Grace has appeared to make us godly
Series: Titus: A Church That Lasts
The big idea of our passage this morning: Grace has appeared to make us godly. Far from being opposed to godly living, God’s grace has appeared to be our, so to speak, personal trainer, mentor, and tutor in godliness. Grace has appeared to make us godly. With that said, I want to spend the rest of our time together this morning answering one question: how does grace teach us to be godly? We’ll see three answers in our passage this morning: 1. Grace saves us 2. Grace trains us 3. Grace orients us.
ESV Study Bible
Titus For You by Tim Chester
1/2 Timothy & Titus commentary in the Pillar series by Robert Yarbrough
Grace is Not a Thing by Jeremy Treat
MOTHER’S DAY PRAYER
Good morning, my name is Matt and I’m one of the pastors of the church and I want to wish you mom’s a happy and joyful Mother’s Day. When I think of you moms, especially those of you that I know well, the portrait of the industrious woman in Proverbs 31 comes to mind (read Proverbs 31:25-30). Mom’s today we celebrate you and remember that God gives us the privilege of honoring you every day. For today’s pastoral prayer, moms, it’s my privilege to pray for you.
Father, we give you thanks and praise for our mothers and every mother in this room. Father, we praise you because as we watch the mothers in our church delight in their children, wisely instruct their children, and lovingly correct their children, we see a glimmer of the way that you parent us. Father, we are so thankful for the way that the mothers in this church are showing off the incredible value that you place on children. Thank you for the way that they love, nurture, disciple, encourage, discipline, and delight in their kids. Father, we pray that every mother in this room will be a woman who waits upon you. The Bible says that even youths, even young moms, grow tired and weary, but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. O Lord, please free the moms in this room from the false-guilt of comparison and accusation, and free them to wait upon you, sit at your feet, and live out their calling as mothers with renewed strength. Father, we also pray your comfort over those who have lost mothers or are estranged from them. Thank you that you put orphans into families. Please comfort those who have lost through the family of the church. Father, we also ask for you to comfort who may long to be mothers, would you be the One who satisfies the deepest longings of their hearts. Father, today we honor you and praise you for the exquisite gift of the mothers of this church. And as we turn to your word now, we ask that you open our hearts to receive the words in the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus for what they are, the very words of God. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
The great American theologian Al Pacino once said, “I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So, I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.” Commenting on Pacino’s statement, pastor and theologian Jeremy Treat says, “Pacino’s statement taps into a tension that we all sense intuitively but maybe have not expressed explicitly. If God is forgiving, then why strive for a holy life?” The tension felt here ultimately comes from a confused view of grace. A confused view of grace creates tensions in the Christian life where joy and power should be. Thankfully, grace is at the heart of our passage in Titus this morning. In the passage just before the one we are exploring this morning, Paul encouraged Titus, his protégé in Christian ministry, to teach all the Christians on the large Island of Crete to live in a manner that fits or adorns the good news about Jesus that they believe. Just like you’re probably careful to only wear clothes that fit your body, so Paul tells Christians to be careful and make every effort to wear a lifestyle that fits the good news, the gospel, that they believe. But here again is the tension that a confused view of grace creates. If the gospel is the good news about how sinners can be reconciled to God as a gift, then why should Christians be so concerned to “wear” godliness? The answer to that question and the way through the tension is the big idea of our passage this morning: Grace has appeared to make us godly. Far from being opposed to godly living, God’s grace has appeared to be our, so to speak, personal trainer, mentor, and tutor in godliness. Grace has appeared to make us godly. With that said, I want to spend the rest of our time together this morning answering one question: how does grace teach us to be godly? We’ll see three answers in our passage this morning: 1. Grace saves us 2. Grace trains us 3. Grace orients us.
