The Why Behind The What-Part Three
Scripture: Titus 2:11–15
The Why Behind The What-Part ThreeTitus 2:11-15
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith
What makes Christianity different from all the other religions in the world?
Years ago that very question was discussed at a conference. Some of the participants argued that Christianity is unique in teaching that God became man. But someone objected, saying that other religions teach similar doctrines. What about the resurrection? No, it was argued, other faiths believe that the dead rise again. The discussion grew heated.
C.S. Lewis, a strong defender of Christianity, came in late, sat down, and asked, "What's the rumpus about?" When he learned that it was a debate about the uniqueness of Christianity, he immediately commented, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace."
If you have been saved for any period of time, "grace" should be the most precious word in your vocabulary. Grace is like a flower that never loses its attractiveness. Its beauty appreciates the more you gaze at it, and its fragrance continually calls you back for additional encounters. Grace not only separates, but also elevates Christianity above every religion in the world.
Islam teaches that our good deeds must outweigh our bad deeds to make it to paradise. Jehovah Witnesses believe we earn everlasting life through baptism and "door-to-door witnessing." Mormonism says we are saved by works, namely faithfulness to church leaders, Mormon baptism, tithing and marriage. Scientology believes that salvation or freedom from reincarnation is accomplished through removing our hang-ups (engrams). Hinduism is similar in that we are delivered from further reincarnation through meditation and yoga. New Age calls us to offset bad karma with good karma through meditation, self-awareness and spirit-guides. And Buddhism calls for the Eightfold Path to achieve a state of Nirvana.
Common denominator: Emphasis on something you must do.
H.A. Ironside was occasionally interrupted during his sermons with the objection that there were hundreds of religions, and that no one could determine which was the right way. Ironside would answer by indicating that he knew of only two religions. "One," he would say, "Covers all who expect salvation by doing; the other, all who have been saved by something done. The whole question is very simple," said Ironside, "Can you save yourself, or must you be saved by another?"
Apart from all the religions that call for human achievement, Christianity stands alone as one based solely on divine accomplishment.
Christians believe that God is perfectly holy without any moral blemish and therefore cannot compromise His holy character through the injustice of allowing sin to go unchecked. Christians believe all humans have violated God's law, which is not based on some arbitrary standard, but is based on His character. Therefore we must be judged and assigned a place away from His holy presence. Bottom line: Christians believe humans have no hope in saving themselves regardless of what they do.
But Christians also believe that God is good, merciful and loving, not unaware or unconcerned about our awful predicament. Since all humans stand condemned, God in an act of love sent His Son to the cross to be our substitute. He became human and lived a perfect life. At Calvary He received the punishment we deserved for our sin. And through simple faith in the God of this message, we can receive forgiveness, eternal life with Him.
So even though Christianity dethrones the goodness of humans more than any other religion, it exalts the goodness of God by basing salvation not on our works but on His, unlike any other religion. We have a God that works salvation for those undeserving and incapable of doing it themselves. Salvation is all from the One whom Scripture calls "the God of all grace" (1 Pet. 5:10).
The English Puritan, Richard Baxter, once said, "As we paid nothing for God's eternal love and nothing for the Son of His love, and nothing for His Spirit and our grace and faith, and nothing for our eternal rest…what an astonishing thought it will be to think of the unmeasurable difference between our deservings and our receivings. O, how free was all this love, and how free is this enjoyed glory... So then let 'Deserved' be written on the floor of hell but on the door of heaven and life, 'The Free Gift.'"
Salvation comes at a great cost to God, but is offered to us without charge. The "Free Gift" that Baxter spoke of is all about grace.
Last week be began to talk about this wonderful topic of grace. We learned that grace has a past element that not only drew us to Christ, but also washed away our sins the moment we trusted the Savior (Rom. 5:17; 11:16; Gal. 2:21; Eph. 2:8-9). In verse 11 of Titus 2 we read, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (cf. 1 Pet. 1:10). Grace, personified in the person of Jesus Christ, has made salvation available to all who will forsake their own efforts to find favor with God and trust the work He has accomplished for us in Christ.
But as beautiful as this concept of past grace is, we must not forget that grace also has a present effect in our lives as well. Verse 12 says grace is "instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age."
As we said last week, grace saves us not only from sin's condemnation, but also from sin's domination. Or put another way, grace saves us not only from sin's penalty, but also from sin's power. Or put another way, grace nullifies legalism - believing we are accepted by God based on what we do, but grace also nullifies licentiousness - believing once we are saved, God does not care what we do.
