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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Believing is not the same as following

11-14God's readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation's available for everyone! We're being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness.
(Titus 2:11-14)

New life in Christ is available to all - the simple fact is that we must choose to avail ourselves of what is right in front of us.  God stands ready to both give us his gift of grace and for forgive us in his mercy.  There have been periods of time in our growth as a society when that message came through loud and clear.  I am not so sure that God's message of salvation is as clear, or as loud as it once was - it has been drowned out by the many other messages we hear today.  

The simple message Titus receives from Paul is that our new life in Christ starts right now - it is always fresh and new.  There is nothing stagnant about serving Christ - it is a living message.  Paul gives us several key thoughts here:
  • God's message may not be the the loudest, but it is the most consistent.  There are all kinds of other messages that promise good things, but they soon fall short of fulfillment because they are not backed with anything of enduring character.
  • God not only provides the way or means to salvation (restoration with himself and full forgiveness of our sins), but he shows us how to live this life out in our daily walk.  We are not left to figure this "new life" out all on our own.  We have his assistance each step of the way - to make sense of our choices in a world that often offers choices that are contrary to what is best for us.
  • God's goal is that we become less "self-absorbed" and more Christ-centered.  As we turn our backs on those things that indulge our lusts, we are being shown how to find fulfillment in having Christ at the center of our choices.
Paul presents the idea that today's blessings are just a "whetting of our appetites" for what really lies ahead for every follower of Christ.  Notice, this "new life" experience, the blessings that come with it, and the hope for what lies ahead are not simply for those that "believe" in Christ.  They are for those that "follow" Christ.  Scripture tells us that many "believe" - even the devil!  It is something else to follow.

Believing in Christ is simply having the confidence that he exists, that he is reliable.  Beliefs are something we may have confidence in, yet they may not fully direct the course of our actions.  When we are followers of Christ, we move into a place of accepting his leadership over our lives - we align our goals with his, our desires are submitted to his planning, etc.  Believing is having understanding - following is putting into action what it is that we believe.

Paul speaks of turning our backs on a godless life and taking on a God-filled, God-honoring life.  This is never done by simply believing in all the right stuff. It is only "lived out" in the exchanging of one set of goals (our self-indulgent ones) for another set of goals (those with Christ at the center).  Beliefs impact our actions, but they are not actions themselves.  Therefore, we need to take what we have come to believe about Christ and put his leadership into practice in our lives.  When we do, we begin to live the "exchanged life" that Paul speaks of in this passage.

If you are a believer in Christ - that is the beginning point.  Your next step is to become a follower of Christ - allowing his authority and leadership to direct the course of your steps each and every day.  It is time to put into practice what you have come to believe!