Titus 2:11-12. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
What is the motivation behind the Christian life? Or to ask the question from Pastor Titus’ perspective, “How do I get the people in my church to act like good and godly Christians?”
Titus was the pastor of a very young church in Crete, which was a pretty rough place. Pastoring there had to be hard. And so Paul writes to Titus giving him a list of traits and behaviors that should characterize his church members (2:1-10). Things like self-control, respect, love, purity, integrity, dignity, and sound speech. He covers pretty much every church member – old men, old women, young men, young women, and servants.
And then, after this fairly detailed description of the good life that Christians are supposed to live, he answers the HOW question. How are we able to live this way? What is our motivation? Why are we able to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives?
What is Paul’s answer to the HOW question of Christian living? Plain and simple it’s Jesus – his grace and his glory.
But why is this answer so difficult for us to embrace? Why do we search for more than Christ alone? Why do we pile on more law or more “Christian principles” as the power source of the good life? Just read almost any book on “Christian living” and you will see this formula: IF you do these things, THEN you will experience a better life (with Jesus’ help of course). Or listen to almost any sermon this Sunday:
Pastor: Be self-controlled church.
Church: We can’t.
Pastor: Well then try harder.
Or what about grace itself? For many of us grace is not the appearing of the person of Jesus Christ and his free salvation. Even the simplicity of grace has been reduced to another Christian principle to apply. Ironically even God’s “unmerited favor” has become something to acquire, something to deserve, something to become proficient in, something to live up to, something to expect from others, something to do, without it first being a person who did it for us.
The grace of God has appeared. The advent of Christ into the world is the advent of God’s grace. Grace is a person not just a principle. He is salvation. He is compassion. He is mercy. He is forgiveness. He is humility. He is kindness. He IS grace. Without HIM none of these graces would exist in the world. And now it is his life that is training us to denounce ungodliness and embrace godliness. His life teaches us how to live the good life. But how? How does Jesus train us? How does this living grace teach us how to live?
And here is where the backwards nature of the gospel comes in – if you want people to live good lives for God, to denounce worldly passions, to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives, then stop emphasizing what they must do for God and start declaring what God has done for them. Stop focusing on all the ways they have failed to live up to God’s grace and, instead, teach them to embrace the finished saving work of Jesus, and to look forward to his glorious return.
Titus 2:13-14. 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Trusting grace in the person of Jesus and his sacrificial life and death for us is the only way to move toward godliness. I know what you might be thinking – “Doesn’t grace just make us want to sin more and more?” Not when it’s a person. A savior. A friend. A lover. A shepherd-king. When grace is only a principle that exonerates us each time we sin, then yes, it might allow you to do whatever you want and just be forgiven over, and over, and over.
But when Grace is the lover of your soul. When Grace appears in the flesh. When Grace gives himself for us to redeem us. When Grace makes you his own precious possession. When Grace not only forgives you, but also places you into himself. Into his own life. His own glory. His own goodness. Then your heart’s desires have been trained to denounce all that would break his heart. Then you have been shown grace as godliness. Then you have been taught “to live is Christ.”
Are you changing your choices through grace or through law? How’s it going?
You in Christ
Do you see grace as license or as love? How might your union with Christ help you answer?
Christ in you
Is Jesus training you in godliness today? How?
Playlist: Grace Appearing.
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