Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Paul brought you face to face with your depravity. You're foolish, disobedient, you're hated and hating, and sometimes y'all we want to skip over this and get to the gospel, but you will never appreciate, you will never weep for joy, you will never be moved to the behaviors that he is telling you to be moved to until you understand the depravity of verse three and the butt God of verse four. Welcome back to Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. When we talk with someone about the gospel, we always want to get to the part about God's love and forgiveness and sing the songs that bring us joy and comfort. It's a whole lot more pleasant than the parts about being dead in our sin and being enemies of God. But today, Pastor J.D. reveals that without the bad news of sin, the good news wouldn't be so good. We are in a new teaching series called Everyday Theology. And as always, you can catch up on all of the previous messages at jdgreer.com. Today's message is taken from Titus chapter three and Pastor J.D. titled it Amazing Grace, Amazing Graciousness.
Let's get started. You have a Bible? I want you to open it to the book of Titus chapter three.
Titus chapter three. As you're turning there, I'll tell you that several years ago, I read a book about being a Christian on a college campus. And it asked one of the most honest and insightful questions that I had ever considered.
And that question was this. Listen, what do you do when you feel like you want your neighbor to go to hell? Randy Newman, the author, explained that many Christians feel a considerable amount of anger toward the cultural around them.
They feel angry at how they seem to constantly be portrayed in the media, how the other side seems to twist reality and get away with it. I'm watching a show right now with my wife. One of the characters on the show is a Christian politician. She is judgmental. She is mean.
She's dumb. And nobody seems to object to the fact that she is presented this way. In fact, some of you feel like the more that a movie or a show does this, the more the critics seem to love it. Or when the news finds somebody to represent the evangelical Christian perspective after a tragedy, I don't know how, but they always seem to find that guy.
You know who I'm talking about. Oh, the reason a tornado came through here is because all the gay people and Democrats that now live in our society. This is the Christian perspective.
I'm like, how did they find that guy? I have a church. The church I pastor has 9,000 Christians that gather on the weekend.
I don't know that guy. I mean, you're probably here somewhere, but you don't make up the majority. You do not make up the prevalent.
Why didn't he talk to any of the other 8,999 people here? A lot of Christians feel anger at always being presented this way. And by the way, I'm not saying that we're the victims of some awful persecution.
I'm just saying this is a feeling that we have of always having a hostile culture looking at us. You are tired of liberal professors rewriting history. You are tired of activist judges redefining morality. You're tired of liberal theologians rewriting the Bible. Or you hear a guy like Christopher Hitchens, who is acknowledged as one of the leading intellectuals in our society say this, faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid. Randy Newman, the author of the book I was telling you about, said, quote, many Christians appear angry in the media because they are angry.
And while we would never really voice this out loud, we had this attitude in our heart of, well, it's okay. You'll get yours one day. You'll get yours one day. It's coming to you. Is anybody, by the way, tracking with this or is this like confessions of a pastor?
I think you know exactly what I'm talking about. In Titus chapter three, Paul talks to a group of people that are in this situation, and he talks about how the gospel reshapes how we feel about people on the outside. They are in a culture that was probably even worse than ours in this sense.
They had been mistreated and misrepresented and outright persecuted. And so Paul talks to them about how you relate to people who dislike you, who misrepresent you. He says this in verse one, remind them, that is the believers, to be submissive to rulers and authorities, even ones that don't share your perspectives, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
That's a key word there, all people, not just Christians, not just people who are nice to you. You show it to everybody, especially your enemies. He tells them to disagree without dishonoring. A great example of this is in the movie that just came out, Selma, that depicts the life of the late Martin Luther King.
Here you've got a guy representing a group in our country who had every right to be angry, but what you see in the movie is Dr. King leading people to be gentle and courteous in response, to return good for evil, not evil for evil, to be both submissive toward government and subversive at the same time, to disagree without dishonoring. That is the command that Paul gives. But I want you to watch what he does next, because this is so classic Paul, that once you learn this pattern, you will see it everywhere in Paul's writing.
Verse three, what's the first word? For or because, and then Paul is about to give one of the clearest, most concise explanations of the gospel found anywhere in all of his letters. Y'all, this is the key to interpreting all of Paul's teaching. Commands always flow out of gospel declarations.
They're never separated. It's not that we do these things and that makes us better people and God approves of us. It's that when we become aware of what God has done for us in Christ, then we become all of these ways that he is describing.
Martin Luther said it this way. Listen, imperatives in the Bible always follow indicative. Now, in case you hadn't been in English class in a while and you just got this image of having to diagram sentences, which is in the third level of hell, then imperatives are commands to do.
