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 all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
We are trained either by grace or by law. As creatures designed by God to represent him on earth, we are conscious of the order in creation. If we have not been impacted by grace, we will by default live in relationship to law. We may try to follow it, or we may try to deny it, but we cannot escape our own awareness of it.
Law tells us what to do, but it doesn’t provide the ability to fulfill its commands. It is designed to frustrate us to the point of desperation where we call out for a Savior. It is a strange wonder that those who have been redeemed from the law would want to return to a master that intends to frustrate. Yet that continues to be the case in every situation where believers lose sight of the mystery of grace.
Grace is so “unnatural” that we have to continually be reminded of it, or we will revert to something more comfortable to our flesh-perspective. Like the Israelites of Exodus 19, we still think we can obey if only we get the instructions. How many times do we hear ourselves say such things as, “If I just knew the will of God (the right thing to do), I would do it.” We still tend to believe that our problem is lack of information. This is the temptation of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Law presents a proposition. “If you will…, then God will…” That leaves the burden on us. It is a valid proposition. God blesses the righteous. He will not be faithless in granting blessings on those who live by the prescribed instructions. But even if we could live by the prescriptions, we would still have a heart that is fraught with fears, insecurities, rebellion and uncontrolled desires. Law does not transform us. It exposes us.
Grace presents a proclamation: “Because God has, you can.” God has already acted on our behalf without any action on our part. He has lived up to the demands of the law and paid its penalty. He has raised Jesus from the dead and sent the same Spirit that raised him to live in us. He has declared that we are his special people and that he is accomplishing his purposes on earth through us.
What good news! What is left for us to do? We believe and behave according to our faith. That will produce lives absent the ungodliness that comes from trying to find satisfaction in worldly substitutes. Grace trains us to think differently so that we act differently. It is not just a mind game either. God has regenerated us in the deepest part of our being so that now we are living out of the new creation and learning to bring everything in subjection to thoughts that coincide with truth as it is in Jesus Christ. What a salvation that has appeared and is appearing as we wait for the final appearance!