Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: doing good

My truck taught me how to share

I had a pickup truck when I was younger.  I used it to haul my stuff to college, help others move their large bulky items, and I and loved driving it around.  But after about a year and a half, I totaled it when I lost control on some black ice.  Ever since then, I’ve wanted to get another one…but we were not in a financial position to make that happen.

After we purchased our first house, there were times we just needed a truck – whether it was to get rid of stuff, to bring home a large item purchase, needing to haul away annual yard waste, loading up firewood every fall, or whatever.  We did the best we could with what we had – clearing out the seats in the back of my wife’s minivan or sometimes renting a U-Haul.  Eventually, however, a good friend offered me the use of his truck whenever we needed it.

I gladly took him up on his offer.  So several times a year, over the course of nearly 10 years, we would car-swap for a day and I would be able to take care of the task at hand.  My friend was generous like this whenever I would ask, simply willing to share what he had and help us out. 

Of course, I would heap thanks upon him and return the truck with a full gas tank…but I would always look forward to the day when I would (hopefully) have a truck of my own.  My friend was a perfect example of what the author of Hebrews encouraged his readers to do:

Hebrews 13:16
Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.


As the recipient of my friend’s constant generosity, I understood the first half of the verse quite well.  I reaped the benefit of his willingness to do good to others and to share the resources he had.

However, I had no understanding of the second half of the verse.

As far as I knew, he was only sacrificing his time when he didn’t have the truck readily available.  But my perspective changed recently – when we were finally able to purchase our own truck.

While we were in the process of evaluating vehicles and shopping around for the best deal, I told many friends that I would be more than willing to help others out.  I wanted to follow my friend’s example.  I wanted to share what God has given us and do what is good to those around me. 

Shortly after we made the purchase, another friend asked if he could borrow the truck to pick up a couch someone was giving him.  I told him, “Sure, I will gladly come with you and help you haul the couch.”  However, he said that between him and his wife, they didn’t need the extra set of hands.  They just needed a way to transport the item.  It was in that split second I understood what the word sacrifice meant in this case – I was being asked to give up something I loved, to put total control in the hands of another.  Temporarily give up, sure…but I had no guarantee of what would happen, and I would not be there to prevent anything bad from happening…

I did my best to keep a straight face and not betray the flash of conflict I was experiencing while my friend and I made arrangements for when he could come get the truck.  I’ll even admit to being slightly panged when they drove away, but God had already begun to teach me the value of loosely holding on to the things He gives me and that He is pleased when we act like Him.

When we keep all the things we have close to us or hoard the money God has entrusted to us, our entire worldview becomes very self-centered.  And, of course, when we are constantly looking at ourselves, we’re not looking toward God.

What, then, is the best remedy for our selfishness?

Hebrews 13:16
Don’t neglect to do good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.


Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Will evildoers get away with it?

Other people sure can drive me crazy sometimes.  I am usually able to forgive a one-off type of mistake, but, in all honesty, those who habitually and knowingly do what’s wrong really irritate me.  Why do I find their behavior so agitating?  Maybe it’s their blatant selfishness…maybe it’s their ‘luck’ at avoiding consequences for their actions…maybe it’s the harm their actions can cause to others…perhaps it’s all of those, or even something else.  The bottom line, though, is that I find their repetitive evil behavior both vexing and frustrating.

If you can identify with me, we can take some solace in that this is not a new issue.  No matter how many times the news blames the Millennials or the GenXers, the problem of evil people “getting away with it” has been a human condition for quite some time.

In fact, some 3,000 years ago David was dealing with the same issue.  However, instead of simply lamenting the problem, he had a fix for it.

Psalm 37:1-3
Do not be agitated by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.
For they wither quickly like grass
and wilt like tender green plants.

Trust in the Lord and do what is good;
dwell in the land and live securely.

David’s answer is to look past the immediate problem with the evildoer.  Instead, he encourages taking the long-view.  The long-view is looking at life from God’s perspective.  Although someone’s selfish actions are bothersome now – and it looks like they’re getting away with it – in the grand scheme of things, their time is very brief.

