“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
~Titus 2:11-13 (NRSV).
The subject is self-control; the circumspect way of the Lord. And yet, it is a perennial struggle for most people—the will to sacrifice the pleasure arriving (redeemable) now for the blessings to come.
In the above passage there are a few key terms to ponder. These are: training us; to renounce; while we wait.
Self-control is not so much an acquired thing as it’s a trained thing. First, we’re motivated to be self-controlled because that’s the Father’s will for us and the Holy Spirit is empowering us to know and achieve it.
The first thing in training is motivation—why do this? There has to be a driving, practical reason why. It must attach personal meaning.
The second thing in training is practice—much practise of the practice makes us better and better. As Paul stipulates, we’re to be soldiers, athletes, farmers—with keen hands to our work, accountable and focused (2 Timothy 2:4-7). We’re in this life—now the saved existence—to train for what is coming.
The third thing in training is performance—self-control toward piety is our goal. We know when the training’s paying off because the world’s power over us is diminishing.
Two key things are in sight for us to reject outright as far as we’re possibly aware, which is the role of the Holy Spirit within—to establish awareness and power us through the rejection of these things.
Impiety – the mind is cast backward to Paul’s description of ungodliness in Romans 1:18-32. Active sinfulness is repudiated. “No one sleeps their way to heaven.”
Worldly Passions – these are even more actively against self-control in the realm of this world. Materialism, excess consumption, addiction, and inordinate sexual desire... these are to be reined in, accused, and then vanquished through any power at our means. God always gives us a way to repudiate these things.
While We Wait
What we see and have here, in this life, is not all there is. But we easily forget this coming Revelation. And yet, Jesus came two millennia ago to redeem us from the power of sin:
“He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.”
~Titus 2:14 (NRSV).
From the negative to the positive we now come. We cannot have total reign over our desires, utilising self-control, when all is purely negative. There must be a positive power that flushes all sense of temptation clear away. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. We ask God to do it and in ruthless honesty we agree to be held to close account.
This new desire we’re to put on is the zealousness for good deeds; these are extrinsically directed but they’re intrinsically motivated. There isn’t an account for what we’re to get. There’s an account for what we’re to give. If we’re to receive it’s an accidental receipt, one serendipitously acquired, for there’s no better way to get things than via blessed receipt.
We actively give and passively receive. This is what it means to live a willed sacrifice.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: William Hendriksen, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy and Titus (Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth, 1955), pp. 370-77.