Good deeds don’t make the nightly news. When a person serves or is nice to others, it rarely goes beyond the circle of occurrence. That’s OK, because Jesus urges us, “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before me, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mat. 6:1).
That probably wasn’t a problem for Titus, since the Cretans weren’t renowned for doing good deeds. In fact, a Cretan prophet said of his fellow-citizens, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Ti. 1:12). How would you like to live in a neighborhood or work on your job with such charming people as that? Paul calls them lying, wild, evil animals and slaves to their stomachs.
So, Paul spends some significant time in his letter talking about good deeds. There were some on Crete, particularly Jews, who by their deeds denied God and were “worthless for any good deed” (1:16). Thus, he urges Titus to show himself a pattern of good deeds (2:7). These deeds were not to earn salvation (3:5), but instead to please God. Notice how Paul emphasizes deeds in this letter.
Good Deeds Show The Right Example (2:7). I heard about a pair of identical twins. One was a preacher and the other was a doctor. It was impossible to tell the two apart. A woman approached one of them and asked, “Are you the one that preaches?” He said, “No, ma’am. I’m the one who practices.” Paul tells Titus to show himself a pattern of good deeds in three areas: (1) Through sound teaching, (2) Through a serious life, and (3) Through his speech.
Good Deeds Show Where Our Passions Lie (2:14). Christ wants us zealous for good deeds. Wrongly directed zeal is destructive. The Jewish zealots of the first-century helped bring about the demise of Jerusalem. But, a zealot with the right cause and conduct is powerful! If we appreciate that we’ve been redeemed from every lawless deed (13), we’ll be zealous for good deeds. It should be natural for us, when saved from our sins, to be passionate about it to the point that our lives boil over with gratitude! That shows up in good deeds.
Good Deeds Show Our Faith In God (3:8). Paul urges Titus to share with all believers the need to be ready for every good deed (3:1). What will motivate us to do these good deeds? God’s mercy (3:5)! What will this motivate us to do? Share the good news (3:7-8). The world walks by sight and not by faith. Our challenge is to rise above that disbelief and show by our deeds our faith in the God who saved us from our sins! Our challenge is also to rise above the strife and division of those who profess to believe but whose lives yield evil deeds (3:9-11). Doing good is broad and takes in the whole will of God for us, being all He wants us to be in marriage, parenting, the church, our neighborhood, the workplace, the nation, and in our relationships (cf. Titus 2). What will our good behavior in all these relationships tell others? Simply, that God is the guide of our lives and we put our trust in Him.
Good Deeds Meet Pressing Needs (3:14). Paul ends the letter by mentioning four Christians by name. The last two, Zenas and Apollos, would need financial help. Paul’s encouragement in Titus 3:14 seems directly related to this need. Whether it’s supporting missionaries or weekly giving, we are God’s hands on earth to help the needy when we give.
The old adage is true. “Actions speak louder than words.” Paul writes of some who profess to know God, but in works deny Him. What a reminder that the Lord will not say, “Well said,” but “well done!” Dorcas was a woman “full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36). The woman with the Alabaster box did what she could (Mark 14:8). What about us? What will be said about our deeds?
I spoke with our newspaper deliveryman this morning, and he had some story to tell. He summarized his experience as the longest 15 hours of his life. He got stuck once and had been towed twice. He delivers his newspapers in a 2014 Toyota Camry, a front-wheel drive vehicle fighting against 10-12 inches of snow in a thousand cul-de-sacs. Surprisingly cheerful, he was plodding on until finishing his task—delivering The Denver Post to every customer on his route. That, my friend, is dedication!
As a former subscriber to the Rocky Mountain News and current subscriber to the Post, I cannot describe his product as “good news.” With the internet competing, the newspaper is far from the exclusive or timeliest source of news. That notwithstanding, this man is determined to get out the news.
