What does it look like for someone to be saved Does it involve perfect church attendance, or moral living, or going to a Bible study, maybe leading a Bible study? All of these are good things, but they're completely useless if we fail to understand the crucial element behind salvation.
We'll find out what that is and why we need it. Today on Truth for Life, here's Alistair Begg concluding our study in the book of Titus. Well, it's not uncommon for us to come to the Scriptures with that prayer.
I do so purposefully, I'm happy for it, to become well known and well worn. And along with it, the old Anglican prayer that we use from time to time, with the three requests—what we know not, teach us, what we have not, give us, what we are not, make us. And when we pray that, before we come to the Bible, the obvious question is, On what basis do we anticipate that God will answer that prayer? And the answer, in one word, is on the basis of grace. And Paul, in writing to Titus, began his letter with grace in verse 4 of chapter 1. Right at the very heart of it all, in verse 11 of chapter 2, he addresses the reality of grace appearing in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then, as you can see here, at the very end, he finishes with grace once again.
The story of the good news is not good advice about what men and women are supposed to do to make themselves acceptable to God, but rather it is the story of good news of what God has done on behalf of sinners to make it possible for them to know him. And so, repetitively, purposefully, I want to speak to you again this morning on this final session to leave you with the phrase, Grace be with you all. Grace be with you all. Let's first of all define grace.
Let me give you two definitions that can run together, if you like. The undeserved love of God to men and women revealed in Jesus. Or, if you prefer this, God's acting in spontaneous goodness to save sinners. If we don't get this right—and many don't get it right—then the church that doesn't get it right will fall into one of two gullies on either side of the pathway marked grace. Gully number one is that of legalism, where if people do not understand the nature of the grace of God, then they will seek to obey God with a wrong motive—obeying God somehow or another seeking to put points on his scoreboard, if you like. The gully on the other side is the gully of antinomianism.
That seems like a big word, but it isn't really. Nomos is Greek for law, anti is against law, and therefore the antinomian is the person who says, since God has executed a not-guilty verdict on our behalf in Jesus, then there's no place for the law anymore in our lives. And you'll hear people saying very proudly, We're not under law, we're under grace.
Which, of course, we are. The Bible says that, as a means of salvation. But the fact of the matter is that the law of God is written in the heart of the child of God in order that we might know what it is to love God. If you love me, Jesus said, you will keep my commandments, so that if you don't understand grace, you either keep commandments like a crazy person, seeking to secure God's favor by your deeds and your righteousness, or you say, I don't think we've got anything at all to do with deeds of righteousness and so on. And the Scriptures help us out, don't they? Because they balance us out in such a way that we understand that the grace of God humbles the proud heart that is committed to self-justification, and it condemns the lazy and the irresponsible lax life that is the life of the person who is antinomian.
With that said, what I'd like to do is use the three requests of the prayer as the points or headings for this meditation on grace itself. So the first heading, then, is What We Know Not, Grace Teaches. The Bible doesn't set out to give us a scientific textbook.
Science is discovered as a result of empiricism, as a result of investigation. Now, what the Bible gives us is the setting forth, not of science, but the setting forth of the story of salvation. And the whole story of the Bible is a story of what God has determined to do to put together a people that are his very own, through his covenant, expressed in the Lord Jesus Christ, finally and savingly. So, when you come to the Bible, you discover things that you don't discover anywhere else. Well, they may have been written as a result of them being discovered in the Bible, but the truth of the Bible unearths, unfolds things to us that you don't really bump up against otherwise.
Let me just list them for you—not all of them, but some of them. First of all, the Bible tells us that we were created in God's image. It also goes on to tell us that that image in which we have been created, which gives us a dignity as men and women, that image has been marred or it has been spoiled by sin, so that when Adam and Eve fall, rebel against God, the image of God in man is spoiled at that point. And all of those who are included in Adam, all of humanity, fall with him. The Bible then goes on to tell us that despite man's rebellion, God is a continual lover and a seeker. And it tells us of his eternal plan, his plan from all of eternity, to save men and women. It tells us that in the execution of a plan conceived in eternity, one member of the Trinity—namely, the Son of God—came as a substitute for sinners. He didn't come to show people how they can make themselves acceptable to God, but he came to those who by nature are unacceptable to God to die in their place.
We'll come back to that. It is the Bible then that tells us that he triumphed over sin and over death and the grave and the evil one in his resurrection. It then tells us that this same Jesus has been exalted to the highest place in heaven, that having gone to heaven he has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the lives of those who believe, to convince the world of the truth of Jesus, to convict men and women of their sins, and to rescue men and women from guilt and from alienation, and ultimately, to rescue from mortality itself, so that the last enemy that will finally be destroyed is death itself, and in a new heaven and in a new earth there will be no more death, there will be no more cancer, there will be no more of that stuff at all, because all things will have been made new. Why are all these horrible things going on in the world? Because we're living in between the period where the new and the old collide with one another, because we live in a fallen world. And the world that God made and the world that we know are two different worlds. The world that we know is not the world as God made it, but it is the world as we have spoiled it.
