I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: The Need for Mentors
This world is in need of good Christian examples. We need mentors who, like the Apostle Paul, have a desire to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost world that will die and go to hell without it. And we have to have men and women willing to invest their lives in others who will themselves help to see that the gospel is spread. With that in mind I would like to share an illustration that I found on the Preaching.com website recently. It states:
"In the Dallas Seminary Daily Devotional for Oct. 24, 2003, Chuck Swindoll writes:
“There we sat, a cluster of six. A stubby orange candle burned at the center
of our table flickering eerie shadows across our faces. One spoke; five listened.
Every question was handled with such grace, such effortless ease. Each answer
was drawn from deep wells of wisdom, shaped by tough decisions and nurtured by
time. And pain. Mistakes and mistreatment. And honed by tests, risks, heartbreaks,
and failures. Decades in the same crucible had made his counsel invaluable.
“His age? Seventy-two. He had seen it all, weathered it all-all the flack
and delights of a flock. Outlasted all the fads and gimmicks of gullible and greedy
generations, known the ecstasy of seeing lives revolutionized, the agony of lives
ruined, and the monotony of lives unchanged. He had paid his dues-and had the
scars to prove it.
“There we sat for well over three hours hearing his stories, pondering his
principles, questioning his conclusions, and responding to his ideas. The evening
was punctuated with periodic outbursts of laughter followed by protracted periods
of quiet talk.
“As I participated, I was suddenly twenty-six years old again. A young seminarian
and pastoral intern existing in a no man’s land between a heart full of desire
and a head full of dreams. Long on theological theories but short on practical
experience. I had answers to questions no one was asking but a lack of understanding
on the things that really mattered. In momentary flashbacks, I saw myself in the
same room with this man thirty years earlier, drinking at the same well, soaking
up the same spirit. Thirty years ago, he had been a model; now he had become a
mentor. Thoroughly human and absolutely authentic, he had emerged a well-worn
vessel of honor fit for the Master’s use. And I found myself profoundly grateful
that Ray Stedman’s shadow had crossed my life.
“As we said good-bye to Ray that evening, I walked a little slower. I thought
about the things he had taught me without directly instructing me, about the courage
he had given me without deliberately exhorting me. I wondered how it had happened.
I wondered why I had been so privileged. I found myself wanting to run back to
his car and tell him again how much I loved and admired him.
“But it was late. And after all I was a fifty-five-year-old man. A husband.
A father. A grandfather. A pastor. To some, a leader.
“But as I stood there alone in the cold night air, I suddenly realized what
I wanted to be when I grew up.
“A mentor knows how to stretch without insulting, affirm without flattering,
release without abandoning us.”
In the book of Titus, we have the Apostle Paul writing to his son in the faith Titus who is attempting to organize a church in Crete where the apostle had left him. Paul is being a mentor and a spiritual father here as he gives Titus instructions on how to do his job well.
In looking at the first 4 verses of this book we have a clear picture of what it takes for a person to be a spiritual mentor, and it can help us in this century as well, as we seek to spread the good news of salvation to those who will come to know Christ and then carry on the preaching of that gospel when we are gone and no longer able to do it ourselves.
But before we do this, let us give an introduction to the book of Titus.
I. Author and Recipient of the Book
The book of Titus, known as one of Paul's pastoral epistles, was written by the Apostle Paul to Titus who was one of the Paul's converts and was a considerable help to the apostle in his ministry. Titus was not mentioned in the book of Acts at all but 13 times in the rest of the New Testament.
When Paul left Antioch to discuss the gospel with the Jerusalem leaders, Titus, being a Gentile, was brought along, even though he was not circumcised, thus vindicating Paul's stance that circumcision and keeping the law of Moses wasn't necessary for Gentiles to be saved and be a part of the Church (Galatians 2:1-5).
Following Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment, he and Titus went to Crete and worked there briefly. Then Paul decided to leave Titus there to remain as his representative to complete some needed work (1:5; 2:15; 3:12-13). Paul had asked Titus to meet him in Nicopolis when a replacement arrived in Crete. Later Titus went on a mission to Dalmatia, which is the last time we hear of him in the New Testament (II Timothy 4:10).
