The Unbreakable Bond Between Belief and Behavior

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. – Titus 3:8-11 ESV

Paul has just reminded Titus of the core message of the gospel: Jesus Christ appeared in human form as a visible expression of God’s goodness and love. And Jesus proved the love of God by offering His own life as payment for the sins of humanity. His death made salvation possible, not based on mankind’s efforts to live righteous lives, but because of the mercy of God the Father. The death of Jesus on the cross provided a means for sinful man to be forgiven, cleansed, and restored to a right relationship with God the Father. And after His resurrection and return to His Father’s side, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers. The result was their “new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5 NLT). And the Holy Spirit’s presence within the life of each and every believer is a guarantee of the eternal life awaiting them.

And Paul tells Titus that this is a trustworthy saying. In Greek, the phrase is pistos logos. It means that these are words that can be relied upon and believed in. They are true and worthy of our trust because they hold the key to our present effectiveness and our future hope.

The reason Paul can place such high expectations upon the believers living on Crete is because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. His death has made possible a life filled with a never-before-available power to live above and beyond the norms of everyday life. A Christian is a new creation whose purpose for life has been radically changed because of his relationship with Jesus Christ. And Paul expects Titus to hold the believers on Crete to the higher standard that comes with their newfound status as God’s children. Jesus died in order that sinful men might be saved but His death also makes possible their ongoing spiritual transformation. He doesn’t just provide them with a clean slate, wiped free from the sin debt they owed, but He also makes it possible for them to live righteous lives. So, Titus was to “insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (Titus 3:8 NLT).

The good news regarding Jesus Christ is not just about gaining entrance into heaven someday. It’s about the daily manifestation of our faith through tangible works that reveal the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Notice what Paul told the believers in Ephesus:

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Paul insists that every believer is the handiwork of God. The Greek word he used is poiēma, and it refers to “the thing that is made.” Each believer is the work of God. No one saves themselves. No one becomes a Christian. The work of salvation is entirely up to God, from beginning to end, just as Jesus told the believers in Rome.

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. – Romans 8:29-30 NLT

Paul was consistently emphatic when declaring man’s non-existent role in salvation.

Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. – Ephesians 2:9 NLT

The believer owes his salvation entirely to God.

because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 ESV

But while man’s works cannot make him a Christian, they can certainly provide evidence that he is one. Which is the point of Paul’s letter to Titus. He wanted the believers on Crete to live their lives in the power of the Spirit, fulfilling the preordained plans God had in place for them. There was work to be done. There were lost individuals who needed to hear the gospel message. There was a divine strategy in place that called for all believers to live in obedience to God’s will and in total submission to His Spirit.

All that Paul has been sharing with Titus was to be considered good and beneficial. This wasn’t pie-in-the-sky-sometime rhetoric. Christianity wasn’t to be viewed as some future escape plan from eternal torment. It was to be the key to abundant life in the present, and Paul lived his life that way. This is why he could so boldly state:

I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20 NLT

Paul fully believed that his old self was crucified alongside Christ, “so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless” ªRomans 6:6 BSB). He regularly experienced the reality of his own teaching in his own life.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. – Galatians 5:24 NLT

And if those old passions and desires have been nailed to the cross, it is essential that they be replaced with new passions and desires. The believer’s new nature in Christ should come to the fore, giving evidence of the power of God’s Spirit residing in him. So, all that Paul has instructed Titus to teach the believers on Crete is tied to the good works God has created them to accomplish. That includes submission, self-control, love, patience, temperance, kindness, sacrifice, and a host of other qualities that are in short supply in this world. Paul wanted the behavior of all believers to reflect what they said they believed.

…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! – 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Paul expected them to believe and behave in a way that displayed their new status as God’s adopted sons and daughters. From God’s perspective, they were new creations, so why would they continue to live according to their old natures? God had new things for them to do. He had a radically different lifestyle in mind for them that was intended to prove the reality of their new identities.

Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:24 NLT

But the sad reality was that many of the believers on the island of Crete were struggling. There were those who were causing dissension by teaching unadulterated lies. Arguments were breaking out within their gatherings. Sides were being taken, damaging the unity of the church. And Paul makes it brutally clear what Titus was to do with those who caused divisions within the local church.

