Sunday, October 18, 2009
THE MIRACLE OF GOD’S GRACE Titus 3: 1 -8
Every true conversion is a miracle of God's saving grace, and in this study we shall consider several aspects of the salvation which has been made available to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. There are three key words in Titus 3:5 – 'he saved us'. This is the testimony of a great company of people to whom Paul is referring. Do you belong to that company? This key verse gives us a word-picture of the content of the Christian gospel, and at the very heart of the verse is the great Bible word 'saved', which occurs very frequently throughout scripture –Isaiah 45:22Turn to Me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth.
For I am God,
and there is no other.
Matthew 1:21She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins."
Luke 19:10For the • Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.
Acts 16:30-31Then he escorted them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household."
Romans 10:13For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Four years after the Titanic went down, a young Scotchman rose in a meeting in Hamilton, Canada, and gave the following testimony:
I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar on that awful night, the tide brought Mr. John Harper, of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me.
"Man," he said, "are you saved?" "No," I said," I am not." He replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The waves bore him away; but, strange to say, they brought him back a little nearer, and he said, "Are you saved now?" "No," I said, "I cannot honestly say that I am." He said again, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
Shortly afterwards, he went down, and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper's last convert.
This is what the Bible is all about; it is about being saved. Jesus came in order that we might be saved. But:-
1. WHY DO WE NEED TO BE SAVED?
We need to be saved from sin (Matthew 1:21); from wrath (John 3:36); from self (Romans 6:12); and from Hell (Luke 16:23). But Titus 3:3 answers the question very graphically giving us God's description of the natural, unregenerate man. Notice that the apostle uses the pronoun 'we', not 'you', when he is describing unregenerate human nature.
"Speechless," Steven Curtis Chapman writes: "In the gospel we discover that we are far worse off than we ever thought, and far more loved that we ever dreamed."
Notice also the words 'at one time'. Paul is really saying, 'This is the kind of people we were before we became Christians; here is a group photograph, a family picture of the human race.' Look at this picture of every one of us in our natural state:-
FOOLISH – or, as we should say, ignorant – compare 1 Corinthians 2:14. But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God's Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually.
DISOBEDIENT – or, refusing the Lord's authority in our lives.
DECEIVED – by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4), Regarding them: the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
ENSLAVED – 'by all kinds of passions and pleasures.'
MALICE AND ENVY – 'We lived in malice and envy' (or jealousy).
BEING HATED – detestable, odious, repulsive.
ANOTHER – look up Jeremiah 17:9. The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it?[
Whether we admit it or not, this is God's description of the natural man.
There is a persistent myth that Count Leo Tolstoy was a great Christian, and even a saint.
He may have been a great novelist, but he was not a good Christian. In fact, he was a self-righteous egoist who felt himself to be "God's older brother." Tolstoy once arrogantly penned these words in his diary: "I have not yet met a single man who was morally as good as I. ... I do not remember an instance in my life when I was not attracted to what is good and was not ready to sacrifice anything to it." This statement was repeatedly proved to be a lie by his habitual adultery and neglect of his family. Tolstoy's diary goes on to say that he was baffled by the failure of other men to recognize his qualities: "Why does nobody love me? I am not a fool, not deformed, not a bad man, not an ignoramus. It is incomprehensible."
A drowning boy was struggling in the water. Again and again the drowning boy appealed to his teacher but he made no move. By and by the desperate struggles began to abate. He was losing strength. Presently he arose to the surface, weak and helpless. safety to the shore. "Why did you not save me sooner?"
"I could not save you as long as you struggled. You would have dragged us both to certain death. But when you
ceased to struggle, then it was easy to save you." To struggle to save ourselves, is simply to hinder Christ from saving us. To come to the place of faith, we must pass from the place of effort to the place of accepted helplessness. Our very efforts to save ourselves turn us aside from that attitude of helpless dependence upon Christ which is the one attitude we must take in order that He may save us. It is only when we "cease from our own works" and depend helplessly upon Him that we realize how perfectly able He is to save without any aid from us.
2. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SAVED?
We are told here that it means at least three things that God does for those whom He saves by His grace:-
It means to be Born Again. See the end of verse 5. To be born again or regenerated by the Holy Spirit means to receive a new life – compare 2 Corinthians 5:17. When God saves us He does not patch up the old life; He imparts a new nature – look up 2 Peter 1:4By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. A Christian and a Communist were standing on a street corner...a beggar walked by, unclean, unshaven, and unkempt. "There is capitalism," said the Communist. "If we were in power, we'd put a new suit of clothes on that man." The Christian said, "If Christ were in him, he would put a new man in that suit of clothes." John 3:3,5,7,8. When we are born again we receive 'the hope of eternal life' (verse 7).
It means to be Justified. Verse 7 tells us this. When we are saved we not only receive a new life, but God does something about the old life. He forgives and forgets our sins, and He also justifies us – which means He treats me 'just-as-if-I'd' never sinned at all. He completely removes our sins from us, and then declares us righteous in His sight. Look up Psalm 103:12As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed
our transgressions from us.
Romans 5:17Since by the one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ
It means to be made a Child of God. Verse 7 tells us that when God saves us we 'become heirs…' We are made 'God's children, and if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ' Rom 8:16-17.
