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Titus 1:10-16
The last few verses of this section are puzzling - look at verses 15-16. After all, there has been no discussion of 'purity' and 'impurity' so far!

Remember this is a letter - and remember that letters are not formally composed - Paul is writing a letter to a close friend. I suspect that the 'purity' language is connected to the false teaching - it is a 'Jesus-plus' teaching that aims to keep bad stuff away.

But the verses are both uplifting and searing. They uplift by reminding those in God's household that, by God's grace, they have all they need to make sense of the world - they understand the world rightly (that is the 'pure'). They sear by exposing the grave state of the life of those who have followed the false teaching (that is the 'impure') - they stumble in the world, their actions reveal their true state, and they are described as 'disqualified for any good work'.

Here is cause for great joy! And here is cause for grave concern - those enthralled by false teaching need to be restored to soundness, to come back to the truth!
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Titus 1:10-16
The imagery we have used of an elder feeding the sheep and shooting the wolves is a helpful one... but we mustn't push it beyond the bounds of what the Bible commands. Look at verses 13-14...

The whole aim of dealing swiftly, clearly and sharply with the wolves is not so that they are destroyed, nor that they die, nor that they are removed permanently from the household of God. The whole aim of dealing with the wolves is their restoration, 'that they may be sound in the faith'.

The motivation of the elder's protection of the household of God is to return the false teacher to the household of God. The motivation of the elder is grace - to bring unmerited kindness to the false teacher, by teaching the unmerited kindness of God in Christ, so that they, too, know the truth. Paul himself had known this. And now he showed this.

What a reminder of the need to be motivated by grace! What a reminder to focus on restoration, not decimation! What a reminder to hold onto the truth so that others know the truth, and are transformed!
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Titus 1:10-16
Paul's use of a quote about Cretans, from a Cretan themselves, in verses 12-13, slightly jars with our modern sensibilities.

But his statement is actually a useful spur. It is a very clear reminder that false teaching takes roots because of the soil of the wider culture we garden in. Put simply, our culture gives us the false teachings we fall for. In Crete, in a culture recognised by one of their own to be lazy, deceptive, greedy and destructive, a false teaching has emerged that feeds greed, hands control over to people, deceives people as to the truth, and destroys whole households!

The sharp part is taking this very good example of self-reflection and applying it to us, and our culture. What are the false teachings we fall for, and which our culture gives rise to?

I think there are probably four.

First, the gospel of prosperity (simply put, if you are faithful enough or a real Christian, God promises to bless you materially, physically, and financially). This emerges from the materialism of our time, and feeds into the culture of celebrity and comfort that many of us are seduced by. I think we are more under the threat of materialism than persecution or political over-reach!

Second, the gospel of ease (put simply, the key issue we face is pan and hardness in life, and we look to God to give us an easy life, a smoothing of the rough). This emerges from the immense leisure nature of our wider society as well as the lie that this life is all there is, and so we look for an easy way through it. I think this takes root when we look to Jesus as the tonic for the good life.

Third, the gospel of me-ism (put simply, we are the centre of the universe and we are looking for a God to make us feel good about ourselves and provide the therapy that builds up our importance). This reduces God to a cosmic therapist who will make us feel good about ourselves and our decisions, without confronting our very real problems, brokenness, and needs.

Fourth, the gospel of 'Jesus is not enough' (put simply, this is the good news about Jesus as one of a number of ways we deal with life so that we hedge our bets and cover our options). This is perhaps the most dangerous because it can hide behind so many good choices we seem to make in life. It provides us with the excuse to avoid giving Jesus lordship over our lives, because we fear missing out on what the world seems to offer or expect.

These are some ramblings about the dangers we face, from the culture we live in as we seek to be God's household. However, the principle stands: we need to examine our culture, and examine the good news we hold onto. And we need to hold onto the truth that leads to godliness, only!
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