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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Preached At:
Title:Saved to Do Good Works
Text:LD 24 Titus 2:11-14, Titus 3:3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Good Works

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 270 - Gladness in Worship
TH 563 - What Kind of Man Can Live in the World
TH 642 - Be Thou My Vision
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? That’s called a causality dilemma. What causes what? Did the chicken come first to lay the egg? But chickens come from eggs! Hence the dilemma. There’s also another dilemma. What makes you accepted by God? How much good must you do for God to accept you? But if we’re bad, how can we do good? But don’t you need to do good to be saved? To Christians, neither one is a dilemma. God created the chicken which laid the egg. And since we can’t do good works to be saved, we have to be saved in order to do good works. Only after salvation will our good works be considered good by God. 

Last week, we saw how no one can be righteous or holy before God. No amount of keeping religious rituals, religious laws, or even our own moral standards can save a person. Only God’s way of salvation saves. God supplied a substitute - Jesus Christ. As God and man, he lived a perfectly obedient life for sinners and died a perfect death to pay for their sins. Those who believe in him and repent of their sins, swap their sins for his good works. They are declared not guilty before God while Christ is declared guilty in their place.

Today, we look a bit deeper at this issue of good works. Some people might ask - especially very moral people - why can’t our good works save us? Not even a bit? But why shouldn’t we do good works? Doesn’t the Bible say that God will reward our good works? Well, if good works don’t save us, then we shouldn’t bother about doing good works anymore. There are 3 truths we want to consider today in answering these questions. Firstly, God’s grace leads us to salvation. Secondly, God’s grace leads to holy living on earth. Thirdly, holy living on earth is motivated by Christ.

Firstly, God’s grace leads us to salvation. Verse 11 says, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” God’s grace alone and not good works results in salvation. And this gracious way had to be revealed. Why? Simply, because it’s such a strange concept. Christianity is the only religion that teaches that good works are not good enough or not good at all. They can’t save you. The Heidelberg Catechism asks - why can’t our good works be considered good before God, or have some part to play in our salvation? It answers that in order for good works to be good, they must be perfect. And our good works are anything but perfect. They are corrupted by sin. Yet, every other religious system teaches that good works, while not perfect, are good enough, or at least play a part in saving a person. But the Bible says that our good works are not good at all. Isaiah 64:6 says that we are all unclean and all our good works are like filthy rags. Psalm 53:3 says, that there is none that does good, no, not one.

Consider what we read in Titus 3:3. The nature of mankind is this - we are foolish and disobedient. We are misled, slaves to our lusts and sinful pleasures. Our lives are characterized by evil and envy, and we hate one another. Your enemy hurts you, you plot revenge. He gossips about you, you try to discredit him. He fails, you rejoice. He succeeds, you get jealous. That’s the way of mankind. Consider what happens when someone cuts you off in line. Consider what we are like online, posting comments. And if that’s the way of mankind, how can our good works be good enough? They will be corrupted by our sinfulness.

This is why God had to reveal his grace. Titus 3:4 describes it - “the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared.” Because sinful mankind’s good works were not good enough, God revealed his grace to save. He demonstrated his kindness and love toward people who sinned against him. To save them without any good works on their part.

And this concept of grace is also why our good works can’t play a part. If good works played a part, grace is not grace. It’s like a mother who says to her infant baby, I love you and I would do anything for you - but you must smile at me before I give you more milk. My love and your joy must cooperate together for your survival. Is that love? That’s not love at all. If God’s grace requires the inclusion of good works to lead to salvation, it’s not grace at all. But God’s grace appeared. God revealed this way of salvation. As Titus 3:5-6 say, it was not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by his mercy that he makes us spiritually alive. This he sheds abundantly on us by sending Christ to die for sinners.

And this grace brings salvation to all kinds of people. Verse 11 says this saving grace has appeared to all men. Titus 2 speaks of different people - old men, old women, young men, young women, slaves, and masters. Salvation is not for the rich alone, or for the poor alone. It’s not only for wicked people that need saving, but also for seemingly good, moral people who especially need saving. There are those of you who come today, who are pretty good - and you may think that you’re not in need of salvation because you can earn it. It may be that you are very noble, but Titus 3:5 says it’s not by works of righteousness. You may have done a lot - you may actually be very moral - but you too need to be saved.

Man usually finds his worth in his morality or maybe in his noble profession. But they are not exempt from sin, neither from the need to be saved. There was once a very successful lawyer who managed to free many innocent people from prison and worked for change in the legal system, to tighten processes and improve the justice system. He died and went to hell. He protested and said that he did not deserve to be in hell, because in his 60 years on earth, he did so much good. Satan looked at his records and said, “You’re not 60, you’re 95.” And the lawyer protested - “No, I’m 60. Where did you get 95 from?” Satan replied - “Well, we just added up your time sheets!” No offense to our dearly beloved lawyers in our congregation. Many do much good, but their good works are not perfect.

A doctor said to his patient that he would have him walking just two weeks later. True enough, after he received the bill, all he does is walk. He had to sell his car to pay for the treatment. No offense to our dear medical practitioners. Many do much good, but their good works are not perfect. And so that nobody’s left out, we don’t have to look very far to find religious workers who embezzle money. All our good works are still tainted by imperfection and sin. They can’t save us. Only God’s grace leads us to salvation. 

