I’ve met the other side of the ditch.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, and I’ve gotta say I’ve wandered in circles in a wilderness for a while all the while missing–overlooking–the feast-laden table within stepping-distance. The truth is, I’ve spent so much time fighting and disagreeing with anything and anyone that said grace wasn’t enough that I’ve missed discipleship.
Now don’t get me wrong; I live for passages like Titus 3:3-7. But I’m not going to skip over verses 1,2, 7 and 8. That being said, I think I just realized the first half of Titus 3 sums everything up really well:
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. -Titus 3:1-8
It seems so fitting now, the New King James gives this title to this passage: “Graces of the Heirs of Grace”
I’ve never had anything against doing things, I’ve always believed that good works are good! Grace taught me that I can’t earn salvation, good standing or the love of God by trying to be perfect, or by doing good things, but grace isn’t for me to do whatever I want. This is all recap for me, but a reality I’ve merely been coasting with for months; the thing is, the Israelites didn’t stay in the desert after they were delivered from Egypt and crossed the Red Sea.
Well okay, I guess they did–for forty years!
I didn’t learn this on my own, and I haven’t arrived yet. It took a visit from someone who I used to view as a fatherly figure to point me in the right direction.
Here’s the thing. Israel came out of Egypt, they crossed through the Red Sea, watched Pharaoh’s entire army drown in the ocean. Egypt represents sin, the Red Sea represents baptism – the Israelite’s journey is a picture of our journey from salvation onward. We were ‘once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ad hating one another,’ as Paul wrote to Titus; and then grace:
“But when the kindness and the love of god our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (verses 4-7)
Boom. But wait.
The Israelites became heirs of Canaan, the land God promised them. But they ended up spending 40 years wandering around the desert right outside of their inheritance. Why? Because grace is just the beginning of the story; Israel’s celebration of their final salvation and safety on the far banks of the red sea were still a desert road and a mountain of covenant away from where God wanted to take them. And if they had stayed there reveling in their new freedom, they all would’ve died. Let this sink in: the identity Jesus has for me is way bigger than grace.
I said the identity Jesus has for me is way bigger than grace!
And so is the identity He has for you. Because after salvation comes discipleship, and after discipleship comes stewardship and kingdom, and there couldn’t be kingdom till the other side of the desert because those grasshoppers couldn’t even see that the land was already theirs.
So, do I believe greasy grace is real now? Actually, no. But I believe coasting on an incomplete identity is what’s really behind it. The grace-side of the ditch is still an identity issue; we absolutely have to be grounded in an identity of grace, but we also have to know that on the road ahead there is 1) a covenant (mount Sinai) and 2) an inheritance (the promised land) that only a faithful people will enter into.
Jesus, thank-you for Your love and grace; I celebrate this as I come back again to the certain substance of You in this wilderness place. Lead me forward in Your ways and continue to show me my identity in You beyond the Red Sea. I want to be faithful to the work You began in me, that I wouldn’t miss out on all the plans you have for me.