I'm on a train to central London to meet someone for lunch. As usual there are the regular warnings to mind the gap between the train and the platform edge. My whole life is about minding the gap. The gap between what I believe (and preach!) and the way I behave.
One of the most common experiences of the Christian's life is that of hearing a sermon on a Sunday that encourages you and challenges you, so that you're resolved to be different. In fact you're sure that you're going to be different! Then comes Monday morning and you fail. All your resolve to be patient or kind or loving or whatever it is evaporates in a traffic jam or spilt milk over the breakfast table or an early email from work.
How can we bridge that gap between who we are in Christ. Who we long to be. And the way we actually live?
I was teaching Paul's letter to Titus last weekend. I think it has some help. Paul writes saying that he is...
"...a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness..." (Titus 1:1)
According to the apostle Paul the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ should change our lives to be more like his. It should make us godly. How? Here are the 4 key things I learnt in Titus:
1. You need church leaders who practice what they preach. They must both live lives that are above reproach and...
"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." (Titus 1:9)
This must mean that to lead a church you need to live your life amongst the people God has given you to love in such a way that they can observe what it looks like to put Jesus first.
2. You need people to be teaching each other. This is especially the case in the home. Titus 2 is all about the older Christian bring an example to the younger. Especailly older women who are to ...
"... teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children..." (Titus 2:3-4)
If we are to bridge the gap between what we rejoice in on Sunday and the rest of the week, then we need to be teaching and encouraging one another behind the closed doors of our houses. We need to operate sufficiently openly as a community that it's normal for young mum's to have older Christian women dropping in and giving help and advice. The same principle is true of any group in the church. We should be teaching one another how to live out God's word daily.
3. We need to apply the Bible to our public life. So Paul says in Titus 3:1:
"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work..."
Following Christ affects everything we do. We need to be thinking, "How am I a good citizen in the light of the gospel?" It's something we clearly forget, because we have to be reminded!
4. We need to have our identity in Christ and our future with him rubbed in daily.
In each chapter Paul reminds Titus of what God has done for them in Jesus.
"...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." (Titus 2:14)
"But when the goodness and 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 and renewal of the Holy Spirit..." (Titus 3:4-5)
What we do comes from our heart belief about who we are and our dreams for our future. What we want. If they are not that we are righteous children of God in the Lord Jesus. His people to do good. And that we want to be like him and with him. Then we will react according to our real desires and dreams.
These might be a world where we get our own way. So we struggle with anger. Or a world where we are admired. So we become a people pleaser. Or a world where we feel successful. So we selfishly use others for our glory.
Only having Jesus as your identity and your dream will enable you to close the gap between what you believe and the way you behave.