************ Sermon on Titus 2:11-14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 12, 2000
"What the Grace and Hope of God Teaches Us"
I The Grace of God
A Today we have celebrated God's grace. You see, it is grace that is remembered and proclaimed in the Lord's Supper.
At the center of our passage from Titus lies the grace of God: "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men" (vs 11).
At the heart of the Gospel lies salvation. And at the heart of salvation lies grace. In fact, the Apostle Paul cannot even think of salvation apart from the grace of God.
Grace, of course, is for sinners. We need to remind ourselves of that. More than once since I have been here – and I remember this happening in other churches I have served too – someone has been described to me as being a "good person." By this it is meant that person has high moral standards, is a friendly and helping neighbor, a loving father/mother and husband/wife, and an industrious worker. I'm never impressed when I hear this because I know what the Bible says: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23); and, "there is no one who does good, not even one" (Rom 3:12). The only thing that counts is whether they have fallen on their knees before God, confessed their sin, and believe in Christ Jesus alone for their salvation.
This reminds me of a call I once made to a non-member. I talked to a woman about heaven and eternal life. Like most people, she was very interested in obtaining eternal life. But, I said to her, the only way she could get this was to confess and repent of her sins and turn to Jesus Christ alone for her salvation.
"I'm not a sinner," she said. "Then you can't have eternal life," I said. "Grace is only for sinners; Jesus died only for sinners." I tried to explain to her that no one can ever live up to the perfection demanded by God in His Law: how every thought, word, and deed must measure up; how God must be loved above all and one's neighbor as oneself.
She listened to this and said, "Yes, I'm a sinner. But, I'm a good sinner."
Too often I pick up the impression that some of us, like this lady, think we are "good sinners." Of course, there is no such thing as a good sinner. There are only no-good sinners who badly need God's forgiving grace.
God's grace, it is only for those who can say, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (Lk 18:13). God's grace, it is only for those who can say, "Father, forgive me. I know I am a proud, no-good, hell-deserving sinner who needs Christ."
"Grace" is such a beautiful concept. It is God's free gift of salvation in Christ for fallen man (Rom 3:24). On man's part it is unmerited, undeserved, unearned. It is by grace alone that we are saved from our sin and the wrath of God upon that sin. On God's part it is an act of kindness and love towards sinners (Titus 3:4). God is not a remote or alien God; He is kind and loving. He is a God of grace.
B This grace of God, says the apostle, has "appeared." It has manifested or shown itself. The image here is the shining of a bright light in darkness. The appearance of God's grace has lit up a world darkened by sin and shame.
How has this grace appeared? How has it manifested or shown itself? It has appeared in Christ Jesus. In mind here is not just the birth of Christ, but also His whole earthly ministry. That grace was especially manifested or shown in Christ's atoning death. The apostle reminds us that Christ "gave himself for us" (vs 14). He took our place on the cross. He suffered the wrath of God we should have suffered. Laid on Him was the guilt of our sins.
Topic: GraceThis is what Christ did for us on the cross. We have a huge debt because of sin, a debt that we are unable to pay. But Christ took it upon Himself to pay that debt for us. He blotted it out. He nailed it to the cross.
Subtopic: Of Christ
Title: Chocolate Fudge Sundae
I'm reminded of the experience of two nine year old boys which illustrates so nicely the atoning sacrifice of Christ in our place. On a hot summer day these two boys were given a dollar. They promptly went to an ice-cream store and looked at all those wonderful, mouth-watering creations pictured on the wall. They both ordered a deluxe hot chocolate-fudge sundae without paying attention to the cost. Neither had ever tasted anything so good. When the waitress brought their bill, they looked at it and nearly died. It was for five dollars and all they had was a dollar. They didn't know what to do. In an age of automatic dishwashers and disposable containers they couldn't offer to wash the dishes.
Just when they had sunk to their lowest, a man at the next table wanting to impress the waitress picked up the bill and said, "That's all right, boys, I'll take care of it." This man, whom neither had ever seen before, paid their debt and rescued them.
C The benefit or result of grace, praise God!, is "salvation." Grace means salvation from our sin and misery. Verse 14 further describes this benefit by the words "redeem" and "purify." Jesus
(Titus 2:14) gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own.
Through God's grace in Christ we are redeemed. The word "redeemed" means "to set free by a ransom." With His blood Christ has ransomed us from sin, Satan, and evil – from all that is wicked and lawless. Because of sin we are hostages of the power of darkness. But Christ has paid the ransom that sets us free.
Through God's grace in Christ we are also purified to be His very own people. "Purify" means "to cleanse" or "wash." We are washed by Christ's blood and Spirit of the filth and pollution of sin and made fit to come to God in Christ. You know the words of the song we sing:
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.That's what God's grace in Christ does for us!
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow;
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(refrain, old P.H. 379)
D Grace. It all comes down to grace, doesn't it?
Amazing grace--how sweet the sound--As I already said, ours was the privilege today to taste the grace of God, to eat and drink at the Lord's Table. We've been reminded today, in a powerful way, of God's grace, of His covenant faithfulness and mercies.
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see.
II Our Blessed Hope
A We are so very privileged. Ours is the "grace of God that brings salvation," and, says the apostle, ours is also a "blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." The apostle speaks here of the second coming of Jesus.
The coming again, the second appearance, of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ is the Christian's "blessed hope." It is a "blessed hope" because at that time all the promises of God are fully realized: God's kingdom will be complete and perfect and God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28; Q & A 123); the resurrection of the body will take place (1 Cor 15); the eternal reward of the Lord's righteous will be consummated (Mt 25:31ff); there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev 21:4); the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb shout for joy (Is 35:5,6); the believer will live forever with Christ (Rev 21:3).