Indicatives are statements of declaration. So in other words, imperatives, what God commands us to do, always come out of indicative or declarations of what God has done. The way we say it here is before the gospel tells you to behave or become, it tells you to behold because beholding is the way to become and when you become, you will behave. Beholding makes your heart become righteous and when you become righteous, you will do righteously. So we don't start with behave, we don't even start with become, we start with behold the love of God given for you in the gospel and that will make you become righteous and then you will do righteously. So we will divide this message into two parts. We will divide it into the indicative and the imperative.
We'll look first at the indicative of what Paul declares to us about the gospel and then from that we will see the imperatives of what he wants us to do in response. Verse three, he starts the indicative with a description of us and bad news, it is a really dismal one. Verse three, four, we ourselves were once foolish. We ourselves, you're not talking about people at Hollywood, not talking about people in the news media, he's talking about you. So everybody look at your neighbor right now, look at your neighbor and say, he's talking about you, you're foolish, okay? And they're looking back at you saying the same thing, you're the fool, he's talking about us.
Foolish is a word in Greek meaning ignorant and warped. Literally, our hearts became spiritually stupid, one commentator says. We became moral morons. The Apostle John says that we began to love darkness rather than light.
The light looked dark, the dark looked light, right seemed wrong, wrong seemed right. Paul said in Romans 1 21 that we became twisted in our minds and disordered in our emotions. In other words, what we were supposed to love, we didn't love and what we weren't supposed to love, we did love and things we are supposed to love a lot, we only love a little and things we're supposed to love a little, we loved a lot. The way that Martin Luther would summarize Romans 1 21 is he says, the human heart curved inward on itself. It was created to be outward toward God and others, but it curved inward in selfishness. We were once foolish, we were disobedient. It's not just that our morality got distorted, we disobeyed even those things we knew to be right, right?
So we're not just foolish, we're also disobedient about what we do know to be right. The way that Francis Schaeffer, who was a Christian defender of the faith that died about 50 years ago, he had a great way of describing this, he said imagine, when he was talking to people who weren't Christians, he said imagine when you get to the judgment seat one day that God reveals that there's always been this little invisible tape recorder around your neck. Now in case you don't remember what a tape recorder is, it's a little device that recorded stuff on it. Think of it like if you're doing a voice memo on Siri. Does that communicate? And you say you had an app on your phone and the app was put there by God to run in the background, and here's the key, it only activated whenever you said the word ought.
So whenever you said you ought to, he ought to, they ought to, she ought to, and then it would record what you said and then turn off. Schaeffer said on judgment day, if all God did was play back your ought statements and then judge you by that, there's not a person in any religion anywhere on the planet that would survive that test. We are disobedient to the things that we know to be right, we are led astray.
That's his next word. Our hearts got into a condition that we were susceptible to deception. It's not that we were honestly tricked, we wanted to be tricked. It's like the person who wants to hate somebody else or already does hate somebody else and then finds a bunch of reasons to justify their hatred. People often want to blame their issue on those who influence them, oh I just hung out with the wrong crowd, that was my downfall. Well the reason you hung out with the wrong crowd is because you like the wrong crowd better than the right crowd. It's not that you hung out with the wrong crowd, it's that you were the wrong crowd.
That's why you chose to make your friends the wrong crowd instead of the right crowd, so don't blame the crowd, blame yourself. We were born with a disposition toward the wrong which makes us so deceivable. We see this in our kids, don't we? Nobody gets up on a Saturday morning and their fifth grader has cleaned the entire house, they're sitting there with their bible open journaling saying I need to surrender more of my life to the Lord. As a parent you get up and you're like who set the backyard on fire?
Don't point at your two-month-old sister, she could not have done that, that had to have been you. Nobody had to teach my kids to lie, none of your kids taught my kids to lie, I never set my kids to disrespect camp. They just got all that stuff naturally, yes others have influenced them negatively but all that stuff comes right out of their hearts. You're listening to Summit Life with JD Greer and a message titled Amazing Grace Amazing Graciousness. You know you often hear it from us here but one of our goals in providing this daily program is to equip everyone who listens to Summit Life to be disciple making disciples and developing healthy spiritual disciplines is an important part of that. So as an added resource this month we've created a pack of memory verse cards to help you learn and recall God's Word in a fresh way this year. It's sort of like a nice deck of cards and with 52 of them it's designed for you to learn a new verse each week of 2023. Imagine getting to the end of the year and having that many scriptures committed to your mind. Memorizing scripture though can go beyond just your own personal growth. It can give you a great opportunity to encourage others to fight temptation, renew their minds and conform more to the person of Christ. Be a disciple making disciple this year by incorporating this practice into your daily walk with God.
Give us a call today at 866-335-5220 or go online to jdgreer.com to reserve your set. We are slaves that's his next phrase to various passions. Our separation from God left a gap in our hearts that made us dependent on other things. Blaise Pascal famously described it by saying that the absence of God the absence of the love of God left a God-shaped void or literally in French a vacuum.
