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What Jesus did for you on Christmas!
Seems like everything today is conditional–all your stresses will be relieved, but the condition is only if you buy this car. Your life will be fun, only if you drink this soda. Everyone will think you’re super cool, if you wear this name brand. All your fat will disappear, only if you join this trendy gym. And during this time of year, at Christmas . . . if you’re good, then you’re on the nice list. But if you’re bad, then you’re on the what? The naughty list. All of life seems conditional.
Because of that some of you believe God is conditional too. If you’re good God’ll bless you–and if you’re bad God’ll punish you. But the true God of the Bible doesn’t work that way. Everyone, each of you, is on the naughty list. Each person here is a sinner, in rebellion to God and condemned because we’ve gone our own way against God, and is headed for judgment and an eternity in hell. Merry Christmas!
And yet, for those who look to God for mercy, God unconditionally forgives and will give us a home in heaven! The life-transforming, Hell-delivering, Heaven-giving, sin-forgiving, new birth-bestowing, Spirit-empowering salvation is given freely, graciously and unconditionally through Jesus Christ. That means God’s salvation is given to people who don’t deserve it, can’t earn it, and couldn’t even respond to it if God had not awakened them first.
It is that salvation which was awakened on Christmas morning. It is that salvation we celebrate today. That salvation is what the birth of Christ 2,000 years ago is all about! Allow me to show you from God’s Word what Jesus did for you on Christmas morning. Open your Bibles to Titus chapter 3 and follow along in your outline.
This chapter in the Bible is telling us why Christians must live different than everyone else. Verses 1 to 8 tell us why true born again believers should love the immoral and be kind to the most difficult, and submit to ungodly leaders in every way but sin. Verses 4 to 7 say, as a Christian, you are to live radically different. Why? Because God saved you when you were ungodly, immoral and difficult–and if He had not forgiven you unconditionally, you’d still be sinfully rotten and under God’s judgment–that’s why.
Read aloud with me what Paul says to Titus in verses 4 to 7, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
These verses and this season remind us of God’s kindness, love, mercy, grace and His power which is able to transform anyone. But don’t miss the main point of this message. It is God who reaches down to save sinful people, not spiritually dead sinners who reach up to get saved. If Jesus had not saved us, we’d still be groping in the dark just like everyone else described in verse 3—see it?
“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” Paul says to us Christians–that was you. You were that bad–but God is so good. Look at what He can do in verse 4, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared.”
Do you see the contrast word in verse 4—the first one, “but”? People hate each other, are evil, harsh, mean and selfish, verse 3. BUT the contrast is this–verse 4, God is kind, saving, loving . . . and all of it began on earth with the birth of Jesus as a baby. We were foolish, deceiving, lustful, envious, and hateful, verse 3. But God has changed all that through the coming of His Son, verse 4.
And God uses that fact here to motivate you believers to treat those who are bad, difficult and harsh with kindness and grace. Because you were very bad, but God was super gracious to you–and that will change the way you treat others. So how was God gracious to us?
#1 God Rescued His Own from Judgment
Verse 4 says God is our Savior—literally, it’s better translated “our Savior, who is God.” Jesus Christ is the only Savior. Look at the emphasis on God being our Savior in these verses:
verse 4–our Savior God,
verse 5–He saved us,
verse 6–through Jesus Christ our Savior
Friends, you can know God in many capacities: Father, Creator, Judge, even the baby Jesus in the manger–but you must know Him as Savior. You must know God as the one who intervened in your affairs and did something about your sins. You must know Him as the Savior who moved into your life to transform you from what you were, a condemned sinner, into what you are now, a pardoned saint.
God rescued us–He saved us, He purchased our salvation. We who were helpless in verse 3 are now rescued in verse 4. We who were sick in verse 3, are now made well in verse 4. We who had a terminal disease in verse 3 are now cured in verse 4. We who were in bondage to sin in verse 3, are set free in verse 4. And it’s good news, because God’s the one who accomplished it for us.