Therefore it is imperative to our Christian faith that we understand not only past grace, but also present grace helps us mature in Christlikeness.
That is why the Apostle Peter at the end of his second epistle encourages us to "grow in the grace…of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). How do we do that? If grace only comes as a result of sin, should we increase our sin to get more grace? As absurd as that sounds, people have believed this from the inception of the church age.
Paul asked the Roman church the same rhetorical question. "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase" (Rom. 6:1)? To which he immediately responded, "May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it" (Rom. 6:2)? Later in the chapter he says, "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace" (Rom. 6:14-15a)? Once again he quickly replies, "May it never be" (Rom. 6:15b)! Jude in his short epistle says it is the false teachers who "change the grace of our God into a license for immorality" (Jude 1:4 NIV)
Sin does not increase our grace. Sin only reveals a deficiency of grace in our lives. On the contrary, it is when we grow in humility that additional grace is imparted. Isn't that the teaching of Scripture? "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5; cf. Psm. 84:11). As we surrender and live in total dependence on God, He floods our lives with grace - what Second Peter 1:2 calls grace multiplied to us.
So even though we are saved by grace alone, the grace that saves is never alone. It is this present grace that instructs (Tit. 2:11) and empowers (Ac. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:1; Heb. 13:9) us to godly living. Think of it this way- it was past grace that declared us righteous before God (Rom. 3:24; Tit. 3:7), and now it is present grace that is making us righteous before God. Therefore we must not tolerate a gospel divorced from grace, but we must also not tolerate a gospel of grace that abandons holiness.
It is God's will for all Christians to mature in the likeness of Christ. And this will only be accomplished through His Spirit as we grow in grace. D.A. Carson once said, "People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."
So, as Bryan Chapell said, "Resting on God's grace does not relieve us of our holy obligations; rather it should enable us to fulfill them" (Holiness by Grace, p. 12).
Up to this point we have reviewed past grace and present grace, so now let us turn the corner as we embark on the new material and examine future grace. In verse 13 of Titus 2 Paul said, "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."
Living the Christian life is not easy so God has built in key components that will give us hope, strength and encouragement to persevere if we will only tap into them. Past grace reminds us of His love and mercy. Present grace instructs and empowers us to obedience. And now, future grace, informs us of our glorious ending centered around the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In verse 13 Paul calls it "the blessed hope." He is speaking about a confident expectation through divine promise of good things to come for those who long for Christ's return. Hebrews 9:28 takes us from past grace to longing for future grace in one verse. "So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many (past grace), will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him (future grace)."
As we "eagerly await" for Christ to return, we are given hope and encouragement to persevere. Not much unlike the child who finds joy today knowing Christmas is just one month away.
Specifically, how does future grace, centered on the Second Coming, give us hope and encouragement to persevere? Allow me to give you four reasons.
First, the Second Coming reminds us about the glory of Christ in whom we have trusted. Verse 13 calls it the "the appearing of the glory." The One in whom we have placed our faith, "our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (verse 13), will return in glorious fashion.
Matthew 23:30 says all "will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." His return will be attended with trumpets and angels and lightning (Mt. 24:31; 1 Thes. 4:16; 2 Thes. 1:7). In the Apocalypse John said, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 'KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS'" (Rev. 19:11-16).
My friends, this glorious return gives us hope that we are presently laboring on the right side!
Second, the return of Christ encourages us as to the completion of our salvation since we are presently not enjoying the full benefits of our redemption. When Christ returns the Scriptures declare that we will receive glorified bodies. In Philippians 3:20 we read, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-53).
In this glorified state we will not only enjoy life with out sin, sickness and death, but we will also live forever in the blessedness of heaven enjoying its beauty, especially face-to-face fellowship with our Savior (Job 19:26; 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Jn. 3:2). Our glorious future state, future grace, gives us present hope. In Romans 8:18 Paul said, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
That verse transitions us well into our third reason. The Second Coming gives us encouragement when suffering opposition and persecution for the cause of Christ. Jesus warned us, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (Jn. 15:20). Paul added, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). The dark world hates the light. They hated and murdered Jesus, the Light of the World (Jn. 15:18; 1 Jn. 3:13). And they will treat His children, the "lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15) in the same manner.
As we are maligned and slandered and (in many countries) tortured and killed, we know it is not fair, but in our quest for justice we are told to pray for our enemies, return good for evil and forgive and overlook offenses. Why? Because we are to believe God is a better judge than we are and because we believe Romans 12:19 which says, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."
