Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 13 September 2022:
1 Samuel 18:1 — As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
Jonathan desperately sought the friendship of someone as fully committed to God as he. True friendship is united in the purpose of serving God wholeheartedly. Finding a friend who is like-minded with you in their faith is difficult; a friend like that is a great treasure. Marriage should be such a friendship.
1 Samuel 18:8, 9 — “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.
Envy is highly destructive, divisive, and sinful. It was the envy of religious leaders that incited the mobs to seek the crucifixion of Jesus – “For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.” (Matthew 27:18) Envy is hating someone because God gave them something He didn’t give you. So, in reality, envy is a direct offense against God, the giver of gifts. When you envy others, you set yourself against God.
1 Samuel 18:8, 9 – And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.
Comparisons between people test the character of those being compared because of the temptation to please others rather than to please God and because of the temptation to pursue accomplishments rather than heart change. Reputation is what people say about you. Character is what God says about you. The two are always different.
1 Samuel 18:12 — Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.
People will fear you if you are a Spirit-filled Christian. The power of God in your life may threaten others.
- 1 Samuel 18:14 – And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him.
Success comes from God. Sinful people may appear successful for a time, but it is a house of cards.
1 Samuel 18:15 – And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him.
“Jealousy is a destructive attitude that poisons the way you view life. It is so harmful that God condemned coveting in two of the Ten Commandments. King Saul was a jealous and insecure man. He had been elevated to the highest position in Israel. He had been blessed in numerous ways. But Saul saw that David was gaining the attention and praise of the Israelites. The Israelites recognized Saul’s accomplishments, but they also praised David, whom God was using to accomplish even more (1 Sam. 18:7). Rather than rejoicing that God had empowered another to defeat their enemies, Saul became murderously jealous and sought to destroy David.
Jealousy is an abomination in the life of a Christian. God has made us His children. None of us deserves to be God’s child, so there is no need to compare our blessings with those of other children of God. Jealousy is self-centeredness at its worst. Jealousy robs us of joy and chokes out contentment. Jealousy hardens the heart and stifles gratitude. Jealousy assumes that God’s resources are too limited for Him to bless another and still bless us.
Saul grew so preoccupied with his jealousy toward David that he neglected important things, bringing suffering and pain upon his people. Because of his jealousy, Saul’s family was destroyed.
Watch over your heart! If you find yourself unable to rejoice in the success of others, beware! Do not let jealousy taint your heart. Repent before it robs you of any more of the joy and contentment God desires for you. When you are tempted to compare your success in life to that of another, ask God to remind you of all the ways He has blessed you undeservedly.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
1 Samuel 18:25 — Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
Enemies may use what appears to be blessings and gifts in an attempt to undermine you. Be wary of negotiations with unbelievers.
Titus 3:1 – Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work….
God commands us to obey the government.
Titus 3:2 – …to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
We are not allowed to speak poorly of anyone but must show humility towards ALL, regardless of how much they deserve it.
“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…. 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. 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 3:2-11) Those who are guided by the Spirit see things from a spiritual perspective and view others from that spiritual perspective, rather than the way everyone else sees things. Understanding the realities of the spiritual condition of those who are trapped in sin, particularly from our position of having been freed from sin by grace through Jesus, we can only respond to sinners with “gentle… perfect courtesy.” Those “Christians” who quarrel and who are led by their passions are not guided by the Spirit, and we should avoid them.
We must remember that those sinful people who cause so much pain and destruction are deceived and enslaved. Again, what did Jesus say on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Saved by grace, we must bestow grace to all.
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?
Titus 3:9 — But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
Don’t let foolish debates get in the way of Jesus and His Gospel. While everyone else gets wrapped up in national politics and church politics, proclaim Jesus and the word of God which cuts through all the foolishness. Arguments over non-essential, debatable topics outside of the clear Gospel message aren’t likely to bring people closer to God or to each other. We are on a mission of reconciliation which requires gentle perseverance. Read 1 Corinthians 8 where Paul warns us to let our superior knowledge get in the way of love. Paul was dealing with a church where many still believed there were many gods rather that One God. Paul warned those who knew better not to act in ways that would simply drive the immature away from Jesus and back into sin. Never compromise the truth, but don’t present it in a way that can’t people handled by others. Would you feed an infant a steak, and then punish the infant for not eating it?
Titus 3:10, 11 — 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.
Avoid the divisive person who is not a reconciler. Our mission is clear, the mission of reconciliation, not division. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19) There is no reconciliation among people unless there is first reconciliation with Jesus. Our aim is not the proclamation of “diversity” but rather the proclamation of “university” – the combination of two words: unity and diversity. God created us to be part of a universe – many different people, serving different roles in different ways, united in Jesus to fulfill the purpose of God, glorifying Him that His will be done “on earth as it is in Heaven.” Read John 17, Jesus’ last recorded prayer before the Cross – his prayer is that we would be one with God and, therefore, with each other. Apart from God, there can be no unity, and diversity isn’t a strength but rather a divider. While everyone else is proclaiming diversity, proclaim university – unity in our diversity through unity with Jesus.
Titus 3:14 – And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.
God calls us to work in order to take care of our daily needs and to help others, not to build personal empires. Living in and with excess only robs you of your peace and joy while denying others what they need. Living in excess is a sin; make no mistake about that.
Titus 3:15 — Grace be with you all.
Paul ends his letter with a reminder of the grace we have received. Keeping that in perspective today and everyday will help you live out Titus 3:1-9. Seek to see every moment through the reality of the Cross.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 September 2022: 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.