Thursday, April 23, 2015

Appoint Elders without Rebellious Kids – Titus 1:5-7

I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don't have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. For an elder must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. (NLT)

Complete the Work

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get a letter from God with some specific instructions about what He wanted you to do? I know we have all sorts of instructions in the Bible, things like, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). But this isn’t exactly a personal directive for a specific task at hand. I’m thinking about being as specific as Paul was when he wrote to Titus. For me, it might be a directive to finish writing a book I’ve been working on and get it done by a specific time. It could be an answer to a person praying and considering two job options in two different cities. Perhaps it would be, “Joe, I want you to go to Cincinnati and …” It could be, “Mary, don’t marry this guy, I have someone else in mind for you.” If you read books by some famous Christians, you would get the idea that this is exactly the way God works, after all didn’t God say, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isa 30:21 RSV). Wouldn’t it be great if God told us exactly what work He wants us to complete and even how to do it?

I think, for most of us, God doesn’t micro manage us but macro manages. He paints the broad picture and it is up to us to figure out how to do the day-to-day work. He provides the big picture in verses like Revelation 4:11, where we declare that He is worthy to receive glory and honor because He created everything. Or consider Ecclesiastes 12:13, where our duty is defined as fearing God and keeping His commands. Jesus prioritized the commands in Matthew 28:19-20 in that we are to make disciples and teach them.

God also provides principles for the day-to-day work but we have look at those and apply the principles to the situation rather than having Him tell us specifically how to handle it. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Phil 2:3 NASB). This is a good example of a principle. We have to work out humility and putting others before our own selfish ambitions in almost every aspect of our lives. God doesn’t tell us to put down the remote and help the kids with homework or our spouses with whatever needs they have. If we don’t follow the principles, there will be some bad consequences but that isn’t micro managing.

Sometimes God micro manages, but that appears only when we are on the wrong track and there is a special task He wants done by a specific person. Paul was off track and God micro managed him for a short time until he got the hang of it. In Acts 9, God really had to intervene. He knocked him of his horse and then told him to go into the city and wait to be told what to do. He micro managed Ananais telling him to baptize Paul and give him his marching orders. Later, Paul was prevented from speaking in Asia but was told to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). It seems odd to me that we are in awe of the times when God does this special leading and seldom give Him the glory when millions of Christians around the world are living and doing the things He wants without having to be micro managed.

Whatever we do must have as the ultimate goal of bringing glory to God (1 Cor 10:31, Col 3:17). When do we bring the most glory to God? Is it during a worship service when we are singing praises to Him? God made it clear that what He desires is obedience and that brings Him glory and one of the things that is high on His list is making disciples (Ps 40:6, Matt 9:13). How do we do that? Love God and love others (Matt 22:37-40).

Are you ready to glorify God and make disciples wherever you are?

Elders


There are a few differences between the qualifications. When addressing Timothy, Paul spoke of managing his household with submissive children. His qualifications to Titus are more stringent. Their children must be believers and not wild or insubordinate. Submissiveness should include not being wild or insubordinate, but even nonbelieving children can be submissive outwardly and inward rebels. He used the same word for children in both Timothy and Titus so we can’t argue that the differences applied to having younger or older children. So why the difference and how does that apply to us today?

In the previous blogs, I explained the relationship that the elders, deacons, or overseers should have with their children in relation to managing the church. The way they treat their kids will in many ways reflect their attitude and behavior when dealing with the members of their church. If they have raised their children the way God indicates in various passages, then this is most likely the way they will run the church.

However, we know that even godly parents can do all that they should and have a child who rebels against God. The parable of the prodigal son is a good example (Luke 15:11-32). If the father in this parable is a representation of God and His forgiveness, then we can see that Jesus recognizes that in the best of families there will be rebels. In fact, there were two rebels. The younger son was the outward rebel, repented and came home. The older son was the inward rebel. A mature Christian who is qualified to be an elder should be able to tell whether or not his children are believers and if they are inward or outward rebels. What do you think? If he has an inward rebel who is behaviorally compliant, should he be an elder?

Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel? (1 Sam 2:29 ESV)

After reading about Eli and his worthless sons in 1 Samuel 2:12-36, the principle is demonstrated that a spiritual leader with rebellious sons is very likely to put his children above the Lord. Yes, Eli tried to rebuke his sons but they would not listen (vs. 23-25). Eli had the means as the high priest to do more than scold his sons. But as we find in 1 Samuel 4:18 Eli was “heavy.” Apparently, he also had fattened himself on the offerings that his sons took.

It appears that Paul is making it clear to Titus that a leader with corrupted children is likely to compromise his job as elder. If he is godly and tries to rebuke and discipline the children, even then, he will be spending significant time and distraction because of this. It is better for one to step back from his duties as an elder and deal with family problems than it is to try to correct his household and still manage the affairs of the church. This is not a popular opinion because most people believe they can do both. Probably, the bigger problem is that they are prideful and unwilling to admit that their children are rebellious as if it were a reflection on their parenting skills. They do not want to lose face in front of their peers or the church.

That brings up another question, is a rebellious child a reflection on a person’s spirituality and parenting skills?
Suppose he [the righteous father] has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them) … [a list of wrongs] … Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. (Ezek 18:10-13 NIV)

In the context of this passage, the Lord explains that evil men may have good sons and good men may have evil sons. Each is to pay for his own wickedness. While the passage doesn’t speak directly to what the good father should do to teach his children, (a godly Jew would already know) the implication is that he has set a good example for his son. In spite of his best efforts, the son is a rebel. This is seen over and over in the kings of Judah. Good kings beget bad kings and vice versa. While someone may quote Proverbs 22:6 (NASU), “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” We need to remember, “The wisdom books are not a collection of universal promises. Rather, they are a collection of valuable insights into godly living, which, if taken to heart (and head), will develop godly character, a character that will make wise choices in the rough-and-tumble marketplace of life.”[1] Generally, when a person instills godly principles into his children, they will live godly lives as well. However, this is not a guarantee as many famous, godly people can confirm.

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9 NKJV)

Every Jew knew these verses, but by looking at the history of Israel, it is evident that either they didn’t practice them or even godly parents can have rebellious children. However, Paul and Titus were working with Gentiles who knew little if any Jewish culture. Even today, many Christians do not know these verses much less practice them. While we don’t need to go to the extreme of tying Scripture to our hands or foreheads, the wisdom of teaching our children in everyday activities should be natural. If a person being considered as an elder isn’t teaching his children in this way, then the likelihood of having unbelieving children will increase. If he isn’t teaching his children in a natural way that everything he says and does is centered on Jesus, then his own maturity is in question.

In a sense, examining the attitudes and behavior of a person’s children reveals much. But it can’t be a surface overview as has been pointed out, godly people can have rebels, however, a person with rebels needs to focus on dealing with them. Even when they are older, dealing with rebels doesn’t stop and can be quite distracting and time consuming. An elder needs to be able to devote his time to ministry. If he has taught his children well, and they have not rebelled, he will be able to function well as an elder. Of course, this doesn’t apply only to elders, but to each one of us whether we have an official title or are serving the Lord in other ways.



[1] Duvall, J. Scott; Hays, J. Daniel (2012-05-08). Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (p. 423). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.