Transforming Grace

Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Titus 2:11-14 | June 30 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
June 30
Transforming Grace | Titus 2:11-14
Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Well, please turn with my in your Bibles to the book of Titus.  We’ll be studying together tonight chapter 2, verses 11 to 14.  A line from that song really sets the context for tonight’s message and for this text, the line “help me now to live a life that’s dependent on Your grace.”  That’s what Titus 2:11 through 14 is all about.

So again, Titus 2, verses 11 to 14.  Let’s read this together then we’ll pray for God’s help to understand. This is God’s Word.  

“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, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from alllawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.”

Let’s join together in prayer.  

Father, we pray for Your help as we study this part of Your holy Word.  All Scripture is God-breathed, is useful for teaching, rebuke, correction, and training in righteousness, that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  So Father, we pray that Your Word would do its work in our hearts tonight, encouraging us, pointing us, drawing us, towards Your grace, which is not only able to save but which is able to transform us.  We pray these things in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  

Well, dear people of God, there’s a tale that is told about a man who died and faced the angel Gabriel at heaven’s gates.  The angel said to this man, “Here’s how this works.  You need a hundred points to make into heaven.  You tell me all the good things that you have done and I will tell you the certain number of points for each of those good works.  The more good that you do or the more good that there is in the work that you do, the more points that you will get.  When you get a hundred points, then you’ll get in.”  “Okay,” the man said.  “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”  “That’s wonderful,” Gabriel said, “that’s worth three points.”  “Three points?” the man said, “well, I attended church all my life.  I supported its ministry with my money and service.”  “Terrific,” said Gabriel, “that’s certainly worth a point.”  

“One point?”  The man, with his eyes beginning to show a bit of panic, said, “Well, how about this.  I opened a shelter for the homeless in my city and fed needy people by the hundreds during the holidays.”  “Fantastic, that’s good for two more points.”  “Two points,” the man said.  “At this rate the only way that I’m going to get into heaven is by the grace of God.”  Gabriel said, “Come on in.”  

Now we understand something about that, don’t we?  Understand that heaven, salvation, is a gift.  We don’t deserve it, we haven’t earned it.  But sometimes when it comes to grace, that is about as far as our thinking goes.  We might understand and believe that we are saved by grace but sometimes we might think that we are secured by our goodness.  That grace is the thing that gets us into the door of the kingdom of God but you know once we’re inside, then it’s kind of up to us, up to our efforts, up to our good works, up to our good deeds, they take over from there.

People of God, it is true that we are called to persevere.  We are called to fight the good fight of faith.  We have seen over and over again, haven’t we, in our study of the book of Revelation that we are to overcome.  We are to be conquerors.

But what Titus teaches us tonight is that grace not only saves us but grace is the thing that also transforms us.  Grace not only has saving power, grace has transforming power.  This is something that the church that Titus ministered to needed to hear.

So Titus was ministering on the island of Crete.  This was the congregation that he was the pastor of and Crete was an incredibly immoral place.  In fact, if you have your Bibles open, you can see in chapter 1 verse 12 that there is a proverb that went along with the Cretans and the proverb goes like this.  You see it in verse 12, chapter 1, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  That is something that one of their own prophets had said.  Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.  In other words, it was hard to be a Christian on the island of Crete.  So many temptations, so many pressures coming from the outside that tempted Christians to walk in ways of disobedience, or ways of lawlessness to not be loyal to the Lord in the way that they lived.

So this book is all about how do you live the Christian life?  In fact, in the first 10 verses of chapter 2, the verses just before the text that we read though, Paul has instructions for various people in the church.  Older men, here’s how you’re to go about living.  Older women, this is what the Christian life is to look like for you.  Younger women, younger men, slaves, these are the instructions I have for you for living the Christian life out.  Paul says how you’re to adorn the doctrine of our Savior.

Well, how were they to do this?  How were they to live these various ways that Paul instructs them in?  How are we to go about living the Christian life?

