November 13 - 19
"Zealous for Good Works"
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Titus 2:11-14; 3:8; Eph. 2:8-10; 5:25-27; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Pet. 1:13-16; Rom. 6:12-14.
MEMORY TEXT: "Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:13, 14, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: What is the relationship between our faith in God and our behavior? Why is it necessary for the church to be a group of holy people?
CHRIST, THE SECRET OF A NEW LIFE. There is a worldwide tendency to think that it is possible to change or to behave in a righteous manner through mere human effort. But the more we trust in ourselves, the more we deceive ourselves. Let us consider the following statement regarding this subject:
"In this season of conflict and trial we need all the support and consolation we can derive from righteous principles, from fixed religious convictions, from the abiding assurance of the love of Christ, and from a rich experience in divine things. "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 105.
This week we will study holiness as the practical demonstration of our faith. We also will see that the external aspects of our religion are the result of our connection with God (James 2:14-26).
Paul wrote to Titus while Titus was working with the Christians who lived on Crete, a large island in the Mediterranean Sea. During the early years of Christianity, the citizens of Crete were known for their dishonesty and other sins (Titus 1:10- 12). Therefore, Paul considered it necessary to write to Titus about "good works," that is, Christian behavior as the visible result of faith in God and His transforming power.
According to Paul's letter to Titus, what is one of the reasons Christ redeemed us? Titus 2:14. What should we "be careful to maintain"? Titus 3:8.
If we would take into account the moral condition of today's world, we would agree that Paul's words to Titus are appropriate for us also. Titus 2:8, 14 are clear enough to help us understand the relationship that exists between faith and behavior (or daily deeds). The NEB renders the text of Titus 2:14 this way: "Make us a pure people marked out for his [Christ's] own, eager to do good" (italics supplied).
Explain why being "created in Christ Jesus for good works" does not contradict being saved by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-10).
Notice the preposition for used in our text: We become new creatures in Christ for good works not by good works. "We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by faith. But obedience is the fruit of faith.... If we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells in us, our feelings, our thoughts, our purposes, our actions, will be in harmony with the will of God as expressed in the precepts of His holy law."Steps to Christ, p. 61.
|What did Paul mean by a pattern of good works in Titus 2:7? Think about your behavior yesterday in regard to the following: (1) your co-workers, (2) your family, (3) your friends, (4) the cashier at the checkout counter, (5) the family pet, (6) an ongoing, troublesome situation. Ask yourself, What did my behavior in any one of these areas say about my faith in God? What is the only way to change my behavior in an area where it might be wanting?|
Explain what Jesus did for His church and why. Eph. 5:25-27.
From the very beginning of the human race, God wanted to have a holy people. But sin produced great frustration. Even though there was no earthly antidote, God had an effective cure already prepared. His only Son, Jesus Christ, giving His life for the justification and sanctification of all repentant sinners. Through the offering of His life, Christ cleansed and sanctified His church, making it holy and without blemish.
What are you doing, as a member of Christ's body, to keep holy and pure the beloved church for which Jesus gave His life? How can the church be holy if its members are not holy? Explain your answer.
How does Paul refer to the church in 1 Timothy 3:15? What does this tell us about one of the church's functions?
Our text in the RSV refers to the church as "the pillar and bulwark of the truth." The NIV refers to it as "the pillar and foundation of the truth." These translations reveal one of the most outstanding functions of Christ's church. It must sustain and preserve God's truth amidst the false teachings of our day. If the church were not holy, how could it fulfill such a sacred commitment? Our slogan should be "Holiness to the Lord" (see Exod. 39:30) instead of "Faithfulness to the world"!
What has just been said about the church in general must be applied to every one of its members. Christ calls each one of His professed disciples to be a "pillar," "support," "bulwark," or custodian of the truth, not only through words of defense but through deeds of example.
