April 16, 2017 10:30 AM at FBC
Pastor Jerry Ingalls
Show video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUr-JayaScY
[Nick Estelle to read] God’s Word from Titus 3:3-7: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
[BJ York to pray] Let us pray together, that the God of grace will nudge us today:
“Have you ever watched an elephant at a circus? His foot is tied to an eighteen-inch stake. With little effort he could pull the stake out of the ground. I’ve been told, though, that the reason he doesn’t try is that he tried it when he was a baby and was unsuccessful. So he’s concluded that it can’t be done. He has allowed his past limitations to control him” (Moyer, Larry R., Show Me How to Preach Evangelistic Sermons, 81).
At the beginning, that is the default for all of us, regardless… Before Christ, our default is one who is chained to the biology of our sin nature and the conditioning of our choices and those who nurtured us. Apart from Christ, that is what shapes and forms us: nature and nurture. And like the elephant, even when we get older, we remain chained. Unless the chains are broken!
The Bible teaches that we are all in this together: Titus 3:3 states, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
But don’t be confused; this is not about being a good person or a bad person. This conversation is not about what people commonly make it about: it is not about white or black, old or young, conservative or liberal, religious or spiritual or neither, gay or straight or questioning, rich or poor. All are chained by sin! How we see one another is essentially meaningless: The categories and labels we put on one another are empty and just get in the way.
The Bible says that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In other words, we don’t meet the requirements to go to heaven to be with God. What we deserve for who we are apart from Christ is death—Hell is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). That may be hard for you to hear because we have been conditioned to believe that we are all good people and that’s enough. Our cultural icons and celebrity voices tell us that everyone is going to Heaven by default, when that is the opposite of what the Bible teaches.
Take me for example. I was an All-American man: Raised in a successful, hard-working, All-American home, went to the All-American college of West Point, was an All-American athlete, served as an Army Officer in the All-American 82nd Airborne Division, and I had an All-American spirituality forged in a New England Protestant work ethic. My good far outweighed my bad and I was as much in alignment with the morality of the land as most of your driving habits are in alignment with the laws of the land. In the eyes of a great majority of Americans, of course I was going to Heaven and what did Jesus have to do with it anyways, just look at my life.
At that time in my life, like Titus 3:3 describes, I could care less about Jesus and did not think about him or why I would even need to. That was my path and I think that is the path still for tens of thousands of people in Henry County and hundreds of thousands of people in America. The statistics prove it. Christianity is on the decline in America; the influence of the church on culture is less than it has ever been. Sociologist agree, “America is a post-Christian nation.”
Many of us have been to funerals where people talk about someone being “in a better place” without reference to their relationship with Jesus. I’m not here to judge because God knows who are His, but there is a serious issue called sin that prevents any of us from going to Heaven apart from Jesus Christ.
Apart from Jesus Christ, we are like that elephant…chained by sin and its consequences. And the sad fact is that many in our culture are sick with affluenza-like symptoms.
You’ve heard of affluenza: the term “affluenza” hit pop culture after the infamous 2013 manslaughter trial of Ethan Couch, whose defense included a witness saying the teen was a product of “profoundly dysfunctional” parents who gave him too much and never taught him the consequences of his actions. In other words, he was taught that he was someone special enough to get whatever he wanted when he wanted it, but he was never taught who he was!
There is a story of a long line in the Denver airport with people impatiently waiting after the cancellation of their flight. A single gate agent was behind the desk working with each customer, one at a time, trying to get them on the next flight, reroute them, take care of them. Suddenly, an angry customer pushed his way to the desk and insisted that he not only be on the next flight, but that he be in first class on that very flight. The agent kindly pointed the man to the back of the line and said when it was his turn she would do everything she could to accommodate him. The man then loudly said to her, “Do you have any idea who I am!” Without hesitation, the gate agent smiled and grabbed her public-address microphone. “May I have your attention please?” she began, her voice bellowing throughout the terminal. “We have a passenger here at the gate who does not know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to gate 17.” The other equally inconvenienced travelers behind him in line began laughing hysterically and afterwards, waited more patiently for their turn.
