- Sanctifying Grace
- Titus 2:1-15
- Lyndol Loyd October 23, 2016
Celebrate LakeRidge ~ October 24, 2016
MOVING IN: EXPERIENCING GRACE
We are going to wrap up our series, “Moving In: Experiencing Grace” this morning. John Wesley is considered to be the father of the modern Methodist movement and is especially known for what is called the “order of salvation” or “way of salvation.”
For Wesley, this was a way of helping people understand the different ways in which God’s grace works within our lives. He often used the image of a house to help people wrap their minds around the idea. We started with Prevenient Grace which is God’s grace that pursues us and comes after us when we aren’t even aware of who God is or care about who God is. This is life outside of the house.
Then we moved on to Convicting Grace we examined how God uses grace to help us see ourselves as we truly are, as God helps us become cognizant of the impact of sin upon our lives. For Wesley, this was represented by the porch of the house.
Then last week we explored Justifying Grace which is that moment when we choose to open up God’s gift of salvation. This is the grace which allows us to be made right with God. This was represented by the doorway of the house.
This morning we are exploring what Wesley called Sanctifying Grace, the grace that transforms us. To help us with that we want to turn to scripture by reading from the New Testament book of Titus 2. This is a passage of scripture written to people who have experienced Prevenient, Convicting and Justifying Grace. Now they are finding out what Sanctifying Grace is.
1 As for you, Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. 2 Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.
3 Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.[a] Instead, they should teach others what is good. 4 These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, 5 to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,[b] to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.
6 In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. 7 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. 8 Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.
11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.
15 You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.
One very intriguing genre of art is known as, hyperrealism. In hyperrealism, paintings look so real and give such attention to detail that they look as if they are photographs.
If you have ever seen one of these pieces of art then you know how absolutely realistic they can be. To help make my point I’m going to put some art on the screen for us and you are going to have to tell us if it is a photo or a painting. You can use your bulletin to vote.
This last piece, featuring the marbles, is by a well-known hyperrealism artist by the name of Glennray Tutor. He was once asked, “How do you know when a painting is finished?”
With such attention given to detail it could be quite easy for an artist to get into a habit where there is always one more detail to be added to a painting so it would be possible for a painting to never be finished.
Tutor’s response to the question was that it is easy to know when a painting is finished. Tutor stated, “Knowing when I’m done is a natural part of the process. It is a process because I don’t paint in a hurry. It takes weeks or months for me to work on one piece. But, as I near the end, things begin to come into focus more and more, until there are fewer and fewer things for me to work on. There is less and less to do.”
The work of God’s Sanctifying Grace is exactly the same. As we respond to God’s Prevenient Grace, Convicting Grace and Justifying Grace it has a way of straightening out our relationship with him.
But then, his Sanctifying Grace begins to straighten out our relationships with others and the world around us. The transforming grace of God works to make our inward change an outward reality.
To mirror Glennray Tutor’s comment: the Sanctifying Grace of God is a transforming process through which things come more and more into focus, and are cleared up until there are fewer and fewer things to do.
Let’s think back to our scripture passage for a moment. It is Paul’s conviction that as God’s grace worked to bring about transformation, that it should also work through them to transform others and the world around them.
Paul quickly dispels that anyone is exempt from transformed living by singling out every conceivable subset of people. All followers of Jesus were expected to live a transformed life. There were no exceptions simply because you were too old or too young, or without social standing or rights.
In what was a clearly hierarchical society, Paul begins with the senior male members. Three qualifications were insisted on – the elders must:
- Exercise self-control in thought and judgment
- Be “worthy of respect” revealing a personal dignity and seriousness of purpose that invite honor and respect
- Living wisely, sound in faith, in love and in endurance (patience), revealing a Christian healthiness of heart and mind.
Can you imagine how people must have felt when they heard Paul’s standard? Impossible! Who can live that way? Who can meet the standard?
And it didn’t stop with the older men. All groups were covered in the process of Paul’s directives.
- Older Women were instructed: don’t slander others, don’t be heavy drinkers, teach their household what is good, teach the younger women to love their husbands, love their children, live wisely, be pure, work in their homes, and do good.
- Young Women were to: love their husbands, love their children, live wisely, be pure, work in their homes, and do good.
