We’re going back to the New Testament letter of Titus this morning, tiny little letter. This is written by the Apostle Paul to a pastor who has the very difficult job of ministry on the island of Crete, which was famously pagan. And you might ask yourself if you were receiving this little letter and you were attempting to do ministry in a very hostile island, whether there would be any progress or hope at all.
What is remarkable about these verses that we’re going to look at today, chapter 2:11 to 15, is that they are;
- Full of confidence that God will change people, and he does
- it tells the secret of how he will change people, and he does, and
- it will also answer the question, how can I possibly do what God asks me to do?
- Where will I get the resources to be the person he wants me to be?
When my father-in-law went to Africa, he was in his late 20s. And he arrived in Africa, wife and small child, and the bishop said to him, “I want you to run a Bible school, and so, you better build it. There’s a piece of grass.” And fortunately, he had the ability to not only pastor and teach the Bible college, but also to build the building, something that I could never, ever do.
But what could be more certain to fail than to expect sinful human nature to change? What could be more impossible than getting people like us to do the will of God or to get people who are outside of Christ to believe the Word of God? What could be more impossible? And the verses that we read this morning in Titus 2:11 to 15, tell us that God doesn’t just command or ask, but he transforms and provides.
I cannot tell you what a big subject this is in the world in which we are today because all around us are problems, and all around us are people trying to solve problems. And the church is looked on as fairly insipid and hopeless, and yet, we’re holding the gospel which does change people’s hearts and lives, and eternities, and makes them brand new people, believe it or not.
Think of the headmaster this week who’s got to work out what to say to the school assembly after there’s been a scandal of one of the boys. And he calls out to the assembly, “I want you all to be good boys.” Does anybody’s heart get changed by that?
Think of the politician who has to address the nation after a terrorist attack, and says, “Come on, let’s all pull together.” Is that going to change anybody?
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Or think of the press, we need the press, trying to express and articulate free speech, the end of hate speech, saying, “Let’s all speak nicely.” Is that going to change anybody?
In the end, what the human race is trying to do for the human race is work on the outside of the human race. So we say things in the ear, and we placard things in front of the eyes, and we give people a warning. And we give them an ultimatum, and we put more police on the corners, and we set up legislation. And we talk about education, and we appeal to nationalism, and the heart never changes. And God works on the inside.
God can make a person new, with new desires, new motives, new perspective, new strength, new resources. And therefore, when he gives instructions like the ones we saw last time in Titus, where Paul said, “I want you to tell the older men to live good, model lives, and I want you to tell the older women to care for the younger women. And I want you to tell the younger men to be serious about Jesus, and I want you to tell, even the slaves, to live lives that set an example to their masters.”
And you can imagine the older men and the older women, and the young men and the slaves, coming back and saying, “How are we ever going to do that? And why should we do it?” And the answer is here in Titus Chapter 2, verses 11 to 15. God is not only going to ask, but he’s going to provide. He’s not only going to command, but he’s going to transform.
What we’ve seen so far in Titus, and this is our fourth look in Titus, is:
- God collects his people
- God provides leaders
- God involves all his people in living for Him.
And today, The Arrival of Grace and The Arrival of Glory.
The Arrival of Grace
First of all, The Arrival of Grace verses 11 to 12. We’ll look at verse 11, “God’s grace has appeared, God’s grace has arrived, offering salvation to all people.” This is what changes the world. Our efforts to change people, our efforts to change the world, painting over rust, band-aiding over disease, colouring grey hair, it’s not a real difference. But God has caused his grace to appear.
Grace brings salvation; salvation brings change.
Now, of course, when Paul says, “God’s grace appeared,” the grace of God appeared before Jesus came. The grace of God runs through the whole Old Testament, making the world by grace, saving his people by grace. But the grace of God appeared in person when Jesus came. That’s why John says in chapter 1 of his Gospel, “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
So when Jesus came into the world, it is as if personified grace, and the whole plan of grace to change the heart, came into the world. You may be interested to know that this word, “appeared,” is not a meaningless word, like a celebrity appeared in a corner of our city and was spotted by somebody. But this word, “appeared,” is only used two other times in the New Testament, and they both refer to the rising of the sun.
