The Why Behind The What-Part Two
Scripture: Titus 2:11–15
The Why Behind The What-Part TwoTitus 2:11-15
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith
Although the title of this morning's sermon is "The Why Behind the What - Part Two, I must admit that I came very close to changing it this week. Allow me to explain.
For the past four weeks we have covered the first 10 verses of Titus chapter 2. Although your feedback was entirely positive and this material crucial to the Christian faith, many pastors would shy away from this subject due to its potentially volatile nature. For one reason, much of it is not politically correct, and second, if you can get beyond the first, much of it is very convicting!
There is no doubt if you rightly understand the character traits presented, that each one of us falls short to some degree of God's expectations. There is no doubt that this lofty standard is imposing and daunting and frankly put, quite humbling. And therefore there is no doubt that we are destined for failure if we attempt to succeed in these areas on our own strength.
Therefore God has set-up the Christian life in such a way that everything is done for Him and also through Him (Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6). A life pleasing to Him can only be accomplished with the strength He provides. It is our responsibility to be those branches grafted into the Vine of Jesus Christ whereby the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit pulses through us and empowers us to victorious Christian living (Jn. 5:1-10). This is the context of Christ's words: "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5).
So our text this morning, verses 11-15 of chapter 2 teaches us that God's grace has appeared for this very purpose, to empower us to live godly lives. That is why I considered changing the title of today's sermon to: "The How Behind the What."
But after further study and consideration, I thought it best to leave it as first intended. I believe Paul anticipated the rejection to his teaching in Titus 2. I believe Paul anticipated that many believers due to the potential offense and difficulty of this material would attempt to circumvent absolute obedience. I believe Paul anticipated how disastrous things would be if the church failed to heed this specific instruction.
That is why he stated so many warning interjected in this passage (verses 1-10). The end of verse 5 calls for obedient lives "so that the word of God will not be dishonored." The end of verse 8 says compliance is necessary "so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us." The end of verse 10 stresses observance "so that (we) will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect." Hence last week's title: "The Why Behind the What - Part I."
But now, immediately on the heels of our instruction the past four weeks, Paul turns to grace in verses 11-15. Why? Because grace has come to assist us in putting off the old nature and conforming us every day to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Grace helps us fulfill our purpose in life for obedient godly living.
How would you feel about a camera that didn't take pictures or a hammer that couldn't pound nails or an oven that wouldn't produce heat? Perhaps that is how God feels about a Christian that doesn't become more like Christ.
I can see Paul's concern after he presented the material in verses 1-10. He could already hear the voices coming up with a hundred and one excuses why this information need not be preached or practiced. He could already see the people in the church unmoved, unchanged and consequently living no differently than the rest of the world. He could already comprehend the anguish in God's heart as He saw His children acting like the children of the adversary.
Verse 11, "For the grace of God has appeared" to make us more like Christ! Or put another way, the Holy Spirit lives within us to make us more holy!
So if it is God's will for His children to be more like their Father and He has supplied all the power we need for change, what does it say when the church acts no differently than the world? Where is the evidence that God cannot only save us, but also strengthen us to live lives pleasing in His sight? Do we dare show the world that our flesh is greater than His grace, or with Him now living in us that we still desire ungodliness over righteousness? To show grace, to show God's glory, we must show the ability to change.
Therefore I have retained the title: "The Why Behind the What-Part Two."
Today's sermon is about grace and it's past and present manifestations.
1. PAST GRACE
First we read about past grace in verse 11. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men."
If we are in Christ Jesus, grace was operative in our lives that first gave us salvation. This is often the most common understanding of grace in today's church. Maybe you have heard the definition that grace is everything for nothing to those who don't deserve anything. You know the acronym: God's Riches At Christ's Expense. You know we were not saved by your works but rather by God's grace. You have memorized Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." You praise God that your standing before Him is based solely on the merits of Christ's sacrifice, believing that His atonement on the cross has cancelled your sin, past, present and future. You find assurance that salvation from beginning to end is completely in His hands. For He saved you in spite of your sin (in the past) and "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (in the future)" (Phil. 1:6).
"For the grace of God has appeared" (Tit. 2:11a). And grace appeared in its fullest form in the Person of Christ Jesus. The two are inseparable and intertwined. Jesus is the personification of grace. He is the One "full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14). It is through Him we receive "grace upon grace" (Jn. 1:16). So as verse 11 concludes, it is by His work of grace that salvation is brought to all people.
Through our own efforts none of us will ever stand before God. Yet humans have invented all attempts that seek a way to be made right with their Creator, to make a way to heaven.
Recently I read about Warren Buffet, the world's second-richest man, who in June of 2006 announced that he would donate 85% of his $44 billion fortune to five charitable foundations. Commenting of this extreme level of generosity he said, "There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way."
