Christians who live like Christians in our community obey the law, serve their community, guard their tongue, refuse to fight, are winsome and forbearing, and they treat everyone like a VIP.
In the rest of this chapter, he is going to say why. Why is this a non-negotiable? Got your Bible handy? We’re going to pick up the story, chapter 3, verse 3. The NIV says, “At one time,” if you have a New American Standard it says, “For,” in the original language, there’s a little word, “f-o-r,” it means there’s a reason.
The reason we’re to live like that is this, “For at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, we lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”
The first reason that we have to live like the apostle Paul, filled by the Holy Spirit shared with us, is because of our former life. Our former life demands that we care. It demands that we care.
We think of “foolish” as not an intellectual. This word means “a moral fool.” “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” A fool is someone who doesn’t have spiritual discernment, they don’t know about spiritual realities.
“Disobedient” means people that are defying authority, with their parents, the government, and most of all, God. “Deceived” means actively straying from the course or path that you know is right and following false guides. The phrase, “enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures,” we get that, right?
He said, “Some of us were enslaved with sexual addictions, food addictions, word addictions, alcohol addictions, drug addictions, people pleasing addictions.” And then he says, “What happened is we had no sense of God, we are deceived, we’re living like this, and then envy and malice,” it means that when other people are doing well, we resent them for it.
And then finally, this phrase of, “being hated and hating,” it’s literally when our lives get to the point where we continue to degenerate, where we’re odious and repulsive and disgusting to other people.
And I know we clean up pretty good in here, okay? And I know that, especially in this part of the country, you all are pretty sophisticated, as are I. But you peel back all that stuff, there’s stuff in your past, and there’s stuff in your mind, and there’s stuff that you’ve done, and there’s stuff that you’ve said, and there’s closets that you have – here’s the deal – there is no room for judgment. There’s only room for compassion.
Apart from the grace of God, so go all of us. And the apostle Paul said, “We gotta obey the law, and we gotta serve, and we gotta care, and we gotta love, and we gotta treat everyone like a VIP,” because the only difference between us and them is that we used to be here and we have received grace and we’re over here. So we need to look back and we need to care the way God cared for us.
One of the great delights of ministering in Santa Cruz was the non-religious nature. And, I mean, everybody was messed up, it’s why Theresa and I fit in so well. No, I’m dead serious. I never made it to the back [of the room]. I would get done, I’d come down, I’d be surrounded by people and people, I mean, out loud they were just… they didn’t know. They weren’t “Christianese.”
“Man, you know, this morning, like, you know, last night I did a couple things of cocaine and, you know, I hear you talking about this sex stuff, I got an addiction so is there someone around here that can help you?” And there’s, like, eight people standing around. And I’m thinking…
You know what they knew? They just knew, “We’re all in this together.” And I watched them and they would bring their friends. I mean, they’d bring their friends from all kind of backgrounds.
That was one of the great joys, you know what, is there wasn’t a sense of judgment there, there wasn’t a sense of “us” and “them.” There was a sense of, “We’ve been forgiven.” How do you view… I think some Christians think that those outside of Christ are, like, the enemy. And God is saying, “What, wait, I died for them! I love them! You must treat them with love. Yes, with truth but with love because I made them.”
And the way we will reach them is the way you got reached. It’s the kindness of God that brings about repentance. But it’s not simply because our former life demands that we care, it’s because our new life demands that we share.
Follow along in verse 4, notice it starts with, “but.” He talks about the former way that all of us lived, to some degree or another, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior appeared,” that’s that word “epiphany,” it means at a historical point in time, in space time history, Jesus came to the earth, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was killed, paid for the sins of all men of all time, rose from the dead, ascended to the right hand of God.
“But at the right time, the kindness and love of our Savior appeared, He saved us,” and then he’s going to give the basis for it, “not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy He saved us,” how? “through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,” purpose clause, “so that having been justified by His grace we might become heirs, heirs with God, having hope of eternal life. And this is a trustworthy statement, and I want to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”
The divine intervention, He saved us. Write that down, will you? He saved us. Two key words: Kindness and the love, literally, it’s a very interesting compound word. The motivation here, the divine intervention, kindness is pity or concern and a heart that is moved by someone’s condition.
God saw your sin and my sin and our broken relationships and our lying and our posing and all of our stuff and instead of being repulsed, even though He’s holy, His heart was, “I want to help.”
