one of the ways that we do that is by living lives that do good for others, which makes the Gospel more attractive because the Gospel is the greatest good we have to offer anyone. But our lives set the stage for that. And the fourth thing you can do if you want to become more eager to do good is remember what’s at stake. Eternity is at stake. The Gospel is the only means for anybody to be forgiven of their sins. We’ve all sinned, we’ve all fallen short, we’re all separated from God by our sin, and the Gospel is the only way to be forgiven of our sins and have the eternal good life with God. And our lives, our lives and the goodness of our lives that are willing to do good for others, that’s what makes that Gospel attractive in the here and now. It’s what Paul is saying. So people’s eternity is at stake. Remember that if you want to be more eager to do good. Bottom line, the whole thing is our eagerness to do good makes the Gospel attractive. So pray with me:

God, we thank you for the Gospel. We thank you for the good news that we can be saved, we can be forgiven, we can be set free from guilt and shame and we can have life with you that begins now and goes on forever. And it’s no cheap imitation, Lord. You want to give us the real good stuff, hope, and joy, and peace, and happiness, and meaning, and significance. The world offers imitations. You offer the real thing and it’s all ours by faith in Jesus and we give you thanks for that, Lord. And Lord, we give you thanks for the opportunity that we have to give that greatest of goods to others. And we confess to you that we’re not, we’re not as eager to do good for others as we’re called to be but there’s teaching from your Word, but we acknowledge the truth of what your servant Paul said that our eagerness to do good makes the Gospel attractive.

And so Lord, we ask that you would stir up in us a hunger for doing good for others, an eagerness to do good for others, to seize those good works that you’ve laid out in front of us. We ask that you stir up an eagerness for that, Lord, that we might make the Gospel attractive. And then in that way, the Gospel might be like flame to a moth. The world would be drawn to it. They could not help themselves but come into it. That they would see your goodness reflected in a tiny way in us. And they would come to know you, Lord, as your people, we pray for those who are listening to this service right now, who don’t have a relationship with you, but they are on the edge there. They’re drawn by you. Maybe it’s something that they’ve seen in someone or in some way you’ve been stirring in them. Lord, we pray for those people who don’t have that relationship but are moving in that direction.

And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment. And maybe that you heard for the first time in a way that connected today what this Gospel business that the church is about is really all about. It’s the good news that God loves you. He sent his Son to die for the wrong that we’ve done, the sin that we’ve committed. He rose from the dead three days later and he offers forgiveness and eternal life by faith in him. And if you’ve never said yes to that gift of God, if you’ve never said yes to following Jesus and everything that comes from, you can right here, right now. Here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have this conversation with God right now. Just say this to God:

I have done wrong. I’ve committed sin… I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and I know that you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, eternal life. I’m putting my trust in you. So Jesus, right here, right now, I’m saying yes to faith in you. I’m saying yes to following you. Jesus, I’ll follow you from now until forever. Amen.

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