They may look strong for the moment, but they will wither quickly…and wilt like weak plantlings.  David says that our focus shouldn’t be all wrapped up in what the wicked are doing; instead, we should be focused on what we are doing before the Lord.

Interestingly, verse 3 could also be translated like this:

Trust in the Lord and do what is good;
dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

This play on words reinforces David’s long-view perspective.  He’s contrasting the short-term thinking of the evildoer with the long-term approach of those who look to the Lord

It takes time to cultivate something, but it especially takes time to develop faithfulness.  Remember too that at this time in Israel’s history, they were living in the land God had promised to Abraham’s descendants.  They were where God wanted them to be.  No matter what they saw or how they felt about what was going on around them, God knew exactly where they were.  They hadn’t been forgotten – even if other people were acting like God wasn’t paying attention to their actions.

So, whenever we find ourselves getting all twisted up over the state of world or the selfish choices other people make, we need to stop fussing and take the long-view.  Our responsibility isn’t to fix them.  Instead we are to trust in the Lord, do what is good, and live faithfully where God has us.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Laying the foundation

I’ve been fascinated by harmonicas for a while now.  Listening to people who can pull a harmonica out of their pocket and just jam away on some jazzy, country, or bluesy music has made me want to do so as well.  I never acted on that desire, until recently.  And I learned something rather important – playing the harmonica isn’t super easy.  In fact, some parts of it are rather difficult.

The first skill to learn is to blow and draw single-hole notes clearly.  Makes sense to start there, but that’s easier said than done.  And my lips got sore/tired after about 10 minutes of squeaking around, so I had to wait until the next day to try again.  Day two wasn’t any better.  Neither was day three.  It took me months of work before I could play a scale without messing it up (and mess ups still happen, occasionally). 

The next skill to learn is to move around the harmonica, playing notes out of order so that I play a recognizable tune.  More work, and still not easy.  I’m much better at it now, after another couple of months, and I can now get about 80-90% of “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain” on a consistent basis.

On the horizon is a skill called ‘bending’.  It’s being able to change notes using the same hole by changing the position of your tongue and throat.  The video instructor I’m following called the practice time of learning this skill the ‘dark hours’ of learning to play.  He warned that it will take some time, and that it takes some people longer than others to figure out how to consistently bend notes.  His tone and cautiously chosen words were a little unsettling…but he did reassure that this skill is the gateway to learning all the jazzy, country, and bluesy jam session stuff that I really want to play.  If I don’t spend this time grinding through the ‘dark hours’, then I will be unable to play the harmonica to its full potential.  I’ll miss out on what I’m capable of because I won’t have the foundation I need to play like that.  But who knows how long it’s going to take for me to get this part figured out…

We’ve been looking at a passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy, who is overseeing the church in the melting-pot metropolis of Ephesus.  While being poor has its own challenges (and Paul addressed some of them earlier in this letter), Timothy also needed to instruct the wealthy members of the church how to handle their finances in a way that is productive and honors God. 

If we modern-day, American believers widen our lens to include the rest of the world, we quickly see that we too fit Paul’s definition of those who are rich.  With our smart phones, cable TV, and cars, in addition to our air conditioning, clean water, and indoor plumbing…It’s hard to argue that we’re “not that rich”.  Here are the things Paul says we need to learn:

1 Timothy 6:17-19
Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. 

Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.

Being others-focused like this does not come naturally, though.  We’re ok saying polite things and throwing a little money in the offering plate at church.  But we know that if we’re going to really do what God is asking of us here – do goodbe rich in good worksbe generousbe willing to share – that is asking for a change in us at a deeper level.  We’re going to have to take on our deep-seeded attitudes about ‘my time’ and ‘my money’.

And that wrestling match is hard.  When we finally step out and try to follow God’s instructions here, we find that we’re not very good at it.  It’s more uncomfortable that we want it to be.  We struggle with questions like ‘How will I know when I should help someone financially vs when it would be unwise to offer money?’ and ‘What does be generous really mean for my level of income?’ and ‘If I give and share when I really don’t want to, does that “count”?  Does God still consider my actions to be “good”, or should I skip giving until don’t feel any resentment about it?’.