Salvation is an act of God on your behalf. That is good news–why? Since creation, people have been trying to earn their way to heaven. Every religion is trying to get to heaven through human achievement–that makes all religion the same, except for one.
Christianity is the only faith based upon divine accomplishment and not human works or effort. God did the work for us. God lovingly reached down to earth to provide a way for us to reach heaven, and that’s what Christmas is all about.
What prompted God to save you? Why did He do it? Because you deserved it? No. Because you earned it? No. Because you started going to church? No. Because it was your idea that you should be saved by Jesus? No. Because your parents are Christian? No. Because you prayed a prayer once or walked an aisle? No. Look at verse 4–why did God rescue you, a sinner? Because of His kindness and His love.
You’ve been brainwashed into thinking that if anything is going to happen in your life, you’re going to have to do it yourself. Well get this straight, friends–don’t miss this truth. You can’t save yourself. You can’t make it rain, you can’t create life, you can’t control tomorrow and you can’t save yourself.
You cannot earn your way to heaven–even if you invest your entire life in helping others and being kind. And you can’t please God as you are right now–you’re just too sinful. Just one sin will keep you out of heaven and condemn you to Hell forever—just one. And you don’t know God at all if you think somehow you can stand in God’s presence as you are right now. God is holy, righteous, perfect, just, and He hates sin. If you have just one sin, you can’t even be in His presence. James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, [just one sin] he has become guilty of all.”
You have to be perfect to be in God’s presence. (How many perfect people do we have with us today?) That means we are all in trouble. God must judge your sin–He must punish sin. And God must somehow make you perfect so you can stand in God’s presence. And God did both of those things by sending His Son.
Christ took God’s punishment for your sin. And Christ can give you His righteous perfection–a perfect standing, only to those who depend upon Him alone. God judges Christ instead of You, and takes Christ’s perfect righteousness like a pure white robe and dresses you in His perfection so you can stand in His presence. Why did God do it? Verse 4 says it clearly.
First His kindness toward you–He is ready to bestow blessing and forgiveness to any broken heart, and
Second His love toward you–This Greek word “love” is where we get the English word “philanthropy”. It’s God’s genuine pity toward people, because they’re sheep without a shepherd.
Yes, God hates the sinner’s sin [of verse 3], but He loves the sinner [verse 4] and yearns to rescue you from your sin. So when was all of this accomplished? Verse 4 tells us, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared.” God has always been loving and kind, but with the coming of Christ, God’s love and kindness showed themselves more brightly than the sun itself.
Remember when you were a little kid, and just for fun you decided to stare at the sun. Your Mom didn’t think that was a good activity, but you did it anyway–and it burned into your retina so badly, no matter where you looked you saw a spot, a sun spot. It is so bright you can’t look into the sun.
Look at verse 4–that word appeared is used to describe a spectacular sunrise. The Son has now burst on the scene. The world was enslaved in the darkness of sin, but God blasted the darkness of our sin away through the light of the Savior. At Christmas, salvation began to be accomplished when Christ was born. Forgiveness for sin was in sight when a baby cried in Bethlehem. Unconditional salvation started with the Sonrise of Christ’s coming.
That is what this season celebrates–the birth of God as a man. That little baby in Mary’s arms was her Creator. That was God coming so He could wash away your sin problem. As God, Jesus could satisfy God’s justice, since Jesus is perfect God. As a man, Jesus could take our place on the cross and be our substitute since He was also fully man.
The little Christmas baby was born to die on Easter. Jesus came to take the punishment for our sins–the wages of sin is death, so Jesus died for the sins of His children. And this was a verse 4 appearance like no other–a Sonrise. His divine glory and attributes were veiled by His humanity, but He was fully God and fully man, 100% God and 100% man in one person, without confusion.
He proved His divinity by fulfilling hundreds of Old Testament prophecies written hundreds of years before His birth. He proved His deity by teaching with authority and by doing what only God can do–raise the dead, cure all disease, control the weather, restore limbs, forgive sins . . . proving Jesus was God in a bod. So His birth was God bursting on the scene like the sun rising in the east—Jesus appeared. But remember . . .
