It wasn't so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God's gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there's more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this. (Titus 3:3-8)
It would not occur to me to open today's lesson with the comment that we were both stupid and stubborn - but Paul did a nice job of already doing that, so I will not stand in the way of delivering the message! In our sinful, self-absorbed life "before Christ", we were both stupid and stubborn. Stupid implies that we were lacking the ordinary quickness or soundness of mind that we now possess with having the mind of Christ. Our thinking outside of Christ was pretty dulled - it was slow as it comes to the spiritual things and pretty wishy-washy to boot. We'd like to "clean up" the description of our state of mind as "foolish", but track it down - it all means the same thing!
Paul also says we were stubborn. If he didn't get our goat with the idea that we were stupid, now he calls us stubborn! The nerve! Well, actually, the term is quite applicable to our state of being prior to Christ. You see, stubborn carries the idea of being so fixed on some way of thinking or course of action that we are resolute in that course of action. We don't "want" to waiver from it because we have "willed" to continue, in spite of the consequences. I'd say "stubborn" about wraps up our condition of "willful" disobedience prior to Christ taking over the controls of our lives!
The neatest part of this passage is the "but when". But when God...
Think about it - when God stepped in, he saved us from the dulled thinking and steadied us on a course that would not take us off some deep end into a pit of despair. I love the "buts" in the Bible - there is always a hope for something better when we see that the condition we are in is not determined to be our permanent condition because we have a merciful and gracious God that reaches out to lift us out of our stupid and stubborn life pursuits.
In fact, Paul goes on to say that he washed us inside and out by the Spirit. We are washed so that our choices will be affected. Choices begin in the thought life - if it is no longer lacking in soundness, won't the choices we make be better? Certainly! Actions proceed from our thoughts - so the way to better actions is through better thinking. The way to better thinking is an exchanged mind - renewed (washed) by the Spirit of the living God! We've been given the freedom to exhibit a new life - the life given by the Spirit of God.
Our new life demands new choices and new actions. We don't take a bath and then put on our old, filthy clothing we'd been in for weeks. We put on fresh undies, don a freshly ironed shirt, and pull on a clean pair of jeans. Snug in the feeling of freshness that we experience through the "bath" and the "donning" of the clean clothes, we feel like a new person! Translate that into spiritual life. We are "bathed" by the Spirit and Word - cleaning up our minds, washing away the dirty effects of sin in our lives. Then we are told to clothe ourselves with some pretty awesome stuff - peace, joy, righteousness, etc. There is a "freshness" in renewal of the mind that produces a "freshness" in our "appearance" to a lost and hurting world.
I guess it goes without saying that I certainly don't want to embrace a life of stupid decisions followed by stubborn actions any longer. My life has been transformed - I've been bathed by the Spirit. How about you?