October 22nd, 1986 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-22-86 7:30 p.m.
Now let us turn to Titus; Titus, toward the end of your New Testament; the Book of Titus, Paul’s letter to his son in the ministry named Titus. We are going to stand in a moment and read the first seven verses of chapter 3, the last chapter—Titus, chapter 3. And you share your Bible with one who might not have it, and we want to read it out loud together; Titus, chapter 3. The text is going to be the fifth verse, and the title of the message is Rambo Religion. You got it? Titus 3:1-7. Now, let us stand together in the presence of the Lord and read it aloud. Titus 3:1-7 together:
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Now, let’s read verse 5 again, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit” [Titus 3:5].
Now, let’s be seated and begin: Rambo Religion. John Arthur Rambo was an actual somebody, an actual soldier. He was killed in Vietnam, and his name appears on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Heroic feats are attributed to him on the movie screen. I don’t go to the movies, but I’ve seen pictures of him in magazines. I presume it’s a picture of Sylvester Stallone or somebody like that. Anyway, he is a he-man. He’s macho. And in the minds of millions, young and old, he is enshrined as the model, modern day warrior. He is a cultural symbol of standing against the wrongs that so grievously afflict our world. He is a symbol of direct personal action often needed to right those things that are wrong. He epitomizes the zenith in facing down the enemy, gaining victory over evil through direct powerful, personal action.
Now applied to religion, applied to spiritual things, “Rambo religion” represents the curing of the sin problem by reverting to self-effort and achieving human standards of righteousness. Now I’ll give you a good example of the universality of Rambo religion. We have Jay Strack coming this weekend to hold a revival meeting. He is a marvelous convert, a teenager who was hooked on drugs, who went to jail, who lived a dissolute life. He was marvelously saved, delivered, and he is a strength in the faith of our Lord. We did everything in our power to get that brilliant, able, eloquent young man in the public schools of the city of Dallas to speak to these teenagers about the curse of drugs and alcohol and promiscuity. We were not able to get him into one school, not one.
That is Rambo religion. We’re going to do it without God, without the church, without religion. We’re going to do it ourselves. And I can tell you this, and I’m not a prophet any more than you are. There is coming a dissolution of the fabric of America that when we see the crime rate going up day by day, it is a slow climb compared to what it’s going to be some of these days in the future. Rambo religion does not cure the human heart and self achievement does not deliver us from the rampages of compromise and sin.
Now a nation can glory and justly so in those who have fought for her existence and even died in her defense. Our Memorial Days are sacred and to be observed with worthy tributes to human devotion and achievements. But in Scripture, in the true Christian faith, in salvation by and through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we have no cause personally to glory in ourselves, or to trust in our own achievements. Rambo can be a popular and justly acclaimed hero nationally, but in Rambo religion there is no place before the throne of God for our personal boasting and our personal achievements.
Now I have two tremendously pertinent and Scriptural avowals: First, Rambo religion cannot save the lost. Self effort, self-righteousness, personal goodness and merit do not open for us an entrance into heaven. Now this is what God says about us and our moral goodness and our personal efforts toward splendid introductions of our merit before God in heaven. How are we in God’s sight? In Isaiah 64:6, quote, “But we are all as an unclean thing.” I’d like to translate that out of the Hebrew, but I can’t do it. It’s not nice in polite society. “But we are all as an unclean thing”—referring to something—“and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” [Isaiah 64:6].
In Romans 3:10: “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Verse 12: “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” [Romans 3:12]. Verse 23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. In Galatians 3:22: “The Scripture hath concluded all under sin.” Titus 3:5, our text, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”
The man who stands before God and says, “Look at me. I am worthy. I lived a good life. I paid my debts. I took part in the civic betterment of my town. I helped others. I am worthy to stand in Your presence, to enter Your beautiful city and walk Your golden streets [Revelation 21:21]. I observed the ceremonies and the rituals of acceptable religion. Look at me. I am worthy.” And God looks. And what does God see? God sees the thin, transparent veneer of our own personal righteousness. And what God sees in us is we are clothed in filthy garments.
