Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What Grace Teaches Us

The pastoral epistles are becoming increasingly dear to me. As I read them, serving now as a senior pastor, I am constantly encouraged, corrected, challenged and guided by Paul's words. I am thankful to God for including these letters in His Word for the repeated use and divine wisdom they provide to His undershepherds.

Meditating on Titus in my quiet time recently, I was struck afresh by Paul's words in Titus 2:11-14:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorioius appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

For my first several years as a Christian, the only time I heard this text mentioned or expounded was during sermons on the rapture or in some debate over eschatology. Usually the preacher or friend would focus in on "the blessed hope--the glorious appearing" and ride off on clouds of rapture ecstasy.

Looking at the text the other morning, however, the centrality and sufficiency of the grace of God gripped my heart. In particular, the teaching activity of grace in the lives of believers left me all kinds of encouraged.

1. The grace of God teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions.

That's good news. How often the tumult of Romans 7 has ravaged the Christian. How often has doubt and despair overtaken the believer with tender conscience and hopes of progress in holiness. Then comes grace... teaching... telling us to say, simply enough, "No." No treatise or complicated system of works and self-flogging. Like a parent with a two year old, the grace of God grabs our attention, locks onto our little eyes, and teaches us to say "No." How often my life would be improved by saying "No." And how often my life would be purified with the mastery of this first lesson of grace: just say 'no.' Seems Nancy Reagan was on to something. But it applies to more than just drugs. Grace enables a simple but powerfully resolute "no" to all manner of ungodliness and worldly passions. Praise God!

2. The grace of God teaches us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Second lesson: say "yes" to godliness. It's the nature of grace to produce self-control, uprightness, and godliness. It's a Christ-denying, cheap imitation grace that leads to lewdness and license (Jude 4). The grace of God leading to salvation is powerful enough that in this present age--this present evil age (Gal. 1:4)--we may live the life of Christ. Our instruction at the hands of grace leads us to Christlikeness. Our old schoolmaster (the Law) lead us to condemnation. But since graduating from that classroom, have we not been taught of a new life where there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1) but the beauty of holiness in Christ our All.

After trying for years to find discipline, self-control, uprightness and godliness through the empty legalisms and rituals of Islam, I'm so thankful for the grace of God that leads to salvation and teaches me to live in union with Christ!

3. The grace of God teaches us to wait for Jesus.

Here, then, is the glorious end of it all--life with Jesus when He comes! Grace teaches us to say "no," then to live godly lives, and all the while to "wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." The grace that produces eager waiting, triumphant hope, anchored in the promised return of Jesus our great God and Savior seems to be a rare commodity among us Christians.

How seldom do we wait upon the Lord. We're the disciples who could not tarry for one hour. How seldom do we appropriate that grace of God which cultivates patient anticipation of our God's return. How seldom do we clutch on to the grace of God and the end of that grace--Christ Jesus who redeemed us from all wickedness and purifies us for himself. How different is this grace of God which teaches us to wait from all of that endless jangling about precise endtimes schedules and schemes! I'm thankful for this grace that creates a longing for the Redeemer and purity of soul! Come Lord Jesus. And grant me grace to wait!


Marc Backes said...

Let me see if I got this straight:

- God's grace enables repentance

- God's grace enables us to see him as He is, full of beauty and majesty

- Because we see Him as He is, we long to leave an alien sinful world and be with Him for all eternity and thereby truly proclaim "Maranatha"

Naa...won't ever preach: The Gospel is much more complicated than that :) :)

Awesome post!

Tom said...

Thank you Thabiti, for encouraging me by sharing how God encouraged you in Titus 2:11-14.

Grace to you,

LouLove said...

Why are you all up in my message for the conference, Brother?

Thanks for the insights, you have made my job easier?

Looking forward to June!