My house if full of Star Wars fans. My oldest son in particular is a fanatic. Friday night was the premier of the 2nd season of the Mandalorian. For the last week, it’s all I’ve heard about around the house. For my son, the expectation of a future joy infused his week with a joy of its own. He walked through his days with a lighter step. His burdens weren’t quite as heavy. What was a major trouble the week before became a minor problem in light of the coming joy.
This morning we are going to talk about the Christian experience of time. In the book of Titus we will see 3 epiphanies that transform our experience of life.
We’re in Titus 2:11-14.
The Cambridge dictionary defines an epiphany as a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you.
Epiphany is a word borrowed from Greek. That Greek word was used by Paul in Titus and is translated as appearing or appeared.
The first epiphany in Titus is
The epiphany of grace
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
Jesus was the image of the invisible God who appeared among us in human form. What did it look like when the holy, just, sovereign God came to our sinful and crooked world?
It looked like grace.
It looked like kindness and mercy. It looked like a father running down the road to embrace the son who had betrayed and shamed him.
It looked like a man kneeling next to a woman caught in an affair, turning away her accusers and protecting her from condemnation.
It looked like a man spreading the words “your sins are forgiven” like Johnny spreading apple seeds.
It was an epiphany. It was something no one could ever have seen coming. It was a revelation of good news beyond our wildest hopes.
We talked about grace a few weeks ago, we looked at some definitions of the word.
the free bestowal of kindness on one who has no claim to it.
His voluntary, unrestrained, unmerited favor toward guilty sinners, granting them justification and life instead of the penalty of death, which they deserved.
God has always been gracious, but when Christ came it became fully visible.
Paul elaborates on the appearing of that grace in chapter 3:4
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The epiphany of God in Christ was a revelation of grace, kindness and love.
That grace offers salvation to all people.
Salvation may not seem like great news to the person who isn’t aware they are in need of saving.
For the child caught in a riptide, the appearance of a lifeguard to save them from drowning is a glorious epiphany.
For the woman trapped in a burning building the appearance of a firefighter out of the smoke to save them from burning is a glorious epiphany.
For the man snared in sin, whose soul is marked in the stains of guilt and whose heart is aching for meaning and transcendence, the appearing of Christ to save the soul from death is truly a glorious epiphany.
In Christ God offers salvation to all who will receive it. That grace has a powerful affect on us.
What does it do? Look at verse 12.
It trains us. Grace always comes with truth. Grace accepts us as we are but won’t let us stay that way.
This is stated negatively and positively. Negatively the appearing of grace trains us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions.
Positively it trains us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.
Does this sound a little like Ephesians 4? The grace of God saves us, it washes us clean, it kills the old crooked self and creates a brand new identity.
We are in training this morning aren’t we? Some of us are learning to say no to our passions. We are tempted into ungodly behaviors and grace is working in us to bring conviction and self-control.
We are learning to turn our passions over to God.
The power that trains us is the continual experience of the tender mercy of Christ for sinners. By remembering the work of Christ, the past infuses peace and hope into the present moment.
A few years ago I took a trip to Europe with Daniel M. It was one of the best times I’ve had in a long time. We spend time with believers from across the continent. We toured Berlin and drove through the countryside to visit Martin Luther’s home in Wittenberg. The remembrance of that past joy brings a present joy into my life today.
The gospel is like that.
The second epiphany in Titus is
The epiphany of glory
13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
The first coming of Jesus was a revelation of the grace of God. Jesus will come again to reveal the glory of God.
Let’s review what the Bible teaches us about that coming.
- Jesus will descend in the same way he ascended.
He will come visibly, physically, personally.
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
- This time the whole world will know about it.
For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.
- The time of the 2nd coming is unknowable.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
- When he comes it will be sudden and unannounced.
for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:2
- For those who are waiting and watching there will be signs foreshadowing the end.
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
- At the sound of his voice, the dead will be resurrected.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
- Every secret will be laid bare and every deed judged.
This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
- All human power and authority will come to an end.
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
1 Corinthians 15:24
- The enemies of goodness, righteousness and truth will be brought to submission.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
1 Corinthians 15:25
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
- The present world will cease to exist.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
2 Peter 3:10
- A new world will be formed.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
- Christ’s people will be healed, comforted and welcomed into a world that knows no death or mourning or pain.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
- The citizens of heaven, perfectly and totally cleansed from sin, untouched by temptation, uninhibited in love, will enjoy eternity together in the presence of God.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
Jesus will come again, but it will look very different than his first coming.
Jesus came the first time in humiliation; He will return in exaltation. He came the first time to be killed; He will return to kill His enemies. He came the first time to serve; He will return to be served. He came the first time as the suffering servant; He will return as the conquering king. The challenge the book of Revelation makes to every person is to be ready for His return.
When we look forward to the 2nd coming of Christ, our experience of the present is transformed.
Have you thought about his return lately?
“To me the second coming is the perpetual light on the path which makes the present bearable. I never lay my head on the pillow without thinking that perhaps before the morning breaks, the final morning may have dawned. I never begin my work without thinking that He may interrupt my work and begin His own.”
-G. Campbell Morgan
C.S. Lewis observed that “The doctrine of the second coming has failed, so far as we are concerned, if it does not make us realize that at every moment of every year in our lives Donne’s question, “What if this present were the world’s last night?” is equally relevant.”
What if? What if today were the world’s last night?
The famous preacher Robert Murray McCheyne used to ask pastors the question, “Do you think the Lord is coming tonight?” When they said, “no”, McCheyne would quote Luke 12:40, “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
We’ve heard so much about 2020 this year. Are you sick of it? The problems of this year seem so big. When they are big, our anxiety is big. Our fear is big. Our discouragement is big.
But in light of the epiphanies of Christ, 2020 isn’t big. It’s just one moment among many, sandwiched between the two great events which dwarf everything else in history.
So what do we do now? Christ has come, he’s coming again. What do we do in the meantime?
Paul indirectly writes of another epiphany in Titus.
The epiphany of works
Three times, Paul emphasizes the need for works.
Christians who look for the 2nd coming are zealous for good works. (Verse 14)
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.
We’re ready for every good work. (3:1)
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
And we’re devoted to good works. (3:8)
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people
The good works of the Christian are an epiphany to the world around us.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.
We are the most tangible manifestation of the grace of God that many of our neighbors have experienced. When we are zealous and ready for good works, the reality of the grace of God is revealed in us. People see grace through our works.
That’s something I love about Vintage Faith.
You all are devoted to good works. I was so encouraged yesterday to see singles and young couples spending their afternoon serving the little children in our church. I am so encouraged by the Whitesells, who just moved to town and are continually asking me what they can to do serve at Vintage. I am blessed by people like Andrew and Shannon Wingert, who always get a hold of me when there is a need announced. I praised God this week when Eric and Diana Zoeller dropped what they were doing to go shopping and prepare a meal for the ladies at Hope is Alive. I could go on and on.
Let’s keep it up.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown