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The Transformed: Changed by Christ
Scripture: Titus 3:1-8
Track 8 of 9 in the Living as disciples in the "here and now" series
Running time: 27 minutes, 26 seconds.
The power of conversion

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, February 22, 2004
"The Transformed: Changed by Christ"
Living as Disciples in the "here and now"
(Titus 3:1-8a )
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

The text that we're going to look at this morning is Titus Chapter 3. If you have a Bible or you want to find that pew Bible that may be in front of you there, we'll be looking at the first eight verses or so of the third chapter of Titus. I'd like to begin by reading that text for you. Titus 3:1

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.

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. But 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. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.

Let me pray with you.

Father, we're grateful for what you have done. We are grateful for the grace that you extend to us in Jesus Christ, for the presence of your Spirit who lives in and through us. We are grateful that you are the one who comes and seeks us and chases after us. Help us Father to understand your word. To see clearly what you have to say, to see where we fit. We pray in Jesus name. Amen

George is a sinner! Pretty ordinary fella, but a sinner none-the-less. He actually strikes me as a quite ordinary guy who really doesn't know anything about God. I don't know that that's his fault. He's just basically uninformed. In some ways he reminds me just a little bit of my father, who grew up outside the touch of the church and, frankly, had no particular connection with Christian things. He's just an ordinary fella, living out his life the best way he knows how.

Frankly, George is one of those guys in life who just likes to enjoy life. If you met him, I'm quite certain that most of the time you would find him to be a rather pleasant fellow.

He actually reminds me, just a little bit, of a couple of ladies I overheard talking a couple, three weeks ago when I had the chance to go to Florida for a meeting. I was riding a shuttle from the airport out to this meeting place where we were. There were two ladies sitting behind me. I'm not a really a good judge of age. I'm guessing them to maybe be in their late twenties or early thirties. They were having this most fascinating of conversations behind me about what they were going to do on their vacation. One, obviously a little more uh hmmmmm, what's a polite term? Well, let's just say that her motto went like this, as she reminded her friend, "What goes on, on vacation, stays on vacation! I don't want to hear about this back in the office."

Well, that was George. He just enjoyed life. I suppose in some ways he's not an atypical kind of person. He reminds me a little, frankly, of the young man over in Springfield that's been on the news here. He showed up at a girl's apartment. She invited him to go to bed. He went to bed. She claimed rape. He is in prison. He didn't go over there intending to do anything, or at least he says he didn't. He just was out living life. It's the way people do. George is like that. George is just one of those ordinary people who's in the process of experiencing the life that we know. Somewhere along the line he became less uninformed, if you will. I don't know exactly how it happened. I think it's just the natural interaction with people in his life. He began to run into some Christians and as he began to become a bit more informed, to experience, if you will, some (oh I don't know a good term for it) revelations from God in the form of other Christian people, I um, he began to discover that, frankly, there were some limits that might be placed on his life; and, he didn't like them. In fact, the more informed he became, it almost became like. . . .well, if you're going to tell me to do that, I don't think I want to do that. It's almost that kind of innate, inherent, rebellious spirit that some of us seem to possess.

Frankly it reminds me a little bit of the Coby Bryant's of the world who say yeah, I know that wasn't a very good thing to do, but. . . . . You know that mental attitude that says it's okay for everybody else, but I'm gonna. . . . . It's the Pete Rose who knows it's not right to bet on baseball . . . . but I'm gonna do it anyway. It's the fella from Enron who says, I know I shouldn't do this but, quite frankly, I want to protect myself. It's that kind of rebellious spirit.

Unfortunately for George, like so many people in our world, that rebellious spirit began to ensnare him and enslave him. It will by the way. It does it to us all. It tends to get into our system; and, the next thing you know we suddenly think we can get free from things; and, actually, we really can't. We just get trapped by them and, frankly, the deception, the deception is amazing. I think probably, of all the things about humanity that impress me the most, (it) is that we are so easily self-deceived.

I ran across this statement that Sophia Loren made in a U.S.A. Today interview back in 1999. She says, "I'm not a practicant but I pray. I read the Bible. It's the most beautiful book ever written. I should go to heaven. Otherwise, it's not nice."

That's the way most human beings are. I'm a pretty good person.

