Being God's People
Unfortunately, we had technical difficulties and we were unable to record this sermon. Alternatively, you can reference the notes below. Enjoy!
22nd Sunday after Trinity | Feast of St. James – October 23, 2016 (am)
This morning, we’ll be looking at what it means to be God’s people, asking the questions of (1) how are God’s people to live in a distinct manner from the people of the world, and (2) why are we to live differently than the people of the world. Throughout history, God has had a people who are His own – and there have been distinctions within God’s people that set them off as ‘different than’ the people of the world. In this passage from Titus, Paul states that Jesus Christ gave Himself for us to purify a people for His own possession. Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, came to earth specifically to gather to Himself a people for His own possession, people who belong to Him, people who live in praise of Him, who live for His glory, seeking to honor Him as we live distinct, godly lives.
Even from the distant past, think back to Abraham – how God called him to move away from his country & family – and God moved him to a land where Abraham and his family would worship God, and God promised to bless Abraham and make him into a great nation.
And then God moved Jacob and the 70 people in his family to Egypt – and God placed them in the region of Goshen, separate from the rest of Egypt. And when God restored the nation of Israel into their own land, God drove out the other nations from the land of Canaan, along with their wicked practices – and God established Israel in the land with a particular manner by which to worship God, with many laws to teach His people how to live a holy life pleasing to Him, living in ways that reflect God’s character.
God established a particular place of worship – 1st the Tabernacle and then the Temple in Jerusalem, with specific types & times of offering sacrifices. And God gave holy laws to His people to protect them from the damage and destruction and death that sin always produces. Therefore, we see that throughout history, God has prescribed distinct ways for how His people are to live – and these directives were for His people’s own joy, and for their own good.
But - God’s people have not always been faithful to this high calling – and it is a high calling to live for the glory of our great God & Savior. Think of that – you living on this Earth or the glory of the omnipotent Creator of all, and you being part of a peculiar people who belong to Him.
Yet, because of the unfaithfulness of God’s Old Covenant people, He judged them and sent them into exile. And for what reason? The prophet Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 17:10; “For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge.”
Unfortunately, this sad fact of being unfaithful to God is also true of God’s New Covenant people. Just previous to our text for this morning, Paul warns us of some consequences from our lack of obedience to follow God’s good commands;
v2:5 – “that the word of God may not be reviled.”
v2:8 - “so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”
So we see that how God’s people conduct themselves in their daily living is a reflection on the God to whom they belong – so that if we’re disobedient or careless in our living, then God's word will be reviled, God Himself will be insulted by the world because of me, and because of you.
If we don’t show integrity & sound speech, the world will speak evil of us – and by extension they would speak evil of our God.
But rather than being disobedient, we should conduct our personal and public lives in such a way as is stated in v10b – “but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”
Notice what Paul is saying - that you can actually further beautify the doctrine of God our Savior. The NIV says that we make “the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” The New RSV says “they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior."
That’s what adorn means; to make (someone or something) more attractive by adding something beautiful, to enhance the appearance of something, especially with beautiful objects. Like putting ornaments on a Christmas tree or jewelry on your person. That’s what God calls His people to do; you and I are to adorn, to beautify, the doctrine of God our Savior by how we live.
Jesus said this very same truth in the Sermon on the Mount;
Matthew 5:14-16; "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
So this is the high calling that God has placed on His people, the question is: How can you adorn the doctrine of God our Savior? And we find the answer in the first phrase of our passage
v11a; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people”
God’s grace is the very basis of our salvation; God’s grace has appeared in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ for the express purpose of bringing salvation for all people. Paul has already mentioned several different types of people in this letter; Gentile Cretans, Jews, older men, older women, younger women, younger men – God’s abundant grace in Christ Jesus brings a salvation that is for all people.
And notice what God’s grace does for His people;
“training us” – wait, that sounds like work. But I thought God’s grace accomplished our salvation apart from our works? Yes, that is true – regarding our eternal salvation from the penalty of our sins. The GCD doctrinal statement reads; “We teach that salvation is wholly of God by grace on the basis of the redemption of Christ, the merit of His righteousness and shed blood, and not on the basis of human merit or works.” That is what Scripture teaches, and so we praise God that we receive our eternal salvation into God’s very presence by His grace alone.
But God’s grace also is active in our sanctification, that process by which God’s people become like the Lord Jesus Christ. God grants His people a sanctifying grace so that we may live in such a way as to adorn the doctrine of God or Savior. Paul spoke of this aspect of God’s grace;
1 Corinthians 15:10; But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
Philippians 2:12,13; Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
And Paul is also referring to that aspect of God’s grace right here – when God’s grace of salvation appears, His grace is “training us” – and training is hard work, as Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 15. Training involves discipline, denial, exercise, diet, instruction, sweat, pain, priorities, etc. NO pain, NO gain!
I. And just what are we training for?
v12a “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”
Having come to saving faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior & Lord, God now calls us to turn away from what our flesh, from what our old self desires and to live separately from how the world lives.
Ungodliness is living in a way that ignores God’s laws, living as though God did not exist, even living in defiance of who God is and His authority. Worldly passions are those things which the world chases after, and the people of the world call us to run with them.
We must not allow our worldly culture to drag us down to ungodliness. What might be some examples?
- Greed – do you spend too much time & effort showing your power by amassing more & more stuff, accumulating more toys & gadgets & various possessions? And so you respond by being a workaholic, or by being stingy with what God has given to you? Do your close human relationships take second place to amassing more money & possessions? Do you justify unethical practices, if they benefit your bank account? Do you indulge yourself by purchasing anything you want? And then do you end up with massive credit card debt, wasting the money that God has enabled you to make? If you having problems with credit card debt, please contact our deacons – they would be happy to help you, as they have helped so many.
