But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 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. Titus 3:4-8 (emphasis mine.)
As a dad with three man-sons, my wife and I have to insist on certain kinds of behavior from them: “Stop jumping on the bed; slow down; wash behind your ears; tell the truth; leave the frog in the pond; say you’re sorry; go to sleep; drink your milk; say your prayers; stop and think . . . ,” all with varying degrees of compliance.
Why do we do that?
Because to create patterns of strong character in our young men, we have to build habits of good behavior in them as boys. Today’s training points to tomorrow’s outcomes.
We have to help them develop the discipline of self-denial as a power in the freedom for living and serving others.
There is always a “next” for the moment’s ask that is both “excellent and profitable.”
That’s why we have to insist on it.
In the passage above, Paul the teacher is writing to his student, Titus, who is the leader of a church on the island of Crete in 63 AD. He explains the great gift that we have been given as believers: we have been made heirs of the the King and His Kingdom. . . for free, but a response is needed: believers should be careful to devote themselves to good works.
What does that look like?
It means, at least, turning our inward gaze outward, acknowledging the needs of others and serving those both near and far. We are being renewed daily, fully equipped for life in the kingdom of this world and the One to Come. The very character of God rests on this promise. Because our needs are being met, our self-interest can be relieved and refocused on others. We have been “richly poured-out upon” by the King:
- We can listen completely to another when they are speaking to us. Our needs are covered. (Philippians 4:19)
- We can share from our wealth. We will always have more than enough. (Psalm 34:8-10)
- We can let others go first and take credit. We are secure in Christ, everywhere, always. (Hebrews 6:17-19)
- We can wait for God’s leading. He promised to work on our behalf as we do this. (Isaiah 64:4)
- We can devote time to prayer and scripture reading. All else can wait: He’s got this. (Psalm 121:5-8)
Don’t let the cares of this life keep you from the good works to which God is leading you.
People are waiting.
The King has made you an heir to His Kingdom.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:25-33