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The Choice of Salvation

Pastor Micah is speaking today in our high school chapel. Here’s a written version of his sermon!

Text: Titus 2:11-14

Fallen Condition Focus: You tend to reject God’s intent for your salvation.

Theme: Because God’s grace has appeared, you must choose to be saved.

Introduction

“In 1944, Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang in the western Philippines to spy on U.S. forces in the area. Allied forces defeated the Japanese imperial army in the Philippines in the latter stages of the war, but Onoda, a lieutenant, evaded capture. While most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered in the face of oncoming American forces, Onoda and a few fellow holdouts hid in the jungles, dismissing messages saying the war was over. For 29 years, he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers. After losing his comrades to various circumstances, Onoda was eventually persuaded to come out of hiding in 1974. His former commanding officer traveled to Lubang to see him and tell him he was released from his military duties. In his battered old army uniform, Onoda handed over his sword, nearly 30 years after Japan surrendered.”

How hard is it to deny reality? Most find it very easy. We would never hide in a jungle for 29 years believing that WWII was still going on, but some of us have lived in denial of a still greater truth. <FCF> You tend to reject God’s intent for your salvation. This is a massive oversight on our part! What is salvation? Is it not that Christ forgave us from our sins and will let us live in heaven? Christ’s intent through your salvation is greater than your eternal destiny. God has a plan for you right now!  <Proposition> Because God’s grace has appeared, you must choose to be saved.

God’s grace has appeared! In a world filled with PowerPoint presentations, video games, and TV, most of us are unimpressed with anything when it “appears.” As a matter of fact, the sudden appearance of something is typically viewed as a continuity error! However, this is not the intent of the word “appeared” in this passage. Paul’s use of the word in Titus 2:11 follows the general meaning of “the appearing of good things which are outside of man’s control.” Specifically, God’s revealed salvific grace is both outside of man’s control and it is good. Also, it contains an implicit demand of a response by the one to whom it was revealed (Luke 1:79; Titus 2:11, 3:4). The fact that God has revealed His grace to men demands a correct response by those who have seen it: you must reject your old lifestyle.

I. Because God’s grace has appeared, you must reject your old lifestyle (v. 11-12).

Illustration: There are many changes in life that demand change in lifestyle. I was married 661 days ago: it was one of the best days of my life. All my family and many friends were there for the event and from then on get to spend the rest of my life with my new bride! However, what would happen if after the wedding I had driven back to BJU campus by myself and continued living in the guys dorm? What if I told you that I wanted to get married just so that I could be buried next to my wife once we die. I don’t want any life change; I just want a change in final destination. People would think I was nuts! A major event in life demands a rejection of my old lifestyle. The appearance of God’s grace demands a life change: you must reject your old lifestyle.

“Denying” is a verb used in the New Testament when the writer was talking about a person’s verbal denial of a previously held position or association due to a change in degree of faith in someone or something. With reference to the target passage of Titus 2:12, it is repentance from a previous association with the world’s rebellion against God.

A. You must deny ungodliness.

Salvation is more than a change in eternal destination: you must reject ungodliness. Ungodliness is any action that violates God’s stated will. You must repent from the things that violate the reality of God’s glory.

B. You must deny worldly desires.

Salvation is more than a change in eternal destination: you must reject worldly desires. Worldly desires are those things in life that aren’t innately bad but rather are unproportionately important in your life. God must be more important than anything else in your life.

Illustration: Are you ready for Christ to come back today? Is something in this world more important than God? Would you be excited for Christ to come back the day before your high school graduation? You’ve worked your whole life to complete your degree. All your exams are over, your graduation party is all prepared, and all you have to do is walk across this stage to graduate. Are you ready for Christ to return? How about the day before your wedding? How about the day before your first child is born? How about the day before your retirement? Is something in this world more important than God? What’s wrong with this statement: “God, let me live my life and die before you come back so I can live my full life before enjoying eternity.” The problem is that something in your life is more important than God: you must deny worldly desires!

Transition: The fact that God has revealed His grace to men demands a correct response by those who have seen it: you must live intentionally in a difficult world.

II. Because God’s grace has appeared, you must live intentionally in a difficult world (v. 11-12).

Life is hard! The phrase used in Titus 2:12 to refer to life’s difficulties is the “present age.” This phrase is used by writers in the New Testament in several senses. It can refer to a period of history (Mt. 12:32, 1 Tim 1:17), the present world system (1 Cor. 3:18, Heb. 11:3), or the universe in general (Heb. 1:2, 11:3). However, in the context of Titus 2:12, αἰῶνι stresses the locality in which (and difficulty through which) one must live. Paul’s use of αἰῶνι in Titus 2:12 is a reference to the present world system.

A. You must live in a thought-driven reality.

You must live “soberly.” Many of us have grown up in a church that uses the KJV and still have its wording in our minds. A modern English dictionary references only one meaning for the word “sober”: “not drunk.” However, this was not the original intent of the KJV text. Sober in this passage has the idea of “sensible.” You must live in a sensible manner. This is not common in today’s culture. Many are driven by money, others are driven by sex, still more are driven by popularity. But how can one live sensibly in light of God’s revealed glory? One must consciously live according to His wishes.

