Who We are As a Church
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12
This verse teaches us that God’s grace brings both salvation and sanctification! The word ‘teaching’ in the original language is also translated ‘training’ or ‘disciplining.’ Grace and discipline seem almost incongruous, but the same grace that brings salvation trains or disciplines us to live lives that please God.
When I was first introduced to Christian discipleship, I was given a list of spiritual disciplines to practice, things like reading the Bible, praying, memorizing scripture, worshiping at church, serving with my gifts, giving of my money, even fasting. These practices formed the foundation of my spiritual growth. Unfortunately, I came to believe that my relationship with God depended on my performance of these practices. I thought God smiled or frowned depending on how well I did at these exercises. That is discipline by legalism, not by grace. We are naturally performance-oriented and that is why we must not put the gospel on the shelf after we are saved. We are not saved by grace and then sanctified by our own efforts. Titus 2:11-12 teaches us three things about grace.
First, grace saves us and sanctifies us. Salvation and spiritual growth are inseparable. God never saves people and then leaves them to continue in their immaturity and sin. Paul said in Philippians 1:6, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” God initiates and superintends our spiritual growth. He knows exactly what we need to grow. He uses pastors and mentors, and the Word and circumstances. Often, we see people who don’t seem to be growing. They may have walked an aisle or prayed a prayer but if grace is not teaching them to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions they may not be true believers. Hebrews 12:8 says, “But if you are without chastening…then you are illegitimate and not sons.” Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Once we are truly saved through faith, grace begins to change us to be like Christ.
Secondly, grace trains us to say “no” and “yes.” Grace first teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions. Ungodliness is wickedness, immorality, dishonesty, cruelty and that which is evil and debased (See Romans 1:18-32). Ungodliness ignores God, as in Romans 1:21 where Paul writes, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful.” The ungodly have no fear or reverence for Him. Worldly passion is a preoccupation with the things of this life: possessions, prestige, pleasures, power. Grace trains us to say no to these things.
But grace also teaches us to say “yes” to sober mindedness, righteousness, and godliness. Sometimes the Christian life seems to consist mainly of negative prohibitions—Do not do this or that—but the Christian life should be directed towards positive expressions such as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). According to Ephesians 4:22-24, we are to put off the corrupt and deceitful old life and put on righteousness and holiness. We are to be self-controlled, upright and godly. These traits correspond to our self, our neighbors and our God. Self-control is self-restraint or discipline. Upright deals with our character and integrity and kindness toward other people. Godliness is having a proper regard for God’s will and glory in every aspect of our lives.
Finally, grace changes how we live our lives. Earlier in Titus 2, Paul gives instructions on how to live “that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (verse 5) and “that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you,” (verse 8). Living a consistently godly life is important because the world is hostile towards Christianity and looks for inconsistencies in our lives in order to ridicule Christ.
So it is grace, not the law, that teaches and enables us to live a God-glorifying life. Many Christians feel guilty and hopeless because of recurring sin patterns and their inability to do anything about them. God’s grace delivers us from the dominion of sin and enables us to do right, by the power of the Holy Spirit and through our union with Christ. William Hendriksen says, “God’s grace is His active favor bestowing the greatest gift upon those who deserve the greatest punishment.” The law condemns, but grace forgives through Christ. The law commands but gives no power, grace commands and gives the Spirit’s enablement. John Newton captured the essence of what it means to be disciplined by grace:
Run, John, run, The Law commands,
But gives neither feet nor hands.
Better news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and gives me wings.
Do you accept the forgiveness of His grace or do you labor under the burden of guilt? Are you relying on your union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit for the power to overcome sin or are you trying to live godly by your own willpower? Depend fully on the grace that saved you to sanctify and grow you. Let grace teach you to say no to sin and yes to righteousness and allow grace to change the way you live.