Message 1: A Woman Adorned and Adorning

Sept. 29, 2017 Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Session Transcript

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Over the next couple of days, we’re going to put three verses under a microscope—Titus chapter 2, verses 3–5. In this opening session, before we start unpacking all the different parts and pieces of that passage, I want to give us a context for the whole passage and a sense of the bigger picture.

Now, the book Titus, as you probably know, was written by the apostle Paul to a pastor named Titus—the pastor of a tiny start-up, fledgling church on the island of Crete—and this church faced a lot of challenges.

They had external threats, because the Roman Empire—headed by Nero—was breathing down their necks and threatening to wipe out Christianity. Then there were internal threats—there were false teachers who were promoting teachings and philosophies that were contrary to the Scripture, and Titus tells us that these teachers were leading whole families astray. They were upsetting whole families by teaching these things.

So here’s this pastor of this new little church, and how is this church supposed to survive—much less thrive—much less evangelize the whole world? Well, God’s strategy is what we have for us in Titus, and it’s probably not the strategy you or I would have written if we’d been asked how to handle the situation.

So in Titus chapter 1, as we read earlier, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul said, “You need qualified leaders in your church,” and then he tells them what those qualifications are.

Then we come to chapter 2, and he says, “You need a certain kind of people in your congregation,” and he talks about various demographics, various age groups, various men and women—gender—and people in different social strata and seasons of life. He talks how each of these demographics are charged to demonstrate the gospel through their lives, and then to pass the baton on to others.

So as I wrote a book, Adorned, on this topic through these verses of Titus chapter 2, we subtitled that book something that I want to focus on in the moments we have here this afternoon. The subtitle is Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. That is really an umbrella for everything we’re going to talk about in this study. So I want to take a look at that concept, those couple of phrases, in this introductory session.

First: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel. In verse 10 of Titus chapter 2, the apostle Paul says that purpose of all of this is so that “in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

Now . . . sound doctrine. I think most of us who are gathered here today would agree that sound doctrine is important, and we would agree that sound doctrine is true. But I want to tell you, it’s more than true. It is true! But to a lot of people sound doctrine, true as it may be, sounds dry and boring.

But I want us to understand—and to help other women understand—that solid teaching from God’s Word is not just true, it’s also good! It’s beautiful! The things we’re going to be talking about make us beautiful, because doctrine points us to Christ—who is more beautiful than any human being, any other created being.

He is God; He is beautiful; He is the Supreme Treasure. So this doctrine is supposed to point us to Him. When we embrace and when we exhibit this kind of solid teaching, we make the truth—the gospel—beautiful to others. So we want to live out the beauty of the gospel.

Now, in the book of Titus, there are lots of instructions. There are instructions about our behavior, instructions about our relationships. We’re going to walk through a lot of these instructions in our study of chapter 2, verses 3–5.

As we unpack these things, you’ll see this is a really high bar! But there’s a danger that we would reduce our understanding of what matters in the Christian life, and that we would reduce what we teach to other women in our churches, to a list of do’s and don’ts.

As we listen to those instructions over these next couple of days, some of you (and I know who you are, because you’re first-borns like me!) are going to feel challenged and inspired by this standard. You’re going to be tempted to make a checklist.

You’re going to walk away from this conference with a list of twenty things you need to change—twenty things you’re going to change—in the next week! (laughter) And you’re going to go home determined to make those changes!

I’m going to just tell you in advance, that effort is going to prove to be really, really exhausting. In fact, it’s going to be impossible! And so, some of you, you get that (you’re not first-borns; you might be second-born or the third-born). You are already feeling overwhelmed by this standard. (laughter)

You’re thinking, There is no way I can ever live up to this! And so, you’re going to be tempted to compare yourself to others and to become discouraged and to throw in the towel before you even get home.

Well, it’s important for us to realize that all of the instructions, all of the requirements that we’re going to be looking at are grounded in the context of the gospel—the good news of Christ. Everything Paul calls women to in Titus 2—living a godly life, an exemplary life, investing in other women’s lives—it all flows out of the gospel.

