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12.23.18 Titus 2.11-14 The Heart of Christianity Sermon Summary

by on December 26, 2018

12.23.18 Titus 2.11-14 The Heart of Christianity Sermon Summary

If you ask me what is the heart of Christianity, the answer would change from day to day. But in Advent, my answer would be, the heart of the Christian faith is the promise of God.

On another day, I’d agree with various theologians and say heart of Christianity is any of the following. It is the conversion of the secular to the sacred (Augustine). Or it is the transformation of the world through the incarnation (Chrysostom). I can agree that it is the right ordering of our thought (Aquinas). Or trusting the word of God (Luther). I would say it is surrendering to the will of God (Calvin), or the courage to counter our anxieties (Tillich). I can agree that it is living according to God’s parental claim (Barth), or realignment of our life around justice (Borg), or our healing towards greater Christlikeness (Rohr).

But ask me during Advent, and I will tell you that the heart of Christianity is patient faithfulness in God’s promise. Advent is my favorite season of the Church year, not because I love Christmas so much (I don’t so much), but because it is so honest. Advent says, “Hey, the world is a dark and lonely place, strife and war are real. Christ has come, but things aren’t perfect.”

And especially in contrast to what the world has made of Christmas, Advent says, ”A new car isn’t going to fix it, nor is a diamond ring, or a trip to the beach, or baking family recipes, or decorating the house.” Advent calls us to remember that God is faithful to his promises—that it started with Christ’s birth but that it hasn’t come in its fullness.

Advent says “Let’s be honest. Let’s complain and moan. Let’s remember God’s promises. Let’s celebrate Christ’s birth. Let’s hope in Christ’s return.” That’s the invitation of Advent: Patient faithfulness in God’s promises. But what does it mean?

First, we must understand what God has promised. According to Zechariah, the promise is salvation from our enemies so we may worship and serve God without fear. This begs the questions: Which enemies prohibit worship? Certainly there are political enemies. But they always fail.

The real enemies of worship are religious. They are the Law, devil(s), Sin (with a capital S), and Death (with a capital D). These attack our spirit, and Jesus said those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth. For where there is weakened spirit, there is weakened worship. The promise is that we will be delivered from the Law, devils, Sin, and Death—liberated to worship God now and into eternity.

Advent asks, “Do you believe this?” Do you believe worship matters this much to God? Does it matter enough to God to free us now to do it? If you believe the promise that we are delivered from Law, devils, Sin, and Death, it changes your life today. You govern your life differently. You become “zealous for good deeds” in the words of Titus.

Why? Advent answers because good deeds make a difference, even small ones. Mary was a small person, in a small village, in a small country. She heard God’s promise and believed. Mary gave birth, to a small child, in a small stable, and laid him in a small manger. Her child believed God’s promise, healed the sick, welcomed the outcast, confronted the powerful, and resurrected from the dead.

God takes small acts of good and magnifies them for the salvation of the world. What is begun by us as a small good act is taken up by God, completed and perfected, and results in salvation. Advent calls us to patient faithfulness in God’s promise, and even though only a small amount of time left is left this Advent, you can still show patient faithfulness.

Titus gives us some direction for “living the present age” between when the “grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all,” and our “wait for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ.” Between manger Jesus and monarch Jesus, during Advent, Titus gives us some things to consider.

Titus tells us to “renounce worldly passions.” The two greatest worldly passions on display this year are materialism and violence. Titus tells us to be “self-controlled.” I believe the greatest way to increase spiritual self-control is by contemplation on the risen Christ which is our destiny. The more you focus on who God has called you to be, you grow in your self-control to be that person.

Titus tells us to be “upright.” The biblical understanding of righteousness always includes interpersonal relationships. It refers to the just distribution of material and spiritual goods.

And Titus tells us to be “godly,” which in the original language is simply the opposite of “worldly passions.” So generosity replaces materialism, and peacemaking replaces violence.

Small deeds of goodness grow out of these attitudes. They are taken up and completed by God and they result in our salvation and the salvation of the world.

Jesus fulfills God’s promise; he has set us free for such good deeds, for worship on Sundays, throughout the week, and with our lives. When Jesus confronted the lawyers, cast out demons, battled sin, and overcame death, he set us free. And this is what we remember when we come to the table of the Lord—that God has set us free to worship him in church and with our lives—not only in Advent, but throughout the rest of the year.

May we perform small deeds of goodness with confidence that God always completes our best intentions through Christ, and that we participate in the redemption of the world through him.


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