How to live for Christ even if you are a nobody

(The sermon on Titus 2:7, 8 seems to be missing somewhere)
Text Titus 2:9, 10 Time 29/09/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

"I woke this morning with a taste most foul in my mouth. Funny how sweet on the lips the grape’s first kiss; how betraying then beneath the heat of the rising sun. But the success of the Prefect’s new building project has made him most generous of late and the wine flowed ... Any musician of The Empire surely envies the station I’ve achieved.
"Though Romana by status, I am Hiberni by birth. Inside this tired old chest beats the heart of a Celt - proud and ancient. My people, the Cruithin, dwelled in the Hibernian Highlands for a thousand years or more. But that all ended with the great Romana Invasion of Fromhoire in which my tribe was taken into servitude. I never again saw my mother, father, brothers or sisters after that fateful day. I was a young man of 12.
"Though craftsman by trade - an artisan most skilled in tooling fine leather - my father was, like his father before, our clan’s poet-musician. Countless nights around the village fire he would regale with tales of our people past, their conquests and defeats, all performed with a talent all said none could compare. ... I was to follow in his footsteps. I’d practised long and hard these magical tales, all to the accompaniment of the pipes, the subtleties of which I’d strove to master. And it was this that the Romana general found to his liking that darkest of days. So unlike my fellow clansmen taken in shackles back to Roma, I slept in the officers’ tents at night while my kinsmen lie on hard, cold ground. By the gods, for many years I felt myself a traitor.
"Upon arriving in the Imperial Capital, a visiting Prefect from Pompeii, Gaius Secundas, seemingly fascinated by my storytelling, ordered me brought to his palace. Most treacherous a man to those who displeased him - Romana and slave alike - he appeared to marvel at my clumsy attempts to entertain. He would summon me to Court both day and night to recite the magical tales that enlivened my now scattered clan - ... And through the years I grew in his favour; each year dedicating more of my repertoire to his many campaigns. And as reward for my cleverness he granted me my freedom at the age of 25. Though an ageing man was I, it was then that I became a liberi of Roma. A free man of the Romana Empire. And though I could have many time easily stolen away, back to my beloved homeland, I had no home to which return. No land to plot or plough. And so it is 40 years since I was first taken from the rich, green land of my memories."
This is part of James Coffey's attempt to give us an insight into the life of a British born Roman slave in the time of Jesus.
We are looking at Titus 2 and the way that Paul instructs Titus to teach various members of the congregation. We have looked at what he has to say to old men, older women, young women, young men and to Titus himself.
This week we come to what he has to say in verses 9 and 10 to slaves. This is one of four main passages in the New Testament that deal with the matter of slaves. The others are in Ephesians 6, Colossians 4 and 1 Peter 2. The book of Philemon and Paul's remarks in 1 Corinthians 7 are also germane.
It is important to remember when we come to such passages that slavery in the first century Roman Empire was quite different to slavery today or for example in America before the civil war. There are at least 4 things to note.
1. In the Empire slaves were either taken as the spoils of war or got into financial difficulties and sold themselves into slavery. Some of them were very well-educated. For example doctors and tutors were often slaves.
2. Although their masters had absolute rights over their slaves, they generally showed them respect and often treated them with dignity. Beating was allowed but was not common.
3. Unlike slaves in other times, they could marry, accumulate wealth, purchase their own freedom, run a business, etc. Cicero noted that a slave could usually be set free within seven years; in any case, under Roman law a slave would normally be set free by age 30. After the revolt of Spartacus in 73 BC, however, slaves in the west were generally treated more harshly than those in the east.
4. About a third of the Empire was made up of slaves. By the first century AD an increasing number of slaves were being freed - so much so that laws were drawn up to govern the procedure!
The New Testament pattern was not to condemn slavery outright or encourage rebellion. Rather, they instructed slaves (and Masters for that matter). There are no real equivalents today of New Testament slaves, though many can identify with them - those working long hours, especially for low wages, others in dead end jobs or people saddled with debt. All of us who earn our living by working, especially outside the home, can identify. Here in Titus 2:9, 10 there are at least three things that come out.
1. No-one must be ignored but all must be taught how to live
The first thing is easy to miss. Verse 9 begins Teach slaves. It doesn't sound odd to us perhaps because we have read it before or other passages addressed to slaves but when you think about it, it is quite striking. We made the point that everyone should be taught some weeks ago but it is worth underlining it here. Paul's attitude is not that certain members of the congregation are to be taught but not others. No, he wants them all taught, including the slaves.
In the world of education today you will often hear people talk about “inclusion” or “inclusive education”. There is some debate about what that actually means but the basic idea is that even students with special education needs spend most or all of their time with non-disabled students. Inclusion tends to be about the child’s right to participate and the school’s duty to accept the child. The idea of special schools or classrooms separating students with disabilities from students without disabilities is rejected. All students learn together.
More broadly, the term is used to refer to the breaking down of religious, racial, ethnic and linguistic barriers as well as distinctions based on gender, ability, number, etc. The aim is to remove barriers and enable all students, including previously excluded groups, to learn and participate effectively within general school systems.
