October 2, 2016
Every week it seems that a new study comes out on church affiliation. More and more people, especially in the millennial generation, are leaving the institutional church. It does seem that this is especially true of the mainline churches but it is also true of evangelical churches.
On some level this is disconcerting, but at the same time it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Like Israel of old, the mainline church is becoming like the secular society, shedding one important Biblical distinctive after another. The Evangelical church also has a problem because somehow we have gained a reputation of being intolerant, bigoted, judgmental, and a tool of the Republican Party. All of this distracts from what is really important. It distracts us from following Jesus Christ. This morning we are looking at Titus 2:11-14. From these verses I want to ask, "Have you entered into the grace of God found in Jesus Christ?"
I. ARE YOU LIVING A TRANSFORMED LIFE? 2:11-12
Now today we are especially tuned into the love of God. Just this past week I read a brief paper about what a Christian’s response to the gay lifestyle and gay marriage ought to be. It was written by a non-Christian philosopher of religion. He himself left Christianity so that he could stay true to Christ, as he put it. He was suggesting that those who remain true to love will treat homosexuality exactly as they treat heterosexuality. In other words we should embrace the gay lifestyle and gay marriage. He thinks that is what Jesus would do. Unfortunately there are plenty of people who align themselves with Christianity who are unkind and even violent towards gay people. That is not what Jesus would do. As Christians we surely seek to love everyone and treat everyone with grace and mercy regardless of their lifestyle. But it does not mean that we approve of what God has called immoral. People will say that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality as if that means he tacitly approves. But Jesus didn’t say anything about rapists either, and no one would suggest that he tacitly approves of rape.
God is love, and here it says that God is gracious. What is grace? Grace is receiving something wonderful that is undeserved. Mercy is not receiving something dreadful that is deserved. I remember as a young man speeding down a side street to avoid a light. As I stood before the judge he let me go, since it was my first offense. (You can be sure it was not my first offense). The judge showed grace and mercy. He gave me what I did not deserve. No penalty! The grace of God along with the love of God does not ignore sin and disobedience as if it is of no consequence. Instead the love and grace of God fully recognizes our sin and intervenes in our behalf. So how has the grace of God appeared?
Paul doesn’t say exactly but it’s not too difficult to connect the dots. John wrote that the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The grace of God that brings salvation appeared in the person of Jesus Christ at his birth. Jesus came to make salvation available for all people. And in a few moments we will consider just how Jesus Christ brought salvation.
But since Paul is writing to Christians he first wants us to understand what effects the grace of God in Christ has upon the person who enters into the salvation Jesus provides. We are not surprised to read that this grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.
When a person enters into the grace of God in Christ something actually happens within that person. The saving action of Christ within a person initiates a transformation that is in keeping with the righteous character of Jesus Christ. In short, Jesus gives us a new eternal life to live. It is his life. And his life is a righteous life. So if you choose to enter into this new life that Jesus gives, you can be sure it is going to do something amazing in you. This grace of God initiates within us what one scholar says is a movement from vice to virtue. And the sense is that this renouncing marks a decisive turning point in a person’s life.
So, the first question is: Has there been this kind of decisive point in your life when you turned away from ungodliness and worldly passions? I was five when I first turned to Christ. I didn’t have a whole lot of overt ungodliness and worldly passion. It was there alright and as I grew older my ungodly heart began to express itself and there was plenty of worldly passion awakened in me. But since I had already entered into life with Christ, there was also within me the desire to renounce it and turn away from it. Christians renounce these things and then continue to turn away from them for their entire life.
But what do we turn to? Verse 12 tells us that the grace of God in salvation teaches us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Our salvation in Christ takes immediate effect. It is not something that is put on hold until we die.
In his book, “Surprised by Hope,” N.T. Wright points out that “God’s new world of justice and joy, of hope for the whole earth, was launched when Jesus came out of the tomb on Easter morning.” Then Wright says, “I know that he [Jesus] calls his followers to live in him and by the power of his spirit, and so to be new-creation people here and now, bringing signs and symbols of the kingdom to birth on earth as in heaven. The resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit mean that we are called to bring real and effective signs of God’s renewed creation to birth even in the midst of the present age.”
