Yes. That word.
It is trendy, it’s hip, it’s just the right blend of a pinch of reformed and dash of hipster, and when you drop it into conversations, everyone thinks you’re totally relevant and totally accepting of all those things that more “prudish” Christians look at as sinful and ungodly.
Thank goodness you know “grace”.
I was sitting out in one of my favorite prayer spots not long ago, reading through Titus, when the scripture below jumped out at me. I’ve read it MANY times, and actually know it by heart just from reading it so many times. But…this time was different. This time, it was like I actually understood it…and I realize that what I was reading was such a clear contrast to the way we so commonly perceive “GRACE”. Read it yourself:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” Titus 2:11-12
Um. What? Wait, wait, wait. Paul obviously missed the memo. Like…doesn’t he realize that grace means that God saved us so He overlooks our sinfulness now? Like…we’re covered by the blood of Jesus, dude. Grace.
Let’s take a step back here, and look at some important details. Why did Jesus come? “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Jesus came to save His people from their sins [read: He didn’t come to help us to feel better about ourselves, or to make us comfortable in our sinful passions, or to pat us on the head when we live selfishly]. In light of that, what IS the “Grace of God”?? The grace of God is that Jesus has rescued us from the power of sin and death (Romans 8:2), meaning that we no longer HAVE to sin! We have been set free from the shackles of sin so that we CAN walk in godliness, and say “NO” to sin. God has given us the power to overcome our sinful passions, and given us the freedom to live righteously!!
The first few verses of Romans 6 also reiterate these things in a very straight-forward way: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. ….So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. ….For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
Wait. “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”? But…but…grace means we don’t even have to worry about sin, right?
Ok, back to the Titus 2 verses. Go ahead, read them again all the way up there. Ok, now lets unpack the verses:
“bringing salvation for all people”
This means that God desires to see people saved. There is a common misconception that if we speak to people plainly about God’s commands, and His plan of salvation, that we are being judgmental and not having grace. So, many people feel like they have to tiptoe around those who are living in sin, fearing to speak up on the Lord’s behalf, because they don’t want to be “judgmental”, and they hope that just by “loving on” these people, they somehow will turn to the Lord on their own. Maybe they will. Maybe some have. BUT, if we are unwilling to stand up for righteousness, and live set-apart lives, and boldly proclaim the gospel ourselves…..why should they become Christians? Because, in their eyes, how are we any different from themselves, or from any other “non-Christian”. We must be willing to boldly show those who don’t know Jesus the reason our lives are different, and to give an answer for the hope that is within us! God wants people to be saved, and what kind of friends are we if we let them go on living in their sins, which we KNOW are going to lead them to destruction and ultimately eternal death and separation from God?? [1 Corinthians 15:56a, “The sting of death is sin….”]
Jude 2:23a says, “Save others by snatching them out of the fire…” — not by waving and smiling at them as they careen over the edge of the cliff.
“training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. ….We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning…” 1 John 5:4a,18a
Renounce. That’s a kind of intense word. We might keep the definition fuzzy in our minds as we read over it because, as long as it stays fuzzy, we don’t REALLY have to worry about doing it. If you don’t want to act on this verse, don’t read any further…because I’m about to give you the definition…and it’s not fuzzy or a vague concept.
Well…I warned you:
- formally declare one’s abandonment of
- refuse to recognize or abide by any longer
- declare that one will no longer engage in or support
Now you wished you had stopped reading when I warned you, don’t you? But, unfortunately (or fortunately) for you, now you have the responsibility that comes with knowledge. God’s grace trains us how to abandon, no longer engage in, and refuse to abide by ungodliness and worldly passions.
Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”
Which brings us to:
“and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age”
Living according to God’s commands takes work. You don’t just stumble into a righteous life. You must fight for it daily — hourly! You must learn to recognize ungodliness and unrighteousness in your own heart and life, and come up with a plan to combat those desires and tendencies with godliness, and self-control. We will get to the place of a deeper understanding of God’s heart, and a greater discernment of those things that are commonly embraced by the world, but which are unhelpful for a Christian to engage in, or worse — those things which break God’s heart and cause Him much sorrow — when we SPEND TIME WITH JESUS each day. Just like any friendship, this is really the way we get to know God’s heart, and the way we are able to receive His power to live an overcoming life. And, even though it takes much work, it WILL bear fruit in your life, because we aren’t trying to do it on our own, and we aren’t going after the devil’s strongholds in our own strength……..and THIS, friends, is the grace of God. We CAN have victory, we CAN live new lives, we CAN receive new hearts, we CAN overcome our sinful tendencies — BECAUSE OF THE GRACE OF GOD. Because He has given us the very authority of Jesus, His Son, over the devil, and over the devil’s schemes, and all sinful temptations.
Let us take hold of this gift of grace TODAY, in the fullness of it’s power. Let us take hold of this amazing power and authority that God Himself has gifted us with as His children, and heirs with Jesus! Let us not treat so lightly this gift of grace. May we overcome by the blood of the Lamb TODAY!!!