Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 23 July 2019

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  Titus 1:15-16 (NIV).

Before moving on from these verses, we have to talk (again) about sin.   Remember from last time how I said that a friend called me out for calling out a specific thing as sinful.   And that sin is a destroyer.   And, more important than these, that Jesus annihilated sin by confronting it and leading us from it.

Here is a partial list of my many sins:  being unloving, lying, ungratefulness, adultery, blasphemy, theft, anger, hatred, intolerance, judgmentalism, lust, unkindness, unfaithfulness, coveting, dishonor, unrighteousness, vulgarity, immorality, envy, greed, disobedience, drunkenness, rebelliousness, sloth.

Need I go on?   These are just a few that rattle off the top of my head.   There are more.  I regret them.   I’m sorry I did them.   I’m even more sorry I hurt others in doing them.   If all I focused on was my sins, I couldn’t function.  Indeed, there would be no point in going on if the only thing worth living for was evil, more sin.

The thing about it is, when you’re living in the middle it, those sins are all you want.   They’re a twisted poison that infects your heart and mind.   They’re a heroin rush.  They’re slavery disguised as freedom.  You think they’ll make you happy but you know deep inside that’s really a lie.  You say you believe in God but you never really do.   You refuse to give yourself over to God, so hypocrisy simply becomes yet another sin you’ll just live with.  You don’t like it; you don’t even want it, except you do.   Except they occupy your thoughts and become your focus.

Jesus rewires that thinking.

His focus is purity; His purity.  He longs for you to have it.  He looks into your heart and sees someone better.   He looks at you and says to you, “let me take that from you.”   He sees those sins and asks you to give them over to Him, so that He can carry the guilt and the hurt and the shame and the impurity of them.   He who is only that purity and has no sin takes your sins and takes them off you so that you don’t have to deal with them anymore.   He offers you true freedom.

And even after that happens, we make mistakes.   Even after, we deal with the consequences of our actions in that past ‘life.’  Even then, He is with us, helping us to stand, helping us to keep our focus on Him.   Helping us to apologize when we do wrong.   And helping us to stay free by resisting the temptation to fall back.

For further reading:  Titus 2:1

Pure, saving Jesus, thank You for saving me!

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 11 April 2019

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.   2 Timothy 2:5 (NIV).

My wife and I have an ongoing rib about rule-following.   She’s a dedicated rule-follower.   I’m more of a rebel.   It wasn’t always this way; over the years we’ve switched roles.   That happens in relationships.   But, overall, one of her more admirable character traits is her devotion to following rules, staying in-between the guidelines.

This character gift stems from the years she grew up playing in competitive sports.   Basketball, volleyball, and especially softball:  my wife played on numerous teams over the years.   She has a box full of trophies that testify how she was good at it, too.  I never played organized sports.   My parents were anti-athletic, discouraging me from team athletics   I never took the time to learn how to compete by the rules, or train for the race, or run a victory lap.   It’s one of the things I would do over if I could.

Still, that doesn’t negate what Paul says here in verse 5.  In Paul’s day, the Greeks still conducted the Olympic Games.   Thus, his verse here would have meant something to the people of that day who were familiar with the athletic culture that surrounded the games.  They would have understood what it meant to prepare for competition, to race against the best in the sport, and to do so within the confines of rules that made competition fair.   And they would have understood that the competition was for a trophy and the glory that comes with it, both of which don’t last.  If they last, then tell me who were the great champions in the ancient Olympic Games that ran for over a thousand years?

Jesus does that same thing, you know.

Jesus says that human glory dies but He doesn’t.   Jesus knows that the trophy for which we strive – the cross – was already won by Him for us.   Jesus understands that we prepare every day for competition, to race our races, and that He lives within us to encourage us to strive for what is best, competition or otherwise.  And Jesus knows that so much of our life is made up of living in a culture that requires we abide by rules, how His rules – love God and love your neighbor – supersede all human rules while helping us to still live within them.

More and more, I think that’s why my wife is such a rule-follower.   She is constantly improving her outlook, her behavior to live more like Jesus, to share His Spirit with others in how she conducts herself.   THAT is the race she sets out to run every day, and she’s much better at it than I am.  That’s the race that matters.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:25, Mark 12:30-31, 2 Timothy 2:6.

Lord, help me run my race today!  Thank You for running with me.