Wrestling though these kinds of questions will be some dark hours.  We might be ok with being generous today, but lose the fight tomorrow.  We will want to throw in the towel and go back to just being nice (and comfortable).  We’ll get to the point where we can handle our wealth 80-90% of the time, and then lapse back into a selfish attitude. 

But it will be worth it in the end, He says.  Our work now, when it’s hard, is laying a good foundation for the age to come.  Learning how to be wealthy AND others-focused is the gateway to being able to partner with God in Eternity Future.  Without this practice time, we won’t be able to fully do the things we were made to do. 

I can’t answer your ‘dark hour’ wrestling questions, but God can.  My advice (for you and me) is to keep practicing.  Let’s trust God in this and take hold of life that is real.  Eternity future awaits.  Let’s make sure we’re prepared to partner with God and fully enjoy it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Passing the torch

We won’t get to accomplish everything we want to do in this life.  There will be activities and achievements which will escape our grasp.  Sometimes we will be held back by our own decisions, for better or worse.  And yet other times, it will be God’s choice that the task should be handed off to someone else.

As David was nearing the end of his life, he looked at his beautiful palace and lavish amenities.  David compared his living situation to the tabernacle of the Lord, which was still in the same tent-configuration that Moses had commissioned during Israel’s travels through the desert before entering the Promised Land.  David wanted to rectify this gross discrepancy.  He desired to honor the Lord with a proper place of worship, with a design that expressed the greatness of the Lord.

Although David desired to do a good thing, God didn’t want him to do it.  Instead, that project would be given to his successor.

1 Chronicles 22:6-10
Then he summoned his son Solomon and instructed him to build a house for the Lord God of Israel.  “My son,” David said to Solomon, “It was in my heart to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, but the word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and waged great wars.  You are not to build a house for My name because you have shed so much blood on the ground before Me. 

But a son will be born to you; he will be a man of rest.  I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies, for his name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign.  He is the one who will build a house for My name.  He will be My son, and I will be his father.  I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ ”

David desired to do a good thing for God and he was called “A man after God’s own heart”…but he was still told “No.”  That had to have stung.  David could have stopped his desire right there, thrown up his hands, and basically told his young protégé “Good luck with that.  Apparently God says that it’s your job, not mine.” 

Instead, he takes the time to encourage Solomon:

1 Chronicles 22:11-13
“Now, my son, may the Lord be with you, and may you succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as He said about you.  Above all, may the Lord give you insight and understanding when He puts you in charge of Israel so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.  Then you will succeed if you carefully follow the statutes and ordinances the Lord commanded Moses for Israel.  Be strong and courageous.  Don’t be afraid or discouraged.”

But David didn’t give Solomon only instruction and well wishes.  He also gave Solomon a massive head start in gathering materials and resources for this significant task:

1 Chronicles 22:14-16
“Notice I have taken great pains to provide for the house of the Lord – 3,775 tons of gold, 37,750 tons of silver, and bronze and iron that can’t be weighed because there is so much of it.  I have also provided timber and stone, but you will need to add more to them.  You also have many workers: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and people skilled in every kind of work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron – beyond number.  Now begin the work, and may the Lord be with you.”

David couldn’t do what he wanted to do for God, because God had designated that accomplishment for someone else.  Instead of sulking or giving up on his desire, David trusted God’s plan and wisely rerouted his energies into mentoring and assisting his protégé.

One of the ways God keeps a mentor’s ego in check is to tell him or her “No.”  We need to exercise trust and humility when those moments come.  If we desire to do a good thing, but God prevents us from doing so, then we can trust that God has something greater in mind.

When our mentor hands us a significant task or ministry, we also need to exercise trust and humility.  We may even believe that our mentor is better suited for the work than we are.  However, when God signals that it’s time to pass the torch, we must trust His timing and go for it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

God's part and God's path

Sometimes, our relationship with God feels very one-sided, like it’s all on us to figure out what God desires in our lives.

We go through the motions of life, doing what we would claim is our “best”, and we figure that if lightning doesn’t strike, we must be doing alright in God’s eyes.  We generally want to make good choices, we’d like to have more than a friendly bond with God; but when it comes to actually developing these skills…most of us think we’ll eventually figure it out as we go through life’s circumstances.

