We are evil (Tit 3:3), but God shows us goodness (Tit 3:4), by saving us in a very special way (Tit 3:5-7), so we can do good (Tit 3:8). That is the simplest summary for Titus 3:3-8.
Verse 4-7 is a series of explanations of how God saves sinners. One phrase is added to another, each deserving explanation and understanding. But the one sentence that stands up by itself without needing any other phrases is the first line of verse 5 “he saved us”. It is the sentence under which all the other phrases are placed. “He saved us” is the main point, the rest merely explains how “he saved us”.
“He saved us”—The “he” is God; the “us” is sinners like us in verse 3; the “saved” is everything in verses 4-7.
“not because of works done by us in righteousness”—God didn’t save us because we were good.
“but according to his own mercy”—God saved us because He felt so much pity for us that He decided not to punish us as we deserved (verse 3), but to show us much good (verse 4) in spite of what we deserved.
“by the washing of regeneration”—regeneration means to be born again (read John 3 for how that works), and washing means we have been cleaned up when we were born again.
“and renewal of the Holy Spirit”—even though “regeneration” already refers to everything being new, this affirms that it is indeed the Holy Spirit Himself who does the renewing of our souls. Like Jesus explained in John 3, the Holy Spirit of God is the One Who makes our old sinful soul a brand new justified soul.
To sum it all up, Christianity is not about self-improvement and making yourself new and better. Christianity it about realising that God is the One Who is so very good and kind that He even makes people like us brand new by having His Holy Spirit do His work in us.
Where does Jesus fit in all this? That is verse 6, and verse 5 will take a good week to memorise, so come back next Wednesday for the continuation as we add even more descriptive phrases to how “He saved us”!