The Kind of Older Men We Need!

3 Jan

In our culture, old age is something that many people, whether they admit it or not are ashamed of. As one older actress said, “I believe in loyalty. When a woman reaches an age she likes she should stick with it.” It’s been said that there are only three stages of life, youth, middle age, and “oh my, you are looking well…” And when you get to that point where they are saying that to you, you know where you are.

For the godly person, old age has its own difficulties and temptations, but it is a good thing. Because as you grow older, you are growing closer to the day you will see your Savior. Old age can be a time where you shine brightly for Jesus Christ, or it can be a time when you fail miserably. Hardly anything is more sad than to see an older person fail miserably in their relationship with Christ. When I was at seminary, one of the seminarians parents came back from years of service on the mission field to retire in the states. And you know what – the mother who had been a missionary for years, left her husband when the got back to the States, ran off to Las Vegas and got together with some younger guy. When she was confronted, she said, she only had a few years left to live and she wanted to have fun in those years. That’s tragic. That breaks your heart.

Sometimes we just think that godliness just comes with old age. It doesn’t. It takes work to be godly, no matter what age you are. It’s been said, “No one can avoid aging, but aging productively is something else.” Years bring experience, not necessarily godliness. Godliness takes work.

Paul told Timothy, “Discipline yourself for godliness.” And that’s true when it comes to becoming a godly older person. Growing old gracefully, growing old in a way that honors God, takes work and discipline. It’s not easy to grow old gracefully, it takes great labor and toil. Sometimes it is actually more difficult to pursue godliness when you are older because you have a lot of practice at sinning. You have habits that you practiced for a long time, and it is hard to get rid of some of those old habits. Plus, you face difficulties that most young people don’t face – you get sick more easily, you are feeling more physical pain, you have less energy. And what makes matters worse, many older people are unwilling to listen to instruction. They have done it a certain way their entire lives, and nobody can tell them otherwise. That’s sad. Paul tells Titus here – you have to instruct the older men and women how to live their lives. Age should not be a barrier. Jay Adams writes, “There’s nothing more tragic than older men or women holding on to opinions and attitudes, most of which have been proven faulty over the years.”

On the other hand, there’s nothing more exciting than someone who finishes the race well. Lots of people start the race well, but few finish well, and so for me as a young person, I know, I just love to talk to older people who love Jesus so much more now than they did when they were younger. George Mueller started going on mission trips in his seventies. By the time he was ninety he gone literally all over the world and preached the gospel to hundreds of thousands of people. I remember reading of John Wesley who at the age of 83 – “after having traveled some 250,000 miles on horseback, preached more than 40000 sermons, and produced some 200 books and pamphlets, he regretted that he was unable to read and write for more than fifteen hours a day without his eyes becoming too tired to work. After his 85th birthday he admitted to an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning.”

Old age, certainly it is difficult and it is full of its own temptations, but it doesn’t have to be bleak. It can be incredibly rich. And in fact, it is for the godly person. You’re nearer to heaven, and you have potential for incredible spiritual maturity. Dr. MacArthur explains, “It puts us in the situation where we have accumulated spiritual experience that makes us rich. It enables us to be leaders and mentors and models and examples for the young.” The godly older person is a treasure for a church.

Titus 2:2,3 lays out God’s priorities for you as an older person – for a healthy seniors ministry. And I want to call on you who are older to be the kind of person Paul describes here. Please provide for us an example of what it looks like to pursue Christ as an older person. If you go out to run a marathon, and a 90 year old guy sprints pass you – you are going to want to run faster. That’s true in our spiritual lives as well. Older people, the way that you live in this portion of your life can be an incredible testimony to the glory of Christ.

Paul begins by addressing the older men in Titus 2:2. It’s interesting that this word for older men can describe anyone over the age of fifty. So if you are fifty and up, Paul is talking right at you. He gives four characteristics older men should pursue and be known by.