- Young Men were to live wisely. (Evidently Paul thought young men were easily confused so he kept it simple for them!)
- Titus himself, in addition to his pastoral responsibilities, was given the charge to be an example: do good works of every kind, and let everything he did reflect the integrity and seriousness of his teaching.
Titus and the Cretans had to look at that list and feel defeated. Paul set a very high standard for transformed living and you have to think they probably thought, “Yea, right. This is never going to happen.” No matter how much they wanted to live up to that standard Paul taught, they couldn’t even consider it.
When I was in high school, I used to work as a lifeguard at the city swimming pool during the summers. It paid okay and meant that I didn’t have to work at my dad’s store, so for that I was grateful, besides that I had a great tan to boot.
When I went through Red Cross lifeguard training I remember thinking that what they asked of us when they took the class was a pretty good challenge. Back then I was in decent shape from playing football, basketball and tennis during the school year, and still the experience of becoming a lifeguard tested my endurance levels. When I received my certification, I thought I had really pulled something off. I was proud of my accomplishment.
Once I went to college, I decided to become a water safety instructor so that I could not only lifeguard, but I could teach swim lessons and train lifeguards.
The first day of my class I showed up at the aquatics center expecting to get a decent workout from the class, but I had no idea what I was in for. The instructor immediately put all of us in the water fully clothed and made us tread water while holding our hands above our heads for thirty minutes.
Secretly I think she took some kind of evil, twisted pleasure out of watching all of us struggle. I think her strategy was to weed out those who were serious from those who weren’t.
When I found out all that I was going to have to do to become certified, it made anything I had been through to become a lifeguard look like child’s play. It made me acutely aware of my body’s physical inadequacies.
I suppose that is what these early Christians might have felt like. Because of grace they had come to Christ and many of them had made some changes in their lives. They were living differently in certain ways.
Then Paul comes along and says, “This faith thing may be more than what you had in mind. It is something a whole lot more than what you had been thinking.” And it made what they had been doing seem insufficient and inadequate. As a matter of fact, it made what Paul was calling them to do seem impossible.
Which is exactly what Paul wanted them to feel because he wanted them to know that they would never be able to live up to the standard of transformed living simply by greater effort on their part. It would take supernatural intervention.
This supernatural intervention that would lead to the transformed living Paul had outlined was grace. Paul wanted to communicate that the standard of transformed living he set out was unattainable, except by the grace of God at work in their lives.
Paul expected transformation to happen, but just like we talked about when we started out discussing grace, Paul wanted people to understand the primary person in this act of transformation was God. Their part was cooperation with God’s transforming grace.
For those of you who are parents something tells me that somewhere in your parenting history you have had a moment when a preschool aged kiddo looked up at you and stated, “No, I do it.” It’s his/her way of letting you know that they are a big boy or big girl and don’t really need your help because in their minds they already know how to do it.
They really want to think they can handle it. There is just something within little ones that cries out and desires independence. But maybe it isn’t just preschoolers who act this way.
It occurs to me that God must have similar thoughts about us a great deal of the time. I’ve been a Christian since I was a small child, I’m the pastor of a church and quite frankly, I’m a big boy now.
From time to time, as much as I hate to admit it, I have the attitude that “I can take care of this whole transformed living thing”, as if to say, “I do it myself,” without God’s help.
Sanctifying Grace is about releasing control and cooperating with God. This is the part where we live into what it means to call Jesus, LORD. We allow God to lead us. We allow God to refine us. We allow God to shape us.
You see, Jesus didn’t just come to save us for heaven someday, but to begin to work out heaven in us and through us now- through transforming grace, Sanctifying Grace. So sanctification isn’t just being made right with God or someone who has faith in God. It is that faith beginning to pour itself out in life in such a way that it impacts how we love God and how we love each other.
Earlier we talked about hyper-realistic art and how it so closely resembles the real thing that it can be difficult to tell the difference between a painting and a photograph. I suppose that is a pretty good image for sanctification. It is a process where with each passing day we take on more and more of the character of Christ. We take on his nature and, in doing so, our lives begin to look more and more like him. We become transformed.
Another artistic image that we find in scripture is that of God as a potter. Isaiah 64:8 says, “8 And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.”