Why do devotions? Why read the Bible in a year? I will tell you because I think that more gems of God’s words pop out almost every time. Tuesday morning in a devotion book these words jumped out at me: Titus 2:11-14 – “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world. At the same time we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us in order to rescue us from every kind of lawless behavior, and cleanse a special people for himself who are eager to do good actions.”
Immediately I thought, what beautiful verses. Is the translation correct? There is a sermon there. Immediately I grabbed my Bible and finally found the small book of Titus, and there it was, but I had never underlined it. I hadn’t really noticed it. The Holy Spirit had spoken to me.
Soooo….what is the message, how can the scripture be best used. Then, then, I thought about the Frazier house and the next step we are taking and that is we are having someone develop a drawing, a blueprint of what we desire to build. Without a blueprint, it’s really hard to get a construction estimate, clear bids. Without a blueprint, you don’t really know where you’re going when you build something. Then as I mulled over the scripture from several translations, God put it all together. This scripture is a blueprint for the church.
IF you don’t have THIS blueprint – as approved by the creator and designer of the church – you don’t got a church! I believe every congregation MUST be constructed based on THIS blueprint … or God will not approve of it. Let’s examine this blueprint. Notice what it says there. Grace brings salvation. Grace teaches us how to live. And Grace points us to the hope of Jesus coming back again. Grace is the blueprint of the church. Grace explains everything about the church.
And grace… makes a church a church. Without Grace you don’t have a church. You just have a social club.
So – what is grace? Is grace where you bow your head and say “Thank you God for this food. In Jesus name amen?” Noooo… of course not. Let’s see if we can understand grace. Yes, when I read grace I often substitute the words “God’s unmerited favor” But let’s try to really understand grace today. Maybe the best way to understand grace is to compare it to a couple of other Biblical concepts: Justice and Mercy.
One person compared them in this way: JUSTICE is getting the bad that we deserve. “The wages of sin is Death.” If you received justice that is what you’d receive. MERCY is NOT getting the bad that we deserve. We were spared from punishment for our sins by the blood of Jesus. Therefore GRACE is getting the GOOD that we do not deserve. Not just being spared death, but being given Eternal life PLUS all the good things that God wants to give us on top of that. Grace is getting the good you and I do not deserve. Now – why is that important???
Well it’s important because people tend to think of heaven as something you can earn. If you do enough good stuff, you get in. But if you don’t do enough good stuff, and if you do too much bad stuff, you go to the other place. While we may think we don’t say that, sometimes we imply that heaven can be earned.
Sometimes at a funeral you might hear: “He/she was such a good person, I just know they’re going to heaven.” What are they saying? They’re saying: The good person that has departed has EARNED a place in heaven. In fact, if you carry this thinking to its ultimate conclusion, God couldn’t keep them out if He wanted to, because they’ve bought their ticket. They deserve heaven. Along these lines, when I ask my funeral question to the family: “If I say Jeff, what words or phrases come to your mind?” I have only heard a couple of times early in the meeting with the family: “He/she loved Jesus or loved God.” Most often I have to bring up the faith subject.
Romans 4:4 says it this way: “Workers’ salaries aren’t credited to them on the basis of an employer’s grace but rather on the basis of what they deserve.” In other words: if salvation could be earned, God would be obligated to give you heaven. But Grace declares: that’s not gonna happen. You or your loved ones will never be good enough to be good enough to get into heaven. We’ve all messed up. How many of you have sinned? Well then, under the premise that the wages of sin is death, you’re all going to hell! If you got what you deserved, that’s exactly where you’d end up. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (that’s you and that’s me).
And THAT truth makes it so that “… all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6
Depending on your “righteous deeds” to get into heaven would be like bringing your filthy laundry before His throne and expecting him to be impressed. Every time we gather as a church we are reminded of that truth: We are sinners saved by Grace. We don’t deserve God’s GIFT. We don’t deserve to be here. We don’t deserve anything good by God’s hand. By the way communion is a repeated reminder that we don’t deserve to be here.
Jesus’ broken body and His blood was the horrible price paid because we are unworthy to be in His presence. But if I don’t deserve to be here, then why am I here??? Well, I’m here because of God’s grace. “For it is BY GRACE you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
A church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of those who don’t deserve to be there. Think about that: you don’t deserve to be here. Therefore all should be welcomed!
