Prone To Wander, Sure To Return - Titus 1:10–14
Do you ever feel like you’re accident-prone? Prone to spills, breaking things, getting injured, bumping your car into things like trees, fire hydrants, or other objects (I’ve done all of those). Some people seem more prone to getting sick, some to anger, some to being overly cautious or afraid. We all have negative or troublesome things that we seem to be bent toward: worry, impatience, bad decision-making – and the list goes on.
But while we’re all prone to different things, the Scriptures teach that there is one thing to which all of us are prone: All of us are naturally prone to wander from God. Isaiah 53 says, “each of us has turned to his own way.” But through the help of his Word, God brings us back to himself. And because God does this, we should submit to his Word. But what do we need to understand in order to do that?
Three things, which you’ll see outlined on page 6 of your worship guide.
Paul tells Titus that:
1. Many are prone to teach harmful lies that cause us to wander from God.
2. We are prone to believe harmful lies that cause us to wander from God.
3. God is sure to correct harmful lies and cause us to return to Him.
And recognizing these things, we can submit to God’s Word and return to him.
First, Many are prone to teach harmful lies that cause us to wander from God (vv 10-11).
- Paul starts his statement in verse 10 with “For” which could be understood as “because.” In the previous verses, he instructed Titus to appoint elders in each of the churches. They need overseers/shepherds in all the churches because…
- there are many who are teaching harmful lies. Paul describe the people as “insubordinate” or “unruly” – same word as verse 6, where Paul says that the children of elders should not be unruly or insubordinate.
- These teachers are “empty talkers,” meaning they talk about vain, useless things. They are making a big deal out of things that have no bearing on being a disciple of Jesus, things that don’t contribute to glorifying God.
- He calls them “deceivers” which is to say they are “mind” deceivers. They are fooling people, misleading people into wrong belief which has a real effect on their lives.
- What are they telling them? Well, it focuses on certain things that must be done to please God or ensure that they are saved from sins. The false teachers are adding things to faith in Jesus for salvation.
- Paul says “especially,” most of all but not limited to, “the circumcision party.” That means those professing Jewish Christians who said that circumcision was required for salvation, for inclusion in the covenant community. They told non-Jews who became Christians that they needed to be circumcised according to OT law.
- And so it’s appropriate for Titus and the other elders to silence these people, which can be difficult, but if the elders focus on those in the churches, they can curb the influence of the false teachers.
- Paul says these teachers are “upsetting whole families.” Interesting wording here. Could translate as “whole households,” so it could possibly refer to groups of believers meeting in homes. Even today, there are many autonomous “house churches.” But this seems to point to the need for the structure of church government in which elders appointed, so that leaders have accountability and are qualified to shepherd others.
- These false teachers are doing this for some kind of “shameful” or dishonorable “gain” or advantage, perhaps financial gain or for power over others. Think of all the people nowadays who watch televangelists and send them money. These false teachers prey on the weakness and isolation of people. Or others who impose things on people as “law.” Even many churches and para-church ministries do this, lording over people, pressuring people to follow this certain curriculum or pattern for discipleship or living. Often these people mean well, but mixed in are selfish motives. The idea is “our thing is the right thing.” And so they pressure people or guilt them into things or cause them to fear consequences if they don’t follow the pattern.
- And people believe them because we are prone to believing that other things are necessary in addition to faith in Jesus.
Notice here, with the example of circumcision, that what these teachers are doing is adding to what must be done to be acceptable to God. When someone can convince others that they know what is necessary to please God, they can wield great power over them. You might think, “Well Stacey, isn’t that what you do?” But that’s not what I do. I don’t claim authority in myself for the things I say. Scripture is the authority. We read earlier from 2 Peter where the apostle Peter stated that the prophetic word of Scripture is on par with their eyewitness accounts of what Jesus said and did. With the gifting of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, I labor to proclaim what the Bible says. I defer to the Scriptures. That is not what these teachers in Crete were doing. They incorporated the Bible, but they obviously violated it in many ways as well. And these additional things that they said must be done to please God couldn’t be proven from the Bible. But this was done rampantly in Crete, and it’s done rampantly today.
Are you aware of the false teaching around you? Often, the most deceiving lies are the ones that have some truth mixed in. Can you tell when someone undermines the sufficiency of the Scriptures or elevates their own agenda above that of God and his Word? Can you tell when someone devalues the role of the local church in God’s work in the world, pressuring you to follow their program above all others? Can you tell when someone is adding to the work of Jesus and faith in him for salvation? People are prone, they are likely, to teach these kinds of things. Does this go on in our country, even in Florence, today? Of course it does. These lies cause people to wander from God. And not only are many prone to teach lies, but…
Also, We are prone to believe harmful lies that cause us to wander from God (vv 12-13a).