#2 You Can’t Earn Salvation–God Gives Salvation
Verse 5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.” You are not saved because you prayed a prayer asking Jesus into your heart. You are not saved because you go to church, talk Bible and like this season. You are not saved cause you have a Christian family, or because you are really nice and do lots of kind things.
First Negatively, you’re not saved cause you live nice
Verse 5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds.” In the Greek Language, when you want to emphasize a truth, you place it first in a sentence–it is called being emphatic, which gives a word a strong emphasis as you read it in Greek. The word “us” is emphatic in the first part of verse 5. He saved us in the context–you and I, the great apostle Paul and Titus (the church planter), the Cretan Christians and us at FBC. God saved us—we who did nothing to earn, receive or merit salvation. Us—we who did nothing to get right with God.
Even giving up our time, caring for orphans in India, weeping for hurting people on TV, dying for others in battle, giving up most of our wealth, being the advocate for abused children or building hospitals for crippled kids—none of that will merit salvation. None of your good works will get you right with God or get you into heaven.
I don’t care what the minister said at your last funeral–that dead person is not in a better place unless they entrusted their life and eternity to Jesus Christ alone. John 14:6, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ.” You see, your problems are many–not only do you not measure up to God’s code of the Old Testament Law, but you don’t measure up to any moral code, no one’s standard, not even your own.
Ephesians 2:8 and 9 agrees, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” You made no contribution to God’s gracious work of salvation. You don’t deserve deliverance from sin and death, to be born again, nor to be God’s child. And you don’t deserve the promise of everlasting life, where you can spend eternity in heaven in the continual presence of God. Then why were you saved, if you really are?
Second Positively, you’re saved on the basis of His mercy
Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.” In this part of the verse, the word “His” is emphatic or emphasized in contrast to the words “us” and “we”. We couldn’t earn salvation by doing sacrificial deeds all the time, but His mercy can save us. We can’t do it, but He can. As John 15:16 affirms, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Why did He do it? Because of His mercy–mercy is God’s compassion for people enslaved to sin and under condemnation for sin.
So why should Christians be loving to unkind people? Paul says to Titus–because God was kind to sinful you, because you were once lost in your sinfulness and God was compassionately merciful to you. God was so merciful to sinners like you, that verse 5 says He saved us.
God did it all–His kindness, love and mercy was His choice. God gives salvation to His children merely because He chooses to. God chose to save you just because God decided to love you not because you were more lovable, religious, responsive or good. Look down your row right now–those people are not more lovable. God didn’t choose them because they were the nicest. Some of the people in this room were not nice at all–and I am being nice by saying they weren’t very nice. You say, “That’s not nice.” No, it’s true–so that’s nice! God chose to be merciful to undeserving sinners like you and me. And this all started on earth with the birth of a baby. What does real salvation look like? Paul tells us to . . .
#3 Embrace the Uniqueness of True Salvation Verses 5 to 7
How do you get to be saved, if God does it all? There’re a lot of weird ideas about how someone is saved today. Pray a prayer, walk an aisle, sign a card, feel forgiven, go to church, start helping the poor and hurting, act nice, stop cussing, live in America, be patriotic, be political, listen to country western music, be a republican, own guns, fight for your rights–silly things. There are people who think, since they don’t drink or smoke or chew, or go with girls that do, they’re a Christian.
So how is true salvation really unique? The real deal–this is big. Paul tells Titus some incredible truths that are shocking today, but he lists them here as the genuine article. What does real salvation look like?
First God washes you clean
Verse 5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” You’d all agree, there are different kinds of washings.
1-Remember how you used to wash your hands when you were a kid being called to dinner–zip your hands under the faucet without getting them wet, to get to the table quick?
