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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Trustworthy & True Part 5: A Trustworthy and True Trade
Text:Titus 3:3-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-19
Updated:2022-01-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Isaiah 53

Text: Titus 3:3-11

 

A TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE TRADE

  1. What We Bring

  2. What We’re Given

 

  1. Psalm 85: 1, 3, 4

  2. Psalm 123: 1-2

  3. Hymn 25:1-3

  4. Hymn 71:1-2

  5. Psalm 91: 1-2

  6. Hymn 35:1-4

 

Words to Listen For: fresh, flowery, family, focus, Z

 

Questions For Understanding:

  1. Can you name some trades made in the Bible?

  2. What are the 5 non-negotiables of salvation, outlined by Titus 3?

  3. What do we offer in our own salvation?

  4. Who should we compare ourselves to?

  5. How do we keep our excitement for Christ’s return when it’s been so long?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

Wanna trade?

When’s the last time you heard that question?  Maybe you were over there, just a couple hundred meters away, on the William of Orange playground.  Maybe you were trading candy for stickers.  Maybe you were swapping sandwiches for lunch if you didn’t like what was sent with you from home.

The question “Wanna Trade” seems to be behind most of us.  The language of trading belongs on the playground, or maybe in the world of the stock market.  Trading in gold stocks for lumber stocks.  But for most of us...trading isn’t part of our everyday lives.  Or so we think.

Because, really, if we think about it, everything we do in our lives is a trade.  Every decision to do one thing and not another is a trade.  If we are wise, we trade temporary pleasures for lasting fulfillment.  If we are wise, we trade self-help for God-help.

And Scripture is full of trades.  Wise trades, and foolish trades.

  • Adam and Eve traded a perfect life for a sweet taste.
  • Esau traded his inheritance for some stew.
  • Moses traded in glittering gold for God and the desert.

And the best possible trade…

The best possible trade, which was also the greatest cost for the least reward...was when Jesus Christ traded His life for yours.  This trade is the gospel.  The gospel of   

A TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE TRADE

  1. What We Give

  2. What We’re Get

This final saying is a real pleasure to preach on, as it lays out, so powerfully and yet so simply, so quickly and yet so fully...the entire doctrine of salvation.

Let’s go through this statement in broad strokes before we examine each part individually.  Here is the gospel, the entire doctrine of salvation

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

This is where we were when the gospel met us.  This is who we were without God.  For the good news of the gospel to be GOOD NEWS, we must first know our sin.  The diamond shines most clearly against the black velvet.  And there was no one blacker in our sins than we were.  Theologically, we call this Total Depravity.  Each and every action tainted with sin.  There was nothing in us to make God love us.  No moral beauty to make Him desire us.  And yet...our sins aren’t the end of the story, they are just the beginning.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared

We had no beauty or goodness or HESED love...but God did!

And when did this HESED love appear?  When did God our Saviour appear?

In Bethlehem.  At Christmas, in a manger.  Christmas wasn’t about a cute baby born in the fresh air.  It wasn’t about Mary smiling down softly at the miracle of new life.  No!  Christmas was about the incarnation!  God Himself taking on human flesh and coming to us.  Meeting us in our helplessness and in our hopelessness.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.

He saved us.  Jesus Christ was not only a good teacher.  Jesus Christ was not only a miracle worker and a healer.  Jesus Christ was not only there to take down the wicked establishment of the Pharisees and Sadducees, He came to die on the cross.  He came to take away our sins by dying for them. He came to give us His righteousness by living a perfect life.  Over the manger, there was the shadow of the cross.  It was where He was always going.  Theologically, this is called Justification.

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

The work of the Holy Spirit is to MAKE US HOLY.  It’s right there in His name.  He is the Holy-making Spirit.

If Jesus came to take away our sins and clothe us in His righteousness, putting it on us like a robe, then the Holy Spirit came to work that righteousness in us.  Jesus Christ put it ON US, and the Holy Spirit is working it IN US.  This is called sanctification.

And when did this happen?  When did this all begin?

The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

This is the language of Pentecost.  When the Holy Spirit was poured out on all nations, God-fearers from all across the world.  The real miracle at Pentecost was not the speaking in tongues, but the repentance of wicked men and women.

So that being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

This is our future!  We are sons and daughters of the Most High God, and we will receive everything coming to us.  We will reign with our Heavenly Father in Paradise.  Living forever in true righteousness and holiness, having been set free from sin, once and for all.

 

This, beloved, is the gospel.  This, as Paul writes to Titus is a trustworthy saying.  And Paul wanted Titus to INSIST on these things.  This is rare for Paul.  This is the only time in any of his letters that he uses this phrase.  INSIST ON THESE THINGS.  Paul doesn’t write like this.  