- Lust – God has given to humanity the gift of sexual relations, and God has granted a righteous means of enjoying that gift – within the covenant bond of a Biblical marriage. Any sexual activity outside a marriage between one man & one woman is strictly forbidden – in fact Paul calls sexual immorality a sin against our own body; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. Do you offend God by indulging your fleshly lusts? Do you encourage & support the porn industry by visiting their websites or purchasing any materials? Do you damage & hurt your spouse by enjoying any type of sexual activity outside your God-ordained relationship? Get a buddy, and get some time together in prayer & God’s word, with accountability and encouragement.
- Sloth – earlier in this letter, Paul quotes a Cretan poet who said in Titus 1:13 that Cretans were “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Lazy people have an absence of interest in real life, they’re in a habit of not exerting themselves. Their lives exhibit boredom, apathy - they’re just inert. Are you lazy? Are you content to waste time, are you allowing others to do all the work? Do you spend too much time on leisure activities? And speaking of leisure activities --
- Social Media – What phenomenal technology you have at your fingertips – TV, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube! What a source of information, a means of communication and keeping “in touch” with what’s happening with family & friends. Great stuff. But what a temptation for an easy addiction, with multiplied hours spent watching TV shows & movies & sporting events & news... Hours & hours on Facebook or Twitter trying to keep up with the latest & greatest with what’s happening everywhere with everybody -- and with all the temptations to view materials that are ungodly.
If any of these, or any other ungodliness or worldly passions are plaguing you, get with a brother or sister in Christ – spend time together in God’s word & prayer, keep close accountability. We have Ladies’ Bible study, Men’s Discipleship Groups, a Men’s Retreat, FLOCKS, Marriage Builders, ABFs and a Biblical Counseling ministry – all available for growth & encouragement. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
Why is this training so hard? Because this training is disciplining you to deny what your flesh wants, what the world has told you that you must have, and what Satan has placed in your path to distract you from loving God with your whole being. But remember – sin will destroy you!
What else are you being trained for? v12b “and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age”
These three instructions teach us how we’re to live:
- Personally – rather than being led around by your flesh or worldly passions, conduct yourself in a ‘self-controlled’ manner. Do not give into fleshly impulses, control your appetites.
- Publicly – ‘upright’ means conducting all your public dealings with the highest honesty & integrity. My life should be an open book to anyone who would examine me. The Cretans were liars, but we must not be dishonest.
- Spiritually – have the glory of God as your goal, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, having a loving obedience to God as your paramount motivation as to why you pursue godly living.
And now notice where you’re living this self-controlled, upright and godly life - in this present age. This present age that is polluted by sin, this present age which is in opposition to God, this present age that tells you to find yourself, please yourself, pursue your own self-interests, indulge yourself. And it is in this present age that God is calling you to adorn the doctrine of our God.
Well, as we live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…
II. What are we waiting for? What are you looking forward to? What is God’s grace training you to focus on regarding your future?
v13“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”
While we’re living in this present age – what we’re waiting for, eagerly waiting for, what we’re anticipating, what we have as our blessed hope is the return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Note: Paul says “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
This great God is Jesus, God the Son, who came in humility, by taking on human nature and living among us, who as our Good Shepherd died in our place, for our sins. As Paul wrote to the Philippians; “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”
This great God and Savior will return, and His appearing will be with glory. And we, as God’s people, will share in His glory.
So here you are – living in an age that has been ruined and destroyed by sin, an age in which you’re in a constant battle to be fully obedient to God, an age that promotes ungodliness and worldly passions – an age that is continually appealing to your weak flesh…
What would you want more than the return of your great God & Savior Jesus Christ to complete your salvation, that you would be in His presence forever, in the place that He has prepared for you?!
And notice what Jesus did for you the first time He came to earth –
v14; “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” - that very sin that would destroy you forever, that very sin that causes such damage to you personally and to those around you whom you love, that sin that has caused such misery & suffering in this present age – your great God & Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself, sacrificed Himself, to redeem you from that lawlessness, to deliver you from the destruction that results from your sin. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil – 1 John 3:8.
Wow, is there anything else beyond this amazing redemption?
v14b “and to purify for himself a people for his own possession”
God has saved and taken out from the world, out from this present age, sinners whom He has made into a people who belong to Him. And we learned last Sunday, God is holy, and God call His people to be holy – and so Jesus Christ has cleansed a people who now belong to Him. And this great God & Savior Jesus Christ will return and take His people to Himself – this is our blessed hope! This is why we live differently than the world!
And finally, what sets apart the people of God from the people of the world? God’s people are;
v14c “a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” God’s people adorn the doctrine of God by being zealous of good works, serving God and serving others, which is what Jesus taught when He said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Good works – God has gifted and equipped us to perform the good works that He has prepared for us to do. What is the spiritual gifting that God has given you? What are the Gospel ministries that God has called you to labor in – that you would serve God & others?
We have a variety of ministries that offer an opportunity to exercise your spiritual giftedness; AWANA & Children’s, Youth, Prayer Mtg, Music, Buildings & Grounds, Quest, Sports, Special Needs, etc…
What does it mean to be the people of God?
- Renounce ungodliness & worldly passions – humbly acknowledge your sin, get a brother or sister for accountability & encouragement
- Do not love this present age, but wait eagerly for the return of Jesus Christ in glory – praying “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
- Adorn the doctrine of our great God & Savior by being zealous for good works of service.