The Island of Crete to which Paul was writing to Timothy, is the 4th largest Island in the Mediterranean Sea and lies directly South of the Aegean Sea. According to sources, in New Testament times, life in Crete had sunk to a deplorable moral level. The dishonesty, gluttony and laziness of its inhabitants were proverbial (1:12). Many at the time knew of its bad reputation.
II. Occasion and Purpose of the Book
So, what is the occasion and purpose of the letter? It seems that Paul was the one who first introduced Christianity to Crete when he and Titus visited the island. And he left Titus there to organize the new converts. According to biblestudytools.com:
"Paul sent the letter with Zenas and Apollos, who were on a journey that took them through Crete (3:13), to give Titus personal authorization and guidance in meeting opposition (1:5; 2:1,7-8,15; 3:9), instructions about faith and conduct, and warnings about false teachers. Paul also informed Titus of his future plans for him (3:12)."
III. Place and Date of Writing
Many scholars believe that Paul was writing the epistle while he was in Macedonia, considering he had not as yet reached Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). He wrote it after his first Roman imprisonment- possibly between 63 and 65 A.D. Although some think that it was written later and place it after Paul's assumed trip to Spain.
Now that we have an idea what this epistle is about, let's concentrate on the introductory verses and see what we can learn about modern day mentorship from Paul's greeting to his mentee, Titus. There are at least 4 characteristics of a good mentor found in these verses.
IV. A Spiritual Mentor Sees His Life as Being in God's Service (1)
The first characteristic of a Christian mentor is that they see themselves as being in God's service. Paul here calls himself a bondservant of Jesus Christ. He refers to himself this way because Christ died for him and paid a debt (the bond) to which Paul “willfully” accepts and now is forever in Christ's debt. And because of this, he is a slave and servant. Interestingly, the term has a sense of irony in that Paul willingly accepts and actually boasts that he is a slave to God.
In another epistle, the book of Galatians, Paul says this about himself:
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20).
He also says to the Corinthians:
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God with your body and with your spirit which are God's." (I Corinthians 6:19,20).
None of us owns our life, according to Scriptures. Before we were saved, we were slaves to sin. Sin controlled us and we weren't able to free ourselves from its bondage. Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8:34 that:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”
I like what the website Godquestions.org has to say about this verse. It tells us:
"He uses the analogy of a slave and his master to make the point that a slave obeys his master because he belongs to him. Slaves have no will of their own. They are literally in bondage to their masters. When sin is our master, we are unable to resist it. But, by the power of Christ to overcome the power of sin, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Once we come to Christ in repentance and receive forgiveness for sin, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within us. It is by His power that we are able to resist sinning and become slaves of righteousness."
Paul not only sees himself as a bondservant but also as an apostle of Jesus Christ as well. The word has the basic meaning of messenger or literally a "sent one." The term was often used of royal emissaries who ministered with the extended authority of their sovereign. Paul's exalted position as 'an apostle' came with great authority from Jesus Christ. But it also came with great responsibility and sacrifice.
While none of us can claim the official title of apostle, since Christ only chose a total of 14, if you count Judas who betrayed the Lord, Matthias who replaced him and the apostle Paul, the apostle to the gentiles. Nonetheless, we are all Christ's servants. Further, we have all been sent out into the world as ambassadors of Jesus Christ to those who need to hear the good news of the gospel (II Corinthians 5:20).
This world needs less people who want to be in charge of everything and more people who realize that they are servants of all. If the church of Jesus Christ could just understand that concept, we could change the world in which we are living. A good mentor is one who sees him or herself as a servant. First of all, to God and then to others.
And that is our next point here. Paul saw himself as a bondservant and apostle for Christ. And he performed that service by serving others.
