One of my favorite places in the world is the National Gallery in London. I like art, and I can get lost in a beautiful painting. In fact, whenever I can arrange a layover in London on my way to some foreign destination, I do just that. I hop the tube into Central London to look at art. I was there 2 weeks ago and saw the same works I always visit. I saw something else I always see: crowds of people staring.
People are drawn to beauty. It’s really as simple as that. It’s why we pull over to watch the sunset or say Wow! when we see wonders like the Grand Canyon or the Great Rift Valley. It’s why we gaze at a gorgeous picture and why we get caught up in a great movie. And it’s why my head did a turn when Stacy Quackenbush passed me in the hallway in high school! We are drawn to beauty!
Part One: A BEAUTIFUL GOSPEL
An outline of our series in Titus
Titus 1:1-5 The church is meant to be a beautiful community.
Titus 1:5-9 The church needs leaders who are ‘beautiful’ examples.
Titus 1:10-16 The church must be willing to confront ugliness.
Titus 2:1-15 The church should teach every person how to live beautiful lives.
Titus 3:1-8 Living beautiful lives means ‘doing good’ in our community.
Titus 3:9-15 The church must protect its beauty from those who would seek to destroy it.
The theme of this “Beautiful Church” series from the book of Titus is found in chapter 2 verse 10: “...make the teaching about God our Savior attractive [beautiful].” The specific context of this verse is a call to do our work in such a way that the teaching about God our Savior is beautiful. However, the larger context—in this case, the entire letter to Titus—concerns the reputation of the gospel.
God is more beautiful than anything in the universe. Consequently, everything beautiful in this world is an expression of the Creator. When you understand this, then you can begin to get your mind around a biblical definition of sin. Many of the Christians I encounter have very unbiblical views of sin. They think that God came up with a random list of dos and don’ts, handed them to Moses, and said, Do what I tell you to do, and don’t ask questions. C. S. Lewis relates a funny tale about this phenomenon in Mere Christianity, “There is a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was 'the sort of person who is always snooping around to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it'.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sin is anything that “messes up” God’s good, beautiful world.
Sin destroys the goodness and beauty of creation. Sin is that which harms our relationship with the Creator, harms our relationship with others, and harms us! God says “Don’t kill and steal and lie and commit adultery” because all these things end up making a mess of things!
Our own sin brings ugliness into our lives and messes things up, and yet the Evil One is so good at getting us caught up in it. He paints a thin veneer of pretty on sin, and we believe the lie. Satan tells us that what we’re about to do will make us happy, but it doesn’t. He tells us, “Man, do I have a thrill for you,” and it ends up bringing hurt instead. On top of that we do to ourselves, we must deal with the sin of other people, which introduces all kinds of ugliness into our lives and into the world. We have all been affected by this fallen world—all of us have.
Part Two: A BEAUTIFUL LIFE
Paul was one of the earliest leaders of the church. His life was transformed by the gospel, and he became an apostle, a special leader sent by God to oversee the church. Paul works to strengthen the faith of God’s chosen people (that’s us) and to teach them knowledge so that they will be godly. In this particular letter, he addresses Titus, his son in the faith. The apostle reminds the new pastor that he has been left in Crete for a particular purpose, to straighten out an ugly church situated in a beautiful place.
Titus 1:1-5 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.
To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
In his greeting, Paul is most particularly focused upon godliness. Godliness means that we are like Jesus, living in a way that attracts others to the hope we display. It is the pursuit of a beautiful life. A godly life glorifies God, it attracts others to the gospel, and it is good for us!
Godliness is faith that is lived out on the street, in the workplace, in the home. How I choose to love my wife and my boys, how I handle trials and disappointments, how I deal with stress and temptation, how I treat my enemies and those who wrong me, how I treat those who work for and with me, and how I handle my money and possessions can all contribute to a beautiful, godly life (or not).
We need faith in order to live a godly and beautiful life.
We need faith in Christ—that he died in our place to take away our sins and that he was raised to life. When you place your faith in him, the same power that raised him to life comes to live in you. Through his Spirit, you’ll receive the help you need to pursue a beautiful life.
We also need faith that the godly life is the good life. That it is the best life. Matt Chandler said something in a sermon that has stuck with me, “God keeps his promises in ways that sin cannot.” All other promises are empty. If only I was as rich as Steve Jobs! (Have you read his autobiography? That was one unhappy man.) If only I was as famous as Justin Beiber! (I’m not sure I have to say anything to demonstrate how fame has messed up that young man.) If only I was as powerful as Barak Obama! (Have you seen the before and after photos of presidents? The stress and strain ages these fellows so fast. I’m not sure why anyone wants that job.) If I could just have sex with as many people as possible—if only I were like Charlie Sheen! (Another desperately unhappy man.) God offers pleasure and joy, contentment and peace. He offers more. So much more than the sin’s empty promises.
We need knowledge in order to live beautiful, godly lives.
I remember more than 20 years ago, when I first started playing golf, I didn’t know the first thing about the game. The first time I went out and hit a ball it sliced to the right so I kept opening my stance and swinging further left. My friend, who owned the course and had invited me to play, gave me a quick lesson on spin. He said that I needed to get my swing path more inside out. In other words, swing to the right. That knowledge helped me greatly. (The ball still goes right (and left), but now I know why.)
As Christians we need some basic knowledge to help us know how to live this life. This is why we need to be hearing good sermons, and reading good books, and listening to godly mentors. We need faith that the God-life is the good-life, and then we need knowledge to know how to live it. We still won’t get it perfect, but that’s ok. It will still be beautiful.
“Evangelism [reaching the unsaved] as a way of living begins with believers who make beauty a way of life.”
- Joseph Aldrich, Lifestyle Evangelism