The Grace of God Appeared – Titus 2:11-14

The Grace of God Appeared

Nick Esch, 12/23/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

What is Christmas all about? What’s the heart of the very meaning of Christmas? Most people, whether they are Christians or not, associate Christmas with peace on earth and good will towards men, and rightfully so… They may think of the birth of Christ, giving gifts, and doing good, which are all good things, but is that really what Christmas is all about? Do we as Christians even know what Christmas is all about?

I know we act like we have it all figured out; we insist that Jesus is the reason for the season… We demand that everyone say Merry Christmas instead Happy Holidays… But other than associating Christmas with Jesus, do we really have any idea what Christmas is all about? Well, Lord willing we will after we go through our passage today. Today we’re going to look at a passage that isn’t typically associated with Christmas, yet actually displays what the heart of Christmas really is. And perhaps as we see the heart of Christmas, the Christ of Christmas will grip our hearts and change our lives. So with that in mind, look with me at Titus 2:11-14.

Titus 2:11-14

Our passage begins in verse 11 with the word for, which could be translated as therefore or because… And the reason it starts this way is because this passage is the very foundation and motivation for everything in this letter. This is a letter from the apostle Paul to Titus who was a missionary that Paul left in Crete to help establish churches and do pastoral work. And thus far in this letter Paul has told him that he wants him to work to establish a plurality of elders in every church in Crete, and he’s told him what type of men those elders are to be and what they are to do… After establishing that Paul then lays out his charge, not just for the leaders, but for every Christian in every local church.

In this letter Paul gives a vision for what a church that makes disciples looks like: it’s to be a church that is holy—set apart from the world—and has a genuine culture of discipling about it where everyone is doing their part to help one another follow Christ and grow in Christ. He speaks specifically about older men training younger men, and older women training younger women… He addresses how Christians should disciple one another and live as disciples together and out in the world, even addressing how Christians who were slaves should act… Paul gives commands and directions, all laying out who we are and what we are to do as Christians, especially in the life of the local church; but he does this with one great aim, and this ties to this vision he gives for the church…

In 2:10, after saying that every local church is to have biblical church leadership and biblical church membership, and be full of faithful Christians who are seeking to fight sin, pursue holiness, follow Christ, and help one another do the same, he says that they are to do this so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. In other words, there is a certain way local churches are to be led and structured and to function, and thus there is a certain way that we as Christians are to live and function together and scattered out in the world, and the great goal or purpose for us living and functioning in this manner is so that our lives together as a church and our lives as individuals would adorn or show the beauty and splendor of the gospel, of biblical doctrine, of our great Triune God, of Jesus Christ our Savior… The Christian life and the local church is to adorn or glorify God, to make much of Jesus… That’s Paul’s vision for every local church and thus every Christian: that we would be churches and individual Christians who adorn the gospel…

Paul gives numerous exhortations or commands throughout this letter, and so our passage begins with this word for or because or therefore, because what our passage lays out is the foundation and the motivation of a church, of a Christian, of a life that adorns the gospel, that makes much of Jesus… So, starting in verse 11 we read, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…” So, the reason churches should look and function this way, and the reason you should and can live this way—in a way that honors Jesus—is because the grace of God has appeared… But, what does that mean?

Well, the word appeared is repeated in verse 13, this time showing up in the form appearing, and look at what it says there, on into the first part of verse 14. Paul says we are, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us…” So, do you see what Paul is telling us? The same grace of God that has appeared will appear again in the second coming of Christ, because when Paul says the grace of God has appeared He’s referring to Jesus Himself… Jesus appeared, bringing salvation for all people… How? Well, according to verse 14, He did this by giving Himself for us…

When we refer to the grace of God we typically mean the favor that God bestows on underserving sinners… And that’s true… But that favor comes in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ… Jesus is the very grace of God incarnate… I mean, the most glorious display of grace and love that there’s ever been, happened in and through Jesus on the cross… It was there that God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we—sinners who deserve hell—would become righteous, and get heaven… If that’s not grace, if that’s not God bestowing favor on undeserving sinners, I don’t know what is… It’s grace… And it’s grace that comes in and through Jesus… It’s through Jesus that salvation comes… Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone… Grace is not a philosophy or a force; it’s a person… The grace of God here is Jesus…

