A Pattern of Good Works

In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. (Titus 2:7–8, AV)

Do you know people who don’t attend church because they do not want to go and sit with the hypocrites? Whatever you think about their opinion of churchgoers, it is telling. Unsaved people and immature Christians may dodge church for any number of reasons, but human nature being what it is, the finger rarely points toward the self. One reason that love “keeps no record of wrongs” is that such lists cultivate shallow behaviors that hide behind pseudo-truths.

Yes, it is true that there are hypocrites in churches. But is this the best objective representation of people who sit in those churches? Is hypocrisy the defining characteristic of the collective body? Is it the whole thrust of their persons… or does it show up just occasionally? When people are on a hypocrite hunt, they tend to write things down.  

But is avoiding hypocrites really the reason people do not attend church? With no attendance, there’s no post-sermon guilt, no money lost to the collection plate, no refusing to work on committees and projects, no Sunday and Wednesday tie-ups... should I go on? Most human behavior is selfish, and part of selfishness is refusing to point the finger inward… and a continual pointing outward is immature. It’s the kind of thing you would expect from a child.

Now, picture a church where there is no hypocrisy, no observable character flaws, no fighting or backbiting…yeah, right. In heaven! But that’s the standard Paul was advocating. Then and now, people attack their church leadership with surprising caprice — and it does not sound like Paul thought that this was going to stop. But he did think that if the leader’s behavior was exemplary that people might at least be ashamed of their evil-speak… having nothing legitimately evil to say about him.

I am not naive, nor was Paul, to think that people will ever stop speaking evil. But the standard needs to be raised, and the leadership needs to be the very best it can be at this. Grace is sufficient for life, yes — and certainly sufficient for salvation. But behavior saves no one… although it is an expression of who a person is.

So, if you are a child of God, act like one. People are watching. They’re not quick to pick up a Bible…. but they’ll be quick to pick up you. They will not attend church… but they are attending the church-of-you every time they are in your presence. You are a conduit to the gospel… and one winsome Christian is worth a thousand preachers.

On that day when God will judge all the non-regenerate people of all time in all the earth, some will offer excuses: “They were hypocrites… I did good things in your name… my church-going neighbors kept a dirty yard….” … but the hollowness of their excuses will ring for eternity.

God will make sure that everyone understands the folly of unbelief as he turns them out of his presence forever. This is reason enough for God’s people to shine like the sun (the Son) for Jesus Christ. Show your best face out in the world by establishing a pattern of good works. This is the true face of a believer… because this is a true reflection of God.

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