The answer is by the grace of God.  Paul gives the answer – the grace of God.  This is verse 11 – for the grace of God.  All of you people in the church, how do you live this way?  The grace of God is the answer.

You see, God’s grace is not just for the ABCs of the Christian life.  Where we begin.  But that grace of God is for the A through Z of the Christian life, for whatever stage of the Christian life we’re at, we need the grace of God.  We need to keep going back to what God has done for us in Christ and has done for us for us in Christ Jesus and is doing His work in us.  It is grace.

So this passage, friends, is a simple description of how grace works to transform our living.  If you’re here tonight and you long for more holiness, you long for more obedience, you long for more transformation, you long for a more intimate walk with Christ, you want to be done with the sin that so easily entangles us, and you want to follow Jesus more closely.  Paul points it to us, or points it to us, and he says look for the grace of God, grace that operates in the past, grace that changes us in the present, and grace that holds out promise for the future.

So three things.  First of all, past grace.

That’s where Paul begins.  Notice what he says in verse 11.  He says, “The grace of God has appeared.”  It has appeared.  Paul starts off with something that has alreadyhappened, something that occurred before.  The Greek verb here, probably not important to a lot of us, but indicates God’s grace has appeared at a one-time past event.  Paul begins not by talking about grace that is repeated, but a past moment, something that you can put a date on.  Paul is saying I want you to look backwards at a point in time when the grace of God appeared.  What he has in mind for us is the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  When he says, “For the grace of God has appeared,” he is talking all about Christ and His life.

You can see that in the way that Paul talks about grace here.  He personalizes it, doesn’t he?  He says the grace of God has appeared.  We can talk about a person that way, this person appeared, but Paul talks about grace as if it is a person.  He does that because it is.  It is found, it is centered in a person, in the person of Jesus Christ.  God’s grace in Christ, Paul says, has appeared to us in the past.

It’s very clear to me, and it ought to be clear to the rest of us, just by looking at other Scriptures, that Paul is talking about Jesus here when he talks about grace.

2 Timothy 1:9 and 10, kind of a similar passage.  Paul says God saved us, called us to a holy calling not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace.  There’s grace again.  Which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus.

Grace has been given to us in Christ Jesus, now has been manifested to us, Paul says, in the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus.

Or you can just go over a chapter in chapter 3, verses 4 through 6, where Paul says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us…  by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Again, when Paul is saying the grace of God appeared, what he has in mind is that God’s grace in Christ, in His life, in His death, in His resurrection, has appeared to us.  Grace in Christ Jesus.

Paul says it has appeared to us in order to bring salvation for all people.  Paul is not a universalist.  I think we all know that.  Paul is saying, not saying here by all people, every single person is saved, but rather Paul is talking about all kind of people.  The grace of God has appeared to bring salvation for any kind of person.  He’d just gotten talking, as I mentioned before, about a wide variety of people in the church and he carries that theme on here.  Christ came, bringing salvation for every kind, every group of people that there is.  There is no one excluded from this salvation that God has come to bring through His grace and through Christ.  

The grace of God has appeared.  It’s related to the work “epiphany,” the word “appear” here.  You ever have an epiphany?  You know, something sort of like suddenly the lights go on, something dawns on you.  You’ve been confused about something, you didn’t understand what this meant and you have an epiphany.  Right?  Ahh, I get it.  It’s, an epiphany is an “a-ha” moment.  

I was thinking to myself, this sometimes happens to me when I’m trying to put together a piece of Ikea furniture.  Right?  You get out the instructions and there’s like no words, just a bunch of diagrams and like I’m not really sure how all this all goes together and then ding ding ding, I get it.  This piece goes with that piece and that piece with this piece.  You have an epiphany.  Something has dawned.  

An epiphany is what happens every morning when the sun rises.  There is an appearance.  The sun dawns.  Light comes.  Darkness goes away and Paul here is saying that God’s grace has appeared in Christ.  It means that God’s grace brings light and life like the sun.  It drives away our darkness.  The grace of God in Christ appeared, has given us hope for a changed life.

