Mike Novotny - My Good and God's Glory
And if you're the kind of person who loves someone that isn't so sure about God or the Christian faith or the claims of Jesus, this is an answer I don't want you to miss. It turns out when you do good, when you do the hard thing, it's just not for your good, it might just be for God's glory. And that's why I want to turn to a section of the Bible called the book of Titus; this letter that the apostle Paul wrote to his friend, Titus. He's going to lay out in this section a bunch of really specific and really hard commands to a bunch of demographics in the church.
So if you're an older guy, an older woman, a younger guy, a younger woman, a pastor like me, if you're going off to a different job, he's going to speak specific things to each one of us and woven in between those commandments is a great reminder, a great motivation, for all of us to do the hard thing to honor God. So we're going to jump into Titus 2 today and we're going to kick it off with verse one. Here's what it says: "You however," this is spoken to Titus, "must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance".
So Paul starts with the older men in the church. I studied the Greek word that he uses; it appears to be guys in the church who are 50 years old and older. And I skimmed through our church directory and ran a report and it turns out that 28 of them are older men. And I'm pretty proud of those guys. Did you know on the average Sunday at our church, out of those 28 guys, guess how many of them we see gathered here for worship? Twenty-four. In a church culture where maybe half of the people show up, out of the older men who've called this church their church home, 86 percent of them are here Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. And if you're one of those guys, if you're a bit further along in your following Jesus, here's exactly what God wants you to know: He says be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, love, and endurance.
Now I asked myself the question the other day, why would Paul say that to them? I mean, all these commands are really for everyone in the church so why when he thought about older, Christian men would he choose those things? And here's my best guess. Ladies, here's something you should really, really know about guys, that we thrive, we feel so good when we feel respect. Like when you're the kid in high school and some girl notices you, she respects you, she's interested in you, that fills a guy's sails. When the coach says something about the tackle, about the shot, about our work ethic, those words of respect we don't forget 30 years later.
When a company recognizes and respects our skills, when they offer us a promotion, something as small as when our wife asks us to open a jar at home and we can do it, like there's something about that as a man that feels so good. When a man finds respect in the world, when women are attracted to him, when other men look up to him, when we can bench this much, it can be the smallest little thing but respect is like gas in a man's tank. But do you know what happens when men get older? We get less respect. As our bodies age and our testosterone slows down, we can't do athletically what we used to do; our strength fails us really quickly. Our minds lose their sharpness and we can't remember what we once did.
The company doesn't see us as an asset anymore but as a financial liability because of our years of experience and they offer us a severance package and they're done with us. Marketers and politicians care about the youth vote and the millennial market share and they stop caring about what we think. The woman who was once infatuated with us when we were high school sweethearts now isn't that impressed with us and she doesn't laugh at the jokes and maybe she's not interested anymore in intimacy and when that happens at home, when a man is overlooked and he feels useless, here's what happens: He gets angry.
What's the stereotype of old men? The grumpy old man, right? Do you ever hear your grandma called the grumpy old woman? Like now why does that stereotype exist? Because when men don't feel respect, they lash out in anger. They lose their self-control. They yell about kids these days and technology that's always changing and culture that they can't keep up with. They scream at the newspaper and politicians and the kids who are playing on their yard. When we don't have respect filling our hearts, it overflows in a kind of man that God doesn't want us to be. Be worthy of respect. In other words, be a little bit like this guy That is one of the four Tom's from our church, Tom Plamann.
I won't give away his age but he is an older man. But here's the interesting part: That little guy he's holding? That's not his grandson; that's his godson. When's the last time when a couple chose a godmother and godfather did you see them choose a man that old? I can't think of anyone. But when little Henry's mom and dad had their first child, they looked to Tom and his wife, Pam, because they were worthy of respect. And as a man who works with Tom throughout the week here at church, I can tell you they were right. He's not a perfect man but he's a man who seeks God, who loves the next generation, who is self-controlled. He has endured in faith and love and he has been a blessing for generations to come.
So brothers, here's what God says to you: Be worthy of respect. And what about older women? Well, thanks for asking; that's what Paul talks about next. Here's what he says in verse three: "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good". According to my research, members of our church family, 31 of them, are quote, "older women," 50 and up. And if you're curious, their names are... no, no, no. I talk about a lot of things up here but I'm not going there, right? So if you're an older woman, here's what God says: Be reverent, don't be a slanderer or addicted to much wine, but teach what's good. Which, once again, begs the question: Why those things?
