A Love That Goes Beyond
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” vss. 4-5a
This week we remembered the tragic events of 911 twelve years ago. It’s still amazing to see all the events of that day and the aftermath that followed. I was told this week about one of the heroes of that day.
This is Michael Hingson. Michael was a district sales manager for the computer company Quantum ATL. Michael was on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center Bldg. 1 that morning when the building was struck by a plane under the control of terrorist fanatics. This is his yellow Lab guide, “Roselle,” who was sleeping peacefully under his desk. Michael had been hosting a meeting of field representatives.
He said he heard a loud noise like a bump and then a lot of shaking; was worse than any earthquake he had ever experienced; and he should know, he grew up in Palmdale, Calif., and had experienced the Northridge earthquake that struck the state in ’94, among others. The building was swaying, and the air was filled with smoke, fire, paper and the smell of kerosene because the plane had struck just 15 floors above him. He knew something serious had happened, and his first thought was to call his wife and then make sure everyone in the office was evacuated safely.
They knew the emergency exit procedures and following them. “Roselle” led him through the disheveled office and to the stairwell to begin the long decent, sometimes guiding, sometimes following behind him when things were tight. Although they didn’t feel anything, it is estimated that the second plane had struck the other tower when they were around the 50th floor. “By the time we reached the bottom, it had become very hard to breathe,” he said. “We were both very hot and tired. ‘Roselle’ was panting and wanted to drink the water that was pooled on the floor. ”
They had made it out of the building. They were about two blocks away when Tower 2 began to collapse. “It sounded like a metal and concrete waterfall,” he said. “We started running for the subway.” “Roselle” remained focused. When they emerged and were making their way from the scene, Tower 1 toppled, showering them with ash and debris. “Roselle” guided him to the home of a friend in mid-Manhattan where they stayed until the trains were running again. He finally returned home to his worried wife at 7 p.m.
Michael said the day after the tragedy, that they were both feeling stiff and sore, but were otherwise fine. “Roselle” had been sleeping for a lot of the time, but would get up occasionally and play with Michael’s retired yellow Lab guide, “Linnie.”
He and his Guide Dog “Roselle” were some of the lucky ones, however, in that they escaped the WTC attack, I relate that story because some animals seem to have an unconditional love and care for their human friends and go to great lengths to protect us and care for us. I want to look at and discover a greater love that you and I have the opportunity to experience. If you are able, please stand as we read Titus 3:3-10.
Read Passage – Titus 3:3-10
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Foolish Behavior Bookends
Something jumped pout at me as I read this passage; that it starts and ends with the same theme which I am calling bookends. Bookends are like an Oreo. Two of the same things on either side with something different in the middle. In this scenario, the two outside things are foolish behavior. Verses 3 and 4:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” vss. 3-4
And verse 9:
“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” vs. 9
It occurred to me that none of us like to be told we are acting foolishly. At first, you might think this is just talking about people who are not Christians but look again. Notice verses 3-4 are in past tense, “were” and “deceived and enslaved” maybe indicating life before you know Christ. Verse 9 is in the present tense with “avoid” and “are” meaning we continue to deal with these issues and that they are ever present in our lives. So we have to be aware of these on a continual basis. I would love to say that as I have grown older I have matured enough that I don’t do “foolish” things but that just isn’t true.
So foolish behavior is the bookends but the creamy good stuff, (by the way aren’t those double stuff oreo’s great?) that is God’s love. This passage is an encouragement to us as to the vast, enormous gift of God’s love to us.
How Far Does Love Go?
I believe this passage answers the question: “How far does God’s love go?” I see Paul writing to Titus to encourage him about the great love of God and it is express in three answers.
- Beyond Actions
The first answer is that God’s love is beyond actions. Paul writes in verses 4-5:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” vss. 4-5
Most of us know that we can’t earn our salvation. These verses remind us that it’s God’s gift to us. Yet, many of us still have checklists of things we “have” to do to prove we are truly saved. Go to church regularly, check, give money at church, check, read my bible every morning, check, and the list goes on. Now these are all good things to do but when we put our worth and our faith into maintaining these lists, we are not trusting God but still trying to be our own savior and are in danger of not fully trusting God. These are things we do out of love for God, not to make sure we are “in” the kingdom.