Our passage begins by telling us that Jesus appeared, bringing salvation… Do you see what this is? This is Christmas… Jesus appeared, because He came to earth… The Word became flesh; He came down from heaven, was born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem, and then lived the perfect sinless life, a life lived for God’s glory, the life that we should be living… And then He took the punishment due us for our sins upon Himself—He was nailed to our cross, He took the wrath of God that we deserve, and He died the death we deserve… He gave Himself for us… That’s what salvation means in this context: that Jesus frees His people from the penalty of sin… And that’s, in part, why He came: Christmas is tied directly to the cross… So while we should associate Christmas with joy and good will and peace on earth, we shouldn’t think merely of how we act, but of the gracious acts of God in Christ to accomplish such things… The great good He did in appearing, the great peace He has brought between us and God at the cross, and the joy of salvation…

Paul says here that the grace of God, the person and work of Jesus Christ from Christmas to the cross, all the way to the resurrection and ascension really, brings salvation for all people… He frees us from the penalty of our sin and makes peace between us and God… But he doesn’t just say us, but all people… Now by all people he does not mean every person without exception; this doesn’t mean that every one will be saved from the penalty of sin regardless of whether or not they’ve repented of their sin, trusted in, and surrendered to King Jesus… This is saying all types of people… As Paul has been addressing: young and old, male and female, haves and have nots, slaves and free—people from every nation and generation will be saved… So for us that means black, brown, white, lower class, middle class, upper class, African, Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Russian, American—whatever, wherever, whoever, God is mighty to save… And just as sure as Jesus has appeared; just as sure as Christmas is true and real, so too shall Jesus have a people for Himself from every nation and generation… Jesus didn’t come, live, die, and rise again to make salvation possible, but to truly bring salvation to all of His people throughout all time—He makes it happen; He purchased our redemption; He paid it all… As the Christmas story tells us when the angel assures Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy is of God, he says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)… Not might… Not maybe… But He will!!!

So Christmas is directly tied to Jesus freeing us from the penalty of sin… But our text doesn’t stop there; look at verse 12. The grace of God in Jesus Christ brings salvation to His people, “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” God’s grace in Christ trains us, disciplines us, teaches us how to live… Now in one sense the grace of God trains us in how to live by the very example of Jesus. In His life on earth He was righteous, He was loving, He was generous, and on and on I could… He is the great example of how we should live… But Jesus never sinned and thus never had to repent… And Jesus is God, so He did things we can never do… There are things we must do that we don’t learn from Jesus’ example.

Here we’re told that the grace of God trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, to fight sin—again something that Jesus never had to do… Now, what’s meant by ungodliness is sinful thoughts, words, and deeds; any of those things that don’t glorify God… Unfortunately many think of grace merely as a get out of hell free card, because in their mind grace means unlimited forgiveness, and thus no consequences for their actions… But remember, we cannot separate grace from Jesus here; the grace of God is defined by Jesus… And the grace of Christ trains us to renounce or fight sin, to renounce worldly passions or the passions of the flesh, to deny or die to self… But Jesus doesn’t train us to renounce sin by example, but by command…

Jesus, the grace of God incarnate trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, in part, because He commands us to do this. For instance in Luke 9:23 He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” That command is a form of training… And likewise through God’s Word we’re told how to live and how not to live; we’re told what it looks like to live self controlled, upright, and godly lives… So by studying and conforming to God’s Word we are being trained by God’s grace to fight sin and pursue holiness… That’s actually the idea behind being upright and godly: to fear God and follow Jesus with reverence, to be righteous and live in line with God’s Word… But there’s more going on here than just that, than just doing what we’re told in God’s Word, or just following Jesus’ example; what’s being addressed here isn’t mere behavior modification, it’s gospel transformation…

What’s being laid out here is a life marked by ongoing repentance and faith; this is what the Christian life is to look like right now in this present age… This isn’t describing perfection but a legitimate change of direction. A person who used to be marked out by ungodliness is not upright and godly; not perfectly, but the overall direction of their life has changed… But how does this happen? How are our lives so transformed by the gospel that the very direction of our lives is changed? Well, to understand that we need to understand why we do what we do in the first place…

Though we all in some manner follow the example of someone, and function within and under law, be it God’s Law or the law of the land, by and large our daily behaviors are not driven by an example, or a list of rules, but by the very desires of our hearts… And that’s the idea behind the word passions in our text. When verse 12 speaks of worldly passions it just means worldly desires, which is what all of our desires are apart from God’s grace… But, God’s grace changes that… You see, because the grace of God is linked to Jesus, to want grace is not merely to want forgiveness, but to want Jesus Himself… Those who think of grace merely as an unlimited supply of forgiveness miss the very heart of grace, which is Jesus… So, when grace comes into our lives that doesn’t merely mean that we are forgiven, though we are because Jesus saves us from the penalty of sin, but it also means that Jesus has come into our lives and in Him we have found something and someone that is so much better than what and who we have been settling for…