V. A Spiritual Mentor Performs God's Service by Serving Others (1).
And just who else did Paul see himself as serving besides Christ? He was a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. But it was "for the faith of those chosen of God" (1)
Who is he talking about here? It is those who, according to Ephesians 1:4 have been chosen for salvation before the foundation of the world, who later exercise personal faith prompted by the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, he is talking about believers in Jesus Christ here. We who know Jesus Christ are to serve one another. The apostle says it very clearly in Galatians 5:13 when he tells the believers:
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love."
Paul says that each of us is to:
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.…" (Philippians 2:3,4).
All Christians have an obligation to help each other in this life as members of Christ's Body, especially when it comes to helping believers to have a greater faith. But also, a greater knowledge of the truth of the gospel. This is the next characteristic of a spiritual mentor.
VI. A Spiritual Mentor Helps Others Have a Greater Knowledge of the Truth (1b-3)
Once again, a spiritual mentor helps others have a greater knowledge of the truth. Paul simply uses the term 'the truth' in verse 1. But he had in mind gospel truth. That is the saving message of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This saving truth leads the one who accepts it to godliness or sanctification (1).
The truth also leads one to have hope in the eternal life that God promised all those who have accepted His Son as their Savior. And we know that God doesn't lie so we can be sure that it will come to pass, though it was promised 'long ages ago' before man was even created. Hope here is always something that is sure to come to pass. So, we must exercise patience and endurance, waiting for the Lord to bring it about.
Paul then goes on to say that the truth of the gospel that he proclaimed was manifested 'at the proper time.' He says elsewhere in Romans 5:6 that:
"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly."
The Lord's promises are unfolding according to His plans and He proclaimed it in His Word. Further, it is that same proclamation of the truth that Paul saw as being entrusted to him by God our Savior.
However, Paul is no longer here on this earth. But we, who are the recipients of the truth of the good news of salvation, still have an obligation to share it with the world. And we need to help others who are growing in their faith to get to know the truth better themselves. This leads to the final characteristic of a spiritual mentor. He looks for people open to be mentored by him.
VII. A Spiritual Mentor Looks for Those Whom He Can Mentor (4).
Obviously, a mentor doesn't try to teach everyone who comes down his path. Only those who want to be taught. Paul had lots of people in his life, but only two that he called his 'sons in the faith.' Titus and Timothy were personally mentored by Paul and went on to do great ministries of their own. In verse 4 he calls Titus, 'my true child in a common faith. Titus was a genuine believer who obviously had a close relationship with the apostle and was willing to be led by him in learning about life and about following Christ. The 'common faith' that Paul is talking about is obviously the good news of the gospel of Christ. Jude called it 'the faith that was once for all handed down to the saints." (Jude 3).
It is interesting that both Timothy and Titus are men that the apostle personally led to the faith. This should be a cue to all of us who proclaim the gospel that our job isn't finished the moment a person comes to know Christ as Savior. In many ways, it's only just begun. Even if we can't be around to personally mentor them ourselves, we should see that they get under some kind of sound teaching that they may grow to maturity in their faith.
Paul concludes his introduction by wishing that Titus receives grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Some manuscripts also add mercy to that desire from Paul.
We, as spiritual mentors, should always want the people whom we mentor to be close to God and experience the Lord's grace, mercy and peace in greater measure. We should want the best for them that God offers to those who love Him.
The bottom line is that all of us who know Jesus Christ as Savior have been given a precious gift that we should want to share with others. And we all have had people who took the time to mentor us in the faith that we now possess.
We should be grateful for those spiritual mentors who did that in our lives, and should be willing to do that with others whom the Lord brings into our lives as we mature in our faith.
The Christian faith is not a solitary journey. It is one that we share with our fellow believers and we have a responsibility to help one another along in our spiritual lives on this earth, on our way to our heavenly home.
May we spend the rest or our lives on this planet serving God by serving others and helping them to grow strong in their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. By doing this, we will bring glory to the One who loved us and gave His life on our behalf. Thank God for our mentors. And thank God that we have the privilege of mentoring others as well!
© 2021 Jeff Shirley