I am wading in to waters that have already been stirred countless times over the ages by men and women far more knowledgeable than me, but permit me to share my thoughts (or just quietly ignore me…all two and a half of you). This is certainly not an exhaustive, or comprehensive, musing on the matter of faith and good works. Rather, it is just one morning’s worth of meditation on the subject.

A lot of energy seems to go into this debate, particularly among various groups that profess to be Christian. My casual observation is that Christians are split into two generic camps (with obviously a lot more distinctions as you look closer): the Good Works Christians and the Faith Alone Christians.

The Good Works group claims that faith means little if you don’t have good works, or you aren’t doing good deeds. The Faith Alone group asserts that your good works amount to nothing if you don’t have faith as the impetus for your good works.

On the surface neither group has it wrong, so to speak, but as philosophy gets put into practice both of these groups seem to miss out on what really matters: glorifying God.

The Good Works group looks with contempt at the navel-gazing Faith Alone folks because they aren’t doing as much as they are to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. The Faith Alone group scoffs at the Good Works group because their theology is a convoluted mess of feel-good self-help manuals that miss the establishment of a proper attitude toward God. (The best part of all of this is, in America, we take it out on each other on the battlefield of politics.)

Maybe that’s all an over simplification, but that’s basically my observation.

Why not be both? Well, that sounds nice but then we start to argue over which should be first, which is more important, etc. Again, it strikes me all as moot unless you keep one thing in mind: glorify God!

If the purpose of your good works is to bring glory to God, amen. If the purpose of your faith is to give glory to God, amen.

Let me have Paul speak for a moment:

Titus 2:11-14 ESV

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

In that passage he starts with people who have faith (the grace of God bringing salvation) and ends with people who are motivated to do good works. Not to mention all the good stuff in between.

In the next passage, he starts the same way, but takes care to exhort believers to live out their faith in a measurable way by doing good works.

Titus 3:4-8 ESV

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

So, have both. Do both. Or have one and do the other. Either way, faith and good works are not mutually exclusive and both are critical in order to call yourself a Christian. And keep in mind that we are Christ’s not because of our righteousness but because of God’s unsurpassable goodness and His unfathomable love for you.

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At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:3-8)

At one time we too were foolish…

Umm…I’m not sure I’ve stopped being foolish. Despite placing my faith in Jesus Christ and knowing with certainty that my life is secured for eternity by His obedience I can’t help but feel like I am still a fool. Every decision that we make will either bring glory to God or not. And even now, I seem to make far too many decisions that fall well short of bringing glory to God. I lose patience with my children, I grumble at work, or I engage in humor that is not edifying. The list could go on, but you get the point. Even some decisions that have no great significance on the surface prove to be foolish just because I made them without care. It is certainly glorious that Jesus did bring glory to God in everything He did because my “balance sheet” would probably not look good.

…disobedient…

Most days it is my intention to be obedient to God in everything: thought, word, and deed. Most days I fail in at least one of those aspects. Disobedience is not the life to which I was called, but it is the life into which I was born. It is a daily struggle to submit my will to His grand purposes, but praise God that I am washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. His sacrifice is my sanctification and He is worthy of praise.

…deceived…

Who hasn’t been deceived by all the world has to offer? Who isn’t still being bombarded with messages that the world can offer you everything you need and desire? I have come to realize that my faith in Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has removed scales from eyes and unstopped my ears so that I might see and hear more clearly the deceptions of the world in which I live. Even now, however, the scales that were at one time removed seem like a cancer that threatens to creep back over my eyes from remission to cloud my vision regarding what is pure and holy. My hearing sometimes feels muffled because of the buildup of polluted talk and the din of worldly pursuits. Daily devotions help to keep my sight free of obstructions and my hearing sharp, but again I thank and praise God as the one who delivers me and reveals those things which are pure.

