Last week we looked at who we were before God saved us. We saw the Greatness of God’s salvation in the Greatness of our sin. This week the text turns our attention away from us and towards God. Our sermon title is “The Greatness of God’s Salvation Seen in the Greatness of God.”
Can you see the tectonic shift in focus here? A major contrast is appearing in these verses starting with the word “But” in verse 4. The desperately wretched condition of man which was the focus of verse 3 is left behind and now the light of Scripture turns upward to the glorious presentation of God our Savior. No longer looking down on the shamefully low state of man the attention shoots straight up to the Creator and Redeemer Himself seated above the earth. The sickly way man is found by God contrasts eternally with the radiant glory of God’s perfections. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is emphatically preaching: “Do you see how bad man is? Now, look and see how good God is! Always the answer to man’s sin is God. Never man. Can you ever find in the Bible a place where after telling us the hard truth about man’s sinfulness it goes on to issue the steps man can take to reform himself and make himself better so as to be an acceptable creature before God? Never! Aren’t we always seeing the problem of man’s sin followed by what God has done about his sin? What God has done? Yes!
The Greatness of God’s Kindness and Love
What we must see first is what is told to us first: God’s kindness and love. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared”.
“He saw me ruined by the fall/
Yet loved me notwithstanding all/
He loved me from my lost estate/
His lovingkindness – O how great!”
What is the kindness of God? What is the love of God? The two are twins here but let us pull them apart, look at them, and put them back together.
First of all, God’s kindness is great! Kindness refers to that goodness and tender quality of God towards us that mobilizes Him to be good to us. That is the key, this word emphasizes not the kind attitude someone has – although that is included. Instead the word emphasizes that attitude getting expressed in actions. It’s a kind attitude getting communicated with kind deeds. It’s what I like to call an “actionable attitude”.
In the military and intelligence communities they talk about “actionable intel’”. What is actionable intelligence? It means “Is the information about this situation enough for us to take action on?” Can we do something as a result of what we know?” God’s kindness is not an apathetic attitude. It’s an actionable attitude. It’s an attitude that produces action. It’s a “good things are going to happen because good is what God is” kind of attitude.
Then there is the twin to kindness: love. God’s greatness is seen in His love. This is not agape love, which relates to unconditional, sacrificial love. Although that is involved here, this love relates more to the love God has for mankind. It’s the affection in His heart for the human race. The word actually in the Greek is “philanthropia”. We get our word “philanthropy” from this Greek word. A philanthropist loves human beings. Some people love dogs. Or cats. Or horses. But a philanthropist loves other human beings. He cares for the well-being of mankind. He does what he can to help the welfare of other people because he loves them.
Putting the two back together we see God’s powerful affection for sinful man. We see His divine affection not as something that changes from day to day depending on His “mood”. Or our behavior. Instead it is that intrinsic, essential part of Who He is, the unchangeable kindness in His heart that works outward in His actions towards us.
The other day Evan wanted to learn about geysers so we watched a YouTube video. For 5 straight minutes Beehive Geyser in Yellowstone National Park blew thousands of gallons of water over 200 feet in the air. Aside from the science of why it happens, something down inside the earth forces the water to come out. The magnificent action you see above ground is caused by what’s going on underground.
The same is with God’s love and kindness. Deep within His heart is a powerful affection for us that causes Him to burst forth and shower mankind with blessings. Like the lyrics to the hymn go,
“O the Deep, Deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless free.
Rolling as a mighty ocean, In it’s fullness over me,
Underneath me, all around me, Is the current of Thy love…
O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus, love of every love the best
Tis an ocean vast of blessing, Tis a haven sweet of rest”
We might say that He can’t help being kind and loving because kind and loving is what He is. “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9)
This is the same love and kindness He shows to the wicked and the ungrateful who don’t acknowledge Him. If you remember last week’s sermon then you’ll remember that that used to be us too. Jesus said in Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” This is the love and kindness that God shows that leads people to repentance. Romans 2:4, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” It is the kindness and love of God seeping down in the sinner’s heart to warm them up to God.
One of the hassles of winter is scraping ice off your windshield. Everyone knows what it’s like. But there’s an easier way to clear off your windows. Warm the car up. As the inside of the car gets warm the heat is going to start working its way outward. The ice is going to melt and the piles of snow wet with warmth will start to slide down your windshield. After a little bit you can hop in and go, no scraping necessary. God doesn’t scrape away at icy hearts. He gets inside of them and starts warming them up with His kindness and love. Pretty soon the ice of hostility and the chill of indifference to God melts until finally they turn fully to His love in Jesus Christ. “Or don’t you see that the kindness of God leads you towards repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
“He saw me ruined by the fall,
Yet loved me notwithstanding all,
He loved me from my lost estate,
His lovingkindness – O how great!”
EFC, do you see the Greatness of God’s Salvation is found in the Greatness of His kindness and Love?
The Greatness of God’s Mercy
Next we see God’s mercy. Verse 5 teaches us: “He saved us, NOT because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy”. His mercy! They hymn declares, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Merciful and Mighty!”. The song “Strong Tower” joins in as well, “I go running to your mountain, where your mercy sets me free.” And then again our song “Your grace is enough” comes in and says, “You lead us by the still waters into mercy”. You can never be too confident in God’s mercy.