But God is not impressed with our man-made attempts to earn His favor whether it is giving our time and money or the myriad of systems we commonly call religion. He is holy and we are sinners. All the good works in the world will never remove our sin nature and make us righteous before Him. If we are to have any hope, it would be contingent upon Him taking not only the first, but also the last step.
And this He did. In His love and mercy and grace He sent His Son to the cross to take the penalty for sin that we deserved. And through faith in Christ we can receive His righteousness and the total forgiveness for our transgressions. We can avert our destiny to hell (that we deserve) and live with the promise of heaven (thanks to grace). He made a way for us to be, Titus 3:7, "justified by His grace."
Jesus Christ, grace incarnate, has brought the offer of salvation to all who will receive this free gift of grace on the basis of faith. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." That is grace!
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You who are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
Julia H. Johnston and Daniel B. Towner, Grace Greater Than Our Sin, 1910, 1938.
2. PRESENT GRACE
So there is a past effect of grace. For those of us in Christ Jesus, we received grace the moment we trusted the Savior. All of our sins were forgiven as we were delivered from eternal condemnation.
Yet for many of us, this might be our only understanding of grace. So as we move to the second point I want you to see that grace is still operative in our lives today. Listen carefully, for grace not only delivers us from sin's condemnation, but it also delivers us from sin's domination. Or put another way, we can say grace not only delivers us from sin's penalty but also from sin's power.
You see, many Christians have great misunderstandings in this area. Are you among the multitude of those in error? Let's find out:
Do you believe there is no need for grace once you come to Jesus? If so, you need to read Titus 2:11. Do you who understand that good works did not save you in the past disregard any responsibility for good works in the present? If so, you need to read Ephesians 2:10. Do you think it is all right to sin because we are now living in the age of grace? If so, you need to read Romans 6:1 and 15. Do you think you were saved by grace but now must become like Christ solely through your own efforts? If so, you need to read Galatians 3:3. If you answered "yes" to any of these questions you are in serious theological error that will have drastic ramifications on how you live your Christian life.
As a church we must get this straight. I fear there is great confusion in this area so permit me to begin unraveling it through an illustration.
Let's pretend I would desire nothing more than having dinner with the President of the United States. But since he does not consider me a personal friend nor have I accomplished anything worthy of an invitation, my chances are empty. Furthermore, even if the President were into donations for an evening with he and the Mrs., there is no way I could compile the funds that would be necessary.
Basically, I have only one hope. I could write to the President: express the honor it would be to dine with him, inform him that I am unworthy of such a privilege and plea with him for mercy and compassion. So if he invites me over it would not be a credit in any way to my merit, but rather a display of his goodness in giving me something I do not deserve.
Let's pretend the dinner happens and I have the time of my life. What is the greatest way I can express my appreciation? Would it be pressing five dollars in his hand to thank him for the evening? Absolutely not! Such an action would be an insult as my gift would not equal his benevolence, but moreover, it would cast shame on his goodness. For the gift-giver is most glorified when others believe his motives are pure in giving the gift. And the greater the gift and the more the recipient is undeserving of the gift, the greater the glory for the gift-giver!
No, a feeble attempt to pay the President back is not how I would honor him. The best way to honor him is to show others how my evening with him has influenced my life. If I invite those undeserving to my house for dinner. If I make a greater commitment to serve him as an American citizen. If I have greater trust in his decisions. If I speak well of him to others.
Now stop and think for a moment. Do you understand the spiritual application of this illustration?
There is absolutely nothing we can do to have fellowship with God. If the relationship is to be established, He must take the initiative. He must provide the means for us to be reconciled. He must remove our sin and redirect our hearts to seek after Him. We deserve justice. So all we can do is beg for mercy on our behalf.
That is why Christ died on the cross. That is why Titus 2:11 says, "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men."
But does it all end here? Can I just keep sinning because I am under grace? Is grace still operating in my life once I get saved? And what does God now expect of me once I am saved by grace, the unmerited act of His goodness?
He does not want me to pay Him back! First of all I couldn't, second it would insult His benevolence, and lastly it would nullify grace (Rom. 11:36)! No, He wants me to live for Him as someone who is thankful, as someone who has been changed once He invited me into His life. Remember the illustration? He wants me to imitate His character. He wants me to be holy like He is. He wants me to give grace to others. He wants me to have greater faith in His actions. He wants me to tell others how awesome He is. He wants me (context) to fulfill the commands we just spent four weeks learning in Titus 2!
So how do I do this? Is it just to muster up some self-determination and self-effort and self-resolve? That sounds pretty SELF-ish! I do not have the power to love my wife as Christ loves the church in my own strength. And even if I did, if it is all in my own strength, who do you think would get the glory? Me! No, God desires to be part of the action, intimately working in our lives. He wants to direct, encourage and empower us to live the kind of lives He desires. We cannot do it on our own strength, but we can do it in His! And that is why He has provided grace sufficient for the task!
For the grace of God has appeared, verse 12, "instructing us (from the negative) to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and (from the positive) to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." Grace saves us from sin's penalty but grace also saves us from sin's power in order to do what is right! As John Piper once said, "Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon."
Let me show you the power of grace recorded in the Scriptures. Please turn 2 Corinthians 8. A good example of grace in action is found in this chapter as Paul speaks of the Macedonian church.
You see, Paul had that duty many pastors struggle with. He needed to speak to the church about money. I know many ministers have abused this subject and fleeced the flock, but this sensitive subject area must nevertheless be addressed. As I have said from this pulpit, the way we handle our money is possibly one of the greatest indicators of our spirituality. Oftentimes the last thing we fully surrender to the Lord is our pocketbooks and wallets. Jesus knew this. That is why He said, "You cannot serve God and wealth" (Mt. 6:24). We love our money. We all struggle in this area. So if we are to serve God and not our money or should I say serve God with our money, it will not happen naturally. It will only happen as an act of empowering grace.
In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul speaks about the Macedonian church by way of an example to the Corinthians. You can see in verse 2 that the Macedonians not only had "a great ordeal of affliction" but they were also in "deep poverty." They had every reason to be passed over in contributing to this collection. They had every excuse for being exempt from this obligation. But do we see that? What we see is a church, verse 2 in "abundance of joy" and giving with a "wealth of liberality." In verse 3 Paul says, "For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord." As a matter of fact, it was not the pastor, but the church Paul said in verse 4, "Begging us with much urging for the favor of (their) participation."
That is amazing! In the midst of their great affliction and deep poverty they begged to give, and when they gave they gave liberally of their own accord and beyond their own ability.
So I ask you Grace Tabernacle, what moved them to desire and accomplish this remarkable act of generosity? I believe two answers are mentioned in this text.
First, they were moved by past grace. They understood and appreciated the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Verse 9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." They were so blessed by Christ's sacrifice that they too wanted to be sacrificial and bless others. They too were excited about eternal purposes - being poor so that others might be made rich.
And second, they were also moved by present grace. They were empowered by God for action. At the end of verse 5 Paul said, "They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God." They surrendered themselves and all they had to the Lord. They gave Him free reign over their lives. They desired His will and not their own. And my friend, when we come to this point as a useful vessel in the Lord's hands, there is no telling what He will accomplish in us and through us by His empowering grace!
Oh what joy we will receive and what glory will be brought to Him as He gets us to do what we once thought impossible. No wonder Paul opened this account in verse 1 saying, "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia."
Is God's grace being made known through the Grace Tabernacle? Is there evidence that others, like the Apostle Paul, can boast of? If grace can get a church not unlike ours to change their perspective on money is there anything too difficult for God to accomplish in us and through us? For the Scriptures declare, "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom. 5:20).
Is grace only necessary to bring us to Christ? Do we sin at will because we live in an age of grace? Is holiness and godly living unimportant? Do we receive what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace?" For the grace of God has appeared, verse 12, "instructing us (we could also say empowering us) to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age."
Grace Tabernacle, the command is to "live…godly in (this) present age! It is not about just following a set of rules. The calling for Christians is much higher than that! It is about emulating God's character. And there is no way we can even scratch the surface of that one apart from His enabling power called grace.
For there is past grace that brought us to God, present grace that empowers us to live the Christian life and future grace that we will talk about next week that gives us hope and motivation.
Considering the specific instruction in Titus 2 and rightly understanding grace someone once said:
Watching a trapeze show is breathtaking. We wonder at the dexterity and timing. We gasp at near-misses. In most cases, there is a net underneath. When they fall, they jump up and bounce back to the trapeze.
In Christ, we live on the trapeze. The whole world should be able to watch and say, "Look how they live, how they love one another. Look how well the husbands treat their wives. And aren't they the best workers in the factories and offices, the best neighbors, the best students?" That is to live on the trapeze, being a show to the world.
What happens when we slip? The net is surely there. The blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, has provided forgiveness for ALL our trespasses. Both the net and the ability to stay on the trapeze are works of God's grace. (But) we cannot be continually sleeping on the net. If that is the case, I doubt whether that person is a trapezist.
Juan Carlos Ortiz, source unknown
The sermon is entitled, "The Why Behind the What." We have spent four weeks covering some tough instruction from Titus 2. Why should we accept this instruction and obey it?
Simply put, we follow through in obedience to show others that we take great delight in living by God's Word. We show the world that we understand the evil we were rescued from and no longer wish to live in it. We wish to show others that we want to turn from the sin that put our precious Savior on the cross. We show others that we are no longer under the domination of sin and Satan. We show others that we have been given a radical new nature that pursues a radical new way of living. And we show others the power of God's grace in our lives. For what does it say about God's grace when we profess Christ and then act no differently than the world?