Tag Archives: good works

One important way Jesus wants you to live in the world – Titus 3:1-8, Part 5

9 Aug
Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Why are you here on earth? Do you ever wonder if you have a purpose, a role? Sometimes people say that there is one thing you can do better than anyone else on earth. What do you think about that? I tend to think there is a better way to look at our purpose on earth. And as we conclude our series of posts on Titus 3:1-8, Paul gets to that. He has just taught about the amazing, life-shaping work that God wants to do in our lives. God wants us to be a part of his family! But does God’s purpose for us stop there? Just to get us in the door? Paul has an answer for us, so let’s follow his thinking.

Paul concludes his teaching in Titus 3:1-8 telling Titus “it is a trustworthy saying!  I want you to stress these things.”  That means what we have been looking into in this series of posts on Titus 3:1-8 is important!  Paul is essentially saying, “Titus, you should teach this.  Remind the Christians in Crete of these things.  Make sure this doesn’t get lost.” 

As he continues, notice at how Paul sees this good news in action.  He says, those who trusted in God must be careful to “devote themselves to doing good.” 

I think what Paul is saying is fascinating.  When you have been transformed, when God’s Spirit is poured out on you, when you have become a part of his family, when you have hope for eternal life, you are so filled with God’s goodness that you devote yourself to doing what is good. 

It’s like he’s wrapped back around to verses 1-2, repeating what he said there about how to live Christianly in the world.  Now that he has taught through the good news that God wants to change our lives, Paul has given us a strong reason to be good.  We’ve been transformed by God.  God’s Spirit now energizes and enlivens us to do good in the world.

Does anyone feel déjà vu at this point?  If you read the posts in the previous series on Titus 2:11-15, starting here, you might be sensing some familiarity.  I felt that as I was studying these passages.  Why?  Because Paul’s teaching is chapter 3:1-8 is very similar to what he said in 2:11-15.  And when someone repeats themselves, that means we would do well to pay extra attention.  We don’t want to miss this.  Instead we should shape our lives around this.  God has lavished us with his grace to save us, yes to give us hope of eternal life, but more importantly for the here and now, to transform us into a people who are devoted to doing good.

Believe it or not, some Christians push back against the idea of doing good in the world.  They believe that God is one day going to destroy the world and therefore all Christians needs to do now is focus on eternal life.  I’m not going to debate that in this post. Instead, look again at verse 3.  In the out of control society in Crete, where the Christians to whom Paul was writing lived, there were certainly behaviors that Paul was saying, “You are not to do that.  You are to be different.”

With that desire to be godly, in Titus’ day in Crete, and in our own American Christian history, we can make an error of believing that Christians need to “come out and be separate.” Christians can get the idea that society is so powerfully evil that it will destroy us, and therefore Christians need to remove themselves.  But that is not what Paul is saying. Instead, Paul says, Christians are the ones who have already been transformed by God, with his Holy Spirit poured out on us, made a part of his family, with the hope of eternal life, and thus we are to be eager to do good in society.  We are called to live out a different kind of life in the midst of society.  Not remove ourselves from it, and not just focus people’s attention on life after death.   That’s why Paul says “be good” in the midst of it. 

Remember the story I started this series of posts with? Check it out here.  some people believe that what God really cares about is our life after we die. But in Titus 3:1-8, Paul is saying that Christians have an important mission in the here and now, to be good for the purpose of helping more people become followers of Jesus and for helping our societies embrace the goodness that God wants for all people.

For example, notice what Paul doesn’t say here.  Paul could say “Christians in Crete, evacuate! Crete is awful. Move to Jerusalem where the mother church is.”  But he doesn’t.  He says, “You’ve been changed by Jesus, so you are to be different, and thus you are to do good in the midst of your crazy Cretan society.  That will likely make you stand out.”

Christians in society should be clearly demonstrating the changed life of Christ by their goodness.  How about you and me?

Younger people, what will it look like for you to do good in your neighborhood and school? 

Those of you who work, what will it look like for you to do good in your employment, at your office, with your coworkers, no matter what kind of job you have?

Children, what will it look like for you to do good with your parents?

Parents, what will it look like for you to do good with your kids?

All of us, what ways can we live out the transformed life of Jesus to do good in our community?

How you can know that you are truly a Christian – Titus 2:11-15, Part 5

2 Aug

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?

Reading other people’s mail – Titus 1:1-4, Part 1

10 Jun

Have you ever accidentally received mail for your neighbor?