When it comes to teaching Christians how to live then none are to be excluded. They all have a right to learn and must be taught.
It is important for preachers to keep this in mind when they preach and for all of us to be thinking in these terms if we are to be biblical. Here again is an argument for Sunday Schools and women's groups, etc. What is true of those within the church is also surely true also of those without – we must try and reach all sorts, regardless of social, linguistic, ethnic or religious barriers.
2. We need to be ready to be submissive and to show integrity
Paul lays down some five things that slaves must be careful to do – three positive and two negative. There are many situations that we face today where these rules apply.
1. Be submissive
Slaves are to be subject to their masters in everything. Submissiveness – the doffed cap and tugged forelock of yesteryear – are rather sneered at these days. Many people complain about the general rudeness that marks our society today and so being submissive to those who are above us is just not something we see much of. A submissive attitude is seen to be a mark of weakness and so people are slow to show it and there is little encouragement for people to act in that way. Yet this is what Paul calls on from slaves, however, - subjection in everything. No doubt he would also expect it from children to adults, students to teachers, workers to their bosses, wives to husbands, citizens to those in authority such as the police, people to preachers, etc.
So here is a question for us – do I ever show subjection or submission? How easy do I find it to be submissive?
2. Try to please
Secondly, he urges them to try to please them. Now this, on one hand, seems eminently reasonable. The slave belongs to the master. Surely his one main aim should be to please his master. Yet, you know what human nature is like. “Why should I try to please him?” There is a rebellious streak in all of us that makes us resist authority. “Why should I stand up when the teacher comes into the room?” “Why do I have to take my hands out my pockets when I'm speaking to an adult?” “Why should I do what he says when he's not watching me, even though he is the boss?” “What right has he got to tell me where I can go or not go?” “Who is he to tell me I ought to be more submissive and try to please people?”
So here is another question for us – do I try to please those who are over me? How easy do I find it to do that?
3. Do not be insolent
Then negatively, slaves are not to talk back to their masters. The temptation to say something clever or that puts the other person down can often be strong especially when the other person already has the upper hand. It must have been especially tempting for salves who had become Christians. The master says something like “Do what I say because my word is law” and you wan to say “But it is God's word that is the only law that really counts”. Don't do it, says Paul. You must refrain. No back-chat, no answering back. Curb your tongue.
Again this calls for self-examination. Are there situations where we are doing this sort of thing? It must not go on. We must learn to bite our tongues and more than that to avoid all insolence. There is such a thing as dumb insolence, where no words are used but the very look you give says it all. That is not on for the Christian.
4. Do not pilfer
Paul's other negative comes in verse 10 where he warns slaves not to steal from their masters. Because of their position many salves were in the position where the temptation to steal was very strong. It is difficult when the goods are there before you and the arguments for not stealing seem very weak. The temptation is there today in the work place too.
Millions of pounds are lost annually from businesses today because of employee theft. Estimates in America show that 75% of all employees steal from their employers at least once in their careers. The same statistics show that at least half of these 75% steal multiple times from their employer. Employees steal money, supplies (paper, pens, computer equipment, cabinets, etc.), goods on sale and sometimes valuable information. Sometimes customers are overcharged and the money pocketed. Time can also be stolen in various ways, such as being at work and not working or falsifying time sheets, etc. The MPs expenses scandal is just one example of the sort of thing that can happen.
Again, it is not on and we need to examine our lives to be sure that we are no falling into anything of that sort.
5. Show that you are trustworthy
The final point is positive but to show that they can be fully trusted. Immediately one thinks of the integrity of a Daniel or a Joseph especially and the way they showed themselves to be so highly reliable. Many a Christian no doubt has shown similar integrity and even in this life they have received some sort of reward.
In all our dealings with others this is the sort of integrity we should show. We should be those who people can trust, who they can rely on. We must seek to be, in these respects, like the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
3. The reason we need to live in this way
So that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive. Again, we have drawn attention to this in the past. We must underline it, however. This is the way to make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive. It is not the matter of clever posters or some big campaign. No, as we go about our daily business we should show submissiveness, try to please people, avoid insolence or petty pilfering and show in every way that we are trustworthy. That is the way to draw people to Christ.
I have mentioned to you before how the person through whom Dr Sinclair Ferguson was converted was himself converted. Apparently he worked in a place where they had what was known as a typing pool. This was a room full of women sat at desks typing whatever needed to be typed up. Being near the typing pool he noticed simply by ear that one woman was obviously very conscientious. That created an interest. First he found out the woman's name and then the fact that she was a Christian. It led eventually to his own conversion. It is an unusual example perhaps but a reminder of the powerful impact that even the most lowly of us can have in God's providence.

