CDPCKL · The Foundations of the Church (Titus 1:1-4)

The Foundations of the Church (Titus 1:1-4)

In the eastern Mediterranean Sea there is a large island named Crete. 

Now, we do not know what people first came to the island and settled it, but we do know that they found it to be an island paradise: a wilderness of fertile soil and no large predators to contend with! 

So those earliest settlers went to work. They began to cultivate grains and fruits, they introduced cows, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs to the island. The earliest traces of those primordial farming cultures date to about 9,000 years ago. By 4,000 years ago those farmers had grown up into a civilization that had built cities and palaces all over the island, complete with indoor plumbing and flushing toilets. 

And then they began to expand: they built ships and started a trading empire, sailing as far as Egypt in the south, colonizing the Greek lands to the north. 

But a little more than 3,000 years ago the Greek colonists began to fight back against their Cretan overlords. Eventually the Greeks invaded the island and conquered it, and from that point on Crete was a colony of Greece. 

But then Greek scholars began looking back at that previous colonial age and pointing out that Cretan constitutional law had actually been very good: balanced and fair. They admired the Cretans for their sober and temperate way of life, and they thought it would be good for the Greeks to actually adopt some Cretan values — similar to the way Malaysia has adopted English law and government even though the British empire is gone. 

So far so good, yeah? 

The problems began when the Cretan people agreed with the Greeks that they were better than the Greeks. 

That never works well, does it? When someone says, “Wow, you are so much smarter than I am!” you are not really supposed to say, “Mm, yes. That is very true.” 

But, not content to be merely better than the Greeks, the Cretans began to claim that they were actually the original human beings who sprang fully formed from the earth itself — which made them the biological fathers of the Greeks. 

That was bad enough. But it gets worse: not content to be merely the biological fathers of the Greeks, the Cretans also began to claim that the original men and women of Crete had been so amazing that, when they died, they became the immortal gods…the same gods that the Greeks now worshiped. And to prove this, Cretans would direct tourists to the Tomb of Zeus on their island, and explain how Zeus was once a human king on Crete. His body is here, but his spirit is the king of the gods on Mt. Olympus, worshiped by the Greeks. 

The point being: the Cretans are not just the biological fathers of the Greeks, they are also the spiritual fathers of the Greeks. In fact, the Greeks are actually worshiping dead Cretans. 

Not cool, amirite? 

So by the time the Romans came along, the people of Crete had developed quite a bad reputation: they were arrogant, nationalistic racists who believed and promoted obvious lies about their own past history, claiming that their civilization was the original source of all civilizations. 

Even worse, it seems that Cretan culture had changed a bit through the centuries: they used to be sober and temperate, but by Roman times they were a contentious bunch, always fighting with each other. And when they could not fight each other, they would hire themselves out as mercenary soldiers so they could make some money while fighting somebody else. Now, the Romans were a very warlike people themselves, normally they admired that sort of thing. But it seems that the Cretans were just a bit extra in this department, just a bit too extreme even for the Romans. 

So this was the situation when, one year, a group of Jews who lived on Crete went on a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 

And they came back with some strange news: while they had been in Jerusalem the Romans had crucified a criminal. 

But that is not the strange part, the Romans crucified people all the time. No: this criminal had risen from the dead on the third day and had proven that he is actually a god, the Jewish God, the king over all other gods. 

But even that was not very strange, the Cretan people told the same kind of story about Zeus. No, the strange part is that this Jewish criminal, named Jesus, did not leave his body behind in the tomb like Zeus did, he had come back to physical life — but not just ordinary, mortal physical life, but rather an immortal kind of physical life: the perfect combination of divine spirituality with human physicality. 

Even more unusual, this was not just a myth or a dream or a vision by some random person, this was verifiable fact. These Jewish pilgrims from Crete had first heard this news from a group of men and women who had burst out into the streets of Jerusalem, all babbling what sounded like nonsense until the pilgrims began paying attention — and then, suddenly, these Cretan Jews realized they were hearing their own Cretan language being spoken! And these babbling people were all claiming that they had talked with the risen Jesus, eaten with the risen Jesus, that he had proven to them again and again that he is really, physically alive. And they claimed that, just a few days before, they had seen him rise up into a cloud to go and begin his reign as Heavenly King over all kings. And, these people said, one day this Jesus will return to dismantle every human empire, and transform the world into a paradise with no predators of any kind, animal or human, a new earth where his people will live forever. 

