For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. (Titus 3:3)
In Paul’s letter to Titus, this is a section of reminders. Paul wanted Titus to remind the Christians under his teaching and leadership of how to live the Christian life (Titus 3:1-2). But he also wanted Titus to remind them of how they used to live, what they used to be.
It’s as if God tells us, “Don’t ever forget how I have changed your life.” As Paul wrote, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived.” When in verses 1 and 2 we learned how to live, we learn in verse 3 why it is sometime such a struggle. We didn’t used to live in a godly way, and we have bad habits of thinking and doing to overcome.
Notice that Paul used the word “we” in this sentence. He included himself, and it was quite a list to include one’s self in: foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
For the Christian, all that should belong to the old life. Jesus gives us something new. Remembering this work of God builds four things in us.
First, gratitude for how God changed us. When we think of what we used to be, we can be so thankful that God has done a work in our life and is still doing that work. We often think that we are not yet what we should be (and that is true); but thank God, we are not what we used to be.
Second, humilityas we see that it was His work that changed us. This was not our own self-improvement program; it was the work of the living God within us. Of course, it involved our will and effort; but even our will and effort were the work of God in us. We have nothing to be proud about.
Third, kindness to others in the same place. Sometimes we are quite judgmental towards those caught in the web of sin, forgetting that we also once were in similar traps. Remembering the changes God has done in our life should make us compassionate towards those who need a similar work of God.
Finally, faith that God can change those who are still in that place. It’s easy to despair when we long to see God work in the lives of others. Sometimes we give up hope. The next time you feel like that, ask Him for the grace to remember that if God changed you, He can change others as well.
Remember what you used to be, and have faith that the God who has begun a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).