The compound word, “the love of man” is “phileo,” you know, like Philadelphia? And we get our, and the other word we get is for “mankind.” Like “anthropology.” And those two words are stuck together.
The God of the universe, totally apart from anything He sees in you, or me, or any person, His heart and compassion is to save and to love and to care. And it was an intervention.
Can you understand that God intervened for you? He came to earth, He intervened.
One of the people that was serving as an usher, just a casual conversation, and another guy I knew was there, so we just started to talk. And in the conversation he said, “You know, when you came, you said three things that we should really pray about. And I’ve been praying about them.”
He said, “Number one, you said that we’re going to make a difference here in the Silicone Valley. And number two, you said that we were going to give generously of our lives, our times, our talent, and that we were going to love extravagantly, and that we were going to really care about people that aren’t like us. Do you remember that?”
He said, “Well, I’ve been praying about that for four years.” And then he told me a story, a gentle guy, his kids are grown, they had a friend who is a single mom, single mom had four children, and she died in July. No family, no relatives.
This man and his wife went to his kids and said, “You know, we feel like we should give generously and we should love extravagantly,” and they are of a different ethnic background than this man. “And we’re sensing God wants us to adopt all four of these kids.” And they did.
You know, when we came and we talked and we dreamed and we prayed and we talked about doing good, that’s doing good. When you and I start doing good where it costs us like that, we will receive grace and you know what? Can you imagine what all of his friends are thinking? “You’re an idiot.” Right? “What were you thinking?”
And then the other thing they’re thinking is, “Where in the world do you get something inside of you to make that level of sacrifice?” I will tell you this, there are four lives that will be changed forever and ever and ever and ever. And who knows how many others.
And it’s going to look different for all of us. But the question that God is asking you today and me today is, “What’s it look like for you?”
You know, we talk about, “Change the world!” Here’s how the world gets changed, it gets changed when you change your world and you change your world when you do good in your home, when you do good at work, and when you do good in your community.
And so he says, “He saved us, He intervened.” And now he’s kind of going to break down the basis of that salvation. Notice it’s not because you’re so wonderful, “Not by works of righteousness that we have done.” Basically, you can’t earn your way to God’s favor.
He’s really clear. Doing good is so important, it has nothing to do with being saved, it has nothing to do with being delivered out of your sin and being delivered into relationship. “Not by works of righteousness but according to His mercy.”
Mercy means that someone deserves something and you withhold the punishment that they deserve. It’s God’s mercy, it’s His kindness, it is love. Salvation is all about what God has done. We receive it by faith but it’s His work.
And then notice the means of salvation, “By the washing and regeneration,” literally it’s a picture of the new birth.
When Jesus was walking upon the earth and He had done multiple miracles and one very smart, moral, religious man who was a religious leader came to Him by night and he said, “We know that you’re from God because no one except someone from God could do all the miracles that you do.”
And before he could even ask a specific question, Jesus said to him, “Nicodemus, unless a man is born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus, I mean, this is this brilliant guy, had probably most all of the Old Testament memorized, schooled, trained, moral, squeaky clean. And he goes, “I don’t get it.” That’s Chip’s translation. “I don’t get it because I’m getting pretty big and I couldn’t go back in my mother’s womb.”
He said, “No, you don’t understand. Physical life demands a physical birth. Spiritual life demands a spiritual birth. That which was born of water,” picturing of the birth, the water breaks, “is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.”
“Nicodemus, how can you, a teacher of Israel, not understand that you must have a second birth? You need to understand that you, despite your religion and your morality, you have sinned against a holy God and you need to recognize that you fall short of His perfection, repent of your sin, and with the empty hands of faith, ask Him to forgive you.
And the new covenant is the Spirit of the living God will come inside your mortal body, washing your sins away, and regenerating you as the Spirit takes up residence.”
In the early Church, baptism was so linked, so linked to salvation because it was so public. Man, when you went public then you might get disowned. When a gentile wanted to convert to Judaism, they would have a baptism, he would baptize himself, he would go underwater, “My old life has died, and now I’m a Jew.”
And in the early Church when people would trust in Christ, in fact, notice how closely, they trust in Christ, baptism; trust in Christ, baptism. Because they were going public with their faith.
And so he uses this, the washing, that symbolic washing of baptism is the picture of what God has done spiritually. And I think in some circles, we have tried to make it so clear that it’s not the actual act of being baptized that saves you, we have hundreds and hundreds of Christians that have not obeyed God and done good in some of the most basic first steps as a follower of Christ. Being baptized, going public, recognizing that you’re not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, you want the world to know.
