We like to think of ourselves as mostly good people with a few rough edges to sand off or a couple of bad spots to remove. Scripture however, teaches us that our condition is much worse than we think:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. Titus 3:3
Foolish . . . Disobedient . . . Led Astray . . . Slaves . . . . Malice . . . Envy . . . Hated . . . Hating – those are the words that Scripture says of us. We are not a little bit off – we are people who have been completely corrupted and are dead in our sin.
In Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, a young handsome man named Dorian Gray decides to have his portrait painted. As he looks at the finished product, he wishes that he could reverse roles with the portrait and that the portrait would age while he stayed the exact same – unchanged forever. In the book, he gets his wish. He remains young and handsome and the portrait bears the consequences of his behavior. Dorian makes a cruel comment, and the mouth in the portrait turns into a cruel grin. Dorian cultivates hatred for a rival, and the eyes of the portrait become a depiction of rage. Eventually, Dorian murders a man and the hands of the portrait drip blood. Dorian finally recognizes that the portrait represents his true inner self and hates the result so much that he slices the painting with a knife. A servant later finds the portrait in the attic has vanished and Dorian Gray lies dead on the floor with a knife through his heart. In Titus 3:3, Paul says that the same has happened to us. Our inner life and sin have killed our spiritual selves. We are left hopeless and dead in our sins.
In the very next verse, Paul begins with “but.” And that but is huge word. In fact, eternity hangs in the balance as Paul explains the way in which God made a way for sinners like us:
But 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. Titus 3:4
In this week’s sermon, we examined both the reality of our own condition and the salvation that comes from only God – We did the sinning and God did the saving!