LIVING & LOOKING
By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
Text: Titus 2:11-15, NKJV
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
I don't know if you can feel it or not, or if you are tuned-in to the social and spiritual realities of the times in which we live, but we are living during a time of profound transition. The world is changing even as we sit here today. The world has been transformed into a global village. Nations are now interdependent, economies are intertwined by free-market trade, our cultures are linked by satellite television and the internet, and our futures are connected by decisions made in the United Nations.
These are profane times, times when animal rights are protected and the rights of unborn children are denied; times when you can be charged with a felony for kicking your dog, but you are within your rights to terminate a baby while still in its mother's womb.
We are living during a time of situational ethics, where it seems there are no hard and fast rights or wrongs, no absolute truths. Instead, every man does that which is right in his own sight, the prophets prophesy falsely and the people love to have it so. This is a time when people heap to themselves teachers having itching ears, that is, they look for teachers who will tell them what they want to hear, rather then what they need to hear.
This is an age when men are lovers of pleasure more than they are lovers of God and the world is living with a Sodom and Gomorrah mentality where people pursue all manner of sexual perversion, where even our children are being exposed to the most vile and reprobate images imaginable. They are being scarred by the access they gain on the internet in homes where parents are not taking enough responsibility monitor what their children watch on television or on the internet.
The harvest of the 60's free love movement is that we have raised a generation where herpes, aides and Chlamydia are epidemic. A generation in which around one half of all babies born in America are born into families with no father in the house, while at the same time we are filling our prisons to the breaking point with offenders who grew up, as I did, without a father in the home.
We live during a time where men are abusers of themselves with one another; they have left off the natural use of their bodies, burning in their lust for that which is unnatural and ungodly. Men have become brute beasts, corrupting themselves and the innocent people around them.
We are living during a time when that which was not even whispered in secret is now main stream. The homosexuals have come out of the closets, and they intend to push Bible believing Christians into the closet.
Someone ought to stand in the watchtower and sound an alarm. Someone ought to stand up and say that if you live in sin, you cannot please God. Someone ought to be bold enough to quote 1 John 3, beginning at verse 7:
7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. NIV
I) THERE IS NO EXCUSE
Look with me at our text from Titus. The first thing I want you to see is that there is no excuse that will stand up before God when we give an account for our deeds, whether they be good or evil. Verse 11 says, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."
Look at that word "all." The example and teaching of Christ was in the open, it was recorded in Scripture, it has been preached and taught in churches and Bible studies for over two-thousand years, and there is no excuse. It is by God's grace that this message was brought to us in Christ, and He gave us this message of hope because He loves us.
God's Word is His self-revelation. He has removed the veil from our eyes and has given us the opportunity to see Him high and lifted up, to see Him in His glory as He is revealed in Jesus Christ. He has revealed Himself to us, but do we recognize Him?
I think one of the most tragic verses in the Bible is found in John 14. In verse 7 Jesus was teaching the disciples and He said, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him."
Then Philip, said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us."
Jesus responds in verse 9 with these words, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"
You can almost hear the dismay in Jesus' voice: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me?" What an indictment. There is no excuse.
There are people who have grown up in church, who have heard the truth, and who know right from wrong, and yet they choose to reject God's plan and live instead in sin and they wonder why they have reaped the harvest that they have reaped.
We may live in during a time when religion has become a feel-good, what's-in-it-for-me, enterprise, but the truth is that God cannot and will not bless sin.
In Joshua chapter 7 we read of an account where a man named Achan took that which was to be dedicated to the Lord and he kept it, he hid it in his tent. Later when Israel went up against the rather insignificant town of Ai, the men of Ai defeated Israel, killing about thirty-six men of Israel. Joshua was devastated. He fell on his face and began to ask God why this had happened. God said, "Get up off your face":
11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.
Then God said:
13 Get up, sanctify the people, and say, 'Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: "There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you."
Notice what God says to Joshua. He tells Joshua that until sin is dealt with, God would not be with them, and they would not be able to stand before their enemies. What an ominous warning! Yet, the modern church world lives like it doesn't apply to them. We have churches filled with people who believe that they can sin with impunity, that they can claim blessings from God while they lives their lives pursuing their own pleasures rather than God's will. There's no excuse for that.
