Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Be careful - Titus 3:8-11

"This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all." (Titus 3:8-15)
The trustworthy statement that Paul is referring to is the message of how Jesus saved us, not by any works we have done, but according to His own mercy and by the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. It is through this grace that we have become, "heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:7) It is in the knowledge of this message that we come to understand our due respond to His great mercy and grace; that we might be diligent in producing "good works." We preform these good works, not to gain His approval, but as a loving response to His approval. We work, not to be rewarded, rather we work knowing that our reward is already secured in heaven. We labor not for his love, but in response to His love.

The issue at stake here is not, "does God love us?" but rather "do we love God?" Many people are glad to receive the mercy and forgiveness of God but fail to consider how, in return, to give back to God the love that is due Him. God loves us, but how does one love God in return? Jesus told us that, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) Obedience, when done from a free heart, is a token of love. When we obey God, not because we have to but because we choose to, then we are expressing our love back to God for all the things He has done for us. The same is true of children. Children who love their parents will choose obedience, not out of fear, but out of love. In the same way we should choose to love our Father, not to gain anything, but rather to return something; to return our love. Further, John reminds us, "And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." (1 John 4:21) Good works are the practical expression of our love for God and for one another.

However, showing love through good works requires us to consider the needs of others before ourselves. Those whose life is consumed with argument, strife, disputes, and discretion are often more concerned with themselves being right than others being helped. All that matters to them is that people acknowledge them and acquiesce to their will and opinions. A factious man requires others to follow him, though he will follow no man, and requires good works directed to him, thorough he shows them to no man. The factious man is a self-centered man and a man devoid of love, but a man full of good works is a man full of love.

The good works that God desires do not always come naturally. They often require instruction, practice, and patience. Often they require an inward change as much as they do an outward expression. The instruction in good works was a consistent topic in the teaching of Paul and his associates, and a teach we desperately need today if we too are to become people zealous for good works. However, either way, we must all face the reality that there is no Christian life without the dedication to good works.

David Robison

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