When Christians act like Christians, people get loved, homes get healed, communities and neighborhoods get changed.
And the Scripture says that when God’s people do good, your world can actually be changed.
When the apostle Paul wanted to sum up the very reason why Jesus came to earth, I Timothy 1:15 he said this, “This is a trustworthy statement,” it’s a statement that deserves full agreement, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and then I love his last line, “of which I am the worst.”
The word “saved” there literally means “to be delivered.” Jesus Christ came to earth to deliver us and all men and all women and all children out of bondage and sin and slavery and all the bad stuff it creates and to deliver us into a new life, and a new relationship.
So what has the power, let’s get it down to where we live, what has the power to change your world, your neighborhood, where you work?
Well, I’d like to suggest that there are three things. They’re in the form of questions. And question number one is, “What has the power to convince your neighbors and friends and coworkers that God’s Word is true?” I would say it’s safe to say, in our day, that by and large, in our culture, the Bible is no longer respected by many.
Second question is, “What has the power to restore your credibility and influence as a follower of Christ?” We talked, last week, about how the image of Christians and some, because of our doing, is really negative in the culture - harsh, we are viewed as judgmental, hypocritical, anti-intellectual. What has the power to change that?
Third, “What has the power to make your neighbors and your friends and your coworkers actually come to you and want to explore a relationship with Jesus Christ?” Some of us don’t even believe that’s possible.
But the answer to all three of those questions is very simple, and it’s the exact same issue that was happening when the apostle Paul spoke to this young pastor, Titus, and he said, “There are these Christians on this island called Crete and because of the immorality there, because of the weakness of the Christians and false teaching, they don’t live like Christians and, Titus, here’s what you gotta tell them. You tell them, when they do good at home, when they do good at work, and when they do good in their communities, God’s Word will be honored, they will be respected, and their neighbors will see the difference in their life and they will flock to them and want to know how their lives can change.”
The question I want to ask and answer is, “What does it look like for Christians to live like Christians?” More specifically, what’s it look like for me and you to live like Christians in our community.
Open your Bible, if you would, to Titus chapter 3. If you skim up to chapter 2, you realize he has told older men how to live like Christians, he has told older women how to live like Christians, he has said to younger men, “This is how you need to live like a Christian.” Younger women, [this is how you need to live like a Christian.”]
And now he says in chapter 3, “Remind the people,” so this is for everyone, “to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”
So basically, chapter 1, here’s how leaders need to live. Chapter 2, here’s how individuals need to live. Now chapter 3, he says to all people and you’ll notice there are six specific things that will demonstrate that Jesus is alive, that He’s true, that He loves people, and there’s hope.
You want to change your community? You want your neighbors to think about Christ differently? Number one, obey the law. It’s what he says. When he says, “Be subject to rulers and authorities,” and then he repeats it, “Be obedient.”
The context is we need to obey the law, we need to obey the laws that we agree with, we need to obey the laws that we disagree with. I mean, every tax time, don’t you just sit down and think, you know, especially those of us that itemize? “You know, this is right in the grey area and I could or I couldn’t and, boy, they waste so much of my money and…”
And some of you that have businesses where you have to decide whether you’re going to declare or that cash that you receive or…
Boy, there are a lot of areas of obedience to the law and God says, “Here’s the command,” Romans 13:7, “render to all what is due them,” speaking of the government, “tax to whom tax is due, custom to whom custom is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”
I don’t know about you but my heart breaks when I hear of people that have a very strong Christian testimony and then it’s revealed some time later that they break the law and they are completely discredited.
One of my favorite coaches is Jim Tressel, Ohio State University, and I had the opportunity because we were at an event together and he was speaking and I was speaking and so I got to know him in the back room and he had a very strong Christian testimony. Wonderful guy.
And if some of you sports fans know the story, a couple of his players were selling their jerseys and some things, memorabilia, for a few hundred dollars here and there. And NCAA rules, if a coach becomes aware of that, he has to report it.
And he was on the national championship run, and it came to be known that he was aware of it and he didn’t report it. And I’m sure there were parts of him that thought, “You know, they’re young kids, they’re twenty years old, it’s a crazy rule,” but he’s not the coach of Ohio State University anymore.
And I remember later reading an article by some commentators and other coaches. “You know that Tressel? All he talked about was Christ and honor and kids and raising up young men. See? He’s a liar like all the rest.”
See, we can’t afford that. We can’t afford that. When I do my taxes, when I have these moments, here’s what I have to think about, “Is a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars or getting away with a little something, is that worth God’s reputation and forfeiting the blessing of God?” We want to change the world, number one, we have to obey the law.
