Today on Summit Life with JD Greer. You don't get distracted. You don't go other directions. You focus on the cross. That's what Paul is saying in Titus. Go deep in the cross.
Go always deeper because it is in the gospel. It is in the glory of who God is and what he's done that all the beauties of the Christian life begin to come out. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian JD Greer.
As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Okay, for those who've been going to church for a while, let me ask you an honest question. Doesn't it seem that phrases like resurrection, salvation, and born again can seem a little bit worn out at times?
And as a result, we can sometimes lose sight of how incredibly powerful they really are. Today, pastor JD calls us to take a fresh look at the glory of the gospel and what these words truly mean for us as believers. It's part of our teaching series called Everyday Theology.
And if you've missed any of the previous messages, you can find them at jdgreer.com. Let's join pastor JD with part two of a message he titled Amazing Grace, Amazing Graciousness. Titus chapter three, 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. 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. So in other words, imperatives, what God commands us to do, always come out of indicative or declarations of what God has done.
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, for we ourselves were once foolish. Literally, our hearts became spiritually stupid. We disobeyed even those things we knew to be right.
We were 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. It is often the absence of purpose and identity in Christ that creates a craving that enslaves you to your bodily desires. Sin did not just hurt you, it corrupted you, it killed you. Sin wiped us out, and Paul calls that spiritual death. We are dead in our sin, verse four, but that is a huge but. But see, you've got to notice that before Paul gets there, he brought you face to face with your depravity, your foolish disobedience.
You were 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 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 but God of verse four. 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 but God comes in response to your depravity. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God, our Savior appeared, he saved us. He saved us.
He was the only actor. It wasn't that I did my best and he kind of came in and graded on the curve. No, he did it all. You're like, what was my part of salvation? I did all the sinning. He did all the saving. He's not in verse three.
I'm not in verse four. What part was my salvation? Did I have to be good and do my best and then he'll just took care of the rest?
No, from start to finish, it was his work and it has to be received as a gift. It's almost, I heard it described like if you just suddenly woke up in the back of an ambulance, you had no idea how you got there, but there are tubes sticking out of you everywhere and you got a mask on and there's an EMT standing over you who says you were in a terrible wreck and you were unconscious and you were about to die, but we saved your life. You're going to be okay. He is not inviting you to get up and start helping to save yourself. He just basically says you just got to lie there because I'm doing it all for you.
What happens in conversion is suddenly you wake up to the news that Jesus Christ has saved you 2,000 years ago and he doesn't ask you to help save yourself. He just says lie there and let me do it because I am going to do it all. He saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness. He does it according to his own mercy.
Mercy literally means that God withholds from us that thing that we do we deserve. He didn't give it to me because I was better than the person on my right or my left. He didn't give it to me because I was smarter. He didn't look at me and say that one's got potential. He looked at me and said love. It wasn't goodness in my heart or potential in my life. It was love in his.
It was mercy. He did it by the washing of regeneration. Washing means that he cleanses us from the stains of sin. In the New Testament, the picture of this is leprosy. When Jesus would heal lepers, he was giving us a picture of how he would remove the stain of sin. You think in the Old Testament of Naaman. Naaman was a guy who was covered with leprosy from head to toe. He comes to Elisha, the prophet, and Elisha says you have to dip in the Jordan River seven times. On the seventh time he comes up and his skin is like the skin of a baby. This was a picture for us of what Jesus would do by putting people underneath his blood that when they came up in faith, gone from their soul was the stain of sin.
We even sing about it, don't we? There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain. The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day and there may I the vile as he wash all my sins away. What the hymn writer is saying is there is no difference between the thief and the person in church.
They're both vile and covered with leprosy and the blood of Jesus cleanses them both by the washing of regeneration. By the way, that's pictured for us in baptism. You know that in baptism it's not washing dirt off of you and that's what saves you.
I mean, of course not. That's Durham City tap water. You're dirtier when you come up than when you went down, but it's a picture of how sinners plunged beneath the blood of Jesus lose all their guilty stain. The washing of, this is even better, regeneration. That's a really powerful and explosive word in Greek. Controversial. Palinganesia was the word.
Here's why it's controversial. It was a term the Greek philosophers had invented to describe reincarnation. Greek philosophy believed that the world would corrupt, get better, corrupt, get better.
It was just this cycle. And what Paul does is he takes their word and said, nope, that regeneration you were looking for, that happened one time in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the power that would make the world new comes into you when you believe on Jesus. Greek philosophers, when they read Titus, they would have gone nuts because he just took their word. They'd be like, that's not your word. It's our word.
