James Merritt - Who Cares?
There's a book in the Bible called Titus. T-I-T-U-S. OK? It's about six or eight from the back, so if you'll just go to the back of the Bible, start turning left, you'll run into the Book of Titus. I want you to turn to Titus 2. And Paul is writing to a young protégé. He's a mentor to a young man named Titus, and he wants to teach him about why we ought to care. Why we ought to care about other people. Why those of us who know God ought to give a rip about people that don't know God. And here's what he's going to say to Titus. We should care for others as God cares for us. We should care for others as God cares for us.
And I'm gonna make a challenge to you. If you're one of those people that would say I've experienced the grace of God, I know what it is to know the grace of God, I know what it is to have the grace of God in your heart and have the grace of God in your life, I just want to challenge you. You cannot experience grace, receive grace, and live by grace without caring for other people. If you really don't care for people that don't know God, if you really don't care for people that are far away from God, if you really don't care whether other people know the grace of God that you say you know or not, I challenge you that you really have not experienced the grace of God. And Paul tells Titus, there are two reasons, just because of grace, there are two reasons why those of us who do know God should care for those that don't know God, and how to express that we really do care. Just two real quick things this morning.
Number one, we should care to inform others of God's grace. We should care to inform others of God's grace. Now in case you really don't understand what the word grace means, and probably many of you don't because we're living in a culture that doesn't understand grace, let me just kind of make it very, very simple. Grace is simply getting what you don't deserve. That's what it is. If you get, somebody gives you something in spite of the fact that you know you don't deserve it, that is grace. Now every word that we read in this verse, and I'm gonna read it to you. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. That's what we're starting with. Because of that verse, I'm gonna break down every, there's several words that are important, right? For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. Every part of that statement is very important. For example, first of all, we're told that the grace of God has appeared.
Now the word appeared there is a Greek word that gives us the English word epiphany. You know what an epiphany is. An epiphany is kind of when you realize something you didn't realize before. It's kind of like you're in a dark room, and all of a sudden somebody turns on the light. That is an epiphany. Now what Paul was referring to, obviously, was the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. He said when Jesus showed up, grace showed up. When Jesus came into the world, it was a personification of the grace of God. So in other words, Jesus didn't just show up. He didn't just stumble on to the scene. He didn't just arrive. He appeared because He was sent. Well, why was He sent? Well, He tells us himself why He came. In Luke 19, He says for the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost.
Now what does the Bible mean by the word lost? If you're lost, what that simply means is you don't know God. You don't have a relationship with God. You're living in spiritual darkness. You're not living in spiritual light. And the Bible is so clear that God himself came to earth on a mission to seek out everyone who was, quote unquote, lost to find them and to rescue them. Now think about that. If you go out seeking for somebody that's lost, and you go out trying to find somebody that's lost, and try to rescue someone that's lost, there can only be one reason why you do that. You care about them. You don't care, you're not gonna go.
So by the very fact that you're looking for someone that's lost, you're saying I care about that person. See, one thing the concept of grace ought to tell every one of us right now is this. God cares. He cares about me. He cares about my spouse. He cares about my kids. He cares about my parents. He cares about my family. He cares about everybody that lives in my neighborhood. He cares about everyone that I go to school with. God cares. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came bringing the grace of God so that we could have the forgiveness of God. And then Paul goes on to say it is the grace of God that brings salvation.
Now just think about that. Well, if it's the grace of God that brings salvation, that ought to tell us something. OK, so that means it's not the goodness of people that brings salvation. No. It's the grace of God. So that means it's not the sincerity of religion that brings salvation. No. It is the grace of God that brings salvation. Now that's not just good news. That is the best news we are ever going to hear and we're ever going to share, 'cause let me tell you what that means. That means that our relationship to God is not based on our performance. It's based on God's promise. It's not based on our merit. It's based on God's mercy. It's not based on our goodness. It's based on God's grace.
Now the good news is that the grace of God is absolutely free. But here's the catch. There's only one way you get God's grace. Only one. Through Jesus Christ. Gotta go through Him. If you want God's grace, you gotta go through Jesus. Now you say, wait a minute. Why does the grace of God have to come through Jesus? Why can't I get the grace of God through Muhammad? Why can't I get the grace of God through Buddha? Why can't I have the grace of God, why can't I get it through a pastor or through a priest? Why is it only possible through Jesus Christ? Alright, let me explain to you why that's true. Remember what I told you grace is, right? Grace is getting what you don't deserve.
