June 11, 2017
One of the most well-known hymns is, “Amazing Grace”. It is estimated that this hymn is performed 10 million times each year and has appeared on 11,000 albums. Amazing Grace was written in 1772 by John Newton, who was born in England, in 1725. Newton lived a hard and profligate life and became a slave trader. He was the captain of a slave ship. His initial conversion to Christ came after he almost lost his life at sea. His life did not change all at once, but it did change. He was being saved, transformed by God’s grace.
Grace is often defined as, “unmerited favor.” And that’s good as far as it goes. But this definition does not go far enough. You see, grace is not just about being saved. Grace is transforming. Dr. Scott McKnight writes, “[God] gives us place ‘in Christ,’ and then God’s grace empowers us to thrive ‘in Christ.’” This morning we are looking at Titus 2:11-14. Paul speaks about salvation. We see that salvation is a gift that flows from God’s grace.
I. GOD’S GRACE, IN CHRIST, HAS APPEARED FOR ALL. 2:11
In the Bible there are many ways in which God shows his grace to mankind. The story of the Bible begins with God’s grace. Everything that is good comes from God. We sing the chorus, “He’s a good, good Father.” God is love and out of love he gives. But I would like to focus on what to my mind are the three most significant expressions of God’s grace to mankind.
Beginning in Gen.1 we read of God’s grace. We read that God created the heavens and the earth. Each verse tells us how God created the various elements of creation. He created light, sun, moon, land, vegetation, animals, etc. After each part is created God says that it is good. Finally God creates mankind. We get the clear picture that before creating mankind, God created everything else for mankind. In his grace God created a wonderful world for mankind to live in, explore, and develop. Creation is a gift of God’s grace to mankind.
And God called Adam and Eve to cultivate the earth and have dominion over it. This was a calling to reign over the earth under the goodness of God. God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, to populate the earth living in the grace of God.
Of course we know what happened. We know how Adam and Eve aspired to be their own God by rebelling against God and his good rules. They rebelled against the Giver of life and in doing so they chose the way of death. To be separated from God is to choose death. God himself told them that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. Instead of bringing about a population of people who enjoyed life with God, they filled the earth with people who lived in deepening rebellion against God. And we are that people. We are all usurpers, living in sinful disobedience and idolatry. Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden of Eden to live in a world under the dominion of sin and death.
But there was a second significant act of God’s grace beginning in Gen.12. God chose Abraham and promised to bless Abraham and to make from Abraham a great nation. The descendants of Abraham are the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. God promised to bring Abraham into a land of his own. As you know, the people of Israel became slaves in Egypt for some 400 years, but then God graciously worked a mighty act of deliverance. He redeemed his people from slavery and brought them into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. You might say that God brought his people into the Garden of Eden once again. It was a land prepared for them by God. It was a land in which they would live under God’s protection and blessing. The land of Israel was a gift of God’s grace. And just as God called Adam and Eve to bring about a population of people who would live under the goodness of God, so Israel was called to be a light to the nations. Israel was to be an example of just how good it is to enjoy life with God so that the nations would also turn to God.
But again, we know the story. In Hos.6:7, referring to Israel we read, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” The people of Israel rebelled against God in disobedience and idolatry. They turned their back on the grace of God, and just as Adam and Eve were put out of the Garden of Eden, so the people of Israel were taken out of the Promised Land and brought into exile in Babylon. They were not a light to the nations. They became like the pagan nations.
But again, God brought about a third significant act of grace. When the time was right, He sent his one and only Son in the form of a man, Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. The angel told Joseph to name him Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins. How interesting. Just as Israel was in bondage to slavery in Egypt, so the whole world is in bondage to sin, death, and the Devil. In 1Jn.5:19 John writes, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
Through his life, death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus brought about a great deliverance from the bondage of sin and death. He brought salvation for all people. How did he do it? Titus 2:14 tells us that Jesus gave his life in a costly sacrifice on the cross. On the cross our great God and Savior, Jesus, bore our sins in his body. On the cross God bore his own wrath towards sin. God gave himself in Jesus Christ so that our sins can be forgiven so that we can enter into his life in the kingdom of God. Like Adam and Eve, like Israel, we are separated from God, choosing the way of death. But in Jesus Christ we can find life. Through his life, death, and resurrection Jesus was victorious over sin, Satan, and death. He brought deliverance, salvation for all people. He redeemed us from sin.
God has been revealing his grace from the very beginning. In Jesus we find the greatest gift of God’s grace. Again, John writes, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” If we do not embrace Jesus we are rejecting God’s greatest gift of grace.
