Devoted to service

Learning to do good

Devoted to service
And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.  Titus 3:14, ESV
When we think about what Christians should be doing, a few things come to my mind: praying, worshiping, listening to the Word preached, and serving other people.  I think most people would see the first three as something that has to be learned, while serving other people is something that comes naturally, but is it? 
The letter of Titus is a short and fascinating letter written by the Apostle Paul to one of his proteges, Titus.  Titus had been left by Paul on Crete to finish the work of organizing the fledgling church on the island.  In the letter, Paul provides some instructions with regards to leadership structure, preaching, and discipleship.  At the center of this letter is the wonderful truth that God’s grace has been given to bring salvation to all people.  Paul describes Jesus Christ as the Savior who gave his life on our behalf to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14).  This reality informs us that Jesus died on the cross…to redeem and purify a people who by faith become “his own possession who are zealous for good works.”  So when is the last time you were zealous to do good works?  When was the last time you felt that tug to do something good not because you wanted to feel better about yourself but because you genuinely knew it to be a good thing to do?  
When we ponder the idea of serving others, we usually can come up with a list of good things to do.  I would dare say most people in the world at some point do something good for others, but is this the type of zeal to do good works that Jesus desires from us?  Consider His words:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.  Gospel of Luke 6:27–36, ESV
Let’s be honest, this is neither easy nor natural.  Doing good in the way Jesus desires us to do good is not natural but a part of being a disciple…a learner.  For this reason Paul writes to Titus is his final instructions, “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works.”  It may be natural to do good to people you like or even support, it is not natural to do good to people you can’t stand.  I think this is why people love saying that the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves, it is an excuse.  What’s worse is that the Bible never once teaches that.  What it does teach is that God helps those who cannot help themselves, just read the Psalms.  The very premise of the Gospels is Jesus saves people who cannot save themselves. 
Paul tells Titus the reason that we should teach people to devote themselves to good works is so that they can help in cases of urgent need (those who cannot help themselves) and not be unfruitful.  In other words when we help the helpless we are bearing fruit that comes from The True Vine which is Jesus Christ who while we were still weak, at the right time died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6).  So how do we learn to devote ourselves to good works?  Here are 2 suggestions:
1) Stop saying “I am Christian” and embrace being a disciple…this means humbling ourselves to admit that we are not as fully devoted to Jesus as we should be and that we can never stop drawing closer to Him this side of the grave.

2) Ask God to provide ways to do good for others and then do it when the opportunity arises, only by serving can we see others modeling service and thus learn to serve others.  
My prayer for all of us is that we learn to devote ourselves to good works, especially in this pandemic, since we are surrounded by urgent needs.  Let us ask God to use us according to His will.
Grace to you,
Pastor Wally