Notice the wonderful change that has taken place between verse 3 and verses 5 and 7; the man of verse 3 is transformed into the man of verses 5 and 7. How this magnifies the wondrous grace of God! But:-
3. HOW ARE WE SAVED?
How is the man of verse 3 made the man of verses 5 and 7 – a man who now possesses a new life (born again), a new standing before God (justified), a new relationship with God (a child and an heir)? What an important 'How' this is! In verse 5 it is answered both negatively and positively:-
Negatively. 'Not because of righteous things we had done…' Man's philosophy is to leave out the word 'not'. Ask the average man how to be saved, and he will answer, 'By my good works!' But God's way of salvation is 'not because of righteous things which we had done', for we are not saved by any effort, by trying or by works of our own – look up and compare Ephesians 2:8-10. We are not saved 'because of righteous things which we had done.' How are we saved? Verse 5 (and verse 4) goes on to tell us:-
Positively. 'But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared…because of His mercy He saved us…' The word 'appeared' takes us back to Bethlehem, and the word 'saved' takes us back to Calvary, where the Lord Jesus Christ completed the work of our salvation 2000 years ago.
WE ARE SAVED BY HIS KINDNESS. To be kind means to have "goodness of heart." The King of Heaven is kind toward unholy people. In one Dennis the Menace cartoon, Dennis is shown walking away from the Wilson's house with his friend Joey. Both boys have their hands full of cookies. Joey turns to Dennis and says, "I wonder what we did to deserve this?" Dennis answers with profound insight: "Look Joey, Mrs. Wilson gives us cookies not because we're nice, but because she's nice." The kindness that comes our way from God is not because we're good but because He is.
WE ARE SAVED BY HIS LOVE. This word for love is not agape, but rather the word from which we get philanthropy. MacArthur defines it this way: "pity, compassion, and eagerness to deliver from pain or distress because of strong affection."
WE ARE SAVED BY HIS MERCY. Verse 5 is an excellent verse to remember when someone says that they are trying to get to heaven by their own efforts: "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy."
WE ARE SAVED BY HIS GRACE. Grace is God's unmerited favour that pardons us from our guilt. You and I don't deserve to be forgiven but grace grants forgiveness to us freely. In verse 5, therefore, we have man's way, which is 'do'; and God's way, which is 'done'. Our part in salvation is simply to believe the testimony that God sent His Son to be our Saviour, and to put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the end grace means that no one is too bad to be saved. God specializes in saving really bad people. Do you have some things in your background that you would be ashamed to talk about in public? Fear not. God knows all about it, and His grace is greater than your sin. Grace also means that some people may be too good to be saved. That is, they may have such a high opinion of themselves that they think they don't need God's grace. God's grace cannot help you until you are desperate enough to receive it. Romans 11:6: "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." All this leads us to ask one more question:-
4. WHAT IS THE RESULT OF BEING SAVED?
What is the evidence that we are saved? Verse 8 tells us – 'doing what is good'. There is no contradiction here. We are not saved by working for our salvation, but when we have been saved by God's grace, the evidence of that salvation is seen in our works. It is vain to say we are saved if there are no 'good works' evidenced in our daily living James 2:20Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?
In concluding this study will you answer these two questions?
Have I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 8), and am I therefore saved (verse 5)?
If so, is my life different? Is it the opposite of verse 3?
In 1967 while taking a class in photography at the University of Cincinnati, I became acquainted with a young man named Charles Murray who also was a student at the school and training for the summer Olympics of 1968 as a high diver. Charles was very patient with me as I would speak to him for hours about Jesus Christ and how He had saved me. Charles was not raised in a home that attended any kind of church, so all that I had to tell him was a fascination to him. He even began to ask questions about forgiveness of sin. Finally the day came that I put a question to him. I asked if he realized his own need of a Redeemer and if he was ready to trust Christ as his own Savior. I saw his countenance fall and the guilt in his face. But his reply was a strong "no." In the days that followed he was quiet and often I felt that he was avoiding me, until I got a phone call and it was Charles. He wanted to know where to look in the New Testament for some verses that I had given him about salvation. I gave him the reference to several passages and asked if I could meet with him. He declined my offer and thanked me for the scripture. I could tell that he was greatly troubled, but I did not know where he was or how to help him. Because he was training for the Olympic games, Charles had special privileges at the University pool facilities. Sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 that evening he decided to go swim and practice a few dives.
It was a clear night in October and the moon was big and bright. The University pool was housed under a ceiling of glass panes so the moon shone bright across the top of the wall in the pool area.
Charles climbed to the highest platform to take his first dive. At that moment the Spirit of God began to convict him of his sins. All the scripture he had read, all the occasions of witnessing to him about Christ flooded his mind. He stood on the platform backwards to make his dive, spread his arms to gather his balance, looked up to the wall and saw his own shadow caused by the light of the moon. It was the shape of a cross. He could bear the burden of his sin no longer. His heart broke and he sat down on the platform and asked God to forgive him and save him. He trusted Jesus Christ twenty some feet in the air.
Suddenly, the lights in the pool area came on. The attendant had come in to check the pool. As Charles looked down from his platform he saw an empty pool which had been drained for repairs. He had almost plummeted to his death, but the cross had stopped him from disaster. (In The Shadow of the Cross by Mark Renicker)
`For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.' (1 Cor. 1:18)
In Warren Wierbe's "Meet Yourself in the Psalms," he tells about a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon.
The child who was saved grew up to become a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before, had saved his life; so he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience. But the words from the bench silenced his plea:
"Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged."
One day Jesus Christ will say to rebellious sinners, "During that long day of grace, I was your savior, and I would have forgiven you. But today I am your judge. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!"