Do you remember that sign, that symbol, that picture in Zechariah, chapter 3, where Joshua the high priest stands before God clothed in filthy garments? [Zechariah 3:1, 3]. That’s the way we are in our own righteousness as we stand before God compared to holiness and compared to perfection and compared to sinlessness. Compared to God, we all are as those filthy rags. We all are sinners. Our only hope to stand in the righteousness of Christ, an imputed righteousness, and God sees us through Jesus Christ. We have no other hope. When we stand in our own goodness, when we stand in our own righteousness; we stand condemned.
Our only hope is to stand in the imputed righteousness of Christ. His blood must wash our sins away [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5]. We are like the Passover people, the family. They were beyond the blood. They were under the blood. If they were not under the blood, the angel of death entered traumatically into the home. They were saved by the blood [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]. We are saved by the blood of the Crucified One [1 Peter 1:18-19]. We are washed clean in His sacrifice [1 Corinthians 15:3], and it is in His resurrection that we are justified [Romans 4:25]. We are declared righteous by His resurrected life in the presence of God [Hebrews 7:25].
Romans 4:25, “Jesus our Lord was delivered for our offenses, and was raised for our justification.” That is, we are washed, saved, forgiven by the blood of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ [Ephesians 1:7], and we are kept saved by the intercessory ministry of our Lord before God in heaven [Hebrews 7:25]; saved by the blood of the Crucified One, kept saved by the intercessory life of our Lord in heaven [Hebrews 7:25]. It is an imputed righteousness [Romans 4:20-24]. Our hope of salvation is to be found in Christ and in Him alone [Acts 4:12].
I want to read that from the apostle Paul in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians. Philippians, chapter 3:
For we . . . are they, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Though I might have confidence in the flesh. If any man could . . .
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Concerning zeal, I persecuted the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless—I kept the law like that rich young ruler—
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
And I doubtless count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him—
and that is the key to the Christian life, that we be found in Him—
not having mine own righteousness which is of the law but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
An imputed righteousness; the righteousness of God bestowed upon us freely by His grace. You have a marvelous, wonderful song that delivers that message of our righteousness in Christ in the beautiful hymn, “The Rock of Ages,”
The Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Could my zeal no languor know,
Could my tears forever flow,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone,
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
[“Rock of Ages,” Augustus Toplady]
That’s the way we’re saved. Not by the commendation of ourselves to God in our own righteousness, but pleading the mercy [Titus 3:5], and grace [Ephesians 2:8], and forgiveness and imputed righteousness of Jesus our Lord [Philippians 3:9]. There’s no other way.
Now the second avowal: Rambo religion can’t save us. We cannot commend ourselves to God by our superior achievements or pristine merits. The second avowal: Rambo religion cannot make the believer mighty in the Lord. Given great, great power before God and with men, self effort, self commendation, the works of the flesh, human strength and wisdom cannot make us mighty before God.
Do you remember the story of the apostles in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the three; Peter, James, and John, that the Lord loved so much, were with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-3], and the rest of the disciples were down there in the valley. And they were trying to cast out a demon out of a poor, afflicted boy, and they were failing ingloriously [Matthew 17:16]. And the Lord comes, and He does what they could not begin to do [Matthew 17:17-18]. They were doing it in their own strength and in their own power, and they failed miserably [Matthew 17:19-21].
Do you remember the story of the vagabond Jews in Acts 19? They were trying to cast out demons in the name of Christ and in the name of Paul, and they were failing miserably. And the demon said, “Christ we know, and Paul we know; but who are you?” [Acts 19:13-15].
Do you remember the story of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea when they came up to the Promised Land and refused to enter in by faith trusting God? [Numbers 13:26-14:10]. Why, the tragedy of a sentence—that they would all die in the wilderness—was pronounced upon them from God through Moses [Numbers 14:26-35]. And they repenting said, “Well, we’ll go in.”
And Moses said, “You can’t go in without God.”
