July 26, 2022
“I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable...”
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“I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels and disputes about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning, knowing that such a person is perverted and sins, being self-condemned.” Titus 3:8b-11
Much of my “early believer” experience revolved around avoidance. By avoidance, I mean all my energy was focused on not sinning. I didn’t fully understand God’s grace, so I thought He was always keeping score with me. All I could think about was how my sin was displeasing God and storing up some kind of punishment. I became disenchanted as a young believer, and I wondered where a believer’s “abundant life” was.
You may ask, “What’s wrong with NOT sinning?” Nothing at all. My problem was that I considered “not sinning” as the ultimate goal of a Christian. It took a while before I learned that morality was not the goal of my faith; it is simply the byproduct of it. I shouldn’t have to focus the majority of my attention on avoidance if Jesus has truly given me the power to live abundantly.
After a Christian friend shared this idea with me, my efforts shifted from “not offending God” by avoiding sin, to “pleasing God” by doing good. By focusing my energy on pleasing God, I worried less about offending Him. From this vantage point, we naturally avoid sin, plus we also avoid the guilt of sinning. Perhaps, this all sounds like semantics, but these are very different mindsets.
In today’s passage, Paul instructs Titus that those who have believed in God should be careful to devote themselves to good works. More than simply avoiding sin, we must discipline ourselves to replace sinful behavior with that which honors God and reflects our inner transformation. Our behavior is always the outworking of an internal heart condition. It is the same with properly motivated good works. If we have been genuinely transformed by Jesus, our desire to please Him should override the fear of offending Him.
In sports, there is a saying: The best defense is a good offense. People with an “avoidance” or “spiritually defensive” mindset are generally legalistic and judgmental towards anyone who doesn’t adhere to their legalism. They love to draw others into lengthy debates concerning the rules of avoidance.
Paul instructs that we should “avoid” such debates on avoidance! The best way to refute false religion is to know the Bible and to live within the parameters that God has set up. Don’t add to or take away from His requirements and freedom. Put simply: A God-honoring life is the best apologetic, for which we need no apology.
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