Titus 2:11-15 Gospel Identity

Sun, 28/06/2015 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

Who do you think you are?

We all need to know our identity. Where have we come from? What are the decisive events in our past that define our story? Where are we going? What are our ambitions for the future?

We all have a story. Where we’ve come from. Where we’re going. What we hope for.

And Christians are part of a very particular story. What does it mean to be a Christian? What is our identity?

Titus chapter 2 will answer that for us. We’re going to look to the past first, then to the future, and then see who are in the present day.

God’s grace appeared – Jesus died

Let’s start with the past. Here’s the event that happened in the past: God’s grace appeared. That happened as Jesus died. God’s grace appeared – Jesus died.

God’s grace is his kindness. Giving us things we don’t deserve.

Those of us who are, have been, parents know about grace with our children. We love to give them good things. Presents. Experiences. All sorts of things. We don’t do it because they particularly deserve it. We do it because we love them and like giving them good things.

God is gracious to us in so many ways. He gives us so many good things. But here, there is something quite specific in mind.

Verse 11: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

He’s looking back on a very specific gift from God – the offer of salvation.

Salvation, being saved, being rescued.

Rescued from what? From ourselves. From our sin. Verse 14 says that God wants to rescue us from all wickedness. Everything we do that is not good. Whenever we don’t treat God as he deserves to be treated. Whenever we think his ways are outdated, and ignore what he says we should or should not do. When we treat others badly as a result. That’s wickedness, and we need rescuing from it.

One day, Jesus Christ will return to this earth. When he does, he will judge each and every one of us. And everything that is not good will be destroyed. Which means that if we are not good, we will be destroyed too.

God loves us so much he wants us to have good things. Things we don’t deserve. And in particular, he doesn’t want judgement and punishment to be where we end up. So the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

Each and every person on this planet can be rescued from that final judgement. God offers us that as a free gift. His grace has appeared and offers it to us.

How and when did it appear? In general, that’s why Jesus came to this earth. But Paul is much more specific – it’s why Jesus died. Look again at verse 14: Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness”. It’s as Jesus gave himself up to death on the cross that we are rescued from our wickedness. That little word, for us, literally means on our behalf and in our place.

As Jesus died on the cross, he stood in our place, he was where we should be. As he hung in darkness, in pain on the cross, abandoned by God, the judgement of God fell on Jesus. He took our place, so that we never need to go through that experience. The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation for to all people.

Salvation is offered to all people. And each of us either says “yes please” or “no thank you”. Which is your response? If you’ve never said “yes please” to the death of Jesus being the moment when your wrongdoing was paid for you, wouldn’t today be a good day to accept the offer.

Christians are those who have accepted the offer. Who are we? Let’s start answering that question by looking back, to the past, to the death of Jesus. The moment when God’s grace appeared. Jesus died.

God’s glory will appear – Jesus will return

Our identity also requires us to look forwards, to the future, where we’re heading, where we hope to be.

So we look forward to the day when God’s glory will appear, which will happen when Jesus returns. God’s glory will appear – Jesus will return.

Verse 13 uses the same language – God our Saviour appears. Only this time it isn’t God’s grace that appears, it’s God’s glory. To make sure we don’t miss the weightiness of this, it’s not “God our Saviour” any more – it’s “our great God and Saviour.” Specifically, it’s “our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”.

We look forward to the day when Jesus Christ himself will appear in great glory.

And we look forward to it with good reason. Verse 13 says this: We wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the gory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Those two words are loaded with goodness, dripping to make your mouth water: Blessed hope.

When we talk about hope we mean wishful thinking. “I hope I get a seat on the train” means nothing more than that we wish it might happen. We don’t have any inside information on how crowded the carriages will be. When the Bible speaks of hope it means something that is absolutely certain. God has promised it, it’s definitely going to happen, there can be no doubt. The return of Jesus is a blessed hope. It’s not a maybe. The date is set. We’re on.

