Message 14: Instruments of Grace

Sept. 30, 2017 Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Session Transcript

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Oh Father, take these words and these moments and wing Your truth and Your words home to our hearts and transform us in the process. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

In this final session of this Titus 2 Adorned series, I want to touch on one final piece of the curriculum—that older women are to model and then teach to younger women. Then I want to close by reminding us why this all matters and what’s at stake.

The words are familiar to you by now, I hope: Titus chapter 2, “Older women . . . are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at hom, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (vv. 3–5).

We’ve seen the importance of laying a solid foundation of sound doctrine. But I want to remind us that it’s not enough to have sound doctrine and firm convictions about truth. We also need to be clothed in kindness as we live out that truth and share it with others.

Right doctrine, without kindness, is hard-edged. It’s off-putting. Many times I think people are repelled from Christ. They’re not interested in our message—not because the truth isn’t penetrating their heart—but because they can’t get to it through our crusty lack of kindness.

Now, we may think of kindness as a weak, wimpy quality. I mean, kind people get run over, right? I’ve been reading a fascinating book called Love Kindness, by Barry Corey. He says,

Kindness is radical. It is brave and daring, fearless and courageous, and at times kindness is dangerous! It has more power to change people than we can imagine. It can break down seemingly impenetrable walls. It can reconcile relationships long thought irreparable. Kindness has the muscle to move mountains. No weak quality, this.

Now, we often think of kindness as an attitude, a spirit, a manner—and it is all of that. But in the scriptural use of the word, it also involves actions and behavior. The word “kindness” here in Titus 2 is, most often translated in Scripture (depending on your translation): “good.”

The word means: “benevolent, profitable, useful.” It means to be “good in character and beneficial in effect.” Kindness, as we read about it in Titus 2, is not just feeling kind or thinking kind thoughts. It’s not just being soft and quiet and tender. It may involve all of those things, but true kindness is active goodness. It’s actively influencing others.

The woman we read about in Proverbs 31—that great composite picture that we all find a bit daunting—but one of the things I love about this woman is her kindness. She shows active kindness first at home: “She does him [her husband] good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Prov. 31:12).

But she also shows active kindness outside her home: “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov. 31:20).

First Timothy chapter 5, kind of a New Testament parallel passage, talks about how widows, if they want to be qualified to be cared for by the church, have to have a reputation for kindness.

It says they must be well-known for good works. That is, “. . . if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the [saint’s feet], has [helped] the afflicted, and . . . devoted herself to every good work” (1 Tim. 5:10).

This is a woman—a widow in this case—who is kind . . . active goodness, not just passive kindness. I have been meditating a lot on the subject of kindness over the last several weeks and thinking about the companion virtues that go with kindness.

  • If you’re lazy, you’re not going to have time or bandwidth to be kind, right?
  • Caring about others more than you care about yourself, sensitive, alert to their needs.
  • Generosity. I mean, to be kind you have to give up something that could be precious to you in order to show active kindness to others.

And then I’ve been reminded of how those qualities are all seen in Jesus. Acts chapter 10, verse 38, shows this to us. It says that, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”

So what did Jesus do with that power that He got from God—the power of the Holy Spirit? What did He do with it? That verse goes on to say, “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Jesus was a reflection of His heavenly Father who is kind; He is compassionate; He does good to His creatures. Notice that God’s kindness is not based on the goodness or the worthiness of the recipient. This is really important, because it gives us a standard for how we should show active kindness.

Jesus said in Luke 6, verse 35, “Love your enemies, and do good.” Your enemies! Do good to them. “And lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High [there will be a family resemblance!], for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

That’s what we’ve seen in Titus, chapter 3:3-7, “We . . . were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness [not because we deserved it!], but according to his own mercy [that’s another quality that goes with kindness]. ”

There’s a crisis of kindness in our world today.

We live in a world that is anything but kind. Incivility, rudeness, bullying, arrogant, angry debating on news and talk shows; road-rage, people blasting each other on social media, quick to lash out, no filter on people’s tongues and behaviors. Do you see this around us? Do you ever see it in your own heart, your own spirit?

