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Transformed from the Inside Out (Part 3)

Last Updated: April 20, 2015

In Part 1 we saw Paul’s grand vision for the Christians in Crete to become transformed. In Part 2 we saw that this means a new inward, outward, and upward orientation: self-controlled in their impulses, upright in their relationships, and godly in their devotion.

Paul continues, in Titus 2:11-14, to show us how this transformation comes about.

The Blessed Hope That Transforms

This is the million dollar question: What is it about God’s grace which trains and teaches us to go from rebellion to loyalty, from impulsiveness to control, and from idol-worship to God-worship?

The key is found in these words: “waiting for our blessed hope.” Paul contextualizes this new life of obedience as one that is lived “in the present age” (2:12,13). Obedience in this age flows from a longing for the next. We live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in light of the “the blessed hope,” which grace trains us to see.

  • For instance, “self-control” (2:12) makes very little sense if this present age is all we have. Deep in the core of our being we know life is temporary. If all we have is uncertainty about eternity, then following each and every whim for pleasure makes sense. Why not grab at every trinket of happiness we can in our short time? But in light of the happy expectation—a new world that is dawning—in light of the good King who is returning, we are motivated to control our impulses. When we have a glimpse of the new world we know we are destined for perfect Christ-likeness (1 John 3:1-2), clothed in glory (Romans 5:2), equipped with a resurrected capacity to take great pleasure in God. Freed from frenzied grasps at sinful pleasure, this hope inspires us to purify ourselves, just as Christ is pure (1 John 3:3).
  • Similarly, “uprightness” or righteousness (2:12) makes very little sense if this present age is all we have. Why be concerned about what is fair, equitable, just, or compassionate when my life is so short? Why give our lives to serve others when this is the only life we have? But in the light of the age to come, righteousness makes perfect sense. A gripping vision of Christ returning to make the world right again moves us away from both self-centeredness and self-righteousness. Gripped by God’s just anger against sin, a righteous heart utterly depends on God for forgiveness and deep transformation—these people know they are sick, and they cry out for God to turn away His wrath (Matthew 9:13; Luke 18:13). True righteousness is defined by a longing to see the Righteous One rule, to see the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:17; Luke 2:25). Uprightness/righteousness means reorienting our values around the spreading of the good news of the kingdom, praying for it, investing our time and treasures into it, and sharing our lives with others who are dedicated to the same vision (Matthew 10:40-42; 25:31-46). Anticipating the day when the last will be first and the first will be last, we can love our distressed and oppressed neighbors, giving the poor not only our money but the dignity of a place in our hearts and a place at our tables (Luke 14:7-24).
  • Lastly, “godliness” also makes no sense if this present age is all there is. Why love or be in awe of a god we will never experience or see—a god who remains distant? But in light of our blessed hope, we can be wholeheartedly God-centered, looking forward to the day we will see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). Knowing it is our ultimate destiny to worship God unhindered, our values are totally reshaped. Knowing we will behold the Lord of glory, we can live our lives desiring to see as much of His face now as we possibly can.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” This is how God makes us into His own special people: eager to do good works. On the day He comes to claim His own, we will look back on our lives and wish that we had given Him everything!

A Taste of Grace

Why do we have this hope? The basis of our hope in these future graces is our experience of His grace in the here and now. Grace is not merely a concept to be grasped: it is an experience of God’s favor.

Paul says, “The grace of God has appeared” (2:11): God’s favor burst upon the scene like a sudden and surprising bright light in our dark world. His grace brought salvation in its wake; it came “bringing salvation for all people”—that is, all sorts of people, without distinction of class, race, gender, or background. Any kind of person can be saved from the guilt and power of sin.

When did this grace appear? It appeared in the person of 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” (2:14). When Jesus came, it was a mission of grace. Grace dripped from His lips (Luke 4:22). He came to bear the curse of our sin on the cross, becoming the lightning rod of the Father’s wrath so we might enter the Father’s favor (Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 2:9; Ephesians 1:6-7; 1 John 4:9-10). This was the radical price of grace.

How do we experience His favor? We know God’s grace by our initial justification in His eyes—something we know only by faith (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:7)—but we experience it in our rebirth and renewal by the Spirit (Titus 3:5-6). Christ in us is our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). His Spirit in and among us is His deposit, our guarantee that He will come again to claim us as His own (Ephesians 1:13-14). His Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God and co-heirs of His kingdom—this deep, abiding voice is our taste of the world to come (Romans 8:12-17). We experience His grace as we read about and witness confirming signs of the world to come (Acts 14:3; Romans 15:15-21). God whets our appetite for future graces by giving us a taste of His favor now.

Time and space do not permit me to write all the Bible says of God’s grace. We are beckoned by God to look into it for ourselves. We are inspired by Paul’s example of the Colossians who experienced the gospel’s abundant fruit in their lives when they “understood the grace of God in all its truth” (Colossians 1:6). Let us seek to do the same: to sit at the foot of the cross and understand how and what Christ purchased for us.

Set Your Hope Fully on Future Grace

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

Experiencing God’s favor now trains us to thirst for our blessed hope. Knowing this, let us train our hearts to eagerly anticipate the New Creation, and long for Christ’s return.

  • Let us put on our hope like a battle helmet as we walk out into a hopeless world  (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Let us cling to our hope like an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:18-19).
  • Let us see our great hope and choose to be joyful in it (Romans 12:12).
  • Let us wake each morning eager for good works, knowing we are God’s special people (Titus 2:14).
  • Let us build small memorials in our life that serve as helpful reminders of the times we have experienced the renewal of the Spirit within us and around us. May these reminders be sign posts pointing to the day we inherit our Promised Land (Genesis 12:6-7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
  • Let us invest in the world to come with our treasures, knowing that our heart will soon follow (Matthew 6:19-21). Let us give our lives to the spreading of the gospel. Let us give our hearts and resources to our Christian brothers in need. Let us be living parables of the coming kingdom, choosing to fellowship with the lost and forgotten.
  • Let us look with new eyes at our sufferings and the sufferings of the world: let us see them in the labor pains of creation, longing to be reborn, reminding us that the renewal of all things is at hand (Romans 5:4; 8:18-25).
  • Let us choose to sit under godly teachers who insist on reminding us of the ugliness of our former lives and the goodness of God’s mercy to us. Let us find gospel-centered communities with passionate leaders who insist on regularly reminding us of our taste of the world to come, and who are not afraid to exhort and rebuke with all authority (Titus 2:15; 3:1-8,14).
  • Let us regularly dive into the Scriptures which were written to inspire our hope (Romans 15:4).
  • Let us diligently study the Scriptures so we might understand and be able to explain the reasons for our hope (1 Peter 3:15).
  • Finally, let us pray a simple and humble prayer, that God will enlarge our hearts so that we might see the hope to which He has called us.

Pray this prayer based on Ephesians 1:15-19:

“Glorious Father, we greatly thank You for the faith and love You continue to pour into us. We pray that we might know You deeper and deeper—Spirit, give us revelations of the Father’s glory in the face of Christ and the wisdom to live in a way that pleases Him. Enlarge our hearts to see clearly the glorious hope to which you’ve called us. Enlarge our hearts to see the riches of being God’s people. Enlarge our hearts to see and experience the life-transforming resurrection-power You have given us who believe. Amen.”

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