Joyful Leading, Advantageous Living

by Paul Briggs

Because of some construction being done on the east side of Lafayette, there is a one lane bridge being used by traffic going in both directions and governed by a single traffic light. Recently I found myself stopped at the front of the line at this traffic light. Because of the way the light is timed, there are moments when sitting at a red light seems like an absolute waste of time. There appears to be no one on the bridge, going or coming! Given these appearances, while waiting for the light to turn green, my mind wandered: what would happen if someone, observing what they thought was no cars coming, decided to disobey the traffic light and proceed across the bridge?  


Several possibilities of what might happen quickly came to mind. A head-on collision would certainly be possible. Another possible scenario could mean having to back off the bridge to allow the traffic flow to resume. In any case, given the location and the traffic, time-wasting, utter chaos would be almost certain. A total lack of order! To maintain an orderly flow of traffic, obedience and submission to the authorized measures in place (the single traffic light) were absolutely necessary for this situation to work to everyone’s advantage.


During our study of Titus 1:5-9 this past Sunday, we read and commented briefly on Hebrews 13:17. This verse gives direction to the community of faith regarding the leadership God has given to order his church--and the benefit which comes along with it:  


Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.


From a purely natural, personal perspective, we do not like words such as obey and submit. However, through God’s grace and Spirit at work in us, we gain understanding and perspective of the importance and benefit these two words carry. Clearly, the writer of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is communicating what God wants his people to know about living life in the context of the church. 


From creation to the present time, the orderliness of God is seen in his work. God is in the business of taking chaos and turning it into order. In Genesis 1, “In the beginning,” God takes what is formless and empty and fills it up and puts it in order with everything “after its kind.” Genesis 1:31 concludes, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Then, when Adam and Eve disobey God’s one command, God takes the upside-down, disordering nature of sin and promises that he would send a Savior to bring redemption (Genesis 3:15). Through the course of the entire Bible, we track the story of God’s great salvation seen in the promises he made and kept to his people. The coming of Jesus Christ into this world to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) through his life, sacrifice, and resurrection is the centerpiece of this glorious story which we are privileged to celebrate (1 Peter 2:9-10). 


Inasmuch as we have submitted ourselves to our Creator, we are also called to submit ourselves to Jesus, “who loved us and gave himself for us” (Galatians 2:20). Then, having joyfully submitted ourselves to Jesus, “the Great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20), we have the privilege of obeying and submitting ourselves to the leaders he has had appointed in the church for our spiritual benefit. Obedience to leaders brings glory to God because we are submitting to Jesus, the Great Shepherd. 


Beginning with this primary benefit, I see at least seven ways from Titus that living in obedience to God’s commands about his church brings order to the church:


1.    It brings glory to God through obedience to his commands through submission to the Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ.


2.    It brings order to the less-than-orderly lives of those who constitute the church. 


3.    It brings order by producing obedience and submission in the lives of those who were previously insubordinate (Titus 1:10; 3:1-3).  


4.    It brings order through silencing empty talkers and rebuking those who follow them so they can become sound in the faith (Titus 1:13-14). 


5.    It brings order by taking previously deceptive people who turn away from the truth and pointing them to the healthy teaching of how God would have his transformed people to live (Titus 1:9-10, 14).  


6.    It brings order by teaching what is good rather than upsetting whole families by false teaching for shameful gain (Titus 1:11; 2:3).


7.    It brings order by the intentional practice of good works while avoiding things which are unprofitable, worthless, and unfruitful (Titus 3:8-9, 14).


The single traffic light which presently governs the one lane bridge brings order to the construction chaos. Similarly, by his grace and mercy, God has given leadership to his church for the purpose of bringing order to disorder. As God’s people obey and submit to the leadership God has given to his church (Ephesians 4:11-16), the result is advantageous living both personally and corporately. In addition, the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:10), in which we have been firmly rooted and are continuing to grow in, is attractively put on display for God’s glory and the good of the surrounding community.