For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ… Titus 2:11-13
Paul understands that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the future has invaded the present. What will be when Jesus comes again is already being unveiled, and we should catch glimpses of the way things are actually going to be in the here and now. Where? In the life of the Church.
So often, when we think about the coming Kingdom, our minds flash to God putting all things right and our own individual blessedness when all that is wrong in creation has been corrected. We think of an inner disposition of peace. While this is certainly part of the work God is doing, we need to listen closely to Scripture, for it focuses more on our holiness and the right ordering of relationships in the community of the faithful.
As Paul thinks about our certain future, he calls us to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly (v. 12). So what does that mean?
To live a self-controlled, or sober, life is to not allow anything other than God’s Holy Spirit to direct and control our lives. “Do not get drunk on wine…instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). We were created to be under the control of the Holy Spirit, fully yielded to His presence, power, and work. To allow something else to control us, whether wine or work or anything else, is to diminish our humanity and become less than we were made to be.
To live an upright life is to be just and righteous. It doesn’t just mean personal holiness, but acting properly toward others. We treat others with respect and dignity, honesty and integrity. We don’t use others for our own personal gain. We don’t stand idly by when we see others suffering under the yoke of injustice. We help those in need.
To live a godly life is to engage in acts of devotion and piety. This is not to withdraw from the world or become some kind of prudish stereotype. It does, though, mean that we engage in spiritual disciplines as a way to say connected to Jesus. It takes work. A godly life is a life of intentional discipline: prayer, Bible study, fellowship, worship, generous giving, solitude, ministry, evangelism, service, and outreach.
When we live in this way, we see what the future looks like in the here and now. The questions for us, then, are straightforward. Is our vision of the future in line with God’s plan, or is our vision in need of correction? Is our life, individually and corporately, a clear glimpse of the way things will actually be when Jesus comes again?