Sermon Series: “Relentless Grace” Part IV ~ Grace is Not Cheap ~ January 26, 2020 ~ Titus 2:11-14
It has been a month of messages focused on God’s relentless grace. This morning, I am in Paul’s letter to Titus. Titus was one of Paul’s assistants. He was commissioned to help lead a church on the island of Crete, which is the largest of the Greek islands. Paul writes this letter to teach basic doctrines of the faith, and to instruct Titus in his pastoral duties. Would you join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God? Let us pray.
Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We are in Titus chapter 2, beginning in verse 11 where Paul writes:
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing
salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and
sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness,
and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when
the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave
his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make his very
own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.
May the Lord bless to our reading and understanding of His holy Word.
So, as I said, this month we have been focusing on God’s relentless grace. Why? Well, truth be told, I needed it. It’s true. You see, there is a tendency amongst some people to put pastors up on a pedestal. We are supposed to be the faithful ones, the holy ones, the ones who have it all together. We never doubt. We never question. We never get frustrated or angry. Maybe that’s a situation you find yourself in in your home, or at work, or at school, when people find out that you’re the Christian in the group. So, you’re supposed to be the holy one, the righteous one, the one who doesn’t get mad, or upset, or swear. Just have total certainty at all that life throws at you.
That’s not true! I am a deeply flawed human being. And I know that doesn’t come as a shock to many of you because I have upset you, or I have disappointed you, or I have let you down, or all three of those together. And it’s at moments like that that I too begin to question, “Am I really supposed to be doing this? I don’t seem real good at it at times.”
Maybe you have had a similar experience or thought when you think about how good of a husband or a wife or a son or daughter or brother or sister or friend or Christian you are. I mean, I don’t read my Bible or pray as much as I should (or could). And these things weigh on me. Why? Why are they so heavy? It seems as though we remember our failures far longer than we remember any of our successes. I know years ago when I was playing in the band. It was a different time in the 80s and 90s, and when you hired a band for the night, they played, one band, for the entire night. Four sets, twelve songs a set, 48 songs, four hours’ worth of music. That’s different than when Jeremy was playing. When he showed up to do a show, he shared the stage often with three or four other bands. For us, it was just us. So, when you’re playing 48 songs, and you do 46 of them and people love it, but on one song I started out with the wrong time signature, and on another song, I sang the wrong harmony part. You know, after an entire night of successful gig, all I could think about were those two songs. The two songs that I flubbed up. Why do we do that?
When I got called to be the Senior Pastor of the church up in Maine, the vote was 99 to 4. That’s 96%! Do you know any politician that wouldn’t be over the moon with a 96% win on their vote? 99 to 4. I spent the next three years wondering who those four people were.
I don’t know why we do it, but we seem to remember our weaknesses, our failures, far more than we do our strengths; hence, the sermon series Relentless Grace. Quite honestly, I needed a reminder. I needed to remember that God knows who He’s working with; and He’s not working with perfection when He’s working with me. And yet, it appears He wants to work with me anyway. I needed to be reminded that first of all, He’s used to not working with perfection. I don’t know if any of you have seen this. Have you ever seen this poster? I know it hangs at Morningstar. It’s titled, “Do you seriously think God can’t use you?” and then it lists some people God has used.
Noah was a drunk.
Abraham was too old.
Isaac was a daydreamer.
Jacob was a liar.
Leah was ugly.
Joseph was abused.
Moses had a stuttering problem.
Gideon was afraid.
Simon had long hair and was a womanizer.
Rehab was a prostitute.
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young.
David had an affair and was a murderer.
Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah preached naked.
Jonah ran from God.
Naomi was a widow.
Job went bankrupt.
Peter denied Christ.
The disciples fell asleep while praying.
Martha worried about everything.
The Samaritan woman was divorced (more than once).
Zacchaeus was too small.
Paul was too religious.
Timothy had an ulcer.
And Lazarus was dead!
Do you seriously think God can’t use you?
Even His closest twelve let Him down, fell short. As I said, Peter denied Christ three times! But also, Judas betrayed Him, Thomas doubted Him, and every single one of them, in the Garden of Gethsemane, deserted Him and fled when He was arrested.
So, the first thing I needed to be reminded of was I am not alone. In fact, it appears as though I’m in pretty good company. Every so often, I need to be reminded (perhaps you do too), as Kyle said during the prayer, God loves me; even though He knows all about me, everything, He still loves me. And there is nothing He won’t do for me. It’s really hard to explain, or put into words, but it’s kind of like, I will never forget the day I became a father. This tiny little human being hadn’t said anything, hadn’t done anything, didn’t even know who I was yet, but I don’t know if it was possible to love something more. He was just here for moments, and I was sold out. I would provide for this little human being. I would protect him with everything I have. I would take a bullet for him if I had to. I know Ryan felt the same way when Jackson showed up. Moments after he was born, he thought, because he’s married to his lovely wife, that he knew what love was about – until Jackson showed up. And it’s a whole new understanding.
