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Zealous for Good Works

How zealous are we?

A Celtic Christian Worldview (20)

For it is not enough not to do evil to attain the kingdom of heaven, if anyone has not been careful to do good deeds. For it is taught by the Lord equally through the prophet Isaiah, ‘Refrain from acting wickedly, learn to do good.’ [Is. 1.16, 17] Through the psalmist also the selfsame Spirit of the Lord prophesies these same words: Turn from evil and do good. [Ps. 36.27]

  - The Book of the Order of Creatures XIII.6[1]

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

- Titus 2.11-14

The goodness in which God created human beings and all things was lost at the fall. But because people are made in the image of God, the idea of goodness remains in our souls, impelling us to seek what is good and to do good, according to our own skewed ideas of goodness. By His common grace, the writer of the Liber explained in chapter XII, God enables this struggle for goodness, and allows people to seek good things, acquire good skills, and do good works, at least to a limited degree. Whatever of good there is in the world is the result of God’s grace, which He extends even to His enemies and those who hate Him (Matt. 5.44-48). None of this struggle for or realization of goodness can save anyone, and nothing of any individual’s goodness will survive the grave.

And yet goodness matters to God, because goodness reflects His Being and recalls His original plan for the creation. All goodness of any kind is thus a witness to our nature as the image-bearers of God, and of our purpose as those appointed to the task of developing and extending the goodness of our Lord.

God has redeemed a people unto good works, as Paul reminds us (Eph. 2.8-10). The salvation which we enjoy in Jesus Christ is the means whereby God intends to restore His world to its original good condition, as those who have been saved are “careful to do good deeds” in every area of their lives. Paul instructed Titus to teach the believers on the island of Crete to be zealous for good works,  to “maintain” them for the good and profit of all men, and for meeting urgent needs and bearing fruit for Christ (Tit. 3.8, 14).

Thus, the struggle for good works continues in the souls and Personal Mission Fields of those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. It’s not enough for us to refrain from the obvious evils of the day; we must be zealous for good works, ready and equipped for them (2 Tim. 3.15-17), and careful to maintain them so that we extend the grace and blessings of God to everyone around us, doing good to all people as often as we may (Gal. 6.9, 10).

Christians celebrate Good Friday as that day above all others in which the goodness of God was displayed to the world. “Who can call Good Friday good?” asked the poet in Johnny Hart’s B.C. comic strip. Again, in the second panel, “Who can call Good Friday good?” Then in the third and fourth panels, “They who are bought by the blood of the Lamb, they can call Good Friday good.” What we learn from Jesus is that doing good costs something. Doing good often involves sacrifice, giving up something we might prefer for the sake of touching others with the grace of God. Doing good means denying ourselves, taking up whatever cross is before us – the needs of others, whatever will benefit, edify, or profit them at the moment – and following Jesus into a selfless life of serving the people to whom God sends us each day.

The writer of the Liber doesn’t go into detail about the specific good works to which we are called. His references to the prophets, psalms, and New Testament point the way for us (2 Tim. 3.15-17). Unlike the lost people of this world, Christians are not free to make up their own ideas about what is good, or what doing good might look like. God has shown us what is good, and what we must desire and seek. His Law is holy and righteous and good. His Word equips us for good works. Jesus is the very goodness of God in human flesh, Who, as we follow in the path He walked (1 Jn. 2.1-6), does good in and through us and clothes us with Himself, that He might receive all the glory for every good work (Matt. 5.16).

“Zealous for good works.” What does that look like? How does that play out in someone’s Personal Mission Field? Does that describe you?

Our God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8.28). We are His children, chips off the old Block, so to speak; we should imitate Him, according to His Word and in the power of His Spirit, so that the goodness of the Lord can be seen wherever we go, whatever we do.

For Reflection
1. Why is doing good such a struggle? What do we have to overcome to be zealous for good works?

2. How can Christians encourage one another to love and good works (Heb. 10.24)?

Psalm 25.4, 5, 21, 22 (Festal Song: Revive Thy Work, O Lord)
Make me to know Your ways, teach me Your paths, O Lord!
My Savior, all day long I wait and seek You in Your Word.

Preserve me in Your way, redeem Your people, Lord!
We wait for You and refuge seek in Your own faithful Word.

Lord, help me to be zealous for good works today, especially as I…

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All Psalms for singing from
The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Davies, p. 23

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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