By Donald S. Tingle
We know that the resurrection gives us hope for the future. God raised Jesus, our King, from the dead. I believe this wholeheartedly, and I hope you do too. This can comfort us when we and our loved ones come face-to-face with death. But what does the resurrection do for us here and now? Or to ask the question differently, what should the resurrection of Jesus make of us?
When Paul wrote to Titus, he said all of us were once foolish. And he listed some of our foolish ways before we found new life in Christ. We were “disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3, New American Standard Bible). These are strong accusations. We don’t like to think that we were ever guilty of such things. But deep down we know there is more truth to this portrayal of our hidden nature than we care to admit.
Before we became followers of Jesus Christ, you and I struggled with these kinds of nasty behaviors and attitudes. Most of us still struggle with them today. We don’t always do what Jesus our King tells us to do.
When I don’t live up to God’s expectations for me, I need to remind myself of several things. Perhaps these reminders will help you too as you try to walk with God. All of these ideas are found in Titus 3:3-8.
1. God Loves Us
In verse 4, Paul says that when we were behaving so badly, even hating one another, God showed us his kindness and love. What a contrast between God and us! I don’t know what led you to surrender your life to Christ, but for me this was it. I was baptized when I was 11 years old, but whatever commitment I sincerely made to God seemed to fall by the wayside until I was 14 years old. I had become an angry young man who fit the “disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts” description—and all the other things Paul mentioned.
I remember standing on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the island of Guam where my father was stationed. Looking at the beautiful sunset as it shimmered on the water, I was overcome with the remembrance that God still loved me, and it broke my angry spirit. I could rebel against God’s list of do’s and don’ts, but I couldn’t fight against his love. So I gave that young, messed-up life to God once more, and I have never been the same since. Remembering that God loves us can save us from a life of angry self-pity.
2. God Works to Make Us into What We Were Meant to Be
One simple prayer I often pray is, “Thank you, God, for saving me from me.” Titus 3:4-7 reminds us that God, through Jesus Christ, saves us from our destructive ways. We have been washed clean from the evil of our previous life; Paul calls it “the washing of regeneration.” We have been given a new, clean life—a foretaste of the resurrection. We did not earn it based on our good deeds; it comes from God’s mercy.
And furthermore we receive “the renewing by the Holy Spirit.” The word renew carries the idea of restoring something that was destroyed or lost. Sin destroys us; God’s Holy Spirit restores us to what God wants us to be. This help from the Holy Spirit has been “poured out upon us richly.” God is not stingy when giving us what we need for this new life. In addition to that, God has already declared that we are righteous, not because of our works, but because we are “justified by his grace.”
It is important to remember all this when we fall short of what God expects of us and what we, at our better moments, expect of ourselves. If we forget the way God looks at us through his grace and mercy, we may get discouraged with our failures at trying to do good, and we may slip back into the old life. Let’s not forget that we do what is right, not to earn God’s favor, but as an expression of thanks for the favor he has already shown us.
As you already know, being shaped into what God wants us to be is an ongoing process. It doesn’t happen all at once, not completely. Elsewhere Paul talks about us being transformed. In Romans 12:2, Paul says we should not be conformed to the world but instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And in 2 Corinthians 3:18, he says that as we focus our spiritual sight on the Lord, we are being transformed into his image “from glory to glory.” God’s Spirit is then reflected to others through us. Step-by-step we are becoming like Christ our Lord.
God gives us hope, not just for this life, but also for a life worth living eternally.
Paul says that “we are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). God gives us eternal life as an inheritance, a quality of life greater than what we can make for ourselves. Jesus said he came so that we could have an abundant life (John 10:10). In spite of the troubles we now face, the quality of life will improve when we are Jesus’ disciples, improving even beyond the grave. It will become a life worth living eternally.
At this point we should remember that even though Jesus experienced the types of troubles common to all of us, he conquered them. He died betrayed, falsely accused, mocked, and abandoned. But that was not the end. He was raised from the dead, full of life and glory. His words of encouragement really are true when he says, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We can’t live without hope. And we shouldn’t die without hope; let’s remember that something better is still to come. Because we believe Jesus rose from the dead and overcame the world, when we give our lives to God through Jesus our King, we can have hope that this is our inheritance too. When Paul writes about this hope of eternal life, he says it is a “trustworthy statement” (Titus 3:8). It can be fully believed because this is a long-standing promise from God himself (1:2).
3. So We Should Continue to Do Good
If life on this earth were the end of the story, it would be easy to give up trying to do good. Doing good can bring heartache. Sometimes others question our motives. Or they take undue advantage of us. And so on. I’m sure you could give plenty of examples of how your own good deeds have caused you much trouble.
But this life is not the end of it all. More life is to come beyond the grave, an eternal life with God. So Paul explains he has written these things to Titus “so that those who have believed in God will be careful to engage in good deeds” (3:8).
When Paul wrote these words to Titus, Titus needed to be reminded to keep doing good. He was working in Crete with a rough crowd. A prophet from Crete has famously said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (see 1:12). Among some that Titus worked with, nothing was pure. On the other side, Titus also had to deal with self-righteous legalists (see 1:10, 11). Paul said “both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (1:15, 16).
What are the benefits of continuing to do good? There are many, but Paul specifically mentions two. First, good behavior makes it more likely that “the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:8). And second, we bring honor to the God who loves us; by doing this we “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (v. 10).
So let us “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory ofour great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,” (Titus 2:12, 13). Jesus’ resurrection and his return in glory do make a difference—not just by giving us hope for the future, but also by giving us a reason to continue to do our best here and now.
Donald S. Tingle is the executive director of COMENSERV, a ministry in the Muslim world. To see more of his writings, go to his website.
Heavenly Hope in the Here and Now
Christ’s death and resurrection are key to a future in Heaven with God, but our hope is not just for tomorrow. Faith in Christ and the reality of Heaven change daily life on earth.
• Make a list of 10-20 words or phrases that describe a biblical life fueled by hope in Christ—such as free, whole, loving, compassionate, or not fearful of failure.
• Go through the list and think of specific ways that these qualities are reflected in your life. Ask God to grow these truths so that they’re increasingly evident in your life.
• Think about someone close to you whose spiritual life you often encourage. Identify ways that person is reflecting these qualities, and tell him or her as a means of encouragement.