How Grace Makes Us Better People Part 1

Original Date: 
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Series: 

Titus 2:1-12 The Good Life: How Grace Makes Us Better People, Part I

Tell Me I’m a Good Man
The old man stumbles his way down the path of crushed white stone. All around him are enormous green fields, filled with rows upon rows of white crosses. Behind him trail his family. His wife, his son, his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. They are with him, but he is alone. Lost in his thoughts.

Eventually, he finds the cross he was looking for. It reads: Captain John W. Miller. June 13, 1944. Overcome by emotion, the old man kneels before the cross. His wife and son are at his shoulders, but he shrugs them away. He needs to be alone with his thoughts.

The old man is Private James Ryan. Decades earlier, in the height of the fighting at D-Day, is two older brothers were killed. A few weeks earlier, a third brother had been killed in the Pacific. Private Ryan was the only son his mother had left, and the army chief of staff decided that was grief enough. He gave orders for Private Ryan to be pulled out of the war.

Problem was, Private Ryan was already neck deep into it. He had parachuted into France the day before Normandy and was somewhere behind enemy lines. Captain Miller and a squad of 7 other men were given special orders to find Ryan and get him out.

It was no easy task, and when they finally found Ryan he didn’t want to leave. He and his company had been charged with holding a bridge, and the Germans were coming. So Miller and his men stayed too, and made Ryan’s fight their fight. They stayed glued to Ryan’s side.

In the end, 6 of the men who had been assigned to save Private Ryan gave their own lives, including Captain Miller. As he lay dying he gasped out: “James. Earn this… Earn it.”

And now, here was James Ryan, years later at the grave of the man who had given so much to save him and the question he’d been asking his whole life bubbled to the surface: Had he been worthy of all that had been done for him?

His wife comes to his side again. He looks at her and pleads: “Tell me I’ve led a good life.”

Confused by his request, she responds with a question: “What?”

He has to know the answer. He tries to articulate it again: “Tell me I’m a good man.”

The request flusters her, but his earnestness makes her think better of putting it off. With great dignity, she says, “You are.”

*****

That powerful scene from Steven Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan forces us all to ask the same question: Have I lived a good life? Have I made the most out of my life? If somebody gave their life for me (and if you are a Christian, then someone did), have I lived in a way worthy of that sacrifice?

Now, many of you will see the flaw in this illustration. When Captain Miller says “Earn it” to Private Ryan, that’s pretty much the exact opposite of the good news about Jesus. The salvation Jesus offers is not something you have to earn—it’s not something you can earn--it’s a free gift of grace. Jesus died so that you can live. Period.

But given that many of us have received this free gift from Jesus, the question becomes: how are we going to respond? How are we going to live in light of what Jesus has done for us? Not to earn it (because you never could) but to live in a way that is consistent with what has been done for us.

That’s what I mean by “the good life” and it’s the reason I’ve named this series on the book of Titus the way I have. Paul’s letter to Titus is all about living a good life in accordance with the gospel.

I know a lot of us think of the good life as a quiet beach with a warm sun and a cool drink and not a care in the world. We often equate “the good life” with “the fun life.” But the book of Titus takes a different angle. It isn’t interested in how we can have good things come our way so much as it is in seeing us do things that are good. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are called on to live good lives.

So, for example, consider Titus 2:11-12:

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It 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 has appeared…It teaches us…

Grace teaches us. Grace changes us.

We are not called to perform certain tasks or keep a set of rules or check off a list of behaviors in order to make ourselves acceptable to God. Instead, as we saw last week, salvation is always and only by grace through faith. We are not called to be good in order to earn God’s love.

But grace will change us. If you have experienced the gift of Jesus, then it will change you. How can it not? I really think these verses are the heart of the book of Titus. Everything Titus is supposed to teach the Christians in Crete about following Jesus flows from this idea: the grace of God teaches us. Because of what Jesus has done for us, this is how we should live.

So, for the next two weeks, we are going to look at Titus 2 and talk about “How Grace Makes us Better People.” This is about living out the implications of the gospel. This is how to live a “good life.”

Today our focus will be on the first 10 verses of the chapter.

In Accord
So let’s look at verse 1:

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Remember, this is written to Titus. Paul has just gotten done talking about bad teachers and how Crete is overrun with liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons. But Titus is going to be different. Titus is going to teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Now, notice that Paul does not say he must teach sound doctrine. Obviously, that’s important. Before this letter is through Paul is going to give an excellent summary of what the true gospel is. But that’s not his point here. Here, Paul says, Titus much teach “what is in accord” with sound doctrine.

In other words, Paul is talking about what we might call the “applications” or “implications” of the gospel. The practical behaviors that go with sound doctrine. The “this is how you should live” part.

