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There Are Some Things Even God Can’t Do

Titus 1:1-4

1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;

4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.


When I was in college we used to sit around and discuss some of the deep theological issues of life. One of the questions we usually talked about was, “If God can do everything, then can he make a rock larger than he can lift?” It is a useless and unanswerable question because it pits God against himself. About the only good it did was to keep us off of the streets. That might have been a blessing. But it does introduce the subject: there are some things that even God cannot do.

James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” God never gives a second thought to wrongdoing. It never enters his mind to do anything but the right thing. God cannot sin and still be God.

In 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul is talking about our responsibility to be faithful to God. And in the midst of that great declaration and that great admonition he says, “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”

One thing about God is that he is always consistent. We have trouble with consistency. We would like to always say the right thing, always do the right thing, and always know the right thing, but with our fallibility we are all inconsistent to varying degrees. But God never contradicts or denies himself. He is always true to his own nature and his own character. God cannot sin. God cannot deny himself. In the sermon text that is before us today, Paul declares that God cannot lie.

This is in the midst of Paul identifying himself and explaining his ministry. The apostle Paul often began his letters by identifying himself. He is Paul the apostle, Paul the bondslave of Jesus Christ. He says that he had been given a special ministry by God: to preach and proclaim the hope of eternal life that God had promised before time began. Paul makes it very clear that God has promised us eternal life and that God made that promise before the world ever came into being.

Salvation was not an afterthought by God. Man’s sin in the garden did not take God by surprise. God who knows all things knew in advance what we would do, and in advance he planned to redeem us. And Paul says, “My wonderful mission and my challenging purpose in life is that I might proclaim the hope of eternal life that God promised to us way back there before time ever came into being.” In the midst of that declaration of his great mission and purpose the apostle Paul inserts a little phrase that has captured my attention. He said, “This promise was made by God who cannot lie.” While he talks about the promise of God he inserts a very brief statement—almost in passing, almost as a parenthetical—that alludes to the character of God. It speaks of the utter trustworthiness and the absolute faithfulness of God. God (who promised this) cannot lie. It is placed in the scriptures in such a way that we almost want to ask, “Paul, why did you put that in there? There are so many times when you declare the promises of God and you don’t bother to try to substantiate it with the character of God. You just tell us that this is the promise, this is the word of God, take it, believe it, and live by it. You don’t try to prop it up by alluding to God’s faithfulness, dependability, and character.”

Why then does Paul, in the midst of this rather long sentence that takes six verses for him to complete, inject that simple reference to the character of God by saying, “God cannot lie”? I think it must be to contrast the character of God with the character of the people in Crete. He was writing to Titus, and Titus had been sent on a special mission to the island of Crete. Crete was a tough place in which to work for God, and one of the factors that made it tough was the character of the people on that island. Paul speaks of their character in verse 12 when he mentions that even a prophet of their own said that the Cretans are all liars. Now in contrast to the people Titus was working with, who could not be believed, trusted, or depended upon, Paul said, “I want to tell you about the hope of eternal life that has been promised to us by God before the world ever came into being and it was promised by the one who never lies.”

In the original language that statement, “God who does not lie,” is just one Greek word. The verse is literally translated, “God, the unlying one,” or “the unliable God.” Paul wants everyone to know that the one who is absolutely, utterly trustworthy is the one who has spoken this. You know men do not always tell the truth. You cannot with absolute certainty believe what people say to you, even if it is on the ten o’clock news—maybe especially if it is on the ten o’clock news. If it is written in the newspaper or in a news magazine it does not mean that it is absolutely true.

Let me illustrate. Sometime ago there was a writer with the Washington Post who wrote an article dealing with a young man in poverty and the effect of that poverty upon his life. His name was Jimmy and the article was entitled “Jimmy’s World.” It was such an outstanding piece of journalism that the writer received a Pulitzer Prize for her writing. She did such a masterful job in telling the story of this young man who had grown up in poverty that she received America’s highest journalism award. Now everything was okay until a television station decided that it wanted to interview Jimmy. The reporters wanted to get him on film and let him tell his story so they could run it as a news feature. As they began to investigate, they discovered that Jimmy did not exist. The writer had in fact fabricated the story. She had made up the case study. This young man whom she had written about did not even exist. The whole story was a hoax!

