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Living Between the Times . . . Influenced by His coming
Scripture: Titus 2:11-14
Track 1 of 9 in the Living as disciples in the "here and now" series
Running time: 27 minutes, 26 seconds.
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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, January 4, 2004
"Living Between the Times. . .Influenced by His Coming"
Living as Disciples in the "here and now"
(Titus 2:11-14 )
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

So what's the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian? If you listen to and believe the polls that are taken, not much! Christians get divorced just as often as non-Christians. They have approximately the same amount of abuse in their homes as non-Christians. They give to charity about the same level as the rest of the world. So if you believe the reports, there isn't a lot of tell tale signs of a great deal of difference just simply because you have, in some way, identified Christ in your life. But there should be, shouldn't there?

One of the things that intrigues me about the comment that Jesus makes about his disciples and the disciples of others in the world. He says, there like this. Here's the phrase. Not so among you. You should be different, Jesus says. It's a troubling kind of thing to try to wrestle with what it means to try to live in the world and be a Christian and actually be different than anybody else that's out there. To live, somehow, in the light of his coming as if his coming has made a difference. So for the next six or seven weeks we're gonna concentrate on that. We're gonna look at the book of Titus and we're just gonna ask ourselves, what does it mean to live where we live, when we live and be different.

If you want to look at Titus, let's just highlight one of multiple contrasts that will show up in this particular book. Titus 1:12 This is the comment that one of the poets, the prophets, the Cretans said about themselves, about their own culture. Paul quotes them saying even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." That's their description. That's how he would culturally describe what it meant to live on the island of Crete in the first century. That's the nature of their social structure. Now go to Chapter 2 and listen to what Paul says to Titus, this young preacher. Titus, he says, You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Now note some of the things that are to happen. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.

He's gonna talk in verses 9 and 10 of slaves and masters. Do you note the contrast? Cretans are always lazy, evil, gluttons. On the other hand, Titus, teach the Christians to be self-controlled, temperate, worthy of respect. Do you hear the contrast that Titus is trying to create here That Paul is trying to create for Titus? The church should be different than the rest of the world.

So what accounts for the difference? Why would we be different? What would ever make that either desirable or even possible? Look at the first word in Chapter 2:11 This to me is the crux text of this entire book. Chapter 2:11. Your translation probably says, For, because, for this reason variety of translations. It's a little word that simply connects this paragraph with the last paragraph in a form that says this is the reason for everything I just got done saying. Do all of these things because because of what? look carefully now. Because the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Do you hear the reason? In the light of his coming. Oh literally in this text in the light of his comings. Both of them are in this text. It's one of two places in the New Testament where both the first and the final coming of Jesus show up in the same context. And so he says, because we can appreciate the grace of God, we are different. And we live appreciating his coming.

Verse 11 and 14: . . .the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Verse 14: . . .who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own. . . .

That's the first coming by the way, in case you didn't notice that. The terminology is abundantly clear, the grace of God has appeared. That word has only appeared nine times, ten times in the New Testament. Nine out of the ten times it refers to either the first or the final coming of Jesus. . . .the grace of God has appeared ought to solicit in your mind at least one reference that ought to come automatically from John 1. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, glories only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

The grace of God has appeared and he has brought salvation with him and he's appeared to us all, making salvation available because he has redeemed us, because he has purified us, because he has made us as special possession, we should be different out of gratitude as we appreciate this incredible thing that God has done for us. Verse 14 says he has redeemed us he has bought us back.

Some of you will remember you're old enough. I hate to tell you that, but you are. I know you are because I'm old enough to remember the days of S&H Green Stamps but those were not particularly important in our family because we didn't get S&H Green Stamps. I don't remember, I think it was Bensen & Hedges, but I'm not absolutely certain. But those of you who have any kind of recollection of those days realize that cigarette company also gave stamps. Those I know about because we collected those by the hundreds. I came from a family of smokers. I remember as a young child looking through the catalog. What could you get by redeeming the stamps and then I would jokingly tell my parents, I wish there was a casket in here because one day you're going to need them. They didn't find humor in that but it was my child-like way of saying, I'd really appreciate it if you didn't smoke around me. Thank you very much. I don't want to die of cancer just because you do.

Redemption! They gave you the stamps and then they bought the stamps back from you. They redeemed them. God made us. He created us and then he turned around and bought us back. He has redeemed us for himself and purified us. He has cleansed us. He has taken the stuff out of us that doesn't belong in us. And then, one of Dr. Zoren's favorite words, in fact Dr. Zoren likes this word so well it's on his license plate. He's our Old Testament professor at Lincoln. His license plate is Sagula. Now, I know how to spell it in English. I have no idea how to spell it in Hebrew, nor does the license bureau because it's written in English on his license plate. But I know what it means because it comes out of the Old Testament and it's such a clear statement that God has a people of his very own. This redemptive act in the coming of Jesus has made us literally, Sagula, God's special people. He's called us up and so we live in the light of his coming, his first coming and it ought to make some kind of a difference as we appreciate the salvation that it brings. But this text, interestingly enough has his final coming in it as well. You notice that in verse 13. We anticipate the glory of God when Jesus Christ appears. There's that word again. It appears twice in this text out of the ten times that it occurs in the whole New Testament. Christ comes back to get his people and that results for us for one thing, in hope. Of all the things that ought to characterize Christian people, it ought to be that they live in hope.

