Friday, July 1, 2022

Friday

 We are bought with a price - the precious blood of our Savior, Jesus.




Thursday, June 30, 2022

We are not our own


Let's refresh our memory of our focus verses:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—  in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:1-4)

Paul does not speak about himself in lofty terms. I don't think he did, in any of his letters. He doesn't say, I'm the reverend Paul, or the right-reverend Paul of Tarsus. I'm the honorable apostle. I'm a prolific author, have penned many books and letters, and I'm a much-sought after conference speaker. (Grin)

Instead, he says that he is "Paul, a slave of God." That is what the term "bond servant" meant. The Greek word is "doulos," and it means a person who is subservient to, and entirely at the disposal of his master, a slave. Many men of the Old Testament were referred to as God's servants. 

That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” (Genesis 26:24)

After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. (Joshua 24:29)

 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? (II Samuel 7:5)

In the New Testament, the term bond servant is applied to someone who is absolutely devoted to Jesus. We can find verses where Paul, Timothy, James, Peter, and Jude are all described as "bondservants of Christ."

As believers, we are children of God through the new birth. We are not our own, and have been bought with a price - an incredible price. As children of God, we are under orders to obey and serve Him.

 You are not your own; you were bought at a price. (I Corinthians 6:19b-20a)

He is our Lord and our allegiance is to Him alone. But being a bondservant of Christ is not drudgery. As we see in Matthew 11, His "burden is light." And we have this precious promise:

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22)


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Everyone needs to hear


In medieval times, a king or other ruler would let everyone know what was going on in the kingdom by making a proclamation. There might be a couple of uniformed trumpeters who would walk before, and the king's herald would read from the proclamation for all to hear. 

Or they might post the proclamation, complete with the king's seal for authenticity, on a building or a tree for people to see. Either way, the message wasn't something that was fabricated by the person who was spreading the word. Instead, the heralds were faithfully proclaiming the king's message. That is our job when we give out the gospel.

Salvation comes to sinners by the proclamation of God's Word.

That doesn't mean that we need heralds or trumpets or a fancy document! All of us can be a part of proclaiming the news of the gospel to others. Just as Paul was instructed to "speak out and don't be silent!" (Acts 18:9) it is our responsibility to share the good news of salvation with others. He has promised to receive those who come to Him for salvation:

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)

We have a charter, a task before us:

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)

Paul says he is a "bond servant" of the Lord in the first verses of Titus 1. We are servants of the Lord, too. We are compelled to share the gospel, just as he was (I Corinthians 9:16-17).

Now, what's this about Titus being called Paul's child in verse 4? I never even saw a mention of Paul being married, did you? (Grin)

His calling Titus his "true child in a common faith" probably means that Paul led Titus to faith in Jesus Christ. He uses similar language in his letter to Timothy; he calls Timothy his "son in the faith." It's interesting to see Paul use words he has used before. Like when he greets people in "grace and peace." That was his routine greeting to other believers, but it's so much more than a greeting!

Grace sums up the gospel of Jesus Christ! Every other religion is based on human merit and works. Are you good enough? Have you done enough good deeds? Only the gospel rests on God's unmerited favor to sinners who deserve His wrath. And only the gospel results in peace with God.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1)

What a blessing! What a gift!

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (II Corinthians 9:15)

So here is what we have learned so far: if we want to be God's people in this pagan world, we must first make sure that we have been saved by His grace. Then, we must live up to our responsibility (and the great joy) of sharing the gospel with others. They need to hear of His grace, and receive that peace. But does that grace and peace mean that it's ok to sin? Are we free to live with sin in our lives? Nope! We'll start there next time!

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Prayer requests


This time of year, many of us have vacation on our minds. (It is on my mind, to be honest, but hubby and I have not actually had a vacation in many years!)

Folks day-dream about the peace and quiet (especially if you leave the mobile phone turned off most of the time), about seeing new and different things, about visiting with family or friends they've not seen in a while.

Vacations are many things to many people. 

But too often, they are times that we neglect our quiet times with God.

If we want to stay connected with Him as we travel, we need to be intentional about it.

First, we need to keep our daily appointment with God. We might have a morning quiet time that we are really good at keeping when we're at home. It may be that we need to adjust a bit, when we are away. It may be that we tell our traveling companions that we'll have our devotions in the evening, or in the morning, and then stick to it! We might also need to be creative in our location - are we sharing an RV with spouse or family? Are we in a hotel room? We can take our Bibles and a snack or our cup of joe, and head out to the pool (before it's busy) or to a shady picnic table, or somewhere else that we've chosen. We can even take a walk and listen to an audio Bible. Maybe even involve the whole crew in a devotion time! The possibilities are endless.

When we are away, we'll need to remember to pray for the concerns that we lifted up at home. But we also can pray for the people and the situations that we encounter on our travels. The Uber driver who helped us, the clerk at the counter, the park ranger, and even the political and cultural issues of the local area we are visiting. Make all of these matters of prayer.

Lastly, we can look for God in the places we go. Sometimes it is easy to forget that He is with us wherever we travel! There are always opportunities to worship and thank Him, and spur of the moment prayers are just as fervent as those in our devotion times. Have we seen mountains or waterfalls that drew our mind to His awesome power? Have we admired other natural handiwork of our Creator? Have we thanked Him as we hug a family member or friend that we haven't seen in "ages"?

We must not forget to thank Him for these things. We need Him whether we are at home or away, and He wants to hear from us!

Let's pray.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Salvation is from the Lord

Welcome back! I'll post our focus passage here again:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:1-4)

Our discussions have been focused on how we Christians can live holy lives in the midst of a pagan world.

We've already discovered in these verses that step one is to be saved! Well, that makes sense, right? And Paul is very interested in his readers understanding that salvation is from the Lord - it's not due to anything good that we have done, nor anything good within us. It's a gift from our Creator.