So, when they came home to Crete, these Jewish pilgrims began to worship this man Jesus Christ as if he was their traditional Jewish God, which was very unusual. Some other Jews on the island were convinced by the evidence and joined them. But most of the Jews on Crete got very very angry and kicked them out of their synagogues — “synagogue” is a word that means “gathering place”. The synagogue was like the neighborhood mosque of the ancient Jewish people. 

So, nemind, these Jewish worshipers of Jesus Christ went away and started their own synagogues, Christ-worshiping synagogues: rooms big enough to accomodate between 50 and 100 people, similar to our room here, where they would get together every week to sing and pray, to read God’s Word and discuss how it might apply to their daily lives as new followers of Jesus Christ. 

But this new Christian synagogue movement really began to expand — maybe about 20 years later? — when a Jewish religious teacher named Paul arrived from Asia, with his team. And Paul was also very unusual. Jewish religious teachers were famously narrow-minded, they avoided close friendships with other nationalities. But Paul’s team was a mixed group of Jews and non-Jews and half-Jews. 

And then Paul explained why his team was so diverse, and that is when everything changed. Paul explained that Jesus Christ was not just a Messiah for Jewish people. Anyone who wants to is allowed to join Jesus’ kingdom, regardless of their race or sex or culture or social status. Anyone who wants to can become an adopted descendant of this God, simply by asking. And Paul started inviting pagan Cretans to worship with the Jewish Christians. 

And many of the pagan Cretan people said, “Meh, no thanks! We are already descended from Zeus, the original king of the gods. We have the oldest and best civilization in the world, why would we switch loyalties now to some brand-new baby religion, some brand-new baby nation, just because the physical evidence says we should?” 

But apparently some of the Cretans were more rational, more scientifically minded. They studied the evidence, they talked to the eye-witnesses, and they decided to abandon the nationalistic myths they had been raised on: they joined Jesus’ nation instead. They started worshiping at the Christian synagogues, right alongside the Jewish-background Christians. Together, they started figuring out what it means to live in unity as Jesus’ new international, multinational nation. So the Christian synagogue movement began to really grow. 

Well, at some point Paul had to move on, and he took his team with him — leaving just one young man behind to continue the integration process. That young man’s name was Titus, and he was a Greek, a non-Jew. 

So far so good, yeah? 

The problems began when some new Jewish religious teachers arrived on the island. These teachers visited the Christian synagogues, and of course they were invited to preach. After all, these teachers were from Jerusalem, this was a big opportunity for the Cretans to hear from the central headquarters of their faith. 

And I’m sure those new teachers began well. They would have said, “Hello! Greetings from the Church in Jerusalem. Pastor James, Pastor John, and Pastor Peter all want to say well done, it is wonderful that those of you from a Jewish background have realized that Jesus is the Messiah. And it is wonderful that those of you from a pagan background also want to join. 

“But it is clear that whoever trained you…did not finish your conversion process properly. 

“See, in order for you to properly join Jesus the Jewish Messiah, really you need to join the Jewish nation. That means getting circumcised and learning to live according to the details of Moses’ ancient law: no more pork, no more prawns, you need to wear special religious clothing, you need to follow all of our religious festivals, you need to make regular pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem…all that stuff. 

“So, look, until we get this situation sorted out, this is what we are going to do to clean up the mess: those of you who are already circumcised Jews, you all sit up front here. If you are not circumcised, please go stand in the back. Let’s see…we are going to need some separate tables for mealtime…Actually, you know what? If you are Jewish you are welcome to eat the Lord’s Supper inside the synagogue, but if you are not circumcised, please eat somewhere else so that our synagogue is not defiled by your…non-Jewishness. Also, ladies: please stay home if you are pregnant, nursing, if you have young children, or if you are menstruating. 

“Is that clear?” 

And the Cretan Christians would have said, “…ummm, we do not mean to be disrespectful, but we have been worshiping together here for a while. It does not seem fair for some of us to be excluded now just because of some circumcision thing!” 

And the Jerusalem teachers would have said, “Uhhhh, wow. That whole ’circumcision thing’ — as you call it — is sort of central to our faith, and has been for thousands of years! How in the world did the Jewish members here leave that out of your membership classes? 

“Do you have a rabbi or something? Is there someone in charge that we can talk to?” 

And that is when the congregations would have introduced Titus. And that is when the Jerusalem teachers would have said, “Ohhhh, now we understand how this happened. Listen, everybody: this Titus guy works with Paul, and Paul is a heretic, okay? He did not grow up in Jerusalem like we did, he grew up in Asia, so his version of Judaism is a little…off. To be honest, he has actually invented a whole new religion. And you know how we can tell? Because he left an uncircumcised Greek guy behind as your pastor! 