Paul's like, nope, it's God's word. And what God is going to do is take the power that is going to make the world new again, that will remove the curse from the world, that will take away tsunamis and pain and cancer. And he puts it in you now when you believe on Jesus.
Tim Keller calls it time travel because it is the regeneration that God is going to one day apply to the whole earth. He puts in you now when you trust in Christ. Listen, do not ever underestimate the power of the new birth and what it can do in you. There is no addiction. There is no sin. There is no stain that that regeneration that brought Jesus out of the grave cannot begin to work in you.
There is no sense ever in life that somebody is hopeless because God says, behold, I make all things new. You know, the people that God built the church on the backs of, guys like Peter and Paul, these were deeply flawed individuals. Very different, in fact. Peter was a coward. He's a guy with a big mouth that would crumble as soon as he got any kind of pressure. Paul, Paul was harsh. Paul was condemning. You wouldn't have liked to have been friends with Paul.
But look at what God did with these guys. Peter became so bold that he would be crucified upside down. Paul would actually write something so beautiful that most of you hadn't read in your weddings. First Corinthians 13.
If you'd known Paul when he was a young man, that is the last guy you would want to write you something about love. But see, what the gospel does is it takes the selfish and the bitter and it makes them loving. It takes the cowardly and it makes them brave. It takes the addicted and it makes them self-controlled. It takes those who are abusive and it makes them fountains of generosity. He breaks the power of canceled sin.
He sets the prisoner free. The blood of Jesus washed away the penalty of your sin. The resurrection of Jesus shatters the power of sin in your life. Renewal, he says, of the Holy Spirit.
That's a great word too. Renewal, made new again. Our hearts are retrained for righteousness. In Titus 2 11, Paul used the word training. We're trained in righteousness. The word training is the word paideia. Paideia doesn't mean trained like imparted knowledge.
Training that way means maturity or strengthening like you would do to a child or like you would do to an atrophied muscle. That's why we say you don't need to turn over a new leaf. You need the infusion of new life.
You need not a resolve to do better. You need a resurrection into life, new life power. Couldn't we all use encouragement first thing in the morning to remind us of God's love, his promises, and his guidance? I know the busyness of life can quickly erode any joy that we feel in our walk with God.
So why not shore up those foundations each morning with a word from the Lord? The devotionals even follow along with our current teaching here on the program so you can stay plugged into Summit Life regardless of your schedule. Sign up for this free resource right now at J.D. Greer dot com slash resources. That's J.D. G.R.E.E.A.R.
dot com slash resources. Now let's return for the conclusion of today's message. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Verse six, and God poured out that on us richly through Jesus Christ, our savior, so that being justified by his grace. You see, whereas mercy was God withholding from us what we did deserve, grace is him pouring out on us what we do not deserve. That's why he uses words like richly and poured out because it's this fountain that just gives you everything. It's free for you, but it cost him all. He had to go to the cross for it.
You remember the definition of grace, G.R.A.C.E., God's riches for you at Christ's expense. He continues on, in verse seven, so that we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life, as if there was not enough. Jesus said, not only do you get all this, you actually get Jesus's inheritance.
It becomes yours. I heard a true story a few years ago about a rich man who had his wife died when they gave birth, when she gave birth to their first son. He never remarried. The son was the apple of his eye, the love of his life. When his son was 17 years old, he died in a car wreck.
The man lived a few years after that, and then he died. He didn't have many close relatives, so they were going to auction off all of his estate to whoever wanted to buy it. They held this big auction.
Because he was so wealthy, people from miles around came to bid on things. The auctioneer gets up, and the first thing he does is he pulls out a portrait that had been painted of this man's son just a few weeks before he died. He said, this is the first thing up for auction, so I will accept bids on this.
It was a very personal painting. Nobody really thought it had a need for it, so it was sort of an awkward silence. Until finally, after a couple minutes of silence, the servant, the guy that had worked at his house, his housekeeper, raised his hand and said, I'll take that. He said, what's your bid? He said, I'll give 20 bucks for it. The guy said, okay, $20 is the bid. Do I hear a second? $20 going once, $20 going twice.
Sold. Brings down the gavel. Picks the gavel back up, brings it down a second time, and said, auction's over.
