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Holiness is Healthy

Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 3:14-18; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
February 20, 2005
Third Sunday of Lent

One of the books that in recent years has caused a ruckus inside and

outside of the church is The DiVinci Code by Dan Brown. The seed for the story

is an ancient myth that suggests Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married – or

at least madly in love – and she was pregnant with child. When Christ died on

the cross, the true church helped Mary escape Palestine and resettle in Gaul –

what is today France.

Brown does a masterful job of tying this legend with legends about the

Holy Grail and what he termed the true nature of the grail. Tapping into feminist

theology, he casts the womb as the grail and the goddess as the true object of

worship. In the end, he constructs a very interesting and intricate mythology –

but at the expense of historical and theological accuracy.

One of the more fascinating pieces of evidence he uses to persuade his

reader about the legitimacy of his theological position is called the golden section

or the divine proportion. Now I am not a mathematician by any stretch of the

imagination, so as I try to explain this, if I don’t make it clear enough, I’m going to

ask you to trust me. If you can’t trust me, then ask Mike, Jerry, Bruce or

someone else who is good at math. I see Monica is with us this morning, I know

she is a math-wiz, maybe you can ask her.

The divine proportion is found when the division of a line segment into two

segments is such that the ratio of the original segment to the larger division is

equal to the ratio of the larger division to the smaller division. Here is a picture to

help explain it further. [show slide] It is a ratio or proportion defined by the

number Phi (f=1.618033988749895...). It is known as the divine proportion

because it is found everywhere in nature. Here are just a few examples. [show


And mankind has discovered this proportion again and again throughout

history. Evidence of phi is found in the pyramids, in Greek architecture, and in

Leonardo DiVinci’s works, including his painting The Last Supper. [show slide].

We find proportion attractive, don’t we? Bodies that are well proportioned

draw our eyes like steel to a magnet. Science shows that even the way our

faces are proportioned influence how attractive others find us. One of the more

amazing meaningless bits of information I have ever heard is that the most

successful actors are the ones whose heads are of a particular proportion in

relation to their bodies. The ones with slightly larger heads – not extraordinarily

so – are treated more kindly by the cameras and so are often perceived as more

handsome or attractive. How that works, I don’t know.

Nonetheless, it remains true that we like things in proportion. Some even

live their lives by it – “All things in moderation.” What does that mean except, “All

things in their proper proportion?” So it shouldn’t surprise to us find out that

proportion is important in our spiritual lives as well.

So this morning we are going to talk about proportion in the Christian life.

To guide our thoughts our primary text will be Titus 2:11-14. We will first survey

the text briefly to understand where Paul is coming from when he writes this to

Titus. Then we will talk a bit about what it looks like when our spiritual lives get

out of proportion. Finally, we will talk about what a healthy, well-proportioned

Christian life looks like – what we would call a holy life.

You may remember last week that we talked about Titus, the young

associate of Paul. Titus is the one that Paul sent with the “painful letter” to the

church in Corinth as a sort of spiritual enforcer. Apparently, his tough-minded,

tough-nosed faith earned him other such assignments because Paul sends him

to Crete – an unsavory place and people by Paul’s account in Titus 1:10-12,

There are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers,
especially those of the circumcision; 11 they must be silenced, since
they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it
is not right to teach. 12 It was one of them, their very own prophet,
who said, “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.”i

Just a few verses down from this he refers to them as “unfit for anything.”

Into such a hornet’s nest, Paul sends Titus to “put things in order and to

complete what was left undone.” In particular, he wanted Titus to train and install

elders in the church, to shore up the weak spots in their doctrine, and to bring

into tow those who were beginning to stray.

Paul then begins to instruct Titus in how he should go about this. “You

must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine,” he says. Sound doctrine.

