This Is How You Are Saved

Original Date: 
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Series: 

Titus 3:1-8 The Good Life: This is How You Are Saved

Paul’s Story
He was a very smart man. Some say one of the smartest men in history. He received an intensive education.

He was born in a foreign city but was brought to the capital of his parents’ homeland to be raised. He was a patriot. As zealous for the laws and traditions of his people as anybody has ever been.

And he was filled with hate. Hatred for anything new. Hatred for anything that might threaten the way he saw the world.

And so, when a new movement arose—one which challenged the old ways and introduced a new way of living—he did everything he could to stomp it out. He became a bounty hunter of sorts, going on expeditions to find followers of this new way and bring them to trial. He was even on hand as some of these men were put to death.

But then, something amazing happened. He was on another trip to terrorize and torture when a blinding light stopped him in his tracks. He heard a voice, the voice of the leader of the new movement, whom he was certain was dead. Suddenly the man made a 180 degree turn. He realized how wrong he was and changed his allegiance in a moment. He went from persecutor to believer. From the chief of sinners to the leader of the new way.

From that moment on this man—Saul of Tarsus, better known as Paul the Apostle—dedicated his life to telling anybody who would listen that belief in Jesus was the only way to salvation.

That’s Paul’s story. Around here we’d call it his “God Story.” In other churches they might call it his testimony. It’s the narrative of how God was at work in his life.

And it is an important part of the Bible. There are 28 chapters in the book of Acts, and three of them recount this story. In Acts 9 we are given the historical account. Then, in Acts 22 Paul tells the story to a crowd in Jerusalem. Then, again, in Acts 26 he tells it while on trial before Festus and King Agrippa. Plus, Paul makes all kinds of references to this story in his letters. It was important to Paul that people understood how he was saved.

So, for example, our text for today. Titus 3:3-8. See if you can notice the references to Paul’s story:

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

God Stories
God stories are important here at Hope as well. You may have noticed that we like to have people share the story of how God has been at work in their lives.

I explain it like this: One of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus is still alive—that He was raised from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms and that He is still active in the world today. And one of the best ways to see Jesus’ activity today is to listen to the stories of Christians and see how He has been shaping their lives.

And so, when we have a Pastor’s class for new members (like we do this afternoon) the first thing we do is have people share their God stories. And periodically on Sunday mornings we’ll have a member of the congregation share through video or up here on the platform, the story of how God has been at work in their lives. The point is: if you are a Christian, then you have a God story.

And one thing that becomes clear as you hear these stories—as different as they all are—is that they all have one thing in common. When you listen to a Christian tell his or her story, the story of Titus 3:3-8 will be a part of it. Even though we don’t all use the same words, the story Paul tells here is every believer’s story. And, if any part of this story is not in your story, then you are not a believer in Jesus Christ.

There are three things I’d like you to see about this story.

The Bad Beginning
First there is what I will call the Bad Beginning. This is what we were. Every good story has a problem to be solved or a conflict to be resolved. And that’s true for all of us. Paul starts with what we were, and what we were was pretty bad. Verse 3:

3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

“Foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved.” Living in “malice and envy.” “Being hated and hating one another.” That’s some pretty serious stuff.

You can see Paul’s story in this. He was foolish, thinking that Christianity was wrong. He was deceived, believing that Jesus was dead. He was enslaved to the pharisaical system of keeping the law. He lived in malice and envy, hunting Christians and standing by as Stephen was stoned. He was filled with hate. These are strong words, and Paul says they describe him at the beginning of his story.

More than that, though, he’s asserting that these words describe us all. This is how we were. This is how all our stories begin.

Verse 3 describes our natural state without God. Not that all of us have sordid stories of falling to the very depths of society. Not that we all have huge skeletons hiding in our closets prior to our becoming a Christian.

You don’t have to have landed on skid row to know the accuracy of this description. What Paul is talking about is our capacity and propensity to sin. The inherent inclination that exists within us to give in to foolishness and disobedience, to be deceived and enslaved by our passions and our pleasures, to live in malice and envy and hatred towards those around us.