We get glimpses of this throughout the book. For example, in the first paragraph of chapter 1, Paul talks about the “hope of eternal life.” (v. 2) He talks in Titus 1:4 about “a common faith.” Continuing in verse 4 of chapter 1, he talks about, “Grace and peace [through] God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” This is the gospel.

Then in chapter 2, verses 11–12 he says, “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.” What trains us to do that? The grace of God that brings salvation.

It teaches us to wait “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” (vv. 13–14). It all flows out of the grace of Christ.

Titus chapter 3, verses 4–5: “But when the goodness and [the] 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 . . .”

So the message of Titus—the whole book, or this passage we’re going to be laser-focused on in chapter 2—is not: “You need to try harder. You need to be a better woman. You need to check off the things on this list.” No!

The message is: “You need Jesus! You need a Savior! You need God’s grace!”—because apart from Him, every single one of us is hopeless and helpless. But the good news—the gospel—is that He died to redeem us from all lawlessness, to transform us by His grace.

Paul is saying to Titus, “This is what a redeemed life looks like!” This is what a life looks like that’s lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. The lists, the rules, will never make you a godly woman, but Jesus can and Jesus will—by His grace.

We’re committing to live out the beauty of the gospel—together. Together. In the passage we’re going to be most focused on, Titus 2:3–5, Paul stresses the importance of women having intentional, cross-generational, invasive relationships with each other: older women/younger women.

I want to suggest that this is not just a theory. Paul’s not just pulling out his textbook on women’s discipleship. This is actually the way that the apostle Paul himself did life as a man. Throughout the book of Titus, Paul models and stresses the importance of relationships—of living and growing and serving in community with other believers.

Let me just point out a couple places where that’s highlighted. I’ll take you to the first paragraph of Titus, and then I’ll take you to the last paragraph, so you can see how Paul is committed to this thing of relationships.

In the opening paragraph Paul writes, “To Titus, my true child in a common faith” (Titus 1:4). So here you have Paul, who is the seasoned, mature, anointed, appointed apostle of Jesus Christ, speaking to a much younger, less-experienced man.

But Paul is not condescending. He’s warm; he’s loving; he’s engaging. He says, “You and I, Titus, we have a common faith. Yes, I know I’ve been at this a lot longer than you have, but we share a common faith.”

He reaches out, and he takes time out of his busy “apostle schedule” to encourage this young believer, and then to release him into a place of fruitful ministry. So sweet! Then in the closing paragraph, it’s very intimate.

The end of Titus 3, beginning in verse 12, it’s personal. It’s all about relationships, serving the Lord together. Listen, it’s just so personal here, verse 12: “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.”

Paul says to Titus, his beloved son in the faith, “I’m sending two men that I know and trust to relieve you there in Crete. And when they get there, do your best to come and visit me.” I think that’s so touching. There’s this sense of, “I need you. I want to spend time with you.”

Verse 13, “Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing.” He’s saying, “Take care of these servants of the Lord. Make sure that their needs are met.” Verse 14, “And let our people [that’s a relational term, “our people”] learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.”

And then the last verse, “All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all” (v. 15). There are a lot of plurals in that verse.

So Paul is not alone. He says, “All who are with me.” And Titus, over in Crete, is not alone, “Send greeting to ‘those who love us in the faith.’” Both of these men are doing life with other believers. They’re living out the beauty of the gospel together.

They’re always connecting with other believers and connecting those believers with each other. God’s grace in your life, spiritual growth in your life, fruitful ministry through your life, will be best experienced in the context of community.

You see, our union with Christ makes us a member of the family of God. That means that we are related by blood. We’re organically, inseparably connected to each other. We need each other. And the good news is, we have each other!

God has given us women—and friends—within the body of Christ to help us grow and serve. There really shouldn’t be any such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian, and there shouldn’t be any such thing as a lonely Christian.