Pride prevents us from seeing the truth of who we are! We think we are entitled to what we want when we want it, when we truly are all equally in need of God’s grace. Our true identity gets covered over with years of labels: labels of success or failure, vice or virtue, labels of politics, sex, religion… You name it, we can make a label for it! We are conditioned to seek out and put our trust in the labels of the world so we can know who we are.
But, apart from God’s grace, we are all like that elephant, chained to our sin, having no idea of what it would be to be free from our sin, but perfectly happy with our well-worn path around the tether pole because occasionally it’s our turn to be under the light in the big tent for the show. We live for our moment to shine and hope people will notice us, and remember us when we are gone, and hopefully we’ll have been good enough for people to say about us, “they must be in a better place now, they made something out of themselves.”
This is nothing more than our sin nature at work in us: people have a constant need for attention. As long as the world gives us enough attention to be satisfied, we often don’t recognize our need for God. AND when we feel the need for more attention, our reflex is to turn to the world and blame the world, not to examine our hearts and seek Jesus Christ.
The older generations found their identity in clubs, organizations, positions and titles, bringing them recognition and value. The younger generations find their identity in how many likes we get on our posts on Facebook? How many shares, comments, or emoji images their thought or picture received, bringing them recognition and value?
I can attest to the fact that there is something desperately broken about this world we live in, including me and those of us who live in it: with war, disease, death of children, loneliness, suicide, abuse, and a multitude of other examples, we know something is desperately wrong with what we assume is just that way it must be. So, we remain tethered and try to figure out how to make our lives work for us in a desperately broken world!
But Christianity is not about you making your life work for you! Christ did not come to help a person who is chained to sin make their life work out better for them. Jesus Christ came to break the chain and set them free to live a completely different life.
Ephesians 2:1, 4-5 proclaims the gospel so clearly and boldly, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [chained] . . . BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”
Jesus Christ died on the Cross to take the condemnation we each deserve for our individual and collective sin! Jesus took what we deserve (death and Hell) so that we have access to what only He rightfully deserves (life and Heaven)!
And the Easter miracle is that He defeated death, rose from the grave, as a guarantee of eternal life in Heaven for all put their trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins!
THE GOSPEL TEACHES US THAT THERE IS MORE TO THE STORY THAN WHAT WE HAVE BEEN TOLD…we do not need to remain chained to sin! In Jesus Christ, God intervenes in our story by inviting us to a better promise, a new purpose, and an eternal hope!
IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD OFFERS YOU A BETTER PROMISE! Titus 3:4 says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared.” I now have a better promise that is greater than my ambitions and appetites; a promise that is based on the goodness and loving kindness of a Savior. God’s unchanging promise is that He is with us and will never leave us nor forsake us!
IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD OFFERS YOU A NEW PURPOSE! Titus 3:5 continues, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” I now have a new purpose to live because of God’s mercy that is new every day. A daily refreshing mercy that directs my life as assuredly as the morning sunrise draws me to the east! God’s unchanging purpose is to seek after people who are still chained to their sins and to save them!
IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD OFFERS YOU AN ETERNAL HOPE! Titus 3:6-7 finishes, “Whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” I now have a new and greater hope than my own success and labels; a hope that will not disappoint. It is a hope unparalleled by anything the world can offer; a wholeness amidst the shattering of life’s illusions; and a guarantee sealed by a love that knows no bounds. God’s eternal hope is that my identity is secure and unchanging in Jesus Christ!
Here is your invitation: Put your full trust in Jesus Christ. Trade in the conditioning of culture and religion that keeps the emphasis and pressure on you to keep on performing, and instead put your full trust on Jesus Christ. Trade in your chains to sin for a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Truth that will truly set you free, free from the chains that keep you tethered to the performance treadmill and to the labels you allow the world to define you by.
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.