We're the bad ones. And this Jesus came for bad ones to make us new ones. And even when he makes us new ones, we're still bad new ones. And that's why he's gonna have to make us, finally, all that he intends for us to be in a new heaven and a new earth. A forgiveness that is free, that is unearned. A religion that begins with grace and not with the attempts at self-righteousness. A story of a new life that is given to those who have done nothing to deserve it and who have done everything to deserve judgment. That's the story of grace. So what we don't know, grace teaches us. Secondly, what we don't have, grace gives us. C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity in chapter 5 makes this point. It's quite a long quote, but it's purposeful. He says, If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless.
But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. Then he goes on to say, Christianity tells people to repent and provides them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing to say to people who do not know that they need forgiveness. C. S. Lewis goes on to say, It is after you have realized that there is a real moral law, and a power behind the law, and that you have broken the law and put yourself in the wrong with that power, it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. Now Christianity starts to speak to us. Because now we've found that there is a place somewhere that I can go that will resolve my predicament. Because, you see, the real question that presses in upon us—and genuine faith does not begin until it does press in upon us—is, How can I get rid of my sins?
How can I get rid of them? Well, you see, it's only when we see our predicament before God, when we see ourselves, that we then understand the significance of seeing our Savior. That was our prayer, wasn't it? Make the book lift to me, O Lord. Show us yourself within your Word. Help us to know that this book is about you, Jesus. And then show me myself, and then show me my Savior. See, the Bible has to first show us our predicament before the solution means anything to us at all. C. S. Lewis actually finishes that little statement when he says, When you are sick, then you will listen to the doctor.
And some of us, we don't like to go to the doctor, and when we go to the doctor, we tell him how wonderfully healthy we are. How do you feel? Terrific. How do you feel about your standing before God? You say, Terrific. Oh, you mean like you feel like the guy in Luke 18? I feel great.
I've been giving my offering, been attending, and they're clicking nicely for me. Now, you see, the problem is that the law of God demands complete obedience. You have to get a hundred on the test. Ninety-nine's no good. Forty-three's certainly horrible. And not only does it demand complete obedience to the precepts of the law, but it demands the full endurance of the penalty for breaking those precepts.
How in the world am I gonna get out of this predicament? The answer to that, in a word, is grace. See, this is the wonderful story, the wonder of grace, that although we are sinners and we've placed ourselves where God ought to be, as it were, on the throne, Jesus has placed himself where we deserve to be—dying in the place of sinners. And that's why we go again and again to 2 Corinthians 5.21, that he who knew no sin became sin for us, in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Now, if you're tracking with me, you will recognize, too, that it is only, as we've said, grace that teaches us these things, and it is only grace that provides us with these things. It's only when we start to read the Bible and start to listen to the story of the Bible that we might come to an understanding of the fact that this is actually the very truth of God. And when we come to the conviction that this is actually true, that doesn't mean that we have now believed it, but we have actually advanced from simply saying, I don't know really what this is all about. Now we find ourselves saying, I think that's true.
I think that's true. That's what happens to Saul of Tarsus, isn't it? I mean, Saul of Tarsus didn't come to a church service and decide to become a follower of Jesus. Saul of Tarsus wasn't going to any church services except to kill people. He was going to synagogue services to pull these people out, take them away, chain them up, get rid of them. He was the fellow who was present when Stephen was martyred. And what happened to Saul of Tarsus was that the grace of God intervened in his life—gradually, progressively, gently, unmistakably—so that when the light shone from heaven that was brighter than the noonday sun—you can read about it in Acts chapter 9—it wasn't simply that it blinded him physically, but it shone into the darkness of his blindness and opened his eyes to the reality of the fact that he was actually persecuting the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
And suddenly, a lot of things must have fallen into place. He must have said to himself, Well, that explains why that Stephen guy was able to face that stoning death with such amazing faith and confidence. Does the grace of God ever shone into your heart in the darkness like this? Thirdly and finally, what we know not, grace teaches. What we have not, grace gives. And finally, what we are not, grace makes us. When Sunday School teachers taught me about grace, they gave me an acronym.
Do you know this? God's Riches at Christ's Expense. When they taught me the nature of justification, they told me that it was when we trusted in Christ, we were justified by grace, and then God viewed us just as if we'd never sinned, just as if we'd never sinned.
That's good, but it's not really accurate. Because in Christ, we are not simply put back to the Garden of Eden, which would be to be back in the position of Adam and Eve, pre-sin, but in Christ, all of his righteousness is credited to our account. It's not simply that we have now got a zero balance, but that all of the righteousness of God has been granted to us, and we have become heirs of eternal life.
