Portraits of a Mature Christian
A mature Christian has a deep trust in the power of Jesus’ gospel.
Donald W. Patterson
An elderly gentleman took his grandson into the workshop to make a birdhouse. After
measuring the boards Grandpa put one in the vice, started a half inch cut at the place he
had marked, and handed the saw to his little subcontractor. The boy bit his lip and
began sawing back and forth with all his might. Suddenly, his wild strokes made the
saw bind up and bend sharply to one side. Grandpa smiled, wrapped his hands around
the boy’s, and said, “You don’t need to work so hard. Trust the saw to do the work for
you.” Together they sawed slowly and gently. Then Grandpa let go, and the boy kept
cutting as the saw sailed right through the wood. “Trust the saw to do the work,” he
kept telling himself.
Often we Christians are like that little boy. Making rules and New Year’s resolutions
for ourselves often produces quick changes, but they lack the power to help us
persevere. We end up feeling guiltier than before. “How to” programs often fail to
propel us after the newness has worn off. Instead we must learn to trust the Lord’s
“saw” to do the work it was designed to do. His saw is the gospel of Jesus’ love for us.
Once learned, it becomes a strong force that works through us to make us capable of
doing great things.
Many of Paul’s letters are sprinkled with insights into how the gospel enlightens us
and fills us with the power to conquer sinful habits, overcome the chains of guilt, and
free us to love the unlovable. Mature Christians learn to trust the gospel of Jesus to
work through them instead of pushing so hard with human strength. The passage from
Titus can help us discover how the gospel of Jesus is a power we can trust to transform
us and make us eager to do good works for God.
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope –the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to what is good.
POINTS TO PONDER
1. What does Paul say the gospel teaches us? How does it do that?
The gospel teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions. It does this by freeing
not only from the guilt of our sins but the desire to sin. When we come to faith in God who loved us so much that he gave us his Son to cleanse us from our sins, we actually don’t want to sin like we used to. Instead we want to remain clean because we like it. We also love him so much we want to do what makes him happy. It is not a fear of breaking rules and reaping the consequences that motivates us. Instead it is the power of love for God that works within us.
2. According to verse 14, what did Jesus redeem us from? What did he redeem us
for? He redeemed us from all wickedness that held us like slaves. He redeemed us for living a pure life for him as we are eager to do what is good.
3. What picture in the verb “redeem” helps us understand that being saved includes
having our status as a weak sinner changed into a powerful free saint?
In this passage, to be redeemed means to be purchased from a slave master by someone who
pays a ransom for you. God is saying that Jesus spent his own blood to win our release from sins and the guilt and death they earn for us. Once he has purchased us, he takes us to himself and makes us his children. We are no longer slaves but real family members. As family members and heirs of his estate on earth and in heaven we have a new status. We do not have to be ruled by sin any longer. We are free to live for God.
4. Compare Romans 6:1-14 to this passage. What role does our baptism play in our
ability to do good works for God? When we were baptized the power of our old Adam died and the resurrected Lord Jesus came to live in our hearts. Because he is in our lives we can ask him at any moment to help us say “No” to a temptation, and he will give us the strength to resist it. He also empowers us to do good things for God by the power of his love working in our lives. If we ever feel weak and doubt that he is there for us, we need only to remember that we have been baptized, which assures us that the Spirit of Christ is in us.
5. Explain how the gospel makes us eager to good works. Before we learn the good news that God loved us so much that he died for us, we see God as a stern judge who will some day condemn us in our sins. But when we realize that although he could have judged us that he instead took that very judgment upon himself, we fall in love with him. Then we want to give back to him our love and devotion. He gives us direction through his Word as to the ways he wants us to show that devotion. We eagerly do our best to fulfill his wishes from a heart that wants to and does not feel compelled by guilt or shame.
FRUIT TO BEAR
1. Verse 14 says Jesus made us his very own. Explain to a close friend what it
means to you to be Jesus’ very own. To be his very own is to be owned by Jesus in his very heart. It means to be very special to him and to be watched over, guided, and improved by him. Jesus calls us brothers and children in his home. When we meditate on this one thought, we will feel secure and significant no matter what is happening to us our little corner of the world.
2. List eight people from the Bible who were eager to do good for God without
pressure from rules? Here are some: Abraham, Joseph with Potiphar’s wife, Joshua, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Peter, the apostles John and Paul.
3. How does dwelling on God’s love help you to love someone who makes it hard
for you to love him or her? The power to love the unlovable never depends on them to earn our love through good behavior, although that’s what seems logical. The power to love is the power to love unconditionally because of who we are not because of who others are. When we realize this about God that he loved us even though we are so evil and selfish by nature we touch a love that is supernatural and that overcomes our natural instincts to love conditionally. As we focus on Jesus’ free and faithful love from the cross we will be Christ centered, and from
that center we will draw the strength to be like him and love others the way he does. He
will love others through us much like the grandfather in my opening story. His words and
hands became the wisdom and strength of the little grandson’s ability to saw the board
Other Scriptures verses on this topic
● Mark 5:18-20
● Luke 19:8
● Galatians 2:20–5:26
● Ephesians 2:10
● Romans 6–8.
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © December 2009 reprinted with permission.