* Older men’s desires should be under control.

This is the idea behind the word temperate. And it is a command not an option. God wants you to be temperate, if you are a believer, you can be temperate.

To be temperate basically means to be restrained, to be moderate, to be controlled. Originally it was used in terms of alcohol, a temperate person was restrained when it came to drinking alcohol, but then it came to be used in a much broader sense – a metaphorical sense – the temperate person is level-headed, not given to extravagance and overindulgence, he is restrained when it comes to indulging desires. He has the ability “to avoid excesses, to stay within the bounds of Scripture.” The person who is not temperate is ruled by his desires – he is a slave to himself. The person who is temperate is ruled by Scripture – he, by the grace of God, rules over his desires.

Another way to describe the temperate man, which may be helpful for you, is to say that he is vigilant. To be vigilant is to be alert, to keep careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. The temperate person is alert, he’s awake, he guards his heart, he watches over his soul. He’s careful about the way he lives his life, he doesn’t live as an unwise man, but as a wise man. He’s not intoxicated by the ideas of the world, he’s not given over to the lusts of the flesh, no he’s level-headed, he thinks and acts based on the truths of Scripture.

Proverbs 4:20ff gives a call to this kind of life. “My son give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart.” The temperate man’s mind is filled with Scripture. His mind is guided by biblical truths. “For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their whole body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put devious lips far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet; and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left, turn your foot from evil.” He’s focused – he doesn’t get off track. The temperate man knows what really matters in life. Temptations come – he stays focused – he keeps looking ahead – he keeps his eyes on the prize!

The person who is not temperate, he runs every which way, after every new idea, every passion, every indulgence, every desire, his priorities are totally out of whack. As for the temperate man, his priorities are in order, he is balanced, he is moderate.

You know how when you are a kid – everything is a big deal. I mean, if you want something, you have just got to have it. You can barely handle it if you don’t get it right away. We were with my nieces not too long ago, and they really wanted a new dog. So somehow, it seemed like everything their dad asked them, they would turn around into saying they wanted a dog. Do you guys want dinner? No, but we do really want a new dog!

That’s the way it is when you are not temperate, you have a desire, and it controls you. The temperate person on the other hand – knows what really matters – and he is not controlled by sinful or even trivial desires, but rather by a desire for what is right.

The Cretans – that’s the people to whom Paul was writing – were known worldwide for being “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” They were ruled by their lusts. Sounds a lot like our world today. The world says, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” And their behavior matches that belief. Our behavior – should not be like the world’s – because the Bible says that death is not the end. The Bible says that sin has consequences. The Bible says that our Father hates sin. The Bible says that lusts and sinful desires wage war against your soul – they want to destroy you. Does your behavior match your beliefs? Are you temperate?

I challenge you to take your life – and evaluate it in light of this characteristic. You don’t have a right to indulge every desire just because you are older. You don’t have a right to be greedy just because you are older. You don’t have a right to be a dirty old man. You need to learn contentment – moderation.

Ask yourself – Am I awake? Am I alert? Do I know myself? Do I have a check on my desires? Am I self-controlled? Do I say no to desires that are not in accordance with Scripture? To take it a step further – am I focused? Does the way I spend my money make sense in light of eternity? Does the way I eat make sense in light of eternity? When I see something do I just have to have it?

* Older men’s lifestyle should be worthy of respect.

Paul says the older man is to be dignified. I like that word. It literally means honorable or worthy. The dignified person lives in such a way that he is worthy of respect, he is worthy of honor.

Another way to translate this word, and some of you may not like it as much at first, but I think it’s important – is serious. The older man is to be a serious man.

That’s a word we don’t like in our American culture. If John Bunyan were writing Pilgrim’s Progress today, I think he’d have a person in there named Mr. Laugh all the Time. He’d be a guy who refused to take life seriously, who always had to make a joke even when they are talking about things that are not funny, who had a habit of always trying to make people laugh, and never thought about whether it was an appropriate time for humor.

