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How Grace Makes Us Better People, Part II

Original Date: 
Sunday, January 27, 2013

Titus 2:11-15 The Good Life: How Grace Makes Us Better People, Part II

Be Quiet and You Get a Piece of Candy
My Dad was a church candy guy. Every Sunday when we went to church he would load up his pockets. It was almost a ritual—one of my earliest memories in fact—before we got in the car for church we had to make sure Dad had the church candy. He’d stand by the kitchen counter and reach into the cupboard and then show us what he had.

Sometimes it would be peppermint disks. Sometimes it would be those hard little balls that Brach’s used to make. Sometimes it would be the Wilhelmina peppermints that looked like coins with the picture of the Dutch queen on them. Most of the time it was Werther’s Original toffees. This was such a strong memory for my brother and my sister and I, in fact, that at Dad’s visitation we made sure to have bowls of Werther’s available for everyone who came to pay their respects.

Dad used church candy as a way to evaluate the sermon. At Sunday lunch he’d say: “Well, that was a one candy sermon.” Or: “That was a two candy sermon.” I’m not quite sure what the parameters of his evaluation were, but I think it was a combination of sermonic length divided by how well the preacher held his attention. The less candy, the better the message. Because, of course, if the sermon was short, then he only had time for one candy. And if it really held his attention, then it didn’t matter how long it was, because he’d forget to go for the second piece of candy. Under that system, I’d be a two candy preacher most Sundays, based on length; but hopefully I’d be interesting enough on some Sundays to make him forget about the second piece.

But the church candy served another purpose as well: crowd control. The reason Dad made such a ritual out of filling his pockets—and making sure that we knew what he had—was so that we would remember he had the candy. The implication was that if we wanted a piece, then we had better behave during church. If we sat still, didn’t hit each other, and kept quiet, then we got a piece of candy. If we got into a wrestling match during the long prayer, we didn’t get candy (or worse, we got carried out of church. You DID NOT want to get carried out of church!)

So the candy was sort of a bribe. It was a way for Dad to buy our good behavior.

Getting What You Don’t Deserve
Some people think God operates under a similar system. Some people think God offers us heaven kind of like a piece of church candy: behave, be good, don’t hit your brother or sister, and maybe when it is all said and done God will reward you with heaven. And similarly, maybe He uses the threat of “carrying us out of church” to keep us in line as well. Some people think it is on the basis of our being good or being bad that He accepts us or rejects us.

But, of course, I’ve been saying for the last couple of weeks that that isn’t how it works at all. Salvation is always and only by grace. It is only by grace through faith that any of us have any hope of being acceptable to God. It’s not by works. It’s a free gift from God.

I’ve been talking a lot about grace the last few weeks. But I don’t know if I’ve really defined it for you. I want to make sure we are all thinking about the same thing.

And one of the easiest ways for me to remember what grace is is to think about it in comparison to justice and mercy. Justice is when you get exactly what you deserve. Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve. And grace is when you get something you don’t deserve.

I remember it this way: Imagine you are out driving your car over the bridge on Grand and a police officer clocks you doing 35. Now, we all know that the speed limit on the bridge is 20 mph. So the officer pulls you over. If he writes you a ticket, then that’s justice. It’s what you deserve. If he decides to skip the ticket and let you off with a warning, that’s mercy. You didn’t get what you deserved. But…if he follows up his warning by inviting you to pull in to the Dairy Queen so he can buy you an ice cream cone, that’s grace. You just got something you haven’t earned.

That’s how salvation works. God gives us something we haven’t earned. Something we cannot earn.

I don’t think there was anything wrong with my Dad using peppermints to keep us quiet during church, but it doesn’t work as an illustration of what God does for us. God is not trying to buy our good behavior in order to let us into heaven.

But that does raise a question: If our good deeds don’t earn God’s favor, then why be good at all?

That’s the question the Apostle Paul is answering in our text today. And really, it’s the main theme of the whole book of Titus. If salvation is entirely by grace, then why be good?

And the answer is: because of grace. Grace motivates us to live the good life. Here’s the text, Titus 2:11-15:

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, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

Grace has appeared. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” That means it has “shown up.” It has “arrived on the scene.” Clearly, Paul is talking about the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became a man and lived on earth and then died on the cross and came back from the dead to make grace appear to all men. It is through Jesus that we are saved, entirely as a free gift. Nothing we could do to earn it. Nothing about us that deserved it. Grace appeared.

And, according to these verses, grace does two things for us. Grace changes us in two big ways. Grace motivates us to lead the good life by redeeming us and refining us. That’s my big idea this morning: grace has appeared to redeem us and to refine us.

