Engaged in good deeds

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of leading a retreat with my wife. We got away for a few days with my staff and studied God’s Word together, learned principles of time management, and planned the events, both major and minor for 2015. God blessed our time. We were in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, in a small ski town called Angel Fire. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was amazing. While we were there, we studied II Chronicles 34, learning about King Josiah‘s values and how he planned and acted according to his values. His impact in Israel was simply amazing. He changed the outcome of an entire generation and left a legacy that impacted several generations. We pray that as a Children’s Department, we will follow Josiah’s example and impact many future generations with the power of the Word of God. This study set the tone for our time. We discovered what our own values are and planned everything according to those values. Now we pray to follow those plans faithfully all throughout 2015 and beyond.

The final study that we did was based on Titus 3. This is what I want to focus on in this article. Titus was a disciple of Paul. On one of his missionary journeys, Paul was shipwrecked and ended up on the island of Crete. While there, the Holy Spirit led him to preach and teach the Gospel of Christ. People’s lives were transformed by the power of the Gospel and churches were formed. Paul was called by God to continue on his missionary journey. He left Crete but he had a burden for those churches. He knew that false teachers would quickly arrive there once he departed so he sent one of his best disciples, Titus, to go to Crete and raise up leaders to pastor and shepherd these churches, preparing them to avoid the false teachings of these false teachers. Titus 3 teaches us a lot of things about leadership. I would like to examine those principles.  The theme of the book of Titus is, “Sound doctrine produces engagement in good deeds”. This is seen in several places in the letter, one of which is the very first verse of chapter 1.

Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, (Titus 1:1)

When we come to the knowledge of the truth through sound doctrine, this leads to godliness, causing us to engage in good deeds. Paul opens up his letter with this idea and then he closes it out with the same idea. The entire letter teaches us how to be taught sound doctrine and engage in good deeds. It also teaches the leaders to teach sound doctrine leading people to engage in good deeds.

This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. (Titus 3:8)

When people are taught sound doctrine from the Word of God, and they have believed that sound doctrine, they will engage in good deeds. This is classical cause and effect. Believing the sound doctrine of the Gospel is the cause and the natural effect is engaging in good deeds. Finally, the second to last verse of the entire letter touches on this once more time.

Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. (Titus 3:14)

Like James also teaches, faith without works is dead and useless. Genuine faith based on sound doctrine produces good works. God ties faith with good works all throughout the Scriptures. We are the ones who like to separate them.

Now that we have seen the heartbeat behind Titus, I would like to examine chapter 3 to see what all we can learn about leadership.

I. Great leadership is all about teaching God’s Word

Many times we have the idea of a great leader as being someone who is a go getter. He or she has charm and charisma. He knows how to get in front of the people and stir them to action, almost to the point that he is better at manipulating or quilting people to act instead of motivating and challenging. A “great” leader actually ends up looking more like a great used car salesman instead of a godly shepherd. I believe that things are the way that they are because as churches, we are more aligned with the business world’s mentality than the Lord’s Biblical mentality. We know the results that we want (usually numbers) and we do what is necessary to “get it done”, “seal the deal” etc. According to the Bible, great leadership is first investing the time, effort, and energy in teaching people God’s Word. This is difficult and not as appealing because the labor is difficult and the results are not immediate. But, on the other hand, when the results (fruit) do come, the impact is long lasting. When we manipulate to get the results that we want, the impact usually ends up being negative and also long lasting. Jesus is our model in this area. He invested 3 years (all of His ministry) into 12 ordinary men. He did not have the mega church results like we want today (at least not during His lifetime). He took the time to plant the seeds and then put forth the effort to water the soil. Jesus did not see the majority of the fruit during His lifetime. But, when the fruit came, it had an immediate and long lasting positive impact. Most of us do not seem to have the time nor the patience to follow Jesus’ model. We have invented our own. Paul understood Jesus’ model and he followed it, teaching it everywhere he went. All 3 chapters of Titus emphasize leadership, specifically, the importance of teaching sound doctrine to the people. That is of utmost importance. Chapter 3 opens up with, “remind them” or in other words, “as you continue teaching them, remind them of the things that they have already been taught.”

Now, let’s take a look at what leaders are to teach.

