11 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
There is no passage of scripture which more accurately describes the effect that the grace of God has on a soul that knows it has been saved from the eternal consequences of sin, than the passage above. When we understand what exactly the true grace of God is, who gave it to us, and at what cost, it should not only bring us to our knees in joyful gratitude and relief, but it should start us down the path of holiness through the Spirit. It should, as this passage states, spark in us a desire to flee the lusts of our flesh, which alienate us from our great God, and should instead turn our eyes, our minds and our hearts, not to this short and often painful life, but to the next one; the life that is with God, in paradise…forever.
It is humbling and sometimes overwhelming to quietly contemplate this impossible truth: that Jesus Christ, the God on the sapphire throne in Ezekiel 1, stepped out of that glory and became a dirty, sweaty man…not because he had to, but because he loved us and was willing to offer himself, without condition, to his cruel and spiteful enemies. As this passage teaches us, he did that, not only because he loves us and wanted to redeem us from the eternal consequences of our sin, but also to purify for himself a people…unique in this world, separated out…who are not primarily focused on growing their businesses and building their reputations, but who are zealous of good works in his name. In other words, as Paul says in Philippians 3, God wants his beloved children to consider everything in this dying world that feeds our reputations, our lusts and our pride…as a loss for the sake of Jesus Christ. Instead, we are exhorted to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. Phil. 3:7-14 and the purpose of life God isn’t looking for lukewarm believers who simply want a free pass out of hell. He wants men and women who know him, love him, and are willing to give up the short term pleasures of our vain existence, to honor the one who created us and redeemed us with his sweat, blood and pain.
This passage ends with an unmistakable call: teach these words with all authority, and use them, not only to encourage the brethren, but also to rebuke those who teach a false grace – a grace which doesn’t lead to salvation. The authentic grace of God results in a change of mind and heart from the love of sin, to a deep and abiding love of the God who ransomed us from death. The world, and sadly even today’s “Christian” culture, does not take kindly to the true grace of God. They both seem to prefer a false, a cheap grace, which offers a free pass to do as thou wilt…to freely sin and quickly claim his mercy, with no thought of the love, glory and power of the only one who could redeem them from the eternal fires of hell. That mentality (and that heart), does not comprehend the true, saving grace of God. Salvation is not a prayer prayed. It is a heart that understands exactly who Jesus is and believes that it desperately needs his blood to cover the dark and ugly blemish of sin. Anyone who understands the true gospel message will not take sin lightly, and will joyfully pursue godliness and righteousness in this life, while quietly living in hope for the life to come.
We will all wrestle with the weight of sin as long as we are in this body of death, but as we eat, drink and breathe the word, the Spirit will slowly move us away from our old ways and into His ways. While new sins (forgotten or intentionally ignored) always seem to pop up, when we truly understand the surpassing mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we press on to apprehend that for which he has so graciously apprehended us. And as Paul said so eloquently:
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13-14