2-Some of us learned how to take a shower, which barely got us wet
3-Most of us know what it’s like to soak in the bathtub till you get all prune-y clean
4-And some of us know what it’s like to be steamed, scrubbed, soaked, dipped, scrubbed again in a sauna cleaning-type experience
There are levels of washing–but only Christians know what it is like to be washed clean on the inside. The Bible says you are all internally dirty from our sins (like those listed in verse 3). Your very nature is corrupted with sin–so much so you even think lust, greed, self, pride, hate, hurt and worse.
But when God truly saves you at salvation, your sins are washed away, and you are made totally new internally by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. The word “washing” refers to the act of bathing in order to be made clean. When we were saved, we were cleansed of our sin and washed from the decay and filth that was produced by our spiritual deadness.
And verse 5, the word “regeneration” means born again–you are made brand new on the inside. If Christians were cars, I am not talking about a generous helping of Armor-all and wax to make you externally shine. God is saying you have a totally new engine—His engine. You may look the same on the outside, but you are not the same on the inside.
And verse 5, the word “renewing” means for the rest of our lives. God the Holy Spirit is going to be delivering us from the pollution of sin and changing our whole nature into the image of Christ, enabling us to live more like Christ. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
And the main point is this–only God can give us a new inner person, which will result in a whole new lifestyle with new loves, different values and Christ-like behavior. God alone can bring about this transformation. So Paul says to Christians here, if God would do this for you who were super sinful, rotten to the core, and undeserving–then let that motivate the way you treat others who are hard on you. What else is unique about genuine salvation?
Second God becomes intimate with you through His Spirit
Look at verse 6, “whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” When you become a Christian, God indwells you. God actually lives in you through His Holy Spirit. You don’t get parts of the Spirit, or levels of the Spirit. The Spirit of God is a person–He doesn’t come in parts. When you are saved, you have the Holy Spirit living in you. Romans 8:9b, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
True salvation means God comes in–indwells you. God comes to live inside of you. He poured out His Spirit on you because of what Jesus did. Religion is outward, Christianity is inward. Religion is reaching up to God, Christianity is God living in you. Religion is outward change, Christianity is inward transformation.
We were created to function in union with our Maker. Some of you think Christianity is a club you join with rules to follow. Some of you think being saved is dating God once a week on Sunday. No, true Christians are indwelt with Jesus, who lives in you and works through you so you think, feel and act the way He does.
There are a lot of fake Christians out there, and possibly here—so-called Christians who actually are self-deceived. They think they are saved, but they are not. And sadly, one day these make-believers will say to Christ, “Lord, we did all this in your name.” But they will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you who do wickedness.”
Real Christians have God living in them, and when God lives in them there is no doubt—He will live through them. He will show, He will shine out somehow someway. He is too powerful to be in a person and not leak out. Christians are not trying to please the man upstairs–up there. They are in intimate fellowship with God who lives in them 24/7. And salvation is unique because . . .
Third God Justifies You
Verse 7 adds, “that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Sin estranged you from God. But when you receive Christ as your Savior you are justified–meaning you’re declared righteous, given a verdict of not guilty, made just before God’s court. Justification doesn’t happen because you’re good enough, or religious enough, or giving enough–no, justification happens because God is gracious enough.
God gives salvation to you when you don’t deserve anything but Hell. He takes your sin and exchanges it for His perfection. When this happens, all of your debt is exchanged with His wealth–your position as God’s enemy is changed to God’s friend, then you’re justified. Now the Judge of mankind says to those in Christ, not guilty. God puts our sins on His side of the ledger, and puts His righteous perfection on our side of the ledger, stamped with a “paid in full”.
As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” One of my favorite illustrations of justification is as follows.
The small kingdom was suffering under a thief for almost a year before he was caught–and to everyone’s shock, the thief was the king’s own son. The law demanded a public scourging, but everyone knew the 10-year-old boy would not survive. So for weeks they speculated about what the king would do. To stop the punishment would mean the king would have to abdicate, violating His own law. Yet to allow the punishment to continue would certainly kill his beloved 10-year-old son, the heir to the throne.
