by Jeff McKeever
What if the church has the same reputation as the society in which it is found? What if when people talk about the sinful people in a certain neighborhood, they don’t make an exception for the people of the church? What if, in effect, the word of God is reviled because of the lifestyle of Christians in a faith community? What if, the Christians’ poor reputation results in the opponents of the cross having evil to say about Christ’s church?
Our church is currently studying the Book of Titus. This is an excellent place to find answers to address the situations described above. Paul left Titus on the Island of Crete to fix just such a church. Actually many such churches. All of them with the same basic problem: they had the same behavior as the unbelievers on the island.
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.” Titus 1:1-3
Note, however, that not just any truth will strengthen a believer’s faith (and powerfully affect his reputation), but only the kind of truth that issues forth in the “hope of eternal life.” Only the truth about a Savior who has secured eternal life for his people will cause their faith to be able to stand when they are assailed with deceptive, satanic doctrine that “ought not to [be taught]” (1:11). Help the church to mature in their understanding of what Jesus has already accomplished for them, remind them of their present standing with God because of Christ, and encourage them in the hope of their future with Him. Do this and one-by-one the church will begin to distinguish itself from the rest of the community. People free from guilt, growing in the experience of Jesus’ ever-present love, and joyfully awaiting His return act different. And that was what the ultimate goal of Titus’ work on Crete was to be…a church with a reputation markedly different than the world around it.
Think on your own reputation. If you sometimes muddy your identity as a Christian by your behavior or you’ve upset your whole family by your empty leadership, the culprit is your sinfully weak faith. If this describes you, begin by meditating on the truth of the gospel of Christ and the blessed results that flow from it. Growing in your understanding of this most significant truth will build up your faith and begin to distinguish you as a man set apart from the world.
by Jeff McKeever