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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Do Good

This is our last message in Titus, though many more could be preached. I have found it so good to spend some devoted time in this little book of the bible. And, I hope you have too.

If you read Titus through several times, you will notice that words appear that are repeated. Words like ‘teach’ and ‘sound’. Words like ‘Saviour’ and ‘godly’. And, a word like ‘good’. That word ‘good’ appears 7 times in the space of these 46 verses. So there’s no doubt that Paul wants the Cretan believers to do good.

‘Good’ is given a lot of space Chapter 3 verse 14, virtually the last word of the book says – ‘Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good’ - which serves to underline the importance of doing good in Paul’s mind. Paul uses a lot of the words that he writes to Titus to make sure that goodness characterises the Cretan believers. He will use space to tell Titus to put in place elders who are lovers of ‘what is good’ (1:8). Leaders in the church are to ‘love’ goodness. He will use space to warn Titus that there will be people in the church who are out for ‘dishonest gain’, who ‘reject the truth’. These are ‘unfit for doing anything good’ (1:16). He will use space to ensure that the older women teach the younger women in the church ‘what is good’ (2:3). He will use space to tell Titus to set the young men ‘an example by doing what is good’ (2:7). He will use space to remind them all, that Jesus gave himself on the cross to purify for himself a people who are characterised by an ‘eagerness to do what is good’ (2:14). He will use space to encourage Titus to remind the people that they must be ‘ready to do whatever is good’ (3:1). And he will use space to tell Titus that ‘those who have trusted in God are to be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good’ (3:8). That’s a lot of words devoted to ‘goodness’ when you’ve only got space for 46 verses in the letter! And therefore, it is not insignificant. And, therefore, it’s worthy of our attention this morning.

Parenting parallel As a parent I find that a lot of my own words are spent encouraging our children to be good. In fact, on more than one occasion they’ve responded by saying to me, ‘we can’t be good all the time daddy’. That’s a good reminder to me as a dad. It’s true, they can’t be good all the time and that fact needs to temper and control my expectations. Nevertheless, I do expect them to strive to be good. The main reasons I expect them to strive to be good are that their behaviour in some way reflects us as parents. Bad behaviour dishonours us. Good behaviour honours us.

Another reason is, that if they love us then they will want to please us. And goodness does please us. And the final reason is that goodness is worthy of reward and I like to give good gifts to my children. But as a parent you can’t reward bad behaviour.

Now, of course, I expect them to fall short of the mark often, just like I did when I was a boy, but there are lessons for us here, because God is not a fallible parent, he’s an infallible father. I want to show you that these three reasons for expecting good behaviour from my children are parallel with 3 reasons we find in Titus that God expects his children to love good, to be eager to do good, to teach others to do good, to set an example of what is good, to be careful to do good, to be ready to do good, to be devoted to doing good, and to be learning to do good all the time.

God is good The first reason God expects his children to do good is that he himself is good. In his very essence, God is good. Psalm 119:68 – ‘You are good [Lord] and what you do is good’. Matthew 19:17 – Jesus said speaking of his father, ‘There is only one who is good’. And, 1 Peter 2:3 – ‘you have tasted that the Lord is good’. When God made the world, after he had finished each day’s work, he declared his own work, ‘very good’. Job is not oblivious to the fact that God had brought ‘good things’ into his life.

Isaiah describes God’s news as ‘good news’. Jeremiah describes God's way as ‘the good way’. And, Jesus describes himself as ‘the good shepherd’. So, the bible is persuaded that God is good. His ways, his works, his words are good.

In Titus 3:8 Paul tells Titus, ‘stress these things so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good’. Now we need to see in this verse, that there’s a cause and effect. The effect is: believers who devote themselves to good works. The cause is: ‘stress these things’. And we have to surely ask ourselves what things is Titus to stress, so that believers will devote themselves to doing good?

Whenever you read a verse like that in the bible, you need to go backwards. You need to look at the immediately preceding verses. They are the most likely ‘things’ that Titus needs to stress. In others words, whatever has just been said, those things need stressing to the Cretans because they lead to good works in believers.

So, two questions: first, what are ‘these things’ found in the preceding verses? And, second how do they serve to affect a desire in us for doing good? The answer to the first question is that verses 3-6 are unmistakably about the character of the cross work of Jesus. Verse 3 – our lives at one time were characterised by evil. They were characterised by foolishness; by disobedience; by slavery to passions and pleasures; by malice; by envy; and by hatred. But, verse 4 - then God showed up in our lives. God appeared on the scene. And look how good He is! He appeared to save us from our evil ways. He came into our lives with kindness we did not deserve. He acted in love towards us, when we were hateful. He didn’t give us the punishment we deserved for our evil attitudes and behaviour – which is called mercy. Our sin had made us filthy – he cleansed us completely. He was super abundantly generous towards us - his enemies. And, he gave us a legal standing that exonerated us when we were as guilty as could be, and he did it freely – which is called grace.

Every single aspect of his work described in verses 4-7 is excellently good. He has showered his goodness on us. In the beginning God made everything good. But we sinned. We fell short of God’s goodness. We revelled in evil. None of us were good, not even one. And then God appeared in our lives. He showered us with his goodness – translating us from death to life. That’s what Titus is meant to stress to the Cretan believers, so that, they will devote themselves to doing good. What he’s meant to stress is nothing less than the surpassingly good grace of Golgotha.