Important teaching for younger people and others

Text Titus 2:4-6 Time 15/09/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
Some time ago we began to look at the letter of Paul to Titus. We are currently in Chapter 2. That chapter begins with a call to Titus to teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Paul then spells out what the various groups in the church need to be taught in particular.
We looked first at verse 1 and also touched on some of the verses that follow making some general remarks on teaching in the church. Our main point was that we need to
Recognise the need of appropriate, sound teaching by the pastor and others to all members.
We said six things. We spoke of the need to recognise:
1. The need for teaching 2. The need for sound teaching 3. The need for appropriate teaching
We then spoke of the need to recognise that:
4. Teaching is not all to be done by the pastor 5. We all need teaching 6. The impact sound teaching can have
After this opening verse, Titus is told what he needs to teach to four different groups - older men ... older women ... younger women ... young men.
I would suggest to you that by young men or young women, he means people under the age of 40 and when it talks about older men and women it is talking about people 60 and over. Many of us are in that middle age bracket 40-60, if you are under 50 you are nearer the young people, if you are over 50 (as I am) nearer the older ones.
As for older men, there are four things Paul mentions. Obviously as with elders in Chapter 1 we are not saying that these are things that should only be found in older men. Rather, these are matters that in particular should be stressed to older men. Older men and others need to remember

1. The importance of being temperate
2. The importance of being worthy of respect
3. The importance of being self-controlled
4. The importance of being sound in faith, love and endurance

Then with older women there are again four things

1. The importance of being reverent in the way you live
2. The importance of not being slanderers
3. The importance of not being addicted to too much alcohol or other drugs
4. The importance of teaching what is good

That leaves us then with the younger women and the young men. Paul is very brief with the young men because he is speaking to Titus and Titus is a young man. He does have five things to say to the younger women, however, in the context of what it is that the older women are to train the younger women to do. And so on the basis of this we say six things