Number two, that little phrase “be ready to do whatever is good,” serve your community. God expects His followers to make wherever they live, your neighborhood, your community, wherever we live, He says, “You need to serve your community.” The word means “to be prepared and active to serve the welfare of your community.”
Galatians chapter 6 verse 10 says, “So then while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people. Let us do good to all people, and especially those who are the household of the faith.”
Portland may be one of the most liberal, anti-God communities in the United States. And a few years ago, six, seven years ago, the churches along with the Luis Palau group began to dream a dream to get the perspective of how Christians are viewed and little by little what they did is they asked permission and it was very suspect, the mayor there who is now very a close friend with the Palaus is an openly gay mayor.
And they were asked permission to begin to help revamp the schools. Now they have, like, fifty to a hundred schools that all have an individual church, over two hundred churches helping, and they have completely remodeled the schools in the area. Then they went and began to help with foster care.
They are beginning to do all the [?] throughout Portland to where the school system and the government says, “You know what? We don’t necessarily agree at all with this Christian stuff but they are the most loving, caring, generous people and our city has been completely transformed.”
I was in New York City at the New York City movement with people from three hundred cities saying, “How do we change our cities?” And they began to share their story. A homosexual mayor came and shared his story with a group of evangelicals and said, “Look, we definitely disagree on a lot of things, but you people have been the greatest blessing to our city.”
What if that happens if we make that happen here? We gotta transform the world and the way we transform the world is not by arguing with people. It’s by obeying the law, it’s by doing good and serving our community.
And third, we are to guard our tongue. Notice the phrase here, “Slander no one.” Basically, refuse to be negative. Guard your words about other people. Critical views, untested information.
You may have strong political views, you may disagree with people, you may think the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but be very careful what you put on your Facebook, be very careful what emails you pass on to people, be very careful in coffee shops how you speak about other people.
Because your name isn’t simply, in my case, “Chip Ingram,” it’s, “Chip Ingram, son of the living God.” It’s and it’s not just your reputation, it’s His reputation. And we have been known for being so negative and so harsh. And we pass on untested truth, and we attack, and I got news for you, no one’s heart is won that way. He says to this group in Crete and says to us, “Obey the law, serve your community, guard your tongue.”
In fact, if you want a good test, a great verse to memorize, all my children would say they had to memorize this, “Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification or building up, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear it.”
No putrid, no corrupt word comes out of your mouth because they identify you, not just with your job or your family, but as a follower of Christ. And your words have the power for good and for evil.
The series that we taught here and then later put on film and on the radio, Culture Shock, where we addressed human sexuality and homosexuality and abortion and all those controversial things, that was all on the radio.
And another city, a different radio station, not a Christian radio station, they took excerpts of it, out of context, and they just fried me. And then the social network and there was all this pushback and, you know, I’m this hate monger and all this crazy stuff and, you know, Jerry said, “I think we need to have a response.”
And so I prayed for a day and prayed for another day and I happened to have a really special time of worship and I remember just sitting down on my iPad and I just jotted two or three small, little paragraphs about, you know, everybody looks at things differently. People have presuppositions that really make sense to them and let’s pray for people who probably don’t understand us anymore than we understand them. And let’s not get involved in those kind of things. And let’s ask God for grace.
There are a lot of people that are hurt, and when they have that strong emotional response, let’s care about them. It’s just a simple, “How could good overcome evil?”
And I have talked to Joe at the Living on the Edge, he’s our vice president of sales, he said, “We just posted that response.” He said, “In twenty-four hours we had fifty-two thousand people log on or share it to other people.”
See, good is more powerful than evil. We don’t have to criticize and be in wars and slander and call people names. What good has it done?
Fourth, he says, “Refuse to fight.” It says, “Be peaceable,” is how it’s translated. Literally the word is “be a non-fighter.” Yes, we’re to take a stand on the truth but we’re to take a stand with grace. We’re not in a cultural war. If I hear that one more time, we’re not trying to win a cultural war, we’re trying to win people’s hearts! We’re trying to care about individual people.
If you win people’s hearts and you love them and you take a stand for truth but you do it with a winsome and grace and concern and you treat people with dignity, even if you disagree with them, that’s how the early Church changed the world. Their culture was completely anti-God. But people just couldn’t get over the fact that they were the people that helped the poor, they were the people that helped the lepers, they were the people that gave good for evil.
Notice what the Scripture says, it’s part of our Romans 12 series, Romans 12:17 and 18 says, “Never,” I mean, there’s not a lot of room here, “never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” Literally that word “respect” is “consider; take into account.”