Paul tells us here the fullness of salvation, it is not just to get saved but in fact to transform us.  This is what Paul says at the very end of our text – Why did Christ come?  He gave Himself, verse 14, to redeem us from all lawlessness, to purify for Himself a people who are His own possession, who are zealous for good works.

God saved you not just to get you into the kingdom.  God saved you to change your life.  To transform you, to set you apart so that you would be His very own, to redeem you from lawless living and to purify you so that you would be a person who is set apart, holy to God.  He wants all of you.  He wants your entire life and He had died to redeem you and to give you that.

So, friends, how does grace work to transform us?  Paul is saying first of all it takes us back to what Christ has already accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection.  If we want to overcome sin, if we want to live with greater obedience, we have to start with what Christ has done.  Past grace, you see, gives us the ability to see ourselves in the mirror of God’s gaze and reason to be different.  We can look at our failures and we don’t need to wallow in them because Christ has come to save us.  We also do not sugarcoat our sin but we see the great cost Christ endured to grant us forgiveness and that compels us to live for Him.

As one author put it, holiness is not the way to Christ, Christ is the way to holiness.

You see, there’s not a day in our life where we get beyond the need of Christ and the Gospel and His grace.  We don’t graduate from grace on to something else.  But daily we see all that Christ has done for us and that moves us to change.

Secondly.  There’s’ present grace.

Not only does Paul say the grace of God has appeared, but then he goes on, verse 12, the grace of God trains us, he says.  It trains us.  It puts us into training.  That is a loaded word in this text, the word “train.”  It’s related, actually, to the word for child or infant.  What it teaches us then is that the training that the grace of God goes through is the kind of training that children go through.  Not child-ish training but child-like training.

What is that like?  What do children go through when they’re training or learning something?  Well, they go through the basics, don’t they?  So children start by learning the ABCs, or they learn to read and to write and to do arithmetic.

It might be something like the Olympians, the potential Olympians.  You see this on TV, right?  These last couple of weeks, swimming and track and field and gymnastics.  Olympics, they go through the basics.  They go through drills.  Yes, they are advanced athletes.  They know how to do the advised things but what they practice over and over and over again are the basics.  How to get out of the blocks.  How to start off the pedestal in swimming, that you jump off from.  How to get started.

Grace, you see, takes us in step by step training.  Grace holds us by the hand as it were to transform us.  It teaches us.  So grace instructs us in God’s Word.  Grace sometimes counsels, so it directs us in a particular life situation.  We find ourself in a hardship, we find ourself in a particular sin.  We find ourself needing comfort and grace meets us right at that point and counsels us.  It comforts us in affliction.  Sometimes grace admonishes and rebukes.  It corrects us when we have gotten off the path of obedience and leads us back onto the path of obedience before the Lord.

Grace convicts.  Grace encourages.  Grace disciplines.

All the things that the Word of God does, grace does because that is how grace works.  It works through the Word and through prayer.

Right now, right here, as you’re listening to this sermon, we’re in the gymnasium of grace.  God using it to train us to become more like Christ.

Grace’s specific training program is listed here by Paul.  He says grace trains us to do two things – it trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.  That’s the first category.  But then grace goes on to also teach us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.

In other words, what Paul is saying is that grace trains us to say no to sin and yes to God.  So to renounce ungodliness and to live a self-controlled life, no to sin, yes to God.  In fact, isn’t this the rhythm of conversion and repentance in the Christian life?  We have to do this constantly.  Right?  Daily.  Sometimes minute by minute.  No to sin, yes to God.  No to wayward ways, yet to God’s ways.  Grace teaches us to do that.

In renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions, grace teaches us how we are to confront sin in our life and that sin is both a matter of action and desire.  We have to strangle both.

Graces teaches us that sometimes we have to fight against sin.  That’s the way that we have to deal with it.  We have to confront it.  We have to fight it.  Jesus reminds us of this and the radicals posture that we have to have towards sin at times, that if our eye causes us to sin, we need to pluck it out.  We have to have a radical confrontation with sin in our life and battle it.