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him – Titus 3:10 ESV

Remember, the point of Paul’s letter is godly behavior. He is calling all professing Christians to live as who they are: The sons and daughters of God. As such, they were to reflect the character of Christ. They were to devote themselves to good works. Anything that distracted from the objective was to be avoided at all costs. Anyone who distorted or took away from that goal was to be rejected for being warped, sinful, and self-condemning. These people were guilty of twisting and perverting the trustworthy words of the gospel, and their actions condemned them. As a result, they were to be avoided like a plague. The spiritual well-being of the body of Christ was at risk and the believers on Crete would find it nearly impossible to accomplish the good works God had prepared for them to do as long as these individuals were allowed to remain in their midst. As Paul warned the believers in Galatia, there was no place for tolerance or complacency when it came to anything that threatened the truth of the gospel.

This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you. – Galatians 5:9-10 NLT

Paul had no tolerance for false teachers and neither should they. Right living becomes virtually impossible when wrong doctrines are allowed to exist. Accomplishing good works is difficult when bad teaching is left unchallenged in the church. The church must always take the truth seriously and deal with falsehood decisively. The world may be filled with lies, driven by deception, and motivated by selfishness, but the church of Jesus Christ is to be the rock-steady foundation of God’s truth. And Paul was providing Titus with the same powerful reminder that he had given Timothy, so that both men might “know how each one must conduct himself in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 BSB).

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Devoted to Good Works.

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.  – Titus 3:12-15 ESV

As Paul wrapped up his letter to Titus, he let his young friend know that he was sending help. Either Artemas or Tychicus would be arriving to assist Titus with the work there on Crete. They would provide much-needed assistance in accomplishing Paul’s goals for the work there, but their presence would also allow Titus take some time off so that he might join Paul in Nicopolis. Paul thought very highly of Titus and looked on him like a son. Paul would be taking a break from his many missionary travels, and spending the winter in Nicopolis. Having Titus there would allow Paul ample time to provide further instruction and encouragement face-to-face rather than by letter. There was likely much that Paul still had to say to Titus and he was looking forward to delivering what he had to say to his friend in person.

Paul also instructed Titus to send Zenas and Apollos on their way. These two men had evidently been on Crete assisting with the spread of the gospel. But Paul encouraged Titus to allow them to leave so that they might take the gospel elsewhere. We know something about Apollos from the book of Acts.

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. – Acts 18:24-25 ESV

Aquilla and Priscilla, two other disciples of Jesus, took Apollos under their wing and gave him further instructions on the gospel and the ways of God. They also helped him network with other Christians in Achaia, where he went and proved to be very helpful in convincing the Jews there of the validity of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah.

We know little of Zenas, only that he was a lawyer. This could mean that he was an expert in the Mosaic law, but it is more likely that, because of his Greek name, that he was a literal lawyer, having a thorough knowledge of Greek or Roman law. Paul urged Titus and the believers on Crete to take care of these two men and to send them on their way with all the provisions they may need for their journey. Paul had strong opinions about the care of those who helped spread the gospel, and he derived those opinions from Scripture. He wrote to the believers in Corinth, reminding them that he and Barnabas deserved to be cared for as messengers of the good news.

What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest. – 1 Corinthians 9:7-10 NLT

Paul was simply stating that those who spent their lives spreading the gospel deserved to be cared for by the congregations to which they ministered. And Paul went on to tell the Corinthians, “In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it” (1 Corinthians 9:14 NLT).

And Paul demands that the Cretan not be stingy in their support of Zenas and Apollos. He told Titus to “see that they lack nothing” (Titus 3:13 ESV). Much of what Paul has addressed in this letter has had to do with good works – those visible manifestations of the inward change that has taken place in the life of a believer. And he ends his letter with a very tangible example of what those good works should look like. By supporting Zenas and Apollos, the Cretans would be living out their faith and revealing to the lost world around them a concrete example of the love of Christ. Paul told Titus, “Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive” (Titus 3:14 NLT). The Greek word translated as “unproductive” is akarpos and it means “without fruit” (“G175 – akarpos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon describes it as meaning “destitute of good deeds.” For a believers to refuse to meet the urgent needs of others would be like an apple tree refusing to bear fruit. It would be useless, having failed to do what it was created to do. Paul told the Ephesians, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT). Even Jesus Himself, in His Sermon on the Mount, described the life of the believer as one marked by good deeds.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” – Matthew 5:14-16 NLT

As far as Paul was concerned, the believers on Crete were to be devoted to good works. The Greek word he used was proïstēmi and it literally means to “stand over.” But it carries the idea of presiding over something. They were to care for and protect the practice of good works, knowing that it was their God-given responsibility to live our their faith and in doing so, bring glory to God. We are to do good works, not in order to receive glory from God, but to bring Him glory. We practice a life of good works, because we have been created and redeemed to do so. Man and woman were created to fulfill the will of God, but the fall marred that plan. Instead of doing good works, we sinned. And the book of Genesis reminds us of just how bad it had gotten.

