Photo credit to Stephen Ryan Cunningham and Liam.
“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
Devoted to good works. That’s a description of a believer. So what makes a believer any different than any “good” person out there. There are lots of people in the world doing good things. Look at all the organizations that help others like the Red Cross, the United Way, and so many local organizations. Aren’t they trying to do good? But is there a difference?
There is a world of a difference. And it all has to do with what Paul’s trustworthy saying was. I needed to go back and read through all of Titus to see what Paul was saying. And he was busy telling Titus how believers ought to act, what we ought to look like in our actual lives. It’s pretty “anti-normal” or at least it goes against human nature. But here’s the reason why. Here’s what it all boils down to and what makes the difference between the good works of a believer and the “good” works of someone on the outside doing their own good things their own good way.
It all boils down to this. One day, the the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared. Now this is where all true goodness and all true lovingkindness must stem from and originate from. Why? Because this is the epitome of true goodness and true lovingkindness. Jesus came and saved us. And it wasn’t because of any wonderful works we had done, not one of us. Not one of us had done something that would make us worthy of being called right like Him in His eyes. He came and saved us out of His own goodness, out of His own mercy, out of His own lovingkindness.
So what did His work of dying on the cross and rising again do for me and for you? His mercy and lovingkindness offers us the ability to be regenerated. That’s the word “paliggenesia” and it figuratively means to regenerate, but it also literally means to be born again. And think about being born. Being born isn’t something I do. It’s something that is done to me. My mom has a part in it; a very important part. And my dad has a part in it too. But the point is, someone else is bringing me to life or bringing me into existence. I can’t do it on my own. I couldn’t create myself in my mother’s womb and I couldn’t birth myself outside of my mom and dad. So it is with my believing and living in that belief. I must be born of God. He must re-generate me, re-create me, re-birth me as His own.
But I must also be renewed in the Holy Ghost. It’s a two part process. I am saved by Christ, by You, Lord, unto You and into You at that time when I place my trust in You, when I place my all in You, and You re-generate me. You change my “parenthood” and my way of thinking and seeing. You do a real work inside of me by the placement and work of Your Holy Spirit in me. You do it once, forever. But it doesn’t stop there. Then I am continually renewed in the Holy Spirit. It’s the word “anakainosis” and it means that You are continually making me new and different, changing me constantly into something You prefer, something more like You. Romans 12:2 tells me ‘Be ye transformed according to the renewing of your mind’ and 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Our inward man is being renewed day by day.” Colossians 3:10 talks about that renewed me, that “new man” as “the one being renewed unto thorough knowledge according to the image of the one having created him.'” The more I dig into Your word and allow You to work it out in me and I obey, the more I am renewed day by day.
And Paul continues to let us know that this gift was lavished on and over us because You, God, shed this love and work on us abundantly through Jesus, our Savior. Because of Your work, and not our own, we are justified by Your grace and made heirs with You in internal life. And that life starts the minute I enter into Your trust! See, eternal is always, not after death, it’s already started because it always was. Now isn’t that a faithful saying that I can count on? Look at all that You have done for me and I can live in You right now in my everyday life? And I can let the work that You have done in me and are doing shine forth like the noonday sun! Your goodness has been imparted to me! Your goodness lives inside of me! Now, I can be good because now I have the power to be good. Because only God is good and You, the Good One, live in me!
See, before You lived in me, before I placed myself in trust in You, I was like everyone else, “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3) I might have done some good things by worldly standards, but they weren’t God things because Your motivation was missing. I was doing good things for me, not because they flowed from You. My life was all about me.
I was defiled and unbelieving. It’s not even necessarily that I wanted to be that way. But I was. It’s human nature and it’s the way the world teaches us to be. We do it all our own way or the world’s way and our minds don’t even think like You. What we call pure is really totally defiled and rotten. Why? Because it’s not given according to Your measure of love and righteousness and mercy. Your measure is different than man’s measure, and You proved that on the cross. You paid a price for me that You didn’t deserve. You loved me while I was entrenched in my odious sin. You loved me first when I had nothing to offer. I owe You everything.
So what kind of works, good deeds, is Paul calling me to? Well, it’s not what I do that matters as much as why I do it and where it comes from. See, Paul says there are some that say they know You, but when You see what comes forth from their lives, it’s apparant that they are denying You. They are actually doing things that are abominable to You, disgusting to You. They are actually disobeying You, and You reject what they are doing. But Paul is telling me to live my life in such a way that I live what I believe about You. My good works must agree with my doctrine, what I’ve learned of You. The Word and the Work must go hand in hand. Because the Word isn’t just letters and words on a page. You are the Living Word working through me and in me. Is that apparent? Is that what I am doing? Am I letting You do Your work through me? Am I Your instrument, or am I my own instrument? If I’m Your instrument I am pure. If I am my own instrument I am abominable.
I’m not called to do good works aside of You working in me. I am called to shed Your goodness abroad. First, Your goodness must dwell in me. Then You show me and empower me to do that which You call me to. You give me the power to deny that which isn’t of You and that which is solely of the world. You give me the power to live for You in the middle of this ungodly world. I’m always looking to You, always listening to You, always obeying You. Well, at least that ought to be my lifestyle. I’m always waiting on You, hoping in You, running to You. You are making my works and my deeds good. Only You. You, Who gave Yourself for me, that You might redeem me from all sin, and purify unto Yourself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, of God works. Nope, it’s not by me or anything good in me. It’s all according to the powerful mercy You saved me with. It’s all about Your lavish love shed abroad abundantly. And it’s all about surrendering and committing into Your grace, Your person, Your mastery of my life. Yes, this is good and this is profitable. This is a win-win situation. This is a faithful saying. I believe and I will let You work in me. And I will take the greatest joy in my work.