But that also give them purpose while we wait. It's an ongoing activity. There's some things that happen while we're in the process of waiting. This eager anticipation gives us something of a purpose while we're in that process. And you recognize, of course, that the only way to endure to the end of anything is in hope it's having a purpose.

There's a wonderful little book out there. Some of which you might not enjoy as much as other parts called Odessa File. It's a fictional story about a man in WWII. To save you reading a whole lot of pages, they found him dead in an apartment building and when they retrieved the body, he had tattooed himself all the way from his toes up to his thighs and as they began to read the tattoo, it was the ongoing story of life as a Jewish exile in the Holocaust. As the story begins to unfold, there comes a point in the story where he's in a prison camp and they are murdering the Jews around him and as one of his best friend's is dying, he says to him "Live long enough to tell our story." And so this man does some absolutely unbelievable things to stay alive for one reason. To tell the story.

If you believe that Jesus is coming. If you understand the hope of his return, it will keep you doing that which God desires you to do because hope gives you that kind of purpose. So we live, appreciating the first coming, anticipating the glory that is going to come in the future but verse 12 says we live in the present age demonstrating during that time between the first and the final coming, this present age, demonstrating the good works of God. Did you notice that in verse 14, that we are to be zealous for good works during this present age. That too, will be a dominant theme in the book of Titus.

Just quickly look at Chapter 3. Look at verse 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. Notice verse 14. Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good. . . .and so in this present age the Christian is characterized by a life of good works.

Well, what's the point of this whole text? Disciples live like disciples. They don't live like the rest of the world. Being a Christian makes a difference in the way you live, or it should. Now, I'm not talking about legalism. I've been a part of churches where the rules are very clear. This is what it means to be Christian. I don't think that's what Paul's driving at, but he is talking about, well here's the big bible word for it, sanctification. He talking about that ongoing process where we become more and more set apart for God. We become more and more different as he invades our life and changes us. The other word that we use around here for it is discipleship. We become more like Christ. That is our goal you know. To be a community of faith where every member looks like Jesus. That disciple-I N G process that we're all supposed to be a part of is what the whole Christian life is about.

So, let me make two observations here. We live in the here and now, not the there and then. This isn't about what it was like in the first century. This isn't what it was like in 1950 or 70 or 90. This is what it's like to be a Christian in 2000 and now 4. To try to figure out how to live in my world complete with our own set of personal issues this present age in this present time in the here and the now, does it make any difference that you're a Christian as opposed to something else? So I thought, what better way to talk about the present age than to just ask what's going on in our world.

Saturday's paper. . . . sorry, couldn't get there Sunday morning. Didn't have time to take care of that. . .the roads. . .well, you probably know the roads were icy and all that. Ah. . .just glancing at the stuff in the paper. Female Soldiers in Iraq is the big headline. So here's my question. Does it make any difference to you as a Christian, the way you approach this war in Iraq? Oh, I don't have any doubt that a couple of weeks ago when you were watching the news like I was watching the news on Sunday morning you said a great big thank you to God because Saddam had been caught. I just can't imagine you not being grateful that's been done. But have you (and I'm asking this because it's difficult) have you been praying, not that we would find him, but that Jesus would find him? Because as a Christian, that might be more important. I know that we have prayed that this war would get over and we all grieve when we read the statistics about how many of our, well, in fact, seven women have been killed in combat and we hate that, but have you asked how many Iraqi women have been killed and their fami. . . . .and have you prayed for. . . . . if you were a Christian, does it make any difference the way you might approach that headline in the here and the now?

The next headline over is the Ethanol Plant. I don't know anything about ethanol except it uses corn and that will help the farmers. It's probably good for the economy. But does the Christian. . . . does being a Christian make any difference at work? Does the way you conduct yourself as an employee at Applebees or the Home Depot or the Ethanol Plant, does being a Christian make any difference in the way you approach work? The way you spend your time, the energy that you invest, the truthfulness with which you speak, the honesty with which you behave, the value that you might place on somebody else's life. . . . . .

