But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. —Titus 3:4-6
Who are you? Who were you before you met Jesus? What is your gospel story?
For many, these questions can raise feelings of inadequacy, “I don’t have a very exciting testimony.” For others, they might raise feelings of vulnerability, “I don’t want to share that part of my story, again.”
When we see the gospel clearly it reassures each and every believer that God has blessed us with a world-changing testimony. This week’s Fighter Verses contain encouragement to those with a dark past that the bright light of the gospel is more than enough to chase away those shadows.
These verses provide a beautiful summary of the gospel. It was likely a creedal statement of the early church, describing the trinitarian work of God to transform a sinner into a new creation—taking a person who was in conflict with God and the world around them and placing them in a new community “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
From Ugly to Beautiful
In Titus 3:3, Paul includes himself in an ugly description of who believers once were: “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing [their] days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
And then, we encounter that small, important word at the beginning of verse four: But.
Something transformative has happened. And it doesn’t come from that ugly darkness, it comes from the light. God’s character is revealed. We see His grace and mercy (His goodness) and we see His love for people, His desire to set His people free (His loving kindness).
This grace is revealed by a salvation that we did not deserve and never could earn (v. 5). It is a salvation that transforms. The Holy Spirit cleanses the old ugliness away and brings renewal. He has made those who are in Christ a new creation—the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God the Father has poured out the Spirit through Jesus Christ (v. 6) and there is no doubt about the sufficiency of the Spirit’s work. Paul uses the same word here that Luke used to describe the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33). Just as the Spirit was “poured out” on that remarkable day, so every, single believer receives the Spirit when we first trust Christ. To add further emphasis, Paul tells us that the pouring out is done richly—with the divine and sovereign generosity of our God and Father by means of our Savior and King, Jesus.
This gospel means that those who once walked in the ugliness of sin can now be called “a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:14). Paul urges Titus to “insist on” this understanding of the gospel with the purpose that believers would be “careful to devote themselves to good works” (3:8).
An Opportunity in the Coming Weeks
In the coming weeks, those of us in the United States have an important opportunity to reflect the truth of the gospel in our lives. The description of Titus 3:3 could easily describe the current American political environment. Many would be comfortable describing the candidates as “passing [their] days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” Sadly, this description could be applied to many supporters of the candidates. Sadder still, it could be applied to the behavior of many Christians.
The question—this election season, and every day—is: what gospel story are you telling with your life? What would someone think if they overheard your conversations at the office, after the Sunday service, or on your Facebook wall? Would they see a helpless sinner, saved by the grace of God, and renewed for fruitful service? Or would they see days passed in malice, envy, and hate?
I pray that every day—especially as we engage with neighbors, friends, and colleagues on the issues of the day—each of us would overflow with the beautiful transformative gospel in a way that lifts the eyes of a fallen world to the Savior that has appeared and offers regeneration and renewal to all who trust in Him.
What is your response when someone asks you to share what you were like before you met Jesus? How could you share your gospel story this week? With whom would you share it?
Are there attitudes or behaviors you need to repent of this political season? Is there something concrete you can do to reflect the gospel in how you engage in political conversations over the next few weeks?