That’s how God feels about us. That’s how much He loves us. Now, I learned over time, as Ryan will over time, that this little human being will on occasion let you down. In fact, I remember the time… no, I’m not going to go down there, that’s not fair. There was that one time… No, this little human being will let you down. Jackson will let you down. Levi will let you down. Gabriel will let you down. They will mess up. They will make you angry, just as I did with my father, and you did to yours! But we don’t stop loving them, do we? Not for a moment! You know, there are moms and dads all over the world visiting their children in prison, sometimes for doing really bad things. They are where they need to be and are supposed to be; but that doesn’t stop them from loving them. Not for a moment.
In fact, in Matthew chapter 7, Jesus was teaching about prayer, and He says this. He says:
“You parents – if your children ask for a loaf of
bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give
them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good
gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts
to those who ask him.
I mean, do we really think that we know how to love better than God? Bible says, in Romans 8:
…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither
death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our
worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s
love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all
creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And God’s love begins with grace. That’s why I’ve been focused on it so much. I needed to remember that He does not give me justice. Lord, no! Believe me, I do not want justice. Justice is getting what you deserve – I don’t want justice from the Lord. God gives us what we do not deserve – grace. “Though your sins are like scarlet,” He says, “I will make them as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Why? Because He loves us. He knew you were coming the day He formed you in your mother’s womb. He couldn’t wait for you to show up. He celebrated the day you were born. He’s watched you grow as a person and as a believer. He’s got your picture on the refrigerator in His office in His kitchen in heaven! All your macaroni drawings are there. He watched you grow as a person and as a believer because He loves you.
How? How does He make our sins, like scarlet, as white as snow?
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only
Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
That’s how. He took a bullet for us. We broke the law; He paid the fine. Think about it this way. If I had purchased a car that I really couldn’t afford (let’s just say that happened, hypothetically). Let’s say, just for the sake of conversation, that there’s this 1979 Pontiac Trans Am that I really fell in love with, and purchased, that I couldn’t afford. And let’s say I ran up charges on my credit card bill buying things I don’t need, and because of that, I find myself ready to be evicted from my apartment or my house foreclosed on. And someone hears about it and they come and pay off not just the delinquent payments to get me up and current – they pay off my entire mortgage and car loan! It was my fault. I can’t blame anyone! I can’t point the finger at anyone. I was financially irresponsible. And what’s more? He knows that. He knows I was financially irresponsible, and still, He paid it anyway. How would I feel about that guy? How should I feel about that guy?
Now let’s say that He then asks me to paint His house. Remember, this is the guy that paid off my entire mortgage and car loan… should I do it? Would you? That’s what God did for me. That’s what God did for all of us. He paid my debt. He gave me grace. And grace is not cheap.
He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our
sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
I got a car and a house, free and clear. He got a bill, which He paid willingly. And although I can’t do anything to pay Him back, I can’t do anything to show that I deserve or can earn the grace He showed me, if He wants me to help Him paint His house, sure! I’m more than willing!
The problem is, He doesn’t have a house. And He doesn’t need help painting it. So, how can I show Him my thankfulness? How can I show Him my appreciation for the house and the car, free and clear? That’s what Paul mentions to Titus. He says, “Turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. Live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God.”
I mean, just as I, like Malchus (remember, got his ear cut off and healed), Barabbas (who was guilty as sin and was set free), all twelve apostles (who let Him down and fled); just as they received God’s grace, I have too. So have you. The least I can do is live a life that honors and glorifies Him. To the absolute best of my ability, I can turn from godless living and sinful pleasures, and have my life show thankfulness for Christ, for the cross, and for the empty tomb.
Now, look, God knows He is still working with me! But I know God loves me. I know He has forgiven me. And I know grace is not cheap. So, I’m going to try to the best of my ability, Monday through Saturday, to be the same Adam that I am on Sunday morning. That’s what we can do. That’s what Paul tells Titus we should do. So, yeah, I needed this sermon series. I don’t know, maybe one of you did too. Maybe you’ve heard, more than once, that we’re all sinners; yes, from the moment our mothers conceived us. That’s true! But maybe we also needed to be reminded that while we do all fall short of God’s glorious standard, we never fall short of God’s relentless grace.
So, I beg, and I plead with you, my brothers and sisters: Stop walking around with your head hanging down thinking about all of your failures. That’s not what I want for you. I want you to lift your chin up. God truly doesn’t know if it’s possible to love you more than He does right now. That’s what I want you to remember, please, over these weeks. God loves you more than you can understand. He does so right now, and He offers you relentless grace. Let us give Him thanks and praise in the spirit of prayer.