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Grace for Strugglers, Drifters, and Everyone in Between


Christian life hinges on grace. Grace provides the impetus for Christian beginnings, the prospect of Christian conclusions, and the energy for Christian living between these two points. Those who find themselves lacking impetus, prospect, or energy often fall into one of two categories.

The strugglers are people heading uphill, pursuing an external code of regulatory behavior. They are unable to say why they are attempting the climb, nor do they know how they might achieve the summit. Every word of exhortation brings more guilt and more discouragement, because they believe that they must accomplish it by their own power.

The drifters are people who float on a tide of indifference, or maybe even sail headlong into rebellion. They despise any authority beyond their personal preferences, and so they reject the proclamation of and appeals to God’s Word. They would much rather “have a discussion.” They decide for themselves what parts of Scripture they will obey and what they want nothing to do with.

Titus 2:11–15 provides truth that liberates the strugglers and arrests the drifters, proclaiming the power of God’s grace to create a faithful life built on obedience to His Word. When one group asks, “Why Should I obey?” and the other asks, “How can I?” the answer comes to both in the word “grace”—in the salvation grace provides, in the instruction grace conveys, in the anticipation grace creates, and in the transformation grace performs.

The Salvation Grace Provides

“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…” (Titus 2:11)

Grace is God’s active favor, His bestowal of His greatest gift upon those who deserve His greatest punishment. It is revealed finally and savingly and fully in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:2). Jesus Christ is the one who “has appeared,” so that when we think of grace, we should think ultimately of who He is and what He did.

Those who spend their lives in the classroom of grace will show it clearly in their lifestyle.

Why has grace appeared? First, because of God’s eternal purpose for the sake of God’s glory. Paul tells us elsewhere that God “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:5–6). Christians are saved not primarily for the sake of being saved but so that we would live to the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1:11–12). This is the purpose of our creation, put so eloquently in the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

Consequently, the grace of God has appeared because of our inescapable problem. As you read on into Ephesians 2, you find that without Christ, we are enslaved to our “passions” and “desires” (v. 3), and we are “dead in … trespasses and sins” (v. 1). In Jesus the grace of God appears, bringing liberation and life: “God … made us alive together with Christ” (vv. 4–5). He came to solve our human problem and to do it “to the praise of his glorious grace.”

When Christ appeared, He solved the problem of human sin by dying for sin on the cross, so that our sin is credited to His account and His righteousness to ours. By this grace alone we are saved from sin and given a reason to leave it behind.

The Instruction That Grace Conveys

“… training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” (Titus 2:12)

The grace of God not only frees us from the bondage of sin but also begins a training course in godliness. Those who spend their lives in the classroom of grace will show it clearly in their lifestyle.  And we do not accomplish this for ourselves. God does this work in our lives. He creates within our hearts the ability and the desire to say no to that which is displeasing to Him.

Negatively, when grace breaks in upon our lives, it causes us to “renounce” what doesn’t honor God. We repudiate it, disown it, throw it out, because it is totally incompatible with God’s presence in our lives. The “ungodliness” to be renounced is all that is opposed to God: all the blasphemy and irreverence and rebellion. “Worldly passions” are those desires that are connected with this life alone to the exclusion of God, “the cares and riches and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14) that capture our hearts and choke out the fruit of grace.

No mind games or self-imposed discipline can do what the presence of God in a life does when it comes to saying no to wrong and yes to right.

Positively, the grace of God teaches us to embrace what is good. First, with respect to ourselves, it teaches self-control. No mind games or self-imposed discipline can do what the presence of God in a life does when it comes to saying no to wrong and yes to right.  In relationship to our neighbors, grace teaches uprightness—integrity, fairness, and honesty. In relationship to God, grace teaches godliness, which is marked by devotion, piety, reverence, and respect.

This training in grace begins decisively, and it is ratified daily. Nobody snoozes their way into heaven. Yet the best advice many “strugglers” need to hear with respect to their training in grace is simply this: relax! Both our striving and our resting must be done as we abide in God. He, in His gracious providence, makes possible in our life what our efforts cannot. We can obey because God teaches us how. So we indeed labor to do good, but we do it in faith, trusting that it is God who works in us even as we work (Phil. 2:12–13).

The Anticipation That Grace Creates

“… waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13)

We look not only back to the appearing of Jesus mentioned in verse 11 but also forward to the reappearing of Jesus. We look forward to the day when the King will reappear with a trumpet blast and with power and with great glory.

Christian hope is not a desire for what might be; it is an anticipation of what will be. This “blessed hope” is a certain hope because it is ratified by the promises of God. Its object is wonderful, and its effects are precious: it nourishes endurance (1 Thess. 1:3), boldness (2 Cor. 3:12), and purity (1 John 3:3) in all circumstances.

We may look at our faltering, stumbling, and inconsistency and wonder, “How would it ever be that I could spend eternity shining as a jewel in the crown of Christ?” The answer, as always, is grace. Grace creates in our heart the hope of the return of Jesus Christ. Grace helps us wait. Grace is what prevents us from believing that this world is all we have.

The Transformation That Grace Performs

“… 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 2:14)

We are at the heart of Christianity in this little phrase “who gave himself for us.” The sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf was voluntary, necessary, substitutionary, propitiatory, and efficacious. By grace, God has placed Christ’s righteousness on our shoulders and nailed our sin to the cross. And having accomplished our salvation fully and finally, He has now set out, in grace, to transform us into the image of Christ.

Jesus died with the purpose that He would “redeem us from all lawlessness”—cleaning up every wicked bit of our lives, with no nook or cranny left untouched. The grace of God does not come to us to make us feel happy in the pigsty of our sin but to take us out of it. He means to “purify” us—make us lovely, make us “a people for his own possession.” And these purified people will be “zealous for good works.” In other words, this transforming grace delves deep into our very hearts, so that we do not obey out of obligation but because we want to, with zeal, desire and eagerness and “to the praise of his glorious grace.”

It’s All by Grace

For the believer, the grace of God has penetrated our moral and spiritual darkness. It has brought salvation, it trains us in godliness, it points us to the hope of His coming, and it reminds us that we must ever be for Him and for good. Grace gives us every reason to obey, and it gives us the power to obey too. When we find that obedience is undesirable or unattainable, we ought to ask ourselves, “Have I truly reached out and taken hold of the grace that God so gladly offers?”

As we live in the truth of the Gospel, we can bring our sense of inadequacy before the power of Christ. We can bring our besetting sins before the Lord Jesus. We can ask Him to make actual in our experience what He has made possible by His atoning death. Then we will see the fruit that grace bears in our lives.

This article was adapted from the sermons “Foundations — Part One” and “Foundations — Part Two” by Alistair Begg.



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