The Power of Good Works
Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Sunday October 23rd, 2016
Pastor Paul L. Davis
Key Goals: (Know) To understand the power of good works. (Feel) To realize the transformational power of good works. (Do) To look for opportunities to do good.
Introduction: We are in the middle of a political season like I have never seen in my lifetime. Every day I turn on the news and there is another political scandal. What is a believer to do? Who do we vote for? How do we make an impact? We are in a series called “The Growth Factor,” exploring the book of Titus and looking for elements essential to spiritual growth both as a church and as individuals. Our passage this morning is going to bridge the gap between spiritual growth and spiritual impact. Open your Bibles to Titus 3 and let’s read the passage together.
1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
8 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.
9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
We need to begin with verse 8 because the apostle Paul wants Titus, his protégé sent to Crete, to “insist” on some things. Literally, he wants Titus to promote the teachings in this passage forcefully. Today’s message is not just a sermon. If we are going to study this passage the way it is intended, we need to realize that the material is not a suggestion, recommendation, or even good advice; these are marching orders. Verse 8 says, 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. What are our marching orders? That we who believe in God may be careful to devote ourselves to good works. The idea is for believers to be constantly thinking about how they can engage in good works which are excellent and profitable for people.
Background: Why is Paul pushing Titus so hard on this? Let’s remember for a moment to whom and where Paul is writing. He is writing to a pastor who lives and teaches in Crete. We know the reputation of Cretans—they were known for being rough morally. During this time period, Crete was controlled by the Romans; they had their hands full as the Cretans were fiercely independent. The only thing that Romans hated more than rebellious colonies like Crete were religious sects that refused to worship the emperor, like Christians. So imagine the reputation of these little churches. Christians were seen as rebellious subversive sects bent on undermining Rome, and in some ways they were right. The Christians refused to worship the emperor. They met weekly in secret private meetings. Christians would help the sick and dying during plagues when Rome demanded quarantines. Christians followed and worshipped Jesus who was viewed by Rome as an executed criminal. As Christianity grew, the leaders of Rome were wondering what should be done with these Christians.
Bringing it Forward: As I look at our world today, we are in a similar place. Our culture does not know what to do with committed Christ followers. We don’t believe in gay marriage, but we proclaim Christ’s love for the people who hate us for it. We oppose abortion, but we build crisis pregnancy centers for women in crisis pregnancies. We speak against lawlessness when it comes to borders, but if a hungry refugee came to our door we would feed him. These kinds of actions are seriously politically incorrect. Christianity has always been a little subversive because our allegiance is to Christ first! We love and follow Jesus with all of our hearts and we submit our lives first and foremost to the authority of Scripture. Paul’s instruction to Titus is simple: because of our allegiance to Christ, believers will always be viewed as subversive—but we can overwhelm that reputation by constantly engaging in good works, becoming light in the darkness. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14–16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Growth factor #6: churches and individuals who grow are continually looking to engage in good works. How does Paul teach Titus to do this? Look back at verse 1. Paul begins by laying out the lifestyle of a church or person who is thinking about “good works.” Paul is giving Titus glimpses of how people who are light act:
1. They are submissive. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient… As we study Scripture we will find that blind, unquestioning obedience to the state in opposition to God’s law is never required (Acts 5:29). But Christians are “to be subject” (that reflects attitude) and “to be obedient” (actions) to the government that God has placed over us. Submission does not mean “pushover” it means we are, as much as is possible, to be positively and actively engaged with our authorities. This is why Calvary prays for our leaders every Memorial Day.
2. They are ready. …to be ready for every good work… The Greek word ready has the idea of “making ready” and “being ready.” Good works are not an afterthought. If the church wants to grow and flourish, she must to be prepared for opportunities to do good. There is a lady in our church who keeps a frozen meal in her freezer “just in case.” She understands this verse and how to be ready for every good work.
3. They are courteous. …to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. I want us to catch this, especially in the age of social media. A key part of being “light” or doing good works is watching our tongues. Look at verse 2, speak evil of no one. That includes our parents, our exes, our former bosses, our spouse, and it also includes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If this verse is a verse about anything, it reveals to us how believers are to engage in political dialogue with the world. Before we post anything on social media, it should pass the Titus 3:2 test.
Will this post harm someone’s reputation?
Will this post start a quarrel?
Is this post gentle?
Is this post perfectly courteous toward all people?
4. They are humble. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. One of the key reasons that believers need to be so courteous and gentle, especially when we are dealing with unbelievers, is because we were once there. We must not forget that without the grace of God we would be right where they are, and in fact we used to be right where they are. Look at verse 4. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
These are such humbling verses. Jesus appeared and saved us. How can we be arrogant? We were not saved by our works of righteousness; it was Jesus’ mercy that saved us. Look at how God-centered our salvation is as it is described in these verses:
Our Savior appeared
he saved us
not because of anything we had done
according to his mercy
by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit
who Jesus poured out
This verse is a powerful theological reminder that God is at the center of our salvation. We don’t deserve it and we didn’t earn it; in his mercy, God did it all.
The humility expressed in verses like these is so easy to forget when our passions are aroused. We are in a political season where idea is clashing against idea; it is tempting to buy into a worldly agenda driven by our cultural prejudices and the political voices we choose to listen to. When we see political elites tucked up in their ivory towers, we want to shoot them down. It is tempting to allow the world to shape our interactions. If they hurt us, we go after them. If they dredge up dirt and scandal, we will too. Except our allegiance isn’t to a political party. We are Christ’s, saved not by our works but his. We identify with him, and our interactions with the world and any national political party should have Jesus’ fingerprints all over them. We are Christ’s; he has a political action plan that is not of this world.
Look at verse 9 and see how strongly Paul warns Titus to watch how believers interact. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. There is no end to the controversies that believers could argue about. But Paul takes a hard stance as he guides Titus. If a person stirs up division, warn him twice then have nothing to do with him. Why? Because our mission is not to win quarrels, it is to share Christ with a lost world through our love and good works. So we can lose an argument or two and we do not need to fret or worry about the political disaster if one candidate gets elected, specifically because of verse 7: so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Because we are believers we are heirs according to the hope of eternal life. In other words, we have an inheritance waiting for us—an inheritance of eternal life. The promise of eternal life should inform our actions here. It frees us to obey Christ completely because even when the wrong politician takes power, the believer can press on knowing that this world is not our home.
Listen to the writer of Hebrews—he sums up our passage so well. Hebrews 13:14–16 (NLT) For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. 15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
How do we practically engage in good works? Let me leave you with four “Impacting Action Steps”:
- Act submissively. All authority is God-derived. When we obey the laws, we obey God. Let us communicate to the world around us that good citizenship in heaven begins here on earth.
- Think proactively. The old phrase “actions speak louder than words” is still true. If our good works truly are “excellent and profitable” to all people, let them communicate loudly. We need to be thinking and planning ahead. People around us will experience crisis; let’s be ready to help.
- Communicate graciously. Words are still powerful weapons for change, but let’s make sure our words reflect our true allegiance to Christ—that means husbands and wives speaking courteously to one another; it means our political speech must be gracious. How can we lovingly pursue people for Christ while we alienate them with our communication?
- Live hopefully. Your inheritance is not the winner of this next political election. Your inheritance is the riches of knowing your God for all of eternity—streets of gold, gates of pearl and the presence of the very King himself.
So let us press on regardless of what is going on around us, and let them see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. That is how we will make an impact!
© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.