The Power of Grace
Scripture: Titus 3:3–7
The Power Of Grace
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith
We live in a world of conflict; conflict in our nation, in our homes and sadly at times, conflict in our churches. Few know how to achieve peace in their particular situation. Few know how to help others reconcile.
I remember the story about two men who lived in a small village. Unable to resolve their terrible dispute, they decided to talk to the town sage. The first man went to the sage’s home and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the sage said, “You’re absolutely right.” The next night, the second man called on the sage and told his side of the story. The sage responded, “You’re absolutely right.” Afterward, the sage’s wife scolded her husband. “Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That’s impossible – they can’t both be “absolutely right.” The sage turned to his wife and said, “You’re absolutely right.”
This morning we will talk about resolving conflict – not necessarily person to person, but person to God. That is where we need the greatest reconciliation because between God and man, we are not absolutely right.
1. The Absence Of Grace (verse 3)
So, how do we get right with God? We’ll, if you listen to the response on the street, you will probably receive one of the following answers: “God loves everybody so only really bad people go to hell.” “There is one God, but many ways to reach Him.” “It doesn’t matter what you believe. All that matters is the strength of your faith.” Or, “Do the right thing and hope when it is said and done, you did enough.”
My friends, I am here to tell you that all of those answers are wrong. I don’t say they are wrong on a personal basis – what I believe verses what you believe. I don’t say they are wrong on a logical basis – even though they contradict each other. I say they are wrong on a theological basis – they contradict the Word of God.
Last Wednesday we cited John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” What matters is not what we want to believe, but rather what God has revealed to us in the Bible. Though common today, it’s improper to act like that sage and say everybody is “absolutely right.”
Think about it, should we assume that God would accept anything? And on something this important, should we assume that God would leave us groping in the dark for answers and not clearly reveal what He expects?
So, we personalize it: “Am I at peace with God or are the two of us in conflict?” And, “If I am in conflict with God is there any way to resolve the conflict?” Nothing, absolutely nothing is more important than receiving those answers. So, for these answers we turn to what God has said in His Word.
When we look at the Bible, it doesn’t take long to receive the bad news. Contrary to what people teach and believe, there is not a single verse in the entire Bible that says humanity is at peace with God. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures speak quite to the contrary. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Psalm 53:3, “There is no one who does good, not even one.” Now those words don’t line up very well what you always heard from your Grandmother!
You see, when compared to others we may look pretty good. But the standard is not other people or some perceived level of goodness – the standard is God Himself! God is perfectly holy (as we discussed last week) and He will accept nothing less from us. We fall short of His expectations and in His perfect justice He is obligated to punish sin.
So, against that backdrop of God’s holiness, we don’t stand out as shining diamonds. We stand out as the black velvet, sinners. Sure, we could be worse, but on a daily basis we violate God’s holy law and we know it!
So, due to the conflict between our sinful nature and God’s holy nature, the Bible says we are alienated enemies (Rom. 5:20; Col. 1:21) separated by a chasm between the two of us that is impassable.
Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you.”
Can we cross this gulf of separation by our own good deeds? Can we work our way into favor with God? Answer: Absolutely not! Like we said last week, we have a better chance of jumping across the Atlantic Ocean than reaching God by our own efforts.
Unlike every other world religion, Christianity claims our best human efforts will never gain God’s approval.
In verse 3 of our passage in Titus this morning, I read about the depraved nature of all humanity as seen through the eyes of God. The verse says, “For we [Paul himself!] also once were [past tense] foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
It’s a sad and humbling snapshot, but it’s an accurate assessment of our condition.
It’s only when we take a deep look inside and examine ourselves against the standard of God’s holiness, will we realize how we are spiritually in a pit deeper than we can crawl from, in a darkness greater than our light can penetrate and in a sin mightier than our resolve can ever hope to control.
God will not compromise His character and we are unable to change ours. As a result, the Scriptures declare: “He who does not obey the Son (of God) will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:23). And “cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them” (Gal. 3:10). And “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
So regardless of our good deeds, noble intentions and religious pursuits, there is nothing we can do to reconcile ourselves with God. So, do we plea to God for justice? Absolutely not! Justice would mean an eternity in hell! Our only hope is mercy. Our only hope is to have God act on our behalf to remove our sin and thus reconcile our relationship. We are dependent on Him to take our relationship from hostility to peace.