What do you think of when you hear someone say “sound doctrine?” If you are
like many, you think of stodgy-old men locked away in an ivory tower churning

out tomes of systematic theology, nit-picking over the finest of points. Quite

frankly, the idea of sound doctrine for many is real “yawner” – the sort of minutia

you contemplate when you are having trouble sleeping. And really, it’s the word

“doctrine” that does it for us, isn’t it? It just isn’t a very attractive word.

But doctrine is not just that sort of bookish accumulation of cold hard facts

or information. Biblically, doctrine is a full-life activity – to get the force of the

word you have to go back to Deuteronomy 6 where God tells the Israelites to

impress his commandments upon their children in every area of life – at home, in

play, while traveling, when resting. The doctrine Paul speaks of is the lifelong

learning we undergo both formally and informally. Doctrine refers to that

wonderful intersection of life and learning. If all you have is learning, you do not

have doctrine. Doctrine is learning lived out loud. It is the right proportion of faith

instruction coupled with faithful living.

When this understanding of doctrine is wedded with the adjective “sound,”

the emphasis in Paul’s command becomes clear. Today, when we speak of

sound doctrine, we usually mean doctrine that is well-argued, inerrant. While this

is certainly included, it is not what is being highlighted. Paul is using sound here

in the sense of “healthy” doctrine. Paul wants Titus to impart a doctrine that

induces, produces, and preserves spiritual health.

So what happens when we don’t have the healthy intersection of life and

learning? When we don’t have the right proportion of faith instruction coupled

with faithful living?

If you take a look at the screen, there is slide which gives us three pictures

of what can happen when spiritual lives get out of proportion. The first one is Mr.

Holy Harry Dogma. This is the guy who thinks that holiness is directly

proportional to the amount of knowledge he has. For him, faith is dogma and

discipleship is all about growing in his theological knowledge. The more he

knows, the more holy he is.

But Harry has a problem. Notice the size of his head in relation to the rest

of his body. Harry has a wealth of knowledge, but it never filters into his heart. It

never finds expression through his hands and feet. His spiritual life is lived out in

his head. He is more concerned about the getting the symbolism of Revelation

15 correct than he is about deepening his relationship with God and serving him

in the Great Commission. He is the rule-keeper.

The second picture is of Ms. Holy Holly Experience. She is the one who

could care less about doctrinal matters and knows even less. For her, holiness is

directly proportional to how she experiences God in her life. She is looking for

that emotionally-charged experience of God’s presence. She is constantly on the

go – going to this meeting or that service in search of experiencing the presence

of God.
But Holly has a problem. Notice the size of her abdomen in relation to the

rest of her body. She suffers from “pinheaditis” and scrawny limb syndrome. For

her Christianity is all about experience, all about feeling, all about thrill. She

doesn’t reach out to others because she is too busy chasing after an experience

to care for others.

The third picture is of Mr. Holy Henry Deeds. He also suffers from

“pinheaditis.” He cares little for doctrine because he is too busy running from one

place to the next, doing good. For him, holiness is directly proportional to how

active he is in his church and ministry.

But Henry has a problem. Notice the size of his arms and his legs in

relation to the rest of his body. Again we see that there is this grotesque

disproportion in one area of the person’s life. In this case, it is the life of service

– really the practice of the faith – that becomes identified with holiness. The

result is a life out of proportion – one that gives a distorted reflection of our

Savior, Jesus Christ. When our spiritual lives get out of proportion we begin to

present a caricature Jesus Christ to the world.

The question now, I suppose, is how do we get this way – how does our

lives in Christ get so lopsided in the first place? While there may be a host of

reasons why, let me offer the one that in my mind is most prevalent.

We tend treat our growth in faith and holiness

as automatic – that there is really nothing we need to do in order to grow into

Christ’s likeness. In other words, we don’t make it our business to grow – we just
expect it. There is no intentionality on our part, no deliberate action taken to

promote growth. We let our spiritual growth just happen to us rather than living

life on purpose to really nurture spiritual growth.

So how do we keep from becoming these sort of funhouse reflections of

Christ? What kind of holiness is healthy?

