Pure Churches are Investing Churches

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(Feel free to listen to this sermon here.  It was preached on Sunday, February 21, 2010 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.  Reposted from Gripped by the Gospel.)

When it comes to investing my family’s money, I find myself a bit anxious as well as ignorant. I have a number of friends who are very skilled at playing the stock market or investing in bonds, CDs, IRAs, mutual funds. I know a number of older adults who have planned well for their retirement.

What is my problem, you ask? My problems stems from turning loose of precious, hard-earned (and hard-to-come-by) money with a wife and four children counting on me to provide clothes and groceries and a home.

Not only that, my problem stems from a lack of trust in the institutions and corporations in which I’m considering investing. For every Wal-Mart, who entered the stock market 1970 at $14 which split and split and split into hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are other corporations that do well for a time, then fizzle out. If I’m going to invest in something, I want to make sure that investment is sound and give a good return.

You have seen the title of this chapter in 22-point Trajan Pro font that “Pure Churches are Investing Churches.” What type of investments are we as the Body of Christ to make? In my Southern Baptist background, we preach without apology that we are to tithe (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) and also give to those who preach the gospel—both minister and missionary (1 Timothy 5:17; Philippians 4:11-19). These are monetary investments that, through prayer and the Spirit’s leadership, will bring eternal dividends that we may never know of this side of heaven.

Yet, God has called us to invest—in people! What people? We are to invest in the people that are around you in this place of worship, as well as the people that God has placed in your circle of influence. If you are like me in regards to the financial investments, you may have some similar concerns.

  • “What am I to invest? I have no treasure to invest!”
  • “Why should I invest?
  • “What is the return I will receive on my investment?”

The issue is, it’s easier to maintain and invest structures and institutional systems than it is to invest in the spiritual growth of individuals. We invest in sound doctrine not simply to learn but to live. We invest in sound doctrine not only to know but to show and help grow a people. So let’s dig deeper into what God has in mind.

What am I to Invest?

What are we to invest? “The trustworthy word.” Look at Titus 2:1: “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Bookending our focal passage is Titus 2:10b: “. . . in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Whenever we begin to wonder what we can invest and contribute to another person, the first place we often look is to ourselves—and then compare ourselves to others. “I can’t teach like James can.” “They have such a servant’s heart—I don’t think God has given me that, especially seeing how Kellyn is.” “I want to share my faith—I wish I had Tom’s boldness and passion.”

We are looking horizontally rather than vertically! Paul reminded Titus that God “manifested … his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior” (1:3). Then, in verse 9, Paul instructed Titus to find leaders in the church who have been taught “the trustworthy word… so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

Before we look to our supposed empty treasure chest and seeing no talent, no gifts, no courage, no anything to contribute, we must look to God and the trustworthy Word He gives in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have that! We know that not only is that sound, its effect is limitless. We can be reminded from Isaiah that “The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the Word of God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Yet, what is the point of this Word? Some believe and use the Bible as a book of answers—an encyclopedia if you will. Whatever your need, you just need to turn to the correct page and find the answers you need, they say. Paul Tripp makes a great observation in that this does not bring about the change that is really needed.

In this kind of ministry, self is still at the center, personal need is the focus, and personal happiness remains the goal. But a truly effective ministry of the Word must confront our self-focus and self-absorption at its roots, opening us up to the vastness of a God-defined, God-centered world.”[i]

You see, when we invest in sound doctrine both personally and as we invest in others, it produces sound living—living for which we were created. And God has progressively revealed Himself in His Word to show us Himself and His work in His world. No passage of Scripture stands on its own, but is interwoven throughout Old Testament and New Testament. We need to see where we fit in the drama of God’s history and find our identity in Him, not simply in what we think we need.

What is the Return?

If investing in sound doctrine is investing in sound living, what is the return? Do we simply feel better knowing we know more? Is it about learning? Is it about knowing? Again, investing is not just about learning, it’s about living. It’s not just about knowing, it’s about showing and growing!

As we read through verses 1-10, you notice that Paul instructed Titus to instruct in sound doctrine, and then he proceeds to tell them how to live. He addresses older men and women, younger men and women, as well as slaves. He identifies them by age and gender—and to a degree, cultural status. Why did Paul do this?