GRACE SAVES US
The first way that grace teaches us to be godly is by saving us. Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…” What is the grace of God? In his essay published by The Gospel Coalition, entitled “Saving Grace,” theologian Sam Storms writes that, “God’s saving grace is the unmerited favor of God that reconciles sinners through Jesus Christ.” I want to pause here and correct a common misunderstanding that many of us have about God’s grace. We can sometimes get the impression that grace is a sort of impersonal spiritual substance that God keeps behind his heavenly throne and chucks down to his people below when they disobey or ignore Him. “Here, have some grace since you’ve made such a mess of things, again, I’m staying up here!” This is incorrect. Grace is not a thing or stuff and we know that because of one key word in the middle of Titus 2:11: appeared. “For the grace of God has appeared…” The word translated appeared is “epiphany” and it means “to become gloriously visible.” When did God’s grace appear and become gloriously visible? Grace became gloriously visible when God took on flesh in Jesus Christ, grace became visible when Jesus was tempted in every way we are yet without sin, grace became gloriously visible when Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sins, grace became gloriously visible when Jesus rose to secure eternal life for all who believe in Him, and grace became gloriously visible when we were saved by faith, because even saving faith is a gift of God. Grace has appeared and it’s not spiritual stuff that God chucks at you from far away so he can keep his distance. God’s saving grace is the unmerited favor of God by which he gives himself to reconcile sinners to himself. As Jeremy Treat says, “Grace is a gift, but God is not only the giver, he himself is the gift. God graces us with himself.” And with that clarification, we can embrace Sam Storms very helpful definition of God’s saving grace: “God’s saving grace is the unmerited favor of God that reconciles sinners through Jesus Christ.
Now that we understand what God’s grace is, how does God’s saving grace actually make us godly? It saves us! Let’s return to verse 11: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…” This verse does not teach that all people will be saved regardless of whether they believe in Jesus or not. That’s the heresy of universalism. Rather, this verse that salvation has been offered in Jesus Christ to all people, including all ethnic groups, not just some, and all who repent and believe are saved. But what does grace save us from? In his letter to the Romans, Paul describes sin as a powerful, seditious tyrant that reigns over us, that we must obey, and we love it. We are born under this tyrant, we are blind to the eternal sway of this tyrant, and we love this tyrant. But the grace of God has appeared in Jesus Christ to free you from the tyrant of sin now and forever, so that you can live as though you’re dead to this tyrant and alive to God because, by grace, you are. Grace has appeared to make us godly by saving us.
How can you apply this to your life? First, don’t try to be godly without grace. If you’re trying to clean up your life, get serious about your faith, and make some important changes to improve yourself, stop! You were born under a tyrant called sin and you cannot improve your way out of sin’s tyranny. Even your efforts to improve yourself are a form of rebelling against God because you’re trying to earn what he freely offers you and you can only have as a gift. If I buy one of my children an expensive new bike as a Christmas gift and they refuse to take it because they want to reimburse me with pennies from their piggy bank, it’s both insulting and futile. Because of their poverty, they can’t pay for the bike, they can only have it as a gift. If you’re trying to be godly without Jesus, you’re still under the tyranny of sin and spiritually impoverished. Stop. Receive God’s unmerited favor. Be reconciled to God through the finished work of Jesus. Be saved by God’s grace. It’s the only hope for being godly (Big for churched people). Secondly, consider yourself saved from sin. Listen to how Paul puts it in Romans 6:11: “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”. Do you consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God? You’re saved from sin so consider yourself dead to sin. When your common temptations come your way, don’t say to yourself “here we go again.” Say to yourself, “I am saved from that tyrant and I don’t have to obey it.” Grace teaches us to be godly, first, by saving us.
GRACE TRAINS US
Titus 2:11a, 12: “For the grace of God has appeared…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” The grace of God that saved us from ungodliness in the past is the same grace that trains us to be godly in the present details of our lives.
How does God’s grace do that? Look again at verse 12. The key word is renounce (circle in your Bible): “For the grace of God has appeared…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. In the New International Version, which is another good Bible translation, it says that grace trains us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions. The grace that saved us from the tyranny of sin now trains us to say no to the temptation of sin in the everyday details of our lives. That’s the first way that grace trains us to be godly.