Secondly, God’s grace leads to holy living on earth. Question 64 asks a question that many would ask when told that good works don’t save. They’ll ask - then why bother to do good works. If you’re saved by God without doing good works, and saved by Jesus dying for you and giving you his perfect works, then you can live however you want to.

And the answer is no. It’s impossible. No. Those who are truly saved by Christ, those who truly believe, will bring forth fruits of thankfulness. They will do good works. That’s what Titus 2:12 says - truly saved people will turn away from godless living, from sinful pleasures - they will strive to live with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God in this evil world.

So good works are a part of a Christian’s life. This is why Titus 3:8 says, that they who have trusted in God may devote themselves to doing good. This is because God has changed them. There has been a change of heart. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says that God will give them a new heart. He will give them a new spirit. He will take away their heart of stone; he will give them a heart of flesh. He will give them his Spirit and cause them to keep his laws.

So it is God’s grace that saves and enables us to obey. And we see in 2 ways what good works we will do. We will reject sin. Verse 12 - it teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. And we saw what this ungodliness and worldly lusts were in Titus 3:3 - malice, envy, and hating and being hated by others; serving many lusts and pleasures.

Malice refers to evil thoughts and words and actions. You wish evil on others. Envy refers to the deep jealousy of others and the unhappiness that exists when others prosper and you do not. And this leads to hatred of others and others hating you. But the changed heart reacts differently. Your enemy hurts you, you pray for them. They gossip about you, you refrain your tongue. They succeed, you rejoice. They fail, you minister to them. This is the inward and outward sin we reject. When we are saved, God teaches us to deny ourselves ungodliness. And worldly lusts. While in the past we would serve or be enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, the Christian is free from the power of sin. He does not have to serve those lusts. So God’s grace leads us to do that. So you see? Salvation doesn’t make you less willing to do good works, but it makes you more willing. 

We will also pursue godliness. Titus 2:12 says we will live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. There are 3 adverbs that describe how we are to live. Soberly - this means that we live vigilantly. We are of sound mind. We know what is good and right; what is dangerous and sinful. Righteously - we are to live lawfully - to be people who are upright. Godly - meaning, we are devoted to God. 

Yes, there are many people who are moral - very good people. But their goodness is not good enough. Most people have no reason to live soberly unless there’s something in it for them. And for every person that lives carefully, there are hundreds who get drunk and behave like fools. Many also live lawfully - because of a fear of punishment. Most of you will have an urge to jaywalk - but not when a police officer is there. Those who drive have beaten many amber lights - unless there’s a red-light camera. In times past of coupon parking, coffee shop patrons will rush out to the car parks when “mata lai liao.” But no unbeliever will refrain from evil or do good because they are devoted to God. But how about the saved person? Will he reject good works because he is already saved? No. It’s impossible for those who are truly saved by faith in Christ not to do good works. Why? Because he is thankful. He has been transformed.

And that’s also his motivation. Holy living on earth is motivated by Christ. That’s the third point. Titus 2:13-14 tell us that after God’s grace was revealed, after sinners are saved, they are devoted to holiness. They “look for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

There are those who say you must do good works - because God will reward them. If you do good works, he will save you; if you don’t do good works, he won't save you. The Bible speaks about rewards!

But as you can see, that’s a misinterpretation. Why do we do good and forsake sin? Christ has saved a people who are zealous of good works. There are 2 motivations. We are motivated by Christ’s return and rewards. We look for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. Christ will come to bring his rewards. But these rewards are not based on our good works, they are rewards predetermined already. Titus 3:7 says, “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” We are already heirs. There’s already an inheritance. 

When Christ comes in judgment, he will judge the world and their sins - all their insufficient good works and imperfect obedience. And he will send them to hell. But to those who humbly receive his love and grace, God has already decided to reward their imperfect good works. Even on earth there are rewards. When you pray, there’s peace. When you give, there’s joy. When you endure persecution, there’s love for your enemies. When you forgive, you are forgiven. When you do good to your enemies, you understand the character of Christ. We do good works not because we want to earn salvation, but salvation is already given - and many more blessings are already there.

We are also motivated by his work of redemption. Titus 2:14 says that he gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Christ’s salvation, instead of making us lazy, it makes us grateful to Christ for our salvation, that we will be fruitful in good works. Jesus said that every good tree brings forth good fruit.

So what do we learn? Dear Christians, you must ask yourself this - are you truly saved? Do you hate sin or do you love it? Are you growing in godliness? Because if you are saved, he has put in you that desire. Perhaps you have not truly believed. Perhaps you are still trusting in your rituals, your religiosity, your morality. Nothing but the grace of God will save you. 

Friends, there are many of you who are very moral. I’m sorry, God does not accept your morality. You’re not moral enough. Neither am I. But Jesus is perfectly good. Only he can save you. He has lived a perfect life. His perfection can be yours if you trust in him to save you. He died a perfect death. Your escape from God’s judgment is to ask Jesus to take your judgment on him.

Sermon Outline:

1. God’s Grace Leads Us to Salvation

    A. God reveals his grace

    B. His grace brings salvation to all kinds of people

2. God’s Grace Leads to Holy Living on Earth

    A. It leads us to reject sin

    B. It leads us to love godliness

3. Holy Living on Earth Is Motivated by Christ

    A. By his return and rewards

    B. By his work of redemption

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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