Grace-Filled Leaders: A Case Study

Sermon: “Grace-Filled Leaders: A Case Study”

Series: Grace for the Church, Hope for the World

Bible Text: Titus 1:10-16

Preached May 12, 2013 by David Ridenhour

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Sermon Summary:

In Titus 1:10-16, Paul is moving from a description of who leaders in the church are and what they are doing to an immediate need case study. On Crete, Titus is encountering people who are adding to the gospel by boasting in their Jewishness (Titus 1:10-11), and causing division and strife in the church. Factions within the church are doing things for their own profit and gain, and doing damage to the church.

Confusing words are distorting the gospel, and conflicting actions are distracting from the gospel.

The “Gospel-Plus” message is a dangerous trap within Christian circles. Part of the danger is the gospel + something equals salvation. Another part of the danger is the gospel + something equals security. Most of us in here do not struggle with the gospel + something equals salvation. But the memory lives on. No amount of good work, no amount of good intention, no amount of right living is going to be enough to achieve for you right standing before God. The only way we can possibly have right standing before God is if eternal, infinite perfection is credited to us as ours. If you have ever told one lie, had one impure thought, discovered one impure motive, pursued a single thing for yourself, then you have missed the boat for qualifying for perfect righteousness. And “good enough” won’t cut it. It is a zero sum game. All or nothing. The only way you can be righteous enough it to accept the free work and gift of Christ on your behalf.

But what about this second part, that the gospel + something equals security? The more I talk to Christians, and the more our conversations move from superficial to significant, I find that many people struggle with feelings of condemnation and worthlessness. They struggle with believing certain doctrines, engaging in certain practices, and the like. And what ends up happening is that they are condemned by a gospel + something equals security message. They are sure that God is feeling towards them an infinite amount of condemnation above and beyond what they have heaped upon themselves. Listen: we don’t pray to keep in good graces with God. We are in good graces with God, therefore freed to pray. We don’t read the scriptures to keep ourselves in good graces with God; we read the scriptures to hear that for us, in Christ, all of God’s promises are yes and amen.

Sometimes, dishonest gain isn't always health and prosperity.

Sometimes, it is refusing to call someone out because of fear that they are a big giver, and their leaving the church would effect the bottom line. Damaged doctrine damages people. Because we are living, breathing, embodied witnesses here on earth to the ascended Christ, we must never lose sight of the fact that when we add to the gospel, we are doing damage to people. When we live as if the atoning work of Jesus is just a way to avoid the really hot place and go be reunited with all of our family and friends and have our cul-de-sac in the sky, while having no material impact to life here on earth in the here and now, we are doing damage to people. And in either case, it is likely due to the fact that there is greater unrest going on beneath the surface. Which is where the painful part of an elders job comes in. We are charged with looking not only at what people say, but also at why they do what they do. And as loving shepherds, sometimes that means calling people out, and sometimes that means casting people out.

Restoration is the goal, but not always a reality. Sometimes, Elders have to discern by the lifestyle of those in their fold that some simply just do not believe. In Titus 1:16, we see that they profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. Paul seems to be drawing a line in the sand here and saying that at some point, the church must cut its losses and not tolerate people who are distracting from the mission.

Reflection Questions

  1. In what ways do you fall victim to a mentality of adding to the gospel, either for assurance of salvation (I've done enough) or assurance of security (I'm loved enough)?
  2. In what ways have you permitted the gospel to be absent in your week and life? What if you took a digital recording of your thoughts, attitudes, actions; would the life, atonement, lordship, and reign of Jesus Christ be necessary for any of those decisions or conversations?
  3. Strong leaders are needed in the church to expose suspect motives, but we as congregants are also good at hiding our true meanings and identities. In what ways do you need to pray and ask God to give you boldness to allow yourself to be known by others as you are known by Christ?