The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. – Genesis 6:5 NLT

But God sent His Son in order that man might be restored to a right relationship with God and be freed from slavery to sin. Because of His death on the cross, men and women can be redeemed and provided with the power to accomplish the good deeds they were originally created to do. And when we do, we bring glory to God. Our good works are evidence of the life-transforming power of the gospel. Our good works provide proof of our having been saved by God and of our ongoing sanctification, made possible by His indwelling Spirit. We exist for the good of others and the glory of God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

He Saved Us.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. – Titus 3:1-11 ESV

Having emphasized the grace of God, as revealed in His Son’s incarnation and substitutionary death on the cross, Paul now tells Titus to demand godly, grace-empowered living among the believers on Crete. He is to remind them that their behavior is exhibit Christ-like characteristics at all times. They are to be submissive to rulers and authorities. And that submission should include obedience and a willing to do the right thing at all times. Their speech should be devoid of all slander. Their words were to be used for good and not evil. They were to avoid quarreling, because it produces nothing of value. Instead, they were to exhibit a gentle or patient temperament, showing kindness or meekness to all people. And Paul seems to realize that Titus is going to get push-back from his parishioners, arguing that some people don’t deserve this kind of treatment. So, Paul tells Titus to simply remind the believers on Crete that they were once the same way.

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. – Titus 3:3 NLT

Paul was a big proponent of reflection. He saw value in looking back and recalling his pre-salvation status. And he encouraged other believers to do the same. He wrote to the believers in Corinth and reminded them of their condition before coming to faith in Christ.

Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NLT

The grace of God made possible not only their salvation, but their ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ. And it was important that they remember just exactly what is was their were saved from. Their ability to love others and see the lost as sinners in need of a Savior would be tied to their understanding of their own undeserving status when they were saved. Paul makes it quite clear.

When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7 NLT

It was all the work of God. The believers on Crete had not earned their salvation. Their works of righteousness had not put them in a right standing with God. Notice how Paul drives home his point. He emphasizes God’s role in their salvation.

“He saved us…”

“He washed away our sins…”

“He gave us new life and new birth…”

“He generously poured out His Spirit…”

“He made us right…”

“He made us confident that we will inherit eternal life…”

It was all God’s doing. And they were never to forget that fact. As soon as we start believing that we somehow deserved or earned God’ salvation, we begin to believe that we are somehow better than those who are lost and remain unsaved. We see the sins of others as somehow greater than our own. We can become self-righteously superior in our thinking and highly selective when it comes to those whom we show respect, honor, mercy and love. But Paul would have us remember our undeserving status and how God showed us mercy and grace – totally undeserved mercy and grace. He sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him” (1 John 4:9 NLT). God loved us while we were at our worst. He didn’t demand that we get our proverbial act together or stop sinning. He saved us while we were mired and enslaved to our sin.

And Paul is telling Titus to demand that the believers on Crete show their gratitude to God for all that He has done by showing mercy, kindness, and respect to all those they encounter. He tells Titus:

I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. – Titus 3:8 ESV

They were to devote themselves, literally, to give attention to, good works. They were to be the protectors or guardians of good works, taking seriously their God-given responsibility to live Christ-like lives on this earth. They were to be the hands and feet of Christ, exhibiting the same attitude that He had.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8 NLT

Jesus modeled humility and selfless service to others. He was the Son of God, and yet He did not think it beneath Himself to die on behalf of undeserving sinners. So, why is it so hard for us to die to ourselves and to live our lives in humble submission to God, serving those who are undeserving of our love?

Paul ends by providing Titus with a list of things for believers to avoid: “Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws” (Titus 3:9 NLT). These kinds of things are worthless and a waste of time. They produce nothing of value. They stir up anger and division. The produce pride and dissension. It was these kinds of distractions that the false teachers were bringing into the church. They weren’t unifying the church. They were dividing it. They weren’t encouraging humility and selflessness. They were promoting pride and a sense of spiritual superiority.

