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“From Glory to the Gutter - to Profit You”

Dec.24, 2011 Titus 3:1-8


Do you ever get your back up when someone tells you what to do? It's a very natural reaction. Even when we know what we're commanded is actually GOOD to do, we still resist. Maybe it's words like: "Tidy up your bedroom." "Put your clothes away." "Dry the dishes." Even as an adult we may resist what our own conscience tells us to do: "Change the oil in the car." "Vacuum the carpet." We may know very well these things OUGHT to be done – they're good to do, for instance, you don't want to wreck your motor because you haven't changed the oil – but they're not FUN to do, so we resist.

So when the Apostle Paul coaches Titus to impress good directions upon the church there in Crete, he may well have understood there could be some resistance. What he's asking isn't exceptionally difficult – these things should be NORMAL: vv1-2, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men." BUT these are often cause for protest today: It's the ‘In thing' to protest against governments. Who wants to obey their parents? Be considerate and humble?! That's like a foreign language! Don't you know that, these days, it's all about ME? What I want to do? Expressing my individuality?

In some ways, our fallen human nature is like the grain in a block of wood. [ILLUSTRATE] Depending how the grain runs, sanding only brings out bumpiness if you're working against the wood. Since the time of Adam and Eve's rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden, we've been born with a stubborn willful sin-prone nature that correction rubs the wrong way.


To be honest, v3 sounds more like us. Paul accurately describes what we're like in our original nature before God really gets ahold of us (notice he includes himself):

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." Even very simple desires can grab us and drag us down if we're not careful, destroying us and perhaps others, or at least our relationships. James (1:14-15) said: "each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

Grant Macdonald, a pastor in Toronto, shares how yielding to temptation one day when he was six had undesirable results: "Growing up with a single mom and a brother seven years older than yourself makes for a lot of time on your own. … It all started with a knock at the door. It was a delivery man with a couple of big boxes from Eaton's. I signed for the boxes. I knew that the boxes were most likely Christmas presents, and I should probably just forget they were there and go about my business, but something told me there was a good chance I could open the boxes and see what was inside of them and somehow get whatever was in the boxes back into the boxes with no one ever being the wiser… My first thought was just to take a quick peek in the boxes and then close things up. But when I opened the boxes, I knew that any vestige of self-control was long gone…All my thoughts were focused on the contents of those boxes and the immediate satisfaction that would come from playing with the incredible assortment of things I was gazing upon. There was the Mouse Trap game, the Tip It game, Rockem-Sockem Robots, a slot car race track and a helicopter on a wire that had a crank on the end so that when you cranked it, it actually lifted off the ground and you could go in circles flying your own helicopter. How cool is that?!...I was in toy heaven. Caution was thrown to the wind along with all of the shrink wrap. Not only had I opened all the boxes, I had also opened all the games and all the toys and I was in the midst of my best play-time ever…Apparently, times flies when you are having fun! Unfortunately time stops flying abruptly when one's mother comes home and she finds you in the midst of the best play-time ever. I won't go into the details of what happened next because your imaginations will probably suffice.What I will say is that it turned out that the boxes were sent to our address by mistake and these gifts that I thought were my gifts were, in fact, not my gifts. Far from it! My situation would have been bad enough if that were the case, but the fact that I had opened all the things that someone else had purchased for their children and then played with them, suddenly made a complicated situation even more complicated…The next few weeks were rather quiet around our apartment and I knew better than to even mention Christmas. I was doomed—slain by my own hand."

What have you found yourself being tempted by lately in a way that is enslaving you, taking you over, distracting you from what you know would be best for you? Not long ago I got a tablet computing device – a great deal of fun and a very useful tool, but it can risk taking over. For instance, the other day my wife invited me to join her at the breakfast table; but I was busy catching up on Facebook friends and blogs, and besides, it was an hour earlier than usual. I wanted to show her a comic someone had posted on FB but decided maybe I wouldn't – it would be self-condemning… [COMIC "Do you mind if I strap your phone to my forehead so I can pretend you're looking at me when I talk?"] It's humorous, but sadly very true of the way our selfishness uses gadgets or pleasures that create barriers from others; habits that lead to people hating one another. What can save us from this selfish enslavement?