One writer explained that errors such as this are a result of obvious human fallibility. However, the news media often covers them up to create the pretense of infallibility so that they can regain their credibility. He is saying in short that the truth is not always told, and when the error is discovered, the error is not often revealed because reporters must maintain the image of infallibility so that you will accept their credibility.

There is only one who is infallible, and that’s God. And everyone else—the newspaper reporters, the preachers, and the interpreters of the Bible, regardless of who you are talking about—all people are fallible. They make mistakes. The only one who has absolute credibility is the one who is infallible, and that’s God himself. Our whole faith is grounded in the character of the infallible God who never makes a mistake and who never tells anything that is not true.

That truth is as broad as the promises of God. You can take any promise out of the Bible and you can know this: if God said it, it is true. If God said it, you can anchor your life to it. If God said it, you can claim it for yourself. If he said it for you and for me, then that promise is true because God never tells a lie.

What I want to do in this sermon is to just draw three of the promises of God from scripture. You could pick any you wanted to, but I am going to pick three, and give emphasis to the fact that God who made that promise can be trusted to keep it if you will meet the conditions of it.

1. His promise to accept. The first is this: God has promised that he will accept all who come to him. One of the great promises of scripture is that made by Jesus, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). It is the promise of acceptance. It is God’s word to us that if we will come to him in repentance and faith, he will accept us. He will not reject us, and we can become a part of the family of God. We could enter into the wonderful redemption of God if we will come, and that’s a promise you can anchor your life to.

Ever since man sinned in the Garden of Eden he has experienced an estrangement from God. God created us like unto himself so that we could commune with him. We are much like God in many ways. That can be said of no other part of creation. Man alone is made in the likeness and the image of God. He was made that way so he could fellowship with God, but immediately after God had created man in his own image, man rebelled and sinned against God, and that created an estrangement between God and man.

When Adam and Eve sinned they immediately went into the garden to hide themselves. They felt uncomfortable in God’s presence. Knowing what they had done wrong, they did not want to see God. But God came seeking after them. What sin did to Adam and Eve in the garden, it will do to you and me. When we sin, immediately there is an invisible barrier that makes us feel uncomfortable in the presence of God and estranged from God. We feel that there is something wrong in our lives.

Augustine put it this way: “Thou hast made us for thyself, Oh Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” There is a loneliness in us and there is a restlessness in us. There is an estrangement in us that can never be satisfied until we come to God through Jesus Christ. God, knowing of that loneliness and that sense of rejection that would be in us from the very beginning of time, planned redemption. And in the fullness of time, that plan became a reality. Jesus Christ died upon the cross and was buried in Joseph’s tomb. But he was raised from the dead and in and through Jesus Christ the relationship that we lost through sin can be restored. The wonderful promise of scripture is this: “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). He will never reject you. He will never turn you aside. He will ever and always welcome you and receive you if you come to him. That’s the promise of one who does not lie.

D. L. Moody told the story of a young Scottish girl who rebelled against her parents and went away from home and deep into sin. On a wild and frenzied night in Edinburgh she came to such a point of despair that she was ready to take her own life. She decided for one last time she would go and look at that little cottage where she had been reared. So in the middle of the night she made her way to the heart of the city, to that little residential area where she had grown up. She finally came to stand in front of the fence that was in front of the house where she had grown up as a child. As she stood there looking at the house in the middle of the night, it suddenly dawned upon her that the door to the house was open. Fearing that someone might have entered the house and harmed her mother, she did what she did not intend to do. She opened the gate of that picket fence and walked up the sidewalk and onto the front porch and into the house. She called out to her mother in the middle of the night, “Mother, are you there?”

With joy in her heart the mother was awakened to hear the voice of her long-lost daughter. And she rushed to the front room and threw her arms around her daughter and said, “Maggie, it has been many a night since you went away. And every night since you left, Maggie, I have prayed that God would bring you back home. I promised him that whether you come in the day or in the night, the door would always be open and you would know that you are welcome home.”

The whole message of the Bible and the whole purpose for this church standing here today is to say to you and to say to the whole world that Jesus Christ is the door, and the door has been left ajar for you. And if you will by faith come to God through Christ, he will welcome you and receive you. “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” That’s the word of one you can trust. He never tells a lie.