But Paul wants Titus and his fellow believers on Crete to remember one thing: God saved them. They had nothing to do with it. And their response should be one of gratitude and a willing submission to love others as they had been loved by God. They were to show grace to others because God had shown grace to them. They were to extend mercy to others, because had showered them with mercy. Our treatment of others should be a direct response to God’s treatment of us. He did not give us what we deserved. He gave us His Son and a means by which we could be made right with Him. He saved us. He washed and renewed us. He poured out His Spirit on us. And He has assured us of our future life with Him. All in spite of us, not because of us.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

But Now…

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. – 1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV

Sometimes we can become forgetful. Life has a way of distracting us and causing us to lose sight of where we have come from and where we are going. As a result, we live as though this life is all there is. Our present circumstances become the only lens through which we view life. But Peter would have us remember our past, not avoid it or wipe it from our memories, so he tells us, “once you were not a people.” He reminds us that “once you had not received mercy.” Paul said something very similar to the Colossian believers: “once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21 ESV). We should never forget pre-Christ condition. It is against the dark backdrop of our sinful past that the mercy of God shines the brightest. The very fact that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a people for God’s own possession is all that much more amazing when we consider what God had to work with when He saved us. Paul told the Gentile believers in Ephesus, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12 ESV). Then he uses the same two power-packed words that Peter uses: “But now…”

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:13 ESV

And Peter tells us that in spite of our past spiritual darkness, things are different now. At one time we were living in darkness and incapable of seeing our way out of our hopeless circumstances. We were outside the family of God, spiritual orphans longing for adoption and the love of someone who might find value in us and make us their own. Mercy was in short supply. No one was willing to do anything about our helpless condition. But now…

…you are part of God’s family

…you are the beneficiary of His mercy

…you are living in the light

…you are part of a chosen race

…you are a priest in the Kingdom of God

…you are a citizen of a holy nation

…you are God’s personal possession

Needless to say, our circumstances have changed dramatically. We were…but now. Things used to be…not now. Our past provides a stark contrast to our present reality. It allows us to fully appreciate just how incredible our new condition really is. From homeless to adopted and loved. From hopeless to mercy-drenched. From debilitating darkness to liberating light. From discarded to chosen. From sinner to priest.

Like the people of Israel, we have been called by God to make a difference in the world in which we live. “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7 ESV). The Jews, God’s chosen people in the Old Testament, were to have been a light for the nations. They were to act as lights to the blind and to provide freedom to those living in captivity to sin. But they failed. Instead, they chose to live like the nations around them. Rather than having an influence on the world, they became infected by it. Instead of modeling godliness, they mirrored worldliness. And we risk doing the same thing. If we lose sight of what we used to be and stop being amazed at what God has made it possible for us to become, we will lose our influence.

We can never afford to forget that we are God’s people, and as His people we are obligated to live like who we are. We are to abstain from the passions of the flesh, or as the New Living Translation puts it, we are to “keep away from worldly desires.” Our conduct among the lost of this world is to be honorable. The Greek word Peter uses is καλός (kalos) and it means, “commendable, admirable, morally good” (G2570 – kalos (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon. Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). The lost should be able to look at our lives and see something dramatically different about the way we conduct ourselves. In this passage, Peter echoes the words of Jesus Himself from His Sermon on the Mount: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV).

Our conduct should be in keeping with our new character. We are members of a chosen race. We are priests. We are part of a holy nation. We belong to God. We live in the light. We have enjoyed the mercies of God. And Paul sums up just exactly what those mercies entail when he writes, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son … And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30 ESV). We have been showered with the mercy of God. As a result, we should long to live in such a way that our lives reflect our new God-given nature. We need to be who we are. We need to live out what we have become. Our actions should reflect our attitude that we are new creations who enjoy a new relationship with God and the transforming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

1 Samuel 1-2, Romans 3

The Sinfulness of Man.

