Trinity, Sunday June 16, 2019 — Titus 2:11-15 — Trained by the Saving Grace of God
Sermon for Holy Trinity – Sunday June 16, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
Titus 2:11-15 (NKJV)
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. 15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who is our Savior and our Example,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
He was stationed on an Island in the Mediterranean Sea, but his life did not consist of sitting on the beach, eating coconuts and enjoying mixed drinks with tiny umbrellas.
Titus was a traveling companion and fellow worker with the Apostle Paul whom the Holy Spirit called to serve a number of fledgling congregations on the Island of Crete, south of the Aegean Sea. While Timothy was left in Ephesus to help restore order in established congregations on the mainland, Titus was sent to the Island of Crete with these instructions from God through the Apostle Paul (Titus 1:5):
“…I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you…”
Why Titus and not Paul? This wasn’t a personal decision. The Holy Spirit had other plans for the Apostle, and delegated these duties to Titus, even as He today calls and sends different men to play different roles in different places.
Still, when we read that Titus was left to ‘set in order things lacking and appoint elders or pastors in every city’ it may sound like he was left behind to establish certain rules and regulations. This wasn’t a matter of personal control established by rules and order! It was a matter of personal care – the care of Jesus, not Paul – who set Titus in place to help other new pastors to encourage those who believed in Christ on Crete.
Yet, these words aren’t only for Titus and the Christians of Crete! These words are recorded in the Holy Scriptures for us today. In fact, we might say that the Holy Spirit describes in this short letter the way things should be among the people of Calvary in Marquette and in every other Christian Congregation.
How are things to be, you ask?
ü The Older men are to be clear headed, respectful, balanced, sound in faith, love and patience.
ü The Older women are to act respectfully, not gossip or drink too much, but set a good example and urge…
ü The Younger women to love their husbands and children, to be discreet, decent, good mothers who respect their husbands…
ü The Younger men are to be clear minded, a good example, an example of integrity, respect and holiness, using their mouths for good, not evil…
Why is it that we are to conduct ourselves in this way? Is it so that we may be called ‘Good and Faithful Christians’ by other Christians or at least ‘Good People’? Is it so that we measure up to God’s expectations or earn His favor?
If that is our reason for trying to avoid sin then we’d better properly label it -- ‘moralism’ or worse, ‘legalism.’ We don’t ‘follow the rules’ to become ‘Good Christians.’ In fact, following rules and regulations – be they from God or man – can’t make us acceptable to God. If it were possible to make people believers by means of the Law of God, to legislate a change in the human condition, then all we’d need are a set of laws.
Can you legislate morality? Does a speed limit sign serve to stop everyone from speeding? Well, NO. The Law can make all the demands that it wants…but it has no power to change the human heart
We strive to live as Christians – not to earn anything – but because of what our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ has done for us. The simple message found here is that the Saving Grace of God that trains us to live in a way that pleases God…not the Law of God.
Let us Pray:
Almighty God, Heavenly Father, I have been cleansed of my sin in baptism and adopted into your family through faith in Jesus’ life, death and glorious resurrection. Your Son, Jesus, has redeemed me from all sins, granted me spiritual sight and led me to turn away from selfishness and self-centered living. Help me to think each day on the blessing of my baptism so that I see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more closely, through Jesus Christ my Savior, who makes all things new. Amen.
The Law and the Gospel…we conservative Lutheran Christians like to talk a lot about these two teachings. We confess that both are teachings from God and both are good. We also teach the purpose of each and how they differ, one from the other.
When God first created humankind, He bore witness to his presence by writing the moral law in our hearts. In addition, God gave to each human being a conscience, to point our minds and thoughts toward that Law. As a result, when we do wrong, we feel guilt, because our conscience tells us that we have sinned and are accountable to God. This is a very good thing, and you should listen to your conscience.
After Adam and Eve sinned and lost the image of God, the moral law began to fade. Therefore, God gave the moral law a second time, contained in the 10 Commandments.
We are all familiar with the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments reveal God’s will for our lives and demand that we do not sin. In fact, we might say that the 10 Commandments ‘demand that we deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly rightly and godly in the present age.”
However, since we have a corrupt and broken nature, the Law of God has no power to enable us to do what it says. It’s like the Speed Limit sign, it tells us what to do, but it doesn’t enable us to willingly obey. We may try, but we are bound to fail.
