By Pastor Glenn Pease
Rusty Stevens, a Navigator Director, tells this story. He was pushing the lawn mower around his yard trying to get done before supper was on the table. His 6 year old son Mikey came out and stepped in front of him, grabbed the handle of the mower and started to push. The father quit pushing and the mower slowed to a stop, for Mikey did not have the strength to push it, but he wanted to help. Dad had the impulse to say "get out of here. You are in my way", but instead he said, "Son, I'll help you." So he began to push with his legs spread apart to avoid hitting his son. He was now moving slower and less efficiently with Mikey's help.
It suddenly dawned on him that this is the way God works with us. As our heavenly Father he could get the work done of building his kingdom so fast and efficient alone, but he wants us to help. Out help is often a handicap, for we only slow things down and are less efficient. But God's plan is to let us help. We see this so clearly in Paul's letter to Titus. Paul does not say, "Just choose who you will, or call for volunteers to be leaders and pastors of the churches. Paul does not teach that it makes no difference who is leading because God in his sovereignty will make it all work out no matter what you do. Instead, Paul says it makes a world of difference who you choose, for God does not build his kingdom, and Christ does not build his church without the help of men and women who are channels of his will in the world.
If excellence only depended on God, then their is nothing to worry about, for God is always excellent. But if excellence depends on men, then the qualifications of those men makes a lot of difference in the outcome. the quality of a church depends upon the quality of its leaders. The pastor and lay leaders form the character of the church. We have looked at all the things they should not be, and most of what they should be. This message brings us to the 9th verse of chapter one where the issue is doctrine. The leaders of the church of Christ must be people of sound doctrine. they must hold firmly to Biblical truth, and be able to teach it to others, and be able to refute those who oppose it.
The stability of the church depends on the leaderships commitment to the Word of God. The orthodox doctrines, or teachings that come from Christ and his Apostles is the foundation that can never change. It has to be passed on from generation to generation. When their is a shift from this foundation to some other source for guidance you get a corrupted Christianity. The big corruption that Paul is ever fighting in his day is legalism. the Jewish Christians keep going back to the Old Testament law and they try to impose it on the Christians who have been set free in Christ from that bondage. He urges Titus to fight this perversion of the faith by sound doctrine.
This battle is never ending and that is why Christian leaders need to be educated in doctrine. The cults are deceiving untaught Christians by the thousands in every generation. Many cults specialize in enticing Christians who do not know their own doctrines well enough to know the difference between true Christianity and clever imitations. This letter of Paul is focus on the intellectual battles of the church. In his letter to the Corinthians he deals with the emotional issues. But we need to recognize that the Holy Spirit works in both the mind and the emotions. Sometimes what the Christian needs is a great lift and an emotional high. But at other times they need a solid rock of truth that can weather any intellectual storm that comes.
Craig Larson says that power can be used in two ways. It can be unleashed, or it can be harnessed. If you throw a match into a ten gallon container of gas, you will unleash its power in a great explosion. but if you take that same ten gallons of gas and put it into your car, it will by controlled explosions propel you a couple hundred miles. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came like tongues of fire, and the church of Christ exploded on the stage of history with 3000 Jews being saved in one day. But not every day in the life of the church is a day of explosion. Most days are days like Paul deals with here. They are days of a need for the power of the Holy Spirit to be harnessed and enabling leaders to proclaim the truth and defend it, and also prevent opponents from perverting it and hurting the body of Christ.
You will notice that Paul gives some of the characteristics of this New Testament church. In verse 10 he said it is full of rebellious people who are all talk, and who are deceivers. He says the Jewish Christians are especially so. They come into the church with all their legalistic baggage. They are teaching things to the new Christians that are ruining their lives. In verse 11 he says that whole households are being ruined by their heresies. They are wrapped up in Jewish myths, and they are corruption the Christian faith by their nonsense. Paul ends the chapter by saying they are just detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing anything good.
When people say they want a New Testament church I hope they mean the kind Paul is trying to get them to be, and not the kind they were. This New Testament church was a mess, and by false teaching they were actually making people worse instead of better. They were taking perfectly good pagans, who may have been decent people, and turning them into corrupted Christians who believed lies and myths. They made Christianity a mockery of true godliness. Can a church do people more harm than good? Paul says that they can, and it was happening in this church of Crete.