As one preacher says, “Not many of us are Attila the Hun or Adolf Hitler, but it’s not for lack of potential.” (Tim Keller) If you are honest, you’ll see the truth in that. We all have the potential for evil. We are born with an inclination to rebel against God.

And that’s a serious problem. It’s a bad beginning. In Ephesians 2 Paul says that it makes us objects of God’s wrath. In our natural state we are sinners who deserve nothing but condemnation and rejection from God. In a word, we are dead.

This is a bad beginning to the story. But it’s your story. The story of everyone who has ever lived. My friend Matt compares it to those old black and white movies where the damsel in distress is tied to the railroad tracks as the train comes speeding towards her.

And that was us. The villains had us. But, even worse than the damsel in distress, we were already dead, strapped to the tracks unable even to struggle against the bonds of sin and fully deserving the mighty rushing train of God’s wrath descending on us. (Matt Mitchell, "Grace on Display" Nov. 26, 2000)

A story like this needs a hero. We can’t save ourselves—we’re actually villains in the story, we can’t be the hero—we need someone to step in and save the day.

The Hero
That’s where God comes in. He’s the Hero in this story, and that’s the second thing for us to see. This is what God has done for us. Verses 4-6:

4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.

I love the way this section of verses begins, with the word “but”.

The word “but,” B-U-T, is one of my favorite words in scripture. It’s one of the most powerful words a human being can speak. It’s small, but it has the power to sweep away everything that has gone before. More than any other word that can be spoken, the word “but” has the ability to change everything. Listen:

• The plane went down. BUT no one was hurt.
• You have cancer. BUT it is easily treatable.
• Your son was in a car wreck. BUT he’s fine.

Considering the bad beginning to our story, we need a “but.” We need something to come in and give hope. And that’s what we get here: we were in pretty bad shape, BUT then God appeared, and He saved us.

This happens a lot in Scripture. So often Bible passages will start out with bad news, reminding us of our bleak natural condition. And then the word “but” will come along, and it signals a change of direction. From bad news to good.

But…God.

If you are a Christian, then you know that the hero of the story is God. God is the man in the white hat who rides in to save the day. You were dead. You were enslaved to sin, deceived and foolish and disobedient, but God stepped in. God is the hero.

And what a hero! Look at the words Paul uses to describe Him: “kindness and love”, “Because of his mercy,” “generously”. God is not just justifiably angry over sin, He is also filled with great love, rich in mercy, and full of grace.

Even though we were rebels, He still loved us.

Even though we deserved judgment, He was merciful to us.

Even though we had no claim on anything good, God was generous with grace.

This is the gospel folks. This is the good news of the Bible. And if you are a Christian, this is your story. This is God sending His Son Jesus to earth on a mission of love to take on the punishment we deserved at the cross. So that, even though we were dead, we are now alive.

This is the ultimate rescue effort. He pulls us off the tracks and He unties our bonds and He performs the most effective CPR procedure ever.

I love that Paul uses the word “appeared.” It makes me think of that moment in Paul’s own story when Jesus showed up on the road to Damascus. It makes me think of our own stories about super-heroes. Always when things look their worst, that’s when the Hero shows up.

And He saves us. Notice that Paul writes that twice. He saved us. At the beginning of verse 5, and then again about midway through the verse. He saved us. It’s not because of righteous things we had done, not because we were so good, but because of God.

He does the work.

There’s a story about a man who died and went to heaven and met the angel Gabriel at the entrance. The angel said “Here’s how it works. You need a hundred points to get in. I’ll give you points for the good things you’ve done and then we’ll add them up at the end.”

“Okay,” the man said, “I was faithfully married to the same woman for fifty years.”

The angel replied, “That’s wonderful, I’ll give you two points.”

“Two points! I thought that would be worth 80 or 90 at least.”

“Nope, just two” said Gabriel, “What else did you do?”

The man thought for a bit and then said, “I went to the same church for seventy-five years and tithed for fifty of those years.”

