Titus sermon intro
I imagine all of us know that there comes a time in every young child's life when they learn the word “Why?” Suddenly every piece of information is greeted with the question “Why?” and every explanation which follows sees the same question being asked - “Why?” Now in the first 10 verses of chapter 2, Paul has given instructions to Titus about what he should teach in the churches under his care. However, Paul knows that someone, somewhere – or perhaps many people in many places – when Titus teaches them to live godly lives, will ask, “Why?” And so here Paul gives us the foundations for his instructions. And in true Sunday school style, the answer to their questions is Jesus. And the answer to those questions is still the same. Are we tempted to ask those questions: “If God is gracious and forgiving, why can't we live as we want?”; or “Why do we need doctrine? Why can't we just live holy lives?” or, to turn it around, “Surely knowing the truth is enough?”; or “If Jesus is coming back and renewing creation, why does it matter what we do now?” When we are church leaders, how will we respond when our congregations ask these questions? Let's take a look at how Paul applies Jesus Christ in three ways to answer them – Jesus in the past, Jesus in the present, and Jesus in the future.
Jesus in the past
Paul's first reason for why the Christians in Crete, and indeed in all times and places, should live holy lives is given in verse 11 and filled out in verse 14: “The grace of God has appeared”, and this grace is in Jesus Christ “who gave himself for us to redeem us”. Jesus Christ was seen, touched, heard. This is not Muhammad sitting in a cave, or Buddha sitting under a tree. God's grace in Jesus took place in public. In football, teams are sometimes punished for not controlling their fans by having to play a match behind closed doors, so no one is allowed to see it. God's plan of salvation was not and is not played out behind closed doors. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says he publicly displayed Jesus Christ as crucified before their eyes. And God's salvation takes place in people. Paul often exhorted Christians to imitate him, as he imitated Christ. And so when we are tempted to withdraw from the world, or when we are tempted to blend in to the world – because in both cases we become invisible – let us remember that the grace of God in Jesus Christ “has appeared” and that God wants his gracious salvation to be public. When people ask why we can't just live as we like, given that God is so forgiving, let us remember that Jesus appeared “to redeem us from all lawlessness”. And when we are preaching and encouraging people to live godly lives, let us first of all remind them, as Paul reminds Titus, of the historical, finished, public work of God in Jesus Christ.