Nature abhors a vacuum so all of our lives are spent trying to put things into that vacuum to cover up what we lost when we lost the love of God. It's like drowning. When you drown you don't die from holding your breath.
When you drown what happens is you can't hold your breath anymore under water and so you breathe in water. The same thing happens spiritually. You were created to breathe in the glory and the love of God and when you are no longer doing that your soul begins to crave other things and you have to breathe in something so just like the drowning man breathes in water the sinful person breathes in idols and they become slaves to passion. The biggest lie in our culture is that rejecting God's laws leads to freedom.
It is exactly the opposite. When you reject God you become addicted to or slaves to other passions. Lewis used the example that I've shared with you multiple times of the fish who wants to be free of the ocean and jumps out onto the shore. He's not free from the ocean.
At that point he can no longer live. You and I were created to breathe in the glory of God. We spiritually cannot hold our breath so when we do not have the love of God in the right place we become slaves to any and everything else. It is the absence of the love of her heavenly father for example that makes the high school girl the slave of the attention of boys.
So I always say they become many of them become serial daters where there's never been any you can't point to four collective days since middle school that they have not been in pursuit of or pursued by a boy. It is the college guy's sense of alienation from his heavenly father that makes him a slave to other people's opinions. You are created to hear well done my son from God and when that is no longer there then you look for from anybody anybody else who will give it to you. It is often the absence of purpose and identity in Christ that creates a craving that enslaves you to your bodily desires.
Things like pornography and alcohol or maybe it's just amusements and new toys and hobbies. It is the absence of the purpose that God was supposed to give you that leads you to those things because your soul cannot hold its breath. You have to breathe in the fulfillment of these false idols. So then we passed our days in malice and envy hated by others and hating one another. Whenever you put something or someone else in the place of God listen to this you end up hating it whenever it inevitably disappoints you. Jonathan Edwards the American theologian would say it this way what you idolize inevitably you demonize.
I know it's ironic but that's just the way it works. You put so much weight onto something when you idolize it that it collapses under the weight that you put on it and you hate it. That's why some of the things you've longed for most in your life became the very thing that you hated. I'll give you an example that's why marriages that start out so well often go bitter. It's why the really the plot line to every romantic comedy that I've ever seen is ultimately based on a kind of foolishness because the basic idea is once you find him or her Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong then everything in life is going to go rosy from that point on.
You can look at the marriages in Hollywood and tell that's not true because what happens listen is you find somebody that is so right but then you put all your soul's weight on them and they cannot sustain it. Here's how I have summarized the plot line of most of these romantic you know comedies is you got a guy floating in a sea of loneliness and despair low self-esteem and a long body floats a five foot four blonde headed life preserver. What's a drowning man do when he sees a life preserver? He clings to it.
He begins to suffocate the life out of it. He makes statements to it like you complete me you know and that kind of stuff and then he ends up hating her and her him because he is looking through her for something that she was not designed to give him. If you idolize family if your idea of the of happiness in life is that your family is all together and tight and close you end up becoming bitter and self-pitying when your family disappoints you or maybe you hate your spouse because they messed up your family. I'm talking to some people that cannot forgive an ex-spouse and by the way inability to forgive is a form of hate the reason you cannot forgive that ex-spouse is because they destroyed something that you had always yearned for and that is this perfect sense of family. You hate others you are hated by others your kids resent you because your idolization of family causes you to always try to control them and they chafe under that and they resent you.
You're hated by others you're hating one another what you idolize you demonize when you put something in the place of God it puts you into a place where your soul shrivels you become guarded and hateful toward anybody or anything who threatens it. A great picture of this is J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings with and you've probably already thought of this the ring right the ring the ring represents the thing that you so want and you become like Gollum my precious you know and I gotta hurt or destroy anybody that comes in the way of me and my precious. That picture Tolkien gave us was supposed to be a picture of your soul. Do you know that shortly after Tolkien published the last of the Lord of the Rings in the 1950s a woman wrote to him and said I loved your books but I have to say there was one part I found completely unbelievable. He said why the dark lord would ever have put so much power in a ring that was vulnerable and susceptible to being destroyed she said that doesn't make any sense and that would never happen.
Tolkien writes her back and says I know it's unbelievable but that was supposed to be a picture of what every single human being does. You are the dark lord ma'am you are the one and I am the one who finds something that we put all of our hope all of our sense of happiness all of our sense of identity in it might be the praise of others it might be money it might be any number of things and then we guard that with our life and it makes our soul shrivel and we become exactly what Paul describes there in Titus chapter three verse three. You see a lot of us want to kind of look at us ourselves as basically good people we're basically good we got a couple bad spots like a banana that God's got to kind of cut out we got you got a few rough spots he's got a got a got a you know sand down that is not how Paul presents you. Sin did not just hurt you it corrupted you it killed you.
