“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world.” — Titus 2:11-12
Salvation is a tricky concept. Some people are never able to accept that they need to be saved, never mind the differences in opinion on what exactly that means. Is it just going to heaven? Is it a state of superiority to others? Is it instantaneous and everlasting? How can I still mess up if I am saved? I’m not saying this post has the answers to all those questions… but I hope it will at least help!
Having been a Methodist for much of my life, the word “grace” gets thrown around a lot. Specifically, there is a belief in three manifestations of grace. Grace means the unmerited, even undeserved love and favor of God that is given just because, and the first manifestation of grace is called Prevenient Grace. This is when the grace of God continually surrounds us, reaches out to us, and calls us to Christ. There is Justifying Grace, which is the forgiveness of our sin and the moment we enter into relationship with God through Jesus, becoming apart of the Church Universal (the spiritual church, not necessarily any particular institutional church, though this is the recommended route). This is the first moment of salvation, which, quoting Jesus in the Gospel of John, we believe is “eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent” (17:3).
The final manifestation of grace that we enter into after our initial entrance into relationship with God. This is called Sanctifying Grace, and it is what the text from Titus at the beginning of this post is getting at (in my opinion). Sanctifying Grace is the phase of grace we remain in until our dying day. It is the love of God that helps us become more and more like Jesus in how we act, speak, and think. It helps us achieve more and more “oneness” with God. We are, of course, human and can never be God, but we are expected to strive for a relationship in which God’s love and life are visible through us. This is the completion of salvation, and it is a lifelong pursuit.
I often like to say that I am saved and I am being saved, all at the same time. Look at the text for today. God has offered salvation to all people, and this salvation “educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives.” Education implies learning, improvement. Think about this. Many times, salvation is treated like a once in a lifetime moment where this instantaneous change is supposed to happen… but what if that isn’t how it is working for you? It’s not how it has worked for me.
Have you ever felt like you were doing or believing something wrong because you still have flaws even after “giving it to God?” Has this ever left you feeling ashamed or less than? Due to your struggles, have you ever felt that you must somehow be beyond saving? I have. This is why the text we are looking at is so important. Part of salvation is education, and learning how to change our ways for the better. This is a process, not a singular moment. It means we have to be willing to keep trying, even when we fail, and have the grace to forgive ourselves so that we continue in our walk with Christ.
Now is salvation only about our current reality? No! “At the same time we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ” (2:13). There will be a time when all the afflictions that draw us into sin will be no more, and everything will be made right and brought back into balance, and, yes, we will experience the fullness of heaven. However, salvation is not just about having your ticket punched, even if this is comforting to think about. It is also not solely about just becoming a better person. It is about becoming more like Christ by sharing the grace we have received, and, when times get difficult, remaining fueled by hope for the day when we will finally know peace.
As you consider your own life, your many flaws or mistakes, remember to be gracious with yourself. Yes, stop the sin that currently has you pinned. Yes, choose to do differently and seek help and support from others so that you may heal and keep moving forward. But also be sure to understand that this is a lifelong process that is about building new habits. This is difficult, but also exceedingly rewarding. Most of all, remember that God knows this process of salvation. God chose to offer you grace anyway, and God is with you every step of the way, even if you fall. This is the Gospel, and it is offered to you.
Peace be with you!