What motivation do we have for good works?

Titus 3:1-8:

[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.

Apart from verses 4-7, the motivation for good works would be to make God happy, appease his wrath, feel good about ourselves, or impress other people. But because we have experienced the goodness and kindness of God, because we have been saved according to mercy (not by works), because the Holy Spirit has washed and renewed us, because we have been justified by grace, because we are heirs according to the hope we will inherit in glory, we can do good. God loves us, therefore we obey. This is the gospel. Man-made religion says, “I obey so that God will love me.”

We can do good because our status with God remains 100% secure and unchanged even when we fail to do a good work. We are freed from the pressure of having to do more good than bad. We are freed from the burden of the law weighing down our shoulders.

That is motivation for me to do what God created me, in Christ Jesus, to do (Eph. 2:10). If you don’t see or feel that, and if you think grace gives you a free license to “do whatever you want,” then you don’t really understand grace. People who play the “I-can-do-whatever-I-want-card” with grace have not tasted too much of grace; they have tasted too little. Indeed, they may not have tasted any at all.


Salvation, Sanctification, and Spiritual Hookers

Today I studied Titus 2;14.  It says that Jesus Christ “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.”

As I meditated and prayed, I asked myself, “What would make this stick in my mind?  What will make this real?”  I think there’s a progressive relationship between the statements in Titus 2:14.  It goes from redemption to purification to zeal. That helps, but what does that look like?

Then I thought about Hosea.  You know, the prophet who married the hooker and then had to buy her back?

Here’s what made it stick for me:

Imagine that you are like Hosea and God tells you to marry a prostitute.  You get married in the courthouse because the family would be too ashamed to come to the wedding at a church.  You don’t get a honeymoon because before the weekend is over, she cheats on you and goes back to the strip club.

You go downtown to get your wife back.  She is up on stage waiting to be purchased by men who will have their way with her, abuse her, and give her but a few bucks for her services. She’s not going for much money tonight.  But you don’t say, “I deserve better.  She’s not worth it.”  Instead, you lay down a couple hundred and buy her for yourself.

You drive her home.  Other than the sound of her weeping, it’s quiet.  You don’t chastise her or accuse her.  Instead, you reach over to hold her hand as she covers her sobs with the other.

You sit down with her at the table.  You don’t revile her or hit her.  You don’t condemn her and say, “How could you, again?!”  Instead, you wash off her makeup and anoint her with oil.  You take off her dirty, immodest stripper outfit and give a her brand new elegant dress that you’ve been saving up for.  You kiss her forehead and forgive her and cleanse her conscience.

You look into her eyes and say, “My bride, I love you.  And I will love you until you stay with me.”  She is so comforted, so secure, so loved.  So much so, in fact, that over time, she becomes zealous to do good and doesn’t want to sell her body anymore.

We are the whore.  O how often we have cheated on our God and sold our bodies to our sin!  Jesus is our husband, and this is what God did for us through him.  He redeems us through his death.  He purifies us despite our constant failures.  He makes us zealous to do good and hate evil.

He lifts our dropping head and says, “I have redeemed you and I will love you until you obey.”

Will you have this love, or reject it?

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How to Decide When to Leave a Church

I was asked a question yesterday about when it would be okay to leave a local church to find a new church home.  Obviously, it should be on a case-by-case basis and one should be intensely seeking the Lord during the process.  I made a list of nine questions to consider and answer before leaving a church.  Perhaps you might find these helpful:

  • Is there an unrepentant immorality issue with one of the leaders?
  • Do the pastors, elders, and deacons meet the requirements that are found in 1/2 Timothy and Titus?
  • Do the pastors, elders, and congregation genuinely love Jesus and people?
  • Is the Bible taught and the gospel preached every weekend?
  • Is there a missional mindset, focus, and philosophy of: “We want to (and have a plan to) reach this community/city/state for Jesus.”
  • Am I getting fed weekly, invested in, and built up in Christ?  Does this place fuel my joy in Jesus?
  • Do I find opportunities to feed and serve others and build the kingdom here?
  • What is my heart’s motivation for leaving?  Will I leave speaking poorly of this congreation, tearing it down, or will I leave praying for them?
  • Am I just complaining for an excuse to leave or can I really and honestly do something positive to help the area(s) of concern I have?

Can you think of any others?