Well, you could come down here a little further. . . . .you could read this. . . .oh, here's one. This is a good one. . . .Quincy Notre Dame Coming Off It's First Loss That's unfortunate by the way. They lost to a nationally ranked team over at Bloomington at the State Farm Tournament. Otherwise, they would have been the champions. Does being a Christian make any difference about the way you behave in the stands? Having been to several basketball games, not here, but in Lincoln, I can tell you this. Not often does it make any difference. The question is, should it? As a ball player, does it make a difference that you're a Christian? All I'm asking is this simple question. Does being a disciple make a difference in the here and now, not in the theoretical, not in the hope things are better some where but, in the right now, every day when I go to work, when I go out to lunch this afternoon, will it make a difference that I am a disciple.

Well, we could just walk through the paper. We could just find all kinds of interesting things that we could look at. Well, ah, I don't have time to read them all, so how about on the obituary page. Does it make a difference that you're a Christian, the way you face death in the here and now?

How about this one? I was really fascinated by this one. This is the a. . . .well, I won't tell ya the business, because I don't want to be guilty of advertising, but there's a big screen TV on sale just in time for the Superbowl. Does being a Christian have anything to do with your entertainment? What you choose to allow yourself to be amused by. . . . .what you do or don't allow into your home. . .into your own life. . . .into your own psyche. I'm just asking this question, does being a disciple this is not about me giving you a set of rules this is not about the church having some kind of bylaw that you're supposed to follow this is about living in the light of his coming in the here and the now including our own personal circumstances. What does the fact that I am a disciple have to do with my life right here? Not hypothetically, but even the way I'll drive down the road when I leave this building.

Well, a second observation. We not only live in the here and now, we live with a yes and a no. Did you read the text carefully because it's right here? It's very, very clear. . . . . . when Jesus came, Jesus teaches us. In fact the word is, he is teaching us. He goes on teaching us. He teaches us to say yes to certain things, to affirm certain things. He says, for example, that we're to affirm self control. Now that stands opposite of the Cretans doesn't it? They were lazy, evil brutes, gluttons. He says I want you to be self-controlled. In a world where people fly off the handle, shoot other people, drive their cars into people's houses in a world where self control is almost non-existent, would it be possible for the church to stand out because the church has taught us how to keep ourselves under his control so that we don't lose our temper with one another, so that we don't back stab one another, so that when we do have anger with somebody we deal with it biblically, Christianly. Would it be possible for us to recognize that in Christ I have responsibility for me. I am not a victim of anybody else. Oh, I may have been at some point in my life, victimized, but I will never allow myself to see myself as the victim. I will take control of my choices.

He says that we're to be upright. That's a social term. Has to do with the way we relate to one another. That we will relate to each other that is Godly. If we have a problem with each other, we'll talk to each other. We'll do it with some sensitivity and saneness. It means we'll treat each other justly, that we will not cheat each other, that we will not lie to one another. The language of this text is that we will know how to relate to each other in such a way that we will have justness in our relationships. We can trust each other. Our words mean something. And of course he says we're to behave in a godly fashion, which stands directly opposite of what he says to say NO to. Once he says you are told to affirm to say YES to certain things you are to say NO to ungodliness and worldly passion.

Those are fascinating terms that we don't have time today to unpack, but it has not just to do with your actions, it has primarily to do with your imagination. Because one of the things that has to happen in the life of a Christian is we have to bring control, not just to what we do, but to what we think, to what we participate in, but what we imagine ourselves participating in. Because there are a great many of us sitting in this room who would never, ever allow ourselves to participate in some kinds of activity, but we don't have any qualm at all about letting our imagination go there.

The phrase that often comes out of a young man's mouth is, it doesn't hurt to look. Yes it does! There's as much unfaithfulness with the eye as there is physically. In fact, there's as much unfaithfulness that goes on in the mind's eye as there is any place else. In fact, some of you know that we live in anticipation and of what we might see as much as what we do see.

Well, the point is, disciples live like disciples and one of the things that we want to try to do over the next several months is just ask, what does that mean? How does it affect us? What does it mean to live in the here and the now, saying YES and saying NO, we're asking for you to commit yourself this year to live in the light of his coming. To let the first and the final coming of Jesus make a difference for you. To live recognizing that you are a forgiven person, reflecting on your past and understanding I have been forgiven and because I am a forgiven person, there are just some things I will not do. Live like a hopeful person in the anticipation of the coming of Jesus. Oh, not as a threat. You know, sometimes we live as if the coming of Jesus is a threat like the boss may come around the corner and catch us with our feet on the desk. It ought to be a joyous anticipation that the Lord is gonna return and he's gonna find us faithfully doing the thing that he has called us to do.

We're calling you to live like disciples and that means making the kinds of choices that disciples make to become more like Jesus. To live in this present age, in the here and the now, saying Yes and saying No and becoming more like Jesus. That will be the challenge.

Now, we've been after you to make some very specific decisions, like plugging in to a small group study or getting into an adult discipleship. If those are not the answer for you, I'm not gonna harass you and harangue about it, I'm just going to ask, are you growing as a disciple? Are you becoming more like Jesus? Has his coming made a difference in your life?

Let's stand and sing.