Instead, he presents the truth, usually explaining why the opposite is a lie, and then he gives it over to the Holy Spirit to apply these truths to the hearts of the church.  As he writes in Philippians 3 - All of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

But not here.  And why?  

BECAUSE THESE ARE THE NON-NEGOTIABLES OF THE GOSPEL.  If you call yourself a Christian, you MUST believe these things.  It is not a buffet where you can pick and choose.

Now, I know that I went through them rather quickly.  This is full and rich theology.  So let me summarize them for you.  These are the 5 non-negotiables of salvation as outlined here in Titus 3.

  • # 1 found in Verse 3 - We are sinful.  We are in desperate need of a Saviour.  You must believe this in order to be a Christian.  This is non-negotiable.  We are sinful.

  • Verse 4 - God, through Christ, stepped in to our darkness and brought the light.  This is non-negotiable.  God stepped in.

  • Verse 5 - Jesus Christ, through the cross of Justice and Mercy, saved us, trading our sins for His righteousness.  Non-negotiable.  Christ died to make us righteous.

  • Verse 6 - The Holy Spirit works in us, cleansing us through and through, first being poured out on Pentecost.  Non-negotiable.  The Holy Spirit makes us holy.

And finally...

  • Verse 7 - Through the grace of salvation, we have been accepted by God, and adopted as His dearly loved children.  We will live before His face for eternity.  Non-negotiable.  We will be with God forever.

 

We are sinful.

    But God stepped in.

        Christ died to make us righteous.

            The Holy Spirit makes us holy.

                We will be with God forever.

There is something so beautifully and wonderfully straightforward about this saying.  While metaphors and parables, illustrations and examples, can be memorable, powerful, and poetic, there are times, most often with people, but occasionally even with Scripture itself, when I will say to myself...this is all well and good...but what do you MEAN?  Enough dancing around the issue, enough flowery language...just tell it to me straightforward!  For those of you like me...Titus 3 is the chapter for you.

And we see, woven into the gospel, woven through this saying, the concept of a TRADE that is going on here.

This is a deal that no businessman would ever make, but our God is not a good businessman.  He is a great Saviour, but not a good businessman.  We are the WORST investment anyone could ever make.  What we offer in this trade that is salvation is in no way comparable to what we receive.

And you did hear me right there.  I did say “what we offer.”  Far too often, especially in our Reformed circles, we picture ourselves coming empty-handed to the cross of Christ, offering nothing.  We say this to reject the poor theology of those who say that our faith is what we bring to the table.  We meet God halfway.  He gives us a wonderful gift, but we have to unwrap it in our own strength.  That’s wrong, and so we say that we offer nothing.

Or those who say that good works are what we offer.  Salvation is made up of God’s grace and our works.  And we rightly fight against these false beliefs.  But we do so by saying that we bring nothing.  We offer nothing.

But there is something that we do bring to the table in our salvation.  And please, hear me out, before you raise a skeptical eyebrow.

It is not that our understanding of coming empty-handed to the cross is TOO FAR...it’s that this view IS NOT FAR ENOUGH!  Let me explain.

We do not come empty-handed to the cross, for empty hands are neutral hands.  We do not come, simply EMPTY HANDED, but with hands covered with evil and wickedness.  We come with hands forever grasping at the pleasures of this world.  Hands that lash out at those who love us, and hold on to those who hate us.  Hands grasped so tightly around the things that will destroy us.  This is how the cross finds us.

I had the pleasure this past week of making quite a few visits to members of the congregation.  Being inside their homes, some of them, for the first time in quite a while.  And there was one visit that fit so well with this point that I can’t resist bringing them into it as an example.

This particular family has a very young child, on the verge of being a toddler.  She is beginning to explore the backyard, and before dinner, she was crawling around outside, enjoying the beautiful creation with all of her senses.

  • She looked with her eyes
  • She heard with her ears
  • Smelled with her nose
  • Touched with her hands…
  • And even...tasted with her mouth.

By the time we were about to eat, there were pieces of grass in her mouth, and clumps of dirt all over her hands and under her fingernails.  She was quite the sight to see.  Smiling and laughing, blissfully ignorant of her filthy state.  But when she was cleaned up, and sat at the table, and given food, that’s when she began to scream.

It was very cute, it was very funny...and it was very US.

Our grass and dirt look a little different, but they’re there all the same.  Foolishness, disobedience, slaves to passions and pleasures, treasuring malice and envy and hatred.  Our hands are anything but clean.  Not only are these hands EMPTY of righteousness, but they are FULL of the filth of sin.

We come to the table...well...actually, we are BROUGHT to the table, not merely HUNGRY, not only in need of FOOD, but in desperate need of HELP.

