“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).
Do you live your Christian life in the F.O.G.? A good friend introduced me to this concept several years ago. (Check out http://outofthefog.website) I immediately connected this disfunction to many in the church today who are enslaved by a “neo-legalism.” I hear men threatening God’s wrath against all ungodliness (Rom. 1:18), our names being stricken from the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5), and most often that fruitlessness means we’re not saved. “God expects us to change our ways if we claim to be Christian, right? No ‘cheap grace’ here!” Are Fear, Obligation, and Guilt the best motivators for Christ-like living?
I’ve often questioned, if God saves us by grace, does He change the rules once we’re in the fold? Paul asked the same question to the Galatians: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3) Don’t get me wrong. I believe a saved life is a changed life. More than that, I believe the Christian life is an exchanged life! It’s not trying to act exactly like Christ; it’s actually the exact Christ acting in and through us, for “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (2:20).
So how will we disciple in such a way as to see the exact Christ living through us? Paul tells Titus how: through Grace.
This month, all along the east coast of the US, people have been warned not to venture out to far from the shore. A tropical system lingered for days, creating rough waves and a tremendous undertow. While enjoying better-than-usual surf, several folks were drawn into deeper waters by a riptide they couldn’t see and didn’t expect. Before they knew it, they were in over their heads.
Think of Grace as a steady flow of ocean waves, washing over every sin, “abound[ing] all the more” (Rm. 5:20b). Paul said to Titus that it was a tidal wave of grace that appeared and brought salvation. Now notice who’s doing the instruction in 2:12. It’s grace (not “law F.O.G.”) that’s teaching us to deny all that isn’t God-like. Do you see the riptide of grace? The same Grace that saves us, pulls us from the shore (world) and into deeper waters with God.
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4) What’s the motivation for repentance here? Waves of kindness, tolerance, and patience, not F.O.G. In context, it’s those who judge another mans “fruitfulness” by his behavior, who suffer the wrath of God on Judgment Day. Wow! That’s a flip! The judger gets judged and the sinner gets saved. Jesus put it this way: “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Mt. 7:2).
John tells us clearly that F.O.G. doesn’t work and is the opposite motivating factor for Christian maturity: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn. 4:18). Even a person enslaved by his own bitterness, due to past hurt, unforgiveness, and resentment, needs Grace, not hatred and rejection, in order to heal: “See to it that no one comes short of thegrace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Heb. 12:5).
It’s the fear of judgment and focus on one’s behavior that leads us away from God. Jesus was a friend of sinners. They were drawn by His love and acceptance of them while still in their sins. Jesus comes to us with a riptide of Grace and Truth, not to condemn us, but to free us as He draws us “deeper” into Him.