1. Younger women and others remember to love your husband and children, if you have them
The first thing the older women must train the younger women to do is to love their husbands and children. This may sound like a strange thing to say as one would think that every younger woman would automatically love her husband and children if she has them. Surely this is something instinctive and natural? Sadly, in some cases it is not and women do cheat on their husbands or divorce them, they do neglect their children and even abuse them in some rare instances. A study in 2000 by the NSPCC suggested that 6% of children in the UK experience “serious absence of care”. Further, as one writer puts it “This exhortation is still needed where some married women prefer poodle-dogs to children”.
There was a case in the a paper recently of a woman in Swanley, Kent, who became obsessed with a computer game and left her three children (9, 10 and 13) to drink cold baked beans from the tin because there were no spoons. Her dogs died and were left to rot in the dining room for two months. She was given a six-month jail term, suspended for two years, ordered to do 75 hours of unpaid work and was banned from keeping animals or using computers.
Further again, what Paul is calling for here is not mere natural affection but for something beyond that, something that is an outflow of their love to Christ. Women, of course, are told elsewhere to submit to their husbands but here it is made clear that this must be a loving submission – a willing and glad submission. They must also love their children and do all they can to draw them to Christ and to help them in every way possible.
So here is what younger women who have a husband and children must do and one of the things we should pray for younger women – that they will indeed love their husbands and children. It is very easy to imagine that family relationships can take care of themselves but no we need to work at being the mothers and fathers and husbands and wives, etc, that we ought to be in Christ.

2. Younger women, young men and others remember to be self-controlled and pure
Next Paul says that they must be self-controlled and pure. Paul has previously said that the older men need to be self-controlled and in verse 6 he adds Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. Self-control then is important for us all. The call also to be pure is particularly appropriate to young women as they can be under a strong temptation to fall into impure thoughts or words or actions. All of us however, must strive to seek be both self-controlled and pure.
There is a great deal of opposition to this in our society today. Everyone is urging us to let ourselves go, to throw caution to the wind, to walk on the wild side. Advertisers are always encouraging us to indulge ourselves. Take this advert by White Eagle for student loans
“Being at university and especially for the first time you’ll want to party – hard! Part of the appeal of going to university is to do just that, without parents on your back!
It’s good to let your hair down from time to time – just make sure you have budgeted for it. Use your Freedom Card to load a set amount on it and if you take it out with you to a bar or to get cash out, you’ll only be able to spend what you budgeted for – no matter how many you’ve had to drink!”
Let's pray for young men and women and for us all that we will seek to be self-controlled at all times and pure too in everything.

3. Younger women and others remember to be busy at home
The phrase to be busy at home is given as keeping at home in some versions as there is a textual variant. Staying at home and being busy at home are not so very different in some ways, but being busy at home is probably the thing that Paul wants to stress. I don't think Paul is saying that a married woman or a mother cannot work outside the home - such women often do and sometimes there is little choice from an economic point of view. Rather, he is saying that their priority must be being busy at home. It is probably not a popular message with some but, yes, the Bible does expect married women to spend time at home cleaning and washing and cooking and looking after children. Again that doesn't mean that husbands can feel quite complacent about not cleaning or cooking or these other things. However, the biblical order appears to be that it is the women who are to lead in this activity.
This, of course, flies in the face of what many women today believe. As people have seen the way that opposing this view can lead to great difficulties there has been some movement in people's thinking but the underlying argument remains the same. I came across a recent interview with Karen Brady who has been called the most famous business woman in the country, following her appointment as Director of Birmingham City F C some years ago. She is currently working for the Avon Cosmetics company. Having made reference to her mentoring Avon reps in juggling family life and business commitments, the interview goes on.
You are a mother of two yourself who went back to work just three days after giving birth to your daughter how much do you regret this decision when you look back on it now? And why did you make this decision?
I do regret the decision but when you are younger you tend to have a different view. You don’t understand that a career lasts a lifetime. It’s important for women who want to stop and have a family to have the ability to do that.
Fourteen years ago when I had my daughter phrases like flexible working and work-life balance simply didn’t exist. These days there are lots more options for mothers who want to work.
For women who feel pressurised into returning to work what would you say?
One of the key messages for all women is that you don't have to have an ambition to run a global bank nor do you have to stay at home running the household.
There is a medium ground and there are opportunities out there to find the balance that will work for you.
For many mothers the question of when to go back to work is a huge one so do you have any advice?
The super-woman thing doesn’t exist. Accept that you will have to work at balancing a career and family life.
However, there are flexible working opportunities available, such as that Avon offers, so don’t be afraid to explore options that will help you successfully juggle work and family commitments.
Again the lesson is for young women to seek to be busy at home and for the rest of us to pray for them along those lines and for us all to be diligent about doing our duty, however mundane it may be or despised it is by the world.

