I know some wonderfully “good” people whose lives make me exclaim, “Thank you, Lord” each time they come to mind. They are not famous, have not written best-sellers, and are not making a big splash in the world. Solid people, they show up for life every day. They care for others with more than words, doing what they can to make the world of which they are a part a bit better. Paul says that as they move through life spreading goodness they are the “fragrance of Jesus.” You know you can count on that type of person, don’t you? You never have to worry if they are ready to love you today and will forget your name tomorrow. They are good folk!
In his letter to Titus, Paul urged him to teach the people under his spiritual care to connect their faith to life making sure that their behavior reflected what they claimed to believe. Key to the third chapter of that letter is a phrase urging people to ‘be good.’ Three times in 15 verses it shows up. “Remind the people … to be ready to do whatever is good … those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. … Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” (Titus 3:14, NIV) The goodness of this letter is not moral purity, though that is important. The Word calls them (and us) to leave a positive impression, our hands and hearts engaged with others for real benefit.
A life of goodness is prime evidence of the reality of the truth of Jesus Christ. A person who can say all the right things about doctrine but who is without a good heart is, in James’ word, a cloud without water! They blow over leaving nothing of value! Paul makes it very clear that this kind of ‘goodness’ is not natural. His view of human nature is dark. “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back.” (Titus 3:3, The Message) Ouch! So what makes the difference?
We got saved!
“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. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7, NIV) Much more than resolved to be marginally better, entirely different than attempting anger management, even beyond getting religion – we are saved; yes pulled out of the hopeless place of enslavement to Self so that we can serve the Living God. We are reborn, as it were, passing through the waters of baptism and emerging to a whole new life, energized by the Spirit of God living in us.
I am somewhat nostalgic for the old days of the ‘altar’ in church. Time was that people felt the stirring of the Spirit and often with tears made their way to the front of the church, falling on their knees, broken by the conviction of God and arising hopeful because they knew that Someone had lifted their burden, broke the power of their old ways, and given them a fresh start. Yes, they got ‘saved.’
Salvation is still God’s offer. We do not find it through extensive counseling, through training in church doctrine or history, or by becoming better adjusted to life. We must encounter the Living God, humble ourselves before the Savior, and accept – by faith- the offer of being made right by the grace of God.
Paul warns Titus about people who mistakenly think that “religion” is the same as salvation. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, … But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3:9, NIV)
Are you saved? It will show – in a new life that is good!
Take this word from the Word to heart. Invite Christ to take you captive, to save you from sin, to spread the goodness of God through you into this world. “But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NLT)
Build Your Kingdom Here
Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your church
We need Your pow’r in us
We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captives’ hearts released
The hurt the sick the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause
We are Your church
We pray revive this earth
Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here we pray
Unleash Your kingdom’s pow’r
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church
We are the hope on earth
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