In the 1980s in the UK there was a road safety campaign called ‘look, listen, live.’ As you can probably guess from the title it encouraged kids to look both ways, listen for traffic and then cross. Paul’s advice to us in these verses is similar. He is telling us to live, and look. Here in verse 12 we have more standards for the Christian to aspire to, sandwiched in between two verses that give us tremendous hope and comfort as we try to live the way that scripture calls on us to. There is a great reward to those who live with holiness in their heart as we know from the Matthew 5: ‘blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’
We saw last time in verse 11 that the grace of God who appeared is not only the motivation but also the ability to live the way that God calls us to. To live grace enabled lives that are pleasing to God. This is the grace of God and it’s our only hope that we have to come anywhere near the standards we are set by scripture. This is the grace of God which gives us a Savior.
If we look down at the start of verse 12 there, we’ll see that this grace teaches us to do something. It teaches ‘us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and Godly in the present world.’ So the grace of God teaches us two things negatively and three things positively.
Christians are to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Ungodliness just means simply a lack of devotion and reverence to God. It’s an attitude rather than an action. When we are saved and the Holy Spirit comes and lives in our hearts there is no way that we can continue to live lives of sustained ungodliness. Godliness gives us a heart for the Lord, for the Word and for the Church, it makes us upset over sin, it helps us to love those around us who might be unlovely. But we all have seasons in life where this Godliness is missing, and those seasons should scare us, those seasons should drive us to our knees in prayer, asking God to help us, and to give us the affections and desires for Jesus and for Godliness that we should have. We are to deny ungodliness.
We are also to deny worldly lusts. We are to fight against the desire to commit sin. The desire to have more stuff, the desire to spread that juicy piece of gossip, the desire to criticize people who dress differently to us, the desire to lust after a man or a woman. The grace of God teaches us against these desires. And these lusts may be just that, lusts or desires, just thinking about doing something, just wanting to do something without even doing it. But there is no sin where there is no lust. We need to fight the desire, we need to fight the lust, we need to attack the root of the sin. If a tree was bearing rotten fruit, the answer would not be to keep dealing with the fruit, the answer would be to treat the roots of the tree. That’s what we must do. James 1:15 says ‘then desire, when it is conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.’ We must fight at the root if we want to live.
Paul then moves onto the positive enablement of grace. The things that the grace of God will help us to do. The grace of God will enable us to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. The grace of God teaches us to live lives that are pleasing to Him.
To live soberly, to live with a sound mind. Not one that is being washed back and forth by news items or the opinions of others. The Christians with a sound mind does not become entangled in things that are of no spiritual profit, but is like a soldier ready for war. We are to live righteously. In wholehearted agreement and obedience with the Bible and resolved to live and obey it with all our hearts as much as we can, under the grace of God. We are to live Godly, which means in close and deep fellowship with Jesus Christ. These changes could be viewed three dimensionally, soberly being the change inside us, righteously, the change in our relationships with others, and Godly, the change in our relationship with God. These are three excellent evidences for God’s grace at work in our heart.
The grace of God doing this in a new Christian’s heart is a wonderful, mysterious thing. I remember when I got saved that suddenly the Bible got interesting, suddenly I wanted to be at church…I couldn’t work out what they had changed to make it so much better, I wanted to hang out with Christians, I couldn’t figure out what it was about them that was different from a week ago. And then I realized that I was the one who had changed, I was the one who found the Bible interesting, and wanted to go to church and spend time with fellow Christians. I was the one with something different going on inside of me! It was a very odd time. All of a sudden things that I used to enjoy doing lost their attraction, the things that affected me changed, and this was the grace of God invading and exploding in my heart, teaching me to live soberly, righteously and Godly. Teaching me that living in this way was not only right but also joy soaked. That to obey Jesus and to know Him is joy itself. It was wonderful. It is wonderful.
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