Sound Doctrine, Sound Words Titus 2:7-8; Ephesians 4:29-5:4 (By Phil Johnson)

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Note: After the Sermon Notes in this PDF we have included 2 blog posts by Phil Johnson answering questions about this sermon. Sound Doctrine, Sound Words Titus 2:7-8; Ephesians 4:29-5:4 (By Phil Johnson)
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Note: After the Sermon Notes in this PDF we have included 2 blog posts by Phil Johnson answering questions about this sermon. Sound Doctrine, Sound Words Titus 2:7-8; Ephesians 4:29-5:4 (By Phil Johnson) This morning I want to look at two verses in Titus 2 verses 7-8. This is an admonition from Paul to Titus, his friend, partner, protege, and true son in the faith. Titus is one of the unsung heroes of the early church a young pastor whose faithful support and constant behind-the-scenes labor made him extremely precious to Paul. Paul writes to Titus with these instructions (Titus 2:7-8): Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. I chose that text, frankly, because I'm deeply concerned about the tendency of so many pastors lately to employ profanity, crude and obscene words, vile subject matter, carnal topics, graphic sexual imagery, erotic language, and filthy jokes. Most of you, I know, are aware of the trend I'm talking about. I'm tempted to call it the pornification of the pulpit. The justification usually given is that coarse language and sexual themes are the tools of contextualization. It's a way to make us sound more relevant. Lots of voices in the church are insistent that this is absolutely essential if we want to reach certain segments of our culture. 1 The apostle Paul said otherwise, and that's what I want to look at in this hour. When I was considering what subjects might be important for a group of pastors and church leaders as large and diverse as this, I couldn't get away from this issue. The New York Times Magazine recently did a feature article on Mark Driscoll in which this was a major theme. Who Would Jesus Smack Down? was the title of the article. Here's the lead sentence: Mark Driscoll's sermons are mostly too racy to post on [an] evangelical Christian 'family friendly'... Web site. So this is a subject almost everyone (including the New York Times) is already talking nonstop about. And yet it seems to me that people in the evangelical world are not thinking very biblically about it. What language and what kind of subject matter are suitable for the pulpit in a worship service? What gifts and what virtues qualify a man to be a pastor? And what should stand out most prominently when someone analyzes our style of ministry? What would YOU want the New York Times to focus on if they did an article analyzing your style? A decade ago (in our circles, at least), no one would have considered those to be very tough questions. But now evangelicals are obsessed with this issue, and frankly many are very confused about it. It amazes me how many young men in the ministry today are utterly enthralled with smutty talk and lascivious subject matter and they insist this is a positive trend. I'm also appalled at the number of good men and Christian leaders who privately say they don't really approve of filthiness... foolish talk[, and] crude joking ; but they feel we need to overlook those trends and keep silence in public so that the delicate fabric of evangelical unity isn't torn asunder by a controversy over words. Frankly, I think this whole issue probably would not be controversial at all if a handful of respected Christian leaders were willing to step up and deal with the matter boldly and biblically. Sadly, evangelical tolerance for shenanigans in the pulpit has undergone a monumental change in the past couple of decades and not in a healthy direction. The most overtly lewd and 2 profane kinds of foolishness have found their way into the evangelical repertoire under the rubric of contextualization. Now, I face a serious practical dilemma here. In one sense, I'd like to show you some examples of the kind of thing I'm talking about, so that you understand that I am not exaggerating. On the other hand, most of these things are so thoroughly inappropriate that there's no way I would ever drag them into our worship center. But I'm pretty sure most of you are aware of some of the kinds of things I am talking about. Here's a handful of more-or-less sanitized examples: There's a group called xxxchurch who say they are targeting porn addicts and people who work in the so-called adult entertainment industry. They sponsor a booth at the major porn conventions where they say they are doing evangelism. They hand out Bibles and wear t-shirts stenciled with a deliberately ambiguous slogan: Jesus loves Porn stars. And the centerpiece of their display is a 15-foot inflatable phallus. They have painted a face on this abomination and given it a name. Now, xxxchurch isn't some obscure anomaly I dug up out of nowhere. You will find links to their website from literally hundreds of churches who support and promote what xxxchurch is doing. Trends like that abound in the evangelical world. It is suddenly very popular to preach sermons in which the pastor graphically describes private acts of perversion in language borrowed from the porn industry. There's a group of young women online who blog about the intimate details of their sex lives under the guise of trying to help Christian women spice up troubled marriages. In a group this size, it's likely that some of you may even have links to organizations and resources like that on your church websites. If so, shame on you, and you need to rethink what you are doing. Strategies like those invariably employ purposely suggestive images and speech that is calculated to be erotic. And I have no doubt whatsoever that they lure Christians into a culture of porn and carnality. I know for a fact that they are deadly stumbling blocks for people who have been saved out of that lifestyle. To claim that it's necessary to use deliberately seductive strategies such as those to draw people to Christ out of a culture that is already obsessed with everything erotic is a lie. It also ignores the reality of what has 3 actually happened to