Thoughts from my journey with JESUS.
Bible reading Titus 2:11-14.
We are going to end this book right back where we started, in Titus 2:11-14. We’ll read it in a moment. First, let me say I am using the script of a sermon I was honoured to preach at Khartoum International church on 19th December 1999. Brenda and I were concluding our first six weeks of residential service with KIC. It was almost Christmas time:
“At Christmas time many people make plans. Some from our congregation are at home, travelling to be with family. Some friends will meet next Saturday, Christmas day, for food, may be eating a traditional Christmas meal together (whatever their tradition was). Most churches have special programmes enabling Christians to have fun together celebrating the mighty miracle of Christmas.
In the original Christian Christmas Joseph and Mary journeyed to their ancestral home for a census ordered by the government. The plans for the birth of their child did not work out however. Jesus was born in a rented or borrowed stable with no special cot or cradle, just a trough or box usually used for animal feed.
Our plans are not always God’s plans, but God’s plans are always the best ones.
The sign God gave to authenticate His own message of good news was apparently insignificant. No thunder and lightning. No earthquake. No sky-writing. Not even a golden halo around the baby’s head in the manger. Just one Baby born.
He was the sign.
John 1:1, “(God) The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.
By coming from the highest glory in heaven to be born a man among the lowliest conditions on earth, God showed just how much He loves us.
What was His purpose?
Read Titus 2:11-14 because it gives an answer which we will look at together for a few moments.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 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 appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that (who) are His very own, eager to do what is good”.
Notice the planning of God:
(a) He acts in human history, verse 11, bringing Himself to intervene. God came to us because we could never get to Him.
(b) He saves. No one and nothing else could do so. (My older 1985 NIV translates verse 11 as “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men”). We don’t deserve it, merit it or earn it. God’s grace offers us the chance to be saved from sin and to live in a friendly relationship with God Himself.
(c) He shows or reveals what He is doing. “Appeared to”. While God can always be seen in the natural world around us, here He moved into a position where we humans could readily see and begin to understand Him. All God’s promises recorded in the Old Testament were being fulfilled in this Person in the manger. Christians don’t only have a book, we have a Saviour.
The word “appeared” is the same root word as Epiphany. It means here a “visible appearance of something or someone until now invisible, a coming into view of what has been previously concealed”.
Like the morning sunrise. Like an enemy emerging from hiding to ambush you. Like a mother running into a yard to rescue a child from a wildly barking dog, so is God showing Himself involved. Involved in the lives of common people like Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. God involved with educated scientists like the wise men. God involved with royalty like Herod. God involved with every man and woman in the whole human race, Luke 2:10,14.
God acts. God saves. God reveals. This was and is His purpose.
Titus 2:12-14 explain God’s purpose for this intervention in our own lives. Let’s make sure this Christmas time – and always – our lives match up to God’s purpose.
1. God purpose a disciplined life for us
“It (God’s grace personified in Jesus) teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions and (to say ‘Yes’) to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”, verse 12, (italics mine).
If you discover, when you reflect on your life this past week, that you have blown your top in worldly anger when someone lets you down; or that you have allowed thoughts of envy when someone has something you don’t have; or when you have caught yourself being un-Christlike in any action or attitude, if you discover any things like this, then God’s purpose for Christmas is not being fulfilled.
If you ignore God’s grace personified in Jesus and do not let Him bring discipline into your life, then you can enjoy as many Christmas parties and dinners and carol concerts as you like – God will not be having a ‘happy Christmas’ with you. His grace teaches us to be always discerning, choosing right from wrong and living the right way.
2. God purposes a directed life for us
“(We live this way) while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing (Epiphany) of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”, verse 13 (italics mine).
Notice this title of our Lord Jesus Christ. The “Megas Theos”. The great God. This challenges another view that we hear expressed at least five times a day all around us here in this Muslim capital city. This verse gives us a clear declaration of the Deity of Jesus the Christ. He is God far greater than any other god.
We live 100% for Jesus on this earth, but remember we won’t live 100% on this earth. Christians will share in God’s glorious heaven. We are only temporarily here. We are waiting for something much better. Do we live with our eyes on the dust of the Sahara, or on the broken furniture and fittings, or on the unkept promises? Or do we live with our eyes on the glory of heaven where termites don’t eat anything, where water, along with everything else, is absolutely pure, and from where our gracious Saviour Jesus is getting ready to leave to come here once again and give us a lift to our real home?
Christmas is an Epiphany of grace. The second coming of Jesus will be an Epiphany of glory. “He Who appeared briefly on the stage of history, and disappeared, will one day reappear. He appeared in grace; He will reappear in glory”.
Where are you looking in life? Where is your focus? Don’t let your ministry take your eyes away from your Master. Make eternal life govern your daily life and not the other way around.
3. God purposes a ‘doing’ life
“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”, verse 14.
God’s will for each one of us is a life dedicated to Him in everything, in every moment, every day.
Jesus came through the cradle to the cross. There He purchased us, “redeemed us” , to purify us, and to possess us, “to make us His very own”. The last part of verse 14 tells us why. God wants to do good through us. Good works will never save us, but the absence of good works shows that we are not yet saved!
Paul writes using Old Testament words to show how God has always been planning and doing this:
“Jesus Christ gave Himself”, the Old Testament system of sacrifice and the Passover. “To redeem us”, the Old Testament Exodus from Egyptian bondage. “To make us His very own”, the Old Testament Covenant at Mount Sinai. Jesus Christ is our Passover. Jesus Christ is our Exodus. Jesus Christ is our Covenant.
So, how do we live in order to fulfil God’s purpose in that first Christmas?
“The best way to live now, in this present age, is to learn to do spiritually what is physically impossible, namely to look in opposite directions at the same time”.
Look back on an Epiphany of grace.
Look forward to an Epiphany of glory.
Don’t hold on to anything, remembering Jesus Christ left everything and made Himself nothing, for you. Focus your purpose (you, not only your ministry) on Jesus Christ, the Word Who became flesh. Love Him. Live for Him. Not just one day a year but 365 days a year in every decade, or even millennium, until whenever our Lord Jesus returns.
The sign of God at work today is much the same as it was at that first Christmas: the life of the Lord Jesus presented in common ordinary surroundings. That is great witnessing.
May your life be one that radiates your Lord Jesus.
May God help us all to humbly join His purposes from this day onwards. Amen”.
1. Explain why John Stott views our Lord’s initial coming to earth as an ‘epiphany of grace’, very different from Jesus’ second coming which Stott says will be an ‘epiphany of glory’. Share some of the differences between this ‘grace’ and this ‘glory’. How do they impact on our daily lives?
2. Paul describes Christians as “a people that (who? ) are God’s very own, eager to do what is good”,
a). What does the word ‘eager’ mean?
b). What are some of the ‘good things’ we must do?
c). Does your life display this? How?
3. Describe ways in which the triune God helps Christians to join in with His purpose for living. Look at our reading, plus Titus 3:1-8, especially.
4. What life lessons do you draw from the three Old Testament pictures to which John Stott refers?
Jesus Christ is our Passover.
Jesus Christ is our Exodus.
Jesus Christ is our Covenant.
5. Share thoughts to help us living “the life of the Lord Jesus … in (our) common ordinary surroundings”.
 John Stott The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (BST IVP: Leicester) 1996, p.192.  John Stott The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (BST IVP: Leicester) 1996, p.194.  John Stott The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (BST IVP: Leicester) 1996, p.195.  John Stott The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (BST IVP: Leicester) 1996, p.196.