People are confused. They're like, yeah, let me read you this man's will. It says very clearly, he who takes the son takes everything. So the entire estate goes to this servant because he has the son. What Paul is telling you is that when you got Christ, you not only got forgiveness, you not only got the power of new life, you got every single thing God had to offer. That everything was in the son. That all the promises of almighty God, all the future, everything that is beautiful in God's heart is now your possession because it is in Christ. It was poured out on you richly, not because of works of righteousness, but solely because of his grace. That's Paul's statement of declaration.
That's the indicative. Then he says, listen, you got to catch this. Paul just didn't give a little doctrinal lesson. Paul says, I told all that as an explanation for why you were supposed to do a couple things. So what are the imperatives? Well, I see an imperative for an unbeliever, and I see an imperative for a believer. Let's talk about the imperative for the unbeliever first. The imperative for the unbeliever is you must be born again. That's the imperative is there is no other way for you to save yourself, not by works of righteousness.
It's got to be a gift that he's given to you. You see the gospel is that Jesus Christ did what you could not do. He suffered the penalty of sin in your place. There's only two ways to pay for sin effectively.
One is you spend eternity in hell paying for it. The other is Jesus pays for it in your place. There's only one way that you can have new life, and it's by overcoming the grave, and there's only one who's ever done that, and that is the resurrection of Jesus. It is when you trust in Christ that you get the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. You must be born again. What I find is that many people confuse, listen to this, Christian conversion with moral reformation. They think they're going to come to church, and they're going to become a better person, and they're going to start going to church more, and they're going to sin less.
Christian conversion could not be more different than moral reformation. With moral reformation, you see you're mostly good. God looks at you, and he sees the bad spot in the banana. He sees the rough spot.
He's going to sand it down, and he's going to do it. He sees some potential in you. With Christian conversion, nope, because sin did not knock you down onto God's JV team. It didn't put you on probation. It didn't put you on a slower track to get to your mansion in heaven, and Jesus is going to be your turbo boost. Sin wiped you out.
It killed you. I saw people look at me, and they say, oh, Jesus is just a crutch. I'm like, Jesus is not a crutch. He's a stretcher because you can't even limp into heaven without Jesus. He picked me up, and he put me on the stretcher, and he carried me in.
It's all him. With moral reformation, you're in charge. With moral reformation, you're in charge. You decide what to do. You decide how far to go. You decide what the goals are.
You strive to achieve them. Receiving the power of the kingdom of God is something that's done to you. You have no idea where it's going to take you. All you can do is receive it and surrender and say, God, I have nothing to bargain with. It's all yours. You take me where you want to take me.
It has to be received as a gift. That's the only way that it can be received. Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply through that cross, I cling. That's the imperative for unbelievers. You must be born again. The imperative for believers is you need to start seeing the world through that lens.
Go back to that list in verses one and two, and what do you start to see there? Well, I see humility. When I see humility, God's saying, you were this. I didn't save you because you were more moral.
That's going to lead you to gentleness. Of course, people don't understand. I didn't understand. When God saved me, it wasn't that I got smart and figured it out.
It wasn't that I was moral and God rewarded me. I was dead like they were. I'm going to use another contemporary show. It's kind of like in The Walking Dead. See all the dead people around? In that show, if you stick them in the head, then they die. Basically, Paul says, I see the world a little differently. I see dead people, spiritually dead people, and it's the gospel that makes them alive. They're not degrees of dead people.
They're just dead. God graciously put the gospel into me. I don't look on you with condemnation. I look on you with compassion.
In order to change the metaphor for a minute, again, thinking about gentleness, how it changes your disposition, listen, I've described it before. There was a man who was clinically insane, and he thought he was Superman. You see him out on top of the tallest building in Raleigh. He's got his cape on, and he's about to fly or think he can fly.
You come up behind the man. You're like, hey, man, you're not Superman. You can't fly. The guy's like, no, I'm Superman.
I'm going to fly. You offer him a free choice. Man, if you jump, you're going to die.
He's insane. He thinks he's Superman. 100 out of 100 times, what's he going to choose? He's going to choose to jump. No matter how persuasive your arguments are, he's going to jump. If you had the ability to somehow stick him with a needle of antidote or whatever and restore his sanity to him, then you could offer him the same choice. This time, 100 out of 100 times, what's he going to do?
He's going to come back down. The difference is not in the way you present the question. It's not presenting the question more eloquently.
It's not using better illustrations. It has to do with the sanity of the person that you're talking to. Paul said, regeneration is the sanity restorer. It is not the persuasiveness of human words that converts the human heart. It is the preaching of the gospel and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. You see, here's how that changes how I approach people. It doesn't mean that I never defend the faith.