B. You must live blamelessly before men.

What does it mean to live righteously? This is a tricky question for two reasons. First, the word is weighty with theological meaning. Second, you may struggle with the same grammatical problem that I do: for some reason, I find adverbs much harder to define than their corresponding nouns. Let me rephrase the question… “what does it mean to be just or righteous?” <pause> It is the condition of life where one chooses to be above moral reproach. In whose eyes must we live above moral reproach? Because the word is in parallel with godliness, this adverb must be referring to those around us who can observe.

Application: Do men believe you to be morally blameless? You must choose to live in a manner that shows your thought: you must live blamelessly before men.

C. You must live blamelessly before God

You must also live blamelessly before God. “Godly” emphasizes a life that is in accordance with God’s laws (compare with Acts 10:2). This is a life that is not only blameless on the outside (righteous) but also blameless with respect to God’s law.

Application/Illustration: Does God believe you to be morally blameless? Obviously this task is impossible, but you can’t give up! Let me give you an illustration. Have you ever observed someone trying to count calories? They have a very difficult task that at times is almost impossible in a world filled with McDonalds burgers and Hershey candy bars. Everyone that is serious about calorie counting knows that 3500 calories equals a pound of fat. If you want to lose a pound per week then you must deprive yourself of 3500 calories (about 500 calories per day). So what happens if a person has done great all week and then goes out to Chic-fil-A on Saturday night. They order a grilled chicken sandwich (better option than fried chicken patty) and fries, only to discover that fries have LOTS of calories. After a quick calculation they discover that they will be over their calorie limit by 100 calories! Bummer! “However,” as the logic sometimes goes, “now that the budget has been blown, I might as well have a milkshake!” A large milkshake will set you back 950 calories! Now you have gone backwards two days worth of calories for the sake of a blown calorie budget. Even when you fail a good goal you must keep living by the goal. Don’t get the milkshake just because you blew the calorie intake goal! Similarly, you will frequently (always) fall short of your goal of perfection. However, you must choose to live in a manner that shows thought: you must live blamelessly before God.

III. Because God’s grace has appeared, you must live in expectation of Christ (v. 13-14)

The motivation for living a godly life is twofold. We live in a godly manner because of God’s manifested grace, and we live a godly life in expectation of Christ’s return. You owe Him everything because He gave His life for you. Because Christ is returning, you must live in the manner that He expects of you.

A. You must allow Christ to free you.

The word translated “redeem” means a purchased liberation (Luke 24:21; 1 Peter 1:18; (LXX) Deut. 13:5; 2 Sam. 7:23; Hos. 13:14). In this context then Christ gave himself to λυτρώσηται (purchase) us from the slavery of iniquity.

The word “iniquity” can either refer to one’s tendency toward lawlessness (Matt 23:28; 2 Cor. 6:14) or it can refer to acts of lawlessness (Matt 7:23; 13:41). In this context, actual deeds of lawlessness are in view: Christ’s goal in redemption was that we as the redeemed reject our worldly deeds for good deeds.

Illustration: Here in the South, we are very familiar with the concept of slavery. It is not something of which we are proud, but it is a fact of history. When the Emancipation Proclamation was made, it changed some people’s lives faster than it changed others. However, very few slaves in possession of all the facts would voluntarily stay submissive to their masters. None would stay submissive to a bad master if they had a choice. We were enslaved to a very bad master: lawlessness. When Christ redeemed us from slavery to lawlessness, he redeemed us to the liberty of serving Him! Only those deprived of all the facts or in denial of all the facts would reject living in the reality of Christ’s liberating freedom from lawlessness.

B. You must allow Christ to clean you.

Christ’s cleansing in your life is an active removal of impurity. This is more than a ceremonial proclamation of purity: Christ intends his special people to be cleansed from ungodliness and worldly lusts and into active godliness.

The phrase “peculiar people” is significant as a reference to God’s promises to Israel in the Septuagint (Ex. 19:5; 23:22; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). The phrase is associated with a uniqueness from all others in the earth (Deut. 7:6) and also with the command that God’s “peculiar people” are to keep His commandments (Deut. 26:18). The phrase was apparently so ingrained in the Hebrew mindset that it appears in the LXX as an explanation even when it does not appear in the original Hebrew text (Ex. 23:22). In Titus 2:14, the phrase is significant as a link to God’s Old Testament promises of protection and expectations of obedience.

C. You must allow Christ to impassion you.

The word “zealous” is not a translation but rather a transliteration of the Greek term, zēlōtēn. The English term, while maintaining the original denotative meaning, seems to have lost some connotative emphasis. Thus, the Greek word is more narrowly applied than the English transliteration. With the Greek usage of the word, one is a “ζηλωτὴν” when inward passions produce outward and energetic actions that characterize one’s life (ex. Acts 22:3). To be “zealous of” something indicates an active, continuous, and passionate participation in that thing. One can only be “zealous of good works” through a life that is characterized by constant and passionate practice of good works. In this passage, the λαός is viewed as a corporate unity that acts as “a zealot” for good works.

Conclusion

So, what does it mean to be saved? Can one simply accept God’s gift of eternal life and live as he please? No! Christ’s salvation includes far more than a change in eternal destination: He expects a transformed life! God wants to save you from your sinful former lifestyle and into a life of zeal for good works! Are you living in a way that evidences Christ’s salvation in your life? Because God’s grace has appeared, you must choose to be saved.

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