It’s important to understand what this word serious really means. Jay Adams explains, “This word serious has deteriorated – like so many words in our language. Here it means dignified, but not gloomy or dour. It is the dignity of one who knows what he is doing, one with sound judgment. To be serious is to understand what circumstances must not be treated lightly.” In other words, the serious man doesn’t always have to tell a joke. He knows that there are situations where it is not fitting to try to be funny. He knows that life can be serious. “Paul’s talking about the ability to weigh and sift and act accordingly. It is the quality that is possessed by a person who faces up to serious situations with the solemnity they require, the ability to treat weighty and profound issues for what they are. A serious person knows when to turn off levity and get down to business. Older Christian men should be examples of seriousness, since much of life – and death – is serious business.”

“It describes the characteristic of the one who carries himself with the perfect blend of dignity and courtesy, independence and humility toward his fellowmen. The word avoids the suggestion of sternness yet retains the idea of a natural respect.”

Let me break it down for you: The serious, dignified man is not a goofball. He’s not trivial. He’s not flippant. He’s lived long enough to understand how serious life really is. He’s seen people die, he’s seen the terrible consequences of sin, he’s faced his share of problems, he knows that there is an eternity, he is beginning to understand the greatness of God, and he understands his own mortality. He’s not this guy you hate to be around because he always has a frown on his face, but he does live his life in light of eternity.

It’s interesting, you read through the New Testament and you don’t find a whole lot of jokes. Jesus and Paul – they said a whole lot in the New Testament, but we don’t find them trying to be funny very often. Now I am not saying that Jesus and Paul weren’t great to be around, that they didn’t ever say something that was funny, but what I am saying is that they were not driven by a desire to be funny. They weren’t known as people who always had to say a joke.
You probably had class clowns in your schools growing up. They were funny, but you didn’t really respect them. You don’t often go to a class clown for advice, because he always has to make a joke out of everything. The dignified, serious man knows the time and place for all things. He is not controlled by a desire to be a clown.

The serious man doesn’t laugh at what is tragic. As you grow in godliness, you’ll notice that what the world calls funny, you probably won’t think of it as all that funny anymore. I love to laugh, but I’ve found that as I watch some of these T.V. shows that are supposed to be funny, many times I don’t find them funny at all, but really very sad. Because you see the way these people view sin and view God, the joke they make out of sexual immorality and other things the Bible says are wicked, and you realize that this show is just a reflection of the way many people in our society feel about these things, and that is not funny at all, that’s tragic.

When the dignified man smiles, he smiles about what is really worth smiling about, when he laughs he laughs about something that is worthy of laughing about.

Check your conversation – the way you talk – ask people around you, who you know will be honest with you – do I always have to tell a joke? Am I respectable? Does the way I talk and act – just exude ‘worthiness.’

* Older men’s thoughts should make sense.

I’m not talking about what he says – but how he thinks, how he lives. Paul says – Urge them to be sensible. We’ve seen this word before, back in Titus 1:8 – where Paul describes what needs to be true of elders, and we’ll see it again in verse 5, 6, and verse 12. Obviously, this is a big deal to the apostle Paul.

It’s really not too hard to figure out what this word means. When someone is unsensible – you say that person’s actions don’t make sense. The sensible person’s life is just the opposite – it makes good biblical sense. Really, this word has to do with the mind, it describes the man who thinks correctly, whose mind is dominated by truth. The word Paul uses for sensible is made up of two Greek words, “sound” and “mind.” So literally, you could translate this term, “sound-mindedness.” It means to be prudent, thoughtful, to show discretion, to be moderate and self-controlled. To use word pictures, “to have your wits about you,” or to have a “wise head” or to be “cool-headed.”
The sensible person has “an entire command over your passions and desires, he acts based on truth and not on lust or emotions or whatever.” It relates to exercising good judgment, discretion and common sense. It is thinking biblically about life, and living your life – making your decisions on the basis of biblical truth. It is to be balanced in your opinions and actions.

