“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” Titus 2:11-15
I find these days that so many people are turning away from the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. It is because they are looking for something new, but we must be well-founded. We should be like the man who built his house upon the rock. He heard the sayings of Jesus and did them, and that was how true stability came into his life. So it is not just about intellectual teaching, but how our lives can be truly founded upon the Rock.
This passage in Paul’s letter to Titus begins with a wonderful declaration of God’s grace. And you won’t be very long in the Christian life before somebody will tell you that God’s grace means his unmerited favour, his goodness to you. I put it this way: God’s grace is his unconditional love manifested in your life – that is how you are saved. God, although he shows favour, has no favourites. God does not show favouritism because, “this Grace of God has appeared to all…” (Titus 2:11)
Jesus is the Way
One of the most astonishing things about the life of Jesus Christ was that, although Jesus’ life was lived 2,000 years ago and was manifested in the first instance to a comparatively small number of people in one particular nation in the world, nevertheless it was a particularly public life. And the life of Jesus has been made public – it is published in the four Gospels in particular. Their stories of Jesus tell us that he is the Saviour, and that there is no-one else beside him. Salvation is in him, and him alone. It is not as if some have to find God one way, and others can find him another way, as if there is more than one way to God. Jesus did not say, “I am on the way…” or, “I am in the way…” or even, “I am pointing to the way…” He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no-one comes to the Father but by me”. (John 14:6) One of the great errors of the thinking of our age is that there are many roads to God, and that all religions are equally valid. Each and every one of us has the right to believe what we choose, and that right has been bought for us by our democratic society, very largely through the influence of the Gospel.
We can acknowledge that God loves us unconditionally, but we must also choose to respond to him. It is not as if we have to believe because the law of the land says so, or that there are no other choices that we can make with our lives. But faced with all the choices of all the different claims to truth, and the different ways that people put forward, we have to decide for ourselves who Jesus Christ is. The salvation that God has given to us also extends to the way in which we live.
So, salvation is fully and totally free, paid for by Jesus Christ who was crucified on the Cross. But this salvation that God has given to us also extends to the way in which we live. It is not that we must first live right before God accepts us. But once he accepts us, he calls us to make sure that our lifestyles change, and that we live right. It is the grace of God that changes us. That is what Titus 2:11 says, “that the grace of God that brings salvation … teaching us…”
The word for ‘teaching’ here is the word that was used of bringing up a child into discipline and nurturing that child to grow up and take its adult place as a responsible citizen in society. I have been a believer now for over forty years and I am still changing because God’s grace and love are continually changing me, and I look forward to being changed even more in the future! So God wants us, by his grace, to learn a way of life, and this involves three major things.
First of all, we must deny something. Verse 11 says that the Grace of God teaches us to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts…” The word ‘denying’ here means, ‘reject and to renounce’. It means to say ,”No” to sin with your whole being not just to say, “No” with your mouth and, “Yes” with your actions. I remember being offered a large piece of chocolate – I said, “No” and then ate it! Denying is not just about talk, but it is about a determination.
Now you may say that this is a negative start, but first you have to tear down before you can build. You have to remove the old before you can take hold of the new, and this is a very important principle in your Christian life – replacing the old with the new. You cannot walk with God by simply adding righteousness on to your life.
You must first subtract sin, otherwise you end up with a kind of dual personality. Now of course, this replacement procedure is a process. And we at KT help you with this through the Living Free! course. Often people do not see the change happening in themselves but after the 10 weeks others can see it, and they say, “Look what has happened to you – you have changed so much”.
We have been born again to a new lifestyle.
Remember, Jesus said that he came that we might have life, and have it “more abundantly” (John 10:10). Religion binds you, but Jesus gives life and liberty. Real life is knowing Christ, and whatever else we think is a deception, because out there in the world, we are told that we have to do ‘this’ to enjoy ourselves, and that this is where ‘fulfilment’ is. The world says there are pleasures in sin, and we can be deceived by that. But I want to say this – those pleasures are shortlived, and we would soon find that we should be living for the real values of the Kingdom.
Living with a ‘saved mind’
Secondly, Paul says that we are to live ‘soberly’. This is not a side reference to alcohol, but means “Live with a saved mind”. And that is very interesting, because it is the secret of living the Christian life.
Paul says that you are (and you can be) transformed by the renewing of your mind. And it is so important that, as a Christian, you learn to discipline your mind and to fill your mind with God’s thoughts.
