“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” Titus 2:2
Now that I am an “older man” I’ve started paying more attention to texts like Titus 2:2. It’s not that I skipped over such texts in the past; it’s just that what Paul is saying speaks more deeply to my heart than it once did.
As a young man life seemed to have endless possibilities and time galore, so I found myself rushing headlong into all kinds of situations without too much thought about the dignity of such actions. And if you are anything like me, your actions and decisions were not always based upon “sober-minded” thought through actions not very “steadfast” in those decisions.
As we become older I do think we become a little wiser if for no other reason than our bodies remind us of the fact. And by the way, I don’t think this text is referring to men only as I’ve met many older women who would do well to give this text a read.
Here’s the question, what is Paul saying in these six short snippets of direction for older men? Before we answer that question we need to remember Paul wrote these words also, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22, 23a (italics supplied)If we compare the “fruit of the Spirit” to the text in Titus 2 we can’t help but notice they are very similar in content. It would seem Titus 2:2 is also a list, though a little less extensive than Galatians 5:22 of the fruit of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life.
If that is true then Titus 2:2 is much more than a simple encouragement or good piece of advice, but instead a directive about what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As we grow older and have walked and trusted God for many years our characters reflect that walk by being more in harmony with God’s will and direction. You can’t help but notice that Paul is not encouraging his readers to do more good works or anything like that, but is reminding them that the indwelling of the Spirit softens and shapes our attitudes and ways of thinking.
In many translations of Titus 2:2 the text begins with the admonition “to teach older men,” so sober-mindedness, love, etc., are not traits that necessarily come automatically to us older folk regardless of our connection to God. I know I need to be reminded, more than occasionally, about God’s desire for the direction of my life to live in balance with Titus 2:2.
To be sober-minded is a little more complicated than we first suspect. It isn’t an admonition to not drink, but instead to be mature in our thinking. As we grow older we tend to think back through our life, sometimes with regret and sometimes with joy. However we contemplate life, the older we become as Christians, the more we find ourselves longing to be closer to God and realizing our sinfulness.
I know I spend much more time now thinking about the wonders and mercies of God’s grace than I did as a young pastor who ran from pillar- to-post being busy in ministry. I think the older we become the more we realize who we really are and the more thankful we are for Jesus. Young men may believe in perfectionism but we older folk realize the only perfection we truly know is in Jesus perfect life, love, and death for us.
I have to admit to be “dignified” is a bit of a stretch for me, but that is what makes it all the more important. We can think of dignified in this text as “worthy of respect,” or “honorable.” To be dignified is to have a healthy respect for God’s word, living a life that is worthy of our faith and treating others with respect and honor.
Too many Christians believe their place in the church is what makes them dignified, but that is not it at all. We earn respect by being honest, truthful, and treating people with dignity. It is not our position that brings respect, but our personality shaped and formed by the Spirit that gives respect.
Self-controlled implies a battle between the divided self. Luke 9:23 tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily because self produces desires that need to be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. Luke 13:24 tells us, “Strive to enter through the narrow door,” but the word translated strive is actually agonize. It is not easy to be self-controlled when we are surrounded by temptations and weakness.
As we grow older God encourages us not to give up “the good fight” and not become discouraged in our struggle against the temptations and attacks of Satan. Now here is the important thing to remember about self-control; it is a gift or fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). You and I will never live in harmony with self-control over our temptations and desires if we face them alone. However, the fruit of trusting in the grace of Jesus and His acceptance of us as His children turns our thoughts towards God and away from self-centeredness.
As an older man I can look back over my life and realize that many of the sins that wore me down when I was younger no longer seem to be a problem in my life. Others persist and I need to continue to ever be on the watch that I don’t allow those sins to control me.
Once again let me repeat myself, I am not talking about perfection here. I more than anyone understand that I am a sinner and will be a sinner until I am changed in the twinkling of an eye at the second coming of Christ. The simple difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not a matter of sin but a matter of being a forgiven sinner.
As we grow older we understand, I believe, that more and more we need the grace of God for everything in our lives. We realize that self-control is a gift of God that we could never exercise on our own, and we rejoice in how forgiving God has been to us over the years in our agonizing with personal sin.
I think it takes many years under our belt to honestly understand the true nature of our hearts and how in love we are with sin before we can truly appreciate the nature of grace. Self-control doesn’t come easy because it takes a lifetime of growing in trust and reliance in the work of the Holy Spirit to renew our thinking and actions. Yes, we struggle with sins, but we never struggle alone.
Next post we will look at the rest of Paul’s directives in Titus 2:2.
* All’s quiet in the front…really? Just because it’s hardly reported in the news these days doesn’t mean it’s not happening anymore. Many people around the globe are STILL experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death. They need our support and continuous prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet but you have to search for it