The gospel is, by definition, “good news.” Without a doubt, it is the most important and timeliest news of all time and eternity. Every person needs to be exposed to it as it contains information that will impact where they will spend their forever. God has given the job to you and me and every Christian in this nation and around the globe. Every day, we see people and relate to people on their everlasting journey. They may or may not be oblivious to their need, but we are well aware of it.
Are we determined to get out the news? The first century church was. In bad times (Acts 8:4) or in good times (Acts 2:47), the news went near and far. Paul described it as news which had reached every creature under heaven (Col. 1:23). Christ commissioned that the news be spread to that extent (Lk. 24:44ff). The challenge is great today, with over seven billion people on the earth. But we have more resources than they did, and there are more of us, too. The difference, then, may be the level of our determination. Until we are determined to let nothing stop us from getting out the news, darkness will eclipse light and our challenge will grow. Let’s let nothing stop us from sharing the great salvation of Jesus to everyone we meet.
Being a Rockies’ fan has its ups and downs—historically, there have been more downs than ups, I’m afraid. Being no-hit last night by Dodger’s pitcher Clayton Kershaw was pretty low! While it was only the third time in franchise history that no Rockies’ hitter got a hit in an official baseball game, there was a particular pain to the “no no” last night. Kershaw was picked by the Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 Major League Draft. That means he was available when the Rockies used the second overall pick to take right-hander Greg Reynolds out of Stanford University (via http://www.baseball-reference.com). While Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher baseball has seen this generation, Reynolds is duking it out in Japan’s professional baseball league with the Saitama Seibu Lions. So far, he’s notched a very mortal 6-11 record in America’s professional baseball league. He’s 0-5 with a 5.52 ERA with the Lions (bis.npb.org.jp).
This is not intended to be a rip on Greg Reynolds or even Colorado’s front office, though the local fan base may like to see it. Nor is it simply an opportunity to vent frustration against our local diamond dwellers. It is, however, a great illustration of something that can happen elsewhere in life. Reynolds was selected so high in the draft because of potential, a record of achievement he had compiled to that point, and certain tools and traits that seemed to scouts and organizational brass like a “can’t miss” opportunity.
How often are we reminded that superior intellect, physical strength, charisma and charm, and abundant material resources alone are insufficient? Whole nations like Edom, Canaan, Egypt, and even Israel learned this in the Old Testament. Individuals with such potential, whether Samson or Saul or the Rich Young Ruler, prove that performance is the ultimate measurement over potential. “Almost” is an unsatisfactory and incomplete idea, as is nearly, close, and “could have been.” The graveyard is littered with stories of those who did not parlay potential into performance. History’s pages portray so many figures who flirted with greatness without getting there.
The stakes are different for us. It’s not millions of dollars, All-Star status, or the Hall of Fame (or even being able to stick on a Major League roster). Intentions are insufficient. Action is all-important. When we are thinking about God’s commands and considering that eternity is at stake, we must have more than tools and talents. We must, simply, do (Mat. 7:21; Luke 6:46).
You may be thinking that the title is presumptuous, opinionated, and even out of line. Let me disclaim what follows by asserting that God does not hate all shorts. He does, however, hate the following types of shorts.
GOD HATES SHORTCUTS. At least, He hates humanly devised shortcuts for which He has given no authorization. Man has devised shortcuts to salvation that cut out divine commands. He has made shortcuts in ethics and morality to justify and rationalize behavior God condemns. We should examine such “shortcuts” carefully to make sure they are not detours off of the narrow way.
GOD HATES SHORTCHANGES. In Malachi 3:8-10, God condemns His people for “robbing Him” in their giving. They did not give with appropriate gratitude and generosity. Those who fail to put Him first (cf. Matt. 6:33) are shortchanging God of the time, talents, resources, and service He deserves.
