What the Grace of God Can Do for You

Titus 2:11-14

Introduction

Context is key when looking at the Bible. It is easy to take a verse out of its context and really mess it up.

Before we dive into our passage for tonight, let’s look a little bit at the context of Titus 2. Verse 1 helps a lot: But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Let me translate that verse a little simpler: But here’s what you need to be doing – teaching people (the Word) with correct, healthy instruction.

Paul goes on from there and tells Titus why this is important for various age groups in the church there in Crete where he pastored:

  • older men – (v. 2b) sound in faith, love, and in steadfastness
  • older and younger women – (v. 5b) that the Word of God may not be reviled (the literally word from which we get blasphemy)
  • younger men – (v. 8b) so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us
  • slaves – (v. 10b) so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior

So, when we look at our passage today, we get a piece of the doctrine – the instruction – about salvation that Paul was giving to Titus. Let’s check it out. We’re going to see how God’s grace redeems us, reforms us, and rewards us in salvation.

  1. Grace Redeems Us (vv. 11, 14a)
    1. v. 11 – For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people….
      1. Titus 3:4-5a – But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us….
      1. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 – This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
      1. So, who can be saved? “all people”
        1. Colossians 3:11 – Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
        1. Revelation 7:9-10 – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
        1. Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
        1. Romans 10:13 (quoting from Joel 2:32) – For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
          1. The Bible is clear: anyone can be saved. It is also clear on how one gets saved: by repenting and believing.
    1. v. 14a – …[Jesus Christ] who gave Himself up for us to redeem us from all lawlessness….
      1. Ezekiel 18:23 – Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from His way and live?
      1. Let’s look at a little more of Titus 3:4-5bBut when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved, us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy…
        1. Jesus “redeem”s us by paying the penalty for our sin. And He does this simply because He loves us. Oh, what a love He has.
        1. A few weeks back, I noticed a church sign that caught my attention. It said, “Come as you are. Leave changed.”
          1. Jesus meets us in our sin (Romans 5:8) to save us, but He wants more for us afterward. Let’s look at how Grace Reforms Us
  • Grace Reforms Us (vv. 12, 14b)
    • v. 12 – …training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
      • Even though the world around us has not changed, our hearts are changed when Christ saves us.
        • 1 Peter 4:2 – …so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
      • So, what does all of this accomplish?
        • Philippians 2:15 – …that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of truth….
        • The way we live our lives either shows God to be a powerful Savior or weak and not very effective.
    • v. 14b – …and to purify for himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.
      • Ephesians 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
      • God has a plan for you. God has a mission for you.
      • But the best news of all, is the reward – but it’s not heaven and glory and mansions and crowns – we get to be with God! Let’s look at how Grace Rewards Us.
  • Grace Rewards Us (v. 13)
    • v. 13 – …waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
      • I will never forget June 17, 2006…. When those doors opened at the back of the church….
      • Revelation 21:1-4 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
        • Amen, and hallelujah!
        • (Paul Washer) “Everyone wants to go to heaven. They just don’t want God to be there when they get there.”
        • He. Is. Our. Reward.

Conclusion/Application

I know I’ve given you a lot to chew on today, but I hope that you have listened to the Scripture that I shared and examined your life.

Salvation is available to everyone who calls on the Lord and repents/believes in Him. How about you: have you called on his name? Have you repented of your sin and confessed your faith to Him?

Coming into contact with the grace of God is life-changing. Has it changed your life?

Pondering on Patriotism & Faith on the 4th of July

On July 4th, the United States of America will be 244 years old. Over those nearly two and a half centuries, this country has been through quite a lot, yet, in the general lifetime of the other countries like her, she is still fairly young and new to the world’s stage. If one wanted, it would be easy to track her development just like a child through to adolescence.

