Imagine, if you will, this picture. You are on one side of this deep abyss, and God is on the other, and there is no physical way for you to get across to Him. But now imagine a bridge spanning between the two sides so that you may reach God. The Cross of Jesus is that bridge, giving all of us access to God the Father. For it is only by the saving faith of Jesus we can approach the Throne of grace with confidence. (Hebrews 4:16) But we must continue to hold firmly to our trust in Jesus Christ…”so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (I John 2:28)
In this letter to Titus, Paul is encouraging him to exhort the early Church in Crete to, “do what is good.” Now earlier in this Chapter Paul plainly lays out what this means for Titus…submit to authority, be obedient, peaceable, considerate, and humble. So how does this apply to us today? When we put our faith in Jesus Christ we become His hands and feet to not only proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to the world, but to represent Him to others. And in doing so emulating His character and attributes. So hopefully when people look at us-they see Jesus.
All of us have been guilty of this. We encounter someone with a urgent physical need…we can’t help but see it and understand the gravity. But what do we do? We walk away, but not before sanctimoniously announcing, “I’ll pray for you.” I can almost see Jesus shaking His head in disappointment. We have blown a chance to show His love through our good deeds. For our faith manifests itself in these good works…demonstrating to the person we’re helping in very tangible ways that God loves them. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus…and by our actions His caring is shown to others.
Paul and Silas had only a few times to teach in Thessalonica before they were forced to leave. And after they left, the early Church there came under great persecution, thus Paul feared he had not had enough time to firmly ground them in the Gospel…so he sent Timothy to complete the work he had started. In this letter, Timothy has returned with the good news of the Believer’s faith and love and Paul is praising God for it. Earlier in this letter Paul wrote, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thessalonians 1:3) What Paul was talking about here is the agape love we have for each other is an expression of our faith, and hopefully both our love and faith are growing and increasing together each day.
Most historians agree that the Book of James was written shortly before he was martyred by fanatical Jewish Leaders for preaching the Gospel. So to have him exhorting fellow Believers to look at the trials in their lives as something good not bad is incredible. James went on, telling them, he knew they were completely aware of all their past afflictions, trials, and persecutions, and how their faith had been tested each time…but that they needed to continue to persevere with patience and endurance… learning to suffer well with a tranquil mind. I don’t know about you, but suffering well these past many weeks has been difficult! And now with the “Stay at Home” order being extended another month for COVID 19…looking at it with good cheer and gladness of heart is very difficult. But Jesus reminds me in the Beatitudes that I should rejoice and be glad in my trials, (Matthew 5:12) and that I need to continue to persevere so that when I have done the Will of God, I’ll receive what He has promised. (Hebrews 10:36) Thus with all this encouragement, I will joyfully accept persecution. (Hebrews 10:34)
Our journey with the Lord is not a one and done event. Ours is not to be a stagnant life once we say “Yes!” to Jesus Christ. No, our Christian walk is suppose to be a always advancing, ever increasing effort to become more Christ-like. This progressive sanctification is simply growing in the knowledge of God, (Ephesians 3:17) and applying the truths of the Gospel into our everyday life. And as we continue to live in Him, He is faithful to continue to fill us…for our walk with God will never be fully realized until that day we walk through those Heavenly gates.
Maybe you were the child that all your parents had to do was look at you sternly and you stopped misbehaving. Or maybe it took much more effort from your parents before it finally sunk in that what you were doing was wrong. Parents correct their children out of the love they have for them, not because they want to be mean, but because they want only the best for them. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us. Deuteronomy 8:5 says, “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” When we can view difficulties in our life as loving correction from God rather than just punishment…our entire spiritual perspective and faith will be impacted and increased.
We are all sinners. We are all caught up like fish in the net called evil. There is not one among us that is righteous…for we are all bound over to disobedience. But we have a Savior…His name is Jesus, who came to save us from our sinful life and give us hope. For when we put our trust in Jesus and the Good News of the Gospel…that promise spoken about in this Scripture is made alive in us…the wonderful promise of eternal life in heaven through His Son, Jesus.
Last Sunday during a meeting I had wanted to say, “Practical Christianity”…but what came out was, “Practical Christianality.” No, it’s not in the Dictionary, and Yes, I felt pretty silly. But this slip of the tongue non-word has been in my mind all week. As Followers of Jesus, we are in many ways a nationality that has much in common. We share common allegiances,(our faith and trust in Jesus Christ) traditions, laws,( the Gospel-the Law of Faith) and characteristics (becoming more like Jesus every day.) Even our citizenship is not of this earth but of heaven. (Philippians 3:20) So what does Christianality look like? It’s loving each other, caring for needs of others as we see them, and sharing our commonality, not the things that make us different.
How do we go about increasing our faith? First, it’s about believing and accepting the Gospel Message…that Jesus came to save and redeem us from eternal punishment by His life, death and resurrection. Secondly, our faith is built up every time we trust and obey God and then see Him working in our life. Thus, over time, our faith increases, like layers of bricks being built up to form a strong wall. Finally, with that increasing faith comes a confidence that there’s nothing impossible for God.