How do you know if you are truly a Christian? Have you ever doubted? Have you wondered if your faith is real?
We’ve heard a lot of good news in this series of posts on Titus 2:11-15 about God’s love for us. Before we get a big head from all this good news that God has for us, as if we are somehow the center of the universe, Paul lastly says in Titus 2:11-15 that Jesus gave himself for us so that we might be eager to do what is good.
We have seen this all along in his letter to Titus. Good works. In Titus 2:11-15, Paul teaches sound doctrine, or the truth about Jesus, so that we might be transformed into people who are eager to do what is good. That means we turn our gaze away from ourselves to others.
The word Paul uses is where we get our English word “zealous”, meaning “filled with zeal.” Because we don’t use the words “zeal” or “zealous” all that much, here’s a definition for you: “to be energetically committed.” Passionate. Connect zeal with the good news about Jesus, and we get a clue about how to know that we are truly Christian: people who are genuinely transformed by Jesus are easy to spot because they are the ones passionate about doing good.
Doing good is a broad concept, and it covers personal piety, which is all about our individual choice to think like Jesus, talk like Jesus and live like he did. But doing good goes beyond the personal, into the realm of society, which is also how Jesus lived. He didn’t just live well in his personal life, he also healed the sick, taught the good news of his Kingdom, fed the hungry, and freed people from oppression. Christians, therefore, follow Jesus’ example, filled with mercy for those in need, pursuing justice for the oppressed, and declaring good news available to all. We should be known for working at local social services agencies, visiting in prisons, raising godly families, talking about how Jesus has changed us, working with creativity and honor, curing disease, making artistic works of beauty, scientific discovery, political peacemaking, and spending our lives for all that is good in the world. That is the impact of the good news of Jesus. It not only changes individual lives, but has the power to transform the world.
But thinking about all that we have learned this week about the good news of Jesus, as Paul describes it in Titus 2:11-15, did you notice something important missing from this passage? Look back over Titus 2:11-15. There is a glaring omission from Paul’s presentation of the Gospel. Compare Titus 2:14 to John 3:16 for example, and then can you see the difference? John 3:16 focuses on salvation that leads to eternal life. But here in Titus 2:14, the concept of eternal life is totally missing. I’m not saying that Paul is messing up the Gospel, by the way. As we’ll see in chapter 3, he gets to talking about eternal life. For now, though, Paul is emphasizing another, and equally important, aspect of the Gospel: transformation for life now.
Sound doctrine leads to good works. So the question becomes, how do you know if you know God and he knows you? How do you know if you are being transformed by him? How do you know if you are redeemed, purified, and eager to do what is good, as Paul teaches in Titus 2:14?
Jesus once said, “By their fruits you will know them.” He is referring to what comes out of your life. In my back yard, the apple tree makes apples, and the peach tree makes peaches. Christians, you make the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. You know the Spirit is transforming your life when you see those actions flowing out of your life.
Jesus once said, for example, “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” We often let ourselves off the hook on this, even if we have broken relationships, by saying, “Well, I’m pretty much a loving person.” But Christians are being transformed into really, really loving people. Christians even love their enemies.
The clear message that Paul is giving Titus, and us, is the answer to what he said in chapter 1, verse 16. There he referred to people in the church who said they knew God, but by their actions they showed they actually denied God. In other words, you can know that you really know God because your life will be transformed, and God’s goodness will flow out of your life.
What we have in Titus 2:11-15 is the Gospel, the good news that God’s gracious gift of salvation, through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, is available to all. We will know that we receive that gift as evidenced by the change that takes place in our lives. We are redeemed, purified and eager to do good. Think about those three words. Redeemed, Purified, Eager to do good. How are you expressing the transformation God is doing in your life? How is his fruit growing in your life? There should be clear evidence of God’s goodness growing in you. How are you seeing that goodness impact the lives of other people around you, and impact your community?