People always have had problems with relationships. Relationships have confused every past generation. Relationships confuse us. That confusion becomes more evident every year. People experience difficulty when they try to get along with other people. More know how to argue and fight with others than they know how to enjoy others. Many people have a lot of acquaintances but few friends.

In no relationship is it more obvious that relationship skills are declining than it is in marriage. Troubled marriages outnumber stable marriages. Grieving marriages outnumber joyful marriages. Marriages in conflict outnumber marriages that cooperate. Marriages that show contempt outnumber marriages that express respect. More marriages fall to separation or divorce than rise to genuine contentment.

In talking with people whose troubled relationship causes them sorrow and anxiety, I hear this statement. "I am just so confused. I really tried to make things right. I tried to make him (or her) happy. But the harder I try, the worse it gets. I just don't know what he (or she) wants."

"I just don't know what he (or she) wants." That statement is an indicator statement. It places a finger on the pulse of misunderstanding. One of the reasons we function so poorly in relationships is because of this: we have a poor understanding about what is to occur in relationships. We want good relationships. We just don't understand what is necessary to build a relationship. We don't know what is expected.

That is true in both relationships with people and relationship with God.

  1. In your relationship with God, do you know what God wants?
    1. Probably many of us are confused in our relationship with God because we don't know what God wants in the relationship.
      1. We don't feel close to God--in fact, when we need to feel our closest to God is often when we feel very far from God.
      2. We feel like God is rejecting us instead of accepting us--when we struggle spiritually is also when we feel that God is disgusted with us.
      3. When we talk to God, we either feel very stiff or very habitual in our prayers.
        1. As we pray, we feel like we need to apologize for bothering God.
        2. While we are very sincere in what we say, we always seem to say the same things in the same way.
      4. We appreciate our salvation and we want God to be pleased with us.
      5. We just don't feel that we are making God happy.
        1. We try to learn all that we are supposed to do, but knowing those things and trying to do them does not make us feel close to God--not as a child should feel toward his loving Father.
        2. We try to attend worship and study assemblies faithfully; sometimes we feel close to God in an assembly, but many times we don't.
        3. We try to do what we are instructed to do--be baptized, take communion, worship--but sometimes we feel so empty, like we are going through the motions because we are supposed to.
    2. If I asked you to explain your understanding of what God wants, what would you tell me? Certainly, you could answer that question in many different ways.
      1. You might explain that God wants us to obey Him and discuss what we are to do to obey God.
      2. You might explain that God wants us to worship Him and discuss meaningful worship.
      3. You might explain that God wants us to help and serve other people and explain how we are to help others.
      4. You might explain that God wants us to teach other people about Christ and explain the importance of being evangelistic.
      5. You might explain that God wants us to help the church grow and mature and stress ways that we can do that.
      6. You might explain that God wants us to help those who are spiritually weak or struggling and explain how we can help each other with our burdens.
    3. I want you to carefully consider Paul's answer to that question; listen as Paul explains what God wants in Titus 2:11-14.
      1. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.)
      2. Let's set the context of that statement.
        1. Paul is writing a letter to a young preacher named Titus.
        2. It is likely that Titus began his work as a preacher and missionary under the direction and guidance of Paul.
        3. When Paul sent this letter to Titus, Titus was working with some young congregations on the island of Crete.
        4. People living on Crete had an earned reputation for being wicked people who honored evil--some evil things were considered to be good.
        5. The island also had an influential Jewish community that created some serious problems for Christians.
        6. These congregations needed some stable leadership from mature, godly men.
        7. Paul left Titus at Crete to set that leadership in place.
        8. Titus needed to give careful attention to himself as he did that--to set leadership in place in a congregation is an enormous responsibility.
          1. So Paul reminded Titus to give careful consideration to the way that he related to and interacted with the people in those congregations.
          2. He had some special instructions for Christians who were young women, young men, or slaves.

  2. Then, in Titus 2:11-14, Paul explained what God wants when He saves people.
    1. First, Paul affirmed that God created the opportunity for all people to have salvation.
      1. Every person has the opportunity to escape an evil life and begin a new life.
        1. Anyone could be forgiven.
        2. Anyone could become God's own son or daughter.
        3. It was extremely important to remember this when working among evil people.
      2. God's goodness made salvation possible for anyone.
        1. God was unrestrained in revealing His goodness.
        2. God's goodness was expressed as it had never been expressed.
        3. That was what Christ's coming, life, death, and resurrection were all about--giving God the right to reveal and express His goodness without restrain.
      3. But notice (verse twelve) that God's goodness or God's grace instructs or disciplines (it trains people).
        1. God's goodness teaches the person who accepts it how to discipline himself or herself.
        2. God's grace is a gift, but if I accept the gift, it teaches me something.
        3. These people had lived out of control lives before they became Christians.
        4. God's goodness made it possible for them to be Christians.
        5. But God's goodness did not give them permission to continue to live out of control lives.
        6. God's goodness intended to train them in how to live disciplined lives.
      4. When people accept God's grace to gain salvation, they are to allow that grace to teach them.
        1. God's goodness teaches them an essential negative lesson:
          1. Renounce the life that was controlled or directed by ungodliness (feelings and thoughts that have nothing to do with God).
          2. Renounce the life that was controlled or directed by earthly desires (passions that only consider physical desires but have no concern for God).
        2. God's goodness teaches them an essential positive lesson:
          1. In your real life circumstances, live sensibly--do not merely do what you feel like doing or what you think will give you pleasure and satisfaction; bring yourself under control.
          2. In your real life circumstances, live righteously (uprightly, doing what is lawful, doing what is right--remember the situation in Crete).
          3. In your real life circumstances, live godly (think and act in ways that are appropriate for the person who has decided to belong to God).
      5. Why? Why will the person who accepts God's salvation completely change the way he or she has lived?
        1. Before he or she accepted God's goodness, he or she lived for greed, lived for pleasure, lived to satisfy the desire that controlled his or her thinking, ruled his or her feelings, or made him or her feel good.
        2. After accepting God's goodness, he or she lived for something entirely different.
          1. It was not even found in this physical existence and experience.
          2. He or she began to live for hope rather than gratification, the hope that existed because that Jesus Christ the Savior would return.
          3. That is when our great God will give us a good life that will not end.
          4. That is when we will experience the joy of being a part of His eternal glory.
      6. God gave Jesus in death for us for two basic reasons.
        1. The first was to redeem us from all our lawless deeds (again, remember the situation and circumstances at Crete in its lawless society).
        2. We are pardoned; we are freed from all our past lawlessness.
        3. The second was to bring into existence a purified people who belonged to God out of personal choice and desire.
          1. That is what God has always wanted.
          2. That is what He wanted with Adam and Eve.
          3. That is what He wanted with the people of Israel.
          4. That is what He wants in Christians.
        4. He wants a people who belong to him because they want to belong to Him, not because they have to belong to Him.
          1. It is their first choice; it is their number one desire.
          2. No matter what they could own, no matter what opportunities they could have, no matter what they could do--belonging to God would always be their first choice.
        5. Because they by choice belong to the great God whose goodness gave them a Savior and salvation:
          1. They are consumed with the desire to do good deeds for others.
          2. They are consumed with that desire because their God gave them His goodness.

What does God want? He wants you to let His goodness train you: (1) train you to renounce ungodly desires and passions, and (2) train you to live under control while you do what is right and appropriate for people who belong to God. He wants you to live in hope as you look forward to the return of Jesus Christ. He wants you to belong to Him by choice and be consumed with a desire to do good.

A Christian who understands God's grace does that. A Christian who does not do that has a lot to learn about God's grace.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 4 January 1998

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