You don’t have to agree with people but they grew up and they have had experiences and they have been through some things and this is how they look at life. “Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” “If possible,” and it’s not always possible, but, “if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
People who think so radically different than us need to meet someone like you that is a thinking, loving, kind Christian that actually believes in the Bible, that is bold about your spiritual experience, you life has been transformed, your commitment in your relationships, and you come to work and you do excellent work and you can articulate your faith.
And what they realize is you’re not weird, you’re not crazy, you’re not angry, you’re not harsh, you don’t talk negatively, and they need to have a friend! People that strongly believe in abortion need to have a great Christian friend. Homosexuals in our community need to have a strong Christian friend. People who are just absolutely on the opposite end of the continuum of wherever you are politically, they need a strong Christian friend.
That’s when the walls break down. This is what Jesus says, this is what Paul says to this young pastor, “This is how you turn around this immoral place called Crete.”
Fifth, be winsome and forbearing. The word means “to be considerate, gentle, willing to yield one’s rights.” The opposite is don’t be stubborn and insisting on your own way. It has the idea of not clinging to your rights. We’ve gotten this idea that these are my rights and this is how I view it and…
You want a great example? Jot in your notes, “I Peter 2:18 to 25.” If anyone had the right to cling to their rights, it was Jesus. But Jesus understood it wasn’t about changing the Roman Empire, it wasn’t about Him having His rights. It says He set an example for us and He says to those Christians through Peter, “What credit is there if you suffer for doing what’s wrong.”
In other words, if you cheat, if you lie, if you steal, and you suffer, what credit is that? “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it,” are you ready? “this finds favor with God, for Christ suffered and set for you an example that you might follow in His steps and although He was reviled, He reviled not, but instead entrusted His soul to a faithful Creator.”
See, we don’t get to have our rights. It was His power - meekness is not weakness! Meekness is strength under control. The strength not to spew back, the strength not to retaliate, the strength not to say, “I’ve got to have my rights.” That’s the Spirit of God living inside believers who are following Christ.
He says in James 3:17, if you’re wondering what’s coming out of your mouth or your actions, if this is God’s wisdom or the Spirit’s wisdom, here’s a picture of the Spirit’s wisdom. James 3:17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
That’s the litmus test for my attitudes, when I “forbear,” or “put up with,” or “am considerate,” in a very godless world.
Finally, he says, “Treat everyone like a VIP.” Very important person. He says, “Show yourself humble to all men,” would you circle the word “all.” I mean, do you realize how crazy this was in the Roman Empire? To a slave, “Treat everyone, all people, that Roman guard, your master who has beat you… treat all men with humility.”
And the reason I put “VIP,” a very important person, is I remembered a story, it was a number of years ago, we were flying into Jakarta to do some ministry and if you’ve ever traveled internationally and go to a really big city… Here we are and getting through immigration, there had to be four hundred and some people, and I thought, “It’s going to take as long to get through this line as it did to fly here.”
And there was this line that said, “VIP,” and no one is going in it, except a couple apparently important people. And I’m in the back with our team and thinking, “We’re going to be here forever and ever and ever,” and I saw this guy and he had a sign with two things that rarely go together, “VIP,” and the name, “Ingram.” He was holding it up.
And I’m thinking, “Gosh, I wonder what other Ingram was on this plane!” And I realized it was me! And our host in Indonesia was a retired general, General Mantirie. He was involved in the ministry and he was hosting us. Well, I guess retired generals have a lot of pull.
And I went through and this man came and said, “Give me your passport, please,” I gave him my passport, and he said “Don’t worry about your luggage, I can take care of this,” he flashed it, I mean, whew.
And then we got in the car and the traffic there is, like Mexico City or Manila. I mean, like, three days to get from one side of the city. We’re in his car with his little flags. We start driving and everyone… the Red Sea parts. Now listen carefully, I was treated like a very important person because I was a friend of the general.
And God says to me and He says to you, “I want you to treat these people that I have created, and I want you to treat these people that whether they receive the gift or not, I believe that every person on the face of the earth was worthy of the price tag of the blood of my Son, Jesus. And so regardless of their color, regardless of their education, regardless if they’re dirty, regardless if they’re smelly, regardless if they’re rich, regardless if they’re poor – I want you to treat every person, 24/7, like a very important person.
“Whether they have the penthouse or whether they are the elevator operator. Whether they’re the person in front of McDonalds or the people that owns the McDonalds chain, I want you to treat everyone, regardless of their political views, regardless of their lifestyles, regardless of how they live, regardless of how many tattoos or piercings they have, or how many Rolex watches they wear! I want you to treat them as a very important person.”
And the apostle Paul said when we do that, you’ll change your community. That’s what we do.