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Doing Good - Where it All Begins, Part 1

From the series Doing Good

When you think about doing a good deed, what comes to mind? Feeding the hungry? Building homes for the homeless? Sponsoring a child? Have you ever wondered who or what defines what is “good?” Chip reveals what the Bible has to say about the answer to that question.

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Message Transcript

The Scripture says, “The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Lovingkindness and truth go before you.”

Because the way God executes justice and brings about righteousness in an evil world is He has a group of people in whom Christ lives, by His Spirit, and they see the way He sees and they care the way He cares, and they do what Jesus did when He walked upon the earth.

And we’re in a series called Doing Good, it’s what happens when Christians live like Christians. And I put some study notes there, you want to go ahead and pull those out.
Because the apostle Paul, when he was describing what it looks like for Christians to live like Christians, at the end of Romans chapter 12, he said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

He basically says, “In response to all the evil in the world, you can whine, you can complain, you can call talk radio, you can have coffee with your friends, you can criticize and blame all the people of why this has happened. Or you can do good.” You can be a change agent. You can be light that pushes back the darkness. And when you do it, powerful things happen.

I listed four on the top because doing good, remember, it’s more powerful than evil. Four things happen when we do good. Number one, it pushes back the darkness. Number two, it rescues people from destruction. Number three, it connects our hearts to others. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how it works, but when you help people, when you help people in your home, when you help people at work, when you help someone who is really hurting, something happens. Your hearts connect.

And then finally, it provides unexplainable joy. The Bible talks about the orphan, the widow, the poor, the abandoned woman, the single dad, the person who has lost their job, the person who has lost their home. It’s powerful when you do good.

We’re going through the book of Titus and it’s an entire book in the Bible written for one purpose – to help you understand why to do good, what good really is, and then how to do it.

Why does it matter so much? First, doing good reveals God’s passion for people. Jesus said to His followers, “Let your light so shine before men, that they would see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” People understand God loves them because we do good to them.

The second reason, doing good reveals God’s presence in our lives. Jesus said, “Good trees produce good fruit.” When Christ lives in you and it’s legit and it’s real, it will always produce doing good.

Doing good doesn’t make you right with God. But when you’re right with God, you can’t but help doing good.

Third, doing good reveals the priority in our lives. Jesus in Matthew 25 talked about His return and He talked about, “Be ready.” And He said that when we focus on things that last forever and our focus is on other people rather than just ourselves, we begin to understand there is more than just right now. And we begin to live for what really matters, for what counts for all eternity.

And then finally, doing good reveals God’s purpose for our life. Jesus said His desire for His disciples then and now is that normal, regular, ordinary people like us, you would bear much fruit.

And He said, “Before the foundations of the earth,” think of this, before there was time, before there were galaxies, before He said, “Let there be light,” He said He prepared a good work for you to walk in. That there is a person that has your eye color and only your DNA and just your background and your gifts and your struggles and all that you’ve been through and as you align your life and let the Spirit of God have His way in you, there is a good work that will reveal what God is like to other people, His love and His kindness, His power, His gentleness, His justice, and His truth.

Now, here’s the question it raises for me. If doing good is something that helps people, if it honors God, if it candidly transforms us when we do it, where does it begin? I mean, how do you learn how to do good, not for a week or two or three, and we make little lists and we try and be good little two-shoes, and I’ll do this and I’ll do this and I’ll do this. Two weeks from now, that won’t last.

How is it? I have this picture of, you know when you go to the doctor and you get your yearly physical and then you sit on the little table and they’ve done all the tests and you’re in the funky little gown and always holding the back?

And then he comes and he has the little tomahawk, you know, the little square thing? And he says, “Dangle your leg over like this,” remember this? And what’s he do? He takes it and I always tighten up, he goes, “Would you please relax your leg?” “Okay, I’m sorry, Doc.” And then he goes…right?

He just hits you and what he’s doing is he’s checking out your reflexes. You don’t respond, you don’t think about moving your leg, but your body operates in a certain way so that when something happens, the reflex is that response.