1 Samuel 1-2, Romans 3

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. – Romans 3:10-12 ESV

The Old Testament is brutally raw in how it depicts the sinfulness of man. It does not attempt to sugar coat the facts, but presents life exactly as it was, uncensored and painfully unflattering. Even the Jews, having been chosen by God and given His law, could not seem to live in faithfulness and obedience to His commands. Their incessant failure to remain faithful to God is chronicled throughout the pages of the Old Testament. Take Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, the priest of Israel. These two young men also served as priests, but the writer of 1 Samuel describes them as “worthless men” who “did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12 ESV). They were using their position as priests of God for personal gain and to satisfy their own perverse desires. “Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt” (1 Samuel 2:17 ESV). These two men glaringly illustrate the truth found in Psalm 14:1-3 and quoted by Paul in Romans 3:10-12: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” This passage is not saying that man is incapable of doing good, because we see in 1 Samuel 3 the actions of Hannah are obviously good and righteous. She makes a vow to God and keeps it. She dedicated her son to God and followed through on her commitment. But there are no actions that man may perform that will ever earn him salvation. Even on our best day, our attempts at righteousness fall woefully short. The prophet Isaiah put it this way: “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Paul makes it clear that God gave the law to the people of Israel in order to reveal their sinfulness. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law come knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20 ESV). The law required perfect obedience and adherence. James wrote concerning the law: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10 ESV). In other words, God’s law required perfection. And so it regularly revealed to men their shortcomings. No one was capable of measuring up to God’s righteous standards. The story of Hophne and Phinehas shows us just how bad things had gotten during the days before Israel had a king. Even the priesthood had become corrupt. They were immoral and unfaithful, showing more concern for their own personal pleasure than they did for God and His law. This vivid portrayal of the sinfulness of man provides a stark backdrop onto which will be displayed the coming of the Son of God in the New Testament. God will clearly show that man’s sin was so great and his need for a source of salvation outside of himself was so necessary, that when Jesus appears on the scene, men should have flocked to His presence, begging Him to save them. Because as Paul wrote, “the whole world may be hold accountable to God” (Romans 3:19 ESV). Paul makes it clear that being made right with God is possible, but only through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross. “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25 ESV). In the end, God would remain just in His treatment of man’s sin. He would be perfectly within His divine rights to punish the sins of mankind. But the good news is that God is also the justifier. By sending His Son to die for the sins of man, He is able to declare “sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:26 NLT). Jesus became the only man to live in perfect obedience to the law of God, keeping each and every one of them and remaining sinless in the process. And His sinlessness made Him an acceptable sacrifice or payment for the sins of mankind.

What does this passage reveal about man?

It would be easy to demonize Hophne and Phinehas. In our own self-righteousness, we could condemn them for their blatantly sinful behavior and wonder how they could have gone so bad so fast. But as the old saying goes, “But for the grace of God go I.” All of us are capable of the same degree of sins as these two young men. Their story is there to remind us of our own capacity to sin against God. One of the saddest statements of all of Scripture is the one used to describe them: “They did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12 ESV). Here were two sons of the priest of Israel, who were priests themselves and as such, offered daily sacrifices before the God of Israel. But they did not know the Lord. This does not mean they had no idea who God was, but that they didn’t understand just how serious God was about His commands. They treated God’s law flippantly and with disdain. The NET Bible translates verse 12 this way: “They did not recognize the Lord’s authority.” They saw God’s laws as optional, obeying their own sinful desires and passions instead. And that is a risk we all face. When we disobey God it is as if we don’t even know Him. As Paul said, “The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2 ESV), but they failed to obey those oracles. They regularly refused to do what they knew to be the non-negotiable laws of God. And in doing so, they lived no differently than the Gentiles who didn’t know God at all. In fact, their guilt was even greater.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

My sin is real. At one time it separated me from a relationship with God. And there was nothing I could do to earn favor with Him. I was incapable of living my life in a way that would satisfy the righteous expectations of a holy God. And while I may not have committed sins of the same caliber as Hophne and Phinehas, my guilt was just as great. And yet, God justified me “by his grace as a gift” (Romans 3:24 ESV). And all it required of me was faith in Jesus Christ as my sin substitute. I simply had to recognize my sin and my need for a Savior. I needed something or someone outside of myself to make it possible for me to be made right with God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-25 ESV).

Father, I have no problem recognizing my own sinfulness. I even acknowledge that there are days when I live as if I don’t even know you, just as Hophne and Phinehas did. I willingly ignore Your will for my life, disobeying or sometimes just ignoring Your Word. But You provided payment for my sin. You purchased my life out of slavery to sin and made it possible for me to escape the death sentence I was under. Now you see me through the righteousness of Your Son. My sins are forgiven. My future is secure. But continue to help me live in keeping with the change that has taken place in my life. May I never forget my sinfulness, but always lean on the righteousness of Christ, because apart from Him, all of my works are like filthy rags. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Titus 3

Good Works In Light of God’s Grace.

