Eternal Life with God - Titus 3:6-7
Have you ever been somewhere, perhaps on vacation, where everything was great, and you said to yourself or someone else, “You know, this feels like heaven.” Or you had a moment of peace and relaxation at home, or out in nature, with no worries or fears, no problems to solve or fires to put out, and you thought, “Wow, this is a little slice of heaven.” Or maybe you enjoyed some good food or drink or even some good time with friends and you thought, “This isn’t just good. It’s heavenly.” Without a doubt, everything will be good in heaven. Yet, when we think about heaven, and what the Scriptures call “eternal life,” we automatically picture it in terms of what we desire. We think, “Heaven will be wonderful because it will be wonderful for me. It’ll be everything I want it to be, right? Isn’t that what makes it so great?” But when we think that way, we put ourselves at the center of enjoying eternal life.
And so it’s natural to put ourselves at the center of receiving eternal life. People commonly assume that going to heaven must be based on how they live.
If heaven is a “me-centered” place, there must be a “me-centered” method for getting there. Because you get what you earn, right? Isn’t heaven a place for the people who have earned it? Interestingly, the Scriptures don’t describe heaven and eternal life as a man-centered existence. They describe it as God-centered. Ultimately, what makes heaven so great is not primarily the amenities or the pleasures,or even the freedoms from the worries and pain of this life. What makes it great is being with God, free from barriers or hindrance between us and him.
And because eternal life is a life of God-centered enjoyment, the way a person receives eternal life is God-centered as well. You get there based not on what you do or how you live, but on things done by God.
And for that reason, we should understand what God must do and give him all the credit. So what must God do for us to get to heaven and enjoy eternal life? Well, the apostle Paul gives us some insight. We’ve looked at this part of Titus 3 for a few weeks. It might seem like retreading,
but so much is packed into this handful of sentences that helps us understand
what God does when he saves a person.
Notice the outline on pages 6-7 that helps to clarify these things that God must do for you to receive eternal life with Him. God must:
1. set you free by his Spirit,
2. declare you righteous by his grace,
3. and make you family by his love.
So let’s look at these and let’s reason together from the Word of God.
First, to receive eternal life, God must set you free by his Spirit.
I talked about this last week. But if you didn’t hear that, no problem. Verse 5 speaks of the “renewal of the Holy Spirit.” This is God’s act of making a person “new,” giving what the Bible calls “a new heart.” When we say “heart” we mean the seat of our thoughts, desires, our will, and our emotions. Also, when we receive the renewal of the Holy Spirit, he comes to live within us. God does this, Ezekiel 36 says, so that God can cause us to walk in his statutes and be careful to obey his rules. Basically, so you can live the best way, set apart from the world to be like Jesus. But “being made new” is not described as something that we can initiate or do for ourselves. Notice how verse 6 describes what takes place. It says the Holy Spirit is the one, “whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” It’s figurative language. The Holy Spirit is a person, but “pouring out” implies “giving generously.”
God is not stingy with his giving of the HS to those he saves. And that’s emphasized here in that he gives him “richly” or “abundantly” to us. God the Father does the pouring. No one makes him do it or manipulates or forces him. Through this, God makes us new. But why do we need to be made new?
In Romans 6 in the New Testament, Paul says that people are naturally slaves to sin. He writes, “Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. You may think, “Wow, slavery? That’s a strong comparison.” Paul anticipated that, so he writes, “I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members (i.e. your body) as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members (again, your body) as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (or pure and righteous living for God).”
The slavery comparison makes sense because these Christians had to be “set free from sin.”
Then he adds this, still in Romans 6, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Eternal life is a gift you receive; not a wage that you earn. Someone might “clean up well” outwardly. Some folks are nicer, more caring, or better citizens than others. Many people do things that they feel should outweigh their moral failures. But you are a slave to sin unless God pours out his Holy Spirit on you and sets you free.