The United States was conceived from an idea: freedom. The people who would form that idea left the home they had always known and struck out to make a new beginning. When they found themselves on the shores of North America, that beginning was found to be more difficult than they had imagined as they had to live under the tyrannical rule of King George. They found their newfound freedom to be stifled by their lack of representation in the government that ruled them from across the ocean and were beaten down by unfair laws meant to take advantage of them rather than to help or build up. The same longing that brought them to this continent left them dissatisfied with their leadership and gave them a desire to strike out on their own – to overthrow the bonds of the government that ruled over them and seek to be independent, to be free.

When the idea of freedom was to give birth, the United States had quite the difficult delivery. In order to gain their freedom – liberty from the tyrant – there had to be revolution. And revolution would mean war and the battlefield would be their home. Yet they knew that liberty was an ideal worth having, and, since it was worth having, it was worth fighting for – even dying for if it meant that future generations could have what they hoped for. From 1773-1783 (and again in 1812), fighting is just what they did. And, thusly, the United States was born.

America’s journey to adolescence has not been easy, and some may argue that she has not quite grown up yet. Her people have squabbled among themselves for the majority of this country’s lifetime. The Civil War was won, lost, and has wounds that are still not healed. Reconstruction following the war never fully took place, and the scars are evident every day. Yet there is still something special and unique about this country.

The idea of freedom is still attractive. It is still more rare in the world than many would believe. People try time and time again to gain citizenship here. People cram into tight spaces in the holds of ships, they scramble across her borders under the cover of darkness, and they float in from closer countries on ramshackle, homemade rafts – all to have what is promised here through the ideals that are still sought after today. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty says it all:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Thousands and thousands of immigrants have come through that particular harbor at Ellis Island, giving credence to those words and opportunity for a better future in this young nation.

This country has been heralded as a land of opportunity. It has allowed and seen many people realize their dreams and aspirations and given them the freedom to pursue them. In fact, the very pursuit of such aspirations has become known as the American dream.

One cannot help but realize that the freedom, acceptance, and hospitality realized in the American dream comes from the founding fathers who are still towering figures and examples of fulfilled opportunity and pursued destiny. In fact, the founding fathers injected this country with their beliefs and aspirations. Many tout that because of this the United States is a Christian nation. While this has not been the case, the Christian doctrine that many of the founding fathers believed is evident in the aspirations that this country set out to provide for her citizens – again and namely freedom.

This idea of freedom is one of the reasons that I am quite proud to be an American. I could have been born anywhere in the world, yet God allowed me to be born here. For that I am thankful. There is no place I would rather live. And, yet, I have aspirations and hopes for this country as she continues to grow and change. Those aspirations and hopes are based upon the same beliefs and doctrines that those founding fathers imbued into the foundations of our country. So, as Independence Day draws near, I have had two images weighing on my mind that have affected the way I view this country and how I fit in as one of her citizens. The first is a story relayed to me over a decade ago by a missionary to Jordan. The second is a monument.

A Tale of a Patriot Missionary

A Jordanian native heard the gospel preached and gave his life to Jesus Christ. Once he had done this, his entire life changed. He was born again sought to tell others about his new life in Christ. So, he began to share with his neighbors about what had happened in his life. Only 6% of Jordan’s population is Christian, compared to 92% Sunni Muslim[i]. While he was passionate about his message, he was cautious. He was cautious because he remembered what it was like to have not heard the gospel. He was also cautious because the gospel stands at odds with the status quo and encountering Jesus through the gospel changes lives. We will call him Sam for the sake of the story.

One of his neighbors was angry at his message. Rather than lash out right then and there, this neighbor went to the authorities. Rooting out this perceived missionary cell was high on the priorities of the local authorities, but they wanted to proceed carefully. They decided to partner with the neighbor and set up a sting operation. All the neighbor had to do was allow Sam to be caught sharing explicitly Christian doctrine and they would be able to swoop in to arrest him.

