One of the indisputable truths of the Gospel is that God meets
us right where we are, just as we are, but He doesn’t leave us
there. He loves us just as we are, but too much to leave
us that way. Put another way, grace is not merely a dispo-
sition of God toward us but it is also the power of God acting
upon and within us. As Paul says in Romans 5:21, “…so that
as sin reigned in death, so grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sin as a power within us reigned in our unbelieving state and resulted in death. Grace now reigns in us as believers through right living and ultimately leading to eternal life.
There is an intolerance in grace. It will not tolerate licentious living. If you have grace and grace has you, your life will change. Paul addresses this very issue in Titus 2:11-15 – “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 glorious 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. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” Paul is writing to Titus who lives in Crete, which would make Las Vegas look like Orlando. His pastoral concern is to help the church in Crete get their life in line with the Gospel. He shows them that the Gospel is both Christ for them and Christ in them. He emphasizes that grace does four things. Grace saves us, teaches us, enables us and motivates us.
First, grace brings salvation. Paul personifies grace by saying it has appeared, i.e. in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In grace, God always takes the initiative. He covered Himself in the mud and muck of this world in order to rescue us. He embraces us in our filth, think prodigal son, and does everything for us. Grace annuls our works, deconstructs our merit as the means of securing God’s affection and acceptance. Grace is also the power of God by which He forgives sin, accepts the unacceptable, revives the spiritually dead and brings and brings us into union with Christ. Grace is the power of God’s love that relentlessly pursues and overcomes our resistance and brings a reconciliation and restoration that could never be achieved on our own. Salvation that grace brings is a rescue from impending danger and a refuge of absolute security. It is deliverance from the penalty, pollution, power and ultimately the presence of sin. Grace rightly perceived does not lead to laxity and indifference but leads to and compels holiness. Grace electrifies and vitalizes the heart of a true believer.
Grace teaches us or trains us. It has a curriculum, i.e. content and it has a goal. Grace is a power that instructs us. It tells us to renounce or give up ungodliness and worldly passions. The Gospel of God’s grace is God’s answer to the moral and spiritual ills of humanity because it empowers its disciples to deal with the root cause of ungodly behavior, the heart. The taproot or core is ungodliness and the fruit is worldly passions. Ungodliness is setting yourself against God in overt and covert ways. It is a refusal to let God be God, and to live for His glory. It is to be driven by self glory. It is enmity with God and a hostility toward His Law. It is the primal sin as well as the power of sin. Our relationship with God must change before our behavior. Grace does just that. It reconciles us to God. What does ungodliness look like? It looks like worldly passions, “epithumia” which means hyper or over desires. It is wanting good things too much in idolatrous ways. The Gospel is more than good advice or a set of ethical ideals which are powerless against ungodliness and worldly passions. The Gospel succeeds over its rivals by striking at the vitals of the heart issuing in spiritual transformation not cosmetic reformation. Grace teaches us to live self-controlled lives, to master of sinful cravings. It teaches us to be upright, a relational term meaning love to God and our neighbor. It leads to godliness, a lifestyle that worships, fears and serves God by living for His glory. All of the above are the products of God’s grace.
Grace also enables us. It enables us to wait for the second coming of our blessed Savior Jesus Christ. It enables us to live within the present age, the tension between the already of His kingdom and the not yet of His kingdom. We live with the hope that although things are still not the way they are supposed to be, one day they will be. Hope is a driving force that purifies us.
Finally grace motivates us. It is the only thing that can lay the axe at the root of ungodliness and worldly passions. A deeper understanding of the love of Christ compels us. When we think of the cross and Christ giving Himself for us it melts us. He became sin and gave us His righteousness. He was cursed and abandoned so that we might be embraced and kissed. He became ugly so that we could become beautiful. He was smitten and bruised so that we might be caressed and healed. He tasted the fury of God’s wrath so that we could know the joy of His mercy. His purpose is to redeem us, to free us from wickedness and to purify us as His bride who is zealous to please her loving, gracious husband. Grace is both tolerant and intolerant. It both justifies and sanctifies sinners.