Billions of dollars change hands every year in our country in the name of self-help. Books, blogs, podcasts, programs, and other products to help you improve yourself. It seems that one thing that most, if not all, of them have in common is that they offer freedom. Get free from your old ways of living, thinking, eating, planning, leading, exercising, working. Someone doesn’t have to be a Christian to have insight into best practices on eating and exercising, or to offer you great tips on managing your time, your money or your business. But we can’t free ourselves from sin. That’s why Paul uses the “slavery” comparison. People who have not been set free from the slavery of sin,
and who remain stuck in that self-centered existence that earns death, should have no confidence that they will experience eternal life or even enjoy it if they did. Because it’s a God-centered place.
Have you ever cried out to God to save you from your sin? Sin is awful master. When God sets a person free, they can turn from their sin – what the Bible calls “repentance.” Listen to this great definition of what repentance is: Repentance is a saving grace, by which a sinner, being truly aware of his sinfulness, understands the mercy of God in Christ, grieves for and hates his sins, and turns from them to God, fully intending and striving for a new obedience. If you’ve never experienced this but you desire it, cry out to God now for freedom. But understand that there are two other things God must do for you to receive eternal life.
Also, God must declare you righteous by his grace.
In verse , Paul writes the phrase, “so that being justified by his grace.” To follow his train of thought, we have to go back to the words “he saved us.” “He saved us…so that being justified by his grace…” The words in between those two phrases describe why and how God saves his people. Paul already referred to what the Bible calls “justification” or being made acceptable to God when he says we are saved “by the washing of regeneration (or of a new beginning).” Our sins are washed away by God. Our debt is cancelled by God. He declares us innocent. Paul refers to that work of God again here in verse 7, pointing out that were “justified” or “declared righteous” so to speak, by God’s grace. By his unmerited favor. God does it. In Romans 3, Paul explains this. He says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. “Propitiation” is a word you probably never use, but the concept is vital to the Christian faith.
The innocent blood of Jesus - which he describes in Matthew and Luke as being “poured out” on the cross - is the means by which God declares his people righteous. To believe that Jesus “died for your sins” is to understand that the blood of Jesus is the propitiation or means by which your sins are removed. And for that reason Romans 3 says that God is, “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Without justification from God through Jesus Christ, we can’t receive eternal life. Romans 5 says: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Ephesians 2, one chapter after what we read together earlier, says that all people are “by nature, children of wrath.” God’s wrath or anger against sin. What, God is angry at people? How did people become sinners? Again Romans 5, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.” That one man was Adam, the first created man “and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” All of us, and all people everywhere.
We are born sinners and the anger of God is against us for that sin. But hear me out, and let me read you some more of Romans 5. Paul explains: “But the free gift (of grace) is not like the trespass (or sin). For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many…if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” What kind of life? Paul says that just as sin reigned in death, grace reigns ”through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When you think of “debt,” perhaps the first thing that comes to your mind is your mortgage or your student loans – something big. You probably don’t expect your lender to call anytime soon to tell you that your debt has been paid in full! But if, somehow, someway, they called and told you your debt had been fully paid, I think your first question would most likely be, “Who paid it?” That would be the logical question. Someone has to absorb it because it is owed. What if the person told you that added that the same person was paying off other mortgages. You would think, “Who is going around paying off debts? This completely changes my life.” In 2 Cor. 5, Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away…All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” The one true God, holy and eternal, going around paying off debts. If you can work and earn a good living, our financial debts are probably manageable. But your sin debt is not manageable at all.
To trust in Jesus Christ is to believe that Jesus’s blood covered your sin debt. But you have to take God’s word for it. You have to take it on faith. We must acknowledge that Jesus’ blood is the only way to cover the debt. Even in light of all you’ve done or failed to do in your life, God announces that you are counted sinless through Jesus Christ. Have you put your faith in Jesus and discovered that your guilty conscience is relieved? If you’ve trusted in Jesus, this should ease our guilty minds. And it should humble us. Here in the covenant community of the church, we must see each other this way and bear not only with each other, but with those who don’t know God in this way,
because only by being justified by God’s grace in Jesus does person receive eternal life.