Titus 3

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. – Titus 3:8 ESV

This entire letter to Titus has been focused on the behavior of believers. Paul wanted Titus to understand the vital importance of Christian conduct both inside and outside the local church fellowship. In the final chapter section of his letter, he told Titus to “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone” (Titus 3:1-2 NLT). Paul believed that Christians should make the best citizens. Our internal heart transformation, made possible by Christ’s death and the Holy Spirit’s presence, should result in external behavior modification. Believers should be willfully submissive and focused on doing good works. They should be courteous, gentle and humble in their interactions with others – both inside and outside of the church.

So much of what should motivate us is the grace and mercy we received from God. A believer should never assume an air of superiority or spiritual arrogance. The thought, “but for the grace of God, go I” should constantly be on the mind of the Christ-follower. Paul reminds Titus, “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other” (Titus 3:3 NLT). While we should fully appreciate out status as sons and daughters of God, we should never forget the reality of our condition prior to coming to Christ. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave a long list of all those who would not inherit the Kingdom of God: “those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT). But before the Corinthian believers could smugly smile and look down their noses at those kinds of people, he reminded them, “some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT). Our pre-conversion condition should be easy for us to remember, because we see it all around us, in the lives of those with whom we live and interact. The lost world is a constant reminder of our former lost state. At one time, we were no better than them. In fact, Paul reminds us that God “saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5 NLT). Mercy, not merit, was the basis for our salvation. So God’s grace should motivate us to live graciously among those who have yet to hear and accept the Good News of God’s love. We enjoy a right standing with God because of the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We also stand to inherit eternal life, rather than eternal condemnation. The reality of those two statements should motivate us live godly lives among the ungodly. Our behavior should be radically different than that of the lost among whom we live. God’s good grace should motivate good works among His people that will prove beneficial to all – both saved and lost alike.

Our presence on this earth is intended to be effectual and infecting. We are to be difference makers. God has called us to be salt and light, agents of change in a world of decay and darkness. And our greatest influence will not be through words, but actions. Jesus Himself told us, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT). The Gospel professed and proven is far more powerful than the Gospel merely proclaimed. Changed lives are the greatest proof of the Gospel’s life-changing power. Christ-like conduct among Christ-followers will always be the strongest evidence for our conversion. Our Spirit-empowered transformation should result is a transfiguration of our conduct and character, resulting in a radically different relationship with the world in which we live.

Father, sometimes it is far easier to talk about our salvation than it is to live it out. We can brag about our life change, but fail to model it for those with whom we live. Make our salvation real. Make our conversion tangible, resulting in true behavior change. May our lives be marked by good works that are motivated by Your good grace revealed in our lives through the gift of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Titus 1

Character Counts.

Titus 1

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. – Titus 1:9 NLT

Like Timothy, Titus was one of Paul’s protégés. He was a Greek Gentile whom Paul had evidently led to Christ. This young man had actually accompanied Paul on several of his missionary journeys and had gained the great apostle’s trust, so that Paul was confident in sending him out on his own on numerous occasions as his representative. In fact, Paul had sent him to the island of Crete in order to help establish some sense of order within the churches there, including appointing elders to help him lead. “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5 NLT). As in the case of Timothy, Paul had to instruct Titus how to deal with false teachers who had become a real problem within the fledgling churches on Crete.

Titus found himself ministering in a place where the reputation of the inhabitants was far from stellar. Paul even quoted Epimenides, a 6th Century BC philosopher and religious prophet who happened to be a Cretan himself. He said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12 NLT). Paul went out of his way to paint a less-than-flattering picture of the people of Crete. He described them as  “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party” (Titus 1:10 NLT). Evidently, not only were the false teachers men of poor repute, so were some of the members of the local churches in Crete. So Paul spent a great deal of time in his letter talking about good works. He wanted Titus to understand just how important good character and moral behavior should be to the life of every believer. Paul commanded Titus to deal harshly and firmly with those whose lives were marked by laziness and lying. He didn’t want his young disciple to tolerate the disorder and chaos these kinds of people were bringing into the church. He told Titus to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13 NLT). Rebuking and restoration were both to be a part of Titus’ ministry on Crete.

