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Living in the Gap – Reflections on Titus 2:11-14

It seems as though we’re always waiting on something. There’s always a gap: a gap between where we are and where we want to be, a gap between what we have and what we want, a gap between what we’re doing and what we want to do. Because of the gap, we wait.

We don’t think about it much, but there’s also, always, a gap between what we believe about God and our obedience to Him. We find most of our struggles trying to live in this gap. This is where we live. This is were we sin.

These are not separate thoughts: our constant state of waiting is tied to the gap between our knowledge and obedience to God. As Christians, we live in the gap, in between God declaring us holy at the time of our salvation and the full realization of holiness at the time of our being home in heaven with Him.

Paul speaks to the gap, these waiting rooms, in his letter to Titus (2:11-14):

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works.”

This is one of the most profound, Christological statements in all of the Bible. We see who Christ is, why He’s come, and we’re reminded of His second coming. Consider a few observations:

  • ”For the grace of God has appeared”. Salvation has appeared in the person of Jesus. Grace has a name: Jesus!
  • The coming of Christ is the grace of God. Remember Jesus at Zacchaeus’ home. He said, “I’ve come to seek and to save that which was lost”. The manifestation – the public demonstration of power and purpose – of God’s salvation is Jesus Christ.
  • He came to bring salvation, but also to bring the instruction to deny godliness and wordly lusts and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in this present age, while we wait.

This is the theme of Titus and the goal for us, as we live in the gap, to imitate Christ and live a godly life.

As we do this, Paul gives the helpful instruction: to live a godly life, we must deny godlessness.

We often struggle in waiting on God. What do you find most difficult to wait for? We’re all waiting for things to “return to normal”. Some wait for health. Some wait on the decisions of others. Perhaps, you’re waiting for the God’s guidance or direction.

As Christians, there’s always a sense in which we’re waiting to die so that we can move on to something else.  Paul challenges us to live in obedience now in anticipation of Christ’s return. Paul has previously challenged us to live godly as a matter of obedience. In the big picture, we’re supposed to live in light of what’s to come.

In this text, we see the call to godliness in anticipation of our future salvation. In the Bible, hope is not wishful thinking, it’s a view to a certain future. Salvation is present tense, it is here and now, but it is also future tense, and fully realized tomorrow. So we wait.

The manifestation of our salvation is Jesus. The goal for us, as we live in this life, in the gap, is to live in a Godly manner. In chap 1 of Titus, Paul describes the call for godly leadership. In chap 2, Paul describes the call for godly members. He’s already given us a sense of duty, now he gives us a sense of encouragement. Grace is “activated” in and through salvation. This grace changes us immediately, and gradually.

The believer doesn’t always, but can say no to sin because grace has been activated. We have no reason to ever sin. In fact, we have the ability to not ever sin, but yet we sin anyway. That’s what living in the gap is like. Grace allows us to say no to sin, and yes to godliness.

What you believe changes what you think, feel, and do. Every time you sin its because you don’t believe rightly, e.g., it‘s ok to be selfish. Sin is an issue of disbelief because we wouldn’t sin if we rightly believed we were standing before Christ. Everything that you do, every moment of decision, you do what your heart tells you to do. Decisions are rooted in what you believe. If we believe rightly, we will not sin.

These verses (13-14) ask us to wait, but we are to wait with anticipation. We are to live in light of the second coming. Too often, we focus on the first coming and the cross event and ignore the second coming: this blessed hope, this glorious return of the one who gave Himself.

Our final redemption awaits us, fully redeemed – that’s what’s coming. Just as confident as we are in the first coming, we need to live in light of the confidence of His second coming. We are to live as though you witnessed Christ’s death and resurrection yesterday and He’s coming back today.

So, how do we live in the gap? How should we respond to this text? We live as though His second coming is imminent. The gospel allows us to live in the gap because grace has been revealed to us, as we live in anticipation of the second coming. This gospel, this grace, which is Paul’s title for Jesus, enables us to live in a godly manner today. Grace is personified in Jesus.

Jesus Christ, our God and Savior, is coming back. We wait, but not idly. We wait, but not without hope. Our hope is not wishful thinking; our hope is a view to the future, looking ahead to what is certain.

Nothing Else

I loved this song the moment I heard it. It’s a simple confession to the Lord. It’s an acknowledgement of our need for Christ and Christ alone. It’s a prayer of forgiveness and repentance. At the same time, it’s one of those songs that makes you stop and think, “Do I really mean what I’m singing?”