You see, gals, when we are kind, when we go about doing good, including to those who are ungrateful and undeserving—we stand out! We’re a breed apart; it’s counter-cultural! We demonstrate the presence of Jesus in our lives when we’re different than all the loud, raucous, shouting, arrogant, raging unkind world around us.

I posted on Facebook last week and said, “Tell me about a kind woman you know.” I got so many sweet responses, but a couple of people talked about a woman named Anne—whom I happen to know—who is with us here this weekend. (I’ll know she’ll be embarrassed when I read these.)

One woman said, “Anne is the kindest, most gentle-spirited woman I have ever known. She’s taught me so much about my role as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother—just by watching her example. I hope my life can reflect Christ as hers does.”

And then another woman chimed in and she said,

Yes! I have the same woman in mind. When I have failed, Anne has always pointed me to Christ with grace and patience. I’ve observed her in some difficult situations, and she is patient and controlled in her responses to others.

I love watching her with her children, her grandchildren, her husband, her mother, her in-laws. After leaving her presence, I always walk away wanting to treat others better because of her example. And it’s not labor for her to be this way. It’s joyful, and it makes others around her want to become more like Jesus.

And then, here was the last sentence in this little tribute to Anne: “She makes the gospel desirable to so many!”

That’s what it’s all about, right? Older women modeling Christ-like character and then teaching what is good, training the younger women. You see, these things don’t come naturally to any of us!

Anne is an older woman. We’re seeing this in her as an older woman. But chances are, there were older women who modeled this to her when she was a younger woman—and who took her under their wing and taught her, trained her. Now, she’s teaching and training younger women.

Together—as a body of women living out the beauty of the gospel—we can shine a spotlight on Jesus, adorning the gospel!

You see, I’ve been meditating on Titus . . . well, actually, I worked on that Adorned book over the course of ten years. I’ve been thinking about Titus 2 a lot for a long time.

I’ve meditated on the book of Titus over and over and over again. I’m at the season of life where I don’t sleep so well at night. Many, many sleepless nights I have just had Titus 1, 2, and 3 running through my head and in my heart.

And here’s what I think, if I were to summarize from one angle the book of Titus. I would say it this way: Regardless of your age, regardless of your demographic (including women and slaves, who were not valued in that culture), regardless of your season of life, regardless of what your circumstances may be in this season, what matters most is the gospel. The gospel!

It’s not about us. It’s not about our comfort, our convenience, our plans, our wishes, our lifestyle. It’s not about our pain. It’s not about our grief or our sorrow—or our joys, for that matter. It’s all about how we can shine a spotlight on Jesus and make the redemption story visible to those who need to hear it.

So as it relates to this Titus 2 lifestyle, what’s at stake? Why does it matter so much? I want to bring us back to the three purpose clauses in Titus chapter 2. We’ve read one of those several times through this series, verse 5, “. . . [so] that the word of God may not be [blasphemed is the original, actual transliteration of the word there] reviled!”

If we don’t live this way, people will scoff at the Word of God!

Number two is in verse 8, “. . . so that an [enemy] may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” And then in verse 10, “. . . so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Wow, what a calling! What a privilege is ours! What a responsibility we have!

As we wrap up this series on the adorned life, the Titus 2 life, living out the beauty of the gospel together, I’m going to challenge you to receive the mandate of Titus 2 and to make it part of the warp and woof of your very soul.

I’m going to challenge you to take it seriously, to take it personally, to find your place in this text, and to let this text find its way in you and impact the way that you structure your life.

Young women (and you can decide if you fit in that category), don’t think, My life is so full; it’s so busy, or I can get involved in these kinds of relationships later. No, you need them now.

  • Be intentional about developing friendships with older women who love Jesus.
  • Ask them questions.
  • Be a learner.
  • Aspire to have these characteristics that we’ve seen in Titus 2.

I promise you, this is more important than whatever else you’re giving your life to at this season.

And older women, don’t think, I’ve done my part. I’ve worked hard, so now is the time I can sit back and take it easy. No. These younger women need you, so be intentional about reaching out, loving, praying, serving, encouraging. Get involved in their lives!