So, what’s the point of this little ‘Law and Gospel Lesson’? The point is this – it is the grace of God, the good news of what Christ has already done for us, that trains and enables us to turn away from sin and strive to live sober, righteous and godly lives.
Now, don’t take my word for it, read what the Holy Spirit said to Titus:
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
In the South, many Christians demand that the 10 Commandments be taught in the public schools. They believe that if the Commandments are taught, our country will be returned to an age of morality. They believe that the Law of God can change the human heart, and make people moral by demanding that they be moral. It doesn’t work out that way, does it?
Moreover, do we really want public school teachers teaching religious things from their own perspective?
The Law of God has no power to change the human heart. The Holy Spirit here explains in simple language that it’s the Saving Grace of God – the message of God’s undeserved love in Jesus, the Son of God, the Baby of Bethlehem who became the sacrifice for sin on Calvary – that trains us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.
The Law shows us our sin, but only the Cross of Jesus shows us how we may be set free from that sin and guilt. In fact, in verse 14 the Holy Spirit explains how we have been reconciled to God, through the sacrifice of Jesus!
14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
We can’t live moral lives by our own strength or make up for our wrongs…but Jesus did. He lived as our substitute in perfect obedience to God’s Law, fulfilling it. He took our sins upon Himself and died remove the consequence of sin, eternal death in hell. The Apostle John states the result (1 John 4:19):
19 We love Him because He first loved us.
So, we strive to live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age – not to earn God’s favor or make up for our sins – but because we have been redeemed! The price has been paid to purchase our release from sin and to ransom us from eternal death and that price is paid in full in the blood of Jesus, God’s Son. He has cleansed, purified us of sin by making atonement for all sins. More than any other thing, we need God’s forgiveness…and we have it by faith in Jesus Christ.
In the Letter to the Ephesians, the Holy Spirit declares that Jesus (Colossians 1:13-14, ESV):
13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
It is this message that trains us to deny ungodliness and earthly lusts and live mindfully, righteously and godly today. Truly, only the message of the Cross of Jesus and the empty tomb has the power to change the human heart and will. For it is God who works in us both to will and to do what pleases Him.
13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
Christians are crazy. I think that sometimes people think we are a slice short of a full loaf when we say that we look forward to the Day of Judgment. People question our sanity and suggest that we should be put on suicide watch when we say we look forward to seeing the Lord Jesus in Heaven. We patiently wait for both, and leave the day and time of our departure in God’s hands.
Still, to many people it doesn’t seem right to look forward to the end, because it is the human way to live for today! Why do people think in this way? It’s because of the Law written in their hearts. The Law of God makes us afraid of being judged by God because it shows our sin, either resulting in fear of judgment or self-righteous hypocrisy.
The Law of God would make us tremble at Jesus return, because it reveals our sin and that we deserve condemnation.
Where can we turn? The Saving Grace of God trains us to look forward to the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Our futures are in the hands of Jesus, who is here called our Great God and Savior. We need not cower in fear when He comes again in great glory on the clouds of heaven. We can look up with joy, we can expect and even look forward to that day…because He comes not to judge us! He has removed our sin and guilt and suffered the punishment we earned. The debt is paid!
The Grace of God teaches us, it trains us to look forward to that day because it is the Return of our Savior God, our loving friend and brother, who has been preparing a place for us.
So, until that Day, we will seek Jesus’ strength to turn from ungodliness and sinful lust and live clear minded, upright and godly lives to the glory of our Savior. The Christian Life isn’t to be a charade, pretending to be a good person. It is a daily opportunity to give glory to our Savior God, who died for us. The power to live a godly life doesn’t come from the Law of God, but from the Saving Grace of God.
This is the opposite of the message proclaimed by most in this world. It is also the reason that the Holy Spirit urged Titus and the other pastors on the Island of Crete:
15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
This was the message of Paul and Timothy and Titus. This is the true message of the Bible – not be a good person and measure up to God’s standards and be accepted by Him – but Jesus took your sins and died to redeem and purify you.
ü The Law of God points us to ourselves, revealing our failure and sin.
ü The Saving Grace of God trains us to turn from sin and live lives that glorify our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This is to be our message and comfort today.
Do you sometimes feel like you don’t measure up? Do you fail and fall into sin? Do you set a bad example? Do you struggle with a particular sin from day to day?
If you seek strength and power – and I know you do – don’t turn to the Law of God. Instead, return to the Cross of Jesus and the Saving Grace of God will train you to walk as a Child of God and glorify Jesus Christ.
May the Saving Grace of God strengthen us to that end.