And Paul plucks this word to say, “The grace of God changed the world from night to day.” When Jesus appeared, it is as if the world changed from night to day. No longer could the world say, “We’re helpless,” because grace has come. No longer should the world say, “We’re the answer to the darkness,” because we’re not. But grace has come.
We read in verse 11 that Christ’s grace offers salvation to all. Of course, this grace cost him immeasurably. We read in verse 14 he gave himself. All the grace that has come to us, all the grace that we sing about, all the grace of forgiveness, fellowship with God, a future with God, all of that came at the price of Christ’s death, judgment, suffering, separation.
And the grace that he brings to the world is sufficient for anyone; there is nobody in the world who cannot find grace for forgiveness, fellowship and future through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter how far gone they are; it doesn’t matter how dark they are, they’re able to find grace and salvation through Jesus Christ. Even the thief on the cross, as we were reminded earlier.
Now, what do we mean by salvation? Well, we mean by salvation, that Christ is going to deliver you from the inevitable sequence of dying, judgment day, and hell. Every single one of us is moving towards the grave unless Jesus comes first, and the reason that we’re moving towards the grave is that of our sin. The next thing we will experience after death is meeting Christ.
If we’re unforgiven, he will send us away. The Bible tells us, Jesus tells us with great love and tears, he’ll send us away if we’re unforgiven if we’ve turned our back on Him. He’ll send us away into great darkness, great darkness forever. But Jesus Christ can save us from that sequence.
Not only is he able to save us from that sequence, but he’s able to change the sequence completely. So, we come to him in faith, and we’re with him everyday, and he with us everyday. Then suddenly, at the end of our life, we meet him, and it’s a day of great joy. We’re standing in front of the person who has loved us and has made us forgiven, and is giving to us a welcome beyond any welcome. And then, we move into the glory with Christ, and it’s all because of his goodness. He’s able to save us.
I was at lunch in the city, and there were a lot of people there, and there were a couple of young kids giving their testimonies. It was a lunch for the work of Crusaders. Crusaders, which I think does a terrific job of taking children from schools who would never usually hear about Christ, and taking them on camps, and helping them to hear the good news of Jesus. And a couple of these young people who had been converted were giving their testimony.
And one of the girls said to me, said to the whole group, I should say, she said to the entire group, “You know, I heard all this, really, for the first time about Jesus. And then, I said to myself, ‘It’s all too hard, I don’t think I’ll do it.'” And she said, that night, she went home from the camp, in her room, and she said, “Why would I turn my back on the love of Christ? I’ve heard about it, I’ve seen it in action. Why would I turn my back on the love of Christ?” And she gave herself to Christ, and she was, obviously, wonderfully converted, so articulate and full of grace as she spoke.
When I went home after the lunch, I was on the platform at the station, and there she was, standing there on her own. I went up, and I said to her, “How’ve your parents coped with this?” “Oh,” she said, “They don’t understand at all. They think I’m kind of in a kinda social action or social work; it’s just outward.” But God is able, you see, to do a work on the heart, he’s able to change us inwardly.
I want you to notice in verse 12, this is what God does, he gives us grace, which brings salvation, and it changes our behaviour. And this is what the world cannot do, but God can do. Look at verse 12; the grace teaches us, it trains us, it instructs us, it disciples us. It slowly, inwardly, profoundly, and wonderfully trains us, so that we find ourselves, verse 12, “Saying no to ungodliness and worldly desires, and seeking to live a life that is sensible, righteous and godly.” And you say to yourself at this point, “Well, if only that were true,” but it is increasingly true of the believer.
How does this work? I think it works like this, that we put our faith in Christ, and we discover that Jesus has put inside us, planted in us, a new nature, his Holy Spirit, with new desires. And so, whereas in the past, we would’ve been saying, “Yes,” to sinful desires, “Yes, can I get away with this?” “Yes, yes, I’ll do it,” and no real interest in godliness or fellowship. But Christ changes us, and we find ourselves saying, “No,” to sinful desires, sometimes because we’ve lost interest in the sinful desires. What a blessing that is when God changes our interest. I wish he’d change all my interest for sin.
Sometimes, we say no to sin because we know the danger. Sometimes, we say no to sin because we want to be a disciple, and we want to take up our cross and follow, but this work of grace that God does in the real believer is a very profound work. It is as if the Holy Spirit, like a deep-sea diver, goes to the very depths of our heart and changes all the muck, and so, a brand-new desire begins to surface.
