The Greatest Why
“Why?” When is the last time you were asked that question? Parents in the room, how many times a day do you think you think you’re asked that question? I remember hearing a statistic once about how many times in a day a typical 4-or-5-year old asks “why?” It was way higher than I expected. And yet I was quickly informed by my older sister that I had been well above that average when I was that age.
Kids just want to know why. And yet, if we dig down deep and we’re honest with ourselves, knowing why isn’t just a kid’s thing. Understanding why is just as important—probably even more important—for us as adults.
In his 2011 book “Start with Why,” Simon Senek wrote about the crucial importance of not only knowing why, but, as the title suggests, starting with why. Here’s how he explains this idea in chapter 6 of that book:
Consider the story of two stonemasons. You walk up to the first stonemason and ask, “Do you like your job?” He looks you at you and replies, “I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But its a job. It pays the bills.” You thank him for his time and walk on.
About thirty feet away, you walk up to a second stonemason. You ask him the same question, “Do you like your job?” He looks up and replies, “I love my job. I’m building a cathedral. Sure, I’ve been working on this wall for as long as I can remember, and yes, the work is sometimes monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But I’m building a cathedral.”
WHAT these two stonemasons are doing is exactly the same; the difference is, one has a sense of purpose. He feels like he belongs. He come to work to be a part of something bigger than the job he’s doing. Simply having a sense of WHY changes his entire view of his job. 1Simon Senek, Start with Why, p. 58
Does that resonate with you? Have you ever struggled away at something because you didn’t understand why you were doing it? But then have you ever experienced the way that “why” can make such a huge difference in our perspective and performance?
We just read all of Titus chapter 2. As I was preparing the message in the early parts of the week, I was planning to work through this chapter from front to back, taking a couple of weeks to work through verses 1-10 and then finishing with verses 11-15.
But something wasn’t quite sitting right about this. And then it hit me all at once on Tuesday morning. It’s impossible for us to properly understand verses 1-10 unless we include verses 11-14. Verses 1-10 tell us the “what.” This is what we should do. But verses 11-14 give us the why. See that word at the beginning of verse 11? “For.” Or, “because.” Here’s why.
And so if we spend a week or two just on verses 1-10, things aren’t going to make sense. They’re just going to sound like a bunch of rules, a to-do list. We might even feel like that first stonemason, working hard to build a wall but not really understanding why. We can’t separate the first part of the chapter from the “why” that comes in verses 11-14.
Now if we lived in some other part of the world, this would be no problem, because I’d just preach for two hours and we’d get it all in one shot. And you’d probably need to carry me out of here on a stretcher.
But we’re not going to do that. We’re going to take three weeks to really soak in this chapter. And for that reason, we need to start with why. We need to start with verses 11-14. And then, once we understand that part, we can go back in the next two weeks and work through verses 1-10. Once we’ve seen the cathedral, we can get to work on the wall.
The Grace of God Has Appeared
So what does verse 11 tell us? Why must we live in the way that verses 1-10 describe? The reason is that God’s grace has appeared. God’s grace has shown up. This phrase is speaking about the arrival of Jesus. The way that God’s grace appeared in a unique and historical way through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
God’s grace appeared in Jesus. Now this doesn’t mean that God was not gracious before Jesus. God has always been the kind of person who treats us way better than we deserve. Do you remember when He described Himself to Moses as “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious” (Exodus 34:6)?
But there is another sense in which we didn’t really know God’s grace fully until it appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. That was the fullest and most complete revelation of His grace. “…the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” as John 1:17 says.
And that’s what Titus 1:11 is telling us. The grace of God appeared. Like the sun rising, God’s grace shone out in the person of Jesus.
The Grace of God Has Brought Salvation
And just like the sun, when God’s grace appears, it does things. It changes things. The sun brings heat and light, and God’s grace has “brought salvation for all people,” as verse 11 goes on to say.
This was the point of God’s grace appearing in Jesus. His came to live the perfect life for us that we could never life, die the awful death under God’s judgement that we deserved to die, and rise from the dead to give the eternal life that we could never earn. That’s what grace came to do.