I mean, no one should slander, no one should be addicted to alcohol. Why would Paul say that to them? Here's my theory: I think that sinful words and too much wine are uniquely tempting to older women. Often, younger women are so overwhelmed and busy with school and their careers and raising exhausting kids that they don't have the kind of time they used to to hang out with their friends. But as a woman gets a little bit older, if she has children, as they learn to take care of themselves or leave the house, as her career slows down and she doesn't have to get up the next morning, she has this wonderful opportunity to get together with her closest friends and the wine is poured and the words start to flow and in those moments, older women are very tempted to become devils. It's actually the word that Paul used.
Do you know the Greek word for slanderer sounds like this, diablos. The exact same word that describes the devil who slandered God. In the Greek language, diablos is someone who uses their words to damage someone else's reputation. The devil tried to do it with God the Father and sometimes older women do that to many others. Verse four: "Then," if they're sober and self-controlled, "then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands so that no one will malign the word of God".
Why do we need godly, self-controlled, older women? Because the next generation of women desperately needs them. I mean, tell me, ladies, who in our culture is going to teach young women to be godly? Who out there is teaching them to be self-controlled with their sexuality so they don't throw away and damage something that God cares about so much? Who's teaching them that self-expression and trying to get your way is not what makes a marriage happy in the long run? Who's teaching career driven, ambitious women not to be so busy at work that they don't have any energy to be busy at home? They give everything to men and women at work who use them for profit and won't remember their names a year after their gone instead of the closest family members that they have.
Why would we do it? It happens all the time and younger women need, they need, older women who aren't slurring their words and who won't break their trust to teach them what's good. At least, that's what some of the women from our church told me. I sent an email to a few women who had survived their teens and twenties with their faith and I asked them what they thought this culture would not teach the teenage girls at our church, would not teach the newlyweds and twenty-somethings and those launching their careers. And I received some really powerful answers but I think Rebecca's was one of my favorites. Here's what she said.
Rebecca said, "God's ways are so countercultural. How could it be better to seek to serve first? How could it be better to strive to be humble and be the first to lay down pride? How could it be better to look for what I did wrong rather than focusing on the wrong that others did to me? Women are powerful," I love this line, "but not in the way the world thinks. I believe there is so much power when women make God the center of their life and living to please him their number one goal. It is not easy but potentially, insanely powerful".
So countercultural! But if the older women from our church can model it, if they can be examples of the faith, they can teach and they can urge from a perspective that a male pastor like me never could. Your godliness is so good for the church, which is why we pray you have self-control. Which is why we pray you have a glass of wine, maybe two, but then no more. Which is why we pray you act more like Jesus than the devil because the next generation is so desperate for your wisdom.
Ladies, just like the older guys in our church, we need you and God wants you. And what about the younger guys? Well, thanks for that transitional question; that's actually what Paul talks about next in verse six. This is my favorite verse, by the way. Verse six is: "Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled". And that's it. This is so funny like, "Oh yeah, the old men, they've got to be temperate and be self-controlled and worthy of respect and sound of faith. And the older women, you know, not too much wine, teach what's good, be reverent. The young guys? Just don't, right"? That's like all the apostle Paul wants to say to men under fifty. I know you're thinking about it, I know you saw it on YouTube. Just don't, alright? I know, I know you could play Call of Duty all night and live on Hot Cheetos and Monster drinks like all your buddies, just don't.
I know you can eat that, I know you can drink that, I know you could quit that, I know you could hit that, I know you could smoke that or toke that, but just don't. Be self-controlled, don't be like all of your buddies, end of story. Which is kind of what young men need to hear, right? Guys, Christianity is not rocket science. Obey God, come to church, love people, you know what to do. Just don't think that being a young guy gives you an excuse not to do it. Control yourself. There will be a thousand shiny things to chase, so many years where you can totally ignore mom and dad, it will be so easy to say whatever when your father's concern that you're disconnecting from the word. Just don't.
A billion guys have walked that path before you. They're class, you know who's the idiot in the book of Proverbs? The young guy because he always thinks he's going to be okay. He crosses more lines, he does things that his mom and dad and his pastor taught him not to do, and he thinks he's going to be fine but he won't and God has a father's heart and he doesn't want to see young men on the next spiritual YouTube video crashing and burning their life. Your life matters; it matters to God. Check out the next verse, verse seven. Speaking to Pastor Titus, Paul says, "In everything, set the young guys an example by doing what's good. 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".
That's my job. That's the hard job but that's the good work I get to do. There are young guys who will learn what's godly not because dad told them, there's always that emotional gap, but because of what their pastor does. So I'll try to live it, guys, and I'll try to teach it really clearly. I might drop some like Greek words on you on occasion but I'll try to keep these talks simple. So young guys, let me speak directly to you right now. Here's as simple as I can keep it: Don't forget about your roots. I see so many kids who are raised by a mom and dad who are not perfect but they connect them to Jesus. They gather in church, they go to groups like catechism class or Bible study. They grow in the word and pray before meals. They give generously and because of those roots, a kid ends up with faith. He's connected. He believes in Jesus. He prays and he talks to him.
