It is fitting that our sermon on Mother's Day happened to be on the grace of God. There's nothing a mom needs more than that. And both prove to be very different than we at first expected.
We looked at Titus 2:11-14, one of the great passages in the Bible on the grace of God. Yet, it presents grace to us in a way that is not so familiar—not so expected. We are accustomed to thinking of "saved by grace" or "forgiven because of grace" or "accepted by grace." And all of these are true. But grace is more. Titus helps us to see that.
First he mentions that "the grace of God has appeared." Sometimes a thunderstorm can bring such dark clouds that day almost feels like night. But then, it blows through and the sun...appears. Light envelopes everything and the darkness is gone in an instant. That's the image we should have when we think of the grace of God appearing. It came like a sunrise at midnight: "The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
When this grace came, it brought "salvation to all men." The passage will call us to holiness, but it starts with "salvation." That is the biblical way: salvation first, holiness second. There is no holiness without salvation first. The religion of fallen humanity says, "holiness leads to salvation." The religion revealed by God says, "salvation leads to holiness."
Then Paul speaks of the school of grace. We are accustomed to thinking of grace as accepting, welcoming, embracing, almost as if it's content to come into our lives and leave us that way. Titus 2 says something quite different. Grace is "training us to renounce ungodliness...and to live...godly lives in the present age" (v. 12). The NIV captures it well: "It teaches us to to say 'No' to ungdoliness." In other words, grace teaches us to say "No" and "Yes" to the right things. It calls us to be holy. To become a Christian is to go to the school of grace, and that school calls us to be holy. Imagine a school that took students and then graduated them with absolutely no change in them. We would not commend that school for being so accepting and so non-judgmental. Far from it! We'd shut it down. Grace call us to be holy.
A third point we explored was the cost of grace. Grace is free to us but it isn't free. In fact, the highest price ever paid for anything in all of history was paid for it: The Son of God giving his life for us. Titus 2 calls him "our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us." Redemption is an important word we don't want to misunderstand. Losing the sense of certain words is unfortunate, but when it's a word like "redeem" or "redemption" or "Redeemer," the loss is truly tragic. B.B. Warfield wrote an article in 1917 grieving over how much people had lost the sense of it. We dare not. The key element of this word is the sense of payment to buy a slave his freedom. The Redeemer pays the ransom in order to redeemed the captive. Jesus is our Redeemer because he paid the ransom necessary to buy us out of our slavery. Places like Ephesians 1:7 tell us that "in him we have redemption through his blood." But Titus 2 points to a different side of our redemption. We are redeemed "from all lawlessness." Again the idea of holiness is front and center. Grace teaches us to say "No" and "Yes" to the right things, and here it redeems us from a life of breaking God's laws.
It even makes us "zealous for good works." Christians are prone to make good works either EVERYTHING or NOTHING. If they are EVERYTHING then we must have them in order to be saved (converted). If they are NOTHING then we somehow feel that because we don't need them to be saved (converted) then maybe we don't need them at all. Both of these are false gospels. The truth is, we are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is not alone. We are saved by faith and not works, but those saved by faith will live a life of good works.
During the sermon I listed out a dozen or two ways that SGC is zealous for good works. The men and women of our church are busy about the things of God. Their lives are truly marked by good works. It was a joy to bring attention to it. Check out the sermon for the fully scoop there.
We closed with four questions to help us assess whether we are living in the good of the grace of God. Here they are:
- Are you growing in saying "No" and "Yes" to the right things? (2:12)
- Is your hope the coming appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ? (i.e., or are you hoping in the things or people of this world to be your true deliverance and life) (2:13)
- Do you know truly and really that you are cleansed of all sin and God's treasured possession? (2:14)
- Are you growing in being zealous for good works? (2:14)
May God make us a church filled with people who are zealous for good works because they have encountered at a deep, personal level the grace of God!