When we come to see the truth of the gospel—the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ—we’re not just seeing that there is a way to be forgiven or to go to heaven, we’re not just marveling at how Jesus has loved us (though we do that), but we are seeing the truth and the glory of who Jesus is, that He is what makes heaven heaven… As 2 Corinthians 4:6 lays out, in conversion, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, [shines] in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In the gospel we don’t just see that there is a way to escape hell; we don’t just see that there is a way to be forgiven; we see that there is a glorious Christ who loves us and gave Himself for us; we see He came to rescue us, and we see Him for who He is…

This is what we should be especially reminded of and in awe of at Christmas, but that’s not typically how it goes… At Christmas people look at nativity scenes and say, “Awe… Look at baby Jesus…” Now Christmas should most definitely lead to awe, but not like that. We should be in awe that the infinitely glorious, infinitely lovely, infinitely beautiful God of the universe took on flesh and entered into this broken world to bring salvation. He didn’t just become a baby, He became the God-man, He became the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world—who takes away our sin so that we can be with Him in perfect joy forever… That should lead to great awe… Who Jesus is and what He has done should warm and grip our hearts… And that’s what God does in conversion…

God shines the light of the truth and reality of the gospel into our hearts, and our hearts are warmed and gripped by the grace of God incarnate… And therefore, where worldly passion, or worldly desires used to reign over our hearts, now Jesus does… When we truly see the truth of the gospel Jesus becomes our greatest desire… Let me try to show you what I mean…

I had a weird childhood, and weird eating habits; and I still do… As many of you know, I’m pretty picky… But I eat a lot of stuff now that I wouldn’t touch as a kid… As a kid I lived off of things like pizza and ham and cheese sandwiches… I didn’t eat chicken at all, nor did I eat steak; and back then I wouldn’t even eat a baked potato… And the thing is, I don’t think I ever tried any of that, so I didn’t know if I liked it or not… But things have changed; especially since we moved to Texas… I learned real quick that if I was going to live in Texas I better learn to like steak and a good baked potato… But the thing is, when I had a steak and a baked potato for the first time, I didn’t have to learn to like anything… I mean, I loved it immediately… And though I still like pizza and ham and such, now I am very much a steak and potato kind of guy… So yesterday, my mother in law told me she needed to ask me a very serious question… And she asked me if I was ok with us having steak and baked potatoes for Christmas dinner instead of ham… And guess what… I didn’t hesitate with my answer… I like ham, but my desire for a good steak is far greater than for Christmas ham… And likewise, when we truly see the truth of the gospel, when we taste and see that the Lord is good, Jesus becomes our greatest desire, and other desires loose their grip on us…

Now, that isn’t to say that worldly desires aren’t still present within us; our text assumes they are, that’s why we must renounce them day by day—remember, it’s not about perfection, but a change of direction… But one of the greatest ways to stay on this change of direction, to renounce sin, is to remind ourselves that Jesus is more to be desired than the things of the world… You’ve got to set your mind and heart on how good He really is, and how good His promises are… Yes, you have to deny yourself, you have to renounce things your flesh tells you that you really desire, but though you deny yourself sin you get Christ, and He’s far better… As a pastor once said, “No one complains about losing their wallet on the way to collect a million dollar inheritance…” Sure, you lost your wallet, but you gained far more than your wallet can even hold… So likewise, we willingly and joyfully deny self and live for Christ because we desire Christ more than anything else because He is better than everything else…

We used to only believe the lie of sin (sometimes we still fall for it), that only indulging the self will bring true satisfaction; our wills, our desires were in bondage to that lie… But now, if we truly believe the gospel we know that only Jesus will satisfy our hearts, and thus our desire for Him is greater than our desire for anything else. And we fight sin by seeking to remember and live in light of that… We don’t need to get hung up on the sin we must renounce because what we have in Christ now is already better, and what we have coming to us in Christ for all eternity is infinitely better than our sin… So looking to the glory of Christ and the promises of the glory to come is the fuel and motivation to fight sin, it’s how the grace of God trains us…

What we see here is that just as verse 11 shows us that Jesus has appeared to free us from the penalty of sin, so likewise in verse 12 we see that Jesus appeared to free us from the power of sin. As Christians, by God’s grace we can and we must fight sin and pursue holiness… Indeed, the grace of God trains us to do so. Though we are still sinners who struggle to follow Jesus rightly, the chains of sin that used to be bound around our hearts have been broken by God’s sovereign grace, and now we renounce worldly desires for the greater desire of Jesus… Which is what we see in part in verse 13.