The Prophet Isaiah said:
59:1 Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. KJV
II) THERE IS A LIFE TO LIVE
We are all without excuse because of the life and teaching of Jesus. What did He teach? Paul says, "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age."
Jesus taught us that we should deny ungodliness, which means, just say no to anything that is contrary to the character of a child of God. We should also deny worldly lusts. Just say no to promiscuity. Titus chapter 2 tells us that we should say no to ungodliness, no to pornography, no to sex outside of marriage, no to adultery, no to sexual sins and no to lusts of the flesh. Just say no to sin, say yes to godliness, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." Because when we do, we will find that God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to contain.
We need to live in the present, but we need to live as ambassadors of Christ, as His representative, as examples of the life He lived. We need to live soberly, righteously, and godly, right here right now. We need to embrace Christian virtues that testify to the life of Christ within us. We are to live in the present age, but we are to live here and now, with an eye to the sky and an ear listening for the trumpet call.
III) THERE IS A HOPE TO LOOK FOR
Some folks will ask why. Why should we deny ourselves every pleasure that we can partake of? Why not live by the motto, If it feels good, do it?
I think the answers to those questions are evident in the harvest of pain that this world is in today. Those at every level of society have been doing whatever feels good; they have been lying, cheating, stealing, sleeping around, engaging in unspeakable acts of perversion and doing whatever they want. Now that the chickens have come home to roost, now that our prisons are full, our financial system is about to collapse, our schools are failing, our homes are disintegrating, and our world is on the verge of chaos, now we scratch our heads and ask what happened.
It's no mystery. This same scenario is illustrated over and over in the pages of biblical history. There is sin in the camp. We have desecrated the holy things and worship the profane things and therefore we cannot stand. When the people do that which is right in their own sight, when they turn their backs on God and worship the creature more than the Creator, God allows the fruit of the seeds we have planted come to harvest. As a man sows, so shall he also reap, and that in our generation that harvest is bitter.
So where does that leave us? This is a rather depressing message if we stop reading here. If this is all there is, we are of all men most miserable. But thank God, in a hopeless world, there is still hope. In a helpless world there is still help. In a godless world, God is still God and He's still on His throne. I'm not looking for the President, or the Senate, or the United Nations to figure out how to turn things around. I'm not looking for any man or woman to be my salvation, but I'm looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."
I'm living in this present age, but I'm looking for the blessed hope. I'm going to occupy till He comes, but I'm looking for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
I'm looking for Him "who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." He gave Himself for us so that we could live the kind of lives that glorify and please God.
Some folk get uncomfortable with this kind of preaching. Instead we will preach self-help messages and teach life related sermons, we will have fellowships and socials, and we're careful not to say anything that might offend, but Paul tells us in verse 15, "Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you."
I don't believe in legalism, but I still believe in holiness and I still believe that without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.
We live in a world that is on the brink of falling apart at the seams and some people take the attitude that we should eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. But I'm taking the attitude that Jesus is coming, and coming soon, and I'm not waiting around wringing my hands waiting for the end of the world. I am lifting up my head and looking for the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you, "Oh, my brother, are you ready for the call, to crown your Savior King and Lord of all? The kingdoms of this world, shall soon before Him fall, We shall see the King when He comes."
The next verse asks, "Are you ready, should the Savior call today? Would Jesus say well done or go away? My home is for the pure, the vile can never stay. We shall see the King when He comes."
Jesus is coming back. Who is He coming back for? He said He is coming back for a bride adorned in fine apparel, in white linen, which is the righteousness of the saints. "Are you washed, in the blood, in the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless are they white as snow, are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?"
Some of you may leave here today and say, "I'll never go back to that church!" You may leave and you may find another church with a pastor who doesn't love you enough to tell you the truth, but when I stand before God to give an account for the sermons I have preached, no one in this church today will be able to point an accusing finger at me and say, "He never told us that sin would send us to hell." No one will be able to say that all I ever preached were feel good sermons and sappy sugar coated sermonettes that never challenged you to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age.
Jesus is coming soon and He's coming for those who have overcome world by the word of their testimony and by the blood of the Lamb. Are you ready? Are you ready to lay aside every weight and the sin that does so easily beset you, and run with patience the race that is before you? Are you ready to surrender all to Jesus?
If you are, come to this altar today. Bring your burdens, your sins, your cares, and your failures to these altars and leave them there.