And we don’t want to rush past this. I want us to really pause and soak this in. But before we do that, we need to answer a big question that verse 11 raises for modern readers. Those words “bringing salvation for all people” makes it sound like everybody is going to be saved. And how does that line up with everything else the Bible says about the need for faith and the reality of judgement and so on?
We need to remember is what we learned back in October when we considered 1 Timothy 2:4 & 6. The original readers, living in the first century, would not have heard “all people” and thought that this means “every individual person.” They thought about people more in terms of groups or kinds of people.
It’s just like when God told Paul that He would be a witness to all people (Acts. 22:15). Paul would not have thought that he was literally going to talk to every single person on earth. He understood that he was going to be a witness to all of the kinds of people on the earth: Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free, men, women.
And so that’s how they would have read verse 11. Jesus died to save all kinds of people, from every age, every gender, every social status (c.f. Galatians 3:28). And this makes even more sense if we think about verses 1-10, which has just referred to different kinds of people. Older men, older women, younger women, younger men, even slaves.
Not every individual is going to be saved, but God’s grace has brought salvation to every kind of people, or every group of people.
So now that we have that question out of the way, I want us to pause a minute on the truth that salvation was brought to us by the grace of God. In other words, salvation is not something any of us remotely deserve. God does not owe it to us. He doesn’t owe us a second chance. The first sin you ever committed would be enough for God to judge you for eternity, fair and square.
And don’t think, “He would never do that.” Because He did do that with the angels. 2 Peter 2:4 says, “…God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.”
Just imagine for a moment that you were one of the angels. You got deceived into Lucifer’s rebellion, but it didn’t take long to realize that there was no way you could actually win. You know you made a huge mistake, and you just wish you could go back.
But it’s too late. What you’ve done deserves eternal punishment, and that’s exactly what you’re going to get. No appeals, no plan of salvation, no way out.
And that’s why 1 Peter 1:12 says that angels long to look into this good news that has been preached to us. Because it’s beyond incredible to them that God would be so gracious to us—giving us the opposite of what we deserve. That He would look at us, knowing everything we’d do, everything we’d think, everything we’d say, and decide to choose some of us and save us. That He He Himself would come in the person of His Son to suffer the judgement for our rebellion against Him so that we could be His forever.
If God has saved you, it has nothing to do with you being worthy or deserving. It is only because He is gracious.
Please, don’t ever get used to this. Ask God to keep you literally amazed at this grace which has appeared and brought us salvation.
God’s Grace is Training Us
And our amazement should grow as we look to verse 12. Because God’s grace did not stop with appearing and saving. God’s grace continues to work in the lives of the redeemed today. And what is it doing? It is “training us” (vs. 12).
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that trains a wretch like me.” It’s true. If you have been saved by the grace of Jesus, then that same grace is at work in your life today to train you.
This word for “train” is a word that was often used to speak about the teaching or training that a parent gives to a child. Parents, you know all about this. You love your kids, and so you train them to do certain things, and not to do others.
And God’s grace is the same way. It trains us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.” “Renounce” is translated as “saying no” in the NIV, and that’s a good way to understand it. Grace trains us to say no to the wrong things—things that harm us or harm the name of Jesus. When we’re tempted to sin, when we’re experiencing passions and desires for money and pleasure and ease, grace trains us so that we can walk away from it.
But the goal of this renouncing, this saying “no,” isn’t just to avoid bad stuff. There’s so much more to being a Christian that just saying no to sin.
Verse 12 goes on to tell us that God’s grace trains us so that, renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions, we might live “self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” That’s the goal of training grace. This is what God is after in each of us:
- Lives that are self-controlled, where we do what we should instead of just what we feel like.
- Lives that are upright—full of righteousness.
- And lives that are godly—lives that reflect God’s character and God’s priorities. Lives that fear the Lord and aim to please Him.
None of this comes easy to us. We need to be trained in it. And that’s what grace does. It has appeared, it has saved us, and now it trains us.
Now I hope you’re thinking, “This sounds great! This is really encouraging!” But I suspect that some of you are also asking, “What is this actually describing? How does grace train us? How does this all really work?”
How Does Grace Train Us?