Gabriel said, “That’s great too! I’ll give you one point. What else did you do?”

The man said “At this rate, the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

Gabriel said, “That’s worth 97 points, go ahead in.”

That’s the only way any of us are saved.

And the way that God saves us—the way He demonstrates His love and grace—is through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. That’s verse 6. When Jesus came to earth and lived and walked among us; when He willingly went to the cross not for sins that He had done, but for ours; and when He defeated death by walking out of His tomb on Easter Sunday; when Jesus did all of that He earned for all who would trust in Him forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternity spent with Him in heaven.

That’s the hero in the story.

Happily Ever After
Then, finally, I want you to see the result of this story. What I’ll call the happily ever after.

We’ve seen the bad beginning: we were dead and objects of God’s wrath. We’ve seen the hero: God, who is generous in love appeared to save us. And now, I want you to see the result this story should have in our lives. Verses 7-8:

7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Now, I have to be careful here. I called this “happily ever after” to go with my story-telling theme. But that doesn’t mean that once you believe in Jesus nothing hard or difficult will ever come into your life. The Bible doesn’t promise that at all.

But what it does say is that we become “heirs” and that we have “the hope of eternal life.” In other words, we get a new identity as children of God, and we also get the security of knowing that we are going to heaven when we die. That doesn’t mean nothing bad will ever happen to us, but it does give us the fortitude to get through whatever comes our way.

Do you see where this goes? Do you see the narrative arc in this story? It goes from the misery and perversion of verse 3 to the joy and hope and glory of verse 7. We go from “foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, malicious, envious, hated and hating” to “heirs having the hope of eternal life!”

This is biblical hope here. It’s not wishful thinking, “Oh, I hope UNI wins a basketball game his week.” Good luck. No, this is faith in a sure thing–something promised me by God and not based on my righteousness, but on His mercy.

I’m an heir! We are heirs. Everything promised to Jesus is our inheritance. He took our sin, we get His inheritance. That’s why He saved us. He saved us to give us everything worth anything!

But, more than that, these verses also say that having been saved, we can now begin to devote our lives to doing good. This is the big theme of the book of Titus. The reason I entitled the series “The Good Life.” It keeps coming up again and again. God’s plan, his intention for us, is that once we are saved, we become channels for His grace to flow out into the rest of the world. Verse 8 again: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

Just because our works have nothing to do with our salvation, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

This might seem a little confusing: in verse 5 Paul tells us that our righteous acts merit us nothing when it comes to salvation, then in verse 8 he says we should be careful to devote ourselves to doing good. But this does make sense.

Paul is talking about the result of God’s grace in our story. By taking us from death to life God has made us into new creations—we used to live in sins and transgressions, now we live in good works on God’s behalf.

In other words, this story isn’t just our personal, private story of salvation. God didn’t just pour out His grace on us so that we could keep it all to ourselves. He has poured out His love and mercy so that we would go out and share it with the rest of the world. We have been blessed by God so that we can bring blessing to others.

You can see this in Paul’s life. After the hero appeared to him on the road to Damascus, everything about his life changed. He devoted himself to sharing the good news of Jesus to everyone he came in contact with.

This, then, is the application of this passage of scripture. If this is your story (and I pray that it is) then I urge you not to keep it to yourself. God has executed an amazing transformation in your life—He’s poured out grace on you. Take some of that grace and give it to others. Put God’s grace on display in your life.

Devote yourself to doing good. Share your resources with those who have less. Comfort someone who is grieving. Walk with someone who has lost their way. Invite others into the story.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then this is your story. You were tied to the railroad tracks of sin, but God the Hero appeared in Jesus Christ and set you free. He saved you to put His grace on display in your life. How can you keep from passing that grace on to others?

And if you are not a believer, then this isn’t your story, at least not yet. You’re still in the bad beginning, you’re still an object of God’s wrath.

But it can be your story.

All you must do to be saved is put your faith in Christ! Come to Christ! Receive His grace. And this story can be your story too.