What is mercy? Mercy here essentially means “compassion”. Sometimes its translated as “tender-mercy”, or “compassion” or “pity”. A perfect example is the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:33 who helped the beat up man lying on the side of the road. It said, “But a Samaritan as he travelled came where the man was and when he saw him he took pity on him.” It goes on to describe the compassionate action he took to help the man. That’s mercy – seeing the need and doing something about it. Mercy is that divine quality of God that moves Him to bless, specifically to bless with the need that His creatures have. A perfect picture of God’s divine mercy is found in Ezekiel 16 when God Himself is rebuking Israel for her unfaithfulness while reminding them of how He had saved them because of His mercy. [Turn there with me] Mercy!
We think of people who are hungry, and God feeds them. We think of those who are vulnerable and God protects them. We think of those who are weary and God strengthens them. We think of those who are down and God uplifts them. But mercy, here in Titus 3, the mercy of our God is related to the need we have as helpless sinners. What can we do for ourselves? Nothing! So God, abounding in mercy moves to do what is needed for us, what we cannot do for ourselves. He saves us. So great is His salvation because so great is His tender, compassionate, mercy.
We must never be confused here: It is His mercy that motivates Him to save us, not our merit. Salvation is all of His mercy and zero of our merit. When it comes to our salvation merit means nothing, counts for nothing and will get us nothing. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” And then verses 8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Do you know what obliterates any notion in us of personal merit before God? In other words, do you know what blows away any idea in our minds that all by ourselves we can be good enough before God? Answer: a true vision of God. I’m not using the word vision in the Charismatic way, or, even in the way John and Paul and Isaiah and Ezekiel saw visions. I mean vision in this way: our minds eye has begun to see God for the truth of who He is! At that point our realization of God’s greatness and majesty are skyrocketed heavenward. Up until that point we have been thinking God to be too much like us.
But He said in Psalm 50:21, “You thought I was altogether just like you..” implying that He is nothing like us. He said again, “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my thoughts higher than yours and my ways higher than your ways.” This is a crushing statement of the infinite superiority God enjoys over His beloved creature mankind. And so long as someone keeps looking in the mirror everyday thinking of how to make themselves better looking before God on their own, they have not yet truly seen God. Otherwise they would fall down before the greatness of God and confess their own unworthiness before Him:
Isaiah when He saw God said, “I am ruined” (Isa. 6:1-5). Peter when he encountered Jesus Christ said, “Go away from me Lord I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Job spent chapter after chapter declaring his personal righteousness and used personal pronouns like “I”, “me”, and “my” 195 times but when in the end God appeared to him and he saw God’s true likeness Job cried out “Behold I am unworthy!” (Job 40:4)
(Isn’t it amazing then to see these books and movies and people talk about how they’ve seen Jesus in visions or while they’ve been unconscious? Their experience and reaction is nothing like the people of the Bible. Who is the Jesus they were meeting? The people in the Bible were terrified and immediately knew they were vile before Him. But these people slap Jesus on the back and come back feeling validated and affirmed. Their reaction is not the same as the Bible so we must ask if their Jesus is the same – 2 Cor. 11:4.)
We have nothing to offer God. We’re in need from Him. I remember one time with my in-laws we wanted to go out for ice cream and when we got there I wanted to do something nice and buy for everyone. When I got up to the window I handed them my card but they said they only take cash. To my embarrassment I had none on me. So, I turned around, clearly in need, and my father-in-law supplied what I was lacking. That’s mercy! Seeing the need, having pity and taking action to meet it.
God’s mercy is a testimony of our inadequacy, our insufficiency to be righteous. Even if the desire to do good is there we are still inadequate. Only when our merit is chased away by God’ infinitely superior holiness are we then ripe for His mercy. But not until then. In order to receive God’s mercy we must reject our own merit.
Oh Lord, Your Goodness,
A Fountain unceasing,
So great is His Salvation because so Great is His Mercy!
The Greatness of God the Savior
Four times the theme of salvation is specifically mentioned in these few verses. Twice we see God referred to as “our Savior” and twice God is said to have saved us. Verse 4 says, “when the kindness and love of God our Savior”. Verse 6 says “whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”. Then twice in verse 5 God is specifically said to have saved us.
Notice the Trinity clearly presented: God the Father is called “God our Savior” in verse 4, the Holy Spirit in verse 5, and Jesus Christ in verse 6. Our Salvation is the united desire of our Triune God and it is the product of all 3 Persons of the Godhead cooperating to accomplish the great historical task of mankind’s Salvation.
God is a Great Savior. All of this adds up to God as a Wonderful Savior. All His perfections get expression in His grand act of Redemption. His justice in punishing sin at His Son’s cross; His holiness in His perfectly Holy Son; His mercy providing for us what we needed in our sinful state; His grace pardoning us from our sins, His love and kindness pouring forth His affection and benefits on us. Here I present to You, God our Great Savior!
Do you know what made His salvation possible? It appeared!
Conclusion: Our Great God Appeared!
Saul to Damascus; Jesus’ incarnation (Titus 2:11; John 1:1-4, 14; Gal. 4:4
Appeared to bring salvation. Man wasn’t seeking God – not God as He is, but God as they wanted Him to be in their own preferences. The truth of God shatters the illusions of ourselves and so no man truly seeks God while keeping high opinions of himself.
Not only has He appeared, but, He is going to appear again! Maranatha!
Jesus Christ is God appearing to mankind. To you! He has come to you. Have you come to Him?