“Well, we’re going in anyway.”
And they tried to enter into the land in their own strength, and they were defeated. And many of them were killed [Numbers 14:40-45].
We don’t find in us that strength that can only come from God. Our victory and our strength must always be found in Christ. I cannot—I cannot—I cannot illustrate that more vividly than in my own life: this—the sweetest, littlest child brought to me, “Pastor, this is my daughter. This is my little boy, and I want you to win him to Christ. I want you to save him.” I never feel so helpless in all God’s world as I do before the smallest child. How can I save a soul? How can I forgive sin? How can I in anywise be other than an instrument of God to lead the youngster to the Lord? We are wholly dependent upon Christ. We cannot do it. It’s a work of the Spirit of God [John 15:5; Ephesians 2:8-9].
Paul, after having been saved for more than thirty years, and after having served the Lord faithfully through them all says in that passage that I’ve just read, “All of these things that I counted gain to me. . .I count but dung, that I am may be found in Christ” [Philippians 3:7-8]. Our strength lies not in ourselves but in Him. Our goal is to be found in our Lord. Our strength is not ours, but His. What does Paul say in Philippians 4:13? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Not through my own strength, but through His. “I can do all things through Christ!” [Philippians 4:13].
We are called upon by faith to participate joyfully in the victory Christ has already won for us and bestowed upon us by His grace. Colossians 2:6-7, “As therefore ye hath received Christ Jesus our Lord, so walk ye in Him: Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith . . . abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Rambo religion seeks to compel us to work for ourselves in order to get saved and to stay saved. But true spiritual religion rejoices in Christ who has won for us true salvation and has the promise of everlasting life freely bestowed upon all of us who believe in Jesus [John 3:16]. As Ephesians 1:3 avows we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. There in Christ we are made permanently complete. Colossians 2:10, “And ye are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
Nothing more needs to be added to this position of righteousness and blessedness in Christ. No Rambo religion of our striving and making is necessary. We are rather to rejoice in our spiritual blessings in Christ our Savior [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. Our life is to be one of praise and glory and thanksgiving and hallelujah to Him. What we do, therefore, we do out of thanksgiving to Him [Philippians 4:4-7]. What we do, therefore, is to be pleasing in His sight. And what we do, therefore, is to share this wonderful good news of what Jesus has done for us. That’s our life.
Never as in Rambo religion are we to think that we achieve our salvation by our own good works, never to commend ourselves to God by our personal excellence, never to live the Christian life in our own strength, but in all things to be found in Him. That’s the religion of Christ. That’s the faith of the Lord Jesus. And when we are tempted to think that we are commending ourselves to God by all these wonderful things that we could do in His name, we do not commend ourselves to God by anything that we do of our own merit, or achievement, or excellence, or goodness. We cast ourselves upon the mercies of God [1 Peter 5:7]. We receive His blessing with infinite thanksgiving [2 Corinthians 9:15, 15:57]. And all that we are and every promise, everything that we could ever hope to be lies in His goodness and in His grace [2 Thessalonians 2:16].
Now may I close? When you read the Revelation, when you read the last book in the Bible, when those saints of God stand before the throne, and they are singing songs and praising the Lord God Almighty, tell me, do they sing, “All praise and thanksgiving to me, look what I did, the good battle that I fought and the great deeds that I did and the things that I accomplished?” Do they sing that? Or do they sing, “All praise and glory and thanksgiving to the Lamb who washed us from our sins and made us saints to the glory of God. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5]. That’s what we sing. And that’s what we sing in heaven.
Now Denny, we’re going to stand and sing us a song. And while we sing this song, to give your heart to the Lord publicly and openly tonight [Romans 10:8-13], “I do accept Him as my Savior and here I stand. I am coming tonight.” Or, “I am putting my life and my letter and my love and prayers and attendance in this dear church.” Or, “I am answering a call of God in my heart.” As the Spirit of the Lord will move, come and stand by me. I’ll be right there. “Pastor, this is a great night for me and here I am. I am on the way.” May God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.