Well George. . . .George unfortunately listened to the voice within him rather than the voice from without; and, the next thing you know George was basically an enslaved person. There were things that he would like to quit doing but he just didn't ever seem to be able to get free from them. And the deception of thinking that he was okay really began to take a toll on his life.

In some ways he reminds me of a friend of mine, Larry. Larry was just a good fella, married, couple of kids. You'd really honestly think that Larry was probably just the best husband you'd ever met. At the time of the fourth pregnancy his wife discovered that she was HIV positive. She went in for testing and realized that she had to get it from somewhere; so, when she talked to Larry he confessed that for the last two or three or four years he'd been living a bisexual lifestyle and he was responsible for her disease. He had it too, they discovered. It's the nature of sin to deceive us like that, to make us think that we're okay we can do this and get away with it. Nobody will ever know. And one day it comes back and haunts us deeply, like it has my friend Larry, who has had to tell his children "I don't think we'll be here when you graduate from high school. We'll probably not be here to walk you down the aisle and answer the question, who gives this woman to be wed?"

That enslavement must be getting more common. I, just out of curiosity, just went out to look to see. Ah! Well, you know about the agencies they're wonderful agencies that we have in our world, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous. I just went out to see what kinds of things were out there. Do you realize that I found a site that lists 100 links to various kinds of addicts anonymous sites? It's enough to make you wonder if we're not an enslaved culture.

Well, George just got worse. Frankly he moved from that just kind of foolish ignorance into this kind of enslavement to his life and it wasn't very long until the natural kinds of consequences of that occurred. He began to be one of those hateful people, whom other people hated, because of the nature of his life. It's just the way that sin takes us away from being a pretty ordinary kind of person. It reminds me just, just a little bit, not exactly, but just a little bit, of the John Mohammed's or the Richard Reid's who would kill and destroy for no apparent reason other than we hate what's going on.

Now, George was never a murderer; but, it was that mental attitude that just talked about hate and maliciousness, and the speech that he began to use about people just became hurtful speech. See, George was in trouble. Because what George was beginning to understand is that life has its consequences. Every decision we make comes back in some way, either good or bad, and we suffer or we are blessed by the choices that we've made. His life was filled with broken relationships, broken trusts, people that used to like him and now weren't sure whether they wanted him around or not. Friends that were not certain that they should invite him over. You know, it's a bit like the whole Pete Rose thing, where you're banished from the very thing you love because of the consequences of your choices. It's the Martha Stewart actions that, one day you think, boy! That was a dumb decision to have made. I don't know if she's guilty or not, but she faces this dilemma. That's the way life is. The things that we do come back and we deal with them over and over again.

The worst part, and the problem is that George didn't know this. George was in trouble with God. Those of us who've been to church, we understand that we know Romans 3:23. We've all fallen short of the glory of God. We're all sinners! Or Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. . . .

George had that kind of problem. George just didn't know it. He tried. I will give him credit he tried. He was the absolute consummate,. . . I'll fix it. . . . .you know. It's kind of that New Year's resolution. . . .I'm gonna lose 10 pounds. . . . .George was good at that. He would have been the walking advertisement for the Nicoderm patch.

Ya know, if you've got to solve the problem, hit it head on, go for it and fix it. And, frankly, he did. He did everything he could to become a better person. It wasn't because he frankly, thought, that he needed it. It's just that the broken relationships and the stuff around him were so troubling, he thought, I gotta do something; so, he went to work to try to improve his life. You can only improve it so much you know!

He reminds me a little bit of a story I read of Max Lucato. When Max was a little boy he didn't like to clean his room very well, but his brother was worse than he. So, when mom came to Max she'd say, You need to clean your room, and Max would say, Come on Mom! And he'd go down and he'd show her his brother's room. And he'd say basically, my room is clean, just look at this. And mom would take him down the hall to her room. Lucato would say, my Mom was clean. You put the word neat in a dictionary and her picture's right there. And he said, it didn't matter how good my room looked, next to Mom's. . . . .

See that's what George didn't realize . . . . is it doesn't matter how well you look next to your neighbor. . . .because your neighbor is not the measure of what it means to be right. The question is, how do you look in connection to God. And it doesn't matter how good we are, does it, because next to that, we all look like we got a messy room.

