~by Randy Bushey But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy (Titus 3:4,5).
Titus had a monumental challenge. The Apostle Paul dispatched the young man – one of his sons in the faith – to pastor new believers and fledgling churches on the island of Crete.
And the people were pirates.
In addition to piracy, the eastern Mediterranean island was a hub for human trafficking.
Think about Titus’s ministry in the local churches. Every person he encountered had been a pirate, a slave trader, or probably had them somewhere in their family.
The tiny infant Cretan churches were stocked with people were saved out of that shameful history.
And Titus, a young man in whom Paul had great confidence, was sent to bring order to these immature communities of faith.
Paul was insistent that Titus teach sound doctrine, and be a strong personal example.
And Paul demanded that the people demonstrate goodness. Remind them… to be obedient, to be ready for every good work (Titus 3:1).
Sometimes we struggle with that concept. Good works equals righteousness, which is love in action.
When it comes to recognizing good in ourselves, we’re often guilty of a misplaced modesty that belies a misunderstanding of the Gospel.
Do you think, “I really don’t have any righteousness”?
That was not the apostolic Gospel.
Righteousness is character, attitudes and behaviour that are consistent with God’s law and His character.
The Bible teaches that we can never perform to a standard that will impress God, or earn salvation. We are not saved through our good works. And nothing I do will make God love me any more than He already does.
But when a person comes to faith in Christ Jesus, the moral trajectory of their life is radically different. Good works follows salvation. About righteousness in our lives, Bible teacher John Piper reminds us, “Justification by faith alone does not exclude this; it empowers it”.
And so Paul insists, we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Although we must never underestimate the depths of our natural moral depravity, neither should we miscalculate the powerful energy of the Holy Spirit incrementally actualizing the ethical perfection of Christ into our lives.
And, it includes a type of spiritual inoculation against that which disappoints the Lord.
When the Lord analyzes my life – and the life of every believer – He expects to see righteousness!
But, the cynic may ask, aren’t all our righteous acts like filthy rags? (Isaiah 64:6).
When he wrote those well-known words, Isaiah was observing the external, inauthentic religious grand-standing of which the Jewish people of his time were guilty.
And God was repulsed by it! He still is.
It stands as a good reminder that there is – emphatically – no place in the Gospel for self-righteousness.
But the Gospel is good news. It proclaims that not only did the Lord Jesus remove the sin from my account, but I am declared just because His righteousness has been credited, or counted, or deposited into it (Romans 4:1-8).
Good works. Justice. Righteousness. The currency of the Kingdom of God.
Takeaway: Paul demanded that the Cretans of the 1st century – and through them to us in the 21st century – be passionate and zealous in their pursuit of authentic righteousness. If genuine, it will evidence itself in character, attitudes, appetites, and behaviour.
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).
Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…(Matthew 6:33).
~graphic by Stephen Stacey, freeimages.com