2. His promise to cleanse. Let me go beyond that to say, not only does he promise to accept those who come to him, he also promises to cleanse those who confess to him. I received an anonymous letter some time ago from a young lady. I do not often read anonymous letters, so don’t bother to write them. But for some reason I just felt compelled to read this one. She said, “I read your articles in the newspaper every week. I need a word from you and from God. I was involved in an adulterous affair. I had a bad marriage. A man came into my life and I thought I loved him and I became involved with him. I have been a Christian since I was 16 and I’ve confessed that sin to God and I am truly sorry for what I did, but I can’t get over this feeling of guilt and condemnation. I need some assurance that I can be forgiven by God. Would you write an article for the newspaper and tell me?”

I replied, “I’ve got good news for you. God says in his word that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. And surely that all must include an adulterous relationship. If you have confessed that sin to God, if you are (as you say in your letter) truly sorry about what you did, I can say to you, on the authority of God’s word, you have been forgiven. You have been cleansed, for this is the word and the promise of one who does not lie.”

Ultimately any assurance we have in our lives—the assurance of salvation or the assurance of forgiveness and cleansing—resides in the character of God. Did God say it? If God said it, then I can anchor my life to it. If I meet his conditions then I am as safe and secure as God is true. And his promise is not only to accept those who come to him, it is also a promise to cleanse those who confess to him. The same God who finds sin declares forgiveness. Now if I can believe the Bible when it says that adultery is a sin, I can also believe that same Bible when it says that through repentance and confession I can be cleansed. How can I accept God’s accusation if I do not accept God’s promise?

If you can believe what God says in one instance then you can believe what God says in the other instance, for he is the “unlying” God. He is the “unliable” God. He is the God who always tells the truth. If he said it, that’s it. You can bank on it.

The truth then applies not only to the promise to accept all who come to him, and to cleanse all who confess to him, but it also is a promise to come to all who believe in him.

3. His promise to come. No matter what road you take in life, they all end up at the same place. They all end at the cemetery. Death is that ultimate appointment that all of us have with God. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We don’t like to think about death and some people reject the very idea of life after death.

In one of his writings, Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe has a man talking about his son Ben who died. He says this concerning Ben and concerning all of death: “We can believe in the nothingness of life. We can believe in the nothingness of death. We can believe in the nothingness of life after death, but can we believe in the nothingness of Ben?”

It is one thing to scoff at the idea of heaven and the life to come when you are dealing with abstractions and when you are talking about theory. But I want you to know that when you stand before the open casket and the freshly dug grave and you are burying your nearest and dearest, all of those abstractions and all of that theory fade away and you will want to believe in the life to come.

But is there something more than a longing within us? Is there some sure word from God? There is. Listen to Jesus: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). Jesus said to us, “Death is not the end of the road; it is a bend in the road and you can’t see around the bend. You don’t know what is there except what I tell you. And if you can believe me, then you can know that everything is okay because I don’t tell lies.”

We must keep believing the word of the one who always tells the truth. If you are lost and you need to be saved, if you feel rejected by all of life and you want acceptance, there is the promise, “Come unto me and I will in no wise turn you aside.” If you are away from God and your life is a disappointment to you as well as others, and you would like to start all over again and have forgiveness and cleansing, there is the promise, “Come clean with me and I will cleanse you.” If your heart is aching for some sure word about the future—about the life to come, about heaven and your eternal home—our Lord speaks promises of that. The one who said all of those things—the promise of salvation, the promise of cleansing and the promise of heaven—the one who spoke all of that is one who never lies.

David Livingston, a great missionary in Africa, called the Great Commission his favorite passage of scripture. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” and attached to that commission there is a promise from God: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB). Livingston would read that promise in times of danger, in times of difficulty, in times of sickness, and in times of starvation. He would say, “That’s the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor.” That’s all there is to it. He anchored his life and his ministry on the fact that God made a promise and God was a gentleman. God always told the truth.

Livingston lived and died with that kind of confidence in God. I want you to have it. I want you to believe it. If God said it, you can trust it. That’s something to which you can anchor yourself in an unstable world.

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