“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).
. . . .
How does God transform people from the inside out? Amidst our fractured, fragmented, and sinful lives, how does God bring about lasting change?
For the last several weeks I’ve been pouring over Titus 2:11-14 to find an answer. I still remember the first time I payed close attention to these four short verses. It was my freshman year of college, and I was reading The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges, which persuasively highlighted this passage for me. I was struck by this profound thought: Grace not only brings about forgiveness but a transformed life.
But how does grace do this? How does grace “train” us to renounce the ways of the world, and to live the way Christ desires? I knew I needed to look deeper to find the answer.
Making the Gospel Attractive
First it is helpful to look at Paul’s overall burden in his letter to Titus.
Paul sent Titus to the island of Crete to set things in order in each church throughout the land. There was a well-known proverb: “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This place did not have the best of reputations. Crete was known as a haven for pirates. The churches were filled with people who had come out of this culture of gluttony, drunkenness, brutality, and sensuality, and unfortunately many of the church members still looked more like Crete than like Christ.
Yet Paul’s grand vision was that the church in Crete would become a lighthouse of spiritual vitality, where their Christian lives would “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way” (2:10, NLT). He believed the gospel would bring about transformed, God-centered lives (1:1-3). He urged Titus to complete his mission so “those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (3:8, see also 3:14). He envisioned a church with solid spiritual leadership—true fathers in the faith with sharp, gospel-centered minds, passionate hearts, and holy homes (1:5-9). He saw sober-minded older men, filled with compassion, and worthy of respect (2:2). He saw older women who knew how to live and teach lives of modesty, submission, and kindness (2:3-5). He saw younger men, full of self-control and wholesome talk (2:6-8). Only this sort of transformation would close the credibility gap between their beliefs and their practices.
A Transformed Life
What does this new, vibrant life look like? What are the key components of it? What sort of lifestyle would make the nations sit up and notice the church in Crete?
This will be the subject of Part 2 . . .