Paul points us in this very same direction. The new life we receive in Christ teaches us to live righteous, godly lives right now because the life we are given is not old creation life, but new creation life. And new creation life is living like Jesus. You and I who are followers of Christ cannot help but live like Christ. It is what the Holy Spirit of God is constantly moving us towards.
Now is this true of you? Have you entered into the grace of God in Jesus Christ? Have you received the salvation of Jesus that transforms your life so that you have renounced ungodliness and worldly passions in order to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age? If you are not living this life then maybe you don’t have it and you need Christ!
II. ARE YOU WAITING FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST? 2:13-14
Part of our living new creation lives in the present age involves waiting for the return of Jesus. Paul calls it, “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it? Notice that in these four verses we have two appearings. We have the appearing of the grace of God in human flesh in Jesus. And then we have the appearing of the glory of God at the second coming of Jesus. Both appearings are of great significance for us.
So why are we waiting for the return of Jesus Christ? We are waiting for the return of Christ because Christ embodies all that we are and will be when the kingdom of God is established in all its fullness in the new heaven and new earth. Jesus is our present, future and eternal hope for life. We have already received his life by the grace of God, but when he appears the second time, Paul says in Col.3 that we will appear with him in glory. Christ is our life.
Sometimes we refer to a spouse as our better half, as if without our spouse we are incomplete as people. Well Christ is our life. We do not live apart from Christ. That is why we long to see him. We are completely dependent upon him for our life.
You might be wondering, “Isn’t everyone I see around me alive?” Well, yes they are alive with old-creation life. But the old creation, the world as we know it is passing away. And without life from above you pass away with it. You are without Christ and without hope in this world.
Now there is something very important for us to see in v.13. You notice that Jesus is referred to as our great God and Savior. This is a very clear statement showing the deity of Christ. He is fully God and fully man. Jesus Christ reveals God in the clearest possible way. To enter into life with Christ is to enter into life with God. To embrace Jesus is to embrace God. The Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons do not believe that Jesus is fully God. Unfortunately a recent poll showed that 71% of evangelicals agreed that “Jesus was the first creature created by God.” Men and women, we believe that Jesus is eternal. He has always existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit. To believe that Jesus was created makes him less than God. This verse makes it clear that Jesus is fully God.
So how did Jesus make salvation possible? Paul says that he gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness. From the beginning to the end of Scripture we learn that sin brings death. Disobedience to God’s good commands and rebellion against God’s good rule always leads to death and destruction. When Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross, he absorbed within himself all the guilt and death of our sin, nailing it to the cross. And then he gave proof of his victory over sin and death by rising from the grave to new-creation life. He died and rose again so that through faith in him we can be rescued from our disobedience, our guilt before God, and from death that is the consequence of our sin.
This is why salvation can only be found in Jesus. Jesus is the only one who could take on sin and death and defeat it. He is the only one without sin. If a person does not enter into the life of Jesus, there is no other source of life. There is no other option. And Jesus’ goal in all of this is not just rescuing us from our lawless disobedience. Jesus is forming a people, a society, a holy nation for himself. It is a society in which everyone is eager, zealous for good works.
This morning we are having a meeting of the society. We have gathered as the people of Jesus to worship God. We are gathered in the name of Jesus who is the President of the society. He is the king of the holy nation. We are here to worship God and reaffirm our life, our membership in the society of Jesus. Let me tell you. This is high society at its best. We belong to the highest society on earth.
Now maybe you don’t belong to this new society because you have never entered into life with Jesus. Maybe you are here because you want to improve yourself. Well, a desire for self-improvement can be of some benefit. But we are not here for mere self-improvement. Self-improvement is not the answer. The answer is entering into the new life of Jesus. Understand that the life of Jesus is the life that Jesus himself has. And when his life comes into us our life begins to change just as Paul writes in these verses. The way to receive this life is to ask him to give it to you. His life is received. You embrace Jesus as your Savior, Lord and King. It is an internal decision that will begin to have external results. You can make this decision right now and receive the grace of God that is found in JesusChrist.
Before us is the Lord’s Table. Currently our Savior, Lord and King, Jesus is with God the Father. He is fully present here through the Holy Spirit. At this table Jesus has provided the means whereby we may be spiritually refreshed in his presence. We remember his death for us. We affirm his life in us. We look forward to his coming for us. We eat and drink in his renewing presence and we are restored and renewed to live as new-creation people in this old-creation world. Amen.