When No is Yes

yesnotarotOne of the first words that comes from the mouths of babes can be singled out as one of the most powerful two letter words in the English language. It translates easily from one language to another, it is a word that is recognized across most every culture and anyone can use a simple hand gesture to get its message across. Printed on a ballot, this word has the ability change the most powerful leadership regime, this seemingly small word has the potential to change the direction of one’s life.

The word is NO.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:12). When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit into our lives, as we say “yes” to living a life in Jesus name we say no in a big way to the passions of the world. Titus was left in a bit of a pickle as he worked to build a church in a place where it was not easy to break ground and grow followers of Christ. Paul gives Titus practical advice on how to appoint elders who love what is good, men who love the lord and do good (say no) for the sake of the Gospel. Paul then takes it a few steps further, he instructs Titus to teach every generation (older men, older women, young men, young women) to live in unity with each other, to live lives of integrity. When we say no to the sinful acts that separate us from God and give over the passions of the world to Him we live according to His will, we bring honour and glory to him.

As a believer called by God we have a responsibility as Paul says, to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, reverent, to teach what is good, to be kind and to be an example to each other. For lack of a better word, our “function” as a called people is to resist temptation and say no to the evil and darkness of the world. It is through the kindness and love of God that we are saved, not because of what we have done, but because of his loving grace and mercy. The power of the word NO in this context is saying yes to being upright and godly, it is saying yes to living a life that is self-controlled and honouring to God. The present time that we live in offers so many “evils”, our culture almost demands compliance and can be difficult to navigate. Through our faith in Jesus, we can put our trust in Him to see us through these present times.

Living a Godly Life.

titus_bw1280x720Thankful for the time I could spend working through the topic of humility I will be switching my focus to understanding how different cultures influenced how the gospel message was presented through the books of Titus, Judges, 1 Timothy and the Minor Prophets.

Imagine yourself in this scenario: your in a new church plant with fresh new leaders and you are left to your own devices along with a letter of instruction on an island with nowhere else to go. Titus was in a position that many of us as leaders would fear and maybe only a few of us that would thrive. We are introduced to the people of Crete in Titus 1:12, a culture of communities known as “liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons.” Titus, a friend of Paul and a disciple of Christ is called to help build and structure the leadership of the church. This letter from Paul to Titus involves instructions on how to work in a culture where false teachers were infiltrating the churches, teachers whose intentions were self focused rather than God focused. This pastoral letter of instruction is still as relevant to church leaders today as it was when Titus first received it.

We, like Titus are called to live a Godly life in a culture that pushes hard to promote self-reliance and “easy living”. Our life must reflect an attitude of saying “No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives”. (Titus 2:12) I have to wonder what it must have been like for Titus to receive this letter from Paul in that day. I read this same letter today as it is in the bible and I think how the culture of today is filled with the same “liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons”. The amazing thing about this is that I/we have the same promise of kindness and love of an unchanging God as Titus did. Paul uses some strong words (corrupt, detestable, disobedient) to describe a culture that opposes the way of truth and love. This letter is a reminder for me to be praying for the people in our communities, praying for opportunities to influence a culture that is far from God, opportunities that will draw them closer to knowing a loving heavenly father.