After being told that by God’s grace we can and we must fight sin and pursue holiness, in verse 13 we’re told that we do this, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” The main posture of a Christian is one of waiting. The idea here is patient endurance in this broken world… It’s faithfully fighting the good fight of faith with a loving and a longing tied to a blessed hope. And the word hope here is not being used the way people typically use it; like, “I hope it snows this Christmas…” Or something like that… Hope here means a confident, yet eager expectation… It’s a hope that’s sure to happen… And it’s a blessed hope, or a happy or joyful hope… And the hope is the return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ… And just as sure as He came the first time on Christmas, so we can be sure that He will come again… And you see, the great reason this is the Christian’s blessed hope—joyful hope, is because when Jesus returns we will dwell with Him in paradise forevermore… We will be with the One whom our hearts desire, forever… So looking to that day enables us to renounce worldly desires for the greater desire of Jesus in the present day…

But, this blessed hope goes beyond freeing us from the power of sin; again it’s a confident expectation, it’s the joyful expectation we have regarding the return of Christ, and all that it entails—and it entails a lot… Notice the text calls Jesus, “our God and Savior…” As we sang earlier, Jesus is Immanuel, God with us… He’s the one we’re waiting and longing for when we sing O Come O Come Immanuel… And because He is God in the flesh who has freed us from the penalty and the power of sin in and through His life, death, and resurrection, so also will He free us from the presence of sin when He returns… He is God who has power over life and death and everything… When He returns He will rid this world of pain, sorrow, death, and sin; His nail-scarred hands will wipe our tear-stained eyes dry, and we will weep no more… We will enjoy our blessed hope, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, forever…

And you see, now we’re starting to get at the meaning of Christmas. Christmas was the beginning of Jesus’ decisive victory over sin; so Christmas leads to freedom from sin… Which is what we get a recap of in verse 14. There we read that Jesus, “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us; He appeared bringing salvation—redeeming us and purifying us. To purify is to make righteous or take away the stain of sin, which is what Jesus did when He took on our sin and took on our cross… And to redeem is to purchase, and the idea is that He purchased us out of bondage, out of slavery to sin… He freed us from the penalty and the power of sin, to make us a people for His own possession… We are not our own, we have been bought with a price… We are blood bought children of God; and because we have been bought by the Son of God, we will be with God and free from sin forevermore… So Christmas leads to freedom from the penalty, power, and the presence of sin…

Jesus gave Himself for this… He willingly, for the joy set before Him came to earth, took on flesh, and took out sin… And what we see lastly here ties to what we saw at the beginning, that He does this to have people for Himself who are zealous for good works… So again, the idea of doing good, being generous, and spreading joy, and all those we associate with Christmas are right. But, He gave Himself for us so that we could and would truly give ourselves to Him. We are to be zealous, out of love for Him, for good works… The idea behind good works is acts of faithfulness, love, and service, essentially everything a Christian is called to be and do… And you see, this isn’t so much about us, as it is about Him… This is the same call that we saw in verse 10: to live in such a way that our lives adorn the doctrine of God our Savior…

Conclusion

The Christian life is to be lived for the glory of God and the joy of people. We are to give ourselves to loving and serving others, to the evangelization of the world, the edification of the saints, and the glory of Christ; and what we have seen here is the foundation and motivation of just such a life… And this is all linked to Christmas… Christmas means war on sin; it started in a manger, it led to the cross, and it will end in the triumphant return of our God and Savior, King Jesus. And the great goal of all of it is the glory of Christ. That’s what Christmas is all about: the grace of God appeared in the person and work of Jesus Christ so that glory of God would be magnified in and through Christ and His people. Christmas should bring to mind the birth of Christ, but it should also bring to mind the victory of Christ over sin… There’s a reason why the angel told the shepherds on Christmas all those years ago that this is good news of great joy, and that this is all leads to glory to God in the highest… Christmas means victory, and victory means freedom, and freedom means joy, and joy means glory… So may we all live now in the freedom that our God and Savior has provided, until the day we are with Him forever in perfect freedom; for that is how we glorify Him, and that is what Christmas is all about…