Christians should live lives that match the gospel. Given what Jesus has done for us, grace teaches us to live a certain way. “In accord with sound doctrine.”

Then Paul goes on to get specific. In the next 9 verses, he names 6 groups and talks about what grace has to teach them. Older men, older women, younger women, younger men, Titus himself, and slaves. The gospel changes each of them.

So, let’s look at each.

Worthy of Respect
First, older men. What does grace have to say to older men? Verse 2:

2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

So, who qualifies as an older man? I don’t know how many of us necessarily want to volunteer for this designation. It used to be when I introduced myself to people and said I was a pastor, they’d look at me and say: “You look way too young to be a pastor.” I kind of liked that.

But the last few years I’ve noticed that’s been happening a lot less. Like, it doesn’t happen at all anymore. I’m getting a lot of gray hair. I’ve passed 40. So I think maybe I’m falling into this older men category.

At any rate, I don’t think this about age as much as this is what men should aspire to be as they grow older.

Several things get mentioned. “Temperate” means clear-minded and sober in judgment. The wisdom of experience. “Worthy of respect” means dignified and a seriousness of purpose. Not that you can’t have a sense of humor, but there is a sense of purpose about the right things. You are not a fool and others can look up to you.

“Self-controlled” is a favorite word in the book of Titus and we’re going to see it several times today. The ability to get control of oneself is a mark of maturity. And “sound in faith, love and endurance” means commitment to Jesus, a generous love, and ability to persevere in hope.

Older men in the room today: does this describe you? (Us?) Has the grace of God taught you to be temperate and wise and serious and self-controlled?

There is nothing said here about amassing wealth, or being at the top of your business, or having stuff that others want, or being free to golf all day long, or anything else that the world says should characterize an older man.

Instead, respectability and wisdom are what’s truly important. The phrase “worthy of respect” really stands out to me in this list of descriptors. I think Paul starts with the older men because when they live their lives in a way that is “worthy of respect” they become natural leaders in any community. They set the pace, they set the example. And example-setting is very important to Paul in this passage.

So, older men, ask yourself what kind of example you are. The gospel teaches us to live lives worthy of respect.

They Can Train
Second, Paul talks about the older women. What does grace teach older women? Verse 3:

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.

Now, if I was reluctant to define an older man, you know I’m not about to tell you who qualifies as an older woman. But we’re all older than somebody, and we’re going to see that what Paul has to say here has a lot to do with training those who come behind.

So, older women should be “Reverent in the way they live.” Another way to say this might be “living a worshipful life.” It has to do with seeing the beauty of God in all aspects of life. They should “not be slanderers.” Not given to gossip. I don’t know if this is a stereotype—all of us can indulge in a little gossip—but it seems that for older women this can be a particular temptation. Can you resist the urge to talk behind someone’s back?

The next thing, “not addicted to much wine” goes with the slandering part. There can be a connection between a loose tongue and too much drink. This also goes with self-control.

Instead, older women should focus on teaching “what is good.” Older women have a job to do. They are called to be teachers. Not necessarily class-room teachers, but life-teachers. Mentors.

Specifically, if we look at the first part of verse 4, they should see themselves as examples to the younger women. That’s Paul’s goal. That’s the way it should work.

Ladies, do you have at least one younger lady in your life that you are doing this for? Are you a mentor?

Mentoring is so important in the Christian life, and we’re not always as deliberate about it as we should be.

Last week, Jay told you that the Staff was going on a retreat. We went to Orchard Hill Church in Cedar Falls and we had the chance to meet with one of my mentors, Dave Bartlett. It was so good for the other members of the staff to meet this man that had a huge influence on me. And I think one of the things that struck them was how many of the things Dave said they had already heard from me. That’s not because Dave was stealing my material, but because I have been so taught and mentored by him that I say things the way he would say them all the time.

And that’s what Paul is getting at here. Older generations should be mentoring younger generations. Men and women both, though here he’s talking specifically to women. Find somebody you can pour your life into.

Pure and Kind
The next group, then, is the younger women. What does grace teach younger women?
Verses 4 and 5:

4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

For younger women, Paul chooses to focus on their lives at home. He probably has in mind young ladies who have just married, and he realizes one of the biggest challenges young women face is figuring out how to make marriage work. That’s where they need mentoring, that’s where gals who have been through it can really help.

So Paul talks about relationships with husbands and children. He’s talking about learning to love even when husbands and children aren’t that lovable.

And he uses that word “self-controlled” again. We all need self-control. We all need the discipline to say “no” to our worst impulses. Instead, the focus should be on what is pure and cultivating the virtue of kindness.

