Week of Dec. 13

The Connection that Ends the Disconnect

Read: 1 Timothy 5-6; Titus 1-3

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”
Titus 2:1, ESV


George Muller, the man of great faith, once wrote, “. . .Through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability. . .” the will of God. He always began by setting his heart in such a way that he had not a will of his own in regard to a given concern. He had learned that a person must be willing to do the Lord’s will regardless of what it may be. It was the following steps in the process of knowing what God wills for a person’s life that caused me to sit up straight. Muller never proceeded based on “feelings”; instead, he sought prayerfully the will of the Holy Spirit in connection with the Word of God (Muller, Answers to Prayer, 5). I found it wonderful to discover that Paul counseled Titus to follow a very similar path in training the pastors and churches in Crete. Let’s learn how to connect to the Father today in order to know and follow his will.

A Biblical Lens

Paul instructs Titus to instruct church leaders and members alike in sound doctrine (1:9; 2:1). There was no skirting the point. Paul uses an emphatic, “but you” in 2:1. He was establishing a direct contrast between the legalistic false teachers who were proving to be a disruptive influence in the church (1:10-16).

There is clear word as to what Titus was to teach. Paul states that the gospel, which is a trustworthy word, is to be the source the Titus used (1:9). This approach to equipping people to live effective Christian lives was in direct contrast to the “empty talk” of the Jewish legalists (1:11). Paul uses a distinct way of describing what was to be the source of instruction. It is evident that there was growing source of orthodox Christian propositions (“the teaching”).

This truth did not just pop up like a rabbit out of a hat. J. N. D. Kelly reminds us that the New Testament theology and ethics are rooted in God’s moral law for his covenant people. How so? Paul had given Timothy similar instruction in 1 Timothy 1:10. “What is particularly interesting. . .is that [the list of proscribed behaviors] is largely based on the Decalogue. Thus it opens with six rather general epithets, arranged in pairs—the lawless and insubordinate, the impious and the sinful, the irreligious and the profane—which cover offences against God and can perhaps be taken as representing the first table of the Decalogue. It then castigates separately violators of the first five commandments of the second table. Patricides and matricides represent flagrant examples of the breaking of the Fifth Commandment, murderers of the Sixth. Fornicators and homosexuals are transgressors of the Seventh, which was interpreted as embracing sexual vice in all its forms, and kidnappers of the Eighth, since in rabbinical exegesis stealing was held to include traffic in human beings (cf. Ex. 21:16; Dt. 24:7). Liars and perjurors [sic] clearly offend against the Ninth. Paul rounds off his catalogue, rather in the manner of Rom. 13:9 and Gal. 5:21, with the all-inclusive and whatever else is antagonistic to the wholesome teaching” (BNTC). A critical element in Paul’s teaching, however, was his radical separation from Jewish legalists who emphasized a works-oriented path to righteousness based upon the law (see Galatians 5:1-2, & 5-6).

The doctrinal instruction of the elders was to emanate from their own devotion to God’s word (“hold firm”). Two functions follow from this personal investment in the word of God. First, the leader will serve as an encourager through teaching sound doctrine. Secondly, he will be able to refute those who oppose it! You and I simply cannot encourage others meaningfully out of thin air, and we certainly cannot protect folks from error if we, ourselves, do not even recognize it. That, my friends, exposes a serious disconnect between the living, active word of God and a source that is not vitally linked to it (Hebrews 4:12). The function of a leader in the church was “to encourage others by sound doctrine.” This offers them comfort when they are seeking answers to life’s most probing challenges.

A Moral Pathway

You will recall the comprehensive research study by the Barna Group on the state of the American church that I mentioned in yesterday’s devotional. The findings were not all that encouraging. There has been a significant drop in church involvement over the last two decades. I believe that I have a reason for the decline.

First, let me illustrate. Many of us will be putting up Christmas trees soon, if we haven’t done so already, and one of the first things that we always do is to check the string of lights on the tree to make sure they are all working. It is not unusual for one section of the light strand not to light up after being stored away for a year. We always follow a simple process to determine the problem. We go to the electrical outlet to make sure that the string of lights is plugged in, then we work our way to the point where the lights are not working. In many cases, the problem has a simple cause—a poor connection.

Here is the moral point. Nearly nine out of every ten Americans pray (88% according to Barna). However, less that thirty-five percent read the Bible with any consistency throughout the year. There is a clear disconnect between the will of God and the believer’s desire to know it. Prayers and Bible reading go together in order to recognize error and to discern the right way to live. Andrew Murray, writing about George Muller’s life and ministry, commented how the ministry of the great man of faith was empowered. He wrote, “If the reader understands very little of the word of God, he ought to read it very much; for the Spirit explains the word by the word” (Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer).

For Your Journaling

1. Andrew Murray speaks about one of the greatest difficulties with young believers. It is how to find out whether what they desire is according to God’s will. Here is the challenge to the hearts of all believers: “It is through THE WORD, AND THE WORD ALONE, that the Spirit teaches, applying the general principles or promises to our special need” (Murray, With Christ). If you are having difficulty discerning God’s will, then pray as you are reading the Scriptures.

2. Murray also writes, “And it is THE SPIRIT, AND THE SPIRIT ALONE, who can really make the word a light on our path, whether the path of duty in our daily walk, or the path of faith in our approach to God.” Here is the way to reconnect with the Father: Bible reading, meditation on what you are reading, and praying for the Spirit to aid with interpretation and application. Try this approach and watch as God’s will becomes plain to you.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock