Reprove them severely (Titus 1:12-13)

Clearly, Paul had given Titus a hopeless assignment, or at least it appeared that way.

For this reason, I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you. – Titus 1:5

In the best of circumstances this would have been a challenging task, to appoint qualified elders in every city as Paul instructed him, but Titus was not going to the best of circumstances. Far from it. Paul left Titus in Crete, and the Cretans had a well-deserved reputation for being an ornery and belligerent lot.

One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. – Titus 1:12-13

Even the Cretans themselves acknowledge that they are pretty incorrigible, almost as if their gross behavior is a badge of honor. Thus, Titus’ task appears hopeless. For how can “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” ever become “above reproach” (Titus 1:7) so that they can serve as elders? How can these Cretans, who are by nature vile sinners, become just, devout, self-controlled overseers of a local assembly of the church of the living God?

How, indeed! But this shows Paul’s and Titus’ confidence in the power of the gospel. “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).” The apostle believed in the power of the gospel not only to save from condemnation, but also to transform into righteousness. Through the power of the gospel, slaves of sin are changed into slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18).

HOW DO YOU DISCIPLE A CRETAN?

But we now need to consider the practical challenges of discipling Cretans. Paul knew the nature of the men of Crete (Titus 1:12-13), and he also knew the qualifications of men who could serve as elders in the church (1:6-9), and, for most of the men on Crete, there was a large chasm between their character and the character of the biblical elder. How was Titus to help these men become elder material?

Paul’s instructions to Titus are direct and unambiguous:

For this reason, reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith. – Titus 1:13

Because “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons,” the training program for the Cretan who would grow in grace, who would walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, and who would be sound in the faith is simple. The disciple maker must reprove the Cretan severely. This sounds harsh to our American ears, but these are the divinely inspired instructions of an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.” Sin is driven out of hardened sinners by severe reproof, not by gentle pleading or by appealing to reason. Before the gospel came, the Cretans had long indulged in degrading and disgraceful sin (Ephesians 5:12; 1 Peter 4:3), and now that they were in Christ, it was time for them to be reproved severely. If they would be sound in the faith, and if the church in Crete would display the holiness that the church is called to display (Ephesians 5:27; Hebrews 12:15; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15, 16), then their sin needed to be exposed and they needed to be reproved so that they would abandon their evil practices and would embrace obedience to the truth. The Cretan disciple repeated the sequence of reproof-confession-correction-repentance over and over again until holy obedience began to replace open rebellion. Prior to Christ, the life of the Cretan was like an open sewer, but through severe and loving reproof and the power of the Holy Spirit, the moral sewer slowly runs as a clear flowing stream.

But for the Cretan, the key to sanctification is severe reproof, loving reproof that calls sin, “sin,” and insists that the one who names the name of Jesus must walk as He Himself walked (2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:6).

“For this reason, reprove them severely.”

MODERN DAY CRETANS

The reason that I spent so much time talking about Cretans is that these types of believers are near to my heart. You see, when I came to Christ at 31 years old, I had long indulged in sin and my life was a moral sewer. Essentially, I was a Cretan and the best thing that could have happened for my sanctification and for my growth in Christ would have been for a brave man to come alongside me and begin to reprove me severely so that I would be sound in the faith. In God’s providence, that did not happen and, as a result, my sanctification suffered.

Because of our increasingly wicked society, many of those who come to Christ, especially men who come to Christ, come to Christ as Cretans. The days are evil, the sins of the flesh are available at an alarmingly early age and, without the power of the Holy Spirit to restrain them, many give themselves over to the desires of the flesh. Without knowing it, they become Cretans, and when they come to Christ, they need to be reproved severely. Sin has firmly established its residency in their flesh and the way to drive sin out is through severe reproof. The discipler sees sinful habits and reproves severely, and the disciple actively repents, and those who were formerly demoniacs are found seated at Jesus’ feet and are useful to the Master. In all this, God is glorified.

