OPEN: In the state of Indiana, if you’re going to build a house, or an office building, or a church building, the first thing you’ve gotta have is… a blueprint. If you don’t have a blueprint, they won’t let you build.
Now you might ask – why do they call it a blueprint?
Well, back in the 1800s, there was a man named John Hershel. He was a scientist with interests in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry and several other branches of science. For example, he was responsible for naming several moons throughout our solar system, he studied color blindness, and translated the Iliad (as in "The Iliad and the Odyssey") from Greek into English.
And he invented the “blueprint” (actually, it’s called a Cyanotype).
In order to create a “blueprint” he found that – if he mixed together specific two chemicals (I’m not going to bore you with their names, I can’t pronounce them anyway) - he could create a “photosensitive” liquid that he could use to coat any surface and make it sensitive to light. Once the liquid had dried, he exposed that surface to ultra-violate light and it would turn blue.
Then he took translucent paper, made a drawing on that paper, and laid it over the a surface coated with his special liquid, When he exposed these to ultraviolet light, the light passed through the translucent paper and turned the surface blue… everywhere except where the drawing had been. Since the ultraviolet light couldn't pass through the lines, those lines remained white.
Essentially, Hershel created the first copy machine. It made quick and inexpensive copies of whatever needed copied and it especially became popular with architects who needed multiple copies for different builders who could then consult those copies as they constructed their building projects. Commenting on this fact, one person noted “you could say the world was literally built with the help of John Hershel.”
Again, you can’t build a building in Indiana without a blueprint.
So… you have a blueprint.
Can you build a building???
Well, not so fast.
The blueprint still has to be submitted to the proper authorities for approval. And that blueprint has to have every significant piece of info on that bldg.
• Materials used
• Quality of materials used
• Sources of power/ heating/ cooling
• Wiring, piping/ insulation
All that has to be approved… or you cannot build!!!
What we’re looking at here in Titus 2 is THE Blueprint for God’s Church.
IF you don’t have THIS blueprint - as approved by the creator and designer of the church - you don’t got a church!
Every congregation MUST be constructed based on THIS blueprint … or God will not approve of it.
So what is this blueprint that the creator says MUST be present for His church to be approved?
We’ll let’s look at the text again:
“For the GRACE OF GOD that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope— the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14
Notice what it says there.
Grace bring 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.
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.
Perhaps - 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.
• 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.
ILLUS: You’ll hear people talk like this at funerals.
They’ll say “He/she was such a good person… I just know they’re going to heaven.”
What are they saying?
They’re saying: The dearly 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.
Romans 4:4 says it this way
“…when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.”
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’ll never be good enough to be good enough to get into heaven.
We’ve all messed up.
How many of you have sinned? (all the audience raised their hands)
Well then, 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.
An that’s what Communion is all about.
Communion is a repeated reminder that we don’t deserve to be here.
This is Jesus’ broken body and His shed blood.
This horrible price was 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.
Or as comedian Brad Stine once put it:
“The only reason I’m a Christian is because it’s the only religion that would have me.”
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.
And communion tells us why.
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.
ILLUS: When I visited Jerusalem, one of our stops was at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the Tomb where Jesus was buried). It’s a beautiful building and it is run by 6 denominations – Catholic, Arminian, Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopian, and Coptic. Each of these denominations has their own “territory” they’re responsible for, and no one from one of those denomination is allowed to trespass on another denomination's turf.
In 2002, a Coptic monk moved his chair 8 inches to a shadier spot which just happened to be in some other denomination’s domain. This resulted in a fight, where the various monks beat on each other with their brooms… and 11 holy men ended up in the hospital.
As you can imagine, these folks don’t play well with each other.
In fact, their dislike for each other is so pervasive that they don’t trust each other with the keys the keys to the building.
They’re afraid if one denomination has the keys, they may lock the others out.
So who gets to hold the keys? A Muslim.
Now, does Jesus own THAT Church building? NO
Does Jesus own THOSE monks? NO
Those churches are the ones who own that building.
