The grace of God that saves us also trains us: “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us…” (Titus 2:11-12).
God’s grace teaches us to adorn the gospel with our behavior (Titus 2:9-10), to deny ungodly desires (Titus 2:12), to live well in this present age (Titus 2:12), and to look for the coming of our Savior (Titus 2:13-14).
First, God’s grace teaches us to adorn.
The context of Paul’s saying that the grace of God trains us is that Paul is graciously telling us what God requires of servants.
It is God’s grace that he tells us what is right and good in the details of daily life.
The grace of God saves, yes, but it saves by teaching! It trains us to battle against sin, to battle for our marriages, and not to battle endlessly with our employer.
The grace of God delivers us from — among other things — our own solutions. So, Paul tells Titus, the grace of God teaches us to adorn the gospel with our behavior. Our chief concern is no longer our personal rights or selfish interests; our goal in life grows beyond ourselves to embrace the cause of Christ in the world.
God knows the areas where we struggle to implement the gospel, to live out the implications of the gospel. It is at this difficult-but-essential point of personal application that God’s Word meets us with its sufficient, equipping instruction. You adorn the gospel, you make the doctrine of God our Savior look beautiful, by … working hard at your job each day, by being a trustworthy, reliable employee.
The grace of God teaches us to adorn the gospel by doing the difficult work of faithful, cheerful, trustworthy participation in the plan of God for us — whatever mundane, unglamorous details may be involved in this endeavor.
Second, the grace of God teaches us to deny.
There’s no way around it. God’s grace brings salvation, freedom, everlasting joy … but it also brings self-denial as a means to these very ends. The grace of God brings with it the power to say “No!” to sin, in all the various ways it presents itself to us (Romans 6:2, 11-18).
The adjective “worldly” in front of “passions” in Titus 2:12 is important, because strong desires are not in and of themselves bad. It all depends on what it is you are passionately desiring! Jesus desired [same word] to take the Lord’s Supper in Luke 22:15; Paul desired to meet with other believers face-to-face in 1 Thessalonians 2:17.
The problem with many Christians is that we are saying “No!” to the wrong passions, to the wrong lusts!
We long to be in God’s Word, communing with God in prayer, seeking out the fellowship of the saints … but we say “No!” to these desires. The grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness, to say “No!” to worldly passions — and to say “Yes!” over and over again to our longing for Christ.
Third, the grace of God teaches us to live.
The Christian who is adorning the gospel with their faithful service, who is turning away from sin and to Christ each day, is truly and deeply living.
The grace of God teaches us this life matters and teaches us to live it well. But the grace of God also teaches us that living “well” means more than merely living for our own pleasure or purposes. It means living righteously, godly in this present age.
There is a right way to live, and a wrong way to live.
It is not merely a matter of personal preference or perspective. There is an objective standard for “right” — and that standard is God. The grace of God teaches us this present life matters … and it teaches us how to live it well, how to live it in a way that is truly, eternally good!
Finally, the grace of God teaches us to look.
Jesus Christ gave himself for us! This is the amazing revelation that is the Christian gospel. Jesus gave himself in order to redeem us from all lawlessness, from all sin. Not a single stain left. Jesus came to redeem us from all sin, and you and I must rest in his ability to do what he came to do.
But Jesus gave himself, not only to redeem us from sin but also to purify for himself a group of separated saints who are zealous of good works. They are not just saying “No!” to worldly lusts; they are saying “Yes!” to the glory of God being displayed in their lives. And Christians do this by looking to Jesus each and every day.
This is the lesson we must learn over and over again: to live in this present world, but not to live for this present world.
We live in this world, looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ! We adorn the gospel in order to dimly reflect the glory that will be on full display in that final day of Christ’s return! We deny worldly passions because our affections are set on the superior pleasure of seeing Christ face to face. We seek to live right in this present age because we know there is a standard of “rightness” that transcends this world, and by whom this world will one day be judged.