"I lift my voice of warning to all who name the name of Christ to depart from all iniquity. Purify your souls by obeying the truth. Cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 475.
|What types of thought occupied your mind the most yesterday? Were they thoughts motivated by the love of Christ as displayed in the price He paid for the holiness of His church and each of its members? How does His love motivate you?|
How does Paul define sanctification, or holiness? 1 Thess. 4:3.
We can grow in holiness through prayer and reading the Bible. We can maintain holiness by developing a humble spirit and a pure mind. We can express our holiness by doing something good for others. But the only way to live in holiness consists in doing God's will.
"Excitement is not sanctification. Entire conformity to the will of our Father which is in heaven is alone sanctification, and the will of God is expressed in His holy law. The keeping of all the commandments of God is sanctification."Selected Messages, bk. 3, p. 204.
"Holiness ... is an entire surrender of the will to God.... It is ... trusting God in trial, in darkness as well as in the light; it is walking by faith and not by sight; it is relying on God with unquestioning confidence, and resting in His love."The Acts of the Apostles, p. 51.
What parts of our life does God sanctify? 1 Thess. 5:23.
After mentioning various aspects of true Christianity in verses 14-22, the apostle Paul tells us in verse 23 how we can reproduce these aspects in our own lives. "The God of peace" is our Sanctifier through Jesus, "the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2).
Look upon Jesus. The Duke of Milan commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint "The Last Supper." Da Vinci worked for several years on what would become a masterpiece, paying attention to every detail of the disciples' faces, the grouping around the Lord's table, the chalice, and, of course, the face of Jesus. Finally, da Vinci was ready to share his labor with a friend. As the friend marveled at the beautiful work of art, he exclaimed, "Oh, what a beautiful chalice! I cannot take my eyes off it."
Upon hearing those words, da Vinci immediately took his brush and painted through the chalice, exclaiming in return that nothing ever should divert one's eyes from Christ!
|Consider your interests and concerns. How might they be diverting your "eyes" from Christ? Are you as willing to "paint" through them as da Vinci was to paint through his beautiful chalice? Our lives can be compared to an empty canvas on which a self-portrait is painted. When Christ enters into the heart, how can His love turn even the most broken soul into a "masterpiece"?|
After our conversion, with all its spiritual changes, what are we called to be? 1 Pet. 1:13-16 (compare Lev. 11:44, 45).
God's call has not changed during the centuries. What a loving Father we have! He places before us the highest ideal of conduct, then helps us to reach it (Phil. 2:13).
"Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godlinessgodlikenessis the goal to be reached."Education, p. 18.
"We shall attain to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus only as the result of a steady growth in grace."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 105.
Read Hebrews 12:14. Why will no one see the Lord without being holy?
No one will be saved practicing sin. Our lives must be "hidden with Christ in God" so that His Holy Spirit will be able to work His good will through us (Col. 3:3, NIV). Then our names will be "written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27).
Read John 17:17. Explain the relationship between sanctification and God's Word dwelling in our hearts.
"The prayer of Christ was, 'Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.' Therefore the sanctification of the Spirit of God upon the heart, leads men to walk in the way of God's commandments. The very test that God brought upon Adam in Eden, will be brought upon every member of the human family. Obedience to God was required of Adam, and we stand in the same position that he did to have a second trial, to see whether we will listen to the voice of Satan and disobey God, or to the Word of God and obey."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 1146, 1147.
|Matthew 25:31-46 basically states that we will be judged (measured) by how we have treated one another. Read this passage. Then explain why the above quotation is not a contradiction of these verses. Are we meant to understand the thirst, hunger, loneliness, and nakedness literally, as symbols, or both?|
Why will sin no longer dominate the lives of sincere and genuine Christians? Rom. 6:12-14. How would you explain to someone that verse 14 does not mean we do not have to obey God's law?
Sin is our worst enemy. If we tolerate it in our lives, or if we hide it in our hearts, as Achan hid the spoils of Jericho in his tent (Josh. 7:19-21), sooner or later disaster will strike (James 1:15).