When it came time for the sting operation, they met in the neighbor’s garage under the cover of night. The neighbor drew Sam in with a few questions to get the conversation started. Once Sam began to lay out how Jesus saves, the neighbor was overwhelmed by anger. He lost all logic and was so irate that he grabbed a nearby screwdriver and stabbed Sam several times.

The police had to abort the sting and rush in to rescue Sam from the neighbor. Rather than arresting Sam, they had to send for emergency services and arrest the neighbor instead. They could have just counted the entire operation as a loss , but they decided to double down and interrogate Sam themselves. Even though he was wounded, they figured that they could still bait him into incriminating himself with the gospel. Yet, rather than directly asking what they wanted to know, they asked him, “Sam, why do you hate Jordan?”

Sam’s response is why this story has been on my mind this week. Rather than defend himself or try to come up with an excuse to get out from under the authorities, he simply responded: “Why do I hate Jordan? Everything I do is because I love Jordan. I want my people to experience what I have.”

This makes me think of my own relationship to this country. I can spout out plenty of history on the United States – good and bad. I can cite various quotes from the founding fathers to civil rights advocates that show how there is hope for the United States. I am passionate about any number of political issues that I genuinely believe to be important for the trajectory of this country. Yet I lack the patriotism – the ardent love of one’s country – that Sam had. Sam, like our founding fathers, was willing to impact his country with his beliefs. Because Sam loved Jordan, he tried to introduce as many Jordanians as he could to Jesus through the gospel. He did this because he knew that their encountering Jesus would be vastly more effective than any political rhetoric or argument.

A Picture of a Roadside Monument

If I had not been thinking about Sam’s story, I likely would not have given much thought to the second image that has been weighing on my mind. My family and I recently went on a trip that took us east across highway 82. It had been quite some time since I had been through there, and I had not realized that a cross had been built outside of Eupora, MS. As we drove past, I happened to notice it – likely because of the recent construction of a cross in my home town. It took me several days to finally be able to articulate what popped into my heart and mind when I saw that monument. When it finally began to come together in my mind, I contacted a friend of mine, Jenni Kilburn-Oswalt, who is the talented photographer who provided us with the picture here to help make my point.

What finally and profoundly struck me was how much bigger the cross is than the flag. Now, I realize that this is not necessarily a conscious effort of symbolism. But the idea that struck me here is the view of one’s country that must be had to see change take place. It is the same view that Sam had of his own country. His love of his country was such that led him to believe that the only good and lasting change that could take place would be for people to come to know Christ. Rather than try to be a political change agent, Sam introduced people to Christ. His view of the cross was simply bigger.

While he loved his country, he was unable to continue with the same old status quo. You see, the moment that one comes to faith in Christ, he or she ends up with dual citizenship between heaven and their native country. Paul explains it better in Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” That heavenly citizenship affects our earthly citizenship.

As stated earlier, I have much love and respect for my earthly country. I also understand the issues that this country faces. But I am one man, and I do not have a platform that would allow for national change. Were I to have such a platform, I lack the appropriate capabilities to affect the changes needed. But I can do what Sam did: I can share Christ where I am planted. And this is what I know I should be doing because I love my country. Christ, through the preaching of His gospel, is the only means that will affect change.

The image of the cross and the flag stirred this up in me. If I get sidetracked by pursuing many earthly solutions that are outside my control, I will accomplish little to nothing. I am not saying that one person cannot affect change. I am saying that I realize how this one person is intended to do so. My voice will be much more valuable to the United States if it is spent sharing Christ and proclaiming His Kingdom. My role as one of God’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) will further his kingdom more than trying to form my country into the way that I feel it should look, act, and progress. In doing so, my view of Jesus has to be bigger than my view of the government and this country.