…enslaved…

Is there a more powerful metaphor for what it means to be living with sin and without the promise of redemption? Our 21st century sensibilities treat slavery as something that is abhorrent, and that is good. Because of our centuries long campaign against the evils of human slavery however, we seem to ignore its more subtle implications in our personal lives. God designed us to be free and yet we willingly (or unwittingly) subject ourselves to countless fashions, fads, and lifestyles that have the effect of enslaving us to our passions or other people (albeit without the actual label of slavery). Your “need” to have the latest technology may be motivated by good intentions, but it can quickly enslave you if that need outpaces your means. I confess, it is hard to know where honest pleasure ends and enslavement to pleasure begins. Praise God for His mercy and grace.

We lived in malice and envy.

Again I ask myself, do I still harbor malice and envy? While both malice and envy may creep into my thought life, they can’t remain there long because I am reborn in Christ and the Holy Spirit serves to convict me of these grievances. What was it like to live in malice without the redemption of Christ’s love? Well, Paul writes that we were “being hated and hating one another.” Malice consumes. If God did not intervene on your behalf working “behind the scenes”, then malice could easily overtake all of your good intentions and replace them with thoughts of pure evil. Likewise even the smallest bit of envy had the power to grow into a forest of weeds that would choke all things noble and pure from you. Our selfish nature reigned supreme and any good that we may have done to advance our interests would ultimately be overshadowed by the accompanying pain and suffering of malice and envy. It is enough that I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, but it is essential for me to live out my love for Jesus by putting away malice and envy.

Enter God’s kindness, love, and mercy.

I’ve already alluded to this phrase, but we should never come away from scripture without pausing to reflect how great our God is. How glorious is it to be redeemed by God so that our lives can be made pure and holy? All the facets of my sinful nature are washed by “rebirth and renewal” and I have become an “heir with the hope of eternal life.” The list of sinful deeds and thoughts at the beginning of these verses is what we would inherit if not reborn in Christ. It is not a tribute to me that I am renewed in Christ, but rather more significantly it is a tribute to the Almighty God who has saved my soul from such a destiny. Do I live a life that demonstrates God’s greatness? That is my goal, but I confess to falling short on a regular basis. But thank God I do not have the task of saving souls because too many would be lost by my ineptness at living out God’s promises. I pray that God will direct my paths so that I might be used by Him for His purposes. I have only to follow by devoting myself to what is good. God’s word is good and trustworthy. God is good.

Below is a link to a blog written by an 82 year old woman named Helen.

http://margaretandhelen.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/now-it-is-your-turn/

Click and decide for yourself, but I am appalled at their “candor”.  If my grandparents were alive and reading their posts, they would be shocked even if they agreed with the writer on the issue(s).  I am trying to admire them for their willingness to do something new and share their thoughts with people and they likely because of their age they have had a significant impact on bloggers (at least those using WordPress), but their lack of decorum for people of their age is frankly deplorable.

Paul writes to Titus,

…teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  (Titus 2:3)

And the adoring comments are too much.  Bloggers are practically worshipping these ladies because their age combined with their view point is like a vindication of the way that the liberal bloggers think about current events.  If two older ladies are saying it, it must be right!

I was going to post something like this on their website, but I decided against it.  Partly because I didn’t want to give the satisfaction of being able to say something like, “If you don’t like it, don’t read it.”  Partly because I didn’t think that quoting scripture on their blog would be very useful.  And partly because I didn’t want to validate the “feelings” of the liberal bloggers swooning over Helen’s writing by giving them more reason to heap praises on her for “articulat(ing) my thoughts exactly on so many things, and I love the bluntness and perspective.”

Sigh.

MW

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10, NIV)

I’m hard pressed to begin my thoughts on these verses. Anywhere the bible mentions slaves it seems like there is a likely possibility of major misunderstandings. Some people will try and dismiss the bible because they think that it tacitly condones slavery by not outright condemning its practice. Others will go to the other extreme and find a means of justify slavery because of its appearance in both the Old and New Testaments. And still others may seem almost dismissive of slavery by too easily equating slavery, in New Testament terms, with employee, in contemporary jargon. I imagine there is a way of talking about slavery the way God intended and that there are many people who talk about it in a genuine and thoughtful manner. If you don’t listen carefully and speak carefully, then you can miss what people are trying to say when they discern what the bible is saying. I’m not an expert on the historical implications of slavery during the years of Paul’s missions, but I will try and speak sensitively about the subject that is so easy to ignite a fire.