How do you prevent a church from being a curse to the world rather than a blessing? Paul says you do it by strong teaching of sound doctrine. Let a church depart from the Bible as the sole and supreme authority for all it believes and practices, and you are heading for a church that will be agent for evil rather than for Christ. Without sound doctrine the church becomes a channel for all the religious nonsense that man is capable of conceiving. The religious scams that people fall for are pathetic, and the cults that thrive off people is one of Satan's greatest joys.
The new age cults are growing by leaps and bounds in our nation, and Christians are often persuaded to join them because the church has been enticed away from sound doctrine to focus on the current issues of the day. The demand for the church to be relevant as led the church to become irrelevant, for they have focused on issues rather than sound doctrine. The best way to be relevant is to make sure the truth of God's Word is the foundation for all you do. But instead, the modern church has decided to use the Bible only as a resource with the main focus on the wisdom of men in psychology, politics, and sociology. The result is, the Bible collects dust as Christians try to keep up on the latest in contemporary thinking. We know this is so because every generation of Christians knows less about the Bible.
This leads the church right back to the New Testament church which was full of problems because people did not know their Bible. It was not just in Crete. Paul wrote to Timothy who was pastoring the church in Ephesus and the same problem was in that church. Paul writes in I Tim. 1:3, "As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer." He goes on to say that they have departed from sound doctrine and are just into meaningless talk that hurts the church.
Out of the 19 times this Greek word didoskalia is translated doctrine in the New Testament 17 are by Paul, and 15 of them are in his letters to Timothy and Titus. One of the major tasks of the local church is to make sure Christians are founded on sound doctrine, and that false doctrine is weeded out. This is often a thankless job, for people get bored with the truth, and they get restless as they look for something that is fresh, flashy and more contemporary. Paul warns Timothy in II Tim. 4:3-4 of what he can expect: "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."
Christian people can get bored to death with the very truths that save them and gave them good news to share with the world. It is hard to believe isn't it? But the fact is that a recent poll revealed that over half of Americans believe in reincarnation. This is one of the strong points of the new age cults. They have been able to persuade even a large number of Christians to believe this false doctrine. It is also a very popular idea that everybody who dies goes into a new and wonderful world. I find the movies based on this theme quite interesting myself, and I need to keep reminding myself that it is contrary to sound doctrine, and it undermines the Gospel completely. It is highly unlikely that any of us have escaped being touched to some degree by the many popular false doctrines that bombard our culture.
Every Christian needs a course in biblical theology, and leaders especially need it, for they are responsible to protect the rest of the body from the cleverness and appeal of false doctrine. Paul says in II Tim. 3:16 that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine. So wherever you are in Bible study, remember that your goal is to let the truth of that part of the Bible establish in you some biblical doctrine that will give you a basis to evaluate the things you hear. Walter Martin, author of over 15 books and the world authority on cults in the United States, says there are nearly 20 million cult members is this country. And they have an enormous impact on the things we see and hear.
Our culture provides and ideal environment for the growth of cults. We are fanatics for what is new and improved, and the cults work this for all its worth. They all have this characteristic: They have a new and improved revelation from God. Many of them say the Bible is okay, but its not the latest thing. If you want to be on the cutting edge you will follow us, for we have the new and improved pure truth. This appeals to a people who are interested in what is up to date and current. The cults portray Christians as being in the stone age of God's revelation. If you want to be with it, you will be with us.
Add to this their focus on the self-centeredness of our culture. Look out for number one. Self is the most important single entity in the universe. Self-help books by the dozens are the best sellers in the land. Forget the idea that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This is not good for self-esteem. You can be all you can be is the popular message. You can be set free to be successful, beautiful, healthy, and have the best of everything. You can become your own god is the subtle message that all the cults capitalize on. Self-deification is the bottom line which takes us right back to the origin of evil where Lucifer sought to exalt himself as God. The cults are not up to date at all, but are as old fashioned as the devil himself, for their goal is self-deification. Why submit to God when you can be your own god?
This appeals to the American mind, and so you can find books galore to help you become your own god in all the best book stores. Time magazine back in 1988 noted that there were over 25 hundred new age or occult book stores in the U. S. The point is that false doctrine is everywhere, and people are reading it by the millions everyday. The media that bombards us everyday is influence by these ideas, and so the Christian needs to be evaluating everything by the Bible. Is it according to sound doctrine, and does it ring true to the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles? If you don't feel sure about it, then be very skeptical until you search the Scriptures to find the evidence you need to support it or reject it.
