Purifying and reminding - Titus 2:11 - 3:5

This is a sermon by Dave Lynch from the evening service on 20th July 2003.

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Towards the end of Louis de Bernieres' successful novel "Captain Correlli's Mandolin", the reader is confronted with an extraordinary scene. The novel is set in Greece towards the end of WW2, Italy has just surrendered and the Italians rejoice, finally they are going home. But their former allies have other ideas and the Nazis set about executing the unsuspecting Italian soldiers.

The scene in question reveals a group of unarmed Italian soldiers standing before a German firing squad. Now there is nothing particularly extraordinary about this, many Italians found themselves in a similar situation at this point in history. The thing that makes this scene different is that the German officer in charge of the execution (Lieutenant GWebber), is best friends with those who are about to die.

Now this is a shocking scene. This young German officer is about to take an active part in the ruthless murder of his best friends. The men who loved him and brought happiness and joy into his life over the past months. The scene makes us scream out "why?!"

What could possibly motivate a man to do such a thing. Well the answer is this. Only hours before hand, young Gcommanding officer had told him plainly that if he did not carry out this task then he himself would be shot and the rest of his Italian friends would die anyway. You see if you can find a motivating factor that is strong enough, then you can get a man to do extraordinary things.

Let's change the angle for a moment and join the Italians facing the firing squad. The Germans open fire and the men start to fall. All of a sudden one of the soldiers (Carlo Guercio) does an extraordinary thing he throws his massive body in front of his captain who is standing next to him, he grips the captains wrists and stands fast. Despite the fact that the bullets are tearing him to pieces, still he stands, intent on shielding the Captain.

Once again when we look back, the motivation behind such an act becomes clear. Carlo loved the Captain. After months on the freezing Albanian front, Carlo had lost all his friends, had nearly frozen to death and lost his love for life.

But when he arrived in Greece, the Captain with his music and laughter and friendship had given Carlo back all that war had taken from him and the thought of this precious man dying was more than Carlo could bare. Once again if there exists a motivating factor strong enough, then a man will do extraordinary things.

Well as Christian people we are called to live extraordinary lives and you don't have to read too far through Paul's letter to Titus before you realise that if we are going to consistently live out the Christian life, then we are going to need to be motivated.

So please turn with me to Titus 3: 1 and we'll take a closer look at why motivation is something that we are going to need.

1. Motivation - We're Going To Need It.

Well in the first part of chapter 2, we saw the way in which Christians were to relate to each other, now in chapter three verse 1 Paul explains the way in which Christians should relate to the rest of the world around them. It is interesting that there is both an active and a passive side to it.

Passively, we are to be subject to rulers and authorities. Now of course this does not mean we are to simply pledge blind allegiance to the state. There may come times when in our quest to follow God, we must disobey the governing authorities. The New Testament itself shows us that there are instances where we must obey God over man, but with that qualification out of the way Paul's teaching here is clear. We must be subject to those who rule over us.

Now sometimes this can be a challenge. After all our society seems to have taken certain areas of the law and deemed it acceptable for individuals to re - write them. Now it can be very tempting to go along with everyone else in these areas because a) The likelihood of being caught and punished is close to non - existent and

b) Just about everyone else chooses not to be subject to the Law in these areas.

So for example copyright Laws are almost completely ignored when it comes to individuals. After all what's the harm in me copying a few albums, or computer programs, or movies off one of my mates? Everyone else does it anyway.

Another example could be found in our driving! After all even though the sign says 70 mph, no- one else drives that slow, you have to drive pretty fast before you get pulled over, so what's the harm??

Well there may not be any harm, but you are not being subject to the rulers and authorities.

But there is also an active side to our relationship to society, we are to be ready to do whatever is good 3: 1. Now this is perhaps even more challenging. Are we ready to do whatever is good. Well there are many good things that I'm often ready to do, but the funny thing is that a great deal of the time all of these good things will in someway benefit me. I'm certainly ready to do those things. But let me ask you, are you able to say that you are ready to do whatever is good even if it doesn't benefit you, even if it costs you something? Even if it's going to be a real hassle? Are you ready for that? Or would it take a lot of pleading and begging before you got 'round to doing some good things?

Do you slander no - one (verse 2) are you peaceable?

The next two words are difficult to translate into English. The first which the N. I. V. translates as considerate also carries the meaning of mildness of temper, mercy, gentleness, graciousness and winsomeness. The second word translated as true humility also includes meekness and courtesy. Now what is particularly interesting is that these 2 words are used elsewhere to describe the qualities of Christ. Paul is asking us to be Christ like.

What's more we are to live out these Christ like qualities in a Christ like way. Look at the end of verse 2. We are to display these qualities towards all men. Now it's a challenge enough to be kind and considerate and peaceable and merciful etc. to the people I like and love, but Paul ups the stakes we are to behave this way towards all men. Even those I find difficult, or annoying, or hard work. It's challenging stuff I hope you can see that.