And what we’re talking about is walking with God and being united with Christ and allowing the Spirit of God to so flow through your life that when a need comes up and when you see certain things at home, or at work, or in that third place, you reflexively respond by doing good because the living Christ is living through you.

That’s what we’re talking about. This isn’t about just trying to do a few good deeds or trying to feel better about yourself or trying to make people think that you’re a nice person.

This is about doing good that flows out of God living inside of you.

And so, open your notes and let’s ask and answer the question in our time together, Where does it all begin? Where do you start to have that kind of a life?

I’m going to suggest that doing good begins by recognizing who defines what is good. I mean, the word “good” has gotten really, over the centuries and even in our day, some people think this means good and other people think this means good.

And so the question is, “By what authority?” Or, “By what standard?” Or, “For what purpose?” I mean, who gets to say, “This is good and this is bad. This is good and this is evil. This is acceptable, this is kind, and this is not.”

The apostle Paul wants this group of Christians on this island that has moral laxity and immorality and boorish harshness and they’re stingy. And the little churches have been planted and he’s writing this letter to a young pastor.

And so listen to the first four verses of Titus chapter 1. And Paul, listen for the words like, where does the authority come from? What’s the standard? Who says so? “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ,” why? “for the faith of God’s elect,” or, “chosen and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

“It’s a faith and a knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. In His appointed season, He brought His Word to light, through the preaching,” Paul says, “entrusted to me by the commandment of God our Savior.”

And then, who is the letter to? “To Titus,” this young pastor, “my true son in our common faith:” and then he opens it with, “Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ, our Savior.”

By what authority? It’s from God. He says, “I’m an apostle from God, I’m a servant of God, I have taken the revelation from God, entrusted to me, and He commanded it.” So God defines, by revelation, what is good.

The standard, notice the words, were: Faith, faith, faith, knowledge was used. He says, “Truth.” There are certain things that are true, there are certain things that aren’t true. So God defines what is true and for what purpose. Godliness, moral goodness, that which helps people, that which restores, that which heals.

Now, for many of us, we have grown up with a pretty significant history of the Judeo-Christian ethic of what is good and what’s not. But the world was not always like this.

For example, in Rome at the time, mercy was not a virtue. Humility was not a virtue. These were introduced by Christ. I mean, when you were ruthless and powerful and gave no mercy, that was viewed as good.

Women were viewed as a piece of property to be used in any way. There was no sense of being “good” to a woman in the time that this was written. There was no sense of respect for a woman. In fact, we’ll find when he talks about “being good” as a leader, as a person, one of the early things is how you treat women and how you treat your children.

Power, brute force, intimidation – when this is written, that’s what is good. And so Paul is saying, “I’ve got a whole new definition of ‘good’ and, Titus, these people who have come to Christ, I want them to understand: This is what God says is ‘good’ and I want them to know that I wrote this to you and you have my authority so lay it out for them.”

It was prophesied by Isaiah that one day, in our world, that which was good would be called evil and things that are evil would actually be called good. And that was true at this time and I don’t know about you, but I think I can think of a handful of examples today, can’t you? Aren’t there some things that you just scratch your head and you think, “Are you kidding me?”

So first and foremost, where does doing good begin? It begins, let’s define, God defines what good is.

Second, when you want to bring about transformation, when you want to do good, doing good in any organization always begins with the leadership. Whether it’s the leadership in a home, leadership with a bunch of housemates, leadership in a small group, leadership in a company, leadership in a church, leadership in a multi-national corporation, leadership on an NFL team – if you want to bring about change you always start with the leadership.

And so what the apostle Paul does in verses 5 through the end of this chapter, he’s going to say, “This is what good leadership looks like and this is what bad leadership looks like.” And as I read it, what I want you to see is how few skills and gifts and techniques are mentioned. Because often when we talk about leadership, a person can do this and they’re gifted at that and they can vision cast and they can problem solve.

