There’s not much in life that we can exult in. Most things are just mist and vapor. However, there is God’s grace and we are to make much of it. The Bible helps us to see and experience His unmerited favor toward us clearly and with great depth. One dramatic way it accomplishes this is to show us and remind us who we are outside of Jesus Christ. It’s so easy to forget. I don’t know about you, but I need help in remembering and posting a guard over my thinking to prevent me from swelling with pride. In my weakness, I’m dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit to enable me to grow in this grace.
In Titus 3, He gives us this assistance we so desperately need.
“We ourselves were once …” Paul is VERY inclusive up front when he writes “we ourselves.” This means everyone: apostles, prophets, pastors, great prayer warriors, missionaries to dirt-poor Third World countries - everyone! In claiming this, Paul sets the stage for the subject of grace because there aren’t good people and evil people. We are all undesirable and unworthy, not deserving any favor or blessing from God.
“…were once foolish, disobedient, led astray” Foolish - Calling black, white and white, black; what’s upside down, we think to be right side up. Spurgeon put it this way: “We thought we knew better than God. For our foolish heart was darkened and we imagined ourselves to be better judges of what was good for us than the Lord our God. We refused heavenly warnings because we dreamed that sin was pleasant and profitable. We rejected Divine Truth because we did not care to be taught and disdained the lowly position of a disciple sitting at Jesus’ feet.” Disobedient – Not only in rebellion to the law of God, but also the gospel of God. Led astray - Deceived by a 1000 different imposters acting as the One True Shepherd. We also have been deceived by our own hearts. We have fully bought into the Walt Disney philosophies of… listen to your heart, follow your heart and be true to your heart. We do not know that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick,” no one can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9).
“… slaves to various passions and pleasures” Addicts, smokers and alcoholics can often kick their habit. We, on the other hand, are eternally enslaved to our sinful desires apart from God’s intervention. They master us and destroy us. We object and think that we are in control but this simply does not jive with Scripture. In Romans 6:16 we read: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
“…passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” Our trouble isn’t just internal; it also extends to the relationships we have with those around us. We possess deep-seated desires to cause injury and harm to others. We are mean and full of hatred. Not only that, we also want what others have and not for any good reason, just because. We are hated by others and we hate in return.
This is who we are. There’s no way to prep for the photo op of life and no makeup to cover our grotesque appearance and corrupt heart. We are undeserving, worthless, not good enough, not fit for anything, contemptible, pitiful.
If we fail to understand who we are, our whole perception of grace—what Christ has accomplished for sinners—will be watered down and we will totally miss the core of the gospel, never grasping our need of a Savior.
The good news, the gospel, is that despite who we are, God lavishes this unmerited favor on His own. “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Now that’s something to boast about.