Sunday, December 13, 2020

God’s Blueprint for the Church: Part 2 of an Interview with Jeff Dodge, Author of Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies

Can the truth really change how we live? And how do we know what is true in a world of so many falsehoods? In this timely study, Jeff Dodge explores how Christians are called to share the gospel message with the world—free of do-good, moralistic, try-harder religion, while also boldly calling those who believe to a gospel-centered, radical new life of love. 

Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies is a study resource in the Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible series that provides seven in-depth lessons for one-on-one discipleship, small group, or large group settings. 

In this guide, author Jeff Dodge draws insight from Paul’s letter to Titus to point men and women to God’s blueprint for what he wants the church to look like. He invites readers to see how the gospel disrupts people and culture, turning the world upside-down—or right side-up.  

Part 2 of an Interview with
Jeff Dodge, Author of
Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies

Q: Why was it so important for Titus to establish leaders for the church in Crete?
Leaders become an important visible illustration of Christlikeness. The character that they display (described in Titus 1:1–9) offers a picture of what it means to follow Jesus. These same leaders are godly examples to follow and are able to teach the truths of Scripture to others. God does not birth people into his family only to leave them orphaned; he has designed the church to be a family—a community of his people that strengthen and support and encourage every member. Leaders guide, strengthen and protect these communities of faith.
Q: What were some of the qualifications the elders needed to meet? What expectations were put upon them?
The qualifications that Paul gives Titus for leaders have almost everything to do with the way they treat others. We often think of church leaders as needing personal piety—and that is also true. They should walk humbly with their God. But the qualifications for leadership in the church have more to do with things like the way the leader:

  • treats his wife and children (observing the way a leader displays loving faithfulness to his wife and raises his children to be honorable and faithful)
  • exhibits self-control in his dealings with others (the leader must not be known for arrogance or hot-temperedness, but should exhibit sensibility and self-control)
  • handles his finances and his alcohol consumption (the leader should show moderation, not excess),
  • opens his home to others, even strangers (This is the kind of leader that will naturally warmly welcome people into God’s  household).
These are the barometers that we are to use in gauging whether a man of God is ready to assume leadership in God’s church today. If he cannot “set right” his own life with his family, he should not be given the responsibility to “set right” the greater household of God, the church (Titus 1:5–7, cf. 1 Timothy 3:5).
Q: What was going on in Crete during the first century? Are there any similarities to our culture today?
The book of Titus begins with the idea that God’s people are to display “truth that leads to godliness” (Titus 1:1). That is the first hint that the environment of Crete was neither honest nor godly. It was an island with many large ports. That meant that people passed by and through Crete on their way to other destinations. Even in our day, these pass-through communities often draw people who want to “play” in sinful ways that they perhaps would not have the freedom to do back at home (wherever home is). These port communities made profit by offering sinful indulgence. In addition, the Cretans had the self-declared reputation of being “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). Sounds like a nice place to raise a family!
I live in a university community. We have young adults from all over the nation and world who are live in a riotous way here that they would never be comfortable with back “home.” That sets a pace for the whole city. God’s church has to stand out in these communities—to hold out the hope of truth that leads to godliness—a truth that transforms. Everything that happens in the darkness of unbridled sin always leads to brokenness and heartache. God’s church has hope for a better way.
Q: What are some common traps of adding to the gospel which result in false teaching?
Sometimes we want to offer a gospel of self-help, circumventing the power of the gospel to transform lives for rules and regulations. Too often the church offers handbooks for Christian living instead of a gospel that changes people from the inside out. Paul knew that Cretans needed the gospel of Jesus Christ, not behavioral modification. The “hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2) is powerful and catalytic. A spiritual “washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5) was what the church in Crete offered.
False teachers often dissuade followers from looking to Jesus—they want all the attention for themselves. They use their own self-proclaimed “wisdom” and demand allegiance, which ends up bringing more harm than help to those who blindly follow them. Even well-intended Christ-followers must beware of these subtle traps. When we begin to read the call to righteous living (such as we find in the book of Titus) as a heavy burden of duty, rather than an invitation to life that is truly life, we must recalibrate our hearts. The gospel of Jesus Christ is freeing, not burdensome (see Titus 3:8 and Matthew 11:28–30). 
Q: What are the virtues consistent with sound teaching that Paul shares in his letter to Titus?
In addition to the character qualities listed in Titus chapter one for leaders, Paul guides Titus to cultivate virtues such as:
  • Truth-speaking. In a land of lies, those who speak truth—God’s timeless and pure truth—will shine like a city on a hill. Truth-speaking should be a remarkable & attractive hallmark of every Christian.
  • Authenticity. Christ-followers must hold to confessions of truth that are matched by behavior.
  • Self-control. This is named three times in this short letter—a sure sign that it is to be evident among God’s people.
  • Submission to authority.  Christians are in ultimate submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Like the apostle Paul, we are “servants of God” (Titus 1:1). But that heart of submission is also evident in the way we submit to bosses (Titus 2:9), to governing rulers and authorities (Titus 3:1), wives are to submit to husbands (Titus 2:5), and to the leaders of God’s church (Titus 1:9, 2:15). Unbelievers are known for rebellion (Titus 1:10), not so the followers of Christ.
  • Overall good works (Titus 1:16, 2:8, 3:8).

Again, these are not virtues to be sought after in a legalistic way; they are virtues that should come to the surface from a gospel-transformed heart, “That those who have believed in God might be careful to devote themselves to good works” (Titus 3:8).  That order of things is everything: belief precedes life transformation.
Q: Your Titus study is a part of the Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible series. What other studies are available in the series?
Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies is part of The Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible series published by New Growth Press in partnership with Serge. Each book in the series examines how the gospel story is revealed throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
The other new releases in the series are Ephesians: The Love We Long For and Revelation: Hope in the Darkness by Scotty Smith. Ruth: Redemption for the Broken by Jared Wilson and Jonah: Grace for Sinners and Saints by Iain Duguid are also available. The Gospel-Centered Life for Students series includes studies of Exodus and Mark.

Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies
Study Guide with Leader’s Notes
The Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible Series
by Jeff Dodge
August 24, 2020 / Retail Price: $15.99
Print ISBN 978-1-645070-73-3
Religion/Christian Living/Spiritual Growth

About the author
Jeff Dodge, MDiv, DMin, PhD, is the teaching pastor at Veritas Church in Iowa City, Iowa. He also directs Veritas School of Theology and serves as Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. 
He is the author of Gospel 101: Learning, Living, and Sharing the Gospel, and Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies. Dodge and his wife, Teresa, have four children and several grandchildren.
Follow Jeff Dodge on Twitter (@jdodgex6).


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