Let's get the whole statement. Let's back up a notch and read Titus 2:11-14:
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 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."
We should notice a pattern in this passage. See the idea of appearing in verse 11. In whom did God's grace appear to all men? In Jesus Christ dying on the cross. The result of this is that you and I are called to live in a different way than before.
Now look again at verse 13 where we have the idea of appearing repeated, here with His death on the cross for us. And again, we are redeemed from bad works and called to live so that we produce good ones.
See the pattern here? There are two comings of Jesus, first and Second. The passage speaks to what Jesus did at the first, and to how we are to live headed for the Second. There is the first coming--the incarnation, Jesus takes human flesh and lives in it; and there is the Second, the one we look forward to, the one Paul calls the blessed hope.
We will return to this point before this message's close, but right now we need to hear the story of Jesus again. Without Jesus' story you and I have no story. He invites us to join His story. So what is it?
Long ago all there was, was darkness, nothingness, emptiness. There was no creation, no universe, no place. In this infinite nothingness there existed one being, God. God existed in community. There were three persons in one God. They existed together. They decided, however, to create a place and populate it with free created intelligences. Thus this universe sprung into being.
Included among the various kinds of creatures, were angels, and eventually, humans. One of the angels rebelled. They were free creatures after all; free to do right or to do wrong. Halal, also known as Lucifer and Satan, misrepresented and opposed God. He was removed from heaven and imprisoned on earth. He was not immediately destroyed, for the other angels did not yet have clarity about his misrepresentations.
God proceeded to make planet earth. At the hight of this creative activity, He made the first humans. They also were free creatures, and made some unjustifiable decisions choosing to rebel against God. Humanity and the earthly creation was thus damaged. At this point, no hope remained. The race was now subject to death. We do not have life within our own being, we are dependent creatures. Without intervention we were lost.
Here is where Jesus comes in.
God saw our helpless condition, He saw the damage our ancestors had inflicted upon themselves, and He acted. He chose to intervene. He chose to make restoration possible. The damaged creatures would be given new opportunity. Having thrown away right to the life with which they had been endowed, they were given a second opportunity. They--and we--are given this present life, and opportunity to choose differently, embracing life rather than death.
And so, down through the ages God is at work. The three persons of the Godhead are represented on earth especially by the one revealed as YHWH, Yeshua, Jesus. He grants life to humans, but especially works through a particular line. All the world will be blessed through it. It comes through Abraham, is manifest in the 12 tribes of Israel, and revealed in the warnings of the prophets.
Then comes the greatest revelation of all, the greatest humiliation, the greatest condescension possible. The Creator steps down into His creation, God sets aside His powers of deity. He takes helpless, destructible, rippable, piercable, killable flesh. He lives in it. He walks in it. He exists in it. He will lay it down and He will raise it up.
It gets even more interesting. See, if all that were involved were a sequence of actions God must arbitrarily accomplish, there would be little reason for Jesus to endure the contradiction of sinners against Himself (Hebrews 12:3), to undergo humiliation and crucifixion, or to take rippable flesh and be ripped.
There must be something more. And there is. Paul asked his readers if they had understood his portrayal of Christ before them as having been crucified for their sins (Galatians 3:1). John affirmed there was more. He wrote that "The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard" (1 John 1:2, 3a NIV 2011).
The life appeared. We see in the four gospels two primary emphases: the first part of each recounts how Jesus lived and what He taught; the last part tells how He died. This is interesting since these are the same two emphases we find in our text--Titus 2:11-14. What is it then about how Jesus lived and died that is meaningful to you and I as believers?
The life appeared. God's will can be done in humanity; Jesus proved it, demonstrated it. He practiced what He preached. We are mistaken if we make the gospel just a video with Jesus untouchable on the opposite side of the screen from us. The gospel is real. God invites us into a kingdom that is as real as real gets.
How real? Catch Jesus in action. Let's try Mark chapter nine.
The first story in the sequence is verses 1-8. A sick man is carried to Jesus. Jesus declares his sins forgiven. The crowd is astonished. The common belief was that those who were poor or sick were under the condemnation of God. when Jesus told him his sins were forgiven, Jesus was going against the common wisdom. He was exactly contradicting their view of God.
To demonstrate that He was in God's will, He also healed the man. Some of the listeners thought He was blaspheming, forgiving sins as only God could do. But wait. His healing showed they should think again. They were so entrapped in their exclusivism, their certainties, that they could not question them. Jesus changed the one life and threatened, by challenging their narrowness and exclusiveness, to change their lives too.
In the next item in the sequence we meet Jesus walking through the area where Matthew Levi, the tax-collector had his booth. Again, there were hardly any members of that culture more despised than the tax-collector, working for the Roman occupiers and skimming in terrific overcharges. All who were even minimally awake knew to avoid and despise the tax-collector.