I’m not here for blessings.

Jesus, You don’t owe me anything.

More than anything that You can do, I just want You.

Those are simple, yet profound, lyrics. We want blessings – here and now. We want Jesus to do things for us and to see Him at work. We are (for the most part) satisfied with and love Jesus, but we often want more than Jesus. We’ll even share the phrase “Jesus plus nothing = everything” but live in a way that doesn’t reflect that well-meaning sentiment.

I don’t write this to make you feel bad. That’s not my job. I’m not here to judge.

The Holy Spirit convicts me when I sing songs like this. I pray He does so for you as well.

I’ve learned in these moments that when we focus on what we can get from God instead of just enjoying a relationship and His presence, we miss out on so much. There is great joy and freedom of repentance. A restoration of our relationship with our Creator should be a daily desire. This state of existence allows us to worship with our whole heart.

Let’s turn to God. Want Jesus more than anything else. Be satisfied with Him alone. Experience joy in repentance. Worship with gladness in His presence. It’s the best place to be.

Resting in the Lord

A year ago, I was in the most chaotic week of my life. I was in the process of moving, full-time graduate school, enjoying the last week of school with my 5th grade students, looking for a job, and preparing to walk down the aisle to say, “I do.” I remember telling Daniel how excited I was for the week of rest that would follow. Fast forward a few months and I was having a similar conversation, “I cannot wait until graduate school is done so I can rest.”

It seems that I tend to fall into the dangerous habit of equating business with godliness. Filling up my calendar to the max leaving little time to rest and longing for the next weekend or vacation. Even Jesus, who was busy with His Father’s business, took time away to rest in the Father.

Our hearts long for rest.

As we begin to head towards normal again, one thing I am thankful for during this pandemic is the opportunity to rest. I am not simply talking about physical rest (though I am thankful I finally have an infant sleeping through the night). Over the past few months, I have constantly been reminded of my need to rest in Him. My prayer has mirrored that of the Psalmist:

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than the watchman for the morning, more than the watchman for the morning.” (Psalms 130: 5-6)

When sin entered the world so did chaos, stealing the peace that God originally intended for humanity. Remember how the Israelites longed for rest. They spent years in slavery. God freed them. Then once again sin entered the scene, and as a result they were left wandering for 40 years. Imagine how exhausting that must have been. They must have been physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted, but God promised them a place of rest (Joshua 1:13). As death and injustice loom in our world, our souls wait for the eternal rest that God has promised us.

As I wait, I am reminded of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Though we mourn the brokenness that plagues our world, we still find refuge in the Lord. There we can rest. We hold onto the hope that one day our souls will rest with the Lord for eternity.

We are all eager to return to normal. My prayer is that as the business of life begins again, we will intentionally make time to rest in the Lord so that our souls will not grow weary.

Let’s Think Transition, Part 3: Spiritual Posturing for Re-Gathering the Church

Greetings Church family!

Welcome back! We are pleased to announce a return to live worship gatherings for the month of June. It’s been a long swim, but we’re crossing this river together. Thank you for your faithfulness and flexibility.

Your pastors and deacons prayerfully discussed a plan to safely re-gather our church. Options were presented, medical professionals were consulted, and with a unanimous decision, a plan was established. Each Sunday we will hold two identical services: 9:30am and 6:00pm. If you consider yourself to be at high risk, let us encourage you to worship with us from home. The 9:30am service will be live-streamed and later posted to our website available on demand. Be sure to check out the sermon discussion guide as well.

For the safety of all, please note that Sunday school and childcare will not be provided during the month of June. Weekly groups are encouraged to meet in homes or alternate locations. Please see our main landing page at coatsbaptist.com for a complete list of details.

As a simple courtesy, members of our congregation will likely receive a phone call this week from one of our deacons, who will outline our reopening plan and help with any questions you may have. To ensure everyone gets the news they need, I’ll be sending a personal letter to our congregation. Be sure to watch for it in the mail.

Now for the main point of this post. Let me show my cards up front: I’m praying for revival. I’m praying that June 2020 is a spiritual marker in the life of Coats Baptist Church. May it be a Holy Spirit saturated month of corporate worship gatherings. No, not spooky, but holy. Let me explain.