Once you understand that the Christian life it is all about walking with Jesus Christ, and you have your mind and your heart set upon him, then your attitude will change. You look at your life and say, “How can I re-order my life around the person of Jesus Christ – not just around church services or meetings, but around Jesus?”
Setting your focus
Thirdly we are to look for something (v13). Wherever you put your focus will set the direction of your life. When you walk somewhere, you need to look where you are going. And so it is the same in the spiritual realm. We must set out eyes fully on Jesus Christ, and in particular, the fact that Jesus Christ is coming again. And that is a very strong emphasis in the word of God. Our hope is not in this world but in Jesus Christ and the world that is beyond that which we can see and touch. When you live your life in the light of this you can have a saved mind! Jesus’ coming again is “His Glorious appearing…” (v13) I am not talking about some secret rapture, when Jesus returns we are going to see him in all his glory. It is going to be a blessed hope – a glorious appearing of Jesus Christ. There is going to be a sound of a trumpet and every eye shall see him. That is our hope! Meanwhile, he has placed us here for a purpose – and that is to live in this world. Yes, this present world is passing away, but Jesus is coming back to rescue it. He is going to restore and remake this world remake it – a new creation – a “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13)
The apostle Paul, in his letter to Titus, tells us exactly how that works. In verse 14. he says, “Jesus Christ gave Himself for us…”. Look how personal it is. This is Jesus saying, “I have done this for you personally. I have given myself for you that I might redeem you – buy you back. That I might purify you – which means to cleanse your life – that I might make you special to God”.
Can you see this clearly when Paul says, “He wants to purify for Himself His own special people…”. That is what the Christian life is all about. Every step we take, as we make the changes in our lives that need to be made – it is all about Jesus. We are doing it for him. The motivation is loving gratitude. You know if you really love someone when they ask you to do something it is a delight, and not a chore, to agree.
That is what we are trying to breed in KT – Christians motivated to live lives of loving gratitude towards God. We want to be a people who know that Jesus has given everything that we might have the freedom we enjoy, and that we, loving him, are willing to yield everything to him. Let us be motivated to live lives of loving gratitude towards God.
If you love God, if you love Jesus, then his commandments are not burdensome. If he asks us to do something, it is wonderful. We rejoice because we are God’s special people, set apart for him in a special way. What that means is that we no longer belong to the devil. We are as Ephesians 5:8 says, “children of light”.
We are in the Kingdom of God; we are not in the bondage of sin and Satan anymore – we have been rescued and set free. Jesus has come and redeemed and ransomed and set us free from the bondage of the enemy, and now our whole life belongs to him. It is a joy to live for him; it is a joy to serve him.
Let us get the joy into our Christian living. Joyfully serve him. You never can ever truly sacrifice anything for the Lord, because whatever you give to him, it is for your good anyway! So, when you turn away from the things that God doesn’t want in your life, you are not doing it so much as for him, as much as yourself also because you are going to benefit, you are going to get the blessing. You are going to walk with Christ; you are going to enjoy life as it really is intended to be.
Zealous for God
If your focus is right, and your mind is saved; you are thinking right, then you are going to love it, and you are going to walk with him. Paul gives Titus this very special description of God’s special people as “These are those who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:15). Being ‘zealous’ means having a strong desire for something – so strong that you pursue it enthusiastically. Can you imagine if there was a generation of believers like that? A generation who actually cared for those around them – undertaking acts of kindness, mercy and compassion and reaching out with the love of God. speaking about Jesus not just with their mouths, but also with their lives. When I was a new believer I was challenged by a preacher who said, “You are the only Bible most people will ever read and the only Gospel that they will ever see.” In other words, we are to carry the word of Jesus Christ in our lifestyle out into the world. When we do that, we shine a light that attracts people to Jesus Christ, because there is nothing more attractive than a believer who is living that life that honours and glorifies him.
We need to set this nation on fire with the reality of who Jesus Christ is, through our lives. The only way that is going to happen is if we live like Jesus lived – doing what he would want us to do. After attending Sunday services and listening to the sermons we need to get busy in the cells, working out what we are hearing; challenging and encouraging one another as we feel the pressure at times from the world outside, and also from inside when we feel discouraged and need to be lifted up. After all, that is why we meet in cells – to bless each other, and help each other to grow as God’s special people!