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.
Titus was the pastor of a very young church in Crete, which was a pretty rough place. Pastoring there had to be hard. Paul’s letter to Pastor Titus details for 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 comprehensive 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.
But that is not Paul’s answer for Pastor Titus. His answer is far, far better – The grace of God has appeared…training us.
The appearing of God’s grace is the appearing of Christ. Grace is a person, not just a principle. Jesus is salvation. Jesus is compassion. Jesus is mercy. Jesus is forgiveness. Jesus is humility. Jesus is kindness. Without HIM none of these graces would exist in the world. And now it is his indwelling 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?
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.
Christian, 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 appears in the flesh. When Grace is the lover of your soul. 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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