God has a thousand reasons to condemn us. One of my favorite literary depictions of this is Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Anybody remember reading this you might have read it in high school? The Picture of Dorian Gray. A young handsome man named Dorian Gray decides that he's going to have his portrait painted. It's a beautiful painting he's a beautiful man. As he gazes at his finished portrait he thinks I know I'm going to age if only I could trade places with this painting and if the painting would age and I would stay the same.
Well he gets his wish. He remains a handsome young socialite while the portrait hidden away in his attic begins to do the aging. The portrait also begins to bear, Wilde says, the consequences of the real man's behavior. So for example when Dorian makes a cruel comment the mouth of the portrait twists into a cruel grin. Dorian nurses hatred for a rival and so the eyes in the portrait narrow into rage. Eventually Dorian murders a man and the hands of the portrait begin to drip blood. When Dorian finally recognizes that the terrible portrait represents his true inner self he despises the painting so much that he slashes it with a knife.
Later a servant finds that the portrait is in the attic and it's vanished and Dorian Gray himself lies dead on the floor with a knife through his own heart. This is what Paul says has happened to you. That what sin did is it corrupted you, it destroyed you, it made you dislike yourself, it made you become self-justifying, it withered your soul. Well how was your day at church?
We heard a talk on eternal damnation and while we all deserve it how was yours? But can't you admit, can't you at least admit that there is a problem? And don't you know that there's a problem and the problem is deep in your heart? Andy Stanley heard him talk about something like this and he said for those of you that really have an objection with this just ask yourself this. He says you know that as you get old one of the keys to a successful life is learning to filter things and your filter is supposed to get better as you get into your 30s and 40s. He said when you were young and you were like in love you were infatuated with somebody and you first getting to know them. You ever play that game he asked you ever play that game of the what are you thinking right now? Remember that?
What are you thinking right now? You tell him. He says you learn not to play that in marriage because if they ask you that you might say how much weight have you actually gained?
That's what I was thinking. He says we learn to fill. He said how would it be if at every point someone could read out the thoughts that are in your heart and just put them on display? Sin wiped us out and Paul calls that spiritual death. We are dead in our sin verse 4 but that is a huge but and yes I know exactly what that sounds like but the beauty of the gospel is in that word but. See you got to notice that before Paul gets there he brought you face to face with your depravity. You were foolish, disobedient, you were hated and hating and sometimes you always want to skip over this and get to the gospel but you will never appreciate you will never wonder at the beauty of the gospel until you understand your depravity.
You will never weep for joy. You will never be moved to the behaviors that he is telling you to be moved to in verses one and two until you understand the depravity of verse three and the butt god of verse four. Spurgeon would say it this way too many of us think too lightly of sin and that's why we think too lightly of the savior. The one who weeps for joy in hearing the gospel, the one who extravagantly pours out his possessions in response is the one who believes he has stood before his god with the noose of condemnation rightfully around his neck and before he is condemned heard the voice that says I will take that noose and I will wear it in your place. He said that is the one who will joyfully offer his life in response to god.
So we cannot skip over this part. I know it's not positive and encouraging. I know it's not going to get me a gig on Oprah when we go through verse three but you understand listen that that is where the beauty of the gospel starts. The butt god comes in response to your depravity. That's why Francis Schaeffer who I quoted earlier said this way. He said if I only had one hour to talk to a person who knew nothing about the bible I had one hour I would spend the first 50 minutes trying to convince them of their sinfulness and only the last 10 minutes talking to them about the gospel because they will never understand the gospel. They will never appreciate the gospel. They will never weep for joy at the gospel until you understand what an amazing word that word in verse four butt is. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our savior appeared he saved us. He saved us. Jesus did it all for us. He lived a life we couldn't live ourselves and he died the death that we deserved. We just have to accept this amazing grace from God. Encouraging words today from Pastor JD Greer here on Summit Life. Would you agree that we need a weapon to keep us from falling prey to the enemy? After all he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for people to destroy.
So what is that most valuable weapon? Well of course it's the word of God. That's why we have to keep putting it into our hearts so that when life cuts us we bleed the scriptures. If you want to carry God's promises in your heart our new Summit Life memory verse cards make it easier to memorize scripture. We'll send you the scripture memory card set as an expression of thanks when you donate today to support Summit Life. We are always thankful for our partners in this ministry those who give one time as well as those who commit to a regular monthly gift. So thank you in advance for your support of this mission. Ask for your set of memory verse cards when you give today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or you can give online at jdgreer.com. That's jdgreer.com.
I'm Molly Vidovich. I am so glad that you joined us today and make sure to come back tomorrow as we continue this series called Everyday Theology. Listen Thursday to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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