But so many young guys think that if they take away all the roots, they're still going to have the same kind of fruit. It doesn't work with trees but the devil dupes young guys thinking that it can happen with souls. So here's my simple message: Don't uproot yourself, alright? Even when you're going off to college, even when mom isn't nagging you, go to church. Even though all your buddies are doing whatever, take some time to group with those who share your values and your love for Jesus.
Even though you could play Fortnite all night, put the controller down and open your Bible and tap into something that's going to make you happier than just for the moment. When you're broke, still give something and go and tell someone about Jesus. Because if you keep those roots, God will give you what you really want: Love, peace, joy, self-control. Got it? Alright. Here's the last verses we're going to cover today, Titus 2:9-10. He says, "Teach 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 so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive".
Now I wish I had time to tell you how different ancient Greek slavery was to the slavery we tend to think of. I'll tell you right now, it wasn't like kidnapping, race-based, you can't escape. It was really different back then. I don't have time to go into it so let me just compare it to this: Servants or slaves and their masters in the ancient world had so much in common with workers and their bosses in the modern world. So how many of you like me, you have to work this week? Yah, most of you. Alright, here's what God's saying to you: Be the kind of employee that you would want to have if you were the boss, alright?
Leadership is hard, it's thankless, everyone wants that position until they get it. And then you're in charge of the schedules and whether people are responsible or not. Then you have to pick up the pieces when someone drops the ball. Then you have to deal with all the criticism for every decision you make so think for a second what it's like to be him or her and exercise your faith. Don't talk back, be trustworthy, your phone connects you to family and friends but you're at work and that stuff can wait. Be the unique kind of person that your boss doesn't have to worry about for a second when they leave for vacation. And that's what God says to the old guys, the young guys, the older women, the younger women, to pastors, to workers, and did you catch why?
There was actually something in those 10 verses I kind of zoomed by without mentioning and it didn't just appear once or twice but three times. Did you catch it? I'll show ya, it's the phrase, "So that," that appeared in three different verses. It's one of Paul's really strong motivations for all kinds of people in the church to live their faith and obey their commandments. He said that younger women should be great at home, they should be self-controlled and pure, so that no one will malign the word of God. He said that pastors should be good examples. Why? Our next one says so that they, the world, has nothing bad to say about us Christians.
If they want to rip on us, they're going to be ashamed because we've been such good people and wonderful examples. And he says to employees, be fully trustworthy, why? This is my favorite, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. If you're taking notes, write down this big idea for today. Why do Christians do good? Well, it's for our good, yes, and we do good for God's sake. Because people are attracted to God. If you don't believe me, just ask Lacey.
Some of you know this newlywed couple from our church, Lacey and John. Years ago, when they first met, when John was in college, she was attracted to him and not just because of his Hawaiian hair and his gigantor muscles, I'll try not to be jealous of John. Do you know what actually attracted her to him? His faith. That when she was anxious and afraid and worried, John knew it was going to be okay. And she wondered how in a world where there's so much to be afraid of, how he could think that, how he could believe that. His good words, his trust in God made the cross of Jesus big. And when she asked, he told her.
You know, Lacey's in my life group and recently on the Bible app, she posted some amazing Bible passages. She said, "We should not go on sinning but where our sin increases, God's grace increases all the more". Like a longtime Christian, she said, "We're not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus". Where does a woman like understand Christianity to that extent? And the answer is from him. John's good works didn't save him but it might have been the way that God saved her. So brothers, sisters, old men, older women, young guys, workers, pastors, doing good is the hard thing but when you do, it makes God look so good, which is exactly what our world needs. So let's get to work! But first, let's pray:
Dear God, It's easy to say amen right now. But we know what's waiting for us outside these doors. When this podcast is over, when this church service is done, when this television program ends, God there will be temptation that knows our name; the same frustrating people and the same short-term pleasure that we've said yes to so many times in the past. So we are desperate for you, God. To remember how good you are and the good things that you want for us. So we pray boldly today in the name of Jesus for your Holy Spirit. You say the fruit of the Spirit is self-control so we're asking you, Holy Spirit, to produce fruit in us that we could say no to all of that so that we could say yes to God, yes to love, yes to joy. We pray this boldly, God, because we know we stand in your love, because your grace is always enough for us, and because your son Jesus is not just our King and our Lord, thank God, he is also our Savior. So we pray today with confidence as the people that you love and delight in because we pray it all today in Jesus' name and all God's people said, "Amen".