George had the good fortune, like I did, to run into somebody who was a Christian. He met Jesus, if you will. Oh it wasn't like on the apostle Paul sort of thing thrown down, face down in the sand or anything. He just ran into somebody who knew Jesus, who became his friend and overlooked all of that kind of junk that was going on in his life. Now it took a while. It took a while. But it really did begin to make a difference in his life. See, for a guy who grows up outside the confines of the church, for somebody who really doesn't know a lot about what it means to be a Christian, salvation is kind of a hard thing to understand. In fact the word is just kind of a strange word. I mean, you saw it in the text, right? In fact come back to Titus 3. . . .

Texts like this for people like George are pretty confusing. He says in verse 4. But 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. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Those kinds of things didn't make a lot of sense to George. washing. . .rebirth. . .renewal. . .saving us. But he responded to something very, very genuine that is reflected in a text like that. For the love of God and the kindness of God, our Savior came.

I don't know for sure in George's life which of those it was. For me it was the love of God. I have always been deeply moved by Romans 5 which says, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That's just been a text that's always haunted my life. He so demonstrated his love for us.

My dad, on the other hand, though, frankly, for only an hour or so felt so strongly moved by Romans 2. He wouldn't have known it was Romans 2, but it was this statement, it is the kindness of God that has brought you to repentance. It was God's kindness for him his question when he woke up out of a coma was this. Could God be kind, could God forgive someone who has ignored his kindness as long as I have? I don't know where he came up with that but, it was the kindness.

I don't know for George whether it was kindness, or just what it was; but, there was something about what this text represents that got into his system and he began to be aware that God was the focal point, not him. That God was the one seeking him out, not the other way around. That God was the genuine seeker, looking into the hearts of men and trying to draw people to himself. This text so adequately reflects that very thing. It is God who saved us. He saved us through Christ. It is God, our Savior.

George would have never known how to put that into words, but that was the thing that got into his soul, that God came looking for him.

Now that was hard. It's hard for a lot of people. We grew up in a culture that's not real good about, well at least, in George's era and my father's era it was, pull yourself up by your own boot straps. You don't take help from anybody. George was a lot like my dad in that respect. My dad was a great athlete. Showed up at Idaho State University to run on their track team. Found out somebody else was paying the bill and so he went home. He didn't know what scholarships were, but he was not about to take charity from anybody.

Well that's the nature of humanity in many arenas. If we can't do it ourselves, we're not sure we want to do it and this text is not about us, it's about God, and what God does in us. He's the one who seeks us and saves us. You notice that in the text, right? It was not of anything we had done but what he has done for us. It's an interesting text, this text, because it is so clearly a statement about the way God works in us. There is a washing of regeneration and a renewal by his spirit that is so clearly New Testament baptism language. There is this washing that occurs, this cleansing that happens. It's the John 3 passage that we are born by water and spirit. It's the Acts 2:38 passage, "Repent, be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." It's the Acts 22:16 passage, Arise and be baptized, calling on the name of the Lord, washing away your sins. It's this cleansing that occurs, oh not because of baptism, at the time of baptism. It's through God our Savior and through his Spirit that this all happens.

But you notice in this text, it's really very clear. He saved us through the washing of rebirth. Those two things are connected. And while I wouldn't want to make more out of a baptismal experience than happens to be there, the New Testament is very clear, it's a part of what we do when we respond to the Gospel. It's the point at which we access the blood of Jesus. Its where we identify with what Jesus has done for us and where we participate and at that time there is a cleansing and a renewal that begins to experience in our lives.

This particular verb for those of you who are interested in grammar, is a verb that indicates a one time event. Something that happens at a point in history. There is a renewal that occurs that is instantaneous in the life of a believer.

Paul would word it this way in 2Corinthians 5. . . . .if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. . . . behold all things have passed away and all things have become new. Oh, that doesn't deny that there's an ongoing renewal also, an every day renewal, the kind of thing that Jesus I think, implies, when he says, take up your cross daily and follow me. But there is that moment in time when you make this transition and George did. George made the transition. He gave up. He surrendered to the call of God in his life. He repented of that past lifetime. He was immersed into Jesus and he became a new man. George was no longer just a sinner. He was a sinner saved by grace. But it wasn't the end. It wasn't the end of George anymore than it was the end of Sol of Tarsus who was thrown down on his face on the road on the way to Damascus, only to be baptized by Ananias the Prophet. He immediately then began to preach the text tells us. There is a beginning as well as an end at our conversion experience in George became, not a sinner, but a sinner saved by grace, living in hope. Living, every day, in hope. In hope of a new life in the kind of hope where you learn to live like a new person. The kind of hope where you demonstrate the good works of what it means to belong to Jesus.

