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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 10:45am service, 2006-05-07

Text: Titus 2:11-14

The messages for this quarter are based on the theme, 'Building a Spiritual House.' In the synopsis for the messages, I had written that much more is involved in building a spiritual house than in building a physical house. To build a physical house, all that you need are the blueprints, the bricks, steel bars, sand and cement, and the construction workers. Put them all together in the right order and within a few weeks or months the house is complete and redy for use. 

Building a spiritual house is not as easy as this. This is because the spiritual house consists of believers of diverse backgrounds and personalities. Each member of the spiritual house has his or her own personal preferences and it would not be easy for some to get along well with some others. There will always be difficulties in building a group that is fully cohesive and absolutely free from any disagreements. But there is one thing that can keep us pressing on, no matter how difficult the work of building a spiritual house may be - and that is the knowledge that the spiritual house being built is most precious in God's sight! Verse 14 of our scripture text puts this well, when it says that the Lord 'gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.'

I. The Privilege of Being A Peculiar People

The key to appreciating what God's Word says here is to understand the term 'a peculiar people'. In present day English usage, when you say that someone is peculiar, it may not have a good meaning. It may mean that the person is very odd, strange or even eccentric. Interestingly, there was a church denomination founded way back in England in 1838 that was known as 'the Peculiar People' because unlike all other evangelical denominations of their time, they practised divine healing (They were probably the early precursors of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements of today). 

But that is not what Paul meant when he wrote to Titus that Christ has redeemed us unto Himself a peculiar people. Actually the term is a very exalted way to describe the church of God. It implies that we are very, very special to Him. The original Greek NT, word used here is periousios. This word means 'that which is one's own, belonging to one's possession'. In the Bible, it refers to 'a people selected by God from the other nations for His own possession.' This concept actually goes all the way back to the Old Testament, and can be found 8 times, in verses like Exodus 19:5,6 'Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.' The Hebrew word used here for 'peculiar' is segullah, which bears the added connotations of a valued property, or special treasure. This adds to our understanding of what it means to be a peculiar people of God.

II. The Price of Being a Peculiar People

Furthermore, God has selected us to be His special people, in the sense of being marked out from the rest of the world by certain distinct qualities. In our passage of Titus 2 the distinguishing feature that should mark out the peculiar people is a zeal for good works. And in 1 Peter 2:19 it is put in a different way - What distinguishes us as a special people here is that we 'shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light'

Dearly beloved, all of us who have received Christ as our Saviour have the unique privilege of being called God's pecular people. But the question is - Do we bear these characteristics of a peculiar people? Are we really zealous of good works? Do our lives show forth the praises of God? Or do our lives bring shame to the Lord? 

Sad to say, if we were to look at many churches today, and examine the life of every member in them, what we find would probably be contrary to this. Although there are genuine believers who are striving to live as God's peculiar people, a great number of people are just worldly professing Christians. This has been a perennial problem, existing even in the time of the early church. The book of Titus itself shows us in 1:16 that in the churches on the island of Crete there were some people who 'professed that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.' (The very opposite of 2:14)

And this becomes the background for what Paul writes in chapter 2 of the book. He wanted the Christians on the isle of Crete to live not as professed Christians who are reprobate unto every good work, but as a peculiar people who are zealous of good works. In the verses after 1:16 He even spelled out in detail, what this means to the various groups in the church - the aged men, the aged women, the young married women and the young men (2:1-10). The point in these verses is that every believer in the church, of whatever age group or background he or she comes from, must be firmly committed to 'live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world' (as he states in v.12).

III. The Problems of Being a Peculiar People

But herein lies the great difficulty of being a peculiar people - in the words 'this present world' of v.12. The main reason why the church in every age has always found it so difficult to be a peculiar people zealous of good works is that it has been doing it in this present world - a world of 'ungodliness and worldly lusts' (v.12), a world that is saturated with sinful attitudes, values, and practices. This is actually the worst possible environment to cultivate godly virtues in. 

Cultivating godliness while dwelling in an ungodly world is like trying to cultivate delicate rose plants in a forest terribly infested with the worst kinds of weeds and parasites. It is like trying to breed pedigree dogs in the wild jungles of Africa. There will always be a constant struggle against conforming to the environment. How much easier it would have been to do this if God's people could have been taken out of the world to live soberly righteously and godly. Then there would be no need to struggle at all against an unconducive environment. But since it is the will of God is that we should be a peculiar people zealous of good works in this unconducive world, we must now have motivations that are sufficiently strong to keep us doing it well.

IV. The Power To Be a Peculiar People

And so the question that we want to answer this morning is what motivations are there from God's Word that are sound enough and strong enough to help us to be a peculiar people? I would like to highlight two of them from our text. It is interesting that one motivation comes from the past and the other comes from the future. The one from the past is the Grace of God that has already appeared in the past. This is referring to what Christ accomplished in His First Advent when He died for our sins. The one in the future is the Blessed Hope that will appear in the future when Jesus comes again in His Second Advent to take us up to heavenly Glory. Grace is like an engine that propels us from behind. Hope is like another engine that pulls us from the front. 

Hence we can imagine ourselves to be driven onward to be a peculiar people zealous of good works by two powerful engines - one engine pulls and the other pushes! Let us see how we can derive the maximum driving power from these two engines. First we consider:

A. 'The Grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men'

1. The Benefits of Grace

What is the Grace of God? It is the unmerited favour and kindness of God. It is the great love God had for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! What has that grace done for us? It has wrought our salvation from sin (Ephesians 2:8,9). It has brought us everlasting consolation and good hope (2 Thessalonians 2:26). By grace we are made heirs of a tremendous inheritance (Ephesians 1:11). By the grace of God, we are permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit and undergoing the process of sanctification. That same grace bestows spiritual gifts upon us so that we can build up God's kingdom. It is by grace that our prayers are heard and answered by God! These are just a few of the benefits that we have through God's grace.