2. The Appearance Of Grace (verses 4–7)
The answer is found in Tutus 3, verse 4. We have spent a considerable time talking about God’s holiness and justice, but we must not forget that God is also kind and loving. And in our dark condition, His kindness and love broke through to bring us the light of salvation. By way of strong contrast to verse 3, verse 4 states, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared.”
Years ago, when my children were younger and scared, they would cry out. The response that brings them comfort was: “Daddy’s here.” To young kids weak and vulnerable in strength and wisdom, Daddy is the embodiment of omnipotent love and kindness – the only hope they have.
We were alienated from God. We were enemies with our Creator. We were hopeless. We were only one breath away from an eternity of separation. And before we even thought of crying out, God in His love and kindness said, “Your Father here.”
Now, love and kindness are well intended, but meaningless if they are unable to deliver. My presence brought my children comfort because they still thought their daddy was bigger than the boogie man and can beat up any other daddy on the block! Little did they realize that all my love and kindness can only go so far to provide for them ultimate protection they desired.
Yet with God, His love and kindness are infinite. They are sovereign. They are omnipotent. They are not flimsy emotions, but the source of actions that will always prevail in accomplishing His purposes. Love and kindness alone will not remove our sin that is separating us from God. But when love and kindness “appeared” (verse 4; see 2:11) in the presence of a Savior, named Jesus Christ, our offense against God was dealt its final deathblow.
As our only hope, God sent His Son to be the substitute for sinners. Jesus would live the perfect life in our place, receive sins upon Himself and then die on the cross in the sinner’s place. He accepted the wrath of God and the penalty for sin that sinners deserved. The Scriptures affirm this glorious reality. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; cf. Eph. 2:8). Can we ask for a greater demonstration of God’s love? At the cross, the love of God burst upon the world with unmistakable clarity.
The cross of Jesus teaches us that God will go as far as it takes to restore our relationship with Him. At the cross we discover we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed.
Most humans have it backwards. Salvation does not exalt the goodness of our heart for God Salvation exalts the goodness of God’s heart for us. And salvation is not based on our works for God. But salvation is based on God’s works for us.
Think about it! If good deeds or any other human effort for that matter were able to save us, why would God be so foolish to spend the life of His very Son (Gal. 2:21)? It’s crazy to think we can somehow contribute to this gift or bypass His offering all together and do it ourselves? How crazy to think we as sinners can somehow earn the favor of the thrice holy God? It’s not about our righteousness! It’s about God’s mercy! The Scriptures affirm. In verse 5 of Titus 3 we read, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.”
We don’t earn salvation. We don’t demand justice. We fall at the foot of the cross as did that repentant tax collector and beg, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner” (>Lk. 18:13)!
Salvation is not based upon our works, but rather God’s mercy (not giving us what we deserve) as we see in verse 5 and God’s grace (giving us what we don’t deserve) as we see in verse 7. Ephesians 2:8-9 cannot be any clearer. “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.”
One ad for the U.S. Marines pictures a sword, and beneath it the words: “Earned, never given.” If you want to become a Marine, be prepared to earn that name through sacrifice, hardship, and training. If you get it, you deserve it. But if you want to become a Christian, you must have the exact opposite attitude, for the message of the gospel is: “Given, never earned.”
Have you ever been in a restaurant and some unknown person provides that surprise blessing? It’s a rather awkward feeling when you pull out your wallet and the waitress says, “Sir, you bill has already been paid. Have a nice evening.” You feel helpless. You feel the need to pay but the debt is already cancelled. There is nothing to contribute. Moreover, to attempt a contribution is offensive to the giver. All you can do is receive the gift and be thankful. The same is true for God’s gift of salvation.
This gift of God is received entirely on the basis of faith – relying on Him, depending on Him with your entire heart. John 1:12 declares. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” And upon believing upon His name, verse 5 of our Titus text says He saves us [delivering] and regenerates us [cleansing] and renews us [recreating] by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are, verse 7 “justified by His grace.” And He also provides for us the great promise for our future also found in verse 7 that “we would be made heirs according to the hope [a confident expectation] of eternal life.”
As the hymn writer penned…
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!
(Text: Julia H. Johnston)
I ask you these questions: Can you say you reconciled with God? Can you say you are at peace with Him because your sins have taken away through the sacrifice of Christ? Are you depending on your own works or have you received His gift of grace by faith?
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