The Christian faith is based on an objective revelation, and this is the measure by which we test all things. If any teaching is not compatible with the New Testament it is to be declared false doctrine and avoided. Why is there so much false doctrine? Paul says in verse 11 that it is because there are so many rebellious people. Other translations say so many insubordinate people, or people not willing to be submissive. These kinds of people love false doctrines because they hate the authority of anyone trying to tell them what to do and believe. They want to be free to do their own thing, and so they modify the Christian faith to fit their individual preferences. They are mere talkers always trying to rationalize their rebellion against authority. Unfortunately, he says they often succeed in deceiving others into following them.
This battle is fought on a thousand fronts all through history. One of the first signs that you are dealing with a heresy, or a cult, is the message that comes through that in some way you save yourself. This is the bottom line of all false doctrine. It says that Jesus is not the only way. You can get to heaven by some other route and be your own savior. This is so appealing to the pride of men, for what can be a greater ego builder that to believe you can save yourself? This is the number one heresy of history, and it is often packaged so cleverly that even Christian people fall for it as they obviously did in Crete.
This word that Paul uses for ruining whole households he uses again in II Tim. 3 where he is dealing with the false doctrine that came into Timothy's church. He writes in verses 17-19, "Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some." The word destroy is the same word Paul uses here. False doctrine can ruin and destroy people's faith. It is a great evil to allow false doctrine, and so Paul says it must be silenced. It is a never ending battle to keep Christians focused on the truth of God's Word, and not get sidetracked by the clever reasoning of men.
You would think mere talkers would be no threat to anybody. We say that talk is cheap, but the fact is, mere talkers scared Paul because people listen to talkers and are led astray. They may be like blind men telling you how to find a black cat in a dark room that isn't there, but their empty talk can do great damage because all of us are gullible. All Satan had was mere talk, but he persuaded Adam and Eve to disobey God with his clever words. Never underestimate the power of mere talkers. Words are powerful weapons and they could lead Christians to follow the way of heresy.
We have a problem today that did not exist in Paul's day. If Titus and Timothy could silence the voices of heresy in their churches, the Christians were safe from its destructive power. Today the world is full of books of all kinds, and mass media loaded with heretical doctrine. I find it even in our own church library as people donate books that they do not realize are published by the cults. A reading Christian today will likely be exposed to false doctrine, and so the challenge is even greater than it was for Titus and Timothy to get Christians grounded in sound doctrine.
Almost every cult in America was started by clever talkers. They learn that people are easily persuaded by eloquence and clever talk. They use this power to deceive, and as they did in Paul's day, they do it for the sake of dishonest gain. You can get rich quite fast in America if you have some religious gimmick. Some have sold bottle of water from the Jordan River, and some have sold healing hankies, and a host of other things that give people hope of direct contact with God through man made products. But the biggest gimmick of all is to sell words. The greatest conflict in the world is the battle of the Word against words. God's Word against the words of men.
Clever words can give us false assurance even though they are empty. A woman worried about her heart called to talk to her doctor. He said, "You need not worry. Your heart will last as long as you live." She felt comforted by such meaningless words. A nervous lady went to a captain of a ship on its way to Europe by the Northern route. She asked, "What would happen if we struck and iceberg?" The captain replied, "Calm your fears madam. The iceberg would continue on its way as if nothing had happened." She went away assured.
These, of course, are ridiculous illustrations of the power of words. But then look at Robert Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan. He was deeply involved with new age thinking. He read The Secret Doctrine by Madam Blavatsky the founder of Theosophy. She taught that man is intrinsically divine, and had the right to see truth from his own perspective independent of all others. He was doing God's will by killing one that he did not like. It was the judgment of God. He was being the god whose will he was carrying out. It was all logical and reasonable within the system he was deceived into by clever words.
The new age teaches children that they are perfect and sin is not an issue. If they feel something is right for them, then it is right for them, even if it is a rejection of everyone else's value system. This is destroying families today just as heresy was doing in Paul's day. What is so deceptive about the new age doctrine is they use good words and so we who love good words can be taken in by them. Words like Jesus is divine are a sure eye catcher for those of us who love Jesus as Lord. But what we do not see is that they mean nothing by the words. They think the same about every religious leader in history. All of us are divine and so Jesus is just like everyone else and not the Lord and the most unique man of history because he was also God. The words Jesus is divine in their meaning is really a heresy. Things are just he same today as in Paul's day, and so it is still essential that we all be anchored in sound doctrine.