I do. What it means, listen, is that what I do is patiently present them the gospel because the gospel is the means of life. Faith comes by hearing, Paul says in Romans 10, and hearing comes by the word of God. The believer finds themselves spending a lot of time in prayer for unsaved people because he's praying that God will help them come to see, restore the sanity of their heart. The believer spends a lot of time patiently explaining the gospel because the gospel is the infusion of life that restores sanity. When that happens, you don't need eloquent stories. You don't need a dynamic personality.
You can just present the question simply, and it becomes very obvious. Paul said, you will become gentle. You will become humble. You will become deeply compassionate. You'll have a regard, verse one, for all because they're dead like you were, but they're also made in the image of God like you. You'll look at them and say, God, you rescued me when I was dead. Can you use me to bring others from death to life?
You'll find yourself giving away your money and your time to serve. You will become, verse one, eager for good works or ready for good works, not just because you have to, but because you want to. You want to glorify God and you want to love others because it's just in your nature.
God has always been after a people who are gracious because he is gracious, who treat others as they have been treated. This is the wonder, Paul says, of the gospel, and this is what authenticates our faith before the outside world. Verse eight, this saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.
Why? Because good works authenticate our faith to the outside world. They show that we have a compassion and a humility that the world does not emulate. It comes from the gospel. It comes from understanding the grace of God. He said these works won't just authenticate your faith to the outside world.
They should authenticate your faith to you. How could you call yourself a believer who has encountered the grace of God and still treats sin casually? How could you be someone who believes that Jesus saved you when you were helpless and still be stingy with your money? How could you believe that God forgave you of an insurmountable debt and then not forgive somebody else? How could you believe that you were dead in trespasses and sin when Jesus saved you and then look at 2.2 billion people in the world who've never heard the name of Jesus and say, I'm just not that concerned? Paul said, you got to go into the gospel. And so here's how he concludes the whole book. These things are excellent and profitable for people, but avoid, avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and they are worthless.
You know what he's saying there? Stay away from religious people who major on minors. And they were there in Paul's day and they're there in our day. And by the way, they're arguing about different things today than they were 2000 years ago, but it's essentially the same version of different stuff. In Paul's day, it was genealogies.
I've never had an argument with somebody about a genealogy. All right. But what I find people want to do is they want to talk to me about, oh, you know, tell me about Calvinism and how you feel about that.
Tell me about eschatology and where you believe about when things are coming back. Or, you know, I like this style of worship and you guys worship in this style and I kind of like that style better. And, and we do this ritual over here. Why don't you do this ritual?
And, you know, and I'm like, okay. Yeah, these are all good questions in their place, but you know what, the only thing in the Christian life that actually brings power, it's the cross of Jesus Christ. And so Paul says, you get yourself in a place where the minor things are minor and the major things are major. You get in a place where the cross is preached consistently week to week. You get in a place, regardless of whether they worship like what you want to worship like, or if it fits your fan, you get in a place because it is the cross of Jesus Christ that transforms the person into the kind of people that God wants them to be. You don't get distracted.
You don't go other directions. You focus on the cross. That's what Paul is saying in Titus, go deep in the cross, go always deeper because it is in the gospel. It is in the glory of who God is and what he's done that all the beauties of the Christian life begin to come out.
The depths are limitless, so go deeper still. That's our goal every day on Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. Pastor JD, since the beginning of the year, we've focused heavily on ways to create a solid start, a firm beginning to the year that applies to all areas of our faith and our newest study is no exception to that.
Yeah, that's exactly right, Molly. In the spirit of pressing a big reset button to start this year, we've been focusing on teaching that gives us the firm foundation that we can live, not just this year, but every year from. And we've got a couple of great books in the Bible that really establish for us what we're calling everyday theology.
The books are Titus and Philemon. And we're going to see how the solid foundation of the gospel produces lives that reflect the gospel. And so to go along with this series, we put together a pack of 52 memory verse cards for you that will help you memorize the promises of scriptures so that they can transform you and equip you to engage with doubt and struggle and temptation. Take a look at these and reserve yours at jdgreer.com. The scripture memory cards come with our thanks when you donate today to support this ministry, helping more people dive deeper into the message of the gospel each and every day. Give and request your set when you call 866-335-5220. One more time, that's 866-335-5220.
Or you can request the set when you donate online at jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us tomorrow when we're looking at a real life example of the transforming power of the gospel. Friday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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