For those who would make disciples in our Cretan-creating world, learn to reprove lovingly but severely the ones you are helping to grow.  

For those who realize they are Cretans and who need help in displaying the holiness which believers are called to display, seek out one who would be willing to reprove you severely so that you may drive the sin out.

SDG                 rmb                 6/2/2021                     #412

Walking a Darker Path (Mark 10:32-33)

My walk with Christ easily lends itself to the analogy of a path. That path began in late 1990 when I came to Christ from a very non-Christian worldview and found myself suddenly following Christ.

Much of my walk with the Lord has been pleasant and many days have been spent strolling through meadows or climbing through forest glades on well-marked, smooth paths. As the Lord effortlessly strides ahead, I struggle to keep up, occasionally stumbling over a rock or a root. When I lag too far behind, He stops and looks back waiting for me, always smiling, always patient, always encouraging. Thus He and I have spent many idyllic days in sweet fellowship, and thus over time He has taught me about His ways and has taught me how to walk, and thus I have gradually gotten stronger and better able to follow Him. I have seen His power and His faithfulness, and my trust in Him has become more sure.

This trust and increased strength are important, because the Lord knows, and I know, that my path will not always meander through pleasant meadows. There have been times in the past, and there will be times in the future, when the character of the path changes. There are times when, for His perfect purposes and for my deeper discipleship, the Lord needs to lead me into a darker, dangerous place.

I sense that I am now entering such a time and following Him toward such a place, and I feel that there are many others in this decaying world who are feeling the same thing. For the past two or three years or so, the Lord has led me past alpine lakes and through hardwood and hemlock forests, but now, as I peer up ahead, the landscape seems much more barren. Towering thunderhead clouds loom, billowing up to obscure the sun and rumbling their foreboding tune. The path is beginning to drop steeply and to narrow, becoming harder to follow. Rocks, prominent and jagged, threaten the sides of the trail. A gloomy dusk has cloaked the scene, making it harder to see where to walk. There in front of me is the Lord, still leading, still smiling and still patient, but His looks back to me are now more frequent, wanting to make sure that I am staying close. Does He sense my reluctance to follow Him into the darkness? Does He know my fear? And now it has become clear that the Lord is, in fact, leading me into a season of a darker path as He beckons me down into the foggy chasm.

What, then, is the believer to do when the path becomes treacherous and when the Lord leads us toward the edge of a murky chasm? As I walk with the Lord, there are some basic things to do to make sure I stay on the path.

  • Consider Jesus’ example of fearless obedience to His Father’s plan. Jesus’ entire life was one of suffering. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).” He knew what it was to walk a dark path. In Mark 10:32-33, the Bible says:
    • And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, He began to tell them what was to happen to Him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.”

When I consider that I am going to walk a dark and difficult path, I need to remember and keep my eyes on the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). In Mark 10, as they go up to Jerusalem, He is the only one who knows EXACTLY what awaits Him there. The Lord is beginning the walk to the cross. He knows with certainty that mocking and scourging and crucifixion await Him and yet He is walking ahead of the crowd. Since my Lord accepted this darkest of all possible paths and persevered, so I need to accept whatever path the Lord leads me down and persevere to the end.

  • As Jesus trusted and obeyed His heavenly Father and accomplished His work (John 17:4), so I need to trust and obey the Lord and accomplish the work He has given me to do (Ephesians 2:10).
  • Regardless of the darkness of the path, the Lord is with me. He has sworn that He will never leave me of forsake me (Hebrews 13:5; Joshua 1:5).
  • Regardless of the darkness of the path, the Lord is the one leading me. The path on which I am traveling may seem dark and difficult, and I may not know the short-term destination, but I know and trust the One leading me. The Lord is trustworthy, and He has sovereignly chosen this path for me, and He is leading me along it. Regardless of the nature of the path, because of the One who has chosen this path for me, I can trust that this is the perfect path.

SDG                 rmb                 7/24/2020