The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

We Were Once Disobedient

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:3-6)

Yes, we were ONCE foolish, disobedient, deceived, and serving various lusts and pleasures.  But now we serve Jesus.

We ONCE walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (satan), that spirit who works in all disobedient children (Eph. 2:2-3). We ONCE conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, but if we are saved, we are not doing these things anymore.

Why?–The kindness and love of God our Savior has appeared to us, and it has not left us unchanged. When we deserved judgment, He offered us forgiveness and reconciliation through Jesus. His kindness, meant to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4), has done its work in our hearts. Because He loved us selflessly, we have learned to love Him (I John 4:19).  And because we love Him, we now give Him our willing obedience (John 14:23).

It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. What does this mean? Does it mean “works of righteousness” are unnecessary? Are they, as so many claim, “legalism”?

Paul writes later in this same chapter that the saints should be taught to “maintain good works.” (vs. 14)  We are changed and saved by God’s mercy. But beware of those who use Scripture to “prove” that we don’t have to obey God. Anyone who uses Scripture to promote unrighteousness is working for satan. It is one thing to acknowledge that we needed the undeserved mercy of God in order to be reconciled;  it is quite another to presume upon that mercy and continue willfully in unrighteousness.

If you were an employer who just caught an employee stealing from your company, you would have several options.  The most viable options are these:

1) You could terminate the employee immediately without any second chances to protect your company.  This perfectly legal option offers the least risk to the employer, and the least redemptive opportunity to the employee.

2) You could extend mercy to the employee, in hope that this mercy will change his heart and behavior, making him a valuable asset to your company in the future.  This is a risky option. Some people, given a second chance to do wrong, will take full advantage and do more wrong.  They may even mock the employer behind his back for being so gullible. Others may, in light of the undeserved kindness of the employer, feel a new sense of gratitude toward him, and commit to honesty from that time forward. An employer would only choose this option if benevolent concern for his employee outweighed concern for personal risk.

 

Applying our analogy to the Christian life, God has chosen option 2. We should have done everything He asked, but we were disobedient. We squandered His blessings and refused to steward our lives appropriately. We blackened His Name and robbed Him of His glory. He could have terminated us without mercy, and He would have been completely justified. But He chose the riskier course for Himself, in hope that some hearts would be changed by His mercy.Thankfully, some hearts have been changed. Some have responded to His mercy with repentance and willing submission.

Others mock Him by continuing willfully in sin, even after knowing the truth about His sacrifice on their behalf. They have insulted the Spirit of Grace.  The sacrifice of Jesus–which they claim gives them license to continue robbing God–only condemns them because they are still adversaries  (Heb. 10:26-31). They have not been made friends and children of God. They do not cry, “Abba, Father,” and submit to Him in grateful response to His mercy. They instead trample the blood of Christ beneath their feet by continued disobedience.

If you, a merciful employer, forgave the debt of a thieving employee, only to later find that he had continued pillaging you with the understanding that that your mercy gave him every right to do so, how would you respond?

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh, will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit, will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Gal. 6:7-8)

Dear reader, can you say that you were ONCE disobedient, but the kindness of God in Christ has changed you? It is true that no one can be saved by works.  It is also true that no one whose works do not change–in response to the mercy of God–can be saved.

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