The answer to that question comes in verse 13. I hope you notice that verse 13 is a part of this same sentence. It’s not just tacked on here at the end. “Grace is training us, and also, by the way, we happen to be waiting for our blessed hope.”
No, there is a much tighter connection here, and it’s hinted at right at the end of verse 12, which says that grace is training us to live godly lives “in the present age.”
That’s a very strong hint that this age, this era of world history, is not all that there is. This is just the present age. There is a future age coming.
And this future age holds the key to living a godly life in this present age. That’s what verse 13 points us towards. Grace trains us to live a life an upright life as we wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
In other words, as the ESV Study Bible notes on this verse say, “Eagerly expecting the return of Christ is the way grace trains Christians to renounce sin and live in a godly way… Setting one’s mind on the truth of Christ’s return impels a person to holiness.” 2The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2350.
Here’s how this works: when grace saves us, it gives us the hope of eternal life. It gives us the hope that Jesus is going to return and make all things new. Like Romans 8:24 says, “… in this hope we were saved.”
We don’t deserve this hope. We don’t deserve this wonderful future promised to us. It’s a result of grace.
And once again, grace goes further than we’d expect. Grace doesn’t just give us this hope. It also trains us to wait for it. That’s what we get when we put verses 12 and 13 together. Waiting for our blessed hope is a part of this life that grace trains us to live.
So any time that you have felt yourself thinking of the return of Jesus, longing to see Him, longing to be with Him, longing for Him to come and make all things new, that is grace at work in you. Any time you’ve been reminded of these things—like right at this very moment—that’s been grace at work, training you to wait.
And not just wait like you’re waiting in line, or waiting on hold with the CRA. This word for wait speaks about looking forward to something. It has an edge of eagerness to it. Because we’re not waiting for just any old hope. We’re waiting for our “blessed hope.”
And as we eagerly wait for this blessed hope, we find that sin is less and less appealing, and godliness is more and more alluring. Nothing cuts through the power of temptation like the thought of hearing the trumpet and looking up to see Jesus Himself splitting the sky like He promised. Nothing makes us want to be busy with the work of Jesus like the thought of seeing His face and hearing Him say “well done” (Matthew 25:21).
Isn’t this what Jesus Himself said? “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes… But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful” (Luke 12:35–37, 45-46).
This is the point of so many of the promises given to us in Scripture about the return of Jesus. The point isn’t that we’d have a big prophetic crossword puzzle to solve. The point is that Jesus Himself is coming back, and we want to be ready for His return, which means renouncing sin and living godly lives.
Isn’t this just what we heard a couple of weeks ago in chapter 1 verse 3? That our godliness is built on the hope of eternal life? Verse 13 here is saying the same thing in just a different way. The secret to godliness is eagerly waiting the return of Jesus.
Let’s make this personal for a minute. Have you been giving in to sin? Have you been giving in to the temptations of ungodliness or worldly passions? Are “self-controlled, upright and godly” words that very few people would use to describe your life lately?
I hope you can guess what the next question is. How well have you been waiting? How eagerly have you been watching the skies, so-to-speak, longing to see the face of your Saviour, knowing that He’s coming back, building your life on that hope, living to hear His “well done”?
Anytime we let patterns of sin build up in our life, anytime we slack off in our commitment to godliness, it’s safe to say that we’ve lost sight of our blessed hope. We’ve started to live like that wicked servant, thinking that his master is a long way off, and doing whatever we want instead of what the master told us.
And if that’s you this morning, I would encourage you to receive this very sermon as a gift of God’s training grace in your life, nudging you, urging you, towards a life of eager waiting, which will result in you saying no to sin and yes to godliness.
And you can probably guess what I’m going to say next. This is just one more reason why we need to spend time, regularly, in God’s word. We need to be reading these promises and being reminded of Christ’s return. Otherwise, this noisy world is just going to distract us and make us look forward to all kinds of lesser things instead of the return of Jesus.
Why Does This Work?
Let’s review where we’ve been for a moment. We’ve seen that grace has appeared, has saved us, and is training us. We asked how it trains us, and saw that it has to do with eagerly waiting for the return of Jesus.