And let this be, whether you’re younger or older, woven into the fabric of your life. This is not one more thing to do on your to-do list. This is not necessarily a formal or structured way of doing mentoring or discipleship. We’re calling you to a lifestyle.

This is not about PowerPoint presentations. This is not about being a teacher, as we think of teachers up here [on a platform].

  • This is about teaching life-to-life, heart-to-heart.
  • It’s a lifestyle.
  • Keep your eyes open to the women around you.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Be alert.
  • Be available.
  • Be usable.

Titus was the younger man; Paul was the older man. Titus would likely be serving long after Paul was gone—as the younger women would likely outlive the older women. Paul was intent that the beauty and the witness of the gospel would continue into the next generation and the next and the next—until Jesus comes.

So, what could happen if we were to take this vision, this paradigm, of living out the beauty of the gospel together—of being spiritual mothers and daughters and sisters—if we were to take this vision back into our homes, our churches, our communities, our campuses? What could happen?Let me just suggest a few things (and you’ll think of a lot more).

  • Older women would find new purpose—a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to keep going. And they would sense that what they do with the time they have remaining really matters! They wouldn’t sit on the sidelines; they’d stay in the race.
  • Young women would have winsome, godly examples to follow. They would have encouragement day-in and day-out as they struggle in some of these earlier seasons of life.
  • Lonely women would find true friends and meaningful relationships.
  • Weak women would be strengthened.
  • Tired women (old and young) would be rejuvenated!
  • Empty women would get filled up.
  • Broken, wounded women would discover a pathway to wholeness and healing.
  • Women who have had no models in their lives and are clueless about how to live the Christian life—how to be wives, mothers, children of God—they would find wisdom and practical help and encouragement, somebody to run the race with them hand-in-hand, side-by-side.
  • Marriages would tell the gospel story.
  • Women in difficult marriages would find perspective and someone to walk with them.
  • Single women would find a place to belong.
  • Husbands and children would be blessed with humble, attentive, loving wives and moms.
  • We’d all get freed up from our pettiness, our comparison, our jealousy, our competitiveness, our frivolity and our empty meaningless activities. We’d have something to do that really matters!

That doesn’t mean, by the way, that the Titus 2 lifestyle is not fun—that you never relax, you never have a good time, you never play games, But you do it all with purpose to glorify Christ, to live out the beauty of the gospel together. And what would happen? Women who don’t know Jesus would be drawn to faith in Christ.

I attended a funeral, several years ago, of a woman who’s actually a distant relative of mine—Ruthie Ozinga. I had known her as a praying friend. She’d been one of a group of ladies who prayed faithfully in the city of Chicago for the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Suddenly (I think she was sixty-three years of age)—unexpectedly—the Lord called her home. I went to her funeral. I actually had the chance to share briefly. I met so many, many people who had been marked by Ruthie’s life, starting with her six grown sons, who gave testimony.

One of them said, “I was a prodigal, but my mother won me to faith in Christ on her knees!” “Our mother raised us on her knees; she would not let go!” The stories were legendary and legion about how this woman assaulted Heaven on behalf of her children . . . and all those children today are walking with God and raising godly families.

But it wasn’t just her children. It was other women, it was younger women, it was peers. She had spiritual daughters. She had spiritual sisters testifying to this quiet, kind, Spirit-filled, humble, praying, believing, intentional woman.

She lived out the beauty of the gospel together with other women, and then she passed the baton to her daughters-in-law, to the women that she had discipled, the women she had invested in . . . to me!

I sat there and thought, Lord, I don’t need a big ministry. I don’t need a great resume. But I want to have that kind of heart! I want to be that kind of Titus 2 woman, living out the beauty of the gospel! Would you pray with me?

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for how You have given us our marching orders. I pray that You would give us grace and courage and faith and surrender to say, “Yes, Lord, I receive this calling.”

Would You do in us and through us all that is Your good pleasure, that together in our world this day we might live out the beauty of the gospel together—for Jesus’ sake. I pray it in His name, amen.