Amazing Grace

  • Posted on: 17 July 2022
  • By: Chris Strevel

Bombarded as we are with graceless social gospels and divisive politicians, we need to hear constantly of God’s true grace. Let us follow the path of grace set forth in Titus 3:3-7. His grace exposes man’s darkness. We are “foolish, disobedient, and deceived” (Tit. 3:3). Sin has made us foolish – we do not listen to God’s word but are critics and skeptics. We are disobedient – God created us to walk with him in loving obedience. But, we are deceived – we listen to our own hearts and the dead hearts of others. They may be smart and have large followings, but they are self-deceived.

               The fruits of sin are bitter and unbearable. “Serving diverse lusts and pleasures” – some sensual and debased, some lucrative and beautiful, others destructive and deadly – serving is a form of the word slavery. Sin makes us slaves, but we do not recognize that sin is our chain, for we are foolish and deceived. “Living in malice and envy” reveals the corrupting work of sin. Malice is ill-will, a bad attitude toward others; envy craves, schemes, and injures to obtain its desire. This is being played out on a civilizational scale – the worldly rich manipulating currencies and markets to gobble up everything, and the revolutionaries burning society down to get their share of the loot. “Hateful and hating one another” – sin creates a dog eat dog warfare in the human family.

               “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared” (Tit. 3:4). This is a remarkable transition. God is kindly disposed, favorably inclined to enslaved sinners? Worship and wonder (Ex. 34:6)! Grace is kindness to those who deserve to be treated harshly. We are unclean and deserve to perish under God’s wrath forever. But he loves us? His love – a surprising and delicious Greek word here – philanthropy – God is a lover of man. Man is a condemned slave, but the Lord loves and thinks well of us, so that he sent his Son to save us. Revel in this, Christian, and recover your first love.

               To have grace, we must leave our own works behind (Tit. 3:5). God is not kindly or loving because of anything we have done – past, present, or future. Bring works into the equation – even works ostensibly performed by the grace that Christ merited, and grace is lost. It is either God’s grace or our works (Rom. 11:6); to blend is to be damned. It is mercy alone by which we are saved (Tit. 3:5) – our Father’s favor and compassion to the miserable. Neither his grace nor his mercy can be obtained by merit. They are freely bestowed through his Son. They are received by faith in his Son.

               Deliverance from slavery is the Lord’s work, and we must remember this in our age of a million self-anointed experts telling us what is going on in the world and the way to overcome its evils. God alone saves slaves. “The washing of regeneration” brings us to the new birth – we must be bathed in the blood of Christ, which only the “renewing of the Holy Spirit can accomplish.” We cannot do God’s work for him – we cannot make dead men alive or filthy men clean. Only the Lord Christ can “make all things new.” We should know this. We easily forget. Forgetting grace, we grow stagnant, proud, coldhearted.

               He is not stingy with his grace – “which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Tit. 3:6). Having received God’s grace, we must never smugly think that he then put the lid on the well. No, the wells of salvation are open (Isa. 12:3), and he invites sinners to come and drink freely – no money, no works of our own, but trusting his grace and mercy. Expect the Lord to show this grace abundantly. Our countrymen may have hearts fast-closed against him, but many others are coming forward to be saved. Their systems and their pride and their slavery have failed them. They seek the desire of the nations. Let us expect “all the ends of the earth to remember and turn unto the Lord” (Ps. 22:27). Why? God’s abundant grace to sinners. Wicked men are building their Babel, but the living God is building his kingdom of grace through his Son. He will prevail (Dan. 2:44-45).

               And it is through Jesus Christ alone. Conservative movements will not save us from our slavery. Patrick Henry once said that our Constitution would only work for a Christian people, and he was right. Slaves to sin do not want a limited human government but a Babel to be their god, a human state that does all for them so that no faith is required. This was not the faith of our fathers, to whom the Lord of heaven gave this land to worship him. The dead hate the history of those made alive by God’s grace. The faith and courage to travel here was in Christians who had been persecuted in Europe and desired only to raise their families without popes, prelates, or pyres. Read Cotton Mather’s The Great Works of Christ in America. But we have turned away from Jesus Christ progressively over generations, Lost are the liberty, the peace, and the hope bequeathed to us. Men still want the outward blessings, but they do not want the inner deliverance from sin’s slavery – they want money and freedom to pursue their desires. No fruit of liberty ever grows on the dead tree of selfish, sensual, deceived, hateful slaves.

               But God is able to purify for himself a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14) – his people, his holy nation, his church – all tribes, tongues, and peoples singing his praise and celebrating his grace and living for him. How? He regenerates and renews sinners. The only Savior of enslaved sinners must march forth and deliver us (Tit. 3:6). We must be justified, declared righteous by Christ’s obedience, and cleansed in his blood before the holy God, so that instead of being under his condemnation, we are his adopted children. Unwashed, unjustified sinners lie under the wrath of God – republican or democrat, white or black, rich or poor. Only heirs of heaven will be delivered from hell on earth (Tit. 3:7).

               Where does this leave us? At the mercy of God – but what a wonderful place to be (2 Sam. 24:14)! He delights in mercy. He looks upon the race of Adam with a friendly eye and has good planned for us. He is working out that good, exposing the false hopes of man-centered religion and man-worshipping nations. Let us not, however, be deceived by Satan – caught up in the hatred and lies he is everywhere spewing. We are children of the light, saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and lovers of man, as our Father in heaven is (Matt. 5:48; Tit. 3:4).

               We have a message of grace to proclaim – not the grace of the false teachers that God accepts your vices and would never send anyone to hell. This is false grace, as is the idea that slaves are more likely to be released from sin’s prison if they are treated “kindly,” never told they are sinners and under God’s wrath. The devil never had a better gospel than this! It is one our Lord never preached. He told men the truth about themselves, not to crush or leave them in their dungeons but to call them out to him. And so must we, for this is the work of the Spirit – “to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:9-11). If we would be used of him, we must be honest about sin, faithful to confess the only Savior, Jesus Christ, and earnest about the judgment to come. We must keep preaching this gospel to ourselves so that we remain rooted and built up in Christ. We must preach it to others, so that they may be “delivered from the wrath to come” by fleeing to Jesus Christ for refuge (1 Thess. 1:10).

               I am very hopeful because God is gracious. To live under his kindly eye, his merciful heart, in the righteous robes of his Son, changes our entire perspective. We are not uncertain slaves, wondering what the day will bring, if a few crumbs of bread and happiness will come our way. We are children of the King, saved by his grace, washed, made new, and adopted into his family. He loves us, never ceases working good for us, rejoicing over us, and hearing our cries. He receives our imperfect obedience and cleanses us so that we are pleasing to him. His grace has made us complete in Christ; there is nothing lacking in us to stand before him without spot or blemish. His kindness and love define us. I pray they will shape our expectations, quench our fears, and swallow up our hatred in the abyss of his mercy and love. His grace believed and adored will fill our hearts with his praise day and night. The present hour needs far more praising and proclamation of God’s grace to sinners – not complaining, vilification, and handwringing.

 

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