But the apostle Paul focuses first and foremost on character. Follow along as I read. He says, “The reason I left you in Crete,” speaking to Titus, “was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders,” the word just means “a shepherd or overseers in the church, “in every town as I directed you.” And then he gives a definition, “An elder must be blameless,” we’ll learn it means “above reproach, have a good reputation.” And then he’s now going to describe, so what does it means for a leader in the church to be blameless?”
Well, it’s the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe, they are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Why? Because an overseer, different word for the same thing, an overseer, a shepherd, elder, overseer or episcopos is someone who looks in and cares for people and understands what is going on.

He says, “So an elder or overseer is entrusted with God’s work. So he needs to be blameless.” Since an overseer is to be blameless, here are some of the characteristics of a blameless or person above reproach. “He’s not overbearing, he’s not quick tempered, not given to much wine, not violent, and not pursuing unjust gain.” Those are all the negative things that they’re not.

Notice the positive. “But he must be hospitable one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message that has been taught so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

And now he says you not only have to define what a good leader is, you’ve got to recognize what bad leaders are and deal with it. He goes on to say, verse 10, “For there are many religious people, mere talkers, deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group, they must be silenced.”

Why? “Because they are ruining whole households by their teaching, things that they ought not to teach and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” They are actually preaching religious messages for money, imagine that.

“Even one of their prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons.’ And this testimony is true.” This was just kind of a bad place. And so he says, “Therefore, rebuke them sharply so that they will be sound in the truth and will pay no attention to Jewish myths and command those who reject this truth, because to the pure, all things are pure; but those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure.

“In fact, both their mind and their conscience are corrupted.” And then the acid test, “They claim to know God, but by their deeds,” their actions, “they deny Him, being detestable, worthless, unfit for anything good.”

And so when we think about leadership and I know we’re going to talk about the Church but I want you to think about who would see you as a leader? Where does someone see you as someone of influence?

Maybe it’s someone in your housemates or maybe you’re a parent and kids would see you as a leader or maybe it’s in the church or maybe it’s in a small group or maybe you’re a supervisor of a team at work or maybe you’re a manager or maybe you’re a CEO, maybe you’re the owner of the company.

But who would see you as a leader? And then for those of you who lead, let me give you three very specific suggestions. They’re to the Church but these are critical for all of us.

Number one, appoint good leaders. Appoint good leaders. And notice, by “good” I mean people with character. We fall in love with talent and we fall in love with gift and we give those kind of people a pass. So appoint good leaders.

Second, remove bad leaders. And this is hard. Especially if they are gifted, especially in a business where they’re making you a lot of money. But short-term, putting up with bad character in places, there’s always long-term ruin.

And then the final admonition here is refuse to compromise. Refuse to compromise, those of you that are in positions of putting people in places.

I had a very good friend and this is a decade or so ago. And without mentioning any names I can tell you it was a multi, multi-billion-dollar company, he was in the upper, upper, upper level of management, only above him were the board and maybe one other person. He, it was tens of thousands of employees. He had been on a journey, had become a very committed follower of Christ, and he wanted to be a Christian, no matter the cost, that lived like a Christian.

Apparently, some of the very, very top executives, after some business meetings that were offsite, spent a weekend doing some things that, in their policy manual, it was absolute, immediate termination for that kind of behavior. It came to his attention, he was morally responsible, and so he executed that and told those people that they were terminated.

Some of the most gifted, most powerful, important people in this multi, multi-billion-dollar company. And then he was called in by powers above him, and there were very few, and they said, “You can’t do that.” He goes, “What do you mean I can’t do that?” They said, “Well, you can’t do that. Do you realize that team, those people… the giftedness, the strength, the knowledge, the…you understand how many billions of dollars that team has created to make…? You can’t fire them.”

