Summary: Who is God? Who am I? Everyone needs to know the answer to these questions, and here it is in the Bible.
Titus 3:4-7 "The 2 most important questions of life."
It was January 1st, and I was on the edge of my seat. I was watching what was happening, and I was cheering loudly. Well, not out loud - I’m not a yelling kind of a guy, if you know me. But in my mind, I was cheering loudly, and I was on the edge of my seat. It was New Year's Day. Do you know what I’m talking about?
You probably think that I'm talking about football, watching the Badgers in the Rose Bowl. But that's not what I'm talking about. You see, on New Year's Day we went to visit my wife's grandmother in her apartment. She's over 90 years old, and based on the things she has said, we don't think she's a Christian. She's a life-long Catholic, but she's never read the Bible, and she always talks about earning heaven by being a good person. We've been trying to witness to her for a long time - not in a pushy way. Every time we bring up the subject of Jesus, she changes the subject, shuts us down.
But this New Year's Day was a little different. We went there just to talk, and she brought up the subject of life and death and heaven. And that's when it got interesting. She said something to the effect of "God will bring me into heaven because I have been a good person," and that's when my wife went after her. I've never seen my wife be more aggressive: "That's not how it works, Grandma!" And I was sitting across the living room, and that's when I started cheering. Go Jennifer go, I said to myself. I could tell that my wife was ready to clearly witness to her about Jesus Christ.
"But I've been a good person," Grandma said. "No Grandma," my wife said, "you are sinful. We've all been sinful. We've all made mistakes. None of us are good enough to earn heaven. God loves you because of his mercy, Grandma. God lets you into heaven because of Jesus." It was great to watch, for me, much more exciting than a football game. The stakes couldn't be higher - either Grandma believes in Jesus and goes to heaven, or Grandma rejects Jesus and goes to hell.
The reason I bring this story up is because of our Scripture lesson for this morning, the second lesson from Titus, which says that God "saved us, not because of righteous thing we had done, but because of his mercy." Isn't this exactly what the argument was about, between my wife and here grandmother on New Year's Day? Why does God save people? It's not because of righteous things we had done. No. It's because of his mercy. It's because of Jesus Christ, our Savior, as verse 6 says.
Today on this Lakeside Sunday, we are spending a little time talking about Christian education, and how important and valuable it is. Christian education is when people spend time in God's Word. It can be a Bible class, a Sunday School class, or when you spend time alone in the Word of God. That's Christian education. It's also in a setting like Lakeside Lutheran High School, where students go to high school and take classes necessary for getting a high school diploma, but the school has the Word of God. That's also Christian education - it's Lakeside in Lake Mills, it's Luther Prep here in Watertown, it's your Lutheran grade school and every school where the Word of God is present. That also is Christian education. There are a million reasons why Christian education - having the Word of God in your life - is so important. Titus chapter 3 teaches us that Christian education helps us to answer the 2 most important questions of life. Do you know what those questions are? Question number one - who is God? And question number two - who am I?
Let's start with the question who am I? Did you know that the Bible is the only book that will be totally honest with you? Listen to this, verse 3: "At one time, we were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kind of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." That's brutal honesty. You can summarize all that with one word - sin. One of the most important questions you can answer is - who am I? Well, I'm sinful. I'm not good enough to earn heaven by being a good person. On New Year's Eve, Grandma believed the opposite - that she was good enough. But no one is. That's the truth about who I am, who you are, who everyone is.
But a more important question is this - who is God? Is he a God who demands that I try to earn his love by being a good person? Who is he? Is he angry at you because of your sin? Does he hate you? No - he is kind to you - loving. He is a God who saves you from your sin: "When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." Who is God? He is someone who is merciful. He washes away your sins in the waters of baptism, as it says, "He saved us through the washing and renewal by the Holy Spirit." This answers the question - who is God? He isn't a God who makes me earn his love by being a good person - I could never do that enough. No, he is someone who gives me his love for free.