So far, so good, but here's where the problem comes. The Bible's very clear that we are all, quote unquote, sinners. And what that simply means is we've all tried to make ourself God. We all try to act like God in our life. We don't like anybody, including God, telling us what to do. So we wanna do what we wanna do, when we wanna do it, the way we wanna do it. We wanna do what makes us happy and feel good, whether God likes it or not, or anybody else likes it or not. So we wind up breaking God's law. We wind up falling short of the glory of God. Well, because of that, we all deserve judgement. We all deserve condemnation. So now that raises a big question.
Now wait a minute. How can God give us what we don't deserve and still be a just God? How can God pull that off? And here's where the good news of the gospel comes in. God says I can give you what you don't deserve because on the cross, Jesus took what you did deserve. So God can give us what we don't deserve because on the cross, Jesus took what we did deserve. I tell people all the time, look, grace is free, but it's not cheap. Grace cost Jesus His blood. Grace cost God His Son. But because Jesus took what I deserved, I can get what I don't deserve. Then it gets even better than that. He said now Titus, I want you to tell people it's the grace of God that has appeared that brings salvation to all people. In other words, the grace of God is for everybody. It's universal. You know, Christianity, unlike every other faith in the world, was never meant to be localized.
Let me tell you what I mean by that. I've traveled all over the world. There are certain countries I go to, and the official state religion is Hinduism. There are other countries I been to, the official state religion is Islam. There are other countries I been to, and the official state religion is Buddhism. There's one country in the world I been to 21 times. The official state religion is Judaism. Christianity was never meant to be the official faith of any country because Christianity says the grace of God and the God of grace is available to every country. To all tribes, to all peoples, to all races, and to all colors.
See, in many nations, religion is not only localized, it's culturalized. For example, you go to Saudi Arabia. Islam is not just their national religion, it is a part of their culture. It drives everything. The way they drive, the way they eat, their diet, their dress, their social habits. Islam is culturalized to that country. Christianity is trans-cultural. God didn't send Jesus just for democracies and republics. He didn't send Jesus just for kingdoms or dictatorships. He didn't send Christianity to people who speak a certain language or dress in a certain way. He say no, no, no. It is for everybody. See, this is what I love about Christianity. I bet you've had people say something to you like I've had people say something like this to me. I'll bet you've had somebody, if you haven't, you will. I've had people say to me well, Christianity may work for you. It just doesn't work for me.
And I'll just be honest. I don't let that slide. I don't let people get away with that. When somebody says to me well, Christianity may work for you, but it doesn't work for me, and I'm not arrogant when I say it. I'm not like Florida Gators or anything like that. I'm, you know, but when I respond, here's what I say. I say with all respect, you're just wrong. They'll say what do you mean? And I want you to hear this. I said Christianity, properly tried and truly experienced, works for anybody. Can I get an amen to that? Christianity, properly tried and truly experienced, works for anybody. As a matter of fact, when people say well, Christianity's not for everybody, I say oh no. It's just the opposite. Christianity is the only faith that is for everybody. God intended for it to be for everybody.
See, that's what I love about the Christian faith. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, what your family tree looks like, doesn't matter what language you speak, doesn't matter what culture you were brought up in. Christianity is the only faith where God himself intended it to be the universal faith. His salvation and His grace is available to everybody. Now here's the point. Once we truly experience that grace, and once we truly experience that salvation that grace brings, God hand-delivers to every one of us forgiveness, and mercy, and peace, and salvation.
Now that being true, my only question to you and me is how can we not care that other people have a chance to at least know that that grace is available to them? How can we not care that they at least don't get a chance to hear, hey, the amazing grace that God gave me is the amazing grace that God wants to give you. We should care to inform other people of God's grace. That's the first thing. Here's the second thing. We should care to transform others by God's grace. Let me just make sure you understand why we do what we do at this church. We're not just a Bible college. We're not just a seminary. We're not just one big, quote unquote, old-fashioned term, Sunday school class.
