Sermon Text: Titus 2:11-14
Date: December 24, 2016
Titus 2:11–14 (EHV)
11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. 12It trains us to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope, that is, the glorious appearance of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14He gave himself for us, to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are his own chosen people, eager to do good works.
A Baby Changes Everything
Ask any parent here this evening, and they’ll tell you just how big of a change having a child is for every aspect of their lives. I personally don’t think I realized the true depths of my selfishness, especially when it came to my time, until there was a little baby in the house needing something at all hours of the day and night. And of course I was only doing a small fraction of the work needed for the little ones, while Karen skillfully handled the lion’s share.
Babies change everything in a family, even a family that already has children. Suddenly schedules are different, amount of sleep is different, priorities are different. Everything changes. Ask those same parents, once they’ve perhaps gotten caught up on two years’ worth of sleep, and most will probably be quick to say that it was all worth it. Being a family continues to be a challenge even after the children are grown up, but ultimately the good outweighs the difficult and challenging.
But for all the ups and downs that a baby can bring to a family, the birth we’re celebrating here tonight has far more drastic effects on the world and our individual lives. In a few short verses from Paul’s letter to Pastor Titus, he outlines for us what this birth means for us going forward.
He begins by saying, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people.” We need to understand Paul’s term, “grace.” “Grace” is the undeserved love that God has for mankind, you and me. We don’t deserve this love; we can’t earn this love; by all rights, we should not have this love. But that’s what grace is—love that shouldn’t be ours, but is.
What did that undeserved love do? It looked at us in our natural state and had mercy on us. You see, we were all in a bind that we couldn’t get out of. We might like to imagine that God just wants us to be nice people, or that he’ll overlook our faults like some benevolent, cartoon grandfather who sits in his rocking chair with a long gray beard and just shakes his head and smirks at our failings. But unfortunately for us, that’s not the case. God demanded that we be perfect, flawless in our obedience to his will. And sadly, that’s not something any of us have been. From conception on, you and I have been sinners, rebelling against the God who made us. One sin was enough to condemn us, but our sins are constant and unabated.
And so, on our own, we faced hell as the only outcome for our sin. Hell is to be separated from God from eternity. No matter how bad things might be or feel in this life, God is always with us, whether we believe and trust in him or not. But real hell after this life is an existence of unending torment being totally removed from God’s care and protection. It’s what you and I deserve from God. He is a just God who must punish sin. On our own, that’s all that was waiting for us. We could expect nothing else.
But, as we said, a Baby changes everything.
This child that we celebrate in Bethlehem’s manger wasn’t unexpected or a surprise in any way. From the first sin in the Garden of Eden, through all the prophets, God had told his people very explicitly what he was going to do and how he was going to do it. God would send a champion to defeat our sin and rescue us from hell. That champion would have to suffer and die to rescue us. The prophets had foretold the very city where he would be born and from which family he would come (Abraham’s line, to his great-grandson Judah’s line, finally to the family of King David).
Jesus is the very embodiment of God’s grace because he came to give us that love that we did not deserve. We deserved hell, but he came to give us the opposite of that punishment—he came to give us unending, perfect life in heaven. Jesus would live the life that you and I couldn’t, one of perfect obedience to God, and give that flawless life to us. He would then take the sins that you and I had committed against him, and allow himself to be punished for them. On the cross, Jesus would literally suffer hell and be abandoned by God so that you and I would never face that. That is the grace of God that has appeared, which brings salvation to all people.
A baby changes everything. We were lost to sin, and now are secure in eternal life. No one can take God’s love and forgiveness from us. Everything about our eternal lives has changed. And that means that this baby ought to bring a change in the rest of our lives as well. Paul continues: It trains us to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope, that is, the glorious appearance of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14He gave himself for us, to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are his own chosen people, eager to do good works.
Before God created faith in our hearts, we did what we wanted when we wanted. Whether things were good for us or not, whether they could be considered God-pleasing or not, we didn’t care. We were steeped in sin and were driven to do only what felt good to us. No matter how the things we did looked on the outside (whether we were doing charity work or committing murder), everything we did was motivated by our selfish impulses. After all, our relationship with God had been destroyed by sin and we had no chance of fixing that anyway.
But God’s grace fundamentally changes us. It changes us from people who are self-serving to people who are self-sacrificing. Children of God do not embrace and look forward to sin—they spurn it, hate it, despise it because sin is an offense against the God who loved us so dearly and completely. That peace to mankind that the angels proclaimed to the shepherds must change us. Why would we want to sin against the one who has loved us enough to die for us?
Instead we serve him with thankfulness. That thankfulness will take a lot of forms: we’ll help people less fortunate that we are; we’ll make time for the person who needs to talk; we’ll prioritize time in God’s Word and his love over the millions of other things that could eat up our time and resources. In short, we become ambassadors for our newborn King in a world that doesn’t really know him.
That work is so important because we know this world will not last forever. We know that what we can see and touch in this world is not the most important part of our lives. There will come a day when we will see our Savior return, not as that Baby in Bethlehem’s manger, but returning on the clouds with all his glory and power as the King of kings and Lord of lords; he will return to bring us home with him. Eternity is of far greater value because it is the Christmas gift that will never be broken, worn out, or lost.
I pray that God bless your time in his Word this Christmas season and that this world-changing message of a Savior born in Bethlehem is your delight today, tomorrow, and every day of your lives. This Baby has changed everything. May he be your highest priority from now through eternity. Amen.