And finally, to receive eternal life, God must make you family by his love.
Paul writes that we are justified by his grace, so that “we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” When you see the word “might” there, it doesn’t mean “maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.” The idea is that it is only through what God has done that we could become heirs of God. And an heir, of course, is the receipt of an inheritance. We are naturally outside the family of God, children of wrath because of sin. But as we read earlier in Ephesians 1, in his love, God adopted us to himself as sons. And Paul is not speaking only to males here.
In ancient culture, the firstborn son received the bulk of the inheritance.
Deuteronomy 21 in the Old Testament commanded that the firstborn son of a family should receive double. For that reason, Jesus is repeated referred to in the New Testament as the “firstborn” among God’s people.
Jesus lived the perfect life on earth that deserved the inheritance of eternal life with God. And for those who trust in him, who have faith in him, and are unified with him through the work of the Holy Spirit, those people have firstborn rights to eternal life through Jesus. This is why in Romans 8, Paul tells the new believers that when they were saved, they “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Because we are adopted through Christ, we can call God our Father. We might not feel like it’s always true, but it is. Paul says that the Holy Spirit within us, “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
One of Jesus’ most famous teaching illustrations was the story of two sons. It’s commonly referred to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The story goes that the younger son of a wealthy man wanted his share of his father’s wealth while the father was still alive and well. The young man was nicknamed “the prodigal son” because the father gave the son what he wanted, and within days the son had already squandered the whole thing through reckless or prodigal living. “Prodigal” comes from the Latin word for “reckless.” So the son goes off on this reckless, self-centered binge, and he has what we wanted, which was not his father, but the benefits of the father. He goes out to find something like heaven on earth. He burns through all of his wealth with terrible timing, because at that same time, there is a food shortage. So if he’s going to eat, he has to go to work. He gets a job feeding pigs, and things are so bad that he wants to eat what the pigs are eating.
So he decides to go back to his father and offer to work for him. He says, Luke 15, “I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ Basically, “Tell me what to do to be received into your house, and I’ll do it.” When the father sees him though, he runs out to him to kiss and hug him. And when the son confesses and offers to work, the father will have none of it. Instead, he treats him like an heir and he throws a big party to celebrate. He says, ”This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’” There was no working to get back into the family. You might say, “Well the boy did have to come back. He did that.” But his is an illustration, and that isn’t Jesus’ point. In fact, it seems that “prodigal sons” weren’t the only ones to whom Jesus was speaking. At that time, the self-righteous Jewish leaders were grumbling because Jesus was showing kindness and spending time with very unrighteous people. Jesus then the story shifts to the older son, who had been home all this time. He never went out and carried on. He followed the rules. And when he finds out that his father has received his foolish brother, he’s furiously complains that he was always there, serving and obeying, but he never got a party. What the older son reveals is that he thinks much the same as his younger brother: “Around here, we get what we earn.”
The father says to the older brother, “‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” It’s a family. You don’t work your way in. We aren’t born into God’s family, but he adopts us. Adoption is a relationship established by one who desires to be the parent of an orphan child. The child doesn’t “earn” a portion. We enter the family of God not by birthright, not by hard work, not by earning. We enter by adoption.
Do you live under the assumption that you must earn the love of God? Have you been working hard, serving with discipline, obeying with dedication, doing what you need to do to keep God’s love and get to heaven? If so, you misunderstand heaven. In his book on heaven, 19th century preacher D.L. Moody, states that what makes heaven such a desirable place is not it’s beauty or benefits, but rather, “It is the being with God. We shall be in the presence of the Redeemer; we shall be forever with the Lord.” The grand prize of adoption is life with the parent.
Heaven is a God-centered place. Eternal life is a God-centered life. And what it takes to get there is, from start to finish, a God-centered work. The apostle Paul no doubt believed this. Let me close with this statement from another of his letters, 1 Timothy, in which he wrote about his inability to earn eternal life. He says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”