As for Jesus, I’m pretty sure He hasn’t been in that church building for centuries.
Now before you think I’m just making fun of those monks, I need you to realize that this kind of behavior can happen in any congregation on any continent.
* I’ve known churches where people have fought over who gets to decide the color of carpet.
* I've known of congregations where folks get upset because they didn't get their way in a board meeting.
* I’ve known of churches where people feel slighted someone didn't ask their opinion, or respect their "authority" or respect time honored traditions.
And I've seen people get mad at each other, and say nasty about each other, and not to talk to each other – sometimes for years.
Now, why would they behave like that?
Because they’ve forgotten that they don’t belong there.
They don’t deserve to be in that church building.
They are there only by the grace of Jesus
And they get into fights because they’ve forgotten Grace.
They’ve forgotten that Jesus OWNS them.
And so they behave like pagans… because grace is not their blueprint.
Now that brings us to Titus 2:12
“(Grace) teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”
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.
And the first thing Jesus tells me is to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions.
One preacher noted that “the Greek here literally means to ‘disown’” ungodliness and worldly passions.
(Darren Rogers on sermoncentral.com)
When I read that I thought… Well yeah!!!
To disown something means I refuse to accept that behavior as acceptable/excusable.
ILLUS: I read the story of a woman said to her preacher, "I'm deeply troubled about a problem I know is hurting my testimony: I exaggerate. I always seem to enlarge a story until it's all distorted. People tell me they don’t trust me. Can you help me?"
The minister said, "Let's talk to the Lord about it."
So she began to pray, "O God, You know have a tendency to exaggerate..."
At this point the preacher put his hand on her shoulder, and gently said
“Ma'am - call it what it is. Call it lying and you just may get over it!”
You know what that woman was doing?
She had renamed her sin so she had an excuse to continue lying.
She was OWNING her bad behavior by giving it an innocent name.
Let’s say a Christian gets mad and curses. He 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.”
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.
They’ve embraced their evil thoughts.
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.
ILLUS: About 15 years ago I was in the kitchen making my favorite comfort drink - chocolate milk. Just as I’d put the spoon down into the container of chocolate powder dropped the container, spilling the chocolate powder all over the kitchen floor.
I was furious!
And I slammed my hand against the wall.
I broke my wrist.
Sunday morning came and everybody apparently knew what had happened.
A couple of the men came up to me and tried to console me: “Jeff, its ok. It just proves that you’re human.”
The moment I heard those words I felt uncomfortable.
When I got up into the pulpit I said “I appreciate the kindness of those of you who tried to console me on my breaking my wrist. A few of you have tried to make me feel better by telling me that it’s ok, it just proves that I’m human. But frankly – no it doesn’t prove that I’m human. It proves that I’m a sinner. I sinned. I lost my temper and I paid the price. And it would not be right for me to hide behind excuses. I was wrong and I ask you (as I’ve asked God) for your forgiveness for my bad behavior.”
There was a famous theologian of the 4th century who commented on this passage and he said that the ungodliness and worldly passions mentioned here were “…the desire or appetite for the things we cannot show God.” (Chrysostom)
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 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, backbite… 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 our sin and behave as if we are always in God’s presence.
Now, one last thought… Titus 2:13 tells us that Grace does all that “while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing 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.
One person noted that the word “Grace” in Greek, is “charis”.
In secular Greek there’s a related word “chairo”
“Chairo” means “sweetness” or “attractiveness” and most importantly - “to rejoice.”
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 sweetness and 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 God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the 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, dear friends, 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.
There’s no fireworks display that can even come close.
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!
CLOSE: A Dr. Stowell tells about the time he visited a home for mentally handicapped children. While walking through the corridors, he noticed that the windows were covered with tiny little hand prints. He asked the director, what they were all about.
The director replied, "The children here love Jesus and they’re so eager for Him to return that they lean against the windows as they look up to the sky."
(David Daniels, sermoncentral.com)
That’s how we should be.
God’s grace has prepared us for that very moment.
It will be a moment filled with excitement and pleasure and great joy at His coming.