II. GOD’S GRACE, IN CHRIST, TRANSFORMS OUR LIVES. 2:12-13
The life that we receive from Jesus is the very life of Jesus. In other words this life does not have its source in this world. Jesus’ life is an eternal life that is characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy. What is more, Paul tells us that this life instructs us or trains us in a certain way that is much different from our current life in this world.
Imagine that you were raised in great poverty, but suddenly came into a vast amount of money through a benefactor. Well, your whole life would change, and you would have to learn to live in accordance with your new station in life. Those who enter into the life of Christ must learn to live in accordance with their new station in life.
So Paul tells us that there are some things we must renounce. He says we must renounce ungodliness, and worldly passions or desires. If Jesus is our Savior, Lord, and King and we desire to live under his good rule, then we will turn away from things that distract and hinder us from following Jesus. Paul mentions worldly passions. Think about the things that captivate the people of this world. Money, possessions, pleasure, power, status, success. Then think about the ways that the people of this world go about fulfilling these desires. They focus on getting what they want using just about any means available. Many times this leads to ungodly behavior and idolatry. Note Titus 3:1-3 (read). Christians have renounced these things. We have given our lives to Christ our Savior, Lord and King. We no longer give our lives to these other passions and desires.
Again, we see that when we enter into the grace of God through Jesus Christ, we are taught to live in a certain way. Paul talks about living lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly. Last week Angie and I were on vacation in Washington, D.C. We did a lot of walking and saw many impressive buildings. On a number of these buildings you find virtues of excellence engraved in the marble. Truth, Justice, Mercy, etc.! These virtues are honored in our society. As Christians we embrace the very best virtues honored in society. But in following Christ, we go beyond these virtues to embrace humility, self-denial, and love of our enemies. We seek to live according to the virtues of Jesus in this present world. And it’s difficult.
And then Paul says that the grace of God in Christ creates within us a longing for the second coming of Jesus. In other words, we do not view this world as the totality of our lives. Christ has begun a new creation work in us. He is preparing us for the day when he will come and recreate a new heaven and earth. We live in hope, knowing that Christ is coming again. Until then our hearts will go on singing. Until then with joy we carry on as we live for Christ.
III. GOD’S GRACE, IN CHRIST, CREATES A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S POSSESSION. 2:14
Why did Jesus give himself? Paul says that Jesus gave himself to redeem us from lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession. This is very important. Who is this “people for his own possession?” Well, it is the church. The church is comprised of all those who have entered into life with Jesus Christ through the forgiveness of sins. The church is comprised of all the local congregations in which Jesus Christ is worshipped.
Something that I think all of us who know Christ need to be concerned about is that for a long time there has been a tendency to think about our salvation in individualistic terms. We think about our own personal walk or journey with Christ. The church is something that may or may not help us in our walk with Christ. The church is an optional accessory in our walk with Christ. One does not need the church in order to be a Christian. But this is not at all in keeping with the teaching of the New Testament. Here Paul tells us that Jesus is creating a people, a community for his own possession.
Let’s think about Israel. Israel was the people of God in the Old Testament. Israel was given a Promised Land to live in. Israel was called to be a light to the nations. But Israel abandoned God and abandoned their calling to be the light of the world.
Not long ago I read something that I had never heard before. I was reading the book, “A Fellowship of Differents,” by Dr. Scott McKnight. In that book he pointed out that just as Israel was given a Promised Land, so the church is our Promised Land. Think about this. Heaven or the new creation doesn’t begin when we die. It begins when we come to Jesus. When we come to Jesus we are brought into the new community of Jesus, known as the church. We are the people of God. The church is the people of God. And like Israel, like Jesus, we also are the light of the world. As a community we are to show the world what it is like to have the eternal life of Jesus in us. And Paul says that as the people of God we are together zealous for good works. Lord willing, in a couple of weeks we will begin looking in detail about what it means to be the church, the people of God, showing the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
I can’t think of a better place to have our thinking and being reordered than the Lord’s Table. This Table speaks of God’s grace of salvation in Christ. This Table speaks of life with Christ. This Table calls our attention to the fact that we are the people who belong to Christ. This Table is not about you or me; it is about us and Jesus. This Table is a means by which we are strengthened together in Christ because we are meeting with the Lord Jesus as we remember his death in our behalf.
Before we come to the Table I would like to give us opportunity to express our thanks to God in Christ for our salvation. I would like to ask for public expressions of thanks in testimony or prayer. Please stand up and speak clearly. After a time we willcome to the Lord at his Table. Amen.