Dearly beloved, have you realised what tremendous grace God has shown to you? Have you considered what a difference that grace has made in your life? What would your life be today if you had not received that grace? I shudder to think what my life would have been like without the grace of God. The grace of God is of such magnitude that no one who has received it can remain the same.

2. Our Response to Grace

And so we must direct our thoughts now to the appropriate response that such grace deserves from us. And this is given in Titus 2:11,12 'For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world' The main thought in these two verses is that the grace of God teaches us. That means that we are now obliged by that grace or constrained by that grace to respond in an appropriate way - and that is, to live as God's peculiar people. If grace does not produce that response in us, then that grace has been received in vain! This response is the very least that we ought to give to the Lord, after all that He has done for us.

Dearly beloved, please make good use of this grace of God to motivate you to be His peculiar people. Let it become like a powerful engine to you, urging you to keep on going and going until you are achieving this goal. Let us look at the other powerful engine that draws us onward with an equally powerful force, given in v.13 

B. 'The blessed Hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ'

Are you looking forward to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? Well, if you are not saved yet, you have nothing to look forward to. To those who are outside Christ, the Second Coming is not a blessed hope at all, but a fearful judgment upon them. Listen to what God's word says in Revelation 1:7 'Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.'

1. The Events of Our Blessed Hope

And when you believe in Christ, then the Second Coming will be a wonderful source of hope for you. Because Jesus has promised that when He comes, we will all be instantly transformed, 'in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.' (1 Corinthians 15:52). He will then take us up the mansions of glory that He has prepared for us in heaven (John 14:2). 

We will then stand at the judgment seat of Christ to receive all the rewards the Lord has laid up for us (2 Corinthians 5:10). And if we do well, we will have the joy of being praised and rewarded by our Master 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' How wonderful it would be if Christ were to return right now and find you to be living godly, soberly and righteously in this present world. Just think of Him saying to you: 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' enter thou into the joy of thy lord.'

I think that it will be more than worthwhile to be living godly, soberly and righteously in this present world, just to hear those wonderful words of commendation uttered from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ!

2. The Rewards of Our Blessed Hope

The Scriptures describe the rewards we will receive from Jesus as special crowns: The crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), The crown of life (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10) and The crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). They are rewards that are attractive enough to give us a sense of excitement and expectation about them.

3. The Use of Our Blessed Hope

Now that we have seen this blessed hope of our Lord's Return, we go on to consider how that hope can be harnessed as a powerful motivator for us to be God's peculiar people. The word 'hope' bears the idea of something that is expected, something that a person looks forward to and earnestly waits for with joy! Hope can powerfully motivate people to be patient in waiting, to go through much difficulty and even to endure much pain and suffering. E.g. An expectant mother endures 9 months of pregnancy with all the accompanying morning sickness, discomfort and inconvenience. How is she able to do this? Because she is sustained by the hope of seeing and holding her little baby in her arms! 

Hope can also make every burden we bear seem lighter, and make the dreary days of life pass by faster. The Bible tells us that Jacob's hope of marrying Rachel whom he loved so much motivated him to work hard for seven years to gain her hand in marriage. Genesis 29:20 tells us: 'And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.'

The apostle John shows that our hope of being like Christ at His return becomes the motivation for us now to purify ourselves. Let us look at John 3:2,3- 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.' In order to harness the full motivational power of hope, we need to do two things: 

i. Meditate Upon the Word of God Concerning Your Blessed Hope

Spend time to meditate upon all that will be yours at Christ's second coming: The crowns that you will receive as rewards, the incorruptible resurrection body, and the wonderful inheritance that will be yours. Think frequently on these things. See them now with your eyes of faith, in the same way that Abraham with eyes of faith looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Ask the Lord to bring out the full reality of that blessed hope in your thoughts; and to seal it so indelibly into your mind so that you will never lose sight of it. When you do this you will then be able to do the next thing more easily:

ii. Cultivate an Intense Longing for your Blessed Hope

Let us read Corinthians 5:2 'For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.' The word 'groan.' in these verses means to sigh deeply with emotion and intense longing for something. It is something you would do quite naturally when you feel home-sick, and your loved ones whom you long to see are so, so far away. 

The same sentiments are expressed in Romans 8:23 'And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.' Let me ask you frankly today, Can you say that you are longing so much after your blessed hope that you actually groan or sigh deeply in your heart for it? Do you feel homesick for your blessed hope? Please think carefully about this. Your motivation to press onward as a Christian depends very much upon it. 

Dearly beloved this brings us to the end of this morning's message on 'Motivations for being a peculiar people.' We have seen two powerful motivations - The Grace of God that appeared when Jesus came to save us, and the Blessed Hope that will be ours when Jesus comes again.

Please make full use of these two powerful motivations. They will make a difference in the way that you live your life. You will strive harder than ever to be His peculiar people, zealous of good works. You will be able to overcome the inertia that prevents you from living to your fullest potential in Christ. You will be able to maintain a steady and forceful pace despite all the dangers, difficulties, discomforts and discouragements you may face in this present sinful world. You will have greater willingness to suffer and make sacrifices for the sake of God's Kingdom. You will have more boldness and more confidence to testify for God even before kings and rulers. 

So whenever you find that your spiritual morale is low, and that you have become spiritually lethargic, please don't forget to give yourself that powerful boost you need: Make use of these two powerful engines to drive you on!

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11