The author of Psalm 119 wanted those same things, but he also knew the best way to pursue them.

As much as the psalmist wanted to the do the right thing, and make the wise choices…as much as he desired a relationship with the One whose judgments and decisions are always good…as much as he wanted to enjoy the quality of life that comes only from knowing the Lord intimately…

The psalmist knew one thing for sure, one thing that he understood at a deeper level…deeper than his desires – he recognized that he can’t have that direction, that relationship, that life…unless the Lord shows him how.

As you read this section of Psalm 119, look for the psalmist’s dependency on God.  What does he need God to do?  What is God’s part in this relationship?

Psalm 119:33-40
Teach me, Lord, the meaning of Your statutes, and I will always keep them.
Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart.
Help me stay on the path of Your commands, for I take pleasure in it.
Turn my heart to Your decrees and not to material gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways.
Confirm what You said to Your servant, for it produces reverence for You.
Turn away the disgrace I dread; indeed, Your judgments are good.
How I long for Your precepts!  Give me life through Your righteousness.

The psalmist is open and bare before the Lord.  There is no false bravado here, and he makes no attempt to hide his deficiencies.  The psalmist knows that he cannot live the life that God made him for unless God tells him how it’s done. 

The beauty of it all is that after honestly recognizing this, and admitting it to the Lord, he is willing to do whatever the Lord asks, to walk in whatever path the Lord directs him to follow. 

How often do we admit our weakness to the Lord?  Sure we might ask for a little “help” with one struggle or another…almost as if we believe that we’ll probably make it there eventually on our own, but it sure would be nice if God gave us a little boost right now…you know, if he could just speed up this maturity process a little bit, we’d appreciate it.

Instead, we should follow the psalmist’s example of admitting that we are completely helpless unless God shows us His path.  In each verse of this section, the psalmist recognized the necessity of God’s active intervention into his life.  Until we admit our inability to figure out God’s ways on our own, we won’t be able to completely follow the path He has laid out for us in His Scriptures.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Listening and Doing

Titus 3:14-15 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.  Everyone with me sends you greetings.  Greet those who love us in the faith.  Grace be with you all.

Paul ends his letter with a similar personal touch that began the letter with.  He deeply cares for his young protégée Titus, and Paul wants him to know that there is love and support from other believers for the Cretan church.

Interestingly enough, the final you in the last sentence, Grace be with you all, is plural.  While Paul obviously desires that the Cretans would consciously live within God’s grace, the plural here seems to indicate that this letter was to be read to the entire Cretan congregation.  Having the letter read aloud was normal for Paul’s letters that were sent to an entire church; however, Paul also expects that his personal letter to Titus would be shared with the general church audience.

Hearing the Scriptures has a different effect on us than simply reading the Scriptures.  I encourage you to try this exercise – read Paul’s entire letter to Titus out loud.  It will take less than 10 minutes and, based upon what we’ve learned by studying this text, think about what topics or ideas jump out at you when you hear the letter read aloud.  Make a note of those observations and talk to God about them.

A second exercise to try – which may be even better than the first – would be to have someone else read Titus to you.  Don’t follow along in the text.  Just listen.  Hearing someone else convey the Scriptures while we intently listen puts us into the sandals of the letter’s first recipients.  Having the letter read to us also gives us the chance to learn something new, as the reader may emphasize the words in the text in ways that we normally wouldn’t when we simply read it in our minds.

If you try either of the exercises (and I hope you try both), you’ll certainly encounter Paul’s major theme that we’ve seen throughout the letter – namely that God’s people should purposely focus on doing good.  Eight times in the forty-six verses, Paul brings up the topic of doing good.  That’s a lot of emphasis within such a short letter, but that was the Cretan believers’ next step.  Based upon their new relationship with God, which is due to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, the Cretan believers were to actively pursue becoming change-agents for good within the corrupt society around them.