Let’s not forget that Paul is writing to Titus, a disciple of Christ, and he is telling Titus to instruct the believers in his care in a way that honors and glorifies Christ. It is important to remember that when Paul talks about slavery here, he is not establishing some sort of “Christian Policy” on slaves and slavery. He is addressing the one thing that no one can take from us (not even, dare I say, God): free will.

The freedom in question here is our freedom to choose our attitude and, consequently, our actions. God created us each with the capacity to determine our will. If He hadn’t, we wouldn’t be made in the image of God. If He hadn’t, our worship would be compulsory and devoid of devotion. As much as God wants us to love Him, forcing us to love Him would be against the very nature and character of God.

As it relates to where we find ourselves walking in this world, we can’t always choose where we end up in life, but what we can do, no matter what the circumstance, is choose how we respond to the circumstance. Paul doesn’t address this in this passage of Titus, but he does address the way masters should behave toward their slaves (Ephesians 6:9) and there too he addresses the attitude and actions of the believer, not the institution of slavery. What is most important is how we live out our faith in Christ, not where we are when we live out the faith.

Be subject. Paul commands Titus to teach slaves to be subject in everything. Similar to other prominent themes about submission, Paul addresses submission in the hearts of slaves, people whose lives are (sadly) not their own. Our hearts are to yield to Christ as He yielded His to the Father. In practice that means that we subject ourselves to our earthly masters as well as our heavenly master. This is problematic because our earthly masters are not perfect like our heavenly master and submission to someone who is not perfect can be downright impossible to do at times. But the act of submission to our earthly masters is not for their sake and not even for our own sake. It is for God’s sake. Our job is to glorify Him in everything that we do and our submission to our earthly masters is one manifestation of that praise. (Paul could have probably stopped here in his discourse to Titus. When someone says everything, don’t they mean, “Everything”? However, he has to spell it out in details to make sure that we understand completely what it means to “be subject in everything”. I guess that comes with the territory when dealing with depraved souls.)

Please them. Well, that makes sense. Please your master, please God. Part of that “everything” Paul mentioned at the beginning, but expanded moderately to include going an extra step. God expects us to “live right”. It certainly pleases Him when we do, but what must please Him even more is when we take time, with gladness and cheerfulness in our hearts, to praise, honor, and glorify Him either through prayer, worship, or any means that seems noble and true.

Don’t talk back. Again, here is a simple yet practical way to live out being subject in everything and thereby glorifying God. Restraining our tongues is one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate our faith. It isn’t easy to hold your tongue when you have something to say, but watching our speech carefully is important to living a life that glorifies our Father in heaven. Evil thoughts may be generated from the heart, but we have an opportunity to stop them at the tips of our tongues and if we practice the self-control Paul talked about earlier, then we can stop evil thoughts from promulgating and festering in other people’s hearts. And we give ourselves time to examine our hearts and purge those thoughts (to the best our ability and with the help of the Holy Spirit, see Psalm 51, verse 10).

Don’t steal. It’s amazing to me that this would need to be mentioned, but it is and it ought not to be dismissed. One way to look at this is to remind the believer that everything we have belongs to God. If we act as though something belongs to us apart from the ownership of God, then it is as though we are stealing from God. And it isn’t that He couldn’t take it back from us, but rather that it speaks to the condition of our relationship with Him. If we are willing to call something ours without recognizing the ownership of God, then we are spiting God’s blessing in our lives.

Be trustworthy. This seems to flow out of the admonition not to steal. But a master is truly blessed to have someone he can trust, and the same is true in our relationship with God. How much can God trust me? The more I show God that I can be trusted, the more God will entrust to me. I was not born deserving of God’s trust, despite the plans He may have had for me. As stated earlier, He can’t contradict His nature (because it’s perfect) and can’t make me be trustworthy. I have to earn that trust and I will need the help of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Showing trustworthiness to your earthly master is, again, a means of glorifying you Father in heaven.