Now, there is a world of difference between saying “no” to sin and the grace of God training me to say “no” to sin. One brings death and the other brings life. One is powerless and the other is powerful. For example, let’s take you moms. Most of the time, you probably experience your children as a gift from God and an absolute delight to your life. And, on Monday morning, it’s probably common for you to experience the temptation to be impatient with at least one of your children. Let’s think about the difference between you saying “no” to impatience and the grace of God training you to say “no” to impatience. You saying “no” to impatience might sound like, “what’s wrong with you for getting so upset? They’re just kids! Is your job so important that you have to freak out over a 2-minute delay? Why can’t you be more like____. She’s always glowing around her kids. Just stop being so impatient and grumpy.” How’s that going for you? Not well, because that’s law training you. Now, let’s listen to how grace might train you to say “no” to impatience. “I am really tempted to raise my voice, grab this child by the arm, and treat them roughly because they’re making a mess and making me late. But Father, I have made a far greater mess of things with my sin then this child is making of our house. You respond to my sins and weaknesses with forgiveness, mercy, perfect strength, and patient discipline. Because you’re infinitely patient with me and present with me right now, give me the strength I don’t have to be like you to this child.” Do you see how different grace is? How can you, in the details of your life, let grace, not law, teach you to say “no” to the ungodliness that tempts you?
Now, training us to say “no” to ungodliness is not the only way that grace trains us for godliness. Titus 2:11a, 12: “For the grace of God has appeared…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” Not only does grace trains us to say “no,” it positively trains us to live for God! Grace trains us to live for God by showing us what God is like. God’s grace reveals that God is love and He is not One that we want to fight against but live for. Grace reveals that God is not one we want to fight against, but live for in our homes, at our schools, in our employment, with our words, our sexuality, our money and our time. Since God has given all to save me, I want to give all and lose anything to live for him. Grace trains us to live for God. Question: when it comes to godliness in the details of your life, do you think of God as training you with law “get it together” or grace “live out of the love I have for you?” Grace changes everything. Grace has appeared to make us godly by training us.
GRACE ORIENTS US
The final way that grace teaches us to live godly lives in the present is by orienting the very tilt and posture of our lives toward the future. Titus 2:13-14: waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ… The only way to live a godly life this day is by waiting on the grace of God that will appear on the last day. “Waiting” is a powerful theme in Scripture. Isaiah 40 tells us that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. I love the way that New Testament scholar Robert Yabrough describes “waiting” on our blessed hope, the future appearing of Jesus Christ at the end of time to right every wrong and welcome us into the unspeakable joy of eternal life: “…it is clear that “wait” can describe a posture, not of passivity in the face of a fickle future, but of dogged confidence in God and his sure promises, however remote they may seem at times.” The entire Christian life is a season of “waiting.” And it’s clear from our passage that waiting is best done together. Titus 2:13-14: 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. Jesus didn’t die to redeem a godly person, but a godly people who wait for our blessed hope, his appearing. Jesus died to redeem not godly individuals, but a godly church. Don’t remain in the crowd, press into this community and wait with us. That’s what Jesus wants.
How does living in the constant spirit of waiting on future grace teach us to live godly lives in the present? I gave the entire Citylight staff, all three congregations, the last week off because since the Pandemic started, everyone has been working non-stop and needed some rest. As part of our time off, Andrea and I took the kids to an amusement park. While I love amusement parks, I hate lines. Apparently I’m not the only one. I witnessed both parents and children melting down in lines. What keeps me sane while waiting in line? The ride! I can endure the line for tea cups because I know that when we finally get going I am going to hear Sage laugh, see her smile, and we’ll both be filled with unspeakable joy. The future tilt of waiting is what keeps me from melting down in line. In the same way, it’s by keeping our gaze on the grace that is going to be ours when Jesus returns that keeps us living patient, godly lives in the present, together.
I want to leave you where we started: grace. Friends, the grace of God has appeared. God’s saving grace is the unmerited favor of God that reconciles sinners through Jesus Christ. Grace is a gift, but God is not only the giver, he himself is the gift. God graces us with himself in Jesus Christ. His grace appeared, his grace has saved you, and his grace will appear again and our blessed hope of being with Jesus in a new heaven and a new earth will become our unspeakably joyful reality forever. This is the God of grace who has saved and will save us. So, let’s be a church that says “no” to fighting against God and instead lives for God as we wait for the appearing of God. That’s a gospel culture growing strong. It’s all of grace!