He said, “We have in our policy manual, this isn’t grey, this is blatant, this is black and white.” And he was overruled. And he chose to make a very positive transition, he let those above him know that, “I can’t work in an organization because if this was anyone else in our company, they would be terminated immediately. And it’s only because of their giftedness and their talent that you’re changing the rules. I can’t work in a company like that. I resign.” He refused to compromise.

Very, very interesting that the decline of that organization over the next eight to ten years and interesting how God orchestrates things that you need to be vested when you leave a company and all those certain things and, you know how the market and things go up and down and up and down and he just felt like in integrity, if that’s the way they were going to operate once he left, he sold all of his stock, which was a lot.

And it happened to be sold at the peak. And a few months later, the peak went to the pit. And see, I think God wanted to say to him, and wanted to remind us, “You know, you can bank on gift and on talent and you can fudge. Or you can make sure you have good people in responsible situations. And you can be bold and courageous and remove bad people in the right way, in the right attitude.”

And then you refuse to compromise. And there will be some short-term pain, but it produces great long-term gain.

So if you want to do good, where does it really begin? It begins with realizing God defines what is good, not the culture. Not the culture of Crete, not the culture of Greece, not the culture of Rome, and not the culture of twenty-first century America, or Hollywood, or Washington D.C., or the Silicon Valley. God defines what is good and what is bad.

Second, it starts with leaders. Whether you like it or not, whether I like it or not, and I often don’t like it, you are, the greatest Christian someone is ever going to meet in their whole life. It’s scary, isn’t it?

I mean, they are three or four layers away and you don’t even know it and, you know, they are four cubicles down or they are on the jobsite and they have heard about you and they know you’re a Christian, and you are the greatest Christian, so you are a leader.

And so what I am wanting to now talk about is how do we develop the kind of heart, the kind of relationship, and the kind of character so that when difficulty comes, so when opportunity comes, when a need comes, our reflex response flows out of who we are, not just actions that we take.

Point number three, doing good, personally begins with who you are, not what you do. It begins with who you are, not what you do. When seeking to do good does not flow from who you are, the results are disastrous.

When there’s something – it’s like an old car with rust and you can take it into a body shop and they can spray nice paint and what do you know, in four or five months, all the rust is going to come through, but it looks pretty on the outside, but it’s not.

And now what he’s going to do is he’s going to talk about leadership in the Church, who you need to be, and I’m going to walk through it because this is very clearly addressed to elders or Church leadership, elders and pastors, but I want you to listen and realize, the very qualities and character that’s going to be developed is basically what it looks like when Christ is living His life through ordinary, regular people like you and me.

Just the standards are going to be absolutely clear, you have to come to this level of maturity to lead God’s Church.

What I want to tell you is, I have a good, good friend who worked in a very, very, very large church, I think it was the largest in America at the time. And he ended up working with pastors and leaders all across America and around the world, and he began to see that although we have the greatest opportunity ever in all of history with technology and resources to help people, really communicate, not just the words but the life of Christ, is that we have a crisis.

And he did research and he now spends his life helping leaders live out their calling with a healthy soul. He says, “The epidemic of leadership struggles comes at a time of amazing opportunity for the Church. The potential to reach and fulfill the Great Commission is unprecedented in our day. However, the Church will never be able to leverage this amazing moment of opportunity without strong leadership. Today’s troubling statistics on pastors paint a bleak picture.”

And my premise is this, and this is not – and boy, I’m a pastor, I’m not down on the Church. But here is what I know. Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry permanently every month in America. Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-five percent of their wives feel discouraged in their roles.

Fifty percent of pastors’ wives feel their husbands entering the ministry was the worst and most destructive thing that ever happened to their families and marriage. Thirty percent of pastors say they either have been in, or are in, an ongoing affair, or a one-time sexual encounter, with a parishioner.

Seventy-one percent of pastors stated they were burned out, they battle depression and fatigue weekly if not daily. And only one out of every ten ministers will actually retire as a minister. That’s not happy news. The pastor’s greatest leadership tool is not techniques, not speaking ability, not being a great CEO. It is leading from a healthy soul.