The primary business our church is in is not the information business. We're in the transformation business. I don't wanna see minds changed. I wanna see hearts changed. I want people to have the same experience that I had as a nine-year-old boy in that theater in Gainesville, Georgia. When I gave my life to Jesus, I've told you this many times. Didn't totally understand what happened. Didn't really, and still don't understand totally all that's happened to me. Here's what I knew. There was only one thing I knew when I walked into that theater. I knew the kid that walked into that theater was not the same kid that walked out of that theater. I knew something had changed. I was like that blind man when they, that blind man that Jesus, you know, the Pharisees were trying to give him fits and, you know, you don't know what you're, and finally he gave the best smart aleck answer in the Bible.
I love it. He's says I don't, look, you got the Ph. D. I didn't even finish first grade. But I'll tell you what I know. Once I was blind, now I see. That's all I know. So deal with it. Deal with it. We're not in the information business. We're in the transformation business. and this is why a lot of us, even those of us who know a lot about grace, we kind of stop at the wrong place. Because grace is more than just forgiveness for the past. Grace is freedom for the present. Because let me show you what happens when grace really comes into a person's life. Watch this. He says in verse 12, grace is training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
Now watch what Paul says. He says look, the grace of God is not just about pie in the sky in the by and by. He says grace is about the here and the now. It's not just about yesterday. It's about today. Paul said look, we don't need the grace of God just to be forgiven for the past. We need the grace of God to live in the present. Let me tell you why. Go all the way back to the first book of the Bible, and you'll find this out. Every person on planet earth has basically only one problem. Now you may think this is overly simplistic. I'm being honest with you. You may sit there, and you may say you have lost your mind. Can I just see you after the service is over? Can I tell you all the problems I've got? You can, but I'm gonna tell you all your problems are caused by one basic problem. And that problem is called sin. That's the cause of every problem.
And we all have the same problem, and it all is the cause of every problem that we face. The ultimate cause of suffering is sin. The ultimate cause of sorrow is sin. The ultimate cause of death is sin. We even die because of sin. And it's because of sin that we struggle with guilt, and fear, and anxiety, and anger, and bitterness, and jealousy, and envy. And see, we're living in a world, you've got people living all in your neighborhood, they're trapped. They are entrapped by all these things. And they know they wanna get out, but they don't know how to get out. So they keep trying the wrong key. They try alcohol. They try drugs. They try religion. They try philosophy. They try education. They try sex. They try this, and they try that. And they keep running into a dead end. A wall. They run into a dead end street because they've got the wrong key. And then God comes along and says I have the key that will unlock any door you're trying to get out of, and I've got the answer to every problem that you're facing. And it's called grace. Grace. My grace can do it all.
And by the way, please don't hear the word religion in the word grace. Ronald Reagan famously said, whether you agree with him or not, Ronald Reagan famously said government's not the solution. Government is the problem. Now whether you agree with that politically or not, let me tell you this. Let me kind of tweak that. Believe it or not, I'll say this, and I'm a pastor. Religion is not the solution. Religion is the problem. If you don't believe that, just look at ISIS. Just look at terrorism. Just look at suicide bombers. That's not religion. Their religion is not solving any problem at all. It's a part... see, here's the beauty of it.
Every other religion has one message, and here's what their message is. You wanna relate to God? We're gonna tell you how to relate to God. We're gonna tell you what to do to connect with God. We're gonna tell you what to do to find the meaning in life. We're gonna tell you what to do to overcome your problems, but this is the tag line: but it's all up to you. You gotta do it. You gotta pull it off, and here's what it takes to pull it off. Grace comes along and says God knows what you need to do, and His grace will give you the power to do it. Grace will do it through you. Because see, we all have the same problems, right? We all have the same struggles. Let me just give you an example. I hope I'm not the only guy in this room. Do you ever struggle not to do what you know is wrong? Or am I the only guy in here that's got that problem? Or do you ever struggle to do what you know is right but you don't do it?
You say yeah, man, that's me. Hey, join the club. Get in line. I got it. That's the struggle I have every day of my life. I know I shouldn't do it, but I do it. I know it's wrong. I know God's not pleased. I do good seven months out of the year. Seven months out of the year, I do good. I'm a good boy. I make God happy. Five months out of the year, I hate Florida, I hate Auburn, I hate Tennessee. I hate 'em. I hate 'em with a passion. I hate 'em. Now you're saying Pastor, you're telling me you're sinning when you hate. I am, and enjoy it. Pray for me, OK? But seriously, we all have the same problem, right? I know it's wrong, but I do it. I know it's right, but I don't do it.
