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Your clean slate is a fresh plate
Crete is described in ancient literature as the ‘Island of 100 cities’, and was an infamously immoral society. At first glance, the following excerpt seems like a huge thing that Paul is instructing Titus to do; to find leaders in a place like Crete who can plant and lead 100 churches.
Image ‘Sidewalk Dinner Plate’ by Travis Nep Smith
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— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus 1:5-9 (ESVUK)
Paul knew the impact the true gospel has on a person’s life.
He knew that meeting Jesus and being forgiven through faith in his life, death and resurrection, changes everything.
He knew from his own experience that when God comes and lives in a person, even the worst of sinners – someone who had smiled and slept well the night that Jesus died – is transformed into a city-changer; helping others to submit to the good, just, joyful, all-powerful King.
Not a ‘Hallway’ Gospel
The gospel is more than being forgiven. Being forgiven is the means to an end. God cleans you up to the astonishing extent that you are pure enough for him to live inside you.
Believing that the good news is only that we can be forgiven is like turning up to someone’s house for dinner and then sitting down on the hallway floor as soon as you enter the door.
Look closely at the ‘clean slate’ that Jesus offers you. You’ll notice that it’s round and has a rim. It’s a fresh plate that you can take to the Father’s table, eat with him, become like him.
For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:10-13 (ESVUK)
The list of character traits in this passage is a beautiful picture of what happens to a person when they give themselves completely to the King of the Universe.
The point of this passage isn’t that elders are more special than any other church member. The point is that one of the main ways we learn to live under the reign of King Jesus is to copy others who’ve been following him longer.
The gospel is that we are made clean enough for God to live inside us, but this doesn’t mean our lives and behaviour will be blameless straight away. God considers us flawless because he credits Jesus’ life to every believer. We learn how to live blamelessly by learning from Christian leaders.
We all lead, we all follow. Let’s make sure that ultimately we’re following the One who takes Cretans and makes them into city-changers.
1. What was the ‘gospel’ that you first responded to?
(An offer of forgiveness or an invitation to be cleaned so that you can have God live in you and be able to completely submit to his reign?)
2. Do you believe that God is powerful enough to make v5-9 a description of you?
3. What do you expect God to use you to do for the rest of your life?
4. What do you think God wants to do through you?
5. Who are you leading? Who are you following?
6. What can you do to make these relationships joyful, as Hebrews 13:17 commands?