And so he tells us not only the means of salvation, but then he talks about the result. The result of our salvation, he says, “Therefore having been justified,” that means we have a new standing with God, “Justification,” literally, this is a legal perspective. Justification is declaring just as if you hadn’t sinned.
It would be like if you went before a judge and then had all these things and you owed five billion dollars and you’re going to be in jail until you can pay all five billion dollars. And Jesus would show up and say, “Tell you what, I’ll take the debt of that five billion dollars on Me, and I want everything in my account put on her or him.”
And so God, in a legal action, justifies you and so views you as a son or a daughter, just as though you have never sinned and in your new legal position, you have the imputed righteousness of Christ. You never have to earn God’s favor. You are the object of His affection, not because you are wonderful, but because Jesus is wonderful. And so you are covered with a robe of righteousness.
Then next he says, “Not only are you legally declared, but you have a new family relationship. Now you’re an heir.” What’s an heir? This isn’t hard. An “heir” means you are related to someone so what they have, you have access to. Right? Your heirs get your money, your heirs get your house, your heirs get your cars, your heirs get your stuff.
Well what does Jesus have? Every spiritual blessing in heaven! Ephesians 1 says, “Every spiritual blessing you have, you’re seated with Him,” all God’s resources, His power, His love, His Spirit, that’s now, the moment you trust in Christ, and forever.
And then finally, it’s interesting, not only does He legally declare you as a son or daughter, and say that you’re now an heir with full privileges, but He says there is a new mandate from God. And he says, “Be careful to do good works,” that’s like a new vocation.
He says, “You’re never saved by works, but once you are saved, when you, at a certain time on a certain day, turn from your sin, and receive the grace of God,” he says, “your new job description is you’re an ambassador. You’re like an agent of light, an agent of love. It’s Jesus living in you, by His Spirit, directing you through His Word, encouraging you through His body.”
And when you wake up, there’s your neighborhood and you’re the agent of light. You’re at work, you’re the agent of light, there’s a need, you’re an agent of love. And the love of Christ and the light of Christ, you do good, and when you do good they glorify your Father who is in heaven and say, “Why would someone who doesn’t know me adopt me? Why would someone who doesn’t care loan me money. Why would someone who doesn’t care, and I totally disagree with him, treat me with dignity?”
Do you get it? It’s like Jesus has said, “I have given you the cure for cancer or I have given you the cure for HIV. And now you’re going to hoard it? Because people are dying. They’re dying all around you, their marriages are dying, their families are dying, they’re struggling in their finances, they are depressed, they drink too much, they take too many pills, they are discouraged.”
What do they need? They need to be delivered! They need to be delivered out of and delivered into, and how are they going to know that God cares? When you do good where you’re at, with who you know, just the way God made you.
In fact, he gives some final words to Titus in verses 9 through 15 because there are some big enemies of living this way. Notice as we pick it up he says, “But,” notice again there’s a contrast, “but avoid foolish controversies, and genealogies, and arguments, and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”
In other words, don’t get distracted. I mean, there are some Christians that get so bent out of shape about minor things and they beat that drum and beat that drum and beat that drum. He says, “Don’t go there. Life is too short and some things are too important.”
He goes on, “Warn the divisive person,” literally, a heretic, “once, and then warn him a second time, and after that have nothing to do with him.” I mean, don’t fight these battles. He says, “Don’t put up with that. Don’t put up with it in your small group, don’t put up with it in your church, you gotta be unified around all the things that matter and are important.”
He said, “You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” And then he kind of just closes with some final remarks, he says, “As soon as I send Artemas and Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; make sure they have everything they need.”
And then he closes, like, “Just in case, Titus, you missed the point of the whole letter, okay? just in case you missed something.” “Our people must learn,” process, “to devote themselves to,” what? “doing good.” Doing good.
God can change your neighborhood, your workplace, your home, your community. And I believe He will. Now the question for you is, “What are you going to do?”
The question for some of you is, “When I went through what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ,” you realize, “I either don’t know for sure that I have that or I’m pretty sure I don’t.” You can’t do good out of your own strength for any amount of time.
God is good and when He lives in you, He will do good in you and then through you. And so you’re application is to let God do good for you and receive Him today as your Savior.