Living in an unCivil Society

Titus 3:1-8

Not hard to wonder: did God really know what he was doing when entrusted job of civil government to fallen, sinful men? Just look at kind of job they’re doing! What a bunch of crooked, dishonest, self-serving, incompetent morons sit in places of political and civil authority. And that’s what people in other countries have to endure! Don’t even start with all that’s wrong with executive and legislative and judicial branches of our own government.

There’s gotta be point when citizens ought to do something: stand up to Chinese tank in Tiananmen Square; take to streets on ongoing protest labeled Arab Spring; camp out in public places in name of Occupy Wall Street. Maybe you’re not brave enough or crazy enough to go public; instead complain about injustice and evil; say all manner of harsh things about perpetrators of bad legislation and legal decisions; make excuses or look for ways to get around distasteful regulations at federal, state, local level.

And what about neighbors – you know, those people. The idiot that cut you off in traffic, cussing you out in the process. That clueless woman glued to smart phone while her brats ran around the store screaming. The rotten kids shooting off fireworks at midnight where they aren’t allowed or tearing up private property with noisy 4-wheelers. Uncivil, rude, inconsiderate people are everywhere; just can’t get away from them. If only they’d just smarten up, realize you have rights too. If only God understood what you’re going through, he’d do something to help.

Sound familiar? What does God’s Word have to say about attitude and action toward civil government, uncivil neighbors? How are we, people of God, to live in two spheres: Christ’s Kingdom while in the world?

A. submissive to rulers v.1

everyone needs reminder – not obvious from the culture, not automatic by nature to do the right thing

of our attitude/responsibility

have a history of wrong attitudes, failure to live up to God-given responsibility – see v.3

are surrounded by those who still think / act the way we used to

constant temptation and opportunity to get sucked in

of God’s omniscience

he established civil government, is the ultimate source of authority, has given mandate: encourage good, restrain evil (Rom. 13:1-3)

he entrusted civil government to fallen man to carry out knowing: man’s nature, every detail of human history

God knew there would be injustice, corruption, misuse of power and resources, evil laws, unethical and immoral behavior at every level

means the Christian can’t use any of that as excuse to get out of doing what God commands

of our source of help – that comes later in the text! (v.4-7)

btw, it’s our only help and only hope for government – here or elsewhere in world, now or future

submit to lawful authority

isn’t simply submit in sense of keep a low profile, fly under radar while doing what you think is best

is obeying those who are in authority – doing what is commanded, not doing what is forbidden

only situation you’re off the hook: when civil authority requires disobedience of God – commands what God has forbidden, forbids what God has commanded (Acts 5:29)

support what promotes good order, well-being of culture

do your part to actively contribute to good of society – be salt and light as Jesus directed (Matt. 5:13-16)

not just for your own benefit, for that of neighbors and community at large

B. softhearted toward the lost v.2

be considerate of their blindness

unregenerate are stumbling around in dark, can’t see right way to go or obstacles in their path

don’t make life harder for unbeliever than already is – sin is plenty big enough burden to carry

be patient

God is patient – with mankind in general, with individuals in particular

has plenty of opportunities, lots of reasons to draw line, say enough, bring this age to end

before and after conversion believers try patience of God – but it’s his nature to be longsuffering

he may use you as means for saving your enemies

often tempting to want God to make their bad behavior stop, whatever it takes – usually have something painful in mind

better to want God to change their nature and their behavior – transfer their citizenship and allegiance from domain of darkness to kingdom of his Son (Col. 1:13)

you have ability to do what is right for right reasons, make world better place

with that ability comes responsibility to use it for good

using world’s methods to bring about change won’t bring people to Christ

root of the problem is nature – heart of the problem is it’s a problem of the heart (Krabbendam)

C. struck by the contrast v.3

differences between true follower of Christ and unbeliever are obvious

should cause us to thank God for his grace, not get frustrated with others for their foolishness

“nothing distinguishes us from the perverse culture around us but God’s election manifest in a transforming call of the gospel.” Tom Nettles

we used to be like them!!

mind dominated by sin – “foolish” – thinking and acting contrary to what is good and right

did not submit willingly to authority – disobedient

how much of child rearing/training centers on authority issues and obedience

rejected as false what was true and accepted the false as true – deceived

one example: origins, creation vs. all other explanations; many other examples / situations

sought fulfillment in worldly pleasure, not eternal joy

even wisest man did that, wrote book about it: Ecclesiastes

can put names, faces – neighbors, co-workers, family, public figures – give no thought to anything beyond this life

all personal relationships were adversarial and antagonist

when comes right down to it, for pagan #1 is always #1 if #1 stands to lose something big

D. saved according to mercy v.4-7

how come we’re not like that now? we are being saved by means of regeneration and renewal

salvation motivated by God’s kindness and love for man – prompted God to make first move (4)

caused God to sacrifice what was of greatest value – his Son – for sake of dirty rotten sinners

based on his mercy and grace alone (5)

not because of works, even in comparative sense – not perfect but sure higher up scale than them

absolutely everyone has exactly same need: hopelessly lost “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12)

notice what changed: good outward behavior is result of internal God-orchestrated transformation

bestowed lavishly through Christ (6)

entire work of regenerating and renewing – saving and sanctifying – poured out in abundance

God’s supply of grace more than sufficient to accomplish what we need, to make us fit for his service

with the end in view – confidence of eternal life (7)

not only saved from sin and death and hell, saved to life and righteous living

E. staunchly committed to gospel living v.8

heirs act like family because they are family

God’s people act differently from the world because they are different – have new hearts, new desires, new ways of thinking, new goals

requires constant repetition, reminder

might help if label on forehead, see in mirror each morning: remember who you are; God’s better idea – pastors/shepherds to remind flock who they are, how they should live

true gratitude shown by loving obedience

when friend does favor, we want to return it; God has done far more than favor for his children, should want to respond in way that pleases him

effectiveness found only in using right weapons for battle

Christian life can only be lived effectively when it’s lived dependently – moment by moment, day by day reliance on Christ and his strength and supply

culture war a spiritual battle, must be waged using spiritual weapons

10 Commandments on public display not enough; God’s law written on new hearts is required

Christians must be good citizens – Jesus set the example, God’s word gives the mandate. But good citizenship and political process won’t make a Christian nation. Electing different politicians may be right thing to do; shakeup on Supreme Court might satisfy some people; won’t fix the problem. Solution to problems in America and Egypt and Syria and Israel and every other nation on earth: the Gospel taking root in hearts of men, women, boys, girls at all levels of society.

That will take place when God’s people grow up – mature into the stature of Christ in context of healthy local church. God changes the world through the church, not the court or Capitol Hill. God’s people must devote their resources to living God’s way – gaining strength and understanding and encouragement in here to live right out there, all in full dependence on God’s grace.


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