“So do not listen to Titus anymore. We are sure he is a nice guy, he means well and everything, but he is just not qualified to train you in the original, ancient forms of Judaism like we are! We are descended from Abraham, the original father of the Jews. We are from Jerusalem, the center of the oldest and best religion in the world. So why would you want to listen to these upstarts when you could be trained by the OG?” 

And just like that, confusion swept through the churches of Crete. Which version of Judaism is the right one, the new or the old, Paul’s version or these other guys’? Is Titus qualified to be a pastor, or should only Jewish men be pastors? 

And following behind the confusion came division, of course. The Cretan culture was already a contentious culture: these people had grown up fighting with each other. Paul’s preaching had finally united them and given them peace! — but now these new teachers from Jerusalem had destroyed all that. And in the absence of unity, old pagan habits came rushing back to fill the void: the churches started falling apart! 

So, in great distress, Titus must have written an emergency letter to Paul explaining what was going on and saying, “Help! We are in deep trouble here!” 

And some weeks, or maybe even months later, an answering letter arrived from Paul. Titus would have read it privately at first. But then, realizing that Paul meant for this to be a public letter, Titus would have taken it to the nearest Christian synagogue on the very next Sunday and read it aloud to the congregation as a message from their original father in the faith. 

This is how the letter begins: 

[1] Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— [2] in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, [3] and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, 

[4] To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. 

And at this point Titus pauses and looks up to see how the people are responding. 

And it is not good. The congregation is tense! The Jerusalem teachers are furious. The local Jewish-background Christians are anxiously glancing back and forth between the Jerusalem teachers and their local pagan-background friends. And the local pagan-background Christians are looking at each other going, “Ummmm…what?” 

Because Paul has landed here with all guns blazing. This is the longest opening sentence in any of his pastoral letters. And the reason it is the longest is because, in this single sentence, he has focused a laser on every single issue the church is facing there in Crete. He is basically ticking off a list of targets: I am going to talk about this, I am going to talk about this, I am going to talk about this…so brace yourselves, everybody! 


Perhaps I had better explain why this introduction is so shocking. 

The gunfire begins right away, with the very second word: Paul, he says, a servant of God. Quite literally: a slave of God. 

Now, in the Roman world, a slave was not even human. It was an insult to call someone a slave. 

So why does Paul start off by insulting himself? 

Because he is setting himself apart from those Jerusalem teachers. They are the kind of people who have all these special titles attached to their names: Dato Tan Sri Reverend Most Holy Doctor of Jewish Circumcision, PhD. The walls in their offices are covered with diplomas and degrees and photographs of them shaking hands with governors and celebrities. They want people to know that they are smart, they are special, they are connected, they deserve to be in charge. And they get pretty upset if someone does not address them with the appropriate level of respect. 

Well, Paul says no, I am not going to play that game. Now, to be clear: Paul actually has quite a few degrees of his own — he is no dummy! — but he says, “You know what, friends? Just call me ‘slave‘.” 

That is how humble he is. 

Quite naturally, however, as a slave, Paul does have a job: he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. 

“Apostle” basically means messenger boy. Paul is Jesus’ messenger boy. 

Now, messenger boys in the Roman empire were slaves. But slaves that served as messenger boys did receive special training in memorization and communication, how to deliver a message word for word with exactly the same tone that their master had used. 

So Paul is showing off his qualifications. But instead of boasting about his Jewish heritage and all his religious and intellectual accomplishments — like the Jerusalem teachers do — he is simply saying, “I am a slave who has been trained to carry Jesus’ messages reliably.” 

Paul could be proud of a lot of things in his life! But the thing he is most proud of is that Jesus chose him to be a messenger boy. 

Now, as Jesus’ messenger boy, quite naturally Paul has a message to deliver: he is supposed to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. 

Paul’s message has two simple parts: first, he is supposed to point people to the evidence that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and ruling as Heavenly King over all gods. Second, Paul is supposed to explain how this knowledge of the truth should change people’s lives. 

That’s it. That is Paul’s entire job as messenger boy: tell people that Jesus is alive, and tell them how they should respond. A job so simple that even a well-trained slave can do it. 

But even as Paul makes the point that Jesus’ message is pretty simple, he also takes two more shots at the teachers from Jerusalem: 

They say that being circumcised is what makes marks someone out as one of God’s elect, one of God’s chosen people. 