As Jonathan Edwards said: The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that made it necessary. (x2)

And here is the trade, beloved.  Here is the beautiful, wonderful, completely ridiculous trade.  We heard about it in our reading.

There was nothing about US that God should love us...no majesty that He should look at us.  No beauty to make Him desire us…but it was God our Saviour who took on that ugliness.  He who is forever glorious, with beauty that makes hearts ACHE...He took on that ugliness, having no form or majesty that we should look at Him, or beauty that we should desire Him.

He bore our griefs, He carried our sorrows.

The SON became sin, so that we, as sinners, could become SONS.

We gave Him everything evil, everything wicked, everything filthy and stinking with sin...and He gave us everything good, everything pure, everything shining and glorious with love.

WHO WOULD EVER MAKE THIS TRADE?

Trading diamonds for mud.  Trading an eternal feast for poison.  Trading SALVATION for SIN.

Not one of US would be willing to make this trade.

For our best friends, the people we are closest to, we might be willing to sacrifice a little.  Give them some money.  Give them some time.

But our enemies?  The people who insult us?  The people who abuse us?  The people who threaten our very lives...what are we willing to give THESE people?

For here is the sinful inclination of each and every heart...we LOVE mercy for ourselves.  We love mercy, we love grace.  But for others?  Give THEM justice.  Make them pay for what they have done.  Hold THEM to account.  After all, it’s what they deserve!

But what do WE deserve?  TRULY.  TRULY, what do we deserve?

Beloved, there are two types of people in the world.  Assuming that I’m speaking to those who believe in Jesus Christ, there are those who are like you.  There are those who are WHO YOU ARE.  They are fellow Christians.  Imperfect, still sinful, and yet redeemed people who belong to Jesus Christ.  There are those who are WHO YOU ARE.

And the second group?  There are those who are WHO YOU WERE (x2).  Who you used to be.  Who you once were.

There is NO ROOM for pride.  There is no room for any one of us to be puffed up.  Do not compare the worst actions of your neighbours to your best actions.  Do not compare yourself to your neighbours at all.  This is a fools errand and will yield no proper results.

Compare yourself, instead, to Jesus Christ.  How did you stack up?  In who you once were?  Not that well.

And now...how DO you stack up? How do you stack up now that you’ve known about the gospel for years?  Now that you’ve experienced the full power of God’s love and grace?  Now that Christ has poured out His spirit upon you and blessed you with His strength and His help?  Still not that well.

THIS is the only comparison that matters.  I don’t want to hear any one of you comparing yourself with others in the church to tear them down or to raise yourself up.  If you need to make comparisons, you can compare yourself to one of two people.

You can compare yourself to who you were yesterday, and be endlessly thankful to God for His grace at work in your life…

And you can compare yourself to Jesus Christ, and realize how much work there is still ahead.

Each one of us should make these comparisons.  And it should humble us.

But here is the good news.  When you compare yourself to Christ, and you see that gap, that steep upward slope of the maturity you still have yet to achieve...remember this good news.  YOU are not your Saviour.  You are not your Saviour, Jesus Christ is your Saviour.

You don’t have to be strong enough - He is all powerful.

You don’t have to be good enough - He is perfect.

You couldn’t be your Saviour, and God doesn’t ask you to be.

The only thing that you contributed to your salvation at the beginning was the sin that made it necessary, and nothing has changed to your contributions.  But God still works, and we receive something that we definitely do not deserve.  Our second point. 

It was very exciting to read this trustworthy and true saying, because it reads very much like Ephesians 2 - my favorite description of the gospel.  The gospel in two words.

Ephesians 2 - You were dead in your sins...BUT GOD

Titus 3 - We were once slaves to our various passions and pleasures...BUT when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us.

A bit longer, but the exact same BUT GOD of the gospel.

  • We were lost, and He found us.
  • We were dead, and He raised us.
  • We were sinful, and He saved us.

And as we saw before, Paul goes through these various aspects of the gospel.  He lists off these deep and wondrous aspects: the incarnation, justification, sanctification, and glorification.

And I could preach a full sermon on any one of these aspects...and I have.

But this morning, I want to focus especially on our present and our future, both rooted in the cross of Christ.

Let’s begin with our future.

Paul addresses the Christian future in verse 7 - Being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

This, beloved, is the ultimate trade.  When Christ came down to this earth, He left behind the glories and comforts of heaven, glories and comforts that He DESERVED, and took on our human nature, in all of its messiness and difficulty.  In all of its weaknesses and limitations.

He took that on, in order for us, one day, to experience all the glories and comforts of heaven.  To live there forever with Him...not as servants, but heirs together with Him.  Heirs of God, and co-heirs of Christ.

