UPDATE: Here’s the audio. Enjoy!
Day 2 of Sufficient Fire was a crisp gorgeous Saturday morning. After a delicious Chick-fil-a biscuit for breakfast (what better way to start another day of Bible teaching, than with blessed chicken?), I made my way into Copperfield Bible Church for Session 4…during which, Frank Turk made me cry.
Frank’s second session of the conference was entitled “The Normal Christian.” Following the theme of his first talk, Frank focused on what the Scriptures show to be the expectation for a normal Christian life.
Frank’s sermon was punctuated with elements of his own testimony, including the ministry of a pastor who drove an hour or so to see Frank and mentor him through the very early stages of his faith. Frank recounted, through tears, the faithfulness of that man of God and his love for Frank, his wife, and their future children, as this minister poured into them and discipled them. As I listened, I found myself touched emotionally too—partly for Frank’s sake, and partly because I started to realize that I have missed opportunities to be that person to someone else.
Like that minister who cared for Frank and his family, the Apostle Paul lived to make sure that his people lived as if the Gospel was true—because it was and is true! Paul’s goal wasn’t just to make sure his flock could answer all the theological questions properly.
Our goal, Frank said, is to live as if the Gospel is true, because it is. This is not theoretical or academic theology. It’s practical. Unless you live the way it should cause you to live, you do not believe the actual Gospel. You certainly don’t believe the same Gospel that Paul gave his life to proclaim.
The book of Titus gives us Paul’s secret sauce for how to explicitly live as a Christian. (I loved this line.)
Paul could have rounded up a “gospel coalition” of Top Men from Thessalonika to bring them back to Crete and straighten things out. Instead, his instructions to Titus were to find men of character and teach them to have good character. He didn’t just say “teach good doctrine”; he said, teach what accords with (or corresponds to) sound doctrine—meaning, how they live.
Paul tells Titus that a “normal” Christian life will involve the following elements:
1) A Heavenly Vision (Titus 2:11-14) He’s talking about the Gospel here. If the Church doesn’t have the Gospel, then who does? The Gospel is the only difference between the church and the world, and the only motive we have for being different from the world. Without the Gospel, you are just someone doing what’s right in your own eyes. The book of Judges lets us know how that approach to life turns out.
2) A Human Purpose (Titus 2:1-11) These are all things you must do with other people who have the Gospel. You can’t do the “one anothers” of the New Testament by yourself. We demonstrate with your lives what it means to be saved by Jesus, and we demonstrate it in community. Obedience is not just obeying the rules; that’s mere compliance. True obedience is wanting to please God.
3) The Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7) The Holy Spirit is poured out on us, just like John the Baptist said, just like Luke describes in Acts 2. Paul shows that when this happens, it produces justification, regeneration, and renewal. In regeneration, something completely ruined has been made completely new, returned to its original perfect state, and is once again fit for use. Renewal is not just an update, or Version 2.0—it’s total restoration and maturity. It’s a transition between what we once were and what we’re meant to be.
4) Humble Effort (Titus 3:8) Paul says that the people must be careful to devote themselves to good works. There were people profiting from the Gospel during this time, and Paul warned Titus and the church to beware of such men. Even in our day, we are in danger of equating success, money, and fame as being evidence of “fruitfulness” and good works. But it was the scribes and Pharisees who loved the fame and position of teacher, but they did not live out the Law in their lives, foregoing the “weightier matters” of justice and mercy, as Jesus said.
5) Hated by the World (II Timothy 3:10-13) This element of the “normal Christian life” isn’t explicitly stated in the book of Titus, but Frank rightly thought he should add it to the list. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is that the “normal” Christian life will be opposed by the world. The persecution Paul’s describing here in Timothy is actually listed out in Acts 13 and 14. Paul tells Timothy that it will always be normal to suffer for obeying and following Jesus. It is unusual (and even dangerous) for a Christian life to be free from worldly opposition.
Frank closed out his sermon by stating that people who have been reborn of God are able to love others because Jesus loves those others. If we cannot love others for the sake of the Gospel, we do not have the Gospel.
This session just killed me. I’ll tell you why.
I teach a Sunday School class of about 30-50 singles in their 20’s and 30’s. I say 30-50 because the number of people who show up week-to-week fluctuates greatly. Rather than becoming more invested in the individual lives of the people under my care, I’ve focused on teaching and hoped that other people in “leadership” in the group would work on building relationships. I just got married last year, so I told myself that I just don’t have the type to really pour into the people around me. My goal was to teach sound doctrine and be welcoming and winsome toward everyone who visited, but I haven’t had much skin in the game for the last year or so.
Paul’s example here shames me, and his instructions convict me. I am in the middle of teaching a series on having sound doctrine, but I have to be honest: I don’t know how well I’m teaching the people around me to live a day-to-day life that accords with sound doctrine. I haven’t been pouring myself out enough to serve them well or love them well. There are still people who have visited my class several times and I barely know their names.
Another goal, moving forward, is to love people because Christ loves them and died to redeem them. I should care about them enough to get to know them, so that I know how to care better for their souls. This is my ministry. I’m not their head pastor, but I have a chance to know them much, much better than their head pastor can. My role is one of a shepherd, and my job is to love the sheep that have been entrusted to me, not just give them wise guidelines about what grass is safe. That’s part of it, but that’s not all of it.
So, thanks, Frank. God’s used you to point out how much I need to grow as a Sunday School teacher. And I really, really appreciate that.