the evangelical movement over the past decade. Likewise, to claim that filthy language and purposely coarse words are essential for reaching people with the gospel is ludicrous. But that is exactly the argument that is being made. Here's a typical comment I found posted in a Southern Baptist discussion forum where this was the topic under discussion. The guy who wrote this seems to be a youth pastor or college minister. He says: Any Christian who says the words on the FCC's dirty word list are bad... is judging (and hence pushing away) millions of the lost simply because they... use different syllables.... God gives us no list of abusive words.... In a discussion with a sinner in a bar, the f-word often simply means very. I have won many people in [our community] to Christ dropping the f-bomb, and that is no lie.... Any word can be used abusively, and any word can be used to glorify God. Really? Have you ever wondered why the IRS doesn't publish tax forms in the language of the gutter? Of course you haven't. because no one really believes that's a necessary or legitimate form of contextualization. Todd Friel points out that you can watch the 11:00 news on any television channel in Seattle, and you won't find them using pornslang and gutter-talk to communicate the daily headlines to their viewers. And none of their viewers are demanding for the news to be translated into cuss words so they can understand what is being said. Why is that? If that kind of contextualization is so essential to communicate a message to people in what is supposedly the most unchurched community in America, why don't the secular news media know that? Could it be that talking dirty is not really as important as some stylish evangelicals are telling us it is? This approach to relevance has swept the evangelical community in a very short time. Just three years ago we were discussing the pros and cons of Rick Warren's 40 days of Purpose. Today the latest rage in the evangelical community is 40 days of sex or some variation on that theme. Ed Young, Jr., Pastor of the third largest 4 church in America, got nationwide news coverage for his church because he gave a series on sex with a giant bed as a prop on the platform. He sat on that bed and announced that he was issuing a seven-day Sex Challenge to the congregation. Here's how the Dallas Morning News reported the story: God may have rested on the seventh day, but the Rev. Ed Young wants married couples to have sex all week long. Once a day. Beginning this Sunday. The call to action will headline Mr. Young's Sunday sermon at Grapevine-based Fellowship Church. He plans to deliver his challenge while sitting on a bed. I think Ed Young actually got that idea from a Florida church where the pastor issued a 30-day sex challenge. Apparently, 30 days turned out to be too rigorous, so most of the churches that have followed suit have down-scaled the demand a bit. But suddenly that kind of eroticism from the pulpit is all the rage. Time magazine noticed the trend and did a major article about it six months ago, titled And God said: Just Do It. I see a different story almost every week about some church sponsoring a series on sex or a sex challenge of some kind. Part of the trend involves putting up suggestive billboards around town. The billboards tend to outrage even secular communities, and that's one reason this trend keeps making the news. Every church seems to try to make the ads more sleazy than all their predecessors. In Kenosha, WI, just last month, the secular school board informed a church they couldn't use school property for their Sunday services anymore because the school board looked at the flyer the church put on doors all around the community and the school board thought the flyer advertizing the pastor's series on sex was too pornographic. Let's be honest: No one really thinks this kind of thing is absolutely necessary to reach our culture, and I've never heard anyone even try to argue that these trends are having a sanctifying impact in a society that is already sex-crazed to the point of gross perversion. So why is this so pervasive? It's clear, for one thing, that there are lots of people in the evangelical movement who really want to be at home in the culture. And too many pastors are enthralled with the idea of being cool in the eyes of the world. 5 Let's be candid: to a very large degree the whole notion of contextualization has been commandeered as an excuse for carnal minds poisoned by overexposure to smut. Some people just love the sound of filthy words, and they and feed their egos with the shockwaves that kind of language generates. The more the church wants to be like the world, the more that attitude will dominate. Now, that's a much longer introduction than I originally intended to give, but I want to stress that this problem is serious, and widespread, and it's moving through the evangelical movement with frightening speed. As one guy said, it's not really a trend anymore; it has become the new norm. One more thing about contextualization. (I spoke on this subject at last year's Shepherds' Conference): If your approach to contextualization is designed mainly to make you fit comfortably into a pagan culture then you have an upside-down view of what Paul meant when he spoke of becoming all things to all men so that he might by all means win some. And that's one of the prominent lessons of our text. Look first at the larger context. Titus, the recipient of this letter, was a close companion of the apostle Paul. You can see clearly in the way Paul writes about him that he had earned Paul's trust. Titus was evidently quite a young man, because in chapter 1, verse 4, Paul addresses him as my true child in a common faith. It's not my son in the faith, huios (a legal son who has come of age, or someone who has been granted the privilege of sonship by adoption) but teknon child which signifies a child by birth. The choice of that word implies that Titus was still a very young man. And combined with the adjective ( my genuine child according to [our] common faith ) it also suggests that Paul had personally led Titus to Christ. So this young Gentile convert became indispensable to Paul. In 2 Corinthians alone, Paul