Only, in this situation, Jesus does the unthinkable. He walks up to the tax-collection booth, and calls Matthew for a disciple! Worse, He goes to a feast at which several tax-collectors were present. Asked why this behavior, Jesus' not so subtle rebuke hit home: He said that He had not been sent to call those who felt so righteous that they could not hear Him, but He was sent to call sinners to repentance. God calls for mercy. The pharisees preferred their own sacrificial rituals which were no true sacrifice.
Third in line comes a conflict concerning fasting. Jesus' disciples do not at this time fast. But they will. Jesus is contradicting their cold, narrow kind of religion. There is a place for joy in the life of the believer, as there is a place for sorrow. There is a place to appreciate things and not all is self-denial. A Christianity without self-denial would be a lie, but a Christianity without joy would be even worse. It is right to love your children, cherish your spouse, to rejoice in children and grandchildren. All the joy is reason to rejoice in God even more.
The next story has Jesus on His way to heal a young girl, actually, to raise her from the dead. On the way, a woman in the crowd quietly gets to within hand's reach of Jesus and touches the hem of His garment and is healed. Jesus pulls up short and the crowd's attention is called to the incident. The woman had quietly begun to slip away rejoicing, but Jesus would have none of this. He insists she come forward and tell what has happened.
Jesus has time for her. Jesus has time for all of us. He wanted her to share what had happened so that the eyes of some in the crowd might be opened. Think how many persons here were carelessly in the presence of Jesus, some even coming into physical contact with Him as they milled past. But these were not healed. They had not approached with faith. So close and yet so far! Look how close Jesus is! You and I need to press through the crowd, act on our belief. Jesus tells her that "Your faith has made you whole!"
Of course, He is not saying that our faith will always result in healing just as we think best, or answers to prayer just as we think best. He loves us too much to always give us what we ask for. Would it be truly loving to give your children ice cream for every meal? They might think so. You the parent, know better. When God has done something for us, we should be glad and rejoice. Tell others. Confess His goodness to others. Who else's goodness are we going to confess?
Do we begin to see how important it is that we see Jesus, look at what happens in the life of Jesus as He takes risks all over the place to touch other lives? As He strips away human tradition to manifest the kingdom of God? A real Jesus can make people very uncomfortable. And, a real Christian can make people very uncomfortable. Now, we might make people uncomfortable for wholly fleshly reasons, just being our cantankerous, argumentative selves. But if we stand for the downtrodden, include the excluded--when we are doing it in a kingdom way--yes, it is likely then others might feel uncomfortable. And this is as it should be!
But we must return to the other idea in the text: The blessed hope.
Christians--Bible Christians--are not just about looking back. Let me say that again. Bible Christians, that is, believers in God who also believe that the Bible is able to tell us not only the way things actually were in the past, but also the way things actually will be in the future, look to the future.
Jesus appeared, lived, hung on the cross, died, and rose again. He went back to heaven. He promised to return--for us--again. We are talking here not about the first coming 2000 years ago, but the Second, which is very speedily approaching! We live as we do, distinct from the world in so many ways, not only in light of what happened on Calvary but what is about to happen here, everywhere. Jesus is coming again! This is our hope. Every eye, the Bible says, will see Him.
Its easy to become distracted, to begin to value things as the media around us values them. We become very concerned about who the next president will be who the next secretary of state will be or what is the next thing that Ben Bernanke will or will not do. But we forget. God has His hand on the wheel. He permits some things to happen and other times intervenes so that they do not.
We have been warned ahead of time: Jesus went to heaven to prepare a place for us. When heaven is ready to receive us and we are ready to receive heaven then He will come. The future is not contingent on what an angry person does in the middle east but on what kind people do in God's name.
The world is not waiting for bad people to get worse but for Christians to really behave as Christians. When this generation sees us acting as Jesus would if He lived in human flesh in this generation then the end will come. He is preparing a place for our hearts but our hearts must be prepared for that place.
The blessed hope is not about our escape from this world but about the end of sin and sinning. When we look at the life of Jesus--I mean really look--we will exemplify the life of Jesus. That to is part of our hope. We can't earn it. We can't buy it or bribe God for it. We can desire it. He is preparing a place for us that is He is changing our hearts to that we desire it, so that it will be a blessing.
Let's be clear. The Bible teaches that Jesus will soon return. There is a blessed hope. God is preparing a people for Himself and who through His strength are transformed. He is building a community who treat each other right. He is demonstrating a different way of living. He invites us to live this way. We want to keep the Second Coming in sight even though it is not (quite) yet. How we treat each other as part of this church community is a gauge of how prepared we are for the kingdom that is coming.
In this way, the blessed hope touches each one of us. God helps us to be samplers of His kingdom. So. Keep Jesus in focus. Be ready. Keep looking up. Jesus has come into your life. Show that. Don't inhibit that. And look for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our Jesus.
Bonners Ferry ID SDA 2012-010-06