Discipling For Thinking Soberly About the Generations to Come

Good Morning,

As many of you know we’ve started a new series on the Lord’s Day morning from the Book of Titus. In that letter the apostle Paul is primarily interested in seeing that the Church at Crete is organized decently and in order. Central to the reason for Presbyterian (rule by elders) government is to see Matthew 16 and 18 sweetly comply so that John 17 can become a reality.

For Titus this is going to be a hard walk. That is mainly due to the fact that the types of sins (mostly centering around disagreeableness and sloth) natural to that area can be particularly thorny. Thankfully he knows that by the power of Jesus and His gospel they can be taken care of by the means of grace. Hence why when God establishes His church, He recruits men who are (supposed to be) spiritually mature. These men, including Titus himself, and the elders he trains and sees appointed in the local congregations of believers on the island must be intentionally growing in knowledge and truth. Their labors are serious business. For men and women to be discipled well their leaders need to understand not only their purpose, but their place. Yet, this is true for everyone. We all need to know our job in the Lord’s kingdom. To be doing it to the best of our abilities means trusting and resting in the wisdom and plan of God.

However, getting to that point has its own difficulties. Primarily because whenever you get a group of folks together you are dealing with the unfortunate reality that all of those same individuals suffer from the same problem, namely they are sinners who fall short of the glory of God and are in need of sanctification. An issue natural to all human society.

There is a need to be honest about our limitations as fallen people. It is part and parcel of why we are all called to show mercy, and to forgive those who sin against us. For that is an opportunity through which we might witness the forgiveness Christ has shown for our own transgressions against Him and His law.

An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms.  

In order get this work going at Crete Titus has several virtue and vice lists that are to be emblematic of elders and others in the Church. One noteworthy feature that runs through the call granted to elders, old men, old women, young men, and slaves in chapters one and two is an encouragement towards being sober, whether in mind or in body. For today’s prayer and worship help we are going to think through how that word applies to how we live our lives every day and why it is so important for a right-functioning Church built upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of our Heavenly Father, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

When we hear the word sober our mind almost immediately drifts towards admonitions in the Bible about not being a drunkard. So it is that we shouldn’t be drunkards. For our purposes today that’s not all we mean by the word sober. To be sober is to be clear headed. Taking in alcohol impairs our thought processes. Some people are happy drunks and others are angry drunks. In both cases this leads to trouble. Rash and unchangeable decisions come with not being engaged in considering all the consequences before involving oneself in relations or getting behind the wheel of a car. However, that’s a cop out. Every drunk knows exactly what they are doing. The problem comes from the fact that they don’t care what the consequences might be because their only consideration is what they are going to get out of it in the moment. All sin really has this mindset as its genesis. Adam ate of the fruit not because he was ignorant of what God said would happen, but because he saw the joy on Eve’s face and wanted to participate.

Of all the things that differentiates the Presbyterian way of viewing the state of the world as it is and where it is going, or maybe better said the Biblical way of thinking about the future, is that we understand that the decisions we make now aren’t really about us at all. We are obedient to God’s word precisely due to the fact that we hear the Lord’s commands to think generationally. When we hear the Psalmist’s many entreaties to pray for our children’s children (Psalm 145:4, 102:18, 78:6, among others) we are being told that a long-term plan means doing the work now in order that the promised blessing may come to people we may never meet. As we spend a good bit of time this spring taking care of a 115 year-old building this truth really comes home to us. Why are we so careful to maintain the historical integrity of the vision of our forefathers? Primarily because it is their vision not ours. We are asked to steward this gift and grant so that the generations to come can enjoy the same beauty we are honored to take in every time we drive up to Bethany ARP Church.

One of the hardest things to come to grips with as a young person is that your future in some sense is already determined. The difference between successfully navigating those 15-30 year-old years is whether you see that as the honorable good thing that it is or something you ignorantly suppose to be a bad thing. Paul’s testimony to Titus is to teach the young people especially to be sober-minded as they think about finding a husband or a wife, or consider a career, or make preparations for life after high school. A long-term view is a gospel help. To consider these things as a person coming-of-age is to have a huge head start on many others. All of the destruction, difficulty, and tribulation the world faces in these times of transition can be missed by the Christian if they learn and are discipled to see the wonderful mercy of God’s way of doing things. This is why the older ladies are to gently, with meekness and grace, come alongside the teenage young women and help them to understand God’s gift of motherhood and homemaking. Same as with the old guys mentoring and modeling mature husbandship and hard work, both with the hands and the heart.

In closing, for too long the Church has aped the fleshly world’s comprehension of what growing up looks like. It is time for us as adults to help witness Biblical faithfulness and stewardship on this point. Our young people should not be pushed into crippling debt and a world filled with empty promises of fulfilment only to be trodden down like the grain along the road. We must be about our Father’s business on this front, and that begins with being sober-minded ourselves, that in all things we may do them well, and make right preparations for the generation to come.

Here is a closing word:

https://www.modernreformation.org/resources/articles/reforming-youth-ministry

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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