Paul says no, faith in Jesus is the mark of God’s elect. 

“Well, yeah, okay,” the Jerusalem teachers would say, “of course faith in Jesus is important, we agree on that. But as these Cretan pagans grow in their faith in Jesus, their increasing knowledge of the truth should lead to circumcision and a Jewish religious lifestyle.” 

But Paul says no, an increasing knowledge of the truth should lead to godliness. 

To which the Jerusalem teachers would say, “uh…circumcision is godliness, Paul!” 

At which point Paul smiles and says, “Mm, yes, I am going to talk about the nature of true godliness little bit later in my letter. Keep on reading!” 

So, Paul’s purpose as messenger boy is to deliver these two simple messages: Jesus is risen from the dead, and this knowledge should change our lives. 

But he also goes on to point out that these messages have their own ultimate purpose: to create the hope of eternal life. 

And the reason Paul says this is because the teachers from Jerusalem have forgotten it — if they ever knew it. 

They think the point of preaching Jesus is to turn pagans into Jews, to build up the Jewish nation. They think the ultimate purpose of the Gospel is to turn the world into a Jewish empire, full of people who live in slavery under their version of Jewish religious law. 

But Paul says no, the ultimate purpose of the Gospel is the hope of eternal life. Yes, the knowledge of the truth leads to godliness, but the ultimate purpose of Christianity is not simply to make a bunch of “good people”, the purpose is to create an eternal people. 

Okay. Sounds good. But where does this hope of eternal life come from? Does it come from being godly enough? 

No, Paul says, this is a hope which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. 

Now, here Paul is taking two more shots at issues in the Cretan Church. 

But he has actually changed direction slightly. Until this point he has been pushing back against the Jerusalem teachers. Now he turns to the young Cretan believers, and begins to highlight some of their pagan cultural problems that he intends to deal with in this letter. 

For instance, they grew up worshiping Zeus, the king of their gods — and Zeus was a famous liar. Worse than that, he was a famous rapist. A lot of the ancient myths about Zeus involve him using deception to violate some innocent woman. For instance, in one story he falls in love with a man’s wife, but she turns him down. So he disguises himself as her husband, and tricks her into adultery. Sounds horrible, right? Well: the Cretans admired this quality! To them, Zeus was a clever dude: he got what he wanted and he never got caught. Brilliant! What a role-model! And this is why, in Cretan culture at this time, deception was a virtue. 

So Paul deliberately pauses in this sentence to say no, deception is not a virtue. The true God is the exact opposite of Zeus: he does not lie. 

And Paul’s warning is clear: now that these Cretan Christians are worshiping the true God, they are going to have to begin living truthful lives. They are going to have to reject their treasured pagan culture that values deception. If they do not…! 

Well, Paul is going to come back to that later on in his letter. 

So Paul’s first warning shot in this section was directed against the Cretan belief that deception is a virtue. 

His second warning shot is directed against the Cretan belief that divisiveness is a virtue. Remember, Cretans grew up believing that their civilization, their culture, is the oldest and best in the whole world, and they are willing to fight the whole world to prove it! And if they cannot fight the world, then they are at least going to fight each other over which end of the island is the oldest and best. 

So Paul says no, sorry, you are all wrong: the oldest and best culture in the whole world began before the beginning of the world. And that culture is God’s culture, the trinitarian culture of Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, a culture centered around a covenant of love and faithfulness and truth — a culture that God promised before the beginning of time to pass on to his elect: the life of eternal union with God that is the ultimate end goal of Christianity. 

And here again Paul’s warning is clear: now that these Cretan Christians have joined Jesus’ nation, they are going to have to learn how to live in unity with one another. They are going to have to get rid of this idea that division is a virtue. If they do not…! 

Again, Paul is going to come back to this point later on in his letter. 

Now, the Cretan people could respond and say, “Hold on! If God’s covenant-based culture of truth has been around from before the beginning of time like you say, why haven’t we seen it before?” 

And the teachers from Jerusalem could add, “Yeah, Paul! You claim that your ideas have been around from before the beginning of time. But if that is true, why does it sound to us like you are inventing a whole new religion?” 

“Ah,” Paul says in verse 3, “I am so glad you asked. The reason so much of this seems new to you pagans and you Jews is because it is only now at God’s appointed season that he has brought all this to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.” 

Paul is basically going back to where he started this introduction. He is pointing out that the message is actually really old. It was written and placed in the outbox before the beginning of time. But it was not delivered until now, when God sent Paul out as his messenger boy. 