GOD HATES SHORTSIGHTEDNESS. When we make decisions based on instant gratification or immediate benefits without giving thought to longterm implications, we often make a mess of our lives. This is true of church plans, the person we choose to marry, unbiblical changes to the church and teaching to attract the unchurched, and the like. Certainly, one can be too deliberate and methodical to the point of lethargy and apathy. Yet, neither is it proper to leap before adequately looking.
GOD HATES SHORTCOMINGS. God’s hatred for sin is so great that He sent Christ to the cross as payment for it. Sin is falling short of God’s mark. The sobering thing is that all of us come short of God’s glory as the result of our sin (Rom. 3:23). The great news is that while God hates shortcomings, He deeply loves shortcomers. That’s also why He sent Jesus to die for us.
God hates these shorts, but He has provided an alternative regarding all of them. By full and trusting obedience, we avoid shortcuts. By recognizing our debt and feeling heartfelt gratitude to God for paying it, we avoid shortchanging Him. By growing in wisdom and Christlikeness, we avoid shortsightedness. By walking in the light as children of God, we avoid the eternal ramifications of our shortcomings. That’s because God loves us!
While so many in religion and even the media latch onto sensational tales of traveling to the “other side” and coming back with stories about heaven (they do not ordinarily wind up going the other direction), these individuals often claim (necessarily without proof) to have seen or heard things from God, Christ, and other heavenly inhabitants. Sadly, much of what they claim to have experienced is at odds with or even contradicts what God communicated to us through His Word. Despite the high-drama and mystical tales, these undoubtedly sincere folks are right about something incredibly important. Heaven IS for real!
The Bible describes it (Rev. 21-22). Jesus is preparing it (John 14:1-4). The Father lives there (Mat. 5:16; etc.). Those who travel the “narrow road” (Mat. 7:13-14) and are faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10) are going to be allowed to dwell there forever (cf. Ps. 23:6; Mat. 25:46; 1 Th. 4:13ff). The Bible communicates that it is a place reserved for those who believe and obey the will of God (2 Th. 1:5ff). It is not for those who refuse to submit to His authority (Gal. 5:19-21; etc.).
Heaven is described as a place where treasure is (Luke 18:22). It is described as a place where our citizenship can be (Phi. 3:20). It is a place where our hope can be laid up (Col. 1:5). It is a place where our name can be reserved (Heb. 12:23). It is a place where we can have an inheritance (1 Pe. 1:4). It is a place described as that which will be new (Rev. 21:1).
I suppose it is human nature for us to want to have blanks filled in and details more fully supplied. That’s why claims of going to heaven and back have long captivated people. Perhaps it strikes the chords of our hearts and imagination more than words, howbeit Divine words, on a page. Yet, those words produce living hope to those who are staking everything on the truth of those words (1 Pe. 1:3). They are neither fairy tales nor wisps of wishes. God has given us enough to know, as we measure the claims alongside His providence and answered prayers, that His Word can be trusted. We don’t have the full picture yet, but we know it will be more glorious and joyous than we are able to understand in this body confined by time. Thank God that Heaven really is for real!
In the spirit of our ancient, spiritual forebears, Peter and John, even in the face of social pressure, political correctness, and even governmental legislation, letting all laws and mandates be condemned which violate or transgress His Law, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Ac. 5:29). For that reason, however cultures and civilizations change or regress, we will continue to believe and teach what the Bible says about marriage. Believing that God’s people must stand with Him, however hard, we believe:
“He who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Mat. 19:4).
“A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Mat. 19:5).
“Because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband” (1 Co. 7:2).
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Co. 6:19).
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Mat. 19:9).
“For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man” (Rom. 7:2-3).
“For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously” (Mal. 2:16).
“For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Rom. 1:26-27).
We will not and cannot make laws where Christ has not, but neither can we loose or nullify that which He has bound. Whether such a position makes us mainstream or fringe, accepted or rejected, we cannot alter the book meant to alter us. Whereas the Bible is the mind of God revealed to us (cf. 2 Ti. 3:16-17), we will humbly yield to Him and it no matter the cost.