The Operation of God’s Grace; December 18. 2020

 Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

What a beautiful, succinct expression of the operation of the grace of God! We have such trouble understanding grace. Our minds say, “If we aren’t going to be punished, what does it matter what we do?” That’s the very thinking that Paul wrote against at length in Romans 6. A few years ago the then Governor of Tokyo (yes, it has a population greater than some US states) wrote a book, The Japan that Can Say “No”. His point was that Japan didn’t have to agree to everything the US wanted, but the idea is significant in other ways. Japanese society emphasizes surface harmony, which often makes saying “No” feel quite awkward. However, just a little reflection will show you that agreeing to everything is quickly disastrous in several ways. Japanese society isn’t alone in this, however. American society, while quickly willing to say “No” to people, is very weak in saying “No” to the things Paul talks about here. Obesity is a major epidemic, and it comes from not saying “No” to overeating. Actually, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with people insisting we have the “right” never to say “No” to any impulse or lust. That is a recipe for personal and societal destruction! Many people would insist this passage presents a very negative picture of Christian faith, because they don’t like the sound of “saying No.” However, Paul also points out that it is by God’s grace that we have the hope of Christ’s return. That hope is a very necessary anchor in all the turmoil that is going on in the world. Without it, it is very easy to become hopeless indeed, as we see the tide of filth and rebellion against God. Rather than longing for what our memories tell us were simpler days (but memories can be deceptive) we need to be looking forward to the glory of Christ’s return. We are never to give up, but operate in the grace of God as Paul says here, eager to see the face of the Lord, either by His return or by our own personal appointment.

I’m talking to myself here. I have been on quite an emotional roller coaster in recent weeks, and I too need to focus on our blessed hope. As a pastor, I need to be an agent of God’s grace in precisely the ways mentioned here, so that believers may learn to say “No” as is appropriate and live lives pleasing to God, demonstrating His character to the world around us. I can’t force anyone to do that, but I can teach and admonish them (Colossians 3:16) and be an example to/for them. I know from experience that my flesh doesn’t like it when I say “No!” I need to be understanding and loving, but firm, so that they may be strengthened in their resolve to serve Christ alone. We can’t do it in our own strength and wisdom, but that’s why it’s grace: God does it in and through us when we submit our will to Him.

Father, thank You for this clear reminder. Thank You for the young woman who will be baptized on the 27th. I pray that You would enable me to communicate this truth past all language and cultural barriers, so that she may be strengthened in her faith and open to Your Holy Spirit. Help me remember today to order the Chinese Bible that she needs. I also pray for my nursing school students who are taking my exam today. Help them let go of their mindset of “I’m no good at English” and do their honest best, remembering all they have learned, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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