September 13, 2020
With all that’s going on in our country right now, there is a growing movement amongst Christians to call us to prayer. I even received an invitation this week from Franklin Graham to join him on September 26th for a Prayer March in Washington, DC. Now, I agree, we should be praying for our nation right now. And I imagine, that most are praying for our country every day. I know I have. In fact, we’ve been praying together almost every Sunday. And I’m the first one to encourage this, because God has more power to change what’s happening in our cities across this nation then we do. So, yes, we should be praying. There is power in prayer to change our world.
But I believe there’s another source of power our world needs right now just as much or even more than the power of prayer. And what is that? It is the power of the gospel to change lives. And why I say that, is that we can make as many new laws, now practices, or new programs as we like. But none of man’s solutions has the power to change a human heart. Only the gospel has the power to change a life. Only the gospel can bring peace to a heart filled with hate. Only the gospel has the power to heal the damaging effects of sin. So this morning we are going to look at why everyone needs the gospel. Why you need the gospel. And why the gospel has power to change our lives and even change our world.
So if you have a Bible with you this morning, I want to encourage you to find Titus 3:1-7, where God’s Word shows us why everyone needs the gospel. And I want to begin by reading verses one and two that give us a picture of the kind of change the gospel can bring about in our world. Paul writes: Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
This a picture of how God would have us all of live together to create a culture of peace in our world. A culture where people follow the laws of the land, respect their leaders, are always ready to help out, where no one speaks evil of anyone. A culture defined by peace, where everyone is treated kindness and gentleness. Here Paul describes what our hearts long for. This is the goal of a gospel shaped culture. But that’s not what we are seeing today. Why is that?
I would submit, that our culture is functioning less and less this way because of the damaging influences of sin. Sin is the source of lawlessness, selfishness, slander, malice and division – everything that’s so upsetting to us, as we are witnessing the collapse of Christian culture in our land. So we come to verse 3, in describing the past effects of sin on our lives prior to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul clearly spells out How Sin Ruins Everything! Listen to this profound verse: At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:3 This is Paul’s list of the damaging effects of sin on everything. And first damaging effect of sin on us is this:
Sin darkens our understanding: Paul says, “at one time we too were foolish” Literally, we were without spiritual understanding. We had no ability to discern the things of God. We were ignorant of who God is, and therefore refused to acknowledge any truth that comes from God. God was simply not part of our life, not even on our radar. This is the damaging effect of sin on everyone apart from the gospel. The Bible says it another way in Ephesians: They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Ephesians 4:18
Now, this verse is helpful to our understanding the damaging effects of sin. For the hardening of our hearts to God is a direct result of sin. John MacArthur explains this hardening saying: “This hardness carries the idea of being rock hard. It was used of physicians to describe the calcification that forms around broken bones and becomes harder than the bone itself. It was also used of hard formations that sometimes occur in joints and cause them to become immobile. It could therefore connote the idea of paralysis as well as hardness.” In other words, sin has a petrifying effect and the heart of the person who continually chooses to sin becomes hardened and paralyzed to spiritual truth, utterly insensitive to the things of God. Sin hardens our hearts so we cannot understand God’s truth. Sin makes us insensitive to the things of God so that we don’t even seek God’s truth. That’s why you needed the gospel. And that’s why everyone needs the gospel. We live in a world today where people are growing more and more callous to the things of God. Sin darkens our understanding. But that’s not all.
