Summary: Titus 2:11-14. Self-control, established as essential to the spiritual life in the first half of Titus 2, is shown to be essential not to make God capable of forgiving and leading us, but to make us capable of receiving His forgiveness and leadership.
The Productive Life, part 4
Wildwind Community Church
April 2, 2006
The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. The scholar, pastor, poet, and writer Eugene Peterson translates that passage:
Titus 2:11 (MSG)
11 God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone!
God is ready to give and forgive. Do you have a need? God wants to provide what you need. Have you committed an offense against God? God wants to forgive you, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what you have done, no matter how far away from God you think you are.
In the first half of the second chapter of Titus, old, experienced Pastor Paul tells younger, less experienced Pastor Titus what he must teach to the various groups of people in his church. Last week we saw that basically Titus’s main duty was to teach them to embrace lifestyles of moderation and what? Self control. Paul urges Titus “teach your people to control themselves, to live lives of restraint and self-control.” And you might ask, “Why? What’s the big deal about self-control? Why do these things have to be taught to these groups of people?” And here in the 2nd half of Titus 2, we see the answer to that question. Why do you need to teach self-control to these people? Why should we be learning to live moderate, self-controlled lives? Because the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to every human being. Because God’ readiness to give and forgive has been made public and salvation is available to everyone! Here’s a point I really need you to understand this morning.
God is able to forgive any and every sin. God is able to bring freedom and healing to any and every person. God is able to reach into any and every life and bring new life to any and every heart. The question is not God’s ability to give, that’s not what’s up for grabs. The question is our ability to receive. That’s what’s debatable. That’s what’s up for grabs and in doubt. The question is not whether God loves you, it’s whether you are capable of allowing him to. After all, how many of us are lousy at allowing human beings to love us in the limited, albeit sincere ways human beings try to love us? If we are terrible at allowing human beings to love us in a limited and imperfect way, how much more terrible will we be at allowing God to love us in an unlimited and perfect way? If it’s hard for us to let our friends see us with our house dirty, how much harder should we expect it to be to allow God to see us with dirty minds, dirty hearts, dirty hands? The question is not whether Jesus died for you, the question is whether you are capable of accepting such a magnanimous gesture. After all, most of us would find it extremely difficult if, having come to our dirty home, our friend rolled up their sleeves and began cleaning – behind the toilet, around the sink, up on the high ledges where eyes never see. We would struggle to allow ourselves to be so vulnerable as to allow someone to clean our dirt. And yet God, through Jesus, has seen – and offered to clean – dirt that is far more embarrassing, far dirtier than anything in your home or mine. Still, God’s readiness to give and forgive has been made public, and salvation - a soul-cleaning that never ends – is available to everyone. To EVERYONE!
So why learn self-control? Because self-control is the key to being able to receive this from God. There is no question that God is able to give it. The question is whether you will be capable of receiving it. I want you to return to the picture of your friend with their sleeves rolled high, scrubbing the floor behind your toilet. I want you to imagine how you would feel standing there. Would you be like me, wanting to rush over and shoo them away, tell them you’ll handle it but thanks so much, trying to make light of the mess, make excuses, stand in front of them to keep them from seeing, anything to keep from having to accept what has been offered? What would it take to not do that? What would it take to stand there leaning against the opening of the bathroom door with your arms crossed chewing on a toothpick while your friend cleans your toilet? Would you not have to resist every inclination in you? Would you not have to humble yourself and place yourself at the mercy of this friend who is serving you? Would you not have to fight the urge to do whatever it takes to make it stop?