There shouldn’t be anyone among us or in our churches who is suffering through affliction, or walking through unfamiliar or trying circumstances, struggling to make it on their own. There’s not one woman here—starting with this woman—who can make it on her own. We all need other women in our lives.

Now, those relationships are not always easy; they’re not always neat; sometimes they can get messy. But I’m going to tell you, done God’s way—under His leading and by His grace—they can be incredibly life-giving! They are God’s way of making the gospel believable, through us, to the watching world.

So the focus of Titus chapter 2, verses 3–5, is women living in gospel, grace-based community with each other. Living out the beauty of the gospel together! As we start to unfold this passage, I’m going to remind you that we’re not talking about only—or even primarily—formal, structured settings where we mentor one another.

This is not one more thing to put on your “to-do” list, to add to that “list you already don’t have time for.” But this is a way of life, and I want you to keep that in mind as we examine each phrase in these verses through these sessions.

These kinds of relationships were beautifully illustrated to me twenty-two months ago (plus a week or so) on my wedding day. And, of course, the man that I never dreamed of—who became my husband that day—that was the primary relationship. But there were some other really sweet relationships with women.

One of them was with a spiritual mother in my life. Her name was Vonette Bright. She didn’t know—when she was determined to come from Florida to Wheaton, Illinois for that wedding—that she only had a few more weeks here on this earth. She was very ill, but she was determined she was going to be there!

I was in the bride’s room. We’d had some time of prayer, and she asked if she could come in and pray. She saw some other people in the other room and basically said, “Can you get rid of them?” (laughter) She said, “I was hoping I could talk to you alone.”

She was in her wheelchair, and I sat next to her. She said, “Honey, I’m a mama. And I want to ask you, ‘Is there anything you’d like to ask a mama before you get married?’” I won’t bore you with the rest of that conversation (it’s in the Adorned book), but it was really, really sweet!

Vonette had been a spiritual mother to me for all of my life. She had prayed for me and encouraged me. She was the one who had the vision to call women together to seek the Lord, which has resulted in the True Woman and Revive conferences over these years. She was a spiritual mother, investing in my life, caring for me, passing the baton of faith on to me.

But that day, there were some women at a very different end of the spectrum. There were ten little girls who were children and grandchildren of close friends of mine. I’d known them since they were born.

Instead of having attendants, we had these ten little girls come down the aisle before the bridal processional, ringing bells. You can see them in their sweet red-and-white dresses with their hair all done up. They were just all dressed up, ringing those bells. It was precious!

And, to me, as I looked back on it, those little girls—true women in the making—symbolized my heart’s desire to pass the baton of faith on to those “little women”—those young women.

Then there were some women in my life . . . we call each other “the sisterhood.” I have a lot of sisters, and so this is not an exclusive group. But some women who had walked through our courtship with me, and they had lots of advice, lots of input.

Those women, throughout the wedding weekend, they were there. In fact, when Robert and I got back to our room, the women had been there ahead of us. There were so many flowers, so many petals everywhere, food, and all sorts of stuff! They had decked that place out.

They love me, and we do life together. We pray for each other; we encourage each other. Those women are my spiritual sisters—among many others. You need spiritual mothers; you need spiritual daughters, and you need spiritual sisters in your life.

So, who is a spiritual mother in your life? An older woman who’s wise, who’s a godly example. Who are your sisters? Those who spur you on to love and good deeds, who encourage you, who help you become more like Jesus?

And who are your spiritual daughters? Now you may be thinking, I’m not old enough for that! Listen, every woman is an older woman to someone! So now is the time to start thinking, Who are the spiritual daughters that the Lord is putting in my life?

Oh Lord, we pray that over these next hours, You would do a sweet work of gospel grace in each of our hearts—not to put us under a burden of more things to do, but to show us the delight, the joy that can be had—the fruitfulness, the freedom, the fullness—as a result of learning to live out the beauty of the gospel together . . . that in everything we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. And we pray it in Jesus’ sweet Name, amen.