Make the teaching of God our Savior attractive. I should have started with this exhortation because I believe that it gives purpose for why we believers, either as free men or slaves, are to be subject to our masters in everything. It glorifies God. Sure, there may be earthly benefits as well, but the bottom line is that our God is worthy of all glory and by training ourselves to be subject in everything we are bringing glory to the God that saved us from unrighteousness and sin and prepares a place for us in heaven for all eternity. Critics of Christianity often point to the behavior of men and women who have talked the talk but at some point failed to walk to walk as an example of why following Christ is foolish. Paul addresses this many times and many ways, but it may be as clear as anywhere when he sums up this segment of his letter to Titus with the phrase, “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

MW

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.  In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  (Titus 2:6-8, NIV)

Self-control gets a lot of press time in the first six verses of the second chapter of Titus.  On a theological level, I believe that self-control would most appropriately be labeled a response to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ rather than something that needs to be done in order to earn salvation.  Thus encouraging young men to be self-controlled is simply a reminder of their sanctification in Christ.

On a practical note, self-control yields earthly as well as spiritual benefits.  As noted in an earlier post, it has been my experience that young students fall into basically two categories.  Those that exhibit some degree of self-control and those that don’t.  Obviously, a youngster is still learning about what it means to be self-controlled, but it is clear that there are those who are learning and practicing the concept of self-control and then there are those that are not.

A child who is being taught, and is expected to learn, self-controlled behavior has a distinct advantage over the child who has no similar expectations in place.  For all of those in our culture who tout education as a means of escaping a life of drudgery and poverty (read: salvation), where are they when it comes to educating a child in the ways of a self-controlled life?

A boy who is learning self-control is able to sit still, focus, and learn.  A boy is not learning self-control can’t get past sitting still.  If he isn’t able to sit still, how can he focus?  If he can’t focus, how can he learn?  This may be oversimplifying the process of learning, but I’ve seen enough of both types of boys to draw my own conclusions without the benefit of extensive, costly, and typically pointless scientific studies.  The child that enters the classroom with less, or no, self-control than his peers will suffer at the hands of the very same system that claims to offer him a way of hope.

I digress…back to Titus…

Older men (in this case Titus) are to set an example of what is good.  How many men set examples of what is good in our culture?  Turn on the TV and you’ll think that there are no men left who know how to set a good example.  Sports heroes and movie superstars are the most prevalent examples of those who set examples and typically the news is focused on their behavior when it is bad, not good.  To be certain, there must be a least a few men (and women) who exhibit good behavior in both of those industries, but we don’t hear much about them unless you do a little research.

Unfortunately, our culture is obsessed with the idea of the hypocrite.  Men who speak out against immoral behavior are carefully observed to see if they are walking the walk, or just talking the talk.  And when one man is captured by the temptations he faces, the world is quick to pounce and shout, “Hypocrite!”  Sadly, this shouting beats back any serious discussion of the behavior and whether or not it is actually immoral.  Instead, we are lead to assume that the behavior that was considered to be immoral by this man was really, in fact, just a lifestyle “choice” and it isn’t necessary to decry it as immoral because there is no such thing as an absolute standard by which to measure morality.

Then again, Paul warns us of the importance of setting an example that is good.  At the conclusion of the seventh verse, Paul instructs us to “show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.”  So, the poor bloke who spoke up about immoral behavior and then succumbs to it in the end, learns Paul’s lesson the hard way.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18b, NIV) is the only way to live a life that comes as close to pure as we can while living in the sinful, earthly vessels we call our bodies.

It is a goal of the Christian to be above reproach and to live a life of speaking and doing all good things in advance of the message of the good news of Jesus Christ.  The goal is notable because by living the way God intended through faith in Christ, we might silence the critics of the faith for they will not have anything bad to say about the faith because of what we do.  Hence, self-control is paramount to the lives we lead as believers.

The good news is that our behavior does not change who God is and what He plans to do for us.  I can strive to live as Paul has instructed me in his letter to Titus, but it is still God who will complete the work.  Self-control is not just a response to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, but the act of yielding to the presence of the Spirit who will then direct my life on the path of God’s perfect will.