3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3)

We are to teach the Gospel to people. Take a moment to read the Gospel in this passage and then we will discuss why we must constantly teach It and be reminded of It. Before coming to Christ, we were trapped in sin’s death grip. As a result, we were useless to God and to the people around us because we only cared about ourselves. If we did anything for “others” it was always based on what we would get in return. I will scratch your back if I am assured that you will also scratch mine. I do not care about your back. I only care about my own. We do not say it that bluntly because we want to justify and excuse ourselves but that is the truth of who we are without Christ. The list ends with the fact that we are hateful and hate one another. We do not want to help others. In fact, our natural tendency is to malign others so that we make ourselves look better. In contrast to the way that we are by nature, God is kind. In the Greek, the word kind actually means “useful”. We are useless but He is useful. He comes to us. He rescues us from our slavery to sin and our slavery to our own selfishness. He actually makes us useful to Him and to others around us. This is the Gospel. We see who we were and what God has done for us. We also see that He has made us useful now. The good deeds follow the transformation. Transformation is based on faith that comes from sound doctrine. My question is, what are the good deeds? Do we just make them up or do we allow God to show us?

II. Great leadership results in people serving

Great leaders are called to remind the people of what they have been taught so that they will continue to put what they have been taught into practice. Verses 1 and 2 show us what the good deeds are that we are to practice and what we are to teach people and encourage them to engage in so that they can continue to be useful to God and the people around them.

  1. Be submissive. This is not natural to us. We must be taught to submit to our leaders and we must be reminded to be submissive. When we have this attitude, we think of others over ourselves and now become useful to the leaders who are seeking to serve the Lord and lead us in serving the Lord.
  2. Be obedient. This is also not natural to us. Naturally, we are rebellious. We must learn to obey. If you cannot obey those who are in authority over you then how can you claim to obey God? God has given that authority figure authority over you and you must practice obedience daily. Again, this is not your nature. Just reading this probably makes you cringe a little and I am sure the “but what about or what if” questions have already started coming to mind. That is further proof that obedience is not natural to any of us.
  3. Be ready for every good deed. As God opens the doors for us, we must be ready to engage in good deeds. This is how we serve God. If we are too busy to engage in good deeds when God opens up doors for us then we have a some major problems.
  4. Do not speak evil against others. In the context, you are probably going to be tempted to speak bad about your leader who is teaching you submission and obedience. Please do not do it. Speaking evil against others is so natural to us that we can do it without even thinking about it, like breathing. When you speak evil against your leaders you thus prove that you are not submissive and you are not obedient. How then will you be willing to engage in good deeds? You are too busy engaging in evil deeds. By the way, the word “malign” in the text is translated from the Greek word “blasphemeo” which is the word to blaspheme. God has spoken very clearly on how He feels about blasphemy.
  5. Be peaceable. Seek peace with all. When one person begins to malign the leader then you need to step in and seek peace. Confront the person’s evil with the Truth of the Word of God. This is one good deed that you can engage in. When you hear someone speaking evil against a leader, this is the door that God has opened for you to engage in a good deed. Defend your leader. Encourage the person to go to the leader and stop telling everyone else about it.
  6. Show every consideration to others. Stop being so selfish. Selfishness, once again, comes natural to us. We have to learn to be considerate of others. Sound doctrine teaches us to be less selfish and more considerate of others. This attitude will open your eyes to many of the doors that the Lord constantly opens for us on a daily basis to engage in good deeds.

When people are taught sound doctrine and constantly reminded of who God is, who they are, and what God has done for us, we will desire to engage in good deeds and we will recognize them when God opens the door.

III. Great leadership is based on personal experience

I want to end with this one. This is important because I have noticed a trend here lately. As a pastor and missionary, I attend many different conferences on “discipleship”. The teachers usually talk to us about the principles of discipleship sometimes from the Word of God and many times not from the Word of God. My question that I always ask a speaker is, “how many disciples do you have?” Most of the time I do not get a specific answer. In order to teach powerfully on discipleship, you must also be in the process of applying what you are teaching. If you just talk about principles without experience, your message may sound great but it will be very hard to follow. A great leader must have been taught sound doctrine and must be in the process of learning sound doctrine and he must be the first to engage in good deeds so that the people whom he teaches have an example to follow. Do you realize that we have tons of pastors who teach on evangelism but do not actually evangelize? I do not want to be the “do as I say but not as I do” leader. I want to be the “if you do as I say then you will join me in what I am already doing” type of leader.

What about you my dear friend, are you being taught sound doctrine so that you can engage in good deeds and be useful to God and to the people around you? Do you submit to your leaders? Are you obedient to what they are teaching you? Or, are you one of the many who speak evil against leaders, proving that you have not learned submission and have not learned obedience? When you hear someone speak evil about a leader, how do you respond? Do you seek peace? Maybe you actually join in the conversation. Or, do you just pretend like you did not hear anything and keep on going? That was a chance to engage in a good deed and you missed it. I pray that the Lord would constantly teach us sound doctrine so that we would learn to engage in good deeds and become useful to God and to the people around us.

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