Then there’s the word “blessed”. It’s not a general wish, “God bless you”, we say. It’s the word we find in the beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in Spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who mourn. It’s a word that means “truly happy”. Favoured by God. The most fortunate people alive. And that’s because the future for Jesus’ people when Jesus comes back will be truly wonderful. Earthy. Happy. Enjoyable. You’ll never want it to end, and it never will. The best food, drink, laughter and fun. Nothing to spoil it.

Blessed. Hope.

So we look forward to the day when Jesus come back. Because for everyone who knows and trusts him now, that day will be the beginning of a forever enjoying unspoilt life to the very full.

God’s glory will appear. Jesus will return.

That’s where we’ve come from. That’s where we’re going. That’s who we are. So where does that leave us in the present? It leaves us waiting.

And sometimes waiting can be very hard. Watch children waiting for Christmas morning, waiting for the start of the summer holidays. Order a new dog from the breeder and wait for the day you can collect your puppy.

That’s us. Waiting for something utterly imaginable.

God’s character needs developing in us – Jesus owns us

But how do live while we wait? That’s our third heading: God’s character needs developing in us, because Jesus owns us. God’s character needs developing in us – Jesus owns us.

If we’re Christians, we now belong to Jesus. We’re been redeemed. That is language from the slave market –we’ve been bought by Jesus. Which means we’re his. So while we wait, we live like we’re his.

There are two sides to that – negative and positive.

The negative is that we don’t live the same as people who don’t belong to Jesus. He died to redeem us from all wickedness. So we make a clean break with the past. Verse 12, the grace of God teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions. Everywhere around us, we’re surrounded by people who don’t know the Lord Jesus. We don’t take our cues from a society that is opposed to God and his ways. We don’t continue in old habits from before we became followers of Jesus ourselves. We say ‘No’ to all of that.

The positive side is that Jesus died to make us his special possession. Verse 14: “who gave himself … to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”. That’s us: “pure”, “his very own”. We may not feel terribly pure. But Jesus’ death has washed us completely clean. We are pure. We are his. We just need to live like the people we are. It’s why it’s so important that we know who we are, that we know our identity.

So verse 12 continues with the positive aspect: It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait.

The grace of God is our teacher. If you want to learn the piano, you need a good teacher. You might get so far on your own, a book, a bit of practice. But you’d find it frustrating. Find a good teacher, and suddenly you start to find you can do it. You’re making progress.

Of we want to live how God wants, we can get so far on our own. But it’s frustrating. We never seem to get the hang of it. One step forward, two steps back.

But you need to find a good teacher. That teacher is God’s grace. You experience his kindness. You know that you are forgiven because Jesus died for you. You know that one day Jesus will return and every last wrinkle will be ironed out. You know that every time you fail, he forgives you again. And knowing God’s grace, his free gift, his kindness first-hand, you find you’ve got the teacher. Suddenly you make some progress. Not overnight, but real progress. Now it’s two steps forwards and one back, not the other way around.

But the grace of God has to teach us how to live. A better word would be train. We need training.

When this word crops up in other parts of the New Testament it means one of two things. Sometimes it’s used of discipline, of punishment. That’s the negative side to this. We’ve got bad habits to unlearn. Sometimes we need training, we need God’s discipline to shape us. In other places it’s used for schooling, for doing an apprenticeship, learning from the experts. And that’s the positive side.

If you think of training children, there are both sides to it. At times, they need some kind of appropriate punishment. Other times, they need teaching, training, showing how it’s done. They didn’t have dog training classes in Ancient Greece, but if they did this would be the word. Correcting. Telling off. Explaining. Showing how it’s done.

God’s grace has appeared, and it trains us to say no, and to grow in godliness.


So who are you?

If you’re not yet following Jesus, here’s what it means to be a Christian. Come and join us – it’s the best place to be.

If you are a Christian, here’s who you are, where you are. And there’s a diagram on the service sheet if that helps.

You look back to the past. God’s grace appeared. Jesus died to save you. You are redeemed.

You look to where you’re going, look to the future. One day, God will appear in glory. You are waiting.

In in the present, we’re being trained. Because we are redeemed, we’re being trained to say no to ungodliness. Because we are waiting, we being trained to be eager to do good.

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