by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Titus 2:11-14
I. Self-improvement books abound. People constantly look for means wherein they can make themselves better.
A. “Better,” in most people’s books, means happiness.
B. But to many people there are limits to betterment
C. Ingrid Law captured the idea when she wrote, “You can’t get rid of a part that makes you you and be happy.”
D. But compare this to what Christ said - Matthew 16:24-27
1. To gain heaven, you have to deny yourself.
2. You can gain the whole world and it isn’t as valuable as your own soul.
E. Daniel W. Blair said, “Man in his spiritual pride has exchanged God’s method of self-denial for Satan’s plan of self–improvement.”
II. Self denial is not deciding to give up something
A. Catholics practice self-denial each spring in giving up something they like for lent.
B. Priest give up marriage - Despite Paul’s statement- I Timothy 4:1-3
C. Monks give up contact with the world, though Jesus say - John 17:15
D. Each is a denial of something from self, but each is a self-imposed denial - Colossians 2:20-23
1. A denial of religion
2. A denial of pride
3. A denial of physical needs
4. It sounds good, but the problem is that man makes the demands, not God.
III. God’s grace teaches us - Titus 2:11-12
A. The same grace that brought us salvation - I Timothy 2:4
B. The same grace that appears to everyone - Luke 3:6
C. God’s grace teaches us (paideuousa)
1. It means to train, teach, correct, or to chastise
2. It includes the hard things in life - Hebrews 12:6-7; Revelation 3:19
3. Not a judgment, but a developing and refining of the character.
D. It is God’s grace that teaches us to deny ungodliness
1. Finding out what God wants - Ephesians 5:8-10
2. Self denial is living for God - I Peter 4:2
3. It is a focus on doing the will of someone higher and greater - II Timothy 2:4
4. It is a denial of what I want or desire because what God wants is more important - Romans 6:19
5. Leonard Bernstein, the celebrated orchestra conductor, was asked, what is the hardest instrument to play. He replied without hesitation: "Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that's a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony."
6. Being a Christian is choosing to be second fiddle to God.
E. God’s grace teaches us to deny worldly lusts
1. The world is under Satan’s control - I John 5:19
2. We are not to love this world - I John 2:15-16
3. Lust, after all, is focused on what I want
4. Not conformed to former lusts - I Peter 1:14-15
5. Self denial is not following after the lusts we once chased - Ephesians 2:1-3
6. God called us to be holy - I Thessalonians 4:7
7. Put to death the members on earth - Colossians 3:5-7
IV. It isn’t just giving things up, God’s grace teaches us (Titus 2:12)
A. To live soberly (sophronos) - having a sound mind, prudent, sensible
1. This is service to ourselves.
2. Yes, ironically, self denial leads to serving yourself in a beneficial way.
3. For men and women - Titus 2:1-3
4. The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep your mind clear and reasonable
B. To live righteously (dikalos) - being just and fair
1. This is service to those around us, our neighbors
2. Being upright with others - I Thessalonians 2:10
3. Wronging no one - II Corinthians 7:2
4. Being an example - Titus 2:7-8
C. To live godly (eusebos) - It means to fall before out of fear and respect
1. This is service to God - Hebrews 12:28
V. So many problems come from an inability to deny oneself
A. “God wants me to be happy!” being the reason for continuing sin
B. Why self-control needs to be one of the first lessons taught - Acts 24:25
C. We have to be willing to leave all for Christ - Matthew 19:29
D. “Self-denial is indispensable to a strong character, and the highest kind comes from a religious stock.” – Theodore Parker