God comes along and says hey, when my grace takes over your life, when my grace comes into your heart, here's what'll happen. It gives you the power to say no to what's wrong. It gives you the power to say no to what's wrong 'cause here's what grace does. It trains us to renounce ungodly and worldly passions. Grace gives you the power to overcome that temptation. Grace gives you the power to say no to anything that's ungodly, that is unproductive, and unprofitable. You say well, why is that? Because unlike every other religion that puts you in control, grace puts God in control. And God can do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
See, grace does not give you the license to live the way you want to. It gives you the liberty to live like you ought to. That's why I love being a Christian. Every other religion is a do it yourself proposition. You gotta do it. You gotta pull it off. Grace, Christianity is a God does it through you proposition. But now watch this. Grace not only gives you the power to say no to what's wrong, grace gives you the power to say yes to what's right. Because listen again to what verse 12, listen to what Paul says. He said grace will give you the power to live, now there's a reason why Paul, this is not, he didn't just pull these words out of thin air. He says grace will give you the power to do three specific things to live three specific ways. You will be self-controlled, you'll be upright, and you'll live godly lives.
Now this is so good. I wanna tell you how good this is. If I said to you, when you walk out of this church today, and you go get in your car, and you go home, would you rather be self- controlled or out of control, would you rather be upright or fall on your face, would you rather be godly or ungodly? And we know the answer to that question. You say OK, so what has grace got to do with all of that? Alright, let me tell you how grace works. This is so good. Every day, we all fight three battles. Every one of us. You may not realize it. Every day you get out of bed, you go to war. If you're a follower of Christ, every day you go to war, and there are three battles we all fight every single day. We fight a battle with our mind, we fight a battle with our body, and we fight a battle with our heart.
So grace comes along and says, I tell you what I'm gonna do. I will give you the power, I will give you the ability to be self-controlled. I am going to change your thoughts. I am going to change your attitudes. I will change your mind. I'll help you to think what's good, and what's true, and what's lovely, and what's edifying, and what's uplifting. I'll help you be self-controlled. Then it says, tell you what else I'll do. I'll give you the power to be upright. I'm gonna help you live out physically what you've experienced spiritually. I'll help you control your body. And then, when we experience the grace of God, the spirit of God comes to live within us. He simply lives out His life through us, and then He says you'll live godly.
That is, He says I'll change your heart. I'll make, I'll give you a heart that says I wanna love God. I wanna please God. I wanna know God. I wanna serve God. And He says when I get through with you, grace says, you will be full of God, and you'll be free of guilt. I don't know about you. I wanna live self-controlled. I wanna live upright. I wanna live godly. That's how I want to live. And oh, by the way, Paul kind of wraps this up. He says oh, I realize that we're going to die, so that's why he goes on to say this. We're waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.
Paul says hey, grace not only gets you ready to live, grace does get you ready to die. Because there are two things we all really need to be prepared for. We need to be ready for. We either need to be ready for our death, or we need to be ready for His coming. 'Cause one of two things are gonna be true of everybody in this room. You're gonna die before He comes, or He's gonna come before you die. So you better be ready for both. You're either gonna die before He comes, or He's gonna come before you die. And the only thing that gets you ready for either one is the grace of God. So because God cares for us, we should care for others.
So I wanna just kind of wrap this up. Listen to this. Next to Jesus, my favorite subject to talk about is grace. The older I get, the more I understand grace. The older I get, the more I appreciate grace. The older I live, the more I am grateful for grace. I believe the most radical concept ever introduced in the history of the planet, far, far beyond the theory of relativity, I think the most radical concept every to be introduced to the human race is the concept of grace. Let me tell you why. Grace does it all. Grace forgives us of the sins of the past. Grace gives us the power to live in the present. And grace gets us ready for whatever happens in the future. Grace does it all.
That's why John Newton said it ain't just grace. It is amazing, astounding, unbelievable grace. So you're like me, hopefully, many of you. You're going wow, so that's what I got when I got Jesus. So that's what I've experienced in Jesus. Yes. So here's the question. Do you really care? Do you really care for the souls of other people? 'Cause every one of us here that know Jesus, we're here for two reasons. God cares for us, and He sent somebody into our life that cared for us, too. Just as God cares for us, we should care for others.