3 Steps from Foolish to Faithful
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Those words should cause our hearts to leap in anticipatory joy. And yet, they can strike fear in the heart of a person struggling with feelings of condemnation. A friend of mine once confessed to me that she fears that she won’t measure up on that day. She knows her own propensity to sin and she is afraid that she will meet with Jesus’s disapproval on that day. Perhaps you minister to someone just like this, or maybe you even struggle with these thoughts yourself.
These kinds of issues were no secret to the apostle Paul. So when he teaches about good deeds in the book of Titus, he is careful to explain multiple times how the gospel gets us there. It’s all about grace and the order – the steps - in which grace works.
1. Who You Were and What You Did
At one point, Paul explains, you were anything but good and faithful servants. Putting himself in the mix he writes, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Not a pretty picture and not a reality that would ever warrant a “well done” from a perfectly holy and just God. You and I were once evil people who did evil deeds.
2. What God Has Done
Paul has lots of ways of talking about what God has done in the book of Titus. He says God promised eternal life and then, at the right time, manifested it in Jesus. (Titus 1:2-3; 2:11; 2:14) It was his sacrifice that made our salvation and our transformation possible. Even more specifically, and leaving no room for self-righteousness, Paul points out that God did not save us because of righteous deeds (we had none!), but because he was merciful. (Titus 3:5) All of this together is, of course, the message of the gospel.
3. Who You Are and What You Do Now
The gospel of Jesus Christ has changed everything for you.
Your identity is different because you belong to Christ. Jesus died to “purify for himself a people for his own possession.” (Titus 2:14). You are heirs and you will inherit eternal life – all because of his grace. You are no longer defined as an evil person, but as a righteous one.
And your deeds are different because you have been given a heart. Jesus’s work, applied by the Spirit, changes your heart so you are actually zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). This means that when you’re tempted to take the best for yourself, but you don’t (or you do, but later repent), that Christ’s redemption is at work in you. This change is evidenced when your heart moves with compassion towards someone who is suffering and you do something to help them. Your newness is proven when you die to your own desires and serve you family and friends. Paul very clearly teaches that these are good deeds, able to be performed from your new heart.
Even though we all still struggle with evil desires and we all do still sin, our identity and the direction of our lives are no longer defined this way. By grace, you and I are now identified in Christ as good people who are able to do good deeds.
You and I are headed right now towards that glorious moment when we will stand before Jesus. And we don’t need to fear that we will fail because he has given us everything we need to get there. By grace, you are no longer foolish, but have been given the power and the privilege of being faithful servants until Jesus comes. And one day soon, you will hear him say, “Well done.” Now that is amazing grace.