Here's a devotional I wrote for our church's newsletter this week.
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen from Titus 2:11-15 (1) that the only reason we can obey the commands of God is by the grace of God, and (2) that the primary reason we should do so is to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” In other words, one of the purposes of obedience is make the truth of God to be as gorgeous as possible, especially to those who oppose us at home, school, work or play.
This sets us up well to contemplate the three commands of Titus 2:11-15: (1) “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,” (2) “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age,” and (3) wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Renounce, live, and wait. This is the essence of what John Calvin calls “self-denial.”
The word “renounce” more literally means “to deny or repudiate.” This implies that grace trains us to hate this world and the things of this world. God is so patient and kind with us, and he does allow us to dip our toe in pools we know we should avoid, but then his grace overwhelms our sin and trains us to hate those pools. But why? Because he has a greater joy in store for us. God is no legalist. He doesn’t command us to “do this and not do that” for no apparent reason. He’s prepared high and deep joys for us, and he knows that if we’re to taste them we must learn to hate the false joys of this world. Thus, his grace trains us, it patiently trains us.
On the other hand, the grace of God also patiently trains us to “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” It trains us to have a passion for the right things and it gives us the power to pursue those things. As Peter said in 2 Pet 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” In other words, our Father has granted us all that we need to submit to his commands. He has always commanded his people for their good (see Deut 30:19-20) but now in Christ he’s given us the necessary power to do so, and the necessary grace to cover us when we fail to do so.
And the great hope for which we willingly enter into this boot-camp of dying to self and living to him is “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Beloved, now we must behold Jesus by faith but one day, by his grace, we will behold him by sight. We will see him as he is and be transformed into his image and we will be happy, very happy, in him. This hope of eternal communion with our God and Savior is precisely what motivates us to deny the false joys of this world and strain toward the true joys of submission to our Father. To be with him is our highest treasure and we will sell all else to acquire it.
This is the essence of self-sacrifice: to renounce, live, and wait for the Lord. May our gracious God patiently train us to walk in this way.