We’re not perfect; it’s a new desire. We’ve still got our old desires, and there is a spiritual battle going on in the heart. And it’s an ongoing process; he continues to teach us. So, when you put your trust in Christ, you are immediately secure, slowly mature. Immediately secure, slowly mature. And we have no hope without this grace to save us and to change us.
I was having a look at Calvin’s sermons, and he’s preached a whole book of sermons on Titus, and they’ve been translated by a guy called Bob White, who used to come to the 10:00 service. And it’s out in the “Banner of Truth” commentaries. Calvin says, “Left to ourselves, we gratify our appetites, but when we yield to him, he produces a new work of righteousness.” And he’s very realistic, Calvin. He says this, “We pretend to be devout at first, but we’re very careless until God renews us.”
“Until he renews us,” says Calvin, “we’re like the beasts. We’re entangled in the here, and now, we’re like a blind man pursuing our interests. Even the animals,” says Calvin, “are not as ambitious for self as we are. No, we must escape the slavery to our old nature. We must become new creatures, and when we are made new through faith in Christ, there is a true spiritual rest found in his governance.”
We find ourselves, verse 12, wanting more and more to be under his control, which brings self-control. We find ourselves wanting to do his business, which helps us to be upright. And we find ourselves wanting to do his will, which means that we are, by the grace of God, more and more godly.
I want to come back to this idea of grace transforming us because the world can’t change the heart, religion cannot change the heart. That’s why abuse in the church is often just a reminder to us that hearts have not been changed, that there has not been grace or salvation, just religion. But there may be somebody here who is converted, and you find Titus Chapter 2, verse 12 is not happening for you.
You would like to be saying, “No,” to sin, and “Yes” to faithfulness, but you find, again and again, it’s the other way around. You’re saying, “Yes,” to sin and “No” to faithfulness. And there are some battles which are coming at us with tremendous force in the areas of sex and drink, and greed, and popularity, and possessions, and pride, and all sorts of things. And we’re in a fight.
What would the Apostle Paul say to the person this morning who’s discouraged about Titus 2:12? I think he would say, “Focus on what Jesus has done for you, not on what you’re doing day by day. Focus on his performance before you focus on your performance.” I think that comes from Romans 7 and 8. Ask his very special help to work deeply in you, and change your desires.
Philippians 2 tells us that he is at work to will, and to work, what is pleasing to him. In other words, he won’t just do what pleases him through us; he will cause us to will it, to want it. He can change my will, and it may not be a bad thing to say to him in our private prayers, “Would you please change my will? And then, work in me what is pleasing to you.”
And ask yourself whether the grace of God has come in and made you a new person. And for so many here this morning, the grace of God has come and has made you a new people. And therefore, the spiritual battle is very real. You know that your hope is Christ and his work on the cross, and he will give you the grace, not only to be saved but also to serve because the grace of God has arrived.
Second, more briefly, “The Arrival of Glory,” verses 13 to 15. You see, verse 13, this is my second point this morning, the arrival of glory. “We wait”, verse 13, “for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Grace has already appeared when Jesus came. Specially, glory will appear when Jesus comes a second time.
Now again, we want to say that this won’t be the start of seeing God’s glory in the world. We’ve seen the glory of God in the creation, we’ve seen the glory of God in salvation, we’ve seen the glory of God in Jesus. But in a sense, it’s been very veiled. When Jesus returns, it will be unveiled. It will be unbelievably splendid; it will be unbelievably powerful and attractive. We will find ourselves transformed in a way we couldn’t believe. We will almost be moving from sleep to wake when Christ comes, and that day will come.
Why is Paul telling us? Well, because the grace and the glory work together to help us in the present. The grace makes us saved, the grace makes us live, and the glory, which is up ahead, reminds us that the present age is not worth dying for. It’s not worth giving your soul to. As Tim Chester says in his commentary, “The grace pushes us, and the glory pulls us.” This is very, very practical.
I wanna suggest to you why it’s practical. First, we don’t see the present age as the total of life anymore. We cannot fall for the idea that this is it, this is it, you’ve only got one life. Once the doors of the resurrection have opened up, we cannot fall for the idea that this present age is the total.