Not Your Own
So, let’s consider those two things. First, grace has appeared to redeem us. Look with me at verse 11 again:

11 For the grace of God that brings [what?] salvation has appeared to all men.

Grace saves us. Salvation is by grace through faith alone. That’s what we’ve been talking about.

But verse 14 says it even more clearly, and uses a more specific word:

14 [Jesus]gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

“Redeem.” Redeem is an economic term. Its fundamental idea is that of purchase, of buying for a price. It is a word, I suppose, which is primarily in our vocabulary today as a religious word, and for most people, it is within the context of the Church that we are introduced to it. But we still use it from time to time in non-church settings. Think, for example, about “redeeming” our coupons or taking our aluminum cans to the “redemption” center. The idea is that one thing is exchanged for another, that a purchase is made for a price.

In the ancient world, this word would have been commonly used in relation to slavery. To buy someone out of slavery was to redeem them.

And that’s exactly what Paul is talking about here. We were enslaved. Slaves to wickedness. In chains to our sin.

And Jesus paid a price. He “gave himself” in order to buy us back from sin. He redeemed us.

And that means we belong to Him. He bought us. He purchased us. As it says in the middle of the verse: He redeemed us so that He could have “for himself a people that are his very own.”

This is very important. If you have been redeemed by Jesus, then you belong to Him. As the first question and answer to the Heidelberg Catechism says: “I am not my own but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” That’s what grace does: it purchases us. At great cost. We are property of Jesus.

I don’t know if that seems like good news to you or not. Maybe in a culture that accepted slavery and was used to having Lords and Masters and Kings, this wasn’t a big deal. But in our culture that celebrates independence and values personal freedom, the idea of belonging to someone else doesn’t sit all that well. We believe in the right of every man to make decisions for himself, to be his own owner.

In fact, to give you an idea of just how highly prized this value of personal freedom is, I heard a while back about a city in California where there are no longer any "pet owners." Not that they kicked everybody with a dog or cat out of the city, but the city council passed a measure declaring that the phrase "pet owner" is no longer to be used, preferring instead the label "animal caretaker" or something along that line.

Apparently the change was spearheaded by PETA or some other such similar group who felt the notion that an animal "belonged" to a human was somehow demeaning to the animal (as though Fido is likely to develop a complex over thinking of himself as somebody else's property). This is how important freedom has become in this country.

But here in the book of Titus we are told that the good news of grace is that we have been redeemed so that we now belong to Jesus. We are not our own. We are under new management.

So let me tell you why this IS good news. If we belong to Jesus—if He has gone to such great lengths and enormous expense (the expense of His own life!)--then that means we must be very precious to Him.

“People that are his very own.” We are His special treasure. As my friend Matt says: “If the universe were on fire, we’re what He would run in to rescue.” What a great thought! Some people would run in for picture albums or a favorite sweater. Some people would run in for the dog. Jesus would run in for you! That’s what He did!

Jesus has redeemed us, by grace! He’s made us His very own. What a motivation to live for Him! We are not our own; we were bought at a price. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

That’s not all that grace does.

That’s often where we stop when we talk about grace: Jesus saved us from our sins. We’ve been redeemed. But that’s not where the gospel stops. That’s not where Paul stops. As we said last week, grace doesn’t just save us, it also changes us.

So that’s the second point this morning: Grace has appeared to refine us. Go to verse 12:

12 It [grace] 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 found in Jesus Christ “teaches us” or “trains us” or “disciplines us.” This is the same word you would use to talk about “training up a child.” It comprehends the entire training process: teaching, encouragement, correction and discipline.

In other words, God doesn’t pour His grace out on us to leave us as we were, but change us into people who reflect His character.

Specifically, grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions.

Let that sink in for a second.

We can say, ‘No.” If we belong to Jesus, if we have experienced His redeeming grace, then we can say “No.”

I mentioned last week that I have a dog. I’ve had him for about 12 years. And one of the things I’ve learned about my dog is that he can’t say “No.” He doesn’t know how. (I know, dogs can’t talk, but that’s not what I mean…) There are certain behaviors and instincts that Obie simply can’t resist. Like eating garbage he finds on the sidewalk. I don’t know why this is a big deal to dogs, but when we go for a walk and he finds some garbage on the sidewalk, he can’t resist. He has to put it in his mouth.

