“In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds [The Good Life], with purity in doctrine [What to Believe About God], dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach [Living Sensibly].” – Titus 2:7-8a, NASB
In John 17, Jesus prayed that His disciples would not be taken out of this world but that they might be protected from it. He further prayed that the unique way they lived their lives would ultimately point others to Jesus Himself. Paul gives Christians today some great, practical points to do exactly that in his letter to Titus.
Titus 1: What to Believe About God
“Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9)
Doctrine is a common theme throughout the book of Titus. No matter what, we really end up DOING what we actually BELIEVE. Therefore, knowing what to believe about God is foundational to doing the things of God.
Once while hiking in the Dominican Republic, our tour guide started making bird calls that were incredibly realistic. When I asked who taught him how to do that, he replied, “Da birds!” That’s the perfect illustration about the importance of learning from the source. Learning directly from the source makes you most like the source. It maintains purity.
In order to know what to believe about God, you must go to The source. That is, His Word, as recorded in the Bible. And remember, as you discover what to believe about God, all God’s promises are true. Especially when they don’t feel like they are true and especially when you might not want them to actually be true. You can trust Him and His Word, no matter what, and then live your life according to His promises.
“Committing a great truth to memory is admirable; committing it to life is wisdom.” – William A. Ward
Having sound or pure doctrine leads to pure motives, pure words and deeds and a pure conscience, resulting in no doubts and no regrets about our beliefs. But having a mixed doctrine (e.g., “All roads lead to God.”) leads to mixed motives, mixed words and deeds, and a mixed conscience, resulting in doubts and regrets. This is the point of Titus 1:15 and 16.
Titus 2: Living Sensibly
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11-13)
The word “sensible/sensibly” (NASB) or “self-controlled” (NIV) is utilized four (4) times in Titus 2. Must be something to it and there is.
A review of Titus 2:2-10 reveals a list of about 25 traits that define sensible living. Things like having self-restraint, remaining dignified, being sound in faith, love, and perseverance, being respectful, not gossiping, not being addicted to booze, being a positive, hard worker, being kind, careful with words, trustworthy and on and on.
That’s a tall order and smacks of religious duty and striving to be a “good person.” Impossible stuff if you’ve ever tried it for any length of time in your own strength.
This is precisely the beauty and the practical application of the next three verses (Titus 2:11-13 above). You see, we don’t figure out what to believe about God only so we can turn around and go impress Him with our good works because all our good works combined will never be good enough for a 100% pure, perfect and holy God.
The only way to consistently and successfully “live sensibly” is to embrace the grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Grace pardons our past; purifies our present; and purposes our future.
When you truly understand what Christ did for you at the cross, your “religious rigor” becomes “relational respect,” also known throughout the Bible as fear of the Lord. His grace doesn’t make me fight against sinning more. It makes me want to sin less and there’s a big, liberating difference. After all, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” (Galations 5:1)
Just like we would love for the “living sensibly” traits of Titus 2:2-10 to describe our children, the Lord would love for these traits to also describe His children. Understanding and living by the power of His grace makes this both possible and sustainable.
Titus 3: The Good Life
“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14)
The people who truly experience a good, full and fruitful life are those who do good for others. Grace is indeed the foundation for these good works. Grace does not follow good deeds…good deeds follow grace!
There are three (3) pillars supporting good works that are built upon this foundation of grace. They are 1) respect; 2) unity; and 3) diligence.
The first pillar is respect. Notice in Titus 3:1, there is respect for authority. In verse 2, there’s respect for others. In verses 3-6 there’s respect for our past and the fact that we too were once “detestable, and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16b) And finally, in verse 7, there’s respect for what lies ahead. Being respectful of position, people, our past life, and our promise for the future sobers us to live for others and not ourselves in this life.
The second pillar for good works is unity. In Titus 3:9-11, the admonition against a “factious man” is a call to unity. Your good works will not be nearly as effective if they are accompanied by strife, whining, and complaining. Paul calls this stuff “unprofitable and worthless.” And, again in John 17, this is one of Jesus’ last “prayer requests” before the cross that all believers would be one.
The final pillar is diligence. Notice the language used throughout Titus 3: “…that those who believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.” (vs 8); “…diligently help Zenas…” (vs 13); and “Our people must learn to engage in good deeds…” (vs 14). If you wake up every day thinking good works will come naturally, you are wrong. You must be intentional as you go about your day with your “spiritual radar” turned on for others who could use your helping hand.
Here are some practical applications for living the good life:
- Don’t wait until you have enough time, enough money, or enough whatever you think it is you’ll need to do good. Do good today with whatever you have.
- Don’t look for an ROI for doing good in this lifetime. As Believers, we’re not to do business the way the world does business. The Christian’s good works are not part of a quid pro quo arrangement with the Lord or with others.
- Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing, as per the sermon on the Mount. In other words, don’t make a big deal about it when you do good.
- But do tell your story when good was done to you by others. This is the power of a testimony and encourages people while also pointing them to Christ.
Only when you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to love your neighbor as yourself, will you truly be living a good, fruitful life. When people see you living this good life of good works, they might very well think, “You ain’t from ’round here.” And they will be right.