But there are other times in our life we ought not to fight sin but we need to flee from sin.  We need to be like Joseph, who fled from Potiphar’s wife.  We need to distance ourselves from what is tempting.

You remember the great Puritan John Owens said we must be killing sin or sin will be killing us.

We have to kill it.  You can’t dance with it.  You can’t be a friend to it.  We have to strangle it.  We can’t let it have breath.  We have to renounce it, renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions.

Then the positive side, we need to live self-controlled upright and godly lives.  I think what Paul is talking about here is the different relationships that we’re to have in our life.  When Paul is talking about self-control, he’s talking about something that relates to ourselves.  We have to have a rightly ordered life in our actions, our thoughts, our behavior, our words, our desires.  Self-control isn’t so much about getting control of yourself as it is having a rightly ordered life, the right things in the right place, in the right priority.  All of this relating to how we live our own lives.

When Paul is talking about living an upright life, he’s talking about how we live in relationship to other people.  Right actions towards others, doing to them what we would have them do to us.  When Paul is talking about living a godly life, he’s talking about how we live in relationship to God, that we are to be devoted to him, we’re to live with reverence and love and fear for the Lord.

Paul is, really, I think simply talking here about what he says so often in other epistles when he says we are people who need to be putting off and putting on.  In the book of Colossians, he says we are to put to death what is earthly in us – sexual immorality, impurity, passions, evil desire, covetousness, anger, malice, slander, obscene talk.  Paul says put that off, like a piece of clothing, take it off.  Don’t wear it anymore.  Renounce it.  And then put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience.  These are the things that we are to wear.  These are the ways that we are to live.

Again, Paul’s point here is simply this, that grace trains us to do this.

Remember how Paul puts it in another place when he says it is the working of his almighty strength, through that we might be strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner man to know the love of Christ so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It’s grace at work.  God’s Spirit and the grace of God at work in us so that we might be filled with all of the fullness of God, we might become more like Christ.

So what training from grace do you need in your life right now?  What are one or two of the deadliest sins that you’re battling, that God says you have to kill that, renounce that, turn from it, put it off.  And then what would God have you put on?

Then finally Paul speaks here about future grace.  So grace at work in us to transform us, we go back to Christ and all that He has done.  We see how grace is operating in us right now to train us, to renounce sin, to live for God.  And then Paul points us to the future, to grace that is coming.

Verse 13 – what do we do with grace?  Well, grace also helps us to wait for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Paul points out that today we are living in the present age.  This is how he ends verse12.  We’re to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives in the present age.

You know, Paul didn’t need to remind us of that, did he?  Sometimes you have to ask yourself questions as you’re reading your Bible.  Why did the biblical author put that there?  Why did Paul point out the present age?  Living in the present age.  We know that’s where we’re living.

Well, I think the reason Paul points that out here is to contrast the present age with the age to come.  What he is talking about is we wait for the coming of Christ.  This present age, Paul says in another place, is the present evil age.  It’s Galatians 1:4.  This age is marked by brokenness, sin, temptation, trial, testing.  That is what marks our life.  Right?  We are fighting, we’re in a battle with our own flesh, with a world, with the devil, and that is why we need grace to train us because we know that we have a long way to go.

But a new age is coming in which God will make all things new.  This is what we’ve wonderfully learned from the book of Revelation, especially in these last chapters over the last few weeks, isn’t it?  There’s a time coming where there will be no more death, no more tears, no more sorrows.  All of that is part of the glory that is to come.

But people of God, get this – not only no more death, no more tears and no more sorrows, but no more temptation.  No more sin.  Those are battles we won’t have to fight anymore.  Revelation 21 and the new Jerusalem, nothing unclean will enter it nor anyone who does what is detestable or false.  Kevin pointed out to us so wonderfully this morning, Revelation 21 and 22, those lists of people who will not be in the new Jerusalem.  There will be no more sin there.  Every attack from Satan will be over.  No longer any deception, any lies from the evil one.  Never again will we be drawn to what is false.  No longer will we be the Church militant, the Church that is at war.

