Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 7 September 21:
Titus 3:5 – “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…. so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.”
Today, Paul’s letter to Titus echoes his writings to the church in Ephesus, reminding us of two things: 1) First, we are not saved by our good deeds or our own self-righteousness, but rather we are saved by God’s loving grace through faith in Jesus Christ because God loves us despite our unrighteous and sent His Son to pay for our sins on the Cross so we could have reconciliation with God and eternal life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:8-10) 2) Second, in light of God’s amazing grace, we should “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Believers must “be careful to devote themselves to good works.” We were not saved by our good works; we were saved for good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to fulfill – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Good works are not the means of salvation but rather the product and evidence of salvation, and as James says, “faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26) Good works done with the right heart (selflessly rather than pridefully) are how we fulfill God’s commandment of love through labors of love — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Good works are the fruit of faith, enabled by the Holy Spirit –
- Galatians 5:16-26 — But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Jesus says —
- John 15:4, 5, 8-12, 16-17 — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
In his letter to Titus, Paul coaches us on the practical application of good works, the fruit of faith in daily living – “Be submissive to rulers and authorities… be obedient… be ready for every good work… speak evil of no one… avoid quarreling… be gentle, and… show perfect courtesy toward all people…. avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless…. Grace be with you all.” (Titus 3:1, 2, 9, 15) Paul encourages the reader not to lose perspective when dealing with offensive 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… 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.” (Titus 3:3-6) Saved by grace, not by our merit, we should be compelled and are obligated to respond to others only with grace. Abiding in the love of Christ, we can only respond to others in love, and serving as ambassadors of Christ, our message to others can only be His message of reconciliation with God through Him.
Our good works are the natural product of our salvation, the manifestation of love, and the fruit of the Spirit within us. They testify to the truth of the Gospel in our lives, but they also demonstrate God’s common grace to all people as we meet the tangible needs of those around us – “These things are excellent and profitable for people.” (Titus 3:8) Paul concludes his letter to Titus with, “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14) God calls us to love others through our labors of love, regardless of whether or not they deserve it, because serving unconditionally is the tangible display of God’s grace, the grace upon which your salvation rests. Are you still amazed by grace? Does your behavior demonstrate it? What do you words and deeds reveal to those around you about your God?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 September 21: Today, devote yourself to good works, labors of genuine love, and meet the urgent needs of others to God’s glory. While you are serving others today, tell them about Jesus.