I had some friends who had the privilege of being down in Texas here a while back and they thought they would show up at Max Lucato's church. They'd always wanted to hear Lucato preach. They'd read his writings a lot. They went to San Antonio and went to church one Sunday morning. Lucato was gone someplace. They looked up on the stage and there was this enormous tall black preacher. He looked vaguely familiar. His name was David Robinson. He used to play for the San Antonio Spurs. Robinson has been an avowed Christian all of his life and now that he's retired from basketball, he's decided to spend the rest of his life being a preacher. Go Figure!! Doing something good, not that playing basketball wasn't, because he was a great witness for Christ even in that arena. But I think about the people that I know, who in the process of renewal, have just given themselves to that which is good.

I think of my friend Bob Grafe (??), down at Granite City, Illinois. In all honesty, no offense to any of you, because I appreciate many of you deeply. I just have never met a more generous man, I don't think, in my whole life. I'll tell you what, if he found out there was a hole in a bathroom wall, it would be there a half a day. If he found out that there was a screw loose someplace in a building, he'd be there to fix it. If he found that you needed food, he'd have it at your front door. This is just a guy in whom the love of Christ just got oozed out all over everybody. Not a, not obnoxiously. He just filled his life with doing good.

See George. George is living in the hope that life will be different now. He reminds me of people like Pat Bries(??) and David Knockline(??), men who've just so completely allowed God to turn their life around going from one extreme clear to the other kind of extreme. He now lives in the hope of a life that is really life, that is just filled with the joy of being a Christian. It just kind of overflows with the wonder of what it means to live in the peace of knowing that you have a relationship with God. He reminds me a lot of my friend David Reese, who was just this playful Old Testament professor that was a friend of mine. He's the guy that conned me into running. Or, he reminds me of Gary LaRue. Gary was a fella from Oregon. The first church I ever preached in. The first Sunday that Gary ever showed up in church. I had never seen this man before in my life. I'm standing up here waxing(??) eloquently at the pulpit and there's this guy in the very back seat, sitting back there, and I've never seen him before, he's doing this. . . . .with his watch. I'm thinking. . . .who is this guy? I fell in love with him because he just oozed the love of Jesus and the joy of what it meant to be a Christian. He also liked short sermons.

See, George was learning to live in the hope of a life, frankly, that would last forever. In that way he was a bit like my friend Edna Hinsley, who was in her eighties when I met her, and just this godly, loving, older widow lady in the church. She had a stroke. Went to the hospital. And I would go and visit her in the hospital and she would lay there and say, I don't know why Jesus just doesn't take me home. I just want to go home. I didn't understand why he didn't take her either. She lived another several years. But she impacted everybody around her by that wonderful deep godly spirit. Because she had understood in her life long ago what George was just beginning to understand. That you start out a sinner but you're a sinner saved by grace who lives in the hope that life here will be incredible and life there will just be that much better.

George was a sinner, but he became a sinner saved by grace who lived in the hope of forever. And I am strongly suspicious that we've got some Georges sitting here this morning. Some Georges who may be right where George was when he first started hearing things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. And all I can say to you is please, huh. . . .hang in there. The one who comes seeking you will some day make sense to you because he will not give up on you.

And my guess is we have some Georges in here who know exactly what it means to be rebellious and your beginning to experience some of the consequences of your actions. Some of the pain is beginning to really hurt and my friend George would say to you, there's a solution to that; I can help you with that if you're willing to listen. He would say it probably like this, you're not gonna believe me, but what you really need is Jesus. He's right you know. What you really need is Jesus. He's the one who is chasing you who wants you to walk with him. And if you're not George, I'll bet you know one don't you, who just needs someone to do for them what was done for George, what my friend Dan did for me, what somebody did for you, to just come along side you and be Jesus in your life until you meet the real thing.

If you have a decision you need to make this morning, we're inviting you to come. If you don't want to do it here in front of everyone, please come find me when the service is over. Let's talk. Stand with me.