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Declare and Defend (2)


For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

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Faulty Views of the Faith
Ask the unbelievers you know what they think of Christianity, and you’re likely to get a variety of responses.

Some would say it’s good for those who need it. Others might say they think the faith of Christ has become irrelevant in our day. Still others might flare up, get indignant, and start accusing you of trying to cram your religion down their throats.

It’s not likely, however, that many will say, concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that it is the key to helping people learn to live together in mutual love and respect, so that everyone can flourish and be at peace, society and culture can be beautified and enriched, and everyone can know true joy and lasting fulfillment. After all, if they believed that, wouldn’t they be Christians already?

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Exposed and Undone?

Declare and Defend (1)


Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

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‘Tis the Season!
At the risk of seeming to be out of touch with reality, I want to insist that the time has never been riper for Christians to be making their case for the Gospel of the Kingdom.

I know, I know: it seems more like a time for us to be hunkering down and lying low. The atheists among us are angry and aggressive. New websites pop up each week touting the virtues of atheism, and the evangelists for that cause—Dawkins, Krauss, Harris, et al—have achieved the status of rock stars. Christians are being pot-shot from every angle: we’re uneducated, irrelevant, hypocritical, opposed to science, and on and on.

Some of those charges, we know, have the ring of truth. And most Christians seem to be getting the point: All this loud objecting and protesting means we’d better tone down our witness for now and concentrate on getting our house in order.

But I want to insist otherwise.

While it’s true we need to shape up our practice of the faith, now is no time for shying away from engagement for the Gospel. Now is the favorable time for Christians to declare and defend the Christian worldview. Now is the day of salvation, and all believers must be diligent in proclaiming the Good News at every opportunity and by every means.

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The Gospel of the Kingdom

To Stop the Lie (7)


But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. Psalm 64:7-9

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Brought to Ruin?
Our desire in seeking to silence those who traffic in lies is not to put them down, show them up, or try to make them look bad in any way. We will issue our sharp rebuke in private, if we can, but in public if we must. We want those caught up in the Lie to see the error of their ways and consider the Truth of God in a more objective and reasoned manner than they have before.

Nevertheless, in order for some people to get to this point, their worldview and sinful behaviors may need to be “brought to ruin” by the Sword of the Spirit applied unapologetically to the deep cancers of their souls.

This is our calling; Jesus calls us to judge with righteous judgment all that we see and hear as followers of Christ, and not to back down from defending the truth when lies are in the air.

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Ready to Reason - and Rebuke

To Stop the Lie (6)


Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. Titus 1:13

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Listen and Persuade
Those who know the Truth in Jesus Christ cannot simply stand by while the Lie ravages churches, communities, families, and individuals. Paul says we must be prepared to issue a sharp rebuke to those who are leading others away from the Truth of Jesus, whether they are in the church or outside it. As I mentioned previously, a sharp rebuke does not mean an angry, nasty denunciation. It is instead a rather more careful, pointed, and effective way of rendering those who promulgate the lies speechless, having nothing left to say.

Of course, the first line of attack in dealing with those who promote lies is patient listening coupled with gentle persuasion (Jms. 1:19; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). At all times we need to treat people with respect, as human beings made in the image of God and, thus, always susceptible to the in-breaking of truth when it is offered in a firm, clear, and gracious manner (1 Pet. 3:15; Col. 4:6).

But when persuasion fails, the sharp rebuke must be our next recourse in silencing the Lie.

 

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Rebuking the Lie

To Stop the Lie (5)


Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. Titus 1:13

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Get Ready
At some point in seeking to expose the lies of this unbelieving age and to make new room for the truth of God to flourish and bear fruit, we’re going to have to take on those who are promulgating the Lie in its various forms, whether they are within the church or without. We mustn’t back down from this, and we mustn’t expect that someone else is better able to challenge the Lie.

Just as Jesus fearlessly exposed the folly of His detractors (Matt. 12:22-29), and Paul instructed Timothy to correct those who were in the grip of the father of lies (2 Tim. 2:24-26), so we, too, need to be ready to stand up to the Lie, expose its folly, and call its bluff.

Paul instructed Titus to “rebuke sharply” those who, by trafficking in lies, were upsetting and doing harm to others. We need to understand the idea behind this term. To rebuke someone sharply does not mean that we get really angry and overheated and resort to name-calling and ridiculous hyperbolic arguments and claims.

 

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Lies in the Church

To Stop the Lie (4)


For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers …They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not teach. Titus 1:10, 11

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In the Household of Faith
The Lie can too easily become established within the household of faith.

Paul’s immediate focus in our text is local house churches—in the ESV, wrongly translated “families”—and the trouble, upset, and turmoil caused in them by those who promulgate lies. In Paul’s day, not only on the island of Crete (the destination of his letter to Titus) but in every other place, those who peddled lies came in after the apostle just about wherever he went, objecting to his teaching, offering their own views about salvation, and, in general, causing upheaval and tumult in the churches.

Paul deplored the division and dissension caused by the Lie. He insisted it had to stop, and those who were the source of it must be silenced. Once we have begun to work on our own souls, so that we always prefer the truth of God to the lies of the world, the next place to turn in silencing the Lie is toward those who are living and promoting the Lie in the churches.

 

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