Gathered to Worship

Coats Baptist has a re-gathering plan. I’m grateful for that plan. But as much as we love a good plan, it’s quite easy to stress the mechanical and neglect the spiritual. We must keep in mind that we are re-gathering for a purpose. We are coming together for worship. It is a worship gathering for which we have planned. God’s people are not called to simply be in the same room together. There are no gold stars for setting foot in the building. We know this. Instead, God’s people are called to gather for God.

The worship of God is an innately spiritual event. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). God cannot be worshipped without the aid and empowerment of the Spirit. Jesus is making a bold claim: only Christians can truly worship God. It is only the Christian who has been indwelt by the Spirit at their conversion (1 Cor. 12:13) and sealed by the Spirit for the day of their redemption (Eph. 1:13). In short, the Christian has been saved to worship.

Filled by the Spirit

But the New Testament never calls the Christian to be indwelt by the Spirit. That’s a package deal with salvation. However, Scripture does call us to be filled by the Spirit. To be indwelt refers to the believer’s position in Christ, but to be filled refers to their condition in Christ. The filling of the Spirit is separate and distinct from the once for all time indwelling of the Spirit that accompanies the Spirit’s regenerating work of new birth (John 3:3, 6, 8; Titus 3:5).

That is a significant point we need not miss: Christians can be indwelt by the Spirit because of their conversion, but not filled with the Spirit. We therefore, striving to obey Scripture (Eph. 5:18), seek to be filled by the Spirit. We consciously pursue holiness (Heb. 12:14), yield to the Spirit’s will (Acts 16:6-7), and posture towards the good bearing of fruit as the apostle Paul outlines in Galatians 5:22-23, “the fruit of the Spirit is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” And lest we miss Paul’s point earlier in the passage, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). We are to live Holy Spirit incarnate lives. We are to live in such a way as to not “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30) but to invite him into his habitable home (1 Cor. 6:19). A life filled by the Spirit is marked with fruit, noticed by all and seen from afar. It is a life pleasing to God, and one that he delights to use in special and sovereign ways.

Our Great Need

Why do I make such an emphatic point? Revival is our great need, and revival comes on the backs of Spirit-filled Christians. In other words, I am personally persuaded that Spirit-filled Christians make for Spirit-filled churches. The revived church brings glory to God and attracts a dying world to life in Christ. Bottom line: God will do corporately what he cannot do with us as individuals. That’s how God’s economy works. He seeks to control us as a people, to meet with us as a corporate body, to own the service, to give his bride the clean presence and power of Christ the bridegroom.

Spirit-filled churches make themselves attractive to the Spirit by giving themselves to those common lanes by which the Spirit typically descends: importunate and sacrificial prayer, corporate holiness, and expository preaching. In short, Christ-centered prayer, piety, and preaching create a conducive environment for the Spirit to dwell. Such worship events make for a spiritually vigorous corporate worship that can be found at no other time and place. Lightning only strikes in the most intense thunderstorms. Or if you’d like another analogy, we put our sails in the air and ask God to send the wind of his Spirit. We will not have true success void of the Spirit’s attendance in our lives and in our church.

Prayer for Revival

In the later years of the nineteenth century from the pulpit of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, Charles Haddon Spurgeon prayed these words,

At this time also, great Father, will you visit this church with Your great favor; and as You have abounded toward us these many years in blessing, so give us now some new token, some fresh visitation for good. Lord, You have not always given summer weather to the field of nature, but spring comes on and summer returns. Oh, give us summer weather as a church. May there be a great revival of religion in all the members, and especially in the minds of such as are growing cold or indifferent to holy things. Wherever there is any laxity of life, any slight holding of precious truth; wherever there is anything of sin which our eye sees not, but which Your eye detects, be pleased to put it away. Fill the whole church with unity, with love, with life, and with power.[i]

Revival is a corporate event. It is a spiritually sovereign event. Man cannot drum up what only God can send down. With sails in the air, we pray for wind. May the coming re-gathering together of Christians of Coats Baptist Church attract the Spirit of Christ and empower us to truly worship.

How will we know revival has come? When we see these four fingerprints of the Spirit: Unity, Love, Life, and Power. I’ll be preaching a four-week series starting June 7 entitled, “The Spirit-filled Church.”

See you Sunday. Let’s go sailing!

[i] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Pastor In Prayer: A Collection of the Sunday Morning Prayers of Charles Spurgeon, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2019), 109.

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