Secondly, Sin deceives our hearts. Because sin makes us callous to the things of God, we can be easily misled or led astray. And that makes anyone hardened by sin, susceptible to the lies of the evil one. Instead, we choose to follow our feelings, to follow our hearts. But the problem with following your heart is this that it can easily deceived. Jeremiah wrote: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 That’s why people are being led astray by man-made philosophies today. That’s why people are being force-fed this idea of being “woke,” and then told if you are not with them, your silence is violence. This is another reason we need the gospel. So we can discern what is true and what is deceptive. This is why everyone needs the gospel, so we can have truth on which to stand, truth that sets us free, truth to live by and create a life that’s good, peaceable, gentle and kind. That’s why everyone needs the gospel. Because sin deceives our hearts. And not only that, but
Thirdly, Sin makes us disobey God. What happens when our hearts are hardened to God, and we are left follow our own ideas or feelings, the natural result is to rebel against God and his authority, and not just his authority, but anyone’s authority – sin makes us our own authority – so then we rebel against parents, against police, against everyone and everything. And that’s what we are seeing today. Again, Scripture predicted this. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he wrote this prediction of what we are seeing today: But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 That’s the damaging effect of sin. Sin makes us disobey God, which then opens us up to the next damaging effect of sin. And that is:
Sin dictates our desires Without the intervention of God in the gospel every person alive becomes enslaved by their passions and desires. This is where the deception and rebellion of sin leads us – to pursue our own selfish desires. But we’re tricked by sin. Thinking we are free; we are actually enslaved by a cruel and never satisfied taskmaster: ourselves. Lust and pleasure now call the shots. So we give into them, only to discover, lust and pleasure never satisfies. In fact, all addictions today find their beginning in the lie that you can follow your desires. And that’s precisely what the evil one wants you and I to do: to allow sin to dictate our desires, so he can destroy us. And if he can’t destroy us, then at least he can derail us into spending our whole life in a continual search for pleasure and satisfaction. And when sin dictates our desires so that lust and pleasure control us – our continual search for pleasure and satisfaction will eventually fill us with malice and envy,which leads to the most devastating result of sin. And that is this:
Sin damages our relationships Once we become totally absorbed with living for self – other people become objects to be used or despised, and we begin to detest those who have what we want. That’s envy. And when we envy someone who has what we want, eventually malice grows in our hearts and we end up holding ill-will in our hearts for them. We end up hating those we are meant to love, and they end up despising us. Our hearts no longer have room for compassion. We become merciless, critical and judgmental of others. And eventually with hearts full of malice we no longer care who we hurt. For the sin of malice and envy cause us to destroy any relationship we find ourselves in. So Paul’s point is clear: Sin doesn’t just ruin our relationships, sin ruins everything for us.
Now, let me remind you, this is the picture of who we were but not of who we now are. This is a picture of the power sin has to ruin lives. So Paul reminds us of sin’s destructive power – so we will understand not only how much we needed the gospel, but how much everyone needs the gospel. For inherent in the gospel is the power of God to change us. And that’s what we now see in the remainder of this passage: How the Gospel Changes Everything for Us! Allow me to read the text: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. Titus 3:4-5a
The first change God works in us is this: The gospel changes our understanding of God Before Jesus became one of us; no one had ever seen God or understood what He was like. But when He came to live among us and then die for us, Jesus revealed the kindness and love of God. In His kindness, the Father sent Jesus to rescue us. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Out of His kindness He gave us His Son to die in our place. That’s what we see when we see Jesus – the kindness of God in the flesh. Jesus came to give himself to die in your place, so you don’t have to die for your sins. This is the kindness of God. As Romans 2:4 says, It was God’s kindness to us that leads us to repentance.
And for me that was the key to my faith. On the night I received Christ as my Savior, I realized, that if God would give His only Son to die in my place, then I realized for the first time, that there was nothing He wouldn’t do for me. That night my understanding of God changed. I saw in Jesus the kindness of God – the goodness of God. And His kindness to me in Jesus led me to repentance that very night. The gospel changed my understanding of God. I now believed He was good enough to trust. So I did.
But I also believed that he loved me. He loved me just as I was, ruined by sin. Now, this is not the normal word for love that we think of when we talk about Jesus. Normally, we think of Jesus’ love we think of His sacrificial love for us. But here, Paul uses a different word for love: affection! When Jesus came, He revealed the affectionate love of God to sinners. Jesus revealed God’s heart to each one of us lost in our sin, in this: Jesus had an affectionate love for us when we were openly disobedient to him, when we were caught up in lustful addictions, when we were hurtful and hateful of others, and when we were at our darkest spiritually. That’s an amazing love. Jesus didn’t hold us in contempt. Jesus didn’t wait to save us until we cleaned up our act. He simply loved us as we were, ruined by sin. That’s the good news! Jesus loves you in spite of your worst sin! Jesus loves you in spite of your addictions. Jesus loves you in spite of your rebellion. Jesus loves you in spite of who you’ve hurt or damaged by your sin. And because Jesus loves you, you are not too far gone to be redeemed. That’s why everyone needs the gospel. For the gospel changes our understanding of who God is. He is kind, and He loves every single person he ever created, regardless of the damage of sin in their life!
