IT MUST BE IMPORTANT!

If something is repeated multiple times in a short space, I think we can assume it is important to the one who is saying or writing it. It may turn out that it is not important to us, but that doesn’t mean it is not important to the writer or speaker. When I teach college classes I let the students know what I think is important (and will be on the test) by saying certain things over and over again.

For no particular reason, I recently sat down and read through the three chapters of the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus. Their relationship was like a father and son and Paul was writing to encourage and instruct Titus in his ministry and teaching. As I read what Paul wrote, I noted for the first time in my reading of the letter that he told Titus to teach the same thing five times in 21 verses. Being astute as I am, I concluded it must be important.

Here are the references:

In Titus 1:8, concerning qualifications for elders: they must be self-controlled.

In Titus 2:2, he should teach older men: they are to be self-controlled.

In Titus 2:5, he should teach older women: they are to be self-controlled.

In Titus 2:6, he should encourage young men: to be self-controlled.

In Titus 2:12, the grace of God teaches all of us: to live self-controlled.

Would you agree that in Paul’s mind teaching, challenging, encouraging, and expecting Christians to be self-controlled is important? In Galatians 5:23 Paul lists self-control as part of the fruit of the Spirit in a believer’s life. The Greek words translated self-control are different in Galatians and Titus, but the meaning is basically the same.

What is self-control or what does it mean to be self-controlled? I think we all have a sense of what it means to have and express this quality. Both patience and gentleness are certainly related to it. Alternative translations of the Titus references include live wisely, be sensible, and be sober-minded. I don’t think it means we cannot be intense or passionate; it relates to how we handle, express, and live out our intensity and passion.

I’m willing to admit (would confess be a better word?) that at the age of 65, after being a Christian so long, and after all the years I’ve had the privilege of being a pastor, self-control is a quality I need to give attention. And in giving it some thought, I’m most convicted about my eating habits and my short fuse or easily being irritated.

To be self-controlled is important. The lack of self-control can be ugly, dangerous, and destructive in so many ways. Having self-control, however, is healthy, helpful, and attractive. Going back to Galatians 5:22 and 23 and the fruit of the Spirit, let me suggest that we ask the Holy Spirit to help us and that we cooperate with Him to cultivate this important quality. What do you think?

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JESUS’ REPLACEMENT?

I can’t remember where it was I heard him say it, but I’ll never forget something Dr. Lewis Foster said in a Bible study I was attending. Talking about Christians he said, “I don’t think we make enough of the gift of the Holy Spirit in us.”  I didn’t grasp the full impact of what he was saying that day, but after all these years I’m coming to understand it.

When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death, resurrection, and return to heaven He told them the Father would give them another advocate to be with them (John 14:16). A little later He told them: “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7b). There is a lot more from Jesus about the Holy Spirit in chapters 14, 15, and 16; but I want to focus on the designation another advocate for the Holy Spirit and as a replacement for Jesus.

The Holy Spirit really isn’t a replacement for Jesus (that is my word to get your attention), except in the sense of Jesus’ presence with and in His followers. Jesus’ absence from them when He returned to heaven was replaced by the coming of the Holy Spirit. I certainly don’t understand exactly what and how it all happened, but after His resurrection Jesus “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). Following His ascension they “were filled with the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born (Acts 2:4).

The rest of the New Testament makes it clear that every follower of Jesus has the gift of the Holy Spirit. While much more can and should be said about His role, the basic purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit in believers is to help them live the Christian life. But the Spirit does not force us—He does not make us do what is right or keep us from doing wrong. He invites us to allow Him to help us and to cooperate with Him.

I’m intrigued by this term advocate for the Holy Spirit. (Remember Jesus said the Spirit would be another advocate, indicating He was the first one.) The Greek word literally means “one called alongside of.”  In addition to advocate, the word is variously translated comforter, helper, counselor, strengthener, supporter, and exhorter. There are no clear distinctions among these meanings as they overlap, but I’m confident we all would agree that at times we need what each meaning suggests.

We will never perfectly understand how God can be three in one as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or exactly how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. But we know God is three in one and that as Christians we have received the Holy Spirit. Our challenge and privilege is to continue to invite Him more and more into our lives and to cooperate with Him in what He wants to do in us and for us and through us.

I don’t think we make enough of the gift of the Holy Spirit in us. Do you?

Let me and others know what you think by leaving a reply below and I hope you will share this post on social media.

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