Do we understand the honour and privilege of this?  The complete and total transformation?  Christ Jesus became one of us so that we could be redeemed and remade in His image.  So that we could stand beside Him in paradise, ruling with Him eternally over all creatures.

We brought only wickedness to the table, and we receive only blessings.

This is what is waiting for us.  This is what has been promised to us - the hope of eternal life.

And hope is a tricky word.  It can be used in various ways, and there is a certain amount of uncertainty to hope, isn’t there?  But Biblical hope means there is certainty of the event, and uncertainty of the time.  It WILL happen, but we don’t know WHEN.  Who hopes for what he already has.  But we hope for what we do not yet see.  We hope for what we do not yet experience in its fullness, and so we wait for it patiently.  It is hope that softens our sorrow.  It is hope that give us strength.  And this hope will not disappoint, because it is founded on God’s promises.

And it is through the various aspects of the gospel that we can see exactly how far God goes to faithfully fulfill His promises.  We can look back to see what He will do in the future.

Just very quickly, let’s go through the theological elements of this saying together and see JUST HOW LONG AGO God promised what He fulfilled in Christ

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared

Jesus’ incarnation, taking on human flesh fulfilled the promise made in the beginning to Adam and Eve that one of their descendants would be the Messiah, the Christ, the victor who would crush the serpent’s head.  4500 years of waiting until the fulfilment.  But it came.

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy

The crucifixion, being pierced for our iniquities, while we mocked Him, while we rejected Him.  The cross of Christ is the only possible fulfillment of the prophecy of the suffering servant.  Isaiah 53.  800 years of waiting.  But it was fulfilled.

The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

Sanctification, promised by the prophet Ezekiel, 600 years before its fulfillment.

The Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, in fulfillment of Joel’s very specific prophecy 900 years earlier.

Congregation, brothers and sisters...our God fulfills His promises, even if it takes hundreds of years.

Many of us are tired of waiting - it has been almost 2000 years since Christ promised to return.  Almost 2000 years since He ascended into heaven, and an angel encouraged the disciples not to gaze after Him, because there was work to be done.

And that work of church gathering has continued.  Generation after generation, hearing the gospel, believing the gospel, living the gospel, dying in the hope of the gospel, being transported to Christ’s side in paradise.  And there, they are still waiting for the consummation of all things.

How can we wait like generations before us have waited?  Patiently, but eagerly?  How can we do this?

Several years ago, when I was at college in Manitoba, there was an explosion in the middle of the night.  The greenhouse next door to the college was set on fire, and it exploded, lighting up the sky like it was the middle of the day.  With the noise and the light, several students told me later that they thought for sure it was the second coming of Jesus Christ.

At the time, I chuckled about it...but reflecting back on it today, there’s nothing funny about that.  There’s nothing funny, nothing silly about that...but only something honorable.  Something we should seek to imitate in our lives.  To be so ready, that every trumpet blast we hear, we should wonder if it is the final trumpet.  Every strange light in the sky, we should wonder if it is Christ returning.

But the question remains...HOW do we do this? HOW do we work this excitement, this readiness, this eager expectation in our hearts?

It is through recognizing what the gospel is, and using it appropriately.  We have to rid ourselves of the idea that the gospel is just a door through which we walk to BECOME a Christian, and then we move on to bigger and better things.  The gospel is not just the front door.

As a wise minister once wrote: “the gospel isn’t just the ABCs of Christianity, but rather the A to Z of our spiritual lives.”  From beginning to end, the Christian life is ruled by the gospel.  The gospel isn’t just the front door, it is the entire house.

And so, each and every day, you must preach the gospel to yourself.  Remind yourself that you need it today just as much as when you first began this journey with filthy hands.  Each and every day, whether you preach it through

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life…

Or Ephesians 2 - We were dead in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked, but God, rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, made us alive with Christ

Or Titus 3 - We were once foolish and disobedient, but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, according to His own mercy

Remember the true beauty of the gospel.  I can’t resist one more illustration before I close.

A few months ago, I was listening to a sermon on the radio and the preacher described the gospel of Christmas in one sentence - “He came to be the Saviour of the world.”  - drawing on 1 John 4:14.  It doesn’t sound like much, but this is written in what English teachers called iambic pentameter.  This is the way Shakespeare wrote his sonnets.  Love poems.  This is the greatest act of love, the greatest love poem to ever have been written.

He CAME to BE the SA-viour OF the WORLD.

This is God’s sonnet to you.  And it is better than anything Shakepeare ever wrote.

So preach the gospel to yourself each and every day.  Fill your mind with what is trustworthy and true according to God.  Build your life according to the blueprints that God has provided to build up His church, and always remember the most glorious trade ever made - His life for yours.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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