It happens to all of us from time to time.  The question is, what do you do with it? Usually just walk it over to their house, right?

Do you ever just throw it away?  Please don’t!  It’s illegal!

Most often misdelivered mail happens when you move to a new house, and you get mail for the people who lived there before you.   Here at Faith Church, we get mail for previous pastors or for churches that rented from us.  It is almost always junk mail from organizations not aware of the pastoral change or that the church no longer rents space here.  So I tend to open the mail and read it, or more frequently just throw it away.  You can tell 99% of all junk mail by the outside of the envelope!  But if it is real mail we make sure it gets in the proper hands.  The USPS says all you have to do is write “Return to Sender” or “Not At This Address” on the envelope and place it back in the mail.

But have you ever read someone else’s real mail? 

That’s a bit more personal, isn’t it?  There are ethical concerns and legalities, right?  It’s illegal to open other people’s mail.  But in our technological age, it happens. 

Have you ever been sitting next to someone with their phone or laptop out, and you glance over and their email is open for all to see? I’ve heard stories about how that has happened and friends have learned shocking things about one another, and it has led to hurt.

You might think, “Well, you should have averted your eyes.”  That is easier said than done. Maybe it was one of those situations where it was unavoidable.  Maybe you’ve been there before.  You aren’t looking for it, and boom there it is right in front of you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  You’ve seen it. 

Starting with this post, that is exactly what we’re going to do.  Actually, for the rest of the summer, we’re going to read other people’s mail.  Letters, to be specific.  Ancient letters.  

In the Bible, in the New Testament, there are a bunch of them.  Letters written from one person to another.  We call them books of the Bible, but they are not even close to what we normally think of when we think of books.  They’re letters.  Many are quite short, more like emails in our culture.  Notes, you might even call them.  This summer we are going to study the short letters of the New Testament.  Formally they are in the genre called Epistles.  Often when we use the word, “epistle,” our minds conjure up really long letters.  In fact many New Testament epistles are long letters: Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, and Hebrews, to name a few.  In our modern Bibles they are all divided into multiple chapters with intricate argumentation, and they frequently get the lion’s share of attention.  Since I have been pastor, I have taught through Philippians, 1st Corinthians, 1st Timothy and 1st Peter.  Maybe someday we’ll get to the 2nds of those epistles! 

There are also a group of short epistles in the New Testament, and they rarely get mentioned.  This summer we’re going to study all of them.  We’re going to read other people’s mail such as Paul’s letter to Titus.  His note to Philemon.  John’s two short notes called 2nd and 3rd John.  And finally the short note written by Jesus’ brother, Jude.  Some are so short, we’ll cover then in one sermon.  Today we start with Titus, which is the longest of the short letters.

Let’s begin with a quick overview of Titus.  There are many theories about when, where and why Paul wrote this letter, and for our sermon series I am going to take the position that Paul is writing later in life, most likely after the events described in the book of the Acts.  By this time, Paul is deeply established in the early church as a missionary statesman who has traveled on numerous long mission trips throughout the Roman Empire, preaching about good news in Jesus, starting new churches, and raising up other leaders.  He regularly brought people with him, and trained them to be new leaders.  One of those guys was Titus.  Peek down at Titus chapter 1, verse 5 and you’ll see that Paul has dispatched Titus to lead the network of house churches on Crete, where Paul had previously ministered and started the churches.  Crete is an island right smack in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  You can read in Acts 27 when Paul visited there as a prisoner, and based on what we read in Titus 1:5, he visited there again with Titus.  Titus was a close associate of Paul.  Though Titus is never mentioned in the stories in the book of Acts he is mentioned in numerous other letters, where we learn that Paul trusted Titus to deal with difficult situations. And that is exactly what was happening in Crete.

Paul has two main concerns for Titus.  Good works. Sound Doctrine.

One is prophylactic. The other is evangelistic.

Wait, prophylactic? Isn’t that birth control? While it relates to that, prophylactic has a broader meaning.  A prophylactic is something that prevents disease.  In his letter to Titus, Paul is writing a prophylactic letter.  He wants to prevent disease in the church.  And so he will talk about sound doctrine.

Paul also wants the church to reach out, and so he will talk about doing good, which Paul sees as foundational to all outreach. 

What we will see in our series through this letter is how much we need to hear this message today.

Check back in tomorrow as we begin reading someone else’s mail.