Trust, Freedom, and Wrapping This Up

There is hope for the United States. For all of the ills that have befallen her, much change and progress has been made and, Lord willing, more will continue. The founding fathers were not the only movers and shakers in our history. In fact, the 244 years of America have seen people rise up time and time again to show that there is something to these ideals of liberty and freedom. Yet we live in a time period where people believe that typing into a box on social media and sharing the latest fear-inducing meme, video, or article will wake America up and affect change. We see people on both sides of the partisan aisle cry out that their guy (or gal) is the hope for America and that the other guy (or gal) is the emissary of destruction. I think we can look to Psalm 20:7 for guidance here:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

To paraphrase: some trust in elephants and some in donkeys, but we trust in Jesus.

Thankfully, we have freedom here. We have freedom to disagree. We have freedom to group up. We have freedom to voice our opinions. And we have freedom to worship whichever god we choose. It is in this freedom where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Are we going to trust in God and be his ambassador, or are we going to trust in the government? Are we going to hold on to a heritage of the United States of yesteryear, or are we going to show patriotism like Sam and share the gospel with our neighbors because we love them and our country?

Think back to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. As powerful an image as it is, it is just a plaque on a statue. Jesus had a call that is similar and vastly more effective. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

One can come to America and, maybe, find all that the inscription promises. But if one comes to faith in Christ, one finds Life. And what is liberty and freedom without life? So, we need to be about pointing to Christ and watching him change lives. It’s time to be his ambassadors in this land that we love.

Ultimately, time will tell. But, if you will indulge me, I have a suggestion on how to proceed from here. Whatever concerns you have about this country, take it to God in prayer. Whatever aspects of this country that you believe are great, praise the Lord for them. But if you claim to love this country and love Christ, the greatest and most affective actions that can be taken will be to invest the gospel into your neighborhood, community, town, county, state, and country.


[i] Source: Jordan Tourism Board’s Religion page

Paul: A Man on a Mission (Outline)

Introduction:

Acts 9:13-16 – But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has the authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings of the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

  1. The Setting (Acts 25:23-27)
    • Festus, the local Roman governor, needed to have specific charges to send with Paul to stand before Caesar in Rome, but he could not come up with any genuine charges other than the complaints of the Jews.
    • Agrippa (Antipater -> Herod the Great -> Herod Antipas I -> Herod Agrippa I -> Herod Agrippa II) was brought in to help him form the charges. He was a joke king – a figurehead and puppet.
  2. Paul’s Defense (Acts 26:1-23)
    • Agrippa invites Paul to make “his defense”. (v. 1) – So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense….”
      • 1 Peter 3:15 – …but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect….
    • Paul begins his appeal to Agrippa – the same as was his custom in the synagogues. (vv. 2-3) – “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
    • Paul reminds Agrippa of the hope in God’s promises and introduces the gospel. (vv. 4-6) – “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by the Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
      • Genesis 3:15 – I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
      • Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
      • Isaiah 9:6 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
      • Daniel 7:14 – And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
      • Micah 5:2 – But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days.
    • Paul testifies about his life as a lost person. (vv. 9-11) – “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
    • Paul shares how he was saved and presents the gospel. (vv. 12-18) – “I connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
      • to open their eyes
        • 2 Corinthians 4:4 – In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
      • turn from darkness to light
        • Matthew 4:16 – …the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region of the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
        • 1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
      • from the power of Satan to God
        • Ephesians 2:1-2 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience….
        • Ephesians 2:4 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us….
      • forgiveness of sins
        • Matthew 1:21 – She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
        • 1 Corinthians 15:3 – For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures….
    • Paul shows how his present actions are a response to Jesus’ call on his life and specifically/personally gives an opportunity to respond to the gospel. (vv. 19-23) – “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
  3. Festus & Agrippa’s Response (Acts 26:24-29)
    • Festus: (v. 24) – And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.
      • vv. 25-27 – But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”
    • Agrippa: (v. 28) – And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”
      • v. 29 – And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains.”

CoclusionThe Mission Continues (Acts 26:30-32)

  • vv. 30-32 – Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
    • Philippians 1:12-14 – I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
    • Philippians 4:21-22 – Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.