You see what this means? It sets us free from the dreadful tyranny of trying to make ourselves acceptable to God. It allows us to find our identity in the Lord Jesus Christ. It engenders within the believer a humility that doesn't have to see everything in terms of oneself. And it provides us security for time and for eternity, because once we're in Christ, we're in him forever.
Let me finish in this way. This forgiveness is not mechanical or impersonal. Jesus doesn't impose salvation on those who don't want it, and he doesn't deny salvation to those who do want it. But because Jesus Christ made provision for sin, all men and women are not automatically forgiven. That's why when Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5, he says, We beseech you on Christ's behalf, or we implore you on Christ's behalf, to receive this reconciliation, this reconciliation that has been provided for you in Jesus in taking your place and dying in the place of the sinner. You appropriate this to yourself. You take it to yourself.
That's our other acronym, isn't it? FAITH—Forsaking All I Trust Him. Forsaking All I Trust Him.
Let me finish with the two men back in the temple. The Pharisee is a picture of self-justification. He felt good about things, but his feelings didn't correspond to the state of his soul.
Do you get that? If somebody had said to him, So how do you feel about things? I feel great. I come up here regularly. I do more than my fair share. I'm a legalistic, obedient soul.
I fast, I tithe, I stop doing a lot of other things, and I'm certainly not like a lot of the people that are coming here to Parkside Church. I'm really feeling pretty good about myself all in. Yeah, his feelings were great, but they didn't correspond to his soul. Incidentally, for those of you who would like me Sunday by Sunday to send you away feeling good about yourself, you realize it's a tall order for me to do, isn't it? Indeed, if I'm sending you away, sending myself away from the Bible, continually saying, I feel great about myself, the chances are we're not getting it. It doesn't mean that we should go away feeling horrible about ourselves.
It means that we should go away with a true understanding of ourselves and a true understanding of Jesus and a true understanding of grace. The tax collector, his speech is much shorter, God be merciful to me, the sinner. He's not appealing to God's better nature. He's not thinking to himself, Well, maybe God will let me off. I've been such a horrible rascal. No, he's the kind of person, he's the kind of girl who sits in church like this, and they say to themselves, I hope nobody in here knows what I'm really like. I hope nobody in here knows all the things that I have done.
In fact, I'm surprised that a large chunk of the ceiling has not fallen down and hit me on the head just for coming in here. If there's any way, God, that I can be forgiven, if there's any way that I can be cleansed. You see, this fellow must have looked across in the temple area and seen the altar with the blood on the altar and realized to himself that that forgiveness that is offered via that altar is at some great cost.
But he had no speech to make, only a plea. There's little doubt that some of you who are listening to me now have never asked God to pardon you, as this man did. Deep down inside, you know yourself to be guilty. Deep down inside, you know that you're in the wrong with God. But instead of outing it and crying out for forgiveness and acknowledging that you're a sinner, you bury it. And you bury it in religious professionalism. You tell yourself things about how much better you've been doing from how you were previously doing.
Why are you doing that? Because you don't understand the grace of God. You don't understand that you can never deal with that predicament in that way. The only way to deal with it is to look away from yourself, to look away to that bloodstained altar, to look away to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to say, Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner. And Jesus said, I tell you that it was this man that went down to his house justified, declared righteous, set free from the condemnation that marked him. I ask you again, have you ever asked God to pardon you, like this man did? And if you find yourself saying, yeah, I get all of this, and actually, I do believe the light is shining into my heart, what am I supposed to do?
Well, the answer to that is very, very straightforward. One of the jailers who was looking after Paul asked the very same question. He said, what must I do to be saved? And Paul said, believe, believe. Am I not supposed to join a class or something?
Is I not supposed to do something, give something? Believe, believe. The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus, a pardon receives. If we don't really understand grace, we have missed the whole point of the gospel. Grace is what makes the gospel good news.
You're listening to Truth for Life and Alistair Begg with a message called Grace Be With You All. If you listen regularly to Truth for Life, you know we are careful about selecting books to help you grow in your faith. And the book we're talking about today is in line with that goal. It's a book titled Lessons from the Upper Room by Sinclair Ferguson. In the book, Sinclair invites us to experience what it might have been like to actually be in the private upper room with Jesus and his disciples as they shared their final meal together. This is a close-up look at the section of scripture known as the Upper Room Discourse, John chapters 13 through 17.
When you read Lessons from the Upper Room, you'll learn more about Jesus' deepest desires for his disciples. The book is yours when you give a donation to support the ministry of Truth for Life. To give, click the book image you see in the mobile app or visit us online at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. Is tithing still relevant in our day or is it an outdated practice? Hear the answer to this frequently asked question when you join us tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-11 02:02:06 / 2023-05-11 02:10:49 / 9