Now, Paul states that our faith and the knowledge of truth (from our study of His Word) rest upon the hope of eternal life. Hmmmmm, hope could be understood in one of two ways . . . it may refer to our hope in God's promise of eternal life. Or, it may refer to the "hope which is eternal life." By that, the scholars say, we mean that God's promise of eternal life is in itself a hope-filled promise. Only God can promise and fulfill that gift of eternal life.

Eternal life is our hope.

But this hope is not uncertain. It's not like when we say, "I sure hope the team wins tonight."   It's not like when we tell someone, "I certainly hope I get that job I applied for." 

Biblical hope is absolutely certain -- but not yet realized. That absolute certainty rests on God's character. It is He Who promises; He is the God Who cannot lie. We have many verses in both the Old and the New Testaments which tell us:

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. (Hebrews 6:18)

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (I Samuel 15:29)

if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (II Timothy 2:13)

 He is incapable of lying. He ALWAYS speaks the truth. 

Think what a startling concept that would be for the Cretans, to whom Titus was ministering as pastor. The people of the island of Crete were notorious liars! 

Jesus is the Truth, and He always speaks the truth. Jesus called Satan the "father of lies" in the gospel of John (John 8:44). Way back in the weeds and in the mists of the early earth, Satan duped Eve with the lie that God's Word was not true. He told her (and she fell for it) that if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she would actually be like God. Not gonna die, he said. And it's Adam and Eve who fell for the lie and the human race was plunged into sin. And alienation from God.

Ever since that time, people have fallen for the lie that they can find happiness and eternal life apart from the true, living God. Paul says that God gave this promise "long ages ago." In other words, He planned our salvation even before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1)

The promise was there even before there were people who needed it. Our hope of eternal life is secure, because it is rooted in God's eternal promise! God alone is the author of life: when He created the world, He breathed life into every living creature, and then created man and woman as living beings, created in His image.

When Adam and Eve fell, they died spiritually. Spiritual death means separation from the life of God. Spiritually dead people cannot will themselves into spiritual life. They can't force it to happen. No matter how hard they try, or how creatively they try to make it happen. Salvation in Jesus is nothing less than God's hand, reaching down to us and raising us from death to life.

So, Paul is telling his readers that salvation comes from God. Man has nothing to do with it. So then, how does God's salvation come to lost sinners?

I'm glad you asked . . . . we will start there next time. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Friday

This old hymn by Clara Scott in 1895 has truths for us today. We must open our eyes, our ears, and then our mouths in service of God.

With our eyes and ears, we may take in truth. With our mind we can understand, and with our mouths we can tell others. 
Listen prayerfully to this singing of the hymn.

 

Open my eyes, that I may see

  1. Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
    Place in my hands the wonderful key
    That shall unclasp and set me free.
    • Refrain 1:
      Silently now I wait for Thee,
      Ready my God, Thy will to see,
      Open my eyes, illumine me,
      Spirit divine!
  2. Open my ears, that I may hear
    Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
    And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
    Everything false will disappear.
    • Refrain 2:
      Silently now I wait for Thee,
      Ready my God, Thy will to see,
      Open my ears, illumine me,
      Spirit divine!
  3. Open my mind, that I may read
    More of Thy love in word and deed;
    What shall I fear while yet Thou dost lead?
    Only for light from Thee I plead.
    • Refrain 3:
      Silently now I wait for Thee,
      Ready my God, Thy will to see,
      Open my mind, illumine me,
      Spirit divine!
  4. Open my mouth, and let me bear,
    Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
    Open my heart and let me prepare
    Love with Thy children thus to share.
    • Refrain 4:
      Silently now I wait for Thee,
      Ready my God, Thy will to see,
      Open my heart, illumine me,
      Spirit divine!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

In the middle of a pagan world


The letter from Paul to Titus is one of Paul's shorter letters, but he sure packed a lot into it! First, let's look at the first point he makes about holy living in a pagan world: we can't live holy lives unless we are saved. We Christians are saved by grace. 

but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (Romans 5:20b)

The wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God for salvation! I guess when we think about it, salvation is a pretty radical concept. "Saving" someone is not helping a person who's in pretty good shape. It's not reaching out to someone who just needs a bit of assistance. We are saved because we are helplessly, hopelessly lost without God's help! We humans are dead in sin and only He has the power to raise us. 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  (Ephesians 2:4-6, NIV)

After identifying himself in the first two verses, Paul then talks about how God is our Savior, and how Jesus Christ is on the same level as God. Also, over in the third chapter, Paul writes that we are renewed by the Holy Spirit. In Paul's mind, Jesus is fully God, and the triune God is our only Savior. He is laying out a case for the readers of the Trinity - three in One - that is so hard for us to get our human minds wrapped around! 

Paul seems to be helping Titus, a newer pastor, with truths that his congregation might need explanations for. Not only does he write about the Trinity, but he also discusses something that our churches today often reject: salvation is not rooted in us, but in God. Dead sinners come to life because of God's grace - He offers them salvation that is not based on how good or bad they are, but based instead on His mercy.

Paul says in verse one that saving faith must rest on the truths revealed in God's Word. We must understand what Scripture teaches about God as absolutely holy and about us as absolutely sinful. We must understand that Jesus took the penalty that we deserved; He died on the cross. We must understand that God grants salvation as a free gift to us, not because of any goodness in us. And that only Christ can save us.

This is foolishness to natural men and women. Those who are not in tune with spiritual things and guided by the Holy Spirit.

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (I Corinthians 2:14) 

You and I can only understand God's truth in His Word when the Spirit guides us:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 4:4-6)

Lord, open our eyes to your truth so that we may understand more of your Word and your ways.