So everyone held their breath on the day the discipline was to be given. And to the shock of all, as the scourging was about to begin, the king shouted, “Hold!” Then they saw what none of them would ever forget–for the king stood, took off his royal robes, stripped off his shirt, walked down to his son strapped to a pole, completely enveloped him with his entire body, and then commanded the punishment to continue. That is what Jesus Christ did for you–He took your punishment. He took your whipping and fulfilled God’s law on your behalf. Finally . . .
Fourth God Promises You Eternal Life Now and Forever
Verse 7 says the result is this, “that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The work of God in saving us even now causes us to look forward to our future. When that future day arrives through death or rapture, we will enjoy sinless fellowship with God, forever basking in the sunshine of His love and in the fullest measure, partaking in His perfect joy and awesome glory. When you’re saved by Christ, you are that day, verse 7, made an heir of eternal life. You will enjoy not merely life eternal, but a quality of life now that comes from the eternal one.
Even though we don’t live face-to-face with Christ today, we are given verse 7, biblical hope, which means it is a certainty, a guarantee, a future reality based upon God Himself. Friends, God is a God of joy–and a God of happiness. No one wants to live forever with an unhappy God. And the bliss of living in perfection with a joyful happy God only awaits those who are in Christ. Therefore consider three actions.
One Cry out for salvation today
There are two steps in these verses on how to be saved now and go to heaven later. Here are the two crucial actions to take.
Step #1 Admit your sin
Titus 3:3, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” Everybody to one degree or another, is a sinner. Now you know and I know that there are spectacular sinners, then there are sort of average sinners, boring sinners, and there are secret sinners.
Some of us have sinned spectacularly, resulting in jail time–drugs, abortion, crimes, or wild behavior. Some of us are boring, average sinners who do a little cheating, lying, fighting and cussing. Still others among us are secret sinners who look great on the surface, but underneath are filled with envy, hatred or lust. But regardless of what kind of sinner you are, all are condemned—so the first step to getting right with God is to admit you are a sinner.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us fall short of living as perfect as God. So it doesn’t matter what degree of sinner you are, whether you are spectacular, average or secret–admit it, confess your sin, agree with God you were wrong and you are half way home.
Step #2 Rely on Christ Alone
Verses 4 to 7 tell us only God can save you, so cry out to Him to give you what only He can. Ask Him to show you His mercy, kindness and love, forgive your sin, justify you as a free gift, cause you to be born again, wash you clean of guilt and sin, change you to be like His Son, empower you through the Holy Spirit in you, and make you right with Him now and give you eternal life forever with Him.
Two simple steps–admit your sin, and cry out to God to save you. Take those steps today, now. If God is drawing you, respond right now, even while I am talking. You don’t need to come forward, raise your hand or sign a card. In your heart, cry out to God to save you, and if He does, you will be different, you will be forgiven, you will tell others.
Two Reach out to others with kindness
The point of this passage is to tell us the way we will impact our society is to proclaim the Gospel. We do this by treating each other like Jesus did. And to commit ourselves to serve those without Christ with sacrificial Christ-like good deeds–not to protest, not argue, debate or win our point, but for them to see Christ in action through you, not merely with gifts, but with heart, words, kindness, loving them in spite of their sinfulness, caring for them in a way that connects with their heart.
Who needs to see Christ this season that you know? Commit right now to show them great kindness, and pray for an open door to share with them the good news.
Three Praise God today for initiating your salvation
You may have prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, signed a card, cried tears, believed in your heart, broken under sin or crisis–but the Bible says it was God alone who saved you. God alone found you as lost, resurrected you from the spiritually dead, and gave you sight when you were spiritually blind. Therefore thank Him today for rescuing you, and stop being so hard on those who are not yet saved. Pray for them, sacrifice for them, write to them, call them, give to them, but don’t expect them to live like Christ without Christ living through them.
At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus Christ appearing. Let’s celebrate Him now in prayer, giving, remembering and song.