And now there’s one last question we need to ask this morning. This last question is why. Why does saving grace train us? Why is God so interested in our godly living? Why does He care about our life in this present age, and why should we?
The answer to that question is in verse 14. Jesus, who is called our great God and Saviour in verse 13, is the one “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” (Titus 2:14).
This verse brings us back to the cross. That’s what “gave Himself for us” are referring to. Nobody took His life from Him, but He willingly gave Himself for us when He died in our place as our substitute.
And why did He do that? What was His purpose? Verse 14 tells us this purpose in two ways.
First, He died to “redeem us from all lawlessness.” This word “lawlessness” comes from the Old Testament and speaks about the realm of sin and rebellion against God. We should know that Jesus paid the penalty for our lawlessness. But this isn’t where it ended. Jesus didn’t just die to take away the penalty of sin from us. He also died to take us out of the realm of sin’s power entirely.
Second, verse 14 says that He died “to purify for Himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Again, these phrases are rich in Old Testament background. Just like God’s people were saved from Egypt to be God’s treasured possession (Exodus 19:5), so now we’ve been purified from sin to be the same.
But if we step back and look at verse 13 as a whole, do you see who the focus is on here?
Jesus gave Himself for us to purify for himself a people for His own possession. If you’ve been saved by Jesus you are completely, utterly His. You have no chips on the table, you have no cards in your hand. He saved you for Himself and you are His entirely and thoroughly.
And how does verse 14 end? What’s the end game of this, as far as verse 14 is concerned? Jesus died to buy for Himself a people “who are zealous for good works.”
This is what Jesus died for. To purchase for Himself, literally, good works zealots. Do you know what a zealot is? A zealot is someone who is eager, passionate, ready to do anything to get at their objective, bending their whole life to that one great end.
A zealot is like the person in our small group a few weeks ago. The rest of us were talking about our struggles with generosity, and they spoke up and said, “I don’t really get that. I just really love being generous.”
And that’s what Jesus died for. That should be normal. He didn’t die so we could grudgingly drag our feet and do a few good works here and there. He didn’t suffer in agony, pushing himself up on nail-pierced feet as he gasped for air, bearing the curse of God for your sin, loving you with his last breath, so that we could enjoy a comfortable life.
He died to make you a zealot for good works, eager to bring Him glory as you love and serve others in His name. So we don’t really have a choice in the matter. We can’t say, “I like the salvation from sin piece, I like not going to hell, but I’m not really an eager person. I don’t really enjoy good works. I kind of like to keep to myself and enjoy my hobbies, and, you know, maybe come to church on Sunday.”
We don’t have that option. If Jesus died for you, then Jesus died to purify you for Himself as His own possession to be a good works zealot. If you have said yes to Jesus, this is what you’ve said yes to.
The Greatest Why
And this is the reason for why. This is why older men are to be dignified and sound in faith; this is why older women are to train the younger women; this is why younger men are to be self-controlled; this is why bondservants are not to argue with their bosses: because God’s grace has appeared and saved and is training us to live godly lives as we wait for the return of the Saviour who bought us for Himself to make us good works zealots.
Now usually, at this point in the message, we’ll talk about how to apply this to our lives: how to live this truth out. And we have touched on some of that already. But the real application is going to come in the next two weeks as we look at verses 1-10. Those verses tell us how to put this into practice. So we really need to treat this message and the following two as one big sermon.
But as we end here today, let’s put our focus where it belongs. Verses 1-10 will never make sense to us unless we really understand what Christ did for us and what He has still promised to do for us.
And so we’re going to end by singing one of my favourite songs of all time, “Glorious Day.” This is what it’s all about. The grace of God appeared in Jesus. It saved us through His life and death and resurrection. And even as we sing this song, grace is training us to wait eagerly for that glorious day when He returns like He promised.
As we prepare to sing this song, would you pray? Whether you first believed the truth about Jesus decades ago, or whether the Holy Spirit is drawing you to believe these truths for the first time this morning, would you pray that He gives us all the strength to understand just how big His love for us is (Ephesians 3:17-18), just how real these promises are, just how blessed our hope really is?
Because when He does that work in our hearts, it will be impossible for our lives to not be changed.