God’s Love

Two things are true of those who find God’s forgiveness and restoration, they recognize their sinful unworthiness, and they recognize God’s goodness and loving kindness.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 33-35; Titus 3

“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!’ Jeremiah 33:11b

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… Titus 3:3-5a

Jeremiah’s prophecy is peppered with indictments for Judah’s persistent rebellion against God, His Law, and His prophets. But these lists of failures are also accompanied by reassurances that God will ultimately restore the people He has chosen for Himself. They will be blessed and they will be filled with praise and thanks to the Lord.

Paul wrote to Titus who had the unenviable task of organizing and teaching the congregation in Crete, a society known for being “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” Indeed, Paul identifies himself with a list of vices and character flaws that rivals that of the infamous Cretans. He says he and others who have now been saved could be described as “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” It is not a flattering resume, to say the least.

Then God intervened. Everything changed. God the Savior came with His goodness and loving kindness and saved Paul and all upon whom He set His love.

Many, like me, will agree that the more we know of God and of ourselves the more amazed we are of the goodness and loving kindness of the Lord. Words cannot describe the relief of sins forgiven, of salvation assured, of adoption as God’s son, and of purpose and calling to serve God. Days spent in malice and envy are now filled with gratefulness and service. No, none who know Him would claim to be sinless or perfect, far from it. But it is all of God’s grace and He will complete what He has begun.

Be sure you know the goodness and loving kindness of God who saves. If you do, lift up His praises today in all you do.

Good Attitudes about Good Works

God demonstrates that good works must be done with the right attitudes of delight and enthusiasm, not begrudgingly or resentfully, and He commands that we also do the same.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 31-32; Titus 2

40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. Jeremiah 32:40-41

13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:13-14

Jeremiah had a message from God that gave hope and perspective for the people of Judah in the midst of imminent captivity. God promised to restore them to their land, no matter how far He scattered them. Their disobedience had brought His anger and wrath. They deserved His punishment. But His commitment to them could not be terminated. He would do a new thing and bring them back and establish them. They would have His word in their hearts in that day. They would be stable in their faith and obedience. He would give them a new covenant to replace the old one they had so miserably disregarded. But God would not just do His people good. He would rejoice to do them good. He promised to plant them in the land “with all [His] heart and all [His] soul.”

That promised new covenant was brought about by the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul had met Christ in a dramatic way and spent the rest of his life proclaiming the good news of salvation through Him. He wrote to Titus to remind him that God’s people were redeemed from lawlessness so that they would belong to God and be “zealous for good works.”

It is not enough to merely do the right thing if that action is not accompanied by a correct attitude. Seek to do good and to do it with a God-honoring spirit.

What and Whom to Avoid

Today’s reading: 2 Timothy 4:9-Philemon 25

My selection: Titus 3:9-11

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.

My reflections: Paul warned both Timothy and Titus about avoiding foolish controversies and here he warns Titus also to avoid divisive people.  Jesus taught His disciples how to handle sin in the church (Matthew 18:15ff), which in extreme cases of resistance to correction should result in excommunication.

Pastors and elders must know not only what to do but what not to do.  There are many distractions such as controversial issues, stirred up weekly on blogs and social media, that have no merit. There are people who are bent on dividing congregations, often by criticizing the pastor (see 2 Corinthians 10-13).  Paul said, basically, “do not suffer fools gladly.”  According to Jesus (in the Matthew passage cited), there were to be two warnings and then, if there is no response, you administer excommunication and have no further contact with the person until or unless there is clear evidence of repentance.

My challenge: If you are a pastor, are you avoiding the distractions of foolish controversies that are unprofitable and worthless? Beware of being distracted by the latest novel theological idea floating around in cyberspace.  Do you and your elders deal decisively with people who attempt to divide or distract the congregation?  If you are a church member, are you a source of unity or of division in the congregation?  Beware of seeking to show your intelligence by stirring up debates on worthless topics.

Pray that your role in the body of Christ will always be one of promoting the truth of the gospel and the unity of the saints.

Tomorrow’s reading: Hebrews 1:1-6:12