Now this is all a pretty tall order isn't it. It's all so challenging and to sustain this kind of lifestyle is going to be really hard work. Now I hope you can see why we need to be motivated. To live this way is to live an extraordinary life. So, what could possibly motivate us to live this way?

Well in 2: 11 - 3: 5, Paul shows us two amazing motivating factors that will spur us on towards godliness and these two factors are based on two appearances.

So let's take a look at...

2. Motivating Factor 1 - An Appearance in the Past.

2: 11 reads...

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives..

So here we read about an appearance. It is the appearance of God's grace and this will motivate us to live godly lives because it teaches us to say no to un - godliness.

So what exactly does Paul mean when he says that God's grace has appeared? well 3: 3 - 6 help us out quite a bit with this question. But before we look at these verses we need to ask the question "what is grace?"

Well grace is very simply this undeserved favour, When someone is good to us despite the fact that we far from deserve it, and this is exactly what Paul speaks about in 3: 3 - 5. Look down at

verse 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.

Now people who fit that description certainly do not deserve the favour of God. People like this deserve nothing less than anger and righteous punishment and the bad news is that this is a description of us. But something appeared! Look down at verse 4...

But when the kindness and love of God our saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

Now that is a classic description of amazing grace. But the question still remains how did this grace appear?

well when we read on we find out, we'll pick it up from

verse 5.b...

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our saviour...

You see God's grace has appeared to us physically in Jesus Christ! Because of his death on the Cross, through him we can now receive the Holy Spirit and just look at the imagery used to describe the work of the Spirit. He is poured out generously on us washing us so powerfully that we are made new!! We are re- born!!

The picture brings to mind one of the old classic Hercules stories. The God's take Hercules to large old barn. The barn is absolutely filthy, filled with all sorts of rubbish and animal manure etc. The building is so disgusting that to clean it properly would take a massive amount of time and very dirty work. The god's then challenge Hercules to clean it. Hercules thinks for a moment but then hears the sound of running water and notices that there is a river near by.

So using his mighty strength, he picks up the river and diverts it through the old barn. The water blasts through the barn and gives it an almighty clean. When Hercules finally re- diverts the river he finds that the barn is as good as new.

You see verse 3 has made it clear that we were filthy, you probably don't have to think to hard about your past to realise that there are some things that you did, said and thought that you are very ashamed of, things that God would hate. But let me tell you this, In Jesus Christ the grace of God has appeared and because of him you can be washed clean, made new! You can be reborn!

So let's return to verse 11 and put these pieces together. We have seen that in Christ the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men and this motivates us to live godly lives because it teaches us to say no to ungodliness.

So how does this appearance of grace teach us to say no?

Well when we think back to what we were, filthy in the sight of God and worthy of nothing but his condemnation and when we remember his love for us and his kindness to us and the incredible grace he has shown us, doesn't that make you want to say no to ungodliness? Do you really want to go living in a way that God hates? Surely every time you remember that appearance of grace you will be taught to say no to ungodliness and motivated to live the way God wants you to.

So there's our first motivating factor an appearance in the past. But there is also another, so let's take a look at...

3. Motivating Factor 2 - An Appearance in the Future.

Normally we're pretty good at looking towards the future and allowing it to effect our present. We take out insurance in case of some future disaster, we save money for the future comfort of ourselves or others, we send our kids to school and university because we want them to get god jobs and have nice lives in the future, you could say that we're a very future orientated culture.

But what's particularly strange is that when it comes to Christianity, often we don't think this way at all and this is a real shame, because we end up missing one of the great motivating factors that spur us on to godliness.

Perhaps if we looked forward more we would find it easier to live a godly life now. So why is it helpful for us to look forward? Well we should look forward because we're waiting for something look down at 2: 13...

...while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and saviour, Jesus Christ.

We are waiting for another appearing and this appearing will be a blessed, glorious event! Jesus is coming back. This amazing hope for the future should drive us and motivate us to live Godly lives!

It is interesting to note the language Paul uses in verse 14 because it is all Old Testament language.

First up we read that Christ gave himself for us, which brings up images of Old Testament sacrifice, like the Passover lamb, next we read that he redeemed us which harks back to God's great redemption of his people in the book of Exodus and finally read that he did these things to purify for himself a people that are his very own which makes us think of the way God spoke about his people at Mount Sinai.

The point Paul is making is that if you are a Christian then you are part of God's own special people and when Christ comes back he is coming back for you And Paul is saying that this will be a wonderful blessed, glorious time for the Christian and when we look at the rest of the New Testament we see that this is indeed true. For it will be a time when we are completely purified, it will be a time when the struggle is over.

It will be the time when we begin to live perfect lives with our perfect God forever. Now doesn't that motivate you?

It can be difficult living a godly life.

I don't think that anyone would deny that, but our future hope reminds us that it's worth sticking at it. It's worth persevering, the struggle wont last forever.

Back at the beginning of the sermon we asked the question "what could possibly motivate us to live a godly life?" Well Paul has shown us two amazing motivating factors that will help us to press on in godliness. We just need to do spiritually that which is impossible physically, Look backwards and forwards at the same time.

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