Here is a rundown of Paul’s direct mentionings of doing good:

1:8 Church leaders should be one who loves what is good
1:16 False teachers are unfit for doing anything good
2:3 Older women are to teach what is good to the younger women
2:7 For the young men, Titus is to set an example by doing what is good
2:14 Jesus redeemed us from sin so that we would be eager to do what is good
3:1 All believers are to be ready to do whatever is good
3:8 Knowing the salvation message helps believers to devote themselves to doing what is good
3:14 Believers must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good

Now that we’ve finished our look into Paul’s letter to Titus, we have a question to consider:

Will I choose to act like the Cretan I was before I met Jesus, or will I devote myself to living the life that he rescued me for?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Learning to do good

As Paul closes his letter to Titus, he has one last instruction:

Titus 3:13-14 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.  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.

God doesn’t give instructions or directions in the Bible as mere talking points, rather the truths we encounter are meant to be lived out in daily lives.  However, Paul also recognizes that doing what is good isn’t as simple as “always doing it” or “always not doing it”.  Notice that he tells Titus “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good”.  We must learn to be devoted to doing good in every situation.  Making these truths a lifestyle will take some time to be developed…but it is certainly achievable.

To help the Cretan believers get started on the path to making a habit of doing good, Paul ends the letter by giving the believers an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned.  That is Paul’s point here…now that you’ve been instructed in these things, the next step is to put these things into practice.

Looking at the words Paul chooses helps the Cretans see how much he wants them to take advantage of this opportunity.  The phrase do everything you can means to do something earnestly, zealously, or with special urgency.  The first step in any process is always the hardest; it is the step we are most timid about taking.  The success or failure that occurs with the first step typically sets a tone for the success of a project.  As such, Paul wants the Cretans to make a special effort to make their first step a good one.

Helping Zenas and Apollos would have been an easy first step for the Cretan believers.  They would get an opportunity to help spread the gospel to other regions, and as a result, the missionaries would be able to continue their journey with fresh supplies.  This opportunity created a win-win situation for both the givers and those receiving.

When we support missionaries, we are supporting their ability to fulfill their calling of spreading the gospel…but we’re also developing the characteristics that God wants to grow in us.  Giving is a great opportunity for us to learn how to do what is good.  It mimics God’s generosity toward us, and anytime we imitate our Creator, we are productively fulfilling the purpose of our lives.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Remember to remember

Paul has spent a large amount of his letter giving instructions about how a believer’s life should look.  Our lives are to be an out-pouring of our relationship with our Savior.  Paul repeatedly instructs Titus to focus on doing good, and he provides suggestions on how the Cretans should be doing good as well:

Titus 3:1-2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

This is certainly not an easy list, especially the last one.  Humility is a difficult character trait to develop around the people we love and like…but to demonstrate it toward all men?

To show true humility would be to intentionally put others’ interests ahead of our own, to manifest our care of others in a gentle manner, with meekness.  Meekness means to have a person’s strengths be fully under their control.  A tamed stallion remains just as strong when he was wild; however, now that he is tamed, his meekness allows his strength to be put to good use.  When we show true humility toward all men, we are taking control of our strengths and desires, using them for the betterment of the people around us.

While that sounds all well and good…what immediately comes to mind is that people are generally selfish, rude, uninterested in spiritual matters, suspicious, and focused on all the wants/needs of this life.

And Paul doesn’t disagree with that assessment, either.

Titus 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

I love how Paul says “we” – that at one time we too were foolish.  Paul is including himself with these non-Jewish Cretans when he describes just how bad off they all were in their sinful lives.  Paul wants them to remember that at one point, the Cretan believers were outsiders too!

Our tendency to get wrapped up in “Christian living” has the ability to isolate us from those outside of the faith.  I’ve heard it said that it takes a new Christian about 3 years to completely remove from their lives all non-essential interactions with non-Christians.  We believers tend to form a holy huddle and do “Christian” things with only “Christian” people.  

This is a terrible habit, and Paul wants the Cretan believers to avoid this kind of behavior.  By having them act in humility toward all men and by bringing up their common background, Paul’s message to the new Cretan church is simple – Don’t forget where you came from.