We mentioned earlier the occasion for Paul writing to Titus – giving him

instruction on how to carry out yet another tough assignment. Part of that

instruction is the call to teach a “sound doctrine” in Titus 2:1. In verses 2-9, Paul

then describes what sort of life results from sound teaching. Without doing a

verse by verse exposition, let me just say this – the things that Paul highlights as

resulting from sound doctrine are not things that would occur naturally to us. And

from what we read earlier about the Cretans, it certainly would be contrary to

their natural bents. So in vv.11-14, Paul gives the theological underpinning for

the life he is calling us to.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and
to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13
while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our
great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to
redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that
are his very own, eager to do what is good.

The word “for” is a small word – almost a throw-away word, easy to miss.

But man, does it carry huge implications. With one little word Paul makes it clear,

“This is the reason why you should do all of the above! For the grace of God has

appeared, bringing salvation to all.” In other words, do this not because it is the
law, not because it in itself makes you holy, not because it increases your

standing with God, somehow wins his favor – No! Do this because you are


What an emotional appeal by Paul. He strengthens his appeal vv.13-14 by

directing our gaze beyond the horizon to eternity – that day that we live in hope

of and for. The day of Christ’s appearing. He also reminds us again about what

Christ did in his first appearing – the supreme sacrifice he was willing to make

upon the cross to purchase a people for himself – a people purified by his own

blood and gifted by his own Spirit, prepared for his service. Such grace, Paul

says teaches us – indoctrinates us – to say No! to ungodliness and worldly

passions and live the sort of self-controlled and godly lives that result from good


Did you happen to notice that Paul addresses in this one passage the

three ways we tend to get out of proportion in our Christian life? He calls us to

respond to grace in gratitude – the proper emotional response to God’s grace.

He reminds us that the picture of grace the life and death of Jesus Christ

presents to us teaches us the way we should live – the sound doctrine that leads

to a healthy Christian life. He then reveals to us the impact sound teaching has

upon us – it shapes our responses, our character. Teaching that leads to a

healthy Christian life shapes how we practice our faith – we say no to

ungodliness and worldly passions in favor of upright and godly lives.

So if our growth in faith – really our growth in holiness – comes only by

some intentionality on our part, what do we do? How do we work out our

salvation with fear and trembling, as Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12?

In 2 Peter 3:8, Peter commands us to grow in grace. What he means by

that is for us to be consciously Christian, becoming more Christian all the time, in

every area of our lives. In other words, this is a lifelong endeavor. And that really

is the first step. Making growth in grace not just a priority, but the mantra of your

life – all other things in life feed into that effort.

Begin by recognizing that as good as your intentions are, without the

strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit you are going to fail. Pray,

acknowledging before God your weakness and ask him for the strength and

wisdom you need. In James 1 God promises that he will give wisdom generously

to all who humbly seek it. In doing this we foster the gratitude and feelings of

love which will motivate us to faithfulness.

Then, plunk yourself right in the middle of Jesus Christ. Now what do I

mean by that? When Jesus referred to himself as the vine and to us as the

branches, what he was telling us is that the only way to survive is to keep

connected to him. We must continually feed our hearts and minds upon Jesus

Christ. We must have him revealed to us again and again in the Scriptures so

that it becomes second nature for us see him its pages – even beyond the

gospels. We must engage in his body, supporting the life and health of the

church where he manifests his power and presence among his people. And we
must continually seek him in prayer, drawing nearer to him through the binding of

our hearts to his as we undress our lives in front of him. Though this our

knowledge of him is deepened and we are taught the ways of godliness.

Finally, we must take to heart his commands and guard against any

infiltration of the enemy. We must watch and pray so that we are able to say no

to ungodliness, ensuring that our practice of the faith is giving the clearest

reflection of Christ possible.

When we begin to intentionally pursue growing in grace – growing in

holiness – we will find then that our faith life falls into divine proportions. We will

experience that holiness is healthy.

The New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1989.