Living Christian is getting harder every year.
Can I get an “Amen”? : )
Millions of Christians have already caved to society and culture and become more like the world than like Christ. Why would any Christian do that if they understand what Christ has done for them and how He told them to live?
Here’s one reason:
“… for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.”2 Timothy 4:10
The present world of Paul’s day was not unlike our present world. There are lots of shiny objects to get our attention and living Christian is not shiny. It’s hard work and not popular culturally.
Let’s be fair to Demas. There was a time when he lived like a Christian –
“Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.”Colossians 4:14
Luke and Demas were with Paul when he wrote Colossians from prison. Demas was apparently not afraid to live Christian then. However, we know from 2 Timothy 4:11 that only Luke was with Paul as the apostle’s time on earth came to an end – in prison again. Paul’s writing of Colossians and 2 Timothy were separated by only a few years, so what happened to Demas during that time?
What happened to Demas happens to many Christians – they love this present world (αἰών – age) more than doing the hard work of living Christian. Unfortunately, a growing number of people who identify as Christians are choosing to love this present world rather than the future world where Jesus Christ will reign Supreme. How foolish.
The effect that loving the present world had on Demas was that he forsook Paul. The Greek word is ἐγκαταλείπω and means “abandon, leave in a condition of lack, desert.”
The Apostle John put it this way –
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”1 John 2:15
The apostles didn’t mess around with their words. They learned directly from the Master and knew what He wanted and commanded. We should want the same things whether it’s easy or hard, popular or unpopular. Deserting Christ for some shiny objects in this present world is certainly frowned upon by our Savior (e.g. Matthew 6:24-34). He deserves so much more from those He redeemed with His blood.
Living Christian Then and Now
It’s easy to romanticize what living Christian might have been like in Bible times. God had been manifest in the flesh. Jesus died and rose from the grave. The Holy Spirit came on Jesus’ followers with great power. The apostles preached the Gospel of Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and many other parts of the Roman Empire. What a great time to be a Christian – right?
Well … it depends on how you define great time. Jesus was always honest with His followers. Here’s what He said about living Christian then –
“They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.”John 16:2-3
“In the world you will have tribulation.”John 16:33b
Jesus also said this to His followers –
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”Luke 9:23
Now, wait just one minute! Who said anything about denying myself every day? I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it! Jesus shouldn’t ask me to deny myself. That’s not fair!
Sounds just like Demas. He deserted Paul because he loved the present world. We sense Paul’s disappointment in Demas’ desertion.
If we want to know what it’s like to live Christian now, all we have to do is look at the lives of our Lord and His apostles. They were hated, despised, hunted, tormented, imprisoned and, except for John, killed. That’s what it was like to live Christian then.
So, what about now? Have you suffered for being a Christian? Have you been hated, despised, hunted, tormented, imprisoned, threatened with death for being a Christian? I know many Christians around the world who have suffered for believing in Christ. Some suffered to the point of martyrdom, so let’s be honest here. Most of us know little about suffering for living Christian.
But that’s changing and changing fast. Living Christian is about to become very difficult for many Christians who are still standing for the truth of the Gospel of Christ. That’s why we need to dive deep into God’s Word and hold on to His Truth. We need to pray and depend on the Spirit of God who lives in every true believer. We also need to decide who we want to be like — Luke or Demas. Do we want to stand strong for Christ to the end of our lives? Or do we want to love this present world and desert the One who died for us?
Titus – the Man
You probably noticed an image of Paul’s letter to Titus at the top of this article (courtesy Thomas Nelson). What does that have to do with living Christian? Well, we’re going to see what Paul and Titus can teach us about living the Christian life in this present world.
Let’s begin with Titus the man, then we’ll look at the time in which he lived and the letter Paul wrote him.
Titus is mentioned 13 times in the New Testament .. always by the Apostle Paul. Here’s how the apostle described Titus –
“If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you.”2 Corinthians 8:23
“Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”2 Corinthians 7:6
“To Titus, a true son in our common faith.”Titus 1:4
It’s apparent from what we read about Titus that Paul had strong confidence in the young man’s understanding of Christian theology and his pastoral strengths. Titus had served with Paul from the early days of the apostle’s ministry and was a great help to him. Titus was with Paul when the apostle took on the leaders of the Jerusalem church (Galatians 2:1-3) concerning his preaching the Gospel to Gentiles. That happened after Paul’s first missionary journey and return to the sending church in Antioch, Syria. Titus, who was a Gentile believer, was not compelled to be circumcised at the Jerusalem council. That was a major victory for Paul and the Gospel of Grace and Titus was an important part of the battle.