We used to be in the same mess that non-believers find themselves in now.  And when we didn’t deserve it, at a time that we were completely self-absorbed, Jesus acted in true humility toward all men.   Jesus took control of his strengths and desires, and put our needs above his needs, for the betterment of all people.

It becomes easier to reenact humility toward others when we remember that it was extended to us first, even when we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Encouragement to do good

We have been walking through one the most clear and concise explanations in the entire Bible of what the Christian life is all about.  With that said, it is beneficial for us to step back and read Paul’s statement in its entirety.  Read slowly, and let these words resonate:

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Statements like these are worth committing to memory.  I highly encourage you to do so.  In times of trouble, or even in those moments waiting for the stoplight to turn green, being able to remind ourselves of God’s plan can breathe life back into us.

Paul also wanted Titus to remind the Cretan believers of these things:

Titus 2:15 These, then, are the things you should teach.  Encourage and rebuke with all authority.  Do not let anyone despise you.

The root word for encourage means to call, invite, or summon…but the strength of the call depends on the one who is making the call.  Friends invite, Kings summon.  As a representative for the Apostle Paul, Titus would be in a position to greatly encourage and exhort the Cretan believers to live in a way that reflects their faith in Christ.  They would need encouragement and correction to live differently from their past, a life that would be different from the cultural around them.  Paul instructs Titus to use the authority he has to spur the people on to do what is good.

Paul ends this section of the letter detailing some practical ways that the Cretans could live the lives God has called them to:

Titus 3:1-2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

Once again, we see Paul’s emphasis to Titus – to have the Cretan believers focus on doing good.  That is where they will be challenged by the surrounding culture, but that is exactly the area where are going to grow. 

God has done good towards us, even when we did not deserve it.  Now it is up to the Cretan believers to mimic God to their countrymen.  It will be challenging to do so…but it is the hard things that make us grow up and mature.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Hello, my name is Titus

Although we don’t know exactly when Paul began working with Titus, the two had a significant partnership in spreading the gospel.  They were the first century’s polar opposites – Paul was a circumcised Jew, while Titus was an uncircumcised Greek.  In Galatians, we read that Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to discuss the inclusion of non-Jews in the Christian church.  In 2 Corinthians, we find out that Titus was Paul’s letter-bearer for both letters to the Corinthian church.  He was also in charge of collecting the money that the church in Corinth had raised for the church in Jerusalem.  Paul refers to Titus as my partner and fellow worker among you (2 Corinthians 8:23) and as my true son in our common faith (Titus 1:4).

Late in his life, Paul gave Titus a difficult solo mission – to the island of Crete.  The locals had a deserving reputation for being “liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons”…hence the derogatory name of “Cretan” that is still around today. They had a horrible reputation for cheating in business deals.  They were looked down on by nearly all Mediterranean people. They were “those people” that you didn’t want to be around or be associated with.  And yet these are the people that Paul and Titus brought the gospel to.

However, Paul didn’t stick around long.  Instead, he left Titus behind to work with all the new Christians on the island of Crete.  This was a huge job, so Paul sent a letter of encouragement and instruction.  The new Cretan believers would be surrounded by a culture that would drag them back to their old way of life, so Paul instructed Titus to “Encourage and rebuke with all authority.(Titus 2:15) 

Paul’s instructions throughout the letter give us a great inside-out look at what God expects of his church while we wait for Christ’s promised return.  Chapter 1 covers what characteristics a church leader is expected to have; Chapter 2 discuss what life topics are most applicable for different groups within the church; and Chapter 3 talks about the church’s relationship with outsiders.

Paul’s concern is for the choices that these new believers are making in light of their new relationship with Jesus.  Several times he mentions that they should be doing what is good as a result of their new identity in Christ, as seen at the end of the letter:

Titus 3:14 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.

The Greek word for unproductive refers to being unfruitful or generally useless.  Now that the Cretans have been saved from an utterly ruining eternity, where they are separated from God – the last thing these Christians need to be doing is idly wasting their new life!

There will be a lot in this short letter that challenges us, and we will be faced with the constant question of Will I choose to act like the Cretan I was before I met Jesus, or will I devote myself to living the life that he rescued me for?

Keep Pressing,
Ken