But we will become the Church triumphant.  And all of this comes when Jesus appears.  You see that?  Paul uses the word appear a second time.  We are waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

God’s grace has appeared, Jesus Christ will appear.  The first time He appeared in grace, the next time He will appear in glory.

We have a view of His glory here, don’t we?  He’s described as our great God and Savior.

Commentators kind of debate as are we talking about two persons of the trinity or one person of the trinity?  Is all this wrapped up in one or two different persons here.  I think it’s one.  It’s Jesus.  In fact, three times in the book of Titus Paul can speak of God as our Savior and Jesus as our Savior in the very same breath.  He’s simply talking about Christ.  Paul’s way of pointing to the deity of Jesus, one with the Father, fully God.  It’s our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who is coming.

His  glorious appearing is our blessed hope. It’s what we’re waiting for.  It’s what we long for.  It’s what we’re yearning for, isn’t it?  And we have a confident expectation of it.  It is our hope.  Jesus is coming again and He will usher in the new heavens and the new earth.  God will dwell with us and we will be His people.  What a glorious, beautiful, secure, holy place it will be when Jesus comes and establishes the new Jerusalem, the garden Eden but better.  We will see His face.

What Paul is saying here is that appearing and that coming it is meant to transform us now.  His coming, you see, is not just about eschatology.  But Jesus’ coming is about ethics.  It’s not just about what is to come but it’s about how it transforms us and changes our living today.  How we live this day must be shaped by His coming on that day.  In fact, it’s said that Martin Luther lived with only two days on his calendar, or two days that he thought about.  He thought about this day, the day that we’re living right now, and that day, the day that Christ will return.  And that day is to change this day.

I think the Apostle John puts it so wonderfully in 1 John 3:1-3.  Eric Russ read it for us tonight.  But let me just read parts of it for you again.  Where John says see that kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God and so we are.  Beloved, we are God’s children now and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him.  There’s the complete transformation.  When He appears, we shall be like Him because we will see Him as He is.

Then John says this.  He says everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.

This is what we are right now.  We are children.  What we will be we do not yet know.  But when He appears, we will be like Him and Everone who has that hope, to be like Christ, purifies himself as He is pure, he purifies himself now.

The second coming of Christ, future grace, transforming how we go about living in the present.

Alfred Nobel, he was a Swedish chemist who made his fortune by inventing dynamite and other powerful explosives which were bought by governments to produce weapons.  Well, when Nobel’s brother died, one newspaper accidently printed Alfred’s obituary instead of his brother’s so he got to understand what people thought of him.  Right?  What his life was like and their view of him.  He was described in the obituary as a man who became rich from enabling people to kill each other in unprecedented quantities.  Nobel, upon reading that, resolved to use his fortune to reward accomplishments that benefited humanity, including what we now know as the Nobel Peace Prize.

In other words, Nobel saw the end and it changed today in his life.  People of God, that’s the very thing that the coming of Christ should do for us.  Take all that we’ve learned in the book of Revelation if you’ve been here on Sunday mornings and say okay, that’s what’s coming.  What does it mean for me now?  How does it change how I go about living now?

Do you see it?  What Paul is saying?  This is how grace works to transform us.  We look back to what Christ has done and say I’m compelled for my life to be changed, all the Christ did for me at Calvary.  We look at the present and we see how grace is training us, telling us no to sin, yes to God and Christ.

We look ahead to the future at all that is coming and we say okay, I want to be there, I want to be with Christ one day.  How should I go about living in the present?  

How does grace work to transform us?  It convinces us that Jesus purchased us, to purify us, so that He might wholly possess us.  That is grace at work, it make us like Christ.   

Let’s pray together.  So, Father, we do pray for Your transforming grace to be at work in us.  We love Your saving grace.  We know it’s all up to You and it’s all due to Christ that we would be made Your children.  But we do pray now that You would finish Your work in us and that we would be changed from glory to glory .  Help us, Lord, to depend upon Your grace for that.  We pray these things in Christ’s name.  Amen.