Tag Archives: Good Works

The Most Counterintuitive Truth in the Bible

I had a delightful lunch today with dear friends from our church who have become significantly involved with an underprivileged family in the area. Just listening to them describe their work in the home of this family was absolutely joyous. It made me think of the starfish story:

One day a man was walking along a beach on which literally thousands of starfish had been “marooned” by the surf. He spied a little boy who was walking along and picking up the starfish one by one and tossing them back in the sea. Realizing the futility of the boy’s work, he came up to the lad and said, “Young man, it’s a nice idea what you are doing in saving a few starfish, but you realize – I hope – that ultimately it won’t matter.” The boy was listening, but his attention was not diverted from his task, and as he picked up another starfish and flung it into the sea, he said, “It matters to that one.”

With that in mind, some years ago I decided to read Paul’s letter to Titus every day for a month. This can be a great way to meditate on a passage of Scripture, and it works especially well with shorter books and letters. Anyway, I remember one truth in particular that emerged from this extended meditation: Paul wanted Titus to help the people of Crete do “good works”. The phrase shows up a total of 6 times in what is a relatively short letter – more times than any other letter that Paul wrote

Unbelievers in Crete are unfit for any “good work” (1:16). Titus is to be a model of “good works” (2:7). Jesus saved us so that we would be zealous for “good works” (2:14). And so on.

But how do you move people to live this way? How do you encourage people to do good works? How can parents move their children to live in this way? And how can a pastor (like me or Titus) lead and preach so that the lifestyle of the couple I had lunch with becomes commonplace across the congregation?

Well, Paul gives Titus the answer to “producing” good works in chapter 3:

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)

Paul tells Titus to insist on something – it is the saying that he has just referred to in the previous verses. Take a look – this is what Paul wants Titus to “insist” on so that the people in the church on Crete will devote themselves to good works:

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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7 (ESV)

So, do you see? In order to move people to devote themselves to good works, you must insist on the truth that they are not saved…by good works…but by God’s grace in Christ. It is perhaps the most counterintuitive idea in the Bible, but it is the most wonderful and freeing idea also.

We call it the gospel.

For tomorrow, Tuesday, September 15th: Philemon


Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


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A Trade You Must Make To Get Into Heaven

Priest is a blessing to the faithful

(A loose and modern-day paraphrase of Philippians 3:4 – 9)

“Years ago, I had my confidence in all the wrong places. I assumed that I could know God and go to heaven on the basis of what I had done. For instance, I was extremely religious. It came naturally. My grandfather was a deacon and my father was too. My parents baptized me right after I was born and took me to church every Sunday. In fact, we never ever missed. Ever.

“Yes, even as a young person, I was very ‘into’ God. I prayed every day…I read the Bible…I almost never sinned.  Almost.

“But then I came to understand the impossibly high standard to get into heaven: PERFECTION – God required that there be no sin whatsoever in His presence. And I knew I had a momentous choice to make. I could make plans to present my personal record of ‘righteousness’ to God on Judgment Day, which, though it was pretty good, still had a few holes.

“Or I could make a trade. I could give up all my own so called ‘holiness’, my prayers and church attendance and all around nice-guy behavior, counting it all worthless so that I could grasp the righteousness of Another.

“So…I did it! I gave it all up. Every last good deed. I began to consider all my so-called goodness as totally useless, so that by faith I might count Christ’s perfect record as my own. And glory to God, He was as good as His word…and made me fit for heaven. Hallelujah!”

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. Philippians 3:8-9 (ESV)

For tomorrow: Friday, August 7th: Philippians 4

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Posted by on August 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


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