Think about it. Has the gospel changed your understanding of God? He is not some evil task master, demanding you follow His rules, or clean up your act in order to receive His acceptance. No, He loves you even when you’ve defied every rule. That’s the gospel. That’s how the gospel changes everything. It starts by changing our understanding of God. But next we see something even more amazing:
The Gospel changes our life with God! Here’s the good news: He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, Titus 3:5b-6
In His mercy to us, God saved us. We were spiritually dead. We had no spiritual life – no spiritual ability to save ourselves. So God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. HE GAVE US NEW LIFE through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. We touched on this briefly last week. The moment you put your faith in Jesus, God’s Word says you have been born again. You’ve received new spiritual life. You’ve been made alive with God. The Bible calls this good news: Regeneration.
So what is regeneration? Regeneration consists of God removing the filth of your sin –making you clean through the new birth by the Holy Spirit. And this imagery of washing you has nothing to do with baptism, for it is the Holy Spirit who washes you, not externally, but internally. So this picture looks back to Ezekiel 36:25-27, where the prophet records God’s promise to us saying: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
That’s the power of the good news. The good news is that Jesus not only removes your sin on the cross, but he also washes you completely clean and gives you a brand new spiritual life!
You know, in the past, when I’ve had a chance to share the gospel with someone and they’ve received Christ, I’ve asked, “Do you FEEL any different?” Some have told me that they feel like a weight has been lifted – that’s the weight of their guilt. Others have told me they feel clean inside for the very first time. And that’s a wonderful feeling: to feel light and clean and pure. That’s good news. That’s the power of the gospel. This is nothing you did, but what Jesus did by saving you through the washing and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
That is why everyone needs the gospel. When our lives our dominated by sin and we are living a diminished life, a ruined life; we need a new life. And the good news is that God gives new life to anyone who receives His Son by faith. That’s the gospel. The moment you receive Jesus, Jesus pours out new life into you by the Holy Spirit. He takes your heart of stone and makes it fully alive to God. The gospel changes your life with God forever! For at the moment you believe every sin is washed away and you are filled with the life of God! This is what God does for us. It’s all grace. And that’s the good news everyone needs to hear!
For the gospel doesn’t just change your life with God, the Gospel changes your standing before God. Paul concludes this text by writing: so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Before Jesus died for you, you were not just spiritually dead, your sin brought guilt and condemnation before God. You by nature were under the wrath of God. We talked about this last week. The good news is that Jesus saves you from the wrath of God. And here by saying that you have been justified by His grace, we see how Jesus saved you. The moment you believed God declared you to be innocent of guilt. So now you stand guilt free and totally acceptable in the presence of God. That’s good news!
This is good news that speaks to heart of our existence. Our deepest need is to know total acceptance. To know you are welcome and will never be rejected. Our greatest fear in life is to be found out, rejected and then judged for who we really are. But the gospel changes this. The moment God declares you innocent of sin, He removes His judgment over your life once and for all. You are now completely acceptable in God’s eyes. He will never reject you. He will never turn His back on you. He will never punish you. For when Jesus took your place and died the death you deserved, God accepted His sacrifice once for all. That’s good news. And that’s why everyone needs the gospel. Everyone needs their guilt removed. Everyone needs acceptance.
And once we have the acceptance of God, then the gospel does one last thing: The Gospel changes our destiny making us heirs with Christ having the hope of eternal life.
That’s the good news. Jesus makes us family with God. And because Jesus makes us heirs with Him – our inheritance to come is secure. We have the hope of being with God forever. The Gospel changes everything for us. And it’s all of God’s grace. God has revealed His kindness and love to us in Jesus. God has given us mercy in Jesus. God has washed us clean through Jesus. God has made us alive with Jesus. God has declared us innocent of guilt and made us totally acceptable in His presence. And now the gospel has given us a place to belong with God forever. That’s why the good news changes everything for us. And why everyone needs the gospel. For God loves ruined sinners and gives us everything we’ve ever longed for – in Christ.
So let me ask you? Has the good news of Jesus changed you? If it has, then remember what God saved you from, rejoice and be thankful, and rest in His grace. And then tell someone the good news.
But perhaps you’ve never understood the gospel before, because sin has darkened your understanding. If that’s you, and you now understand what God has done for you by giving Jesus to die for you, then all you need to do is respond to the kindness and love of God, turn away from sin and put your trust in Jesus, and you will be saved!