Presented to the Ladies at Senior Citizens Week 2011

Titus 1: 1 – 3

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.

Faith, knowledge, hope, those 3 words embody the truth that brings us to Jesus Christ as our Savior.  We first must have faith, faith in someone whom we cannot see with our eyes.  Things that are apparent and can be seen do not require faith.  Our faith is in One that we have not seen – yet.   That faith springs from our hearts and brings knowledge to our hearts so that we may have the hope promised us by God.

Titus 2: 11 – 15

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing 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.  These, then, are the things you should teach.  Encourage and rebuke with all authority.  Do not let anyone despise you’.

Just Say NO.  You may be familiar with the anti-drug program that was prevalent in the 80s and 90s that had this slogan. It spread later to apply to violence and pre-marital sex.

It’s a very simple message.  Just – Say – NO.  Nothing ambiguous about that.  Nothing to question.  Nothing to ponder.  Just – Say – NO.

In the Titus 2 passage, almost this exact phrase is used.  It doesn’t say ‘Just Say No’ but it does say we are taught to say NO.  What is it that teaches us to say NO?  The grace of God that brings salvation to all men.

We say NO a lot when our children are small.  They probably learn that word before they learn any others. Unfortunately, they soon are using it in ways we did not mean it to be used.  We don’t say NO just to teach them a word.  We say it because they must learn not to touch the hot stove or do other things that may hurt them – or hurt someone or something – if they are not stopped.  It is a limiting word, but it isn’t limiting what they do, it is limiting what they may not do.

There are many things in this life that we are told in God’s word to keep out of our lives.  Does he just arbitrarily say ‘NO’ to us about these things?  Of course not.  He wants what is best for us and many things are not in our best interest.  Many things would draw us away from God and His will for our lives.  Many things would bring us to harm or even death.  There are things that would lead us into paths that, as Christians, we have no business following.

Satan uses every means available to him to deceive, entice, and draw us away from God’s plan for us. He knows where to find the chink in our armor.  That is why God tells us to ‘say NO’ to those things that would not be what we need as His children.

Titus 3: 9 – 11 has more advice about living as a Child of God.

‘But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.  Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.  After that, have nothing to do with him.  You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.’

We know what the words ‘controversies, arguments, quarrels, devisive mean. But what about the word ‘genealogies’.   Early interest in genealogy in our country was mostly begun to tie the colonists to ancestors back in England.  Many were looking to ties to royalty to give them more prestige in the new world.  How many of you have done some research into your family history?  I have, and it is an interesting – and unfortunately very time-consuming – thing to do.  My interest in genealogy is finding information about ancestors for whom I already have connections to the past.  I located a letter written in 1832 by my maternal Great, great, great Grandfather requesting a military pension after having been in the service of the United States beginning in 1777.  Congress had enacted a Military Pension Act in 1832.   I have many interesting things from my maternal great-grandmother’s life.  She graduated from the Winchester Normal School and was a teacher for a short time in Tennessee. I have letters of recommendation written by school masters where she taught in Tennessee.  She moved to Collin County Texas in 1885.  I learned that she had followed my Great-grandfather to Texas and I found the record of their marriage in the Collin County records in 1886.  I even have a written record of a Sunday School meeting she attended, maybe she even wrote the hand-written record.  I have an 8 X 10 picture, taken in 1920, of three generations of their family.  My mother was a year old in the picture.

All that is interesting, especially to me, but my family history from all those years ago hasn’t really had much effect on my life.  I doubt my mother knew what I know now about my ancestry.

The Genealogical Society of Utah, founded in 1894, later became the Family History Department of the Latter Day Saints Church. The department’s research facility, the Family History Library, which has developed the most extensive genealogical record-gathering program in the world, was established to assist in tracing family lineages for special religious ceremonies that Mormons believe will seal family units together for eternity. Mormons believe that this fulfills the biblical prophecy in Malachi 4: 5-6, stating that the prophet Elijah would return to ‘turn the heart of the fathers to their children, and the heart of the children to their fathers’.  Mormons are intent on having the family history of just about everyone in the world in order to establish all family ties – looking forward to this time when their family units will be ‘sealed’.

But does our family ‘lineage’ assure us of a place in God’s kingdom?  Of course not.  God has provided the way for us to be His children and it does not involve anything related to our family or any other human being.  If our parents took us to church, that surely influenced our decision to become a child of God, but our parents could not and can not provide the salvation that opens heaven to us.

What about some positive things the Bible tells us about our life in Him?

Colossians 4: 2 – 6 says

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’

Titus 3: 4 – 8

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Let’s look at some of the words in those two passages of scripture:  devote,  watchful,  thankful,  pray,  proclaim,  act,  opportunity,  conversation,  grace, salt,  know,  answer,  kindness,  love,  saved,  rebirth,  renewal,  justified,  heirs,  hope,  trustworthy,  careful,  devote (again in the 2nd passage),  excellent,  profitable.  There are no negative things in this list.  They are all positive, require action on our part, require practice in our daily living, require us to be alert, require us to be knowledgeable,

What do they promise?  ‘So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life’.  Living as these two verses teach keeps us walking in the footsteps of Jesus.  Doing what the two verses teach keeps us from having to say ‘NO’ to the things of Satan very often.  If we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, we are not going to be led astray to the things to which we must say ‘NO’.

The second Titus 2 passage provides the basis for our hope. ‘while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing 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.

We do not know when we will hear the call of that blessed hope.  We are ‘waiting’ but we also must be ‘working’.  We are told of signs and seasons that may predict that precious moment.   Meanwhile, we are expected to be proclaiming the Word and to be living examples, living a life for Christ.  I heard a minister say recently in a message ‘preach the gospel, and use words if you need them.’  That thought has come to my mind many times since I heard him say it.  It may be our ‘walk’ that draws someone to Christ and not our ‘talk’.

I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one every day.

I’d rather someone walk with me than merely show the way.

Those are lines from a longer poem, but those two lines tell us how God expects us, as his ‘salt’ and ‘light’  to be living in this present age, our walk with him being plain to see, while we wait and long for the time when we will be with him in Heaven.

Sandra Naugle lives in Sellersburg, IN