The sensible person is able “to curb his desires and impulses so as to produce a measured and orderly life.” He thinks and reasons in a sane manner. He has right thoughts and right actions. He lives his life in a way that makes sense. Sensible living is simply applying biblical truth to every aspect of our lives.

Take your life, I tried to do this this week, and actually ask yourself – does what I am thinking or doing make sense in light of what I know the Bible has to say. Perhaps you are in argument with your husband or wife. Stop – before you go on – and check out your thoughts, your desires, your words – and ask yourself – does how I am acting, thinking, speaking – is it biblical, is it the way Jesus would have me respond?

We should make this a pattern of our lives – to constantly be filling our minds with biblical truth – and then evaluating our lives in light of that truth.

For example, say you are going to dinner with someone that you don’t know, and you find yourself worrying about it. You are getting tense. Take that – and evaluate it in light of Scripture. Does it make sense for me to be afraid of man? Well – I know that the Bible says God is sovereign. I know that the Bible says that if a person is a believer God has declared them righteous – that I have peace with God. Therefore, ultimately it doesn’t matter that much whether this person really likes me or not. So it doesn’t make sense biblically for me to worry or get upset or be afraid.

It may help you to take a sheet of paper – on one side write – this is what is true biblically – and on the other side – write this is what I am thinking or this is how I am behaving – and then evaluate – does my behavior or do my thoughts match what I know to be true biblically. If not – then you ought to write down, this is the kind of behavior, the kind of actions – that would make good biblical sense. And when you get in that kind of situation again – act and think based on what you know to be true rather than the lies you are believing!

* Older men’s character should be exemplary.

Paul writes that they should be “sound in faith, in love and in perseverance…” These are the great triad of Christian virtues, faith love and usually we would find hope – but here we find a result of hope – perseverance.
Sound – means healthy. Older men are to be examples to the rest of the church about what it means to have a healthy faith, a healthy love, and a healthy perseverance.

They should be healthy in faith. Older men should demonstrate a strong trust in the Lord. They are to be men of great faith. Older men have been through the ringer. They have learned to trust God even when the circumstances they are enduring are difficult. They have had many hard things happen, things they could not understand, and they have seen God take those difficult things and use them for their good – and they believe. Their faith, their trust should be strong and vibrant. They have rested on God throughout their life, and they stand strong in the midst of the storms of life because they continue to rest on God’s sovereignty, God’s power. They see the end coming and they do not allow fear to control them – because they believe God. And their faith gives great strength to the rest of the church. The church can look to them like pillars of strength – that man believes God and so must I!

They should be healthy in love. Older men should show the rest of the church what true love looks like- love for God and love for others. They shouldn’t be bitter men. It’s so sad when you meet bitter, angry people. The godly older man is not angry at the world, instead he tries to demonstrate the sacrificial love of Christ to the world. You should be able to look at an old man and say – yes that is what love looks like. He loves others even when they don’t treat him well. He loves people even when they reject him. His love isn’t just words it is action. He loves people that you wouldn’t expect him to love. He treats people with grace and kindness. He doesn’t want to show young people how dumb they are, he wants to lovingly help them grow in the faith. He has learned not to keep a record of wrongs. His love isn’t based on his emotions or how he feels that day. If he gets up and feels tired and sick, he still reaches out he still shows love. His love isn’t based on how you treat him – it’s based on the love of Christ for him. He’s not selfish, he’s thinking about your good.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like many older men are known for this. They are not known for their love but rather their grumpiness. They have a chip on their shoulder, they are out to get you. This should not be. You shouldn’t be afraid of a godly older man – he should be an example to the rest of the church and the world what the love of Christ looks like.

