"While defense is needed to win a championship, in today's NFL you need an offense that can score points, too," writes John Clayton, sportswriter for espn.com. Anyone who's been around sports for more than a weekend has heard remarks like this one. And it's true. You can't win a contest by simply preventing your opponents from scoring. Winners must throw some points on the board, too!
The apostle Paul was clearly an observer of the games, an avid sports enthusiast who frequently used sports metaphors, such as boxing, running, self-control, and physical training, to illustrate the disciplined Christian life. I imagine he was familiar with first century sayings that were comparable to Clayton's quip about the need for offense. Visualize an animated Paul, striding back in forth in a crowded synagogue or amphitheater, proclaiming that fighters who only block punches will never wear the victor's crown!
Generally speaking, in his pastoral epistles the apostle spends quite a bit of time on defense. Flee sexual immorality (adultery, lust, homosexual acts, lasciviousness, fornication, etc.). Avoid grumbling, pride, indulging in pagan revelry, and consorting with bad company. Don't be guilty of greed, coarse joking, obscene language, or mistreating members of your family.
In his personal letter to Titus, Paul's Greek convert and co-laborer, Paul once again stresses a good defense:
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age..." -- Titus 3:11 - 12
Two thousand years later, you and I are among those who are still living in Paul's "present age." In terms of the human condition, not much has changed, has it? Titus received Paul's letter while on the Mediterranean island of Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek islands. One of the island's own poets described his fellow citizens this way: "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." And Paul certifies in writing that the portrayal was true.
Western culture promotes ungodliness by encouraging all of us to indulge our worldly passions. The catchy Nike motto sums up Western values in three words: "Just do it!" But contrary to our culture, Paul tells us to say "no" to ungodliness and our passions and instead, to live self-controlled (with sound mind, soberly, temperately, discreetly), upright (agreeably to right, righteously, properly) and godly (pious) lives in this present age.
Okay, Coach Paul. I understand the need for good defense. But how 'bout the offense?
Let's say what else Paul says as he continues:
"... while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 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 do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach." -- Titus 3: 13 -- 15
So in this present age, while we're waiting for the glorious appearing of Jesus (a subject I write about so often), we must be eager to do what is good. Another translation reads, "... with a zest for noble deeds." "Doing what is good" is the believer's offense.
Titus is a very short letter, only 46 verses long, but Paul makes reference to the idea of "doing what is good" eight times -- one out of every six verses. Granted, our salvation cannot be earned by "works", that is, our good deeds, but they are clear evidence of our obedience, aren't they? And our obedience is clear evidence that you and I are Christians. Another apostle named John writes,
"We know that we have come to know him [Jesus] if we obey his commands. The man who says, 'I know him' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him." -- 1 John 2:3 - 4
So if we have a zest for performing noble deeds, what will our culture observe us doing? No doubt by design, Paul doesn't give us a master list of such deeds. If he did, the list-makers among us (me included!) would carry around the list in our hip pocket. When we checked off our last task, we'd find ways to humbly announce to our friends that we finished the list.
However, from time to time, the authors of the New Testament give us hints of what some of these noble deeds are. Luke encourages us to "supply our own needs and the needs of our companions" (Acts 20:34). Paul teaches that we're to put our religion into practice by caring for our relatives and our immediate family (1Timothy 5:8). He also wrote that we're to show contentment in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in (Philippians 4:11 -- 12). Paul was the recipient of gifts from the church in Philippi who sent him aid "again and again" when he was in great need (Philippians 4:16). You and I must do likewise.
I believe in our hearts we know what Paul means when he says we're to be eager to do what is good. Our friends, neighbors and family members are watching intently, wanting to see if our actions back up our words.
Satan's team goes on defense when the members of the church are being obedient to the Lord's commands. Jesus used a funny expression during a conversion with Simon Peter one time. Jesus said, " ... and the gates of Hell will not overcome it." When I was much younger, I imagined towering gates chasing Peter and the church, determined to overcome them. But I was obviously missing Jesus' point. When the members of the church play offense, when we're eager to do what is good, we move the ball to Satan's side of the field. We begin to do battle on his turf. Yes, he'll throw up his gates, trying to prevent us from moving forward. But even the gates of Satan's Hell cannot stop
Author of "The god-man: seed of Satan"
Has America Lost Its Status as the "City Upon a Hill"?
by Bruce Biller
Mar 3, 2015
Earth's inhabitants are reeling from a wave of atrocities that are increasing in frequency and intensity and which collectively, are a harbinger of evil on a biblical scale. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn't actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.
The god-man: seed of Satan is the first in a two-part, pre-wrath rapture thriller that tells the riveting story of the rise of the treacherous Antichrist, the god-man who will come to prominence during the seventieth week of Daniel.
Bruce Biller, a longtime student of the Bible and the End Times, believes that Christians will live through the Great Tribulation before Christ's return, rather than being taken to heaven first. His novel set during the last few years of human history, The god-man: seed of Satan, is his vision of how life may be for Christians during the rise of the AntiChrist.
"The god-man: seed of Satan"
by Bruce Biller
Author Solutions-WestBow Press
Nook book $9