And this is also quite a stern warning for both the Cretan people and the Jewish teachers from Jerusalem: Paul is letting them know that, if they reject God’s messenger boy, then they are actually rejecting God our Saviour. 

But since Paul cannot it make back to Crete himself, he is sending them his own messenger boy deal with the situation. Oh, wait! Paul’s messenger boy is already there, he never left! 

“So,” Paul says, “This letter contains my instructions to Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” 

And this is Paul’s parting shot, aimed again at the teachers from Jerusalem. They say Titus is not qualified to be a pastor because he is not circumcised, he is not Jewish, he is not properly related to the true faith. 

But Paul says no, Titus is my true son. Not because he was born Jewish, not because he is circumcised, but because we share a common faith. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; neither Jewish birth nor non-Jewish birth means anything; what counts is the new creation. Titus is a new creation simply because he has accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah and King. 

And this is yet another stern warning for everyone in the Cretan Church. Paul has already told them that, if they reject God’s messenger boy, then they are actually rejecting God our Saviour. Now he tells them that if they reject the messenger boy’s messenger boy…they are actually rejecting Christ Jesus our Saviour. 

And as Paul makes clear here, God our Saviour and Christ Jesus our Saviour are the same person. In other words, Jesus is God. So if a person rejects Jesus Christ, they are rejecting God. And if they reject God, then it does not matter if they are Dato Tan Sri Reverend Most Holy Doctor of Jewish Circumcision, PhD…they have abandoned the true faith and are worse off now than any unrepentant pagan person from Crete. 


All that is why the congregation is so tense right now. 

The Jerusalem teachers are furious because they have been publically spanked by Paul before and they did not enjoy it. 

The local Jewish-background Christians are anxiously glancing back and forth between the Jerusalem teachers and their local pagan-background friends on the other side, because they don’t know if they should remain loyal to Paul’s theology or follow the Jerusalem guys instead. 

And the local pagan-background Christians are looking at each other going, “Ummmm…what?” Because they have delighted in deception and division all their lives — that is their identity, that is who they are as Cretans, they are proud of how “clever” their culture is, especially in comparison to the Greeks and the Romans! — but it sort of sounds like Paul is planning to tell them to stop being Cretan! to stop being who they are!…which is impossible, right? 

Well, Paul wanted his readers to be tense. This opening sentence was designed to wake everyone up, because there are some serious issues to be worked through here! A particular kind of nationalistic, divisive false teaching has been introduced to a church whose members were raised in a nationalistic, divisive culture, and the result has been devastating. It is almost as if the Cretan Church has caught a virus that was genetically engineered to attack them where they are weakest, to strengthen their natural cultural sins and consume them from within like a cancer. 

These multinational Christian synagogues of Crete are probably not even a year old and they are already imploding, collapsing into ruin. So, in a way, what Paul is doing here in his introduction is clearing away the wreckage and starting over. In this single long sentence, Paul has re-laid the foundation stones of the Cretan Church: 

First, he set the cornerstone in place. This is the most important stone, the one that all the other stones are connected to. That stone is Jesus Christ, the man who is also God. If the Cretans reject the idea that Jesus is God, they are not Christians. 

Next, Paul made sure the rest of the foundation stones were in place. These are the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles — God’s messenger boys. If the Cretans reject God’s messenger boys — including Paul and Titus — they are not Christians. 

Then Paul poured some theological cement into the foundations, this idea that true faith in Jesus Christ must result in true godliness, true godliness must result in true unity, and true unity must result in the hope of eternal life, not in the hope of a global Jewish empire. So if the Cretans refuse to give up their love for Cretan nationalism, Cretan deception and division…they are not true Christians. If the Jerusalem teachers refuse to give up their love for Jewish nationalism, Jewish legalism and divisiveness…they are not true Christians. 

So…yeah: Paul has really landed with all guns blazing. He has spelled out all the foundational elements of the Gospel, and he is saying, “Look, this is my trigger warning, okay? If you already disagree with these basic points, then you are not actually a Christian, and the rest of this letter is going to be a traumatic experience for you. So if that is the case, then might I recommend that you go back to worshiping Zeus or Abraham or some other idol that you can control? Because what you are really looking for is a ’safe space’ where your presuppositions will not be challenged, and this Christian synagogue is not going to be that safe space! So I strongly suggest that you go and find that space before I offend you further. 

“However, if you do agree with these basic points of the Gospel, then please read on. I am going to teach you — through Titus — how to build a healthy Christian community on this Gospel foundation. 