One of the first things Titus was to concentrate on was the appointment of elders for the local churches on Crete. Part of the problem of disorder was based on a lack of qualified leadership. So Paul told Titus what to look for in the kind of men needed to help lead the churches there. Notice that Paul’s description has much to do with character and says little about Scripture knowledge, academic requirements, business success, or even leadership skills. Instead, Paul mentions qualities and characteristics that would have been visible to all those who knew these men. Titus was to look for the outward evidence of an inward transformation that had taken place in the lives of these men due to their relationship with Christ and their knowledge of the Word of God. Each of them were to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sounddoctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9 NLT). In other words, they had to know the truth of the Gospel and the realities regarding God and His redemptive plan for man if they were going to be able to refute falsehood and defend the Good News from attack.

But the real point Paul seems to be making is the contrast of character between these future leaders and those who were doing harm to the church. Those who would lead the church had to be men who were above reproach or blameless. This didn’t mean that they had to be perfect or sinless. The Greek word Paul used referred to the fact that these men were to have no glaring character flaws and they didn’t live their lives in such a way that it would cause people to point their fingers in criticism, resulting in harm to the reputation of the church. They were to be loving husbands who didn’t have reputations for unfaithfulness. They were to be fathers who had proven themselves capable leaders at home, having seen their children come to faith in Christ and who were modeling lives of moral integrity and obedience. Paul went on to say that an elder candidate “must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain” (Titus 1:7 NLT). Instead, he was to be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8 NLT).

Titus was going to need help in dealing with the disorder and negative moral influences within the churches on Crete. He couldn’t handle it on his own. So Paul emphasized the need for him to find the right kind of men to lovingly lead the flock of God, providing much-needed discipline and modeling the character of Christ to all those around them.

Father, the church needs men of character today. We desperately need those whose lives are marked by moral integrity and faithfulness to help lead and protect Your flock. We are surrounded by those who would love to destroy and distract Your people, and far too often those within the church lack the spiritual maturity to care for themselves. So we ask that You would raise up men and women who are filled with Your Spirit and firmly founded on Your Word to lead Your church. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 21c

What Really Pleases God?

“The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.” – Proverbs 21:3 NLT

A lot of us spend a lot of time trying to keep God pleased. We somehow think that He’s like a divine Santa Clause. He’s making a list, and checking it twice; gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. So if we want to keep Him happy, we better get busy doing nice things. And that can translate into everything from having a quiet time to memorizing Scripture, doing acts of service, going to a Bible study or on a short-term mission trip, or even giving money to the church. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things. They are good and proper things for us to do as believers, but when we turn them into actions that we believe will earn us brownie points with God, we miss the point. When we make them into personal sacrifices we offer on behalf of God in the hopes that He will notice and reward us favorably, they lose their meaning and we lose our focus.

King David understood this concept very well. He wrote, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:16-17 NLT). While God had commanded the people of Israel to offer sacrifices, what He was really looking for was the heart behind the sacrifice. Jesus had harsh words for the religious leaders in His day. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law — justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides!” (Matthew 23:23-24 NLT). These men we adept at keeping the law, of making the proper sacrifices, but they had missed the point. Their hearts were not right. They were skilled at keeping the letter of the law, but were oblivious to the real point behind the law: justice, mercy and faith. It wasn’t supposed to be about their ability to keep laws, but about the motivation of their hearts. They were doing what they were doing out of a sense of self-righteousness and in the hopes that what they did was somehow earning them points with God. But as we read in Proverbs, God is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer Him sacrifices. God is more focused on our hearts than our efforts. In the verse right before this one, Solomon writes, “People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. God is able to see our inner motivation. He knows when we are doing what we are doing out of some sense of duty or simply in the hopes of keeping God pleased with us.

Over in the book of Micah, we read these sobering words: “No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NLT). God’s desire is that our outer efforts be motivated by an inward transformation that He alone can bring about. As we submit to His authority over our lives and listen to the Holy Spirit’s direction, we begin to understand what it is that God would have us do. We begin to desire what He desires, love what He loves, and see the world as He sees it. We learn to walk in humility, not pride. We understand that our best efforts are never enough to earn points with God. He doesn’t need our sacrifices. He simply wants our hearts. And as He changes our hearts, we begin to do what is just and right. We act in ways that are in keeping with His heart and in accordance with His will. And He is pleased.

Father, I want to do what is right and just, not out of some sense of duty, but because my heart is being transformed to reflect Your heart. I want to love what You love and desire what You desire. Please continue to complete Your work in me, and help me get out of the way. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org