refers to Titus nine times. (He also mentions him twice in Galatians and once in 1 Timothy.) Paul entrusted a number of important responsibilities to Titus. It's clear that he regarded Titus as much more than a pupil or messenger boy, but Titus was a true and trusted partner in the apostolic ministry. So when Paul moved on from Crete, he left Titus there to establish and organize the leadership in the churches that were being founded 6 there. Paul says in chapter 1, verse 5: This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you. Now, Paul has some not-so-nice things to say about the culture of Crete. It turns out this place was even worse than Seattle. Titus 1:10-16: 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. There's a bit of cultural sensitivity for you: Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. Ooh, that's harsh. Yes, it is. And if you ponder carefully what Paul is saying to Titus here, this passage explodes some of the favorite myths about contextualization. Paul does not say, Cretans are liars and lazy gluttons, so reach out to them on that basis. Immerse yourself in their culture and learn to speak that language. Appeal to their love f food, wine, and fellowship. Organize your men's ministry so that the meetings are in the pub. Harness their passion for ultimate fighting by hanging out with gladiators and imitating their lifestyle and values. Let the flavor of that culture season all your preaching. Contextualize! You won't find that in Paul's instructions to Titus. Notice this, too: Paul doesn't lower the bar of Christian leadership to accommodate the hedonistic bent of Cretan Culture. In verses 6-7 9 He gives Titus practically the same list of qualifications for church leadership he gave in 1 Timothy 3. Frankly, I don't envy the task Titus was called to (v. 5): Put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town How can you meet those standards for leaders if all you have to work with are fresh converts out of such a corrupt culture? But Titus's task was clear. He was not to ape the fashions of that society. He was to teach them to be different. Not only that but with regard to the young men in particular (since Titus himself was a young man) he was to be a different kind of example from anything they had ever seen. He wasn't supposed to crawl into society's sewer and join the fraternity of Cretan bad-boys. He needed to model dignity, purity, integrity, reverence, and sound speech. That's the whole point of our text (2:7): Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Notice the flow of logic in chapter 2. These are things that adorn sound doctrine. Paul is reminding Titus of several important practical and behavioral issues that [are in accord] with sound doctrine. Doctrine is vital, yes. Some doctrines are essential, right? That's the premise of Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, the Shepherds' Fellowship, and other similarly-minded groups. We may not agree on everything down to the smallest minutia, and we won't let insignificant disagreements rupture our fellowship. But we must agree on the gospel. That's the only basis for authentic Christian fellowship. Doctrine per se is not extraneous or superfluous, despite what our postmodern friends try to tell us. Some truths are vital especially the rich tapestry of truth at the heart of the gospel. Some truths are so vital that if you deny or try to alter them in any way, you're anathema accursed. And some lies are so dangerous that as Paul says back in chapter 1, verse 11, the mouths of those who utter such lies must be stopped. 8 But get this: there are likewise certain principles of sanctification and personal conduct that are so vital we're required to break fellowship with those who ignore them. First Corinthians 5:11: I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler not even to eat with such a one. In other words, if someone calls himself a Christian but his lifestyle or language is chronically incompatible with a sanctified heart and mind certainly if he is given to casual blasphemy or obsessed with things that are lewd and indecent Paul says, don't associate with such people. Paul's point is that sanctified behavior is the essential companion to authentically sound doctrine. You may verbally affirm the finest confession of faith ever written, but if your words and deeds deny it, Paul would not have affirmed you as an authentic Christian at all. Much less would he lay hands on you for ministry. He says so, right there in chapter 1, verses 15-16: To the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Sound doctrine is essential but it's not enough. Therefore, Paul says to Titus, (2:1): as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Teach the principles of sanctification that adorn the doctrine you teach. And then Paul describes what that looks like (verse 2): Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, etc. Verse 3: Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women... He is not giving Titus exhaustive lists of what is crucial in sanctification; these are representative samples of the kinds of qualities Titus needed to stress, especially in such a grungeaddicted culture as Crete. And Paul goes systematically through all the classifications of saints every Sunday-school class starting with the older men, then the older women, who are expressly tasked with teaching the younger women. Then in verse 6, Paul gets to the category to which Titus himself belonged: younger men. Notice what Titus is to stress with them, and how he is to stress it (vv. 6-8): Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 9 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned. That's the heart of our text, and there you have the apostle Paul's instructions for a young man ministering to other young men in a pagan, unchurched, pleasure-oriented, idolatrous culture. There's nothing whatsoever here about adopting the badges of the youth culture in Crete. Not a word about the importance of fitting in or adapting your ministry to the lowbrow lifestyle of Crete. Titus was the one who was supposed to set the standard for them, not vice versa. By the way, let me m
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