The second question we need to answer is, how does that work bring about in us good works? The psalmist said, ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’. It’s one thing to know factually that God is good. But if you’ve been saved by Jesus, you’ve more than heard it, you’ve tasted that he is good. If I say to my Matthew, Lasagne is really good. He can take my word for it – which he doesn’t – but until he tastes it for himself and finds it good, he can’t know for sure.

Peter picks up the psalmist’s words and uses them in a cause and effect kind of way also – ‘now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (because of that experience), grow up in your salvation’. It’s the same here in Titus. Now that you have experienced God’s goodness in Christ to you, go and do likewise.

When I was a boy, I wanted to be a footballer. I used to watch Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes demonstrate their skills on the football pitch, week in and week out. They were so good at the game. I admired everything they did with that ball. And without anybody telling me to do it, I tried to emulate them in the playground. I wanted to be as good as they were, because the quality they had on the ball - I wanted that too. I tried to match them point for point by practising for hours. True believers love their God. They love his goodness. They have tasted and seen how good he is.

Imitation then, is how we become ‘devoted to doing what is good’. I want to be good like my Saviour God. The problem is we do forget so quickly the goodness we have been shown, and we do start to take it for granted. I doubt I would have sought to emulate Ryan Giggs like I did, had I not seen him every week doing what he did best. We need to see the goodness of God every day to be natural emulators of him. That means we need put ourselves in places where the goodness of God is bubbling up. We need to read the good book that talks about God’s goodness from beginning to end. We need to have friends who talk about his goodness to us. We need to go places that point up his goodness. To listen to songs that speak about his goodness. These are all means to being reminded of his goodness.

Make God look attractive The second reason God expects believers to be good is perhaps not so obvious in Titus, but I think it’s there. In chapter 2, Paul tasks Titus with instructions for women verses 3-5; instructions for men verses 6-8 and then instructions for slaves verses 9-10. In the first two categories – instructions to women and then to men, Paul encourages Titus to teach them how to do good.

So, for women, that they be self-controlled, busy at home, kind, subject to their husbands. To the men – that they be self-controlled, act with integrity, be serious, and be sound in speech. So, I think that even though Paul doesn’t use the word ‘good’ in the slave category, the idea is implied because Paul is telling Titus what good slave-behaviour looks like. It looks like trying to please their masters, not talking back to them, not steeling from them, and being trustworthy.

And then the last word in verse 10, at the end of the category is that, by so acting, ‘they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’. In other words, when believers behave in these good ways, they are reflecting the goodness of God.

God has designed believers to be like prisms through which the beam of God’s goodness is refracted into the visible spectrum. Into the spectrum where people can see what God’s goodness looks like. All those behaviours listed are at odds with how people normally behave. People who are enslaved usually hate their masters. Men tend toward harsh language and insincerity. But when believers behave uprightly, they look different. And when they are known for being followers of Jesus, their behaviour makes their words about Jesus seem attractive to unbelievers.

That word ‘attractive’ indicates a magnetic pull inwards. That means that, by the way we behave (and I’m going to add - especially by the way we behave in trying circumstances – homes are dirty, relentless, often times thankless places to spend most of our time; and slavery is undoubtedly a horrible existence – but by the way we behave) we can either make the truth about God’s goodness look ‘attractive’ or we can ‘malign’ it (v.10 & v.5). We can cause it to be arrayed in visible brilliance, or we can put a bowl over it (Luke 11:33). Nobody who loves God wants God’s goodness to be hidden. But if we don’t think about our behaviour, we can inadvertently put a bowl over the light of God’s goodness. James says, ‘If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them’ (Jam 4:17). So, God is honoured when his goodness is seen in our goodness. And, he is honoured when unbelievers are drawn to the glorious goodness of the gospel of Jesus by the good deeds his followers do.

God rewards goodness The last reason God expects us to be good, that is evident in Titus, is that God rewards those who do good. This is found as a second part of the ‘things’ Titus is to ‘stress’ in chapter 3 verse 8, and which serve to lead believers to devote themselves to doing good. Verse 7 says, ‘having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life’. Here we need to think of eternal life as a motivation to do good. God is going to say one day to his people, these amazing words: ‘well done good and faithful servant...Come and share your master’s happiness’ (Matt 25:21).

God’s happiness is not in anything more than it is in himself. God did not make the world because he was unhappy. He profoundly made the world because of his happiness and contentedness in himself. His happiness in himself overflowed in creation. The happiness we are destined for is the happiness of enjoying God himself. The happiness we will inherit, is sharing his all- satisfying goodness forever. This is the reason why he can motivate us to obedience with reward. His reward is not something other than himself – if it was, it would be blasphemous. His reward is full experiences of his goodness forever, untainted by sin.

Galatians 6:9 and Luke 14:13-14 solidify the idea: ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’. And, ‘when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind’ (not those you might be inclined to invite) ‘and you will be blessed’. When will you be blessed? ‘Although, they can’t repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous’. These are simply unblushing promises of surpassingly great reward for doing good in this life.

So, to sum up. If we see God’s goodness poured out for us on the cross in the death of his son and we seek to emulate that goodness, he gets the glory. And, if we desire for God’s goodness to look attractive to others and in so doing seek to be a prism through which he is seen, he gets the glory. And, if we desire to have more of him by doing what pleases him, and so obtaining the reward of more of his goodness for ever, he gets the glory. These are exceedingly good reasons for being eager to do good.

Ephesians 2:10 says, ‘We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (that’s the purpose for our salvation), which God prepared in advance for us to do’. Therefore, ‘to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life’ (Romans 2:7).


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