“Now, this will be a challenging letter. Jesus died to himself in order to save us from death, and he is asking us to die to ourselves in response. Practically speaking, this means that we are all going to be challenged to give up things that are precious to us, things that we think are central to who we are, things that we think we cannot live without. As I just warned the others: this is not going to be a safe space, not in that way. So: brace yourselves!” 

— and come back next week when Paul teaches Titus how to set the pillars of the Cretan Church in place, the columns that will support the roof and give shape to the walls of the community as they are rebuilt stone by stone. 


So now we have to ask this question: is Paul’s letter to Titus relevant to us today, or should we just move on to some other book? 

…I am going to make the case that Paul’s letter is relevant to us, even now, almost 2000 years after it was first written. 

Because mankind’s history on Crete is really mankind’s history on the earth, told in miniature. Our species started off in a garden paradise, free from predators. So we became the predators! We went from farming to city building, then expanded into empire building. We created a world that runs on nationalism, racism, deception, division, manipulation, competition. 

So I think it is fair to say that we are all Cretans at heart. We all have a native tendency to believe that our ethnicity, our language, our values, our cultural identity is older, better, more civilized that everyone else’s, and we are all quite willing to let everyone else know that we think we are better than they are. 

These sins are, perhaps, especially evident in a city as diverse as KL. We all know Malaysian Chinese who are more proud of being Chinese than Malaysian, because Chinese civilization is the oldest, right? But then our Indian friends remind us that they invented proper math, without them we would have no modern technology. And of course it is the Malay nationalistic myth that they were here first and the rest of us are just pendatang. “But hold on,” the Indonesians say, “you Malays wouldn’t be anything without the Majapahit, we invented your culture!” Then the Arabs speak up: “Actually, we brought the light of true civilization to these waters. Before we came along you were just a bunch of Hindus!” To which the Indians say, “Yeah! See? We were here first!” Meanwhile, the Singaporeans are standing by: “Hey, you all so big! Why your GDP so small?” 

Now, all of that is to be expected: what other hope do non-Christians have except to find their value through their accomplishments and their ancestors’ accomplishments? 

But these sins should have no place in Jesus’ Church! We ought to be a people who, above all, understand that our value is assigned to us by God. And since God is our Saviour Jesus Christ, who died to redeem us, the value assigned to us must be as infinite as the value of the blood of Christ! And since we know our value is infinite in God’s sight, we should feel no need at all to assert our own value through educational achievements, cultural achievements, national achievements, religious achievements, or anything else! 

But we do, don’t we? I think it is fair to say that we are all Cretan Christians at heart. Some of us have a weakness for religious legalism. Some of us have a weakness for ethnic pride. Some of us have a weakness for deception, while others of us tend to be divisive and ready to fight over the stupidest things. Some of us are obsessed with titles and social status or even just plain money. 

But all these sins simply confirm that Paul’s letter to Titus is just as relevant to us today as it was for the ancient Church of Crete. 

Which leads us to our closing question: how should we respond? What is our application for today? 

Let’s start with this: let us all take a good look at Paul’s introduction, and make sure our church agrees with these three foundational points of the Gospel. Because if we are confused about these three points…then there is no point in going to the next level in Paul’s Church Establishment Program. 

Point 1: Jesus Christ is God, the foundational cornerstone of the Church, and we do not need another one. 

Point 2: the prophets and apostles — the Old Testament and the New Testament — are the rest of the foundation stones, and we do not need any more. 

Point 3: Jesus’ Church is meant to unite people from every nation, tribe, people and language. No one is to be left out or kicked out on the basis of race, sex, nationality or social status. 

Now, if you are a visitor here today, you should know that the elders and members of this church do agree with these three foundational points. If you don’t agree, or if you have questions about what these points mean, then this is your practical application for today: please talk to us during our Q&A time and we will all discuss these things together. 

But now, for the rest of us who consider this church our family, this is our practical application, in light of these three Gospel points: let’s brace ourselves. Because, as usual, the Gospel is going to sting a bit. As we proceed through Paul’s Church Establishment Program over the next few weeks, some of our cultural values — some of our cultural idols — are going to be critiqued, and we will be challenged to give them up. And we are going to fight back. We are going to respond like three year olds going, “No! No! Mine! Mine!” while our Father gently pries our fingers open so he can take our treasured bottles of poison away. 

So let us spend this week praying for humility, for deeper trust in our Father’s wisdom, and for a clear vision of what he wants us to grow up into as a united Christian community. 

And let’s start now. 

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