MW

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  (Titus 2:3-5, NIV)

So, men are supposed to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, sound in faith, sound in love, and sound in endurance.  As for women, Paul instructs them to be reverant and to teach what is good.  He also warns them to stay away from slandering (probably implying gossiping) and drinking too much.  It seems to me that Paul expects older women to be first-rate teachers and that the path to becoming a first-rate teacher is to love, be pure, be busy, be kind, and be subject to their husbands.  So, what does all that mean?  I’m not a woman, but I don’t think that necessarily precludes me from weighing in on the matter.  After all, God designated Eve to be Adam’s helper.  It seems only fair that because we (men) need help that we should be able to comment on the helper and her role.

Love their husbands and children

This is easier said than done.  I realize that most men, even if they are mostly lovable, are at times downright impossible to love.  I wish that I could say I’ve broken the mold, but I’m afraid I haven’t and I know I have my share of moments that might classify my lovability around a 1.2 on a scale of 10.  Seriously, it isn’t always easy to love your mate and your children.  Is the list that follows “love their husbands and children” a how-to of loving?

Be Self-Controlled and Pure

As a teacher I’ve noticed that the behavior that has the greatest impact on a child’s ability to learn is the ability to be self-controlled.  With it, any child, no matter what the talent for learning, has the ability to be successful.  Without it, no child is capable of successful learning.  In the general sense, self-control implies doing things that are right at a time when you’re inclined to do things that are wrong (or at least not right).  How it applies more specifically to women, I haven’t really thought through.  Certainly, it would mean refraining from sexual activity prior to marriage (or outside of marriage once there).  This fits with the additional exhortation to be pure.  I imagine that it would apply to gossiping, as well.  I’m sure that exercising self-control may take a different shape for different people.  For those of us prone to being angry, one special area of focus for being self-controlled would be during our moments of anger.

Be Busy

One of the characteristics of my wife that I have valued more than anything is her busyness.  She isn’t a workaholic, but neither is she a sloth (which I am prone to be if not on guard).  It seems right for a woman to keep herself busy.  I say, “it seems” because I am not going to pretend to be an expert in psychology.  In my casual observation of women in their marriages and families is that those that keep busy tend to provide a stable environment for raising a family.  Things are in order, relationships both near and far are taken care of, and children learn from watching her work.

Be Kind

It’s easy to be bitter.  Bitterness can creep in with just about anything.  I clean and no one appreciates it.  I cook and no one says thank you.  I wrote her a note and she hasn’t written back.  I’m not sure that we’re inclined to be kind as humans.  In fact, I think that no matter how well we learned as children to be kind, I think it’s something that we need to constantly work on.  Is more unique to women than men?  I don’t know, but I think that our culture massively underestimates the influence that women play in their families.  If a mother allows herself to be bitter, or hold a grudge, it begins to affect everyone and everything in the home.  The same is true for men, but men seem to have an easier time compartmentalizing their lives so as not to have an immediate impact on the family (this could be why men are prone to starting affairs because they are able to “shut off” the relationships that they have and focus on who they are with at that moment).  When mom has something bothering her, it almost immediately plays itself out in the family dynamics. 

Be subject to one’s husband

Ahhh…here’s the hard one.  What do I say that won’t come back to bite me?  I don’t know, but I know that this is an important truth and it ought to be discussed.  But in today’s culture it tends to be a very flammable topic.  We all have to be subject to some one.  Ultimately, that some one is God.  The family unit is God’s design for a microcosm of His kingdom.  The family is run by one person, the husband.  The family is subject to one person, the husband.  The husband, in turn, must answer directly to God.  A responsibility that I’m sure many men have tried to shirk.  I know that I am intimidated by that responsibility.  I also know that when my wife “subjects” herself to me (usually in the form of encouragement) it make a huge difference in my attitude about my role and I am able to fulfill my responsibilites and I feel confident at the same time.

…so that no one will malign the word of God.

It all comes back to God.  If men and women function properly in the behavior and their relationships with one another, God will be glorified.  I imagine that God will also bless the relationships of men and women who seek to do His will by obeying Paul’s commands in addition to God’s commands throughout the Bible (should Bible be capitalized?).  Maligning God’s word is a passtime of many in our culture and believers could be perfect in their behavior and still not change that attitude.  But as much as we are able, it is fitting and right to obey God through His word that we might live a life that is pleasing to Him and glorifies His holy name.