This is the truth of God’s Grace. God loved us even when we weren’t lovable. And so He made it so that we would be welcome in His presence in spite of our unworthiness. Grace is the blueprint for the church. The moment a preacher or church leadership, or the congregation at large forgets grace, the church is serious trouble. Grace says Jesus bought you. He owns you.
And He owns the church. A church where people forget grace, that Jesus owns everything, can get itself into serious problems.
A church without grace might: fight over the color of the new carpet, might have folks who get upset because they didn’t get their way in a board meeting, might have folks who feel slighted that someone didn’t ask their opinion, or respect their “authority” or respect time honored traditions. A church without grace may have many who really have old grudges, hidden anger, and barely tolerate others there – yes and all this can be under the surface. Why would a church behave like that? Because they’ve forgotten that they don’t belong there. We don’t deserve to be in the church building. We are here only by the grace of Jesus. Too often a church has forgotten that Jesus owns them and the church and so they behave like pagans, because grace is not their blueprint.
Now that brings us to Titus 2:12
“(Grace) educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world. If I’ve been bought by the grace, by the blood of Jesus Christ, then Jesus owns me. And if He owns me, then He has the right to tell me how to live. If He owns you, then He has the right to tell you how to live. And the first thing Jesus tells me is to say “NO” to ungodly lives and the desires of this world. The Greek here literally means to “disown” ungodliness and the desires of this world. Seems simple. To disown something means I refuse to accept that behavior as acceptable or excusable.
Think about that word “disown” in the phrase. Maybe we exaggerate things, exaggeration is lying,a sin. Own it, don’t excuse it. Renaming it exaggeration is an excuse for sin. Be careful about giving things an innocent name. Let’s say a Christian gets mad and curses. One might say, “Well, I was upset. I was provoked. It was just one time, it’s not that big a deal.” Or let’s say a man has looked lustfully at a woman. He might say “Well her clothing was revealing” or “if only my wife treated me better.” That’s excuses, not disowning.
Or let’s say a person becomes bitter towards someone/ hateful, say nasty things about them. They might say: “you don’t know what they’re like. They’ve hurt me. They deserve my anger.”
You know what those folks are saying: “I could not help myself.” “It’s natural for me to respond to them like that.” “It’s not my fault.” “I have an excuse.” And you know what they’ve done?
They’ve owned their bad behavior. Whenever we make an excuse for bad behavior, we don’t disown, we embrace. And we end up making that wickedness part of who we are. Grace teaches us, don’t you do that. Someone might say for all these things, “That’s OK, you’re or I’m only human.” That is hiding your sin behind an excuse. Gossip is another example, that’s OK everybody does it. Judgment, the list goes on.
All it proves is that I/we are sinners. I/we sin. It is not right for me/us to hide behind excuses. Excuses for sin is not “disowning” sin. Chrysostom said that excusing our sin “is the desire or appetite for the things we cannot show God.” And he’s right.
If you were standing at the throne of God, would you curse like a sailor? If you were standing around with Jesus and saw a scantily clad woman or good looking guy walk by, would you nudge him and say “Hey, look at that?” If you were in God’s presence, would you lose your temper and say hateful and bitter things about someone else who was made in His image?
Would you lie, cheat, deceive, gossip, in the presence of God???? Well, not unless you’ve got death wish!!! And that’s what Grace teaches us. It teaches us to disown and not excuse our sin and to behave as if we are always in God’s presence.
Finally Titus 2:13 tells us that Grace does all that “while we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. This is the last part of the blueprint for God’s church. The Grace of God prepares us for the 2nd Coming of Christ. Basically, grace not only prepares us morally and mentally for Heaven, it also prepares us emotionally for Jesus coming back. When Jesus returns, it will be a time of excitement, of GREAT rejoicing!
In II Peter 3:9-14, Peter tells about it this way:
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of Jesus’ coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the earth and heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
Just imagine seeing that light and sound show. You’ve never seen anything like it in your entire life. And then you get a new heaven and a new earth… unpolluted, unscarred and beautiful beyond your imagination.
Revelation 21:3-4 tells us “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Grace declares, this is what we’re waiting for! It will be a moment filled with excitement and pleasure and great joy at His coming.
God’s blueprint for the church is for it to be filled with people who understand grace. Understanding that grace brings salvation and filled with people that understand that grace teaches us how to live and we make a real effort to disown ungodly life. And it’s a church that understands that grace points us to the hope of Jesus coming back again.