V4 is very short, but if you think about it, it points directly at what we’re celebrating tonight: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared…” How did it show up? How did God’s love and kindness ‘appear’? This theme of ‘saving’ carries through in the next two verses: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done…He saved us…through Jesus Christ our Saviour…having been justified by His grace…” So, the Holy Babe born at Bethlehem, laid in a manger, is the One through whom we can be saved, the One through whom God’s kindness and love ‘appeared’, became real in human form. God’s gracious love sprouted legs and kind hands in Jesus – hence, all His healing miracles, and dying on the cross in our place to obtain forgiveness for our sins.
This passage outlines 3 main gifts Jesus brings us – past, present, and future:

In the past: Long ago at the cross, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy; we have been “justified by His grace”. New Living Translations says, “He declared us righteous.” In a way, the rough wood and “X” shape of the braces at each end of the manger foreshadow the cruel cross on which Jesus died as a sacrifice to atone for our wrongs. He purchased our forgiveness, through God’s mercy. In a way, this can be represented by SNOW: pure, clean, and white! God says through the prophet Isaiah (1:18), “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” And what happens to snow when it melts? It turns into water; what do we use water for when we’re dirty? Washing! V5, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth…” This points to baptism, where water symbolizes being washed clean of sin and being reborn to new life with God.

A second gift Jesus brings us is in the present: vv5-6, “He saved us through…renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” The Holy Spirit, God’s very own being poured out inside us. What ‘visual’ could we use for the Holy Spirit? How about a shepherd’s STAFF? That may surprise you; why a staff? Remember Psalm 23? “The Lord is my Shepherd…Thy rod and thy staff, they COMFORT me.” How did Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit? As Paraclete, “Comforter” or Helper. A shepherd used his staff to gently guide his sheep, to reach out and nudge them in the right direction, or even just gently caress them through their thick wool. If it had a crook at the end, he could stretch it out to hook a sheep around its neck and gently help it back up a cliff it had fallen partway down. So the Holy Spirit assures us of God’s presence with us, nudging our conscience, keeping us headed the right way, helping us when we fall to get back up again.

The third gift is future-oriented: v7, “we might become heirs having the hope of ETERNAL LIFE.” We hope for something that hasn’t yet arrived – everlasting or eternal life! To represent that, here’s the ANGEL that has watched from the top of our Christmas tree over some 30 or so Christmases at the Dow home. When those who trust in Jesus die, the Bible teaches we will become like He became after His resurrection, a glorified spirit-body, a bit like angels whose bodies aren’t limited by gravity or walls or sickness. The doors could be locked and Jesus would just appear out of thin air, or disappear again. Wouldn’t that be SO COOL?! But the best part will be knowing and seeing and loving God in all His glory and beauty and goodness forever and ever!


Be ready to “do whatever is good” as verses 1 and 8 emphasize: God has done good to you! Jesus left His heavenly home in glory to come to a crude smelly stable, just so you could eventually share His eternal home with the Father! He gave up so much in order to invest in your life, to PROFIT you. Paul ends the passage by saying, “These things are excellent and PROFITABLE for everyone.” NLT, “these teachings are good and BENEFICIAL for everyone.” There may not have been much profit in the financial markets this past year, but Jesus has invested in you and wants to give you a beneficial advantage that has rewards forever. And it’s all possible because He came to earth at Christmas, taking the humble form of a servant.

Remember Grant Macdonald, the naughty 6-year-old boy who opened the presents that weren’t even theirs? Things were eventually put right, but not by his effort. He explains: “The thing I will never forget, and quite honestly never fully understand, is that on that Christmas morning in 1966 I received every one of the toys I had opened. My mom, on her own, working three jobs to make ends meet, purchased every one of those gifts and gave them to me. Nothing was left out. Nothing was missing. And even at my tender age I knew that none of those gifts should have been under the tree. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t deserve it. My mom couldn’t afford it, but still it happened. My mom took my sins and she turned them into a loving gift. My mom, rather than punishing me, blessed me. That is grace. That is what Christmas is all about. It is about Jesus coming into our world to take our sin upon Himself, and through the cross providing us the gift none of us deserved—forgiveness through His sacrifice. Christmas is about a sacrificial gift we didn’t deserve. Christmas is about undeserved, unmerited, grace.” Let’s pray.