A little while ago, I wrote a post titled Sound Doctrine.  I thought I would continue with Titus, chapter 2, which is where the earlier post got its name.  (Please keep in mind, these are just the musings of some one who desires to love God and be obedient, not a theologian.)

Paul follows up his command to teach sound doctrine with this command:

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and endurance.  (Titus 2:2, NIV)

Is this part of teaching sound doctrine?  Is this complimentary to sound doctrine?  Perhaps I should look at defining doctrine before I go any further in order to make certain that I am clear with my understanding of the word.

This definition seems to be most applicable to the topic of church doctrine:

a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

The teaching of how men should behave doesn’t seem to me to be necessarily a doctrinal matter.  While it may be important and complimentary to sound doctrine, it seems that the behaviors listed by Paul in verse 2 are more of a response, or fulfillment, of adhering to sound doctrine.  Not being what I would consider an older man, I can’t address these behaviors from a personal perspective.  However, by a casual observer of human behaviors, I’ve watched enough older men in action to offer up a comment or two.

Be temperate

Again, I’ll start with a definition…

keeping or held within limits : not extreme or excessive (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Being well-grounded in his faith and with a long life of experiences, an older man is wise to avoid extremes.  Some of the most temperate men I’ve know have been those who have experienced the most extreme conditions especially in hardship.  I have found the men who have served our country in the military in combat are often the most temperate individuals I know.  Whether it is the difference between the chaotic pace of battle and the comparatively dull pace of ordinary life that helps to moderate a man’s temperament, I will probably never know.  What is significant to me is that men who are more temperate tend to be the men who more easily earn others respect.

Be worthy of respect

This would seem to assume that all (or at least most) behaviors in the past have been honorable, noble, or just plain right and good.  I suppose it means more than just the absence of bad behaviors, but it also means leading a life that is complete with notable actions that are worthy of respect.  Helping those in need, being of service to friends and neighbors, etc.

Be self-controlled

All of these characteristics that Paul is identifying seem intertwined rather than successive or exclusive of one another.  Knowing how to be in control of your human sin-nature is probably the least discussed behavior in today’s mainline churches (that could be because the concept of sin is very elusive, if not altogether absent, from said churches).  Even after a lifetime of learning to be faithful and obedient to God, Paul exhorts older men to continue in self-control.  This is somewhat encouraging to us younger men who are perhaps dealing with sin-caused struggles that are still new to us or have escaped our detection.

Be sound in faith

Yielding to Christ on a consistent basis results in soundness in faith.  Entering into and completing trials of faith typically yields a stronger faith.  Ultimately, it is God who provides everything that is good and our decision is simply to have faith by yielding to His perfect will.  Who better to emulate and instruct than an older man who has (likely) been through many of his own trials of faith.  Who, by patient instruction, can benefit his younger audiences (especially men) by sharing all of the ups and downs of each trial and bring them to life in a way that will encourage faithfulness even when all hope seems lost.

Be sound in love

God is love.  It is reasonable to expect a man of many years to have experienced so many different trials over the course of his life to become incapable of love the way God would have us love one another.  That is probably why Paul exhorts older men to be firm in love.  Love isn’t something that necessarily comes naturally to us as humans (especially men).  Practicing the love that God intended for our relationship with Him and with our neighbors is the only way to be sound in love.  And again, who better a role model of love than a man seasoned by the trials of life who has applied his knowledge of God’s ultimate love to every aspect of his journey.

Be sound in endurance

Endurance is persevering.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4, NIV)

It is refreshing to see some one who is not lacking in anything.  They are strong and they have a powerfully calming affect on those who look to them for guidance.  I realize that completeness will not be accomplished until we reside with Christ in the glory and splendor of heaven, but there are examples of older men who are certainly more complete, more mature, and more content than their younger brethren.  These men exhibit the nature of God even with their human limitations in order for younger men (and women) to have a more complete picture of who God is.

Even though Paul is addressing older men, it is easy for anyone to apply those commands to their own life.  This is what you are aiming for as a mature creation of Christ.  And who better to emulate the perfectness of Jesus than the men who have had a lifetime to experience His grace and goodness.

MW