Are you a person who likes structure and boundaries, or someone who would rather chart his own path without restraints and rules? If we put those two types of personalities on a scale, all of us would measure up in different places on it. I admit I lean toward structure. I like to know what the rules are, and for the most part, I’m content to obey them. I like order and organization, and I’m not at all a risk-taker. I’m happiest when my life consists of simple routines and expectations. Without the Holy Spirit’s direction and influence, I could be quite the legalist.
There are others reading this who are the complete opposite. You prefer as few rules as possible and operate well if given just a few guidelines and an end goal. You take risks and enjoy the thrill of it, and while you can have strong opinions about your likes and dislikes, you get bored when every day is the same.
These differences in personalities don’t go away when we come to faith in Christ. God doesn’t save us to make us identical to one another; He redeems and regenerates us to look like Jesus, and it’s a lifelong process for the Holy Spirit to form the image of Christ in us. It’s a labor of God’s love. We all grow spiritually at different rates, through different experiences, but God’s end goal is that we become image-bearers of His Son to a lost world.
Like Timothy, Titus was another young pastor mentored by the apostle Paul. At the time he writes to Titus, he has left him in Crete to “set in order what remains.” A church had been established; there were believers meeting together to grow spiritually, but the church lacked structure and organization. Paul writes to set the expectations and boundaries for both the believers’ lives (older and younger men and women), as well as the specific call of godliness that God demanded of those in positions of leadership – overseers, elders, deacons, etc. How well the people responded would determine the influence and impact that the local church would have on its community.
There’s a key passage in this letter that helps all of us – those who love boundaries and those who don’t.
Titus 2:9-10 – Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
I believe Paul is speaking literally here, having addressed first older men and women, then younger women and men, and finally, bondslaves, or those who had chosen to remain in service to their masters. But as believers, we are all bondslaves, choosing to live in faithful service and obedience to our Master, Jesus. In fact, Paul uses this very word to describe his relationship to God in Titus 1:1, calling himself a bond-servant of God. Many times, throughout the New Testament, God’s people are referred to as bondservants. This designation is not a temporary one; we will be God’s bondservants throughout eternity! Listen as the apostle John describes the vision of the new heaven and new earth.
Revelation 1:3-5 – There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
As we navigate the Christian life, whether we are the person who loves boundaries or the risk-taker who likes to run free, we have the same goal as the bondservants of Jesus. We live to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect (Titus 2:10).
What does this look like?
Titus 2:11-14 – For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
If you’ll read Titus for yourself, Paul gives some very specific instructions on how to live “sensibly, righteously and godly,” and exactly what it means to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires.” These aren’t just suggestions – they are God-given boundaries that all of us must conform to, regardless of our personalities. But the over-arching principle is that everything we do – our language, our habits, our choices, our interactions with unbelievers, our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, our passion for (or lack of) the good deeds that are a mark of the believer – all of it should be examined to see if it passes the test of adorning the doctrine of God our Savior.
The word “adorn” is the Greek kosmeō. It means “to put in order, to arrange, to prepare, to make ready; to ornament or adorn; to embellish with honor.” It’s actually the word from which we get our English “cosmetic.” It’s doing everything we can to highlight and honor the doctrine of God our Savior, the gospel. It’s bringing attention to or making much of it.
To “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” is a practical endeavor; it’s not some philosophical ideology. We do this by examining our lives and asking the question, “Does this highlight Jesus? Does this bring attention to God? Does this represent well the power of the gospel in me?”
I believe if we implemented this principle into our lives on a daily basis, we might make different choices. We might eliminate some of the words that come out of our mouths. We might choose different media and guard more closely what goes into our hearts and minds. We might think twice about indulging in the pleasures and practices of the world and our social circles. We might think more about God’s boundaries, and less about the ones that make us comfortable.
How is your life adorning the doctrine of God our Savior? Ask the sweet Holy Spirit to show you areas where you might need to adjust some things. Time is short. Set in order what remains. Highlight Jesus, and Jesus alone.