- Paul quotes a Cretan philosopher, probably Epimenides, who lived several hundred years before the birth of Jesus and was not a prophet in the Biblical sense, but was a native truth-teller and thus a prophetic speaker to the Cretans.
- “Prophecy” doesn’t only mean “telling the future.” It more often means “boldly speaking what is true.” In the NT church today, for instance, the gift of prophecy means that you naturally “tell it like it is.”
- Paul’s quote of Epimenides isn’t an insult. It’s an acknowledgment of the moral depravity throughout the island of Crete at that time – depravity that even their own writers saw and talked about. Crete was historically known as a very corrupt place.
- Why does Paul bring this up? He wants Titus to be wise about who he is dealing with.
- These people have natural propensities/tendencies/inclinations – as do all people.
- Elders and preachers must take into account to whom we are preaching.
- Not only do we study the Scriptures; we study the people in order to preach to the heart, in order to understand what lies they are prone to believe.
- Now, who is “them” in the first part of verse 13 (“rebuke them”), “that they may be sound in the faith?” This refers to the young Cretan believers who have professed faith in Jesus. It refers back to the earlier statement about elders’ responsibility to teach sound doctrine.
Art Markman is a professor of cognitive science at the University of Texas in Austin. He wrote an article titled You End Up Believing What You Want to Believe. In it he suggests that you tend to interpret evidence toward what you desire.” He writes, “Just yesterday, one of my colleagues posted a link to a paper from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition…The analysis suggests there is no significant relationship between heart disease and eating saturated fats. He seemed excited about this result, presumably because it supported his desire to eat fatty foods.” We like things that say what we want them to say. Paul’s point is that not only are the Cretans are prone to teaching lies, but they are prone to believing them as well.
What lies are you prone to believe? What are your natural tendencies? Think about this: what are the things that we value as people in the Pee Dee? What are the things we take pride in? Family values? Work ethic? Not bad things, but don’t we naturally find a sense of righteousness in these things?
Let me remind you of a few things:
- On the last day, when Jesus returns, college football will not matter.
- Your political views, whether liberal or conservative, will not save you.
- Your hard work ethic will not make you righteous before God.
- Your accomplishments are all a gift from God, and none of them make you better than anyone else.
- Your possessions, your land and your home will not accompany you when you die.
- Your family does not define. Neither does your Southern American heritage.
So again I ask, what lies are you prone to believe about these things? This is why we need the regular correction of the Word of God. And so…
Finally, God is sure to correct harmful lies and cause us to return to Him (vv. 13b-14).
- In this last part, Paul says that Titus and the other elders should correct the Cretans “sharply” or “abruptly.” They shouldn’t dance around the issues. He should be direct and speak boldly knowing that the authority of the Scriptures undergirds him.
- Why? So that the people of the churches will be “sound” or healthy in the faith, in their belief. Long ago a mentor stated to me, “Doctrine affects behavior.” I wrote that statement in the back of my Bible. What you believe directs what you do. For this reason, In 1 Tim. 4, Paul told another young pastor named Timothy “watch your life and doctrine closely.”
- Titus should correct these people for their own good.
- And here are two things they shouldn’t devote themselves to: Jewish myths and commands of people who turn away from the truth
- The Jewish myths were additional stories based on OT writings. These stories were passed off as being on par with OT Scripture and treated as authoritative. So people would base their belief on these made-up stories.
- And the “commands” twisted the Jewish law to impose restrictions on what people could eat or do. Some even forbade marriage or other things, arguing that they made people “unclean,” to use the OT language. But Jesus fulfilled all of the ceremonial law of the OT. Jesus makes us clean. We can learn from the principle of the OT ceremonial laws, but we don’t apply them because Jesus fulfilled them once and for all.
- And so God provides the shepherds of the church to correct the lies so that the people may be sound in the faith, and thus, that they may return to God.
- That is the goal of sound faith – restored fellowship with the living God.
2 Timothy 3 states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Proverbs 3 states, “for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” We don’t use the word “reprove” much. We say “correct.”
The LORD corrects him or her whom he loves.
Are you open to the correction of God through his Word? Do you come to worship only to feel good or to check “church” off your list? Or do you come to receive the correction of the one and only true God? Isn’t it ironic that sometime in churches, the people want to tie the hands of the preacher if he says something from the Scriptures that steps on their toes? That is his calling; it is his job. When people do this, they do it to their own detriment.
As we go to the table today, we look to Jesus, who came not only to save us, but to correct us. To give us life eternal, and also abundant life in the here and now. We all wander. Listen to the rest of Isaiah 53, which I read from earlier, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The guilt of the lies we are prone to believe, and the lies we have spoken to others, all laid on Jesus. And the guilt of our rejection of the correction of God – our rebellion against him – again, all laid on Jesus.
“upon him was the chastisement (the discipline or correction) that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”