Perseverance is patience under trials. It’s strength under pressure. It’s standing strong even when you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You older men are going to have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate this to us, because you are going to have to face many trials. Your relationship with Christ should be so deep and rich that it gives you strength to endure even the most difficult trials with joy. I’m not talking about trying to imitate John Wayne, to get shot and pretend like it doesn’t hurt – no, you hurt, you are not a fake, but you are joyful even in the midst of your suffering, because you know what suffering is doing in you. 1 Peter says that one of the reasons that trials come into your life is to get rid of the impurities, to make you like fine gold. That’s what has happened to the godly older men – he’s become strong because of the trials that God has brought into his life – and so when difficulties come – he stands strong – his roots have sunk deep into the word of truth – he may bend but he does not break. He has a strength and people look at him and they say how can this man be so strong in the midst of trials – and they can only come up with one answer – his relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now some of you may be saying, I can’t do all of this. I’ve lived my life this way for a long time – I just can’t change. You are right and you are wrong. You’re right – You can’t on your own – do all of this. You’re wrong – God can change you and make you into a person who brings Him great honor and glory!

I know He can change you because that is His plan, because of His amazing grace, because of His promises! But you have to first of all be converted! You can’t become this kind of man – you can’t change in God-honoring ways unless you are first born again. You can yell at a dead man, “Get up and walk” at him all you want, but he’s not going to go anywhere. The only way for a dead man to walk is for him to be raised from the dead, to be given new life!
And the only way for you to begin to walk in a way that honors God is to be born again! God’s grace is magnified in our salvation because he’s not just healing the sick, he’s raising the dead. Jesus Christ died to take the punishment believers deserve, and he rose from the dead and defeated death and sin. And when you truly repent of your sins and put your faith in Christ, something remarkable happens. A definite change occurs in your life. Your old self dies. (Rom.6:2) You are given a new nature, one that loves God and desires to obey God. This means that when you are saved, God frees you from slavery to sin and He gives you a love for righteousness. (Rom.6:18) You are dead to sin and alive to God. You have changed, so you can change!

If you are sitting here thinking – man the pattern of my life is just wicked – then you ought to run to Christ. You need to be born again. Now you ask – how is a person born again? “You cannot give birth to yourself, you cannot change your nature. Christianity is not just stopping doing one or two things and taking up two or three others. You cannot become as a little child. It is impossible. If you are to born again, you must be born from above, you must be born of the Spirit.”

Well, thanks a lot you say – can we do nothing? Well, you can do one thing. You can pray that God would help you recognize your need of it. You need to repent. You need to recognize that you are wicked, you need to see how disgusting your sin is – that you need to be cleansed, and that you can do nothing to save yourself. You need to cast yourself on the mercy of God as a helpless, hopeless beggar. You need to believe that Christ came into the world to save sinners. That he died and was raised again that you might have peace with God that you must look to His righteousness alone for satisfaction of the penalty of your sins. You need to beg Him for forgiveness of your sins, and to give you new life. Repent, believe – and rest in the powerful and merciful and loving hands of God!” Christ alone can save us!

You can become a godly person – but first you have to be converted, and second you have to be committed. Godliness takes work – it takes a commitment to do what the Bible says no matter how hard it seems, no matter how long it takes. You have to be willing to take a serious look at your life, no, you can’t be lazy. You can’t just sit back on your couch, turn on Sports Center, and become a godly person. You’ve got to get up off that couch, study your life, study the Word of God, get together with strong Christian friends, think specifically about where you need to change, and by God’s grace work until you die and see God in heaven!

I beg of you older men – we beg of you – please be our heros! Please be godly men – whose desires are under control, whose lives are worthy of respect, whose thoughts make sense, and whose character is exemplary so that we might follow in your footstep. You have a responsibility – this church will not be healthy and strong – will not honor God the way it should unless you do! Don’t underestimate your capabilities. Don’t say to yourself – the young people don’t want to listen – don’t say that you are too tired – go out – go to glory running hard after Jesus Christ!

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