Even After Salvation, Grace Stays
If you grew up in church, you are probably very familiar with the word “grace.” We sing about it, we talk about it, and we preach about it. But surprisingly I went years without really understanding what it truly meant. I confused “grace” with some sort of flimsy, magically replenishable substance that God just happened to have a lot of. When I began learning to study my Bible inductively, I remember going on a little an adventure chasing around the word “grace.”
I started with some definitions. According to the Greek, grace is:
good will, loving-kindness, favour: of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
Grace is a kindness that influences.
Encountering this definition encouraged me to confront some cultural misunderstandings in my mind. For me, my evangelical church community used the word “grace” to mean some sort of miraculous dry eraser that wipes away even the most shameful sin. I was taught that we come to Jesus, experience His grace, and our sins are “wiped away.” We call this “salvation,” and that’s where my understanding of grace ended. But the definition above keeps going. This influential kindness of God continues to pulse in the life of a believer.
Perhaps I would have gone years carrying around this limited understanding of “grace” without ever flipping the coin to the other side and see another level of beauty, if it hadn’t been for texts like we covered this week in Titus 2:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)
I will never forget reading this text for the first time many years ago. I had been walking with the Lord for about 10 years, long enough to feel the ugly tugs between my flesh and my spirit on a daily basis. Behaving like a Christian seemed so hard sometimes. And I wondered if I would ever achieve any level of godliness. My understanding of grace was feeling it’s limits; because I thought that grace only brings salvation, I consistently felt an overwhelming responsibility to be godly and do everything right on my own. I mean, God had already done so much, right? It was up to me to “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” … right?
But I remember the first time I slowed down long enough to see the word “training” in these verses. It forced me to ask, “Wait, what trains us?” One might assume the trainer to be “rules” or “the law” or a big spiritual bullwhip. But if you look back at the verses in Titus, it’s clear. “For the grace of God has appeared … training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions…”
Grace not only brings us to salvation, it trains us to be godly.
Perhaps this truth was mind blowing for me because I somehow assumed that grace was too “weak” for such hard work. I mean, could God’s kindness [remember, grace is a kindness that influences] really influence my character to change? To help me say “no” to sin? To live differently than my flesh desires?
The Bible says, “Yes.”
Paul continues to unpack this idea in Titus 3:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:3-5 ESV)
We change because grace -- God’s goodness and kindness -- appears to us.
God’s grace was powerful enough to take a foolish, disobedient, wandering slave of sin like myself and make her a new creation. And it continues to show it’s powerful influence in my life by training me to become more like Christ in the moment-by-moment, daily workings of my life. His kindness continues to influence me in the moments I’m unloading the dishwasher, or how I choose to engage in family dysfunction, or what I say about people behind their backs, or how I respond to inconvenience or waiting. His grace trains me to say “no” to my flesh and “yes” to the Spirit.
Paul was careful to remind Titus of these things, especially in a letter filled with reminders to “be ready for good works.” It’s important to realize that understanding God’s kindness -- His amazing grace -- is what motivates and influences our actions.
It’s not about trying harder.
It’s not about just “getting it together.”
It’s not about guilt and shame.
It’s about encountering God’s grace.
This truth continues to minister to my soul like a healing balm. God’s grace didn’t leave me at the moment of my salvation thinking it’s job was done. No, God continues to give me grace that walks with me and empowers me and influences my heart to have more and more affection for Jesus. Grace is a powerful trainer.
So I invite you to meditate on God’s grace with me this week, instead of the failures or weakness of our flesh. Give room in your mind to ponder on the grace that was revealed to us in the life of Jesus, in the Gospel, in the seasons of life we’ve already walked through, and in the moments when God reveals Himself to us in His Word. All is grace.
May His grace mightily influence your heart today!
Kaysie Strickland is definitely nothing fancy. Jesus found her in a mess and won her with His Words. She feels called to be a servant of the Word and His people through spending her life and words proclaiming the reckless restoration available in the gospel. She is married to her best friend on earth, drinks lots of coffee + tea, constantly rearranges the furniture in her house (God bless her husband), loves gardening and DIY projects, enjoys long conversations over coffee, and loves all the words. She and her husband are expecting their first little one in February 2016. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Blog