By God's grace and the Holy Spirit's work within us, we can be sanctified. Apply 2 Corinthians 3:17 to this concept of spiritual liberty.
The opposite of sin is obedience, loyalty, faithfulness, integrity, consecration, holiness, and communion with God. All heaven is ready to help us live such a life. Do we always remember this? If so, we shall be able to "overcome evil with good" instead of being "overcome by evil" (Rom. 12:21, NRSV). The children of Israel were faithful to God only for short periods of time. Their periods of repentance from spiritual adultery were like "morning cloud[s]" and "the early dew" (Hosea 6:4, NRSV). How would you rate your fidelity to the Lord? By God's grace, is it firm and constant? "My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58, NRSV). Pray that it may be so!
"If you will only watch, continually watch unto prayer, if you will do everything as if you were in the immediate presence of God, you will be saved from yielding to temptation, and may hope to be kept pure, spotless, and undefiled till the last."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 148.
Why did Joshua tell the Israelites to sanctify themselves? Josh. 3:5.
|We are about to cross the spiritual Jordan into heaven our promised kingdom of God. As God commanded the Israelites, He commands us also to become sanctified through grace. What wonders will He do among us who surrender our lives fully to Him? In preparing to be in His presence in heaven, are we experiencing His presence here? We will walk with Him there if we, like Enoch, walk with Him here.|
FURTHER STUDY: Read Steps to Christ, chap. 7; Selected Messages, bk. 1, chap. 60; Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 19-29.
A trapeze performer was explaining how he executed a breathtaking triple somersault: "To catch the swing," he explained, "you must time your dive perfectly. It takes a lot of practice and courage. The secret is to throw your heart over the bar. And when you do that, your body will follow." In the same manner, when we give our heart to Christ, our whole life will follow (Prov. 23:26).
"He [Jesus] is not only the author but the finisher of our faith. It is Christ first and last and always. He is to be with us, not only at the beginning and the end of our course, but at every step of the way. David says, 'I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.' . . .
"Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, 'Take me, 0 Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.' This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day.... Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ."Steps to Christ, pp. 69, 70.
SUMMARY: As God's children, we have the honor of being holy by virtue of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we will be able to do "good works." It is clear that the Sanctifier, the One who makes us holy, is the Lord (1 Thess. 5:23) through our faith and our consecration to Him.
"Lamungia is a pagan village with about 200 people," Pastor Punda explained as the taxi in which we rode struggled along a rough trail in this remote section of Orissa State in India. Normally the pastor walks from the highway to the village, a journey that takes him all day.
We arrived in the village and stepped inside the humble mudbrick home of Dinabandha Pradhan, a former pagan priest. His wife was preparing a meal over an open fire in the smoke-filled room.
For most of his adult life Pradhan had led the villagers in worshiping their idols. Then Adventist Christians came to share the gospel. Pradhan drove the Christians from the village and urged villagers to have nothing to do with Christianity.
But the Adventist pastor returned in spite of taunts and threats. Little by little the message of Christ touched the heart of the pagan priest. He was deeply impressed that the great Creator God would die for him. Eventually 25 members of the village gave their lives to Jesus and joined the Adventist church. Pradhan got rid of the village idols. With a smile spreading across his face, the former priest said, "We have lived all our lives without the knowledge of the true God. But we are happy that now we have a new life!"
Not everyone in the village is happy that some have become Christians. The 175 villagers who are not Christians persecute the new believers. A mob tried to kill the once-respected pagan priest. He has been dragged off to jail, beaten, and threatened. Opposition to Christianity, which he once led, continues.
"No matter how the villagers treat us," Pradhan said, "we are happy to worship the true God." He prays that one day the entire village will come to know Jesus.
We walked out to a large field adjacent to Pradhan's home. "I have dedicated this land to God," he said. "One day we will have a church here." But the villagers are poor, and do not have the money to build even a simple church. At present the new believers must walk several hours to worship in another village.
Dinabandha Pradhan (left). J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California
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