November 29, 2009 ()

Bible Text: Titus 2:11-14


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Titus 2:11-14. Appearance (epiphany) is used to speak about the incarnation of Jesus as we look back upon his arrival into human history. It is also used to speak about his second coming, when he will again step into human history and ushers in the renewal of all things, finishing all he started in his first coming. Titus 2:11-14 speaks of both of these appearances: An Appearance of Grace and an Appearance of Glory, both of which has life defining and life directing implications for us.

Appearance of Grace v11-12, 14. Grace – God’s love freely extended to the undeserving. It was demonstrated in the past acts of God, but grace was fully displayed in the person of Jesus. John says, when he came, he came full of grace and truth. Grace of God showed up in a person, bringing salvation. That salvation is described in v14. Redemption – release of slaves by payment; free and full forgiveness; we are under the penalty of our sin but Jesus pays the penalty of our sin to release us from it. He purchases full pardon. He secures free forgiveness and full acceptance for all who will trust in him. It is all of grace. He paid for it once for all and all by himself. Grace is God working singlehandedly. This is grace – full pardon of sins and full inclusion in God’s family; rebels who now have been fully pardoned and fully accepted as sons/daughters. The world is hungry for this. Ernest Hemingway, in the opening of  “Capital of the World” references the Spanish anecdote of a Father who put an add in the El Liberal Newspaper - "PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN.” Tuesday at noon 800 young men show up. Even those for whom God is an afterthought, long for this. People who have little desire for God have told me, “I feel so guilty.” They experience guilt and shame over not living up to our own expectations of us. “I can’t believe I did that…” “I’m better than that…” That is inward guilt and we try to redeem ourselves from it. We try to  redeem ourselves by great sacrifices and better behavior. But inward guilt is the surface rumbling of a deeper, bigger guilt – upward guilt; fallen short of God’s expectations. We are guilty before him but we cannot redeem ourselves; our offenses are to great b/c of the greatness of the One we have offended. Not only can we not, God does not ask us to. Grace is our only hope of being forgiven, cleansed of all sin, guilt and shame. Titus 3:3-7. Not our merit, but his mercy; not a wage earned, but a gift received; not based on our goodness but his; not our works, but his work. Jesus gave himself to release us of our guilt, paying the penalty for all our wrongs so that they might be removed from us. Not defined by our sin, but his grace.

Salvation to all people –all people without distinction; not without exception. Some will neglect it and reject it. Those who receive it are discernable from those who do not. v12 They Renounce life without God; They Reflect the life of God. This appearing of Grace demands a clear and uncompromising response of open association with Jesus in profession and practice. Those who receive it do not stay the same; there is a discernable difference in the way they live.
This renouncing and reflecting is a work of grace.  Grace trains us. How? Salvation is not in a transaction (A+B+C=Salvation). It is in a person. It’s not believing a formula, but embracing a person. The passage says that Jesus has made us a people for his own possession. Salvation is from sin to Jesus, to be a people for his possession who are zealous to please him with our obedience and service. Illus: Lk 7:36-50. The one who is forgiven much loves much. Grace presses upon our hearts the depth of God’s love for us and the richness of his salvation and creates a people who love him much and are zealous for pleasing him with our obedience and good works. Religion=I obey, therefore accepted; Gospel=in Jesus I’m accepted, therefore I obey. Grace creates lives progressively defined by the Gospel (because of Jesus we are forgiven sons and daughters of God) are lives progressively directed by the Gospel (loving Christ; following his pattern of sacrificial love).. As we come to know him more we renounce and reflect. The more you see Christ dying for you to save you the more you will live for him in loving service. How we experience God largely impacts how people experience us. Christian should be the most welcoming, forgiving, loving, generous…This is how we shine light to this world as a community. The more we grasp grace, the more we reflect it. The Appearance of Grace creates a people distinct and discernable in this world. If there is no discernable difference in your life, have you really experienced the Grace of God in Christ?

The Appearance of Glory v. 13.  The Christian Hope is that Christ will return and he will return in glory. His first coming was in humility. It was glory veiled making an occasional appearance in several of his miracles. But when he comes again His glory will be unveiled. The scripture says that we will see him as he is. He will come in glory and power. And this second coming is our Hope because when he comes he will fully and finally heal this broken world. He will set right all that has gone wrong. He will make all things new. Everything that has ever resisted his reign and opposed his purposes will be banished from this new heavens and new earth. This present age and all that marks it will be brought to an end and the Kingdome of God will in all its fullness will take its place so that “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our God and his Christ and he will reign forever and ever.” Is this what we long for? This is why you rejoice when Justice wins the day and why you feel sorrow over the oppression and suffering of others. You want it to end. We all do. Even creation does, it is groaning waiting for the time when Jesus will heal it. We are to live with this appearance in glory in our minds. Absence can create apathy. Expectancy can create urgency. We wait his arrival, so we live differently.

Conclusion: Two appearances that are life defining and life directing. We must do spiritually what is impossible physically –look in opposite directions at the same time. Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again. Backward: rejoicing in our salvation and loving much because we have been forgiven much. Forward: waiting for his return. We want to be found faithful to him when he comes so that we will not have to shrink back in shame. He came in grace and will come again in glory. Advent is about both of those comings and living with a backward and forward gaze.

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Sermon Speaker:

JR Vassar

Former Lead Pastor, Apostles NYC