Now and Then

by Bob James

There is perhaps no more beautiful word in the English language than the word "grace." It is ironic, then, that this word has caused so many disagreements among Christians. What does "grace" mean, what is the nature of "grace?" Who can receive "grace," what does "grace" do? If 2000 years of discussion have not solved this problem, obviously one short article can't. But we can look at part of the question.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, Titus 2:11-12 (NASB)

I think these verses give us a few hints about grace. First of all, grace is for ALL men. (Mankind) There are some who believe that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, He only died for certain selected people, "the elect." Many of them argue that if Jesus offered salvation to someone who could reject His grace, then His blood would have been spilled in vain. In other words, that for some, Jesus dieing on the cross was worthless. If, however, he only died for the certain few, then no part of His blood was wasted.

In my mind that is the tragedy, the scandal of the cross: that Jesus died for all people, and some would reject that death. Salvation, or a personal relationship with God the Creator, is available to all people. God doesn't condemn people to Hell. The tragedy is that many condemn themselves by refusing to accept God's grace of that beautiful relationship possible only because Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

Another very important aspect of grace is that God's grace doesn't leave us as we are. Instead, through His grace, God works to help us become better people. He does that by teaching and helping us to "deny ungodliness and worldly desires." That's an interesting phrase, but what does it mean?

I would define ungodliness by setting up a scenario. Suppose Jesus Christ Himself were to show up now and walk with you for a day. As you think about a normal day, what things that you might normally do, places that you normally go, or things that you normally say would you try to avoid? Those things are ungodly things in your life.

Worldliness is slightly different. I see worldliness as an attitude that has priorities set by others around us, not by God. What is our motivation in life? Is it that we might be acknowledged with the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," or that we might gain fame and notoriety among people? If our motivation is to gain fame among those around us, we are acting out of worldliness.

But God doesn't tell us what not to do in a vacuum; He also teaches us how to live. How should we live now? We should live sensibly, righteously and in a godly manner.

"Godly" living talks about our motivation for living. Whom do you serve, God or Man? "Righteously" talks about our relationships with others. Do we treat others like we want them to treat us? If so, then we are living righteously. Nobody does that perfectly, which is one of the reasons why Jesus had to die on the cross. Even if we lived perfectly godly and righteous lives, this next part is the hardest: sensibly.

How often do we look back at some action in our lives and ask ourselves, "Why did I do that?" We often do things that don't make sense. Just because something doesn't make sense, doesn't mean it is sin. The fact that God teaches us to live sensibly shows that He cares about every aspect of our lives...and that, dear friends, is one of the most wonderful aspects of grace.

Prayer of Commitment: I come to you Heavenly Father because without Your grace, I have no hope of enjoying a relationship with You. Fill me with Your grace and help me to avoid ungodliness and worldliness while living a full and meaningful life that is godly, righteous and sensible. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen

(NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible (c) 1975 by The Lockman Foundation.)

(c) 1997 by Bob James. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to distribute this article to others without charge as long as this notice is attached. This article may not be distributed commercially either individually or as part of any anthology without the express written consent of the author.


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