Titus continued to fight the spiritual battle with Paul to the very end. Paul mentioned Titus in his final letter (2 Timothy) where we learn that Paul sent Titus to Dalmatia (currently a region of Croatia along the Adriatic Sea). Titus had proven himself to be a trustworthy partner in the Gospel of Christ. Paul often called on Titus to do the hard work of traveling to various cities to help solve problems in churches and teach Christians how to live Christian. Titus was an excellent example of a gracious and loving missionary pastor.
Titus – the Time
Titus was a Christian and church leader during the second half of the first century AD. Christians were in the minority and most of the world seemed either indifferent or indignant about what Christians taught and how they lived. Sound familiar? It should. That’s similar to what we find in our world today. Most people either don’t care about Christians or they are offended by what we say and how we live our lives.
Titus had to deal with the same world Paul did. That meant paganism and ungodly philosophies. Titus would have been surrounded by people who worshipped idols and lived only for themselves. Titus also had to deal with Jews who strongly opposed the Gospel of God’s Grace to Gentiles. It couldn’t have been easy to do what Titus did. He certainly depended on the strength of God’s Spirit and the power of God’s Word during his life and ministry.
Life in the Roman Empire in the first century was hard on most people. The wealthy lived well, while the majority of people lived a hard and often brutal existence. Government officials were often greedy and tyrannical. They abused their positions and their people, who were often locked into whatever class they came into by birth. Slavery was rampant and women and children were often mistreated. Most people lived in cramped and unsafe housing. Disease was rampant in the cities. Life for most people in the first century was about survival. It was to those people that Paul sent Titus to serve.
Titus – the Letter
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Titus sometime after his time in Rome as a house-prisoner (Acts 28) and his final imprisonment in Rome (2 Timothy). We can discern that from Paul and Luke’s histories of the apostle’s journeys. Acts ends with Paul renting his own house in Rome for two years. He was guarded by a single soldier and was free to receive people who visited him. Paul was also free to preach the Gospel “with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”
Paul was apparently released as a prisoner about 62AD and was free to travel. Some scholars believe Paul left from Rome with Titus and traveled to Crete. Paul had wanted to visit Crete on his way to Rome, but problems with weather kept him from getting there (Acts 27). We know from Acts 2:11 that Jewish citizens of Crete were in Jerusalem on Pentecost when the Apostle Peter preached. Some of the Cretans may have become disciples of Christ and returned to Crete with the Gospel message.
Titus was on the Mediterranean island of Crete when he received Paul’s letter (Titus 1:5). Crete is located more than a thousand miles from Rome. Crete is a large island (about 160 miles long and 37 miles wide at widest point) and was home to tens of thousands of people living in many cities. Paul had apparently been to Crete with Titus because he wrote that he left Titus in Crete, “that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you” (Titus 1:5). Gortyn was the first century provincial capital and may have been home base for Titus. One of the oldest churches on Crete, located in Gortyn, was dedicated to Titus as the first bishop of Crete. Church historian Eusebius wrote about Titus in Book III of his Church History (early 4th century) –
“Timothy, so it is recorded, was the first to receive the episcopate of the parish in Ephesus, Titus of the churches in Crete.”Book III, Chapter IV, verse 6
Paul planned to winter in Nicopolis sometime after leaving Crete and asked Titus to meet him there after Artemas and Tychicus arrived in Crete (Titus 3:12). Nicopolis is located in the western part of Greece, about 240 miles from Athens and more than 400 miles from Crete. Some scholars believe Paul may have traveled to Spain after Titus arrived in Nicopolis. It was something Paul said he wanted to do (Romans 15:24) and Clement of Rome, who knew Paul personally, wrote this –
“By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance.”First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 5:5-6
Romans in the first century AD would have viewed the farthest bounds of the West to include Spain. Other ancient writings that mentioned Paul’s trip to Spain include the Muratorian Canon (late 2nd century AD), Cyril of Jerusalem (4th century AD), Chrysostom (4th century AD) and Jerome (4th and 5th centuries AD). The New Testament does not confirm that Paul visited Spain.
Paul became a prisoner of Rome again in the mid-60s and was martyred sometime between 65 and 66 AD.
With that brief introduction, we’ll dive headfirst into the letter Paul wrote Titus in the next part of our special series. We plan to share some of the best insights you’ll find anywhere for living Christian in ‘this present world.’
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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