Thursday, December 04, 2008

Titus 2:14-15 (1)

I love reading Paul’s letters. Romans is far away my favourite book of the Bible, and I love our Wednesday nights in Titus. If there’s one problem with them, however, it’s that they are too good. Breaking down Paul’s thought process into smaller chunks for a Wednesday night often means we have to leave Paul halfway though a sentence and this is the case here. Last time, we saw from verses 12 and 13 that some of the keys to the Christian life were living and looking. Living in the present world as we look at the Savior. Tonight, in verses 14 and 15 Paul finishes that thought. If last week was about live and look, this week is about what we look like and who we listen to. And why?

Verse 14 carries on the sentence from verse 13 talking ‘about looking for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us’. Here we learn something else about who Jesus is, not only is He the great God and our Saviour, but also He gave Himself for us. In these four words ‘gave Himself for us’, there is a hugely important, life changing, faith strengthening point. Jesus gave Himself. His death on the cross was no tragic accident, God the Father did not have to adjust His plans or make a painful last minute decision. This was the plan from the start and John 10:18 illustrates it well ‘no one taketh it from me, but I lay it down myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up’. Jesus gave Himself for us.

Why? Well look at verse 14 with me again ‘that he might cleanse us from all iniquity, and purify us unto himself, a peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ I love reading the Bible because it moves our attention away from ourselves and towards Jesus. Notice that He did not die to give us an easy life, or a bigger house, or a happy family, or a million other material benefits, although of course, every material benefit is because of the cross, Christ died to redeem us from iniquity. This is much better, this is much more important. This is our needs being met in a stunning way. Our felt needs and our real needs are often very different things. My felt needs often revolve around my ego and my material gain; my actual needs are to have my sins forgiven. They are glorious seasons of the soul when my felt needs are my actual needs, when I am convicted of my sin and come to the throne of God, via the cross of Christ, for mercy. If there is one thing that is clear over and over in Titus, and of course, in the rest of the Bible, it’s that God’s people are to reflect God’s character. God’s people are to love holiness and hate sin. This is a further unpacking of that.

We are released from our captivity to sin. Mark 10:45 ‘to give His life a ransom for many’. Jesus ransomed us from the power of the enemy to be pure, to be peculiar and to be practicers.

We are to be pure for Jesus, as we see in verse 14. Jesus gave Himself to purify us. We are to throw off the sin that so easily entangles. The question when it comes to sin shouldn’t be ‘how far can I go’, but ‘how far can I get away’, how much can I expose myself to the glory and wonders of Jesus Christ, and how much can I serve Him, not how much sin can I get away with.

We are to be peculiar for Jesus. We see this in the middle of the verse where it says ‘unto Himself a peculiar people.’ This word has the sense of being owned or set apart for Jesus. Once we were peculiar for sin, we were set apart for sin, we were committed to sin. Now we are called to be peculiar for Jesus, set apart for Him, by Him. We are to be committed to Him. This is so much better. This is life itself!

We are to be practicers for Jesus. This is what is meant at the end of the verse where it says ‘zealous of good works’ we are to be full of enthusiasm for good works. Good works are no more an optional extra for the Christian than apples are an optional extra for an apple tree. Good works are part of being a Christian. We once were zealous for sin, we once looked for opportunities to sin, and we once served sin with all our hearts. Sin was our master. Now that Christ has redeemed us He is our Master, we must ask Him daily for a new heart so that we desire to serve Him as well as we used to serve sin. Hebrews 9:14 tells us that ‘the blood of Christ…will purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.’

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