Ex. Joke-A taxi driver and a pastor get to the pearly gates at the same time and there is Jesus to greet them. Jesus looks at the taxi driver , turns around, thumbs through the book finds his name, turns around and gives him a nice sil robe and ornate cane and says, “you’re in, here’s your robe and cane, put on the robe and come in and enjoy the kingdom.” He looks at the pastor, turns around, thumbs through the book, finds his name, gabs a burlap robe and stick, hands it to him and says “you’re in, here’s your robe and cane, put on the robe and come in and enjoy the kingdom.” Well the pastor is kind of upset and says to Jesus “excuse me, not to be ungrateful or anything but why does that taxi driver get that nice silk robe and I who spent my whole life serving you get this burlap robe, what gives?” Jesus answers, “well your robe is reflective of how you motivated people about me on earth. The way I see it, every time you preached people slept, every time he drove, people prayed.”
A little pastor humor. We still somehow think we have to earn our way. That reminds me of some verses from Eph. 2:8-9:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
We have a gift. That gift has nothing to do with our actions. To put it in the proper context, our actions should be a response to that gift. The only action that makes any difference in your eternal life is thje action of accepting the gift of salvation from God through Jesus. A good way to understand this is to think about our human relationships. When you love someone, you do things for them as a reflection of that love.
Ex. Holding the door open for your girlfriend/wife, buying special presents, surprising them with something special, etc.
- Beyond Reason
A second answer to the question “How far does God’s love go?” is tht God’s love goes beyond reason. Let’s read again verse 7:
“…having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” vs. 7
The concept that Paul is relaying to us here is that God’s love goes further and deeper that just forgiving us. Let me explain through a hypothetical example.
Ex. Kid’s in a playground get in a fight, one hits or says something mean to the other, they come running to mom and mom makes a decision on who was righ or wrong and tells the wrong party to apologize. So one kid says “I’m sorry.” After that, the kids go running off and resume playing.
The relationship is restored and life goes on. To us, that is reason or reasonable. But look again what God’s love does for us; it restores, it justifies, and makes us heirs. We are not just forgiven. It’s not just an “I’m sorry.” God takes us, forgives us, then elevates us and holds us up to the position of son and daughter of God. Wow! I have a verse that really drives this home; 1 John 3:1:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1
I love that word lavish. You know what lavish is; it’s going way overboard.
Ex. On our honeymoon we had a chance to go to this restaurant in Monterey, CA that had a chocolate bar. They lavished chocolate on us. (This was my pre-diabetic days). They had m & M.s (huge bowl), chocolate fudge, brownies, hot fudge , truffles, 5 or 6 different kinds of chocolate pieces, vanilla, peanut butter, etc. This thing was amazing! They lavished chocolate on me. J
That is God’s love to you, poured out, overflowing, and it just keeps going. It’s way over the top.
- Beyond Limits
And the third answer to “How far does God’s love go?” is God’s love goes beyond limits. Verse 8a:
“And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” vs. 8a
Now you might way, “Hey, wait, now after stressing it’s not about works he is telling us to go out and do works? Sort of. The point he is really bringing out here is that God’s love has no limits, so…in light of that love without limits, what are you going to do to show God’s love to others. God’s love is different than ours in that his love never runs out. There is no end to his love. And, although our love is limited, when we trust Him, when we depend on Him, we can love anyone with his love which has no limit. What this really does is gets us beyond our own selfishness and self-centeredness and gets us to look at people differently, to act differently, and to want that to come out in everything we do and with the way we treat others. It might help to put it this way; Now that you know God’s love and have experienced God’s love, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to let that love permeate all you do and how are you going to let that love spur you on to live differently? Again, let’s look at another passage from Ephesians 2:4-5:
“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—it is by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:4-5
His love is so great for us that with Christ that we live differently. Here are some examples:
We are alive where we were once dead
We have love where we once had hate
We are giving where we were once selfish.
We forgive where we once held grudges
There is no limit to God’s love so there is no limit to what we can do when we let his love.
Living The Good Life
Paul ends this passage with a really interesting and poignant statement.
“These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” vs. 8b
The book of Titus is a focus on living the good life. Here is the message in a nutshell.
1. Love what is Good (1:8)
2. Teach what is Good (2:3)
3. Do what is Good (2:7, 14; 3:8; 3:14)
4. Live what is Good (3:8)
When you understand how much God loves you, the lengths that Jesus went to express that by dying for you, and accept God’s gift of love; God brings an inner joy and peace to your life.