I wonder if we sometimes lose sight of the blessed hope that awaits us? I wonder if sometimes the things of this age so blind us that we no longer see our future life and glory. We should never allow the things of this world to obscure our vision of the future life. We should always keep in sight the blessed hope that awaits us.
B In our celebration of the Lord's Supper today, we've been reminded not only of God's grace that brings salvation but also of our future hope. In speaking of the Lord's Supper the apostle says,
(1 Cor 11:26) "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes"Speaking to this, you all know what our Lord's Supper form says:
The remembrance of our Lord's death revives in us the hope of his return. Since he commanded us to do this until he comes, the Lord assures us that he will come again to take us to himself. Hence, as we commune with him now under the veil of these earthly elements, we are assured that we shall sometime behold him face to face and rejoice in the glory of his appearing. (Pg 980)
Ours has been the privilege today, congregation, to be reminded of our blessed hope. As we ate and drank from the Lord's Table we've been powerfully reminded that someday our Lord will come again to take us to Himself.
III Our Response to God's Grace and Our Hope
A You know, of course, that we live between Christ's two comings. In the words of Titus 2, we live between Christ's coming in "grace" and His coming in "glory." These two great events, the one past and the other future, should determine the way we live in this world. Or, to put it another way, what we have been reminded of today in the Lord's Supper demands a response, a certain way of life.
The grace of God has already appeared. This grace not only leads to salvation but it also, says the apostle,
(Titus 2:12) ... teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.The grace of God instructs, trains, and teaches us for living. And the glory of our future hope, although it has not yet appeared, also exerts a powerful influence on the way we live. This is implied in our passage and taught directly by Peter:
(2 Pet 3:11b,12, 14) You ought to live holy and godly lives (12) as you look forward to the day of God ... (14) So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.The grace of God and the blessed hope we wait for both demand a certain way of life.
B What does God's grace teach us about our way of life? How does our blessed hope tell us to live? We can pick up two sides: a negative and a positive.
On the negative side we are to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions. We are to break with our old man of sin. We are to reject, deny, and refuse all ungodliness. We are not to willingly transgress any of God's commandments. And, we are not to give in to worldly passions, lusts, and covetousness. These are all desires that stand opposed to God.
On the positive side we are "to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." These three adverbs describe three dimensions of our Christian behavior.
First, we are to be "self-controlled." "Self-controlled" is a description of our personal ethics and behavior. This word recurs several times in Titus (1:8; 2:2,5,6,12). It has been demanded of elders, old men, young men, and young women. Now it is demanded of all believers. Self-control is what a drunk intoxicated on alcohol does not show – that person has lost all self-restraint. In this present world everyone is in danger of becoming intoxicated by the things of this world whether it be alcohol, popularity, money, sex, possessions, or whatever. Christians are taught by the grace of God and the blessed hope that awaits them to live sober and self-controlled lives.
Second, we are also called upon to live "upright" lives. "Upright" describes how we behave in relation to our neighbor. It means we love our neighbor in the same way and to the same intensity as we love ourselves. It means we show mercy and work for justice. It means we forgive even as God has forgiven us. It means we live up to the demands of the second table of the law.
Third, we are called upon to live a "godly" life. "Godly" deals with our relationship to God. It means we love and serve Him in all of life. It means our relationship to Him is the dearest thing we have.
C These negative and positive demands of God's grace and our blessed hope, taken as a whole, are known as repentance or conversion, as the dying-away of the old self and the coming-to-life of the new.
Topic: ConfessionEach of us, by birth, arrives in a town called Sin. As in Wabush, there is only one way out – by way of a road built by God Himself. But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. This complete about-face is what the Bible calls repentance.
Subtopic: Of Sin
Title: 180-Degree Repentance
Wabush, a town in a remote portion of Labrador, Canada, was completely isolated for some time. A number of years ago a road was cut through the wilderness to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only one road leading out. If someone would travel the unpaved road for six to eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only one way he or she could leave--by turning around.
God wants this repentance, this conversion, this turn-around. He wants it because without it, there is no grace and no future hope. You see, congregation, unrepentance blocks grace and kills hope. The quickest way to murder your soul and maim your spirit is to maintain an unrepentant attitude.
D Of course, by our own strength and power this repentance, this conversion, this turn-around is simply impossible; it is totally beyond us. Only God's grace, only His life-giving Spirit, can make this possible. Says Jesus, "apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). And, says Paul, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13). Let me illustrate this.
Topic: StrengthWhat Paderewski (pa de ref ski) did for the boy, God does for us everyday. He is the Master Who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, "Don't quit – keep playing." And as we do, it is He Who creates a work of amazing beauty out of our simple efforts – a new creature in Christ.
Subtopic: In Weakness
Title: Our Weakness, His Strength
A mother, wishing to encourage her young son's progress at the piano, bought tickets to a performance by Poland's famous concert pianist and prime minister, Ignace Paderewski (pa de ref ski). When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage. Soon the mother found a friend to talk to, and the boy slipped away. When eight o'clock arrived, the spotlights came on, the audience quieted, and only then did they notice the boy up on the bench, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the master appeared on the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. "Don't quit--keep playing," he whispered to the boy. Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.
Today we have celebrated the Lord's Supper. Today we have been reminded again that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared. Today we have been reminded again of our blessed hope.
Now, this grace and this hope, by God's power and strength, demands a response.
Have you made this response?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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