4. Younger women and others remember to be kind
The fourth thing here is that younger women are to be kind. This is a very general word – to be good or kind, to be thoughtful towards others. This is something that younger women in particular but all of us should work at – being kind.
In the 1928 Olympics Henry Pearce of Australia was competing in the single scull rowing event. He was leading when a duck and her ducklings came into view up ahead. They were on a collision course and Pearce reckoned that his scull would cut the string in two and sink a few ducklings in the process, so he pulled in his oars. When the ducks passed, he again bent his back to the task. Even so he still won. That act of kindness didn't cost anything then but sometimes it can.
Many years ago in the world championships in Copenhagen in the marathon tandem kayak racing, the Danes were leading when their rudder was damaged. The British pair, who were in second place, stopped to help the Danes fix it. The Danes went on to defeat the British by one second in an event that lasted nearly three hours.
However, the British kayakers did win the Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Trophy. The trophy has been awarded annually for nearly 50 years. In the past, the trophy has gone to a Hungarian tennis player who pleaded with officials to give his opponent more time to recover from a cramp. The first trophy went to an Italian bobsledder named Eugenio Monti for a gesture that exhibited a touch of class. In the two-man bobsled event at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, Monti was the leader after his final run. The only one given a chance to beat him was Tony Nash of Great Britain. As Nash and his team mate got ready for their final run, they discovered that a critical bolt on their sled had snapped at the last moment. Monti was informed of the problem and immediately took the corresponding bolt from his own sled and sent it up to Nash. Nash fixed his sled, came hurtling down the course to set a record and won the gold medal.
If people in the world can be so kind surely we can be kinder, like that woman Dorcas or Tabitha who was always doing good and helping the poor (Acts 9).

5. Younger women and others remember to be subject to your husband, if you have one
Paul finally goes back to younger women and their husbands. Yes, they must love their husbands but they must also be subject to their husbands. This, as we have suggested, is the main emphasis in the New Testament.
Ephesians 5:22-14 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
1 Peter 3:1-6 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Again, this cuts right against the grain today with many people. There is an understandable idea that if women seek to be submissive they will simply be taken advantage of. This is why Peter says do not give way to fear. The fear of what might happen to us or what people might say is very real in some cases but it is God's Word that we must listen to.
Wives must submit to their husbands and all of us must pray that they will be able to. We in turn must take our duties seriously as we have said and be the mothers and fathers and husbands and wives, etc, that we ought to be in Christ.

6. Understand why this is so important
The final thing we ought to note is Paul 's remark so that no one will malign the word of God. The gospel was truly revolutionary. It was turning the world upside down. However, Paul saw that there was always a danger of people taking hold of its ideas and misusing them so that it led to chaos and anarchy. Paul saw that would be a disaster for the truth. He saw that it was important that Christians behaved in a way that would not be maligned by those on the outside. Christianity is now well established, of course, but it is good that we remind ourselves of the impact that the way we live has on those on the outside. Younger women, like us all, are being watched and if we are unloving to our husbands or bad mouth them or unloving to our children leading to possible family breakdown; if we lack self-control or purity, if we are are not busy at home or in whatever is our calling; if we fail to be kind, etc, then people will malign the word of God. Isn't what has happened in the Roman Catholic church a lesson to us? The scandal of the child abuse cases has put them totally on the back foot. The same thing will happen to us if we fail either in that way or in the ways written about here.
So, for the sake of God's Word let's love our families, be submissive where appropriate, practice self-control, be pure, so our duty and be kind at all times.