Remember from chapter 5 that Paul taught Titus to “rebuke them sharply.” Who was the ‘them’ to which Paul referred? In verse 12, he spoke of the Cretans; in verse 14, he spoke to those who were propagating Jewish myths, deceiving many. These were those who were outside the body of Christ trying to harm those inside the body. Part of loving his neighbor was growing in the grace of Christ (2 Pet 3:18) as well as understanding the vantage point from which his neighbor came (1 Pet 3:15-16).

Now Paul instructed Titus on how to deal with those inside the body of Christ. Paul counseled Titus to take the unchangeable and trustworthy word and apply it to their particular situations. Notice how he told Titus to minister to them based on age and gender—since each has a distinct vantage point as well.

Yet, here’s what Paul is getting at: we are to teach others how to apply sound doctrine for sound living. Everyone is in a position to learn, and everyone is in a position to teach. Older men should come together with younger men and show them how to be gospel-centered men for Christ. Older women should come together and show the younger women how to be mature wives, mothers, and Christians in this world.

You see, there is great confusion about the roles of men and women, the older and the younger. But through the gospel, order can be brought into that confusion! Recently on the Oprah Winfrey Show, a student was returning back to his high school for a class reunion. This student was the quarterback of the football team, very athletic and handsome. Yet, he was struggling with his sexual identity. So, this young man had a sex change operation because he felt he had to be true to himself. When Oprah asked the mother, a Christian, how she reconciled this with her faith, her response was, “I believe in my child. I just want to support her in what makes her happy.”[ii]

This is not the kind of Christian help people need. We do not affirm someone else’s pride and sinfulness, we point them to the God of the Scriptures, not the god of their own making.

4. How do we invest?

This morning, you heard about the importance of investing. Remember: Investing in sound doctrine is investing in sound living. What steps should we take when it comes to investing the gospel of Christ in people? So many of us do not know where to start—and if we figure that out, we do not know where to go! Here are some steps:

Ingest. We need to know and nourish ourselves on the things of God. If we are to invest, we will only invest what we ingest. We can’t lead people to the things of God if we do not know where we’re going. Just ask one of my members, Chris Marshall, about our trip back from Eric and Sarah Masters’ wedding rehearsal in December of 2009. Just because two people are helping each other navigate back from Point A (which, in this case, was Danville) to Point B (Lexington), does not mean that the road will be easy. One wrong turn, lots of back roads, no lights, and you’re in for an adventure. You will ingest sound doctrine so you know where you are going and can take others along!

Initiating: Help them Know About Christ

We need to be ones who know about Christ to help others know about Christ. And it starts with simply planting a seed—initiating the conversation. If you are talking to a FRAN (friend, relative, associate, neighbor), then hopefully you already have some sort of relationship with them. Ask them about their spiritual belief? Ask them what they think of Jesus Christ?

· If you are in a place a business you frequent (restaurant, bank, gas station), ask them if there’s any way you can pray for them. If you’re at a restaurant and leave a tip, leave a tract with a generous tip.

Inviting: Help Show Them Christ

Two types of evangelism: go and tell evangelism, and the come and see evangelism. Invite them to listen to your hope in Christ. Use a tract or the Romans Road to walk them through the gospel (and to help keep you on track). Invite them to church so they can meet other Christians and see what a body of Christ is all about. This will help all of us “get ready for company” in making God’s house inviting and welcoming. (A word here: invite them not only a special service, but also to regular services so they see how we are from week-to-week.)

Increase: Help Them Grow in Christ

· We must not be concerned about growing numbers in the pews, but by growing the people in the pews—notice the difference.

· Disciple them by meeting with them over coffee, chat over the Internet, call them on the phone. But how?

· Go back to Titus 2:1-10. Older Christian men, you’ve got to grow, but also help the younger men grow. Older Christian women, you’ve got to come and train the younger women. God has provided two venues for that to happen: the home front and the church front.

· Have a system: Bible reading plan, go through a Bible study, read a Christian book together about a specific topic.

· Go over what I preached on this past Sunday—take notes. Find out what I’m preaching in the weeks ahead and begin looking over that, so you’ll be ready for the sermon and the ensuing discussion with your friend.


[i]Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002), 24-25.

[ii]The Oprah Winfrey Show, http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Transgender-Womans-High-School-Reunion-Video.

 

(Copyright © 2010 by Matthew Perry. All rights reserved.)

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