Friday, April 1, 2016

Lone Ranger Christians, Competition, and Grace – Titus 3:12-15

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. (ESV)

Lone Ranger Christians

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. (Eph 6:21 NIV)

Surely, you have heard the term, “Lone Ranger Christians.” These are people who claim to be Christians but don’t need any other Christians in their lives. They don’t attend worship services with others but they may listen to Christian radio or preachers on TV or the radio. They don’t belong to any church and generally do not participate in any outreach programs of any kind because they would have to do it with other Christians. Like the legendary Lone Ranger, they live in the wilderness and have a pagan sidekick. They wear a mask so they won’t be recognized. Unlike the Lone Ranger, they don’t do much good, or if they do, it doesn’t bring glory to Jesus because no one knows they are Christians. They have to be urged to devote themselves to do good, even for cases of urgent need.

Look at the contrast between the Lone Ranger and Paul’s life. In Titus, he mentions four other Christian workers with whom he interacts and ministers. Tychicus is an interesting example because he appears four other times in Scripture. He ministered along with Paul in Greece and Asia (Acts 20:4-5). Paul sent him to Ephesus (Eph 6:21) and Colossi (Col 4:7) with the express purpose of helping them know how he was doing. This is very contrary to the Lone Ranger approach who would not want any personal struggles or victories to be made public. Paul didn’t keep his use of Tychicus a secret from anyone but told Timothy how he was being used (2 Tim 4:12). 

In most of Paul’s letters, he has words of greeting, advice, or praise for his coworkers in Christ. It is impressive and should be a reminder to us, that we are part of the Body of Christ. We need each other personally as well as for effective ministry. Wherever we are in our walk with the Lord, we also need to have other people in our lives. Ephesians 4:11 lists several functions that different people perform in the Church. We can’t do all of them and even Paul depended on other to help.

Competition and Rivalry

Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:12-13 NKJV)

Paul could have looked at Apollos as a threat because those in Corinth were rejecting Paul’s leadership in favor of Apollos. Apollos appeared to have a mind of his own when it came to where he would go and minister even when Paul strongly urged him (1 Cor 16:12). Yet, there is not one hint that Paul had any concerns about Apollos superseding him or causing harm to his ministry. Rather, Paul encourages Titus to help Apollos and speed him on his way. 

It's true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives … Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. (Phil 1:15, 18 NLT)

Paul actually had competition in his ministry, but not from Apollos. He didn’t name them when he wrote to the Philippians but he did contrast their attitude toward him and his attitude toward them. This sense of competition comes from jealousy and rivalry. What are the roots of these two attitudes? Jealousy occurs when we want the same recognition as others. We aren’t happy with the position God has given us and we want people to notice us, applaud us, and do it more than for others. The problem is that we are entirely self-focused instead of God-focused. Paul had the right answer for them. This wasn’t about Paul; it was about Jesus being preached. Therefore, Paul could even rejoice when a person’s motives were not pure. Jesus warned us that when we do things “for Him” but our motivation is getting rewards from others, we actually lose any rewards God would have given us (Matt 6:1). How much better it is when we have the right motives. 

Rivalry is similar to jealousy. Perhaps it could be described as a sense of competition without the need to be acknowledged by others. Rather, it is the desire to best the other person for personal reasons. This is an internal need to be better than others. The world would call it a self-esteem issue. I would call it selfish ambition or seeking my sufficiency or identity in my accomplishments instead of in Christ. It happens when I see someone doing better than I am. I want to do better than them; I want to be better than them. This is also judgmental; I view them as deficient, not as good as I am. In a warped, sinful way, it makes me feel better about myself. It puts them down so that I can build myself up. It sounds worse and worse as I think about it. It is the polar opposite of Paul’s admonition to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3 RSV). 

Oh Lord, forgive me for this kind rivalry and competition concerning Your work! Spare me from it and help me to rejoice when others ministers faithfully rather than being judgmental and picking them apart.

Grace to All

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying. (Eph 6:24 RSV)

Paul ends his letter to Titus with a short benediction, a prayer for God’s grace to be on all those with Titus. He ends most of his letters with a similar benediction. At the end of Ephesians, he isn’t asking for grace on everyone, but those who love Jesus. Looking back in Titus, Paul is extending this to those who love him and his fellow workers “in the faith” (Titus 3:15). I heard the story about an unbeliever who said he couldn’t make sense of the Bible. A Christian responded by explaining that the Bible is composed of letters from God to His children. The reason the unbeliever could not understand is that he was not one of God’s children. The same applies to God’s grace to live godly lives in this generation (Titus 2:11-12). It applies only to those who have faith in God through Jesus Christ. 

And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13 NASB)

It can’t get any simpler. If you want God’s grace in your life, you need to have Jesus. If you have Jesus, you can be sure of your salvation and that means His grace as well. If you do not have Jesus, you don’t have eternal life and no grace, no way to live a godly life. Do you have Jesus? I pray that you do and that you are not a Lone Ranger Christian or have jealous toward other believer’s work in the Lord. Rather, I pray that we will all be rejoicing together and encouraging each other in our ministries.

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