Sometimes it is relatively harmless, like some peanut butter and jelly sandwich that some kid dropped on the way to school. But sometimes it’s pretty gross, like a road kill squirrel. But Obie can’t help himself. He has to put it in his mouth. And if I’m not watching him close, he’ll lay down and roll in it too. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad for him. It doesn’t matter if the last time he did it he got sick. There’s some instinct that compels him to do these things.

But, you see, we’re not dogs. We are not slaves to our instinct. We are not slaves to our sin. We can say “No.” Grace teaches us to say know.

Not because of how good we are, but because of how good God has been to us. We can say “No.”

We can say “No” to lust. We can say “No” to pornography. You don’t have to click over there. Men, you don’t have to click over there.

We can say “No” to anger. We can say “No” to the urge to be rude. Just because we are crabby, we don’t have to snap at others.

We can say “No” to gossip. We don’t have to share that morsel of information. Ladies, you don’t have to share that.

If we belong to Christ, we can say, “No.”

Sometimes we emphasize that there is grace for us when we sin. And there is! If you are trapped in any of those patterns I just mentioned or any others, Jesus’ blood is sufficient to forgive!

But His grace doesn’t stop there. It goes another crucial step. It also empowers us to say, “No.” No to ungodliness. No to worldly passions.

But grace doesn’t only teach us what not to do, it also empowers us to be different. Look at the second half of verse 12: “Grace teaches us…to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

That’s the whole point of chapter 2! It’s what we looked at last week:

Older Men being respectable.
Older Women being reverent.
Younger Women loving their families.
Younger Men being self-controlled.
Church Leaders setting an example.
Slaves being trustworthy employees.

How? Not because they have it in them to start with. No. But because the grace of God has appeared. Because the grace of God is teaching us, changing us, refining us.

And it does, every time.

I’m concerned about some people who claim to be Christ-followers but whose lives show no sign of this kind of thing. In the Bible, grace is effectual. It works. It not only forgives us through the death and resurrection of Christ, but it also transforms us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Look at how verse 14 says it:

[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify [refine] for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Jesus didn’t just save us to leave us how we are. He didn’t just die to forgive us. He died to change us. To make us His very own.

And if we are His precious treasure, then He wants the very best for us. He wants a people “eager to do what is good.” Living the good life.

That’s not what we were. But it is what we are becoming!

So here’s the key question: Are we being changed by grace?

Verse 12 says that grace teaches. Are we learning? Verse 14 says that grace purifies. Are we being refined?

What area of your life is God working on? And are you letting Him?

I don’t know what it is for you. But my guess is that it relates in some way to self-control. Remember that’s one of Paul’s favorite words in the book of Titus. And we saw it right there in verse 12.

For me, right now, I’m trying to learn (by grace) to exercise self-control in my schedule. Last summer, when Danny and I were training for the marathon, I was doing great at this. I got up early and I ran and then I was ready to jump into my day. But since the marathon, I haven’t felt like exercising much. And that doesn’t really bother me, but I notice how sloppy my mornings get when I don’t exercise. Other disciplines like prayer or Bible reading slip when I sleep in a little more. So I have to get control of my schedule again.

I know that grace has come. Grace has come to pay the penalty for my sluggishness. Jesus died for my neglect of my devotions.

But that’s not all. He didn’t just come to forgive me and then not care anymore. Grace has come to teach me self-control. I can be refined.

And so can you.

Like I said, I don’t know what area it is for, but I urge you to let His grace in. Let it teach you. Let it change you. You are His precious treasure. Let Him shape you to be good.

The Blessed Hope
And let Him keep changing you.

Did you know that’s one of the biggest reasons we are still here? God’s agenda for us now is to be redeemed and refined while we wait for Him to come again.

You might have noticed I skipped over verse 13. Here’s how it ties in to the rest of the passage.

[Grace] teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age [now], while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ[!]”

The grace of God has appeared once, but it will also appear again. This redeeming and this refining are for now while we wait for His returning! Jesus is coming back and coming back soon!

Paul calls it, “the blessed hope.” It’s that thing that we’re trusting in for the future that makes it all worthwhile. It’s “blessed.” It’s full of blessing. It’s awesome and wonderful and delightful.

Jesus is coming back and coming back soon!

He calls it, “The glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!”

His appearance the first time was humble. But when He comes again, it will be glorious! He will be seen to be as GREAT as He is. And as GOD as He is!

This text points us to the divinity of Christ! He is God!

And He is Savior!

He gave Himself for us to redeem us.

So let’s go back to our big idea and add one more thing: Grace Has Appeared to Redeem Us and to Refine Us Until He Returns For Us.

While we wait we need to let grace redeem and refine us. Remember that we belong to Jesus, and His grace gives us the power to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to living like Him.