The phrase “busy at home” does not mean that a woman should never work outside the home, as it has been mistakenly interpreted in past generations. But it does recognize that a wife and mother has serious responsibilities at home (as does a husband and a father.) Young women need to be taught that they have a lot of influence over the atmosphere and effectiveness of their homes.

And they need to learn to be “subject to their husbands.” Not to be subjected by their husbands, but to gladly recognize the different Biblical roles assigned to husbands and wives.

None of these things come naturally. But they are all implications and applications of the grace of God in a young lady’s life. So we need to teach them to the younger Christian ladies to make sure that the gospel cannot be maligned.

Did you see the purpose statement at the end of verse 5? Why is it important to teach these things to younger ladies? “…so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Our lives either confirm or deny the gospel that we proclaim.

So, younger ladies, do you have some older Christian women in your life whose example you can follow? Are you learning how to be a godly gospel girl?

If not, seek one out today. And older ladies, seek them out too.

Self-Controlled
Fourth, the younger men. What does grace teach younger men? Verse 6:

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

For the younger men, Paul keeps it simple, and goes back to his favorite word. Young men need to learn self-control. I don’t think he only mentioned one thing because the guys have all the rest mastered. I think he picked out the one that guys struggle with the most and said, “Work on this!”

Be self-controlled.

Get a grip on yourself. Control your temper. Control your tongue. Control your sexual appetite. Control your ambition. Control your greed.
To gain mastery over one’s own self–that’s the major project for young men.

Guys, how are we doing on this one? Are you in control or out of it? One of the things the gospel empowers in us is the ability to be self-controlled. We are no longer slaves to our sinful nature. We no longer can just shrug it off and say: “That’s just the way I am.”

We have victory. We’ve been set free. We can get a grip on ourselves.

Jesus Christ died to not only pay for your sins but to give you the power to say “No” to those temptations when they come back around again.

Integrity
So, fifth. Leaders. What does grace teach leaders? Verses 7-8:

7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

This is actually instruction for Titus himself. But Titus is the pastor in Crete, he’s a church leader. So by extension, what is said to him applies to everyone in a leadership position.

And, again, the emphasis is on being an example. Church leaders have to set the tone. We are not thermometers of spiritual health in the church, we are supposed to be thermostats.

Leaders lead by example. By their integrity and seriousness and soundness of speech.

Notice that after living out the gospel the most important thing for leaders is to teach the gospel well. We talked about that last week. How important it is to stay true to the gospel message.

Church leaders must live out the gospel and soundly and seriously teach the gospel “so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Not that they won’t say anything bad, but there won’t be anything to it.

This one applies doubly to me, and I hear the importance of walking the walk and practicing what I preach. I know that’s it’s important and I’m sorry for the ways that I have fallen short of this and desire to do better.

Fully-Trusted
Then, sixth, Paul talks about slaves. We’ll apply this one to employees. What does grace have to teach us about our jobs? Verses 9-10:

9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

Paul talks about slaves. But don’t think black-skinned men and women in the deep South before the Civil War. This kind of slavery was a different system—more of an indentured servanthood—not necessarily built on the back of man-stealing.

In many ways, the slave master relationship in the Biblical world was more like our employee-employer relationship—just with less freedom to change jobs. So what is said here can be applied to any of us who work for someone else.

And what Titus is supposed to teach is how to be model employees. Grace has implications for the effort we give at work.

So, we should try to make our boss happy. We should not talk back to them. We should treat our employers with respect. We should not steal from them, neither money nor time.

We should strive to show that we can be fully trusted. That’s the phrase that really jumps out to me. Our goal at work should be to show that servants impacted by the gospel are fully trustworthy and do our best for our employer.

Christ-followers should be the best employees! Employers should be excited to find out that their employees are believers in Christ.

Does that always happen? Do we always live up to verses 9-10? How was your last week at work? Did you give them your all? Even if you don’t think they deserve it?

And notice, at the end, why this is important. In fact, I think the end of verse 10 can summarize everything we saw today. Why does it matter how we live as older men or older women or younger women or younger men or leaders or employees? Why does it matter if people could say we are living a good life or not?

“So that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

Are our lives in accord with the good news of Jesus? Does the way we live reflect an awareness of everything Jesus has done for us?

We need to live our lives so that the teaching is attractive!

Is this gospel true?

We know it is by the lives that are changed.

If you are currently investigating the gospel, then I invite you to look at the lives of the people in this room.

None of us are perfect. In fact, each of us is a wretched sinner.

But many of us have been rescued from that sin.

Not just from the penalty of that sin, but increasingly from its power.

Older men, older women, younger women, young men, leaders, and workers.

And our lives tell the story that this gospel is true.

It’s attractive. It matches.

Our lives match our teaching. We are living in accord with sound doctrine.

Grace has changed us. And we invite you to let it change you too.