Therefore, many clever advertisements will fail on us because they’re telling us that if we have this perfect holiday, and this perfect house, and this perfect spouse, and this perfect body, and these perfect teeth, we will be very happy. And we don’t fall for that anymore, not often anyway. And many sins are seen as dangers and evils because we don’t want some of the sins which do dog our steps to change our character, and change our destiny.
Our behaviour, of course, by the grace of God, is not to win his love, he’s already given his love by grace. Our behaviour springs from the grace of God. Nor is our new behaviour by grace a selfish thing, as though we’re saying, “I’m going to be good to be happy. I’m gonna be good to be successful; I’m going to be good to win God’s love.” No, it all is the fruit, it’s the consequence of the grace of God that’s begun to change our hearts.
Now, who is going to appear, verse 13? Paul says, “Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” What an interesting verse, “Our great God and Savior,” and this could be one of those verses in the New Testament that speaks of the deity of Jesus most clearly. And there are a number of verses like this which give a very clear indication that Jesus is God, but we don’t depend on one or two proof texts to believe that Jesus is God.
We know that Jesus is part of the…he’s the creator. We know that Jesus is worshiped, we know that Jesus is forgiving, we know that Jesus is the judge. All of this tells us that he is God, but there are some texts which give it to us very clearly as well. And I think here, Titus 2:13, tells us, the person who will come is the great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. And verse 14, the one who gave himself for us.
When Jesus came the first time, he gave himself to redeem us and to purify us. That is, to rescue us and to recreate us, or to deliver us and to transform us. When he comes a second time, we will be perfect, and we look forward to it. These good works, as I say, are not just for us, they’re not even just for others, they’re ultimately for the glory of God.
Remember back in Chapter 2, verse 5, 2 verse 8, 2 verse 10, Paul keeps on saying, “I want you to live this way so that God is honoured. So that God is honoured so that God is honoured.” So beyond ourselves, there is this tremendous purpose. And he finishes in verse 15 by saying to young Titus or old Titus; we don’t know how old he was, “Keep teaching these things, keep teaching these things.” And I hope, dear friends, that when you come to this building, you hear these things, the grace of God, and the glory of God, often, and they fuel your faith. I do.
Now I want to finish with just a few quick applications. Is there anyone here this morning, and you’re still in a little bit of a fog about the whole Christianity? I want to tell you that the key to the door is grace. And therefore, read about grace, think about it, ask about it, because when you’ve got grace, the door opens. Grace is the key to the door of God’s family.
I wonder whether there’s somebody here, and you’ve got a role as a parent, or a grandparent, or a Bible, study leader, and I want to say to you, in the words of Titus 2:11 to 15, “You must keep undergirding your teaching with the grace of God.” In other words, that he provides what he asks. Don’t just tell people in your group, or your children, to do stuff. Tell them that Christ makes it possible.
For those of you who understand this language, give lots of indicative, not so many imperatives, or at least, if you’re gonna give the imperatives, make sure they sit on the indications, make sure the commands sit on the promises. Why didn’t I say that the first time? And to those of you who are here this morning, and you’re feeling very defeated, there is something which is getting on top of you. I want you to keep reminding yourself you have security in Christ, and ask him to help the maturity process.
And to some of you here this morning who’ve got two feet planted firmly in the world, you’re secure in the world, I wanna suggest to you that you go back and think very carefully about Christ, who gave himself to completely change you. And then, you might ask yourself whether that change has taken place. And then, you might ask yourself whether that grace at work is promoting in you a “no” to worldliness and a “yes” to godliness. Because if it’s not, maybe the grace of God has not begun to work, and you need to take yourself to the cross and receive it.
And maybe the grace of God is real in your life, but you’re in a very bad way, worldly-wise, and you need to take yourself back to the school room and ask that the teacher called “Grace” would do a really good job of teaching you, and changing you, because when Christ comes in glory, you will not regret.
Let’s pray. Our gracious God, thank you that the Lord Jesus came and gave himself to redeem and to purify. We thank you for the grace that moves into our hearts and changes us, and gives salvation, new life, new desires. We ask, our heavenly Father, that you would save us from being people who hear these words, and they have no effect. But that you would cause the grace that you have shown us in Jesus, to not only bring salvation to all who are listening, but also change, and joy, and readiness, for the day where Christ appears. We ask it in his name, Amen.