Do we think our Lord stands unmoved toward those who attack His people or those who cause so much damage and pain in His church, His precious bride that He purchased with the blood of the Lamb (Ac. 20:28)? Of course not! And it is during the Second Coming that the Lord will right all wrongs and vindicate our sufferings. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 declares, "For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."
Fourth, the return of Christ encourages us to stay true and faithful to our heavenly calling. We all have a tendency to settle for mediocrity. We all have a tendency to allow the flesh to dominate. We all have a tendency to abuse grace. Therefore, knowing that our Lord will return makes us want to live every day in steadfast fidelity to Him. Writing to believers the Apostle John said, "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming" (1 Jn. 2:28).
Future grace, the Second Coming gives us hope to persevere. Our King is returning. The end is glorious. Our enemies will be subdued. We will be held accountable. No wonder the Scriptures call us here in Titus 2:13 to be "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus," praying "Maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:22), "Come, Lord Jesus!"
A better hope than the Law could devise,
A bigger hope than man's biggest prize,
A brighter hope than the world can afford,
A blessed hope, the return of the Lord.
Put it all together and we have 1 Peter 1:13. "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Grace Tabernacle, I hope you get excited about this stuff!
From future grace, verse 13 encapsulates this section of Scripture in Titus going back to where we started with another look at past grace and present grace.
First we read that "(Jesus) gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed." This is past grace that once again speaks about the redemption we have in Christ. The imagery is from the marketplace. We were in bondage to sin with no hope of securing our own release, but Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, came and purchased our salvation by paying the ransom price through the shedding of His eternal blood. 1 Peter 1:18-19, "Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (cf. Mk. 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6).
Second in verse 14 we read once again about present grace. Christ did not give His life to redeem us from our sin only to have us continue to live in that sin. One commentator said, "A person who is not being purified from sin has no claim on being saved from it." Jesus also sought, verse 14, "to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." From being possessed and enslaved by sin we are now purchased to be possessed and enslaved to the Lord as His special possession, zealous to be found pleasing in His sight devoted to good works.
Doing what God requires does not make us His own, but now that we are His own by no work of ourselves, we take great delight in loving the One who first loved us. And that should move us to give our hearts to the One who gave His life for us. As Bryan Chapell said in Holiness by Grace, "Grace overwhelms us with God's love, and as a result our heart resonates with the desires of God. His purposes become our own. Our soul delights in His service as love for Him and thanksgiving for His mercy make us long to honor Him. True grace produces joy and promotes godliness" (p. 13). This is where present grace comes in.
Before we conclude this sermon, there is one more verse in this chapter that adds the punctuation mark to what we have discussed the past few weeks. In verse 15 Paul says, "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you."
Titus, not unlike any pastor, is reminded here that he is to be a faithful and authoritative proclaimer of God's Word. The authority of the preacher is not found in his title, his education or the fact that he is standing behind a pulpit. His authority is found in the Word of God, and when he speaks the Word accurately it is as if God is directly speaking to His people. So many pastors today have become entertainers or man-pleasers in fear of offending people or proclaimers of the latest fad or their recent hobbyhorse. The command to "Preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2) is ignored and God's flock is receiving the spiritual nourishment of a pixie stick! "Thus saith the Lord" should be the cry from every pulpit. "These things" (verse 15), specifically the things in Titus 2 and generally the things contained in the Bible are to be used according to 2:15 for instruction, encouragement and reproof. And since it is the Word of the infinite God, Paul tells Titus in verse 15, "Let no one disregard you," because rejecting you is rejecting the living God.
Titus 2:11-15 has been called the most pivotal section in this short letter. It instructs us about the wonderful doctrine of past, present and future grace as the impetus for all righteous living.
By way of summary one author said, "The instructor is God's grace, which is revealed by the one true great God and Savior, comes out of the redemptive work of the Savior, and teaches that life is to be lived within the awareness of Christ's return; as a result believers…are a special people for God, zealous to do good" (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, p. 422). Another one said, "The grace of God undertakes our salvation, supervises our education, guarantees our glorification, demands our sanctification and deserves our attention" (author unknown).
My friends, it is grace, said C.S. Lewis that makes Christianity different than every world religion. And it is these wonderful verses on grace that not only show us how to obey, but also teach us why we should live lives pleasing to God as His special possession.
I close with C.H. Spurgeon. "Not that our salvation should be the effect of our work, but our work should be the evidence of our salvation." The title of this sermon was "The Why Behind the What." Saved by grace and now living our Christian lives demonstrating the full reality of that grace.