Good Works and the Good Work of Church Planting (Titus)
(the following is a devotional I gave at one of our Cross of Christ Fellowship core team meetings)
Imagine you are living in the first century. Jesus Christ has lived, died, rose again and ascended into heaven. His apostles are carrying out the work of the Great Commission and the gospel is spreading all over the world. All types of people are being reached as the lost are being saved and become children of God. Churches are being planted and the influence of the gospel is spreading all over the world.
At some point, the Apostle Paul and His group head to a Greek island called Crete, a place known for its debaucheries and wild culture. The gospel is preached, and by God’s grace some are converted and churches begin to form; but Paul and others have to leave before the work is finished. So in order to keep the church planting efforts going and to see elders appointed who might care for the churches, Paul leaves behind his trusty co-laborer Titus to carry on the work.
In an effort to encourage Titus, and to give him further instructions, Paul writes him a letter. This is what we have in our Bibles as we see the book of Titus. Considering this makes Titus a book particularly relevant for us as we plant a church in Naperville. Others have done some work before us, but there is still more church planting work left to be done. There are still non-Christians that need to be reached and still more gospel-centered churches to be risen up.
In this devotional, I hope to draw your attention to once particular theme in Titus: The theme of good works. I hope this will encourage us as we plant Cross of Christ Fellowship and consider the good work of planting a church and doing good works in Naperville. Please listen to the following 4 passages from Titus with me and notice the theme of doing good works:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” – Titus 2:11-14
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,” – Titus 3:1
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” – Titus 3:4-8
“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” – Titus 3:14
Did you notice the theme of good works in these passages?
Do these passages teach us that a person saved by good works? NO
Do good works cause a person to become a Christian? NO
We’re not saved by works, but through faith in Christ’s perfect work. We see this explicitly in Titus 3:4-7 “[God] saved us not because of any works which we have done in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (along with 2 Tim 1:9, Eph 2:8-9). Christianity is different from every other religion in this respect–our good efforts or works do not reconcile us with God or give us eternal life. We receive eternal life as a gift as we repent of sin and place our faith in Jesus.
But notice how prominent of a theme good works is in Titus. Such a fact tells us that good works are important in the Christian’s life. Just like in Ephesians 2:10, right after reading about how we’re saved not by our works but through faith, we read that we Christians are “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared for us beforehand that we should walk in them.” That is what we are brothers and sisters. We’re God’s workmanship, created for good works!
Thus, in Paul’s Letter to Titus, we see that the Apostle wanted believers to understand the intimate connection of being saved and doing good works. In Titus 2:14, right after speaking of Christ’s saving work, Paul tells us that Jesus saved a people who would be ‘zealous for good works.‘ And, in 3:8, right after speaking about how God’s grace has transformed us, Paul tells Titus to insist on this doctrine of grace so that believers might be ‘careful to be devoted to good works.’ This then is the principle in Scripture: a right understanding of God’s grace is meant to lead believers into a lifestyle of doing good works.
How does this work? God’s grace motivates us to do good works.
As we marvel at God’s grace, we want to good works because we’re grateful to God. Flow from Gratitude.
As our hearts have been made alive and love God, we want to do good works to please the God we love. Love to God.
As we love our neighbor as ourselves, we want to do good works in love for them. Love to others.
As we grasp that we’re a new creation in Christ created for good works, we want to do good works. Living out new identity
What do our good works do? Many things:
They bring glory to God.
They testify to the world of a changed life.
They confirm the reality of the doctrine we believe.
They impact how others will perceive our gospel message. (Paul tells wives that their godly lifestyle would prevent the gospel message from being blaspheme 2:5.)
They help make the beautiful gospel even more visible. (Paul tells the servants that their godly lifestyle and good works would ‘adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” in 2:10).
Surely such good works were a vital part of the church planting effort in Crete. Outsiders would see if ‘Christians’ really would walk the walk, after they talked the talk. Good works impacted the community, blessed both those inside and outside the church, and authenticated the precious gospel message.
The same is true for Christians today. People wonder if Christianity is really true, if it really is life-changing. They wonder if it really has any merit to it. The comforts and idols of the suburbs are powerful and seem to meet my needs, why would I need to worry about Christ?
This is why I think it is important that we remember this theme of good works. God has created us in Christ for good works. And I believe God has good works for us to do in Naperville, including the good work of planting a church. Planting a church in itself is a good work. Why? Because we are seeking to obey the Great Commission–make disciples of all nations.
This is a good work. We do it not to exalt ourselves but to see Jesus lifted up and treasured in Naperville. We plant a church to see Christians equipped and emboldened to share Jesus in their communities. We plant a church so that more will experience everlasting life and the joy of the gospel in the present age in their lives and family. We plant a church because we want to see non-Christians repent of sin and be reconciled to the Living God of the universe. These are good works my brothers and sisters.
Our prayer is that the gospel will grow and bear fruit among all the different communities in Naperville: young, old, rich, poor, white, black, Indian, Chinese. We want to see the fruit of new spiritual life as individuals repent of sin and believe the gospel. We want to see this gospel fruit at North Central College in downtown Naperville. We want to see the gospel transform lives in the elderly community. We want to see new community groups form and elders risen up who love and care for the flock. We want to be a gospel witness in a community that believes they have everything they need and have no need for Christ. While planting a church is not easy, it will require great sacrifice, it is good.
For those who are members of Cross of Christ Fellowship, please be encouraged as we seek to plant a church. Though the work is hard, it is good and Christ deserves our obedience.
For those who are friends of CCF, those who are praying and giving, thank you for your sacrifice. Your giving and prayers are good works. Christ deserves your sacrifice.
For those considering the church plant, we would love you to join us in the undertaking the good work of planting Cross of Christ Fellowship. It is worth the cost and the sacrifice.