Believing stories

It’s hot, and the three men are tired. Two of them are men, anyway. The third is much younger, yet he has seen a harder time than many would in their lifetime. He has just finished telling his story. The others are incredulous. Surely this tale cannot be real.


[Before I go any further, it’s worth mentioning that this post follows this one from a few days ago. I’ve been thinking about stories and their significance recently, and some of those reflections are making their way into blog posts. These first two are a tad more abstract. The next one, maybe two, will hopefully bring it back to the real world. Basically the point of the first post was that stories are powerful and have real impact on those who engage with them. Stories are an essential tool of making sense of information. Because of this, it helps us make sense of events, history, and our own experiences and identity. The power of stories can be anything from the enthralling tales in Tolkien’s fantasy to didactic myths and fables to singing a story in song. Even a simple metaphor with descriptive language could be seen as use of story to illuminate a more abstract idea (“Reaching new heights like a bird in a spaceship”). Now you’re up to speed – read on!]

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For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
(Titus 2:11-14 ESV)

I was on a panel the other day, and was asked what the difference between justification and sanctification is. This is what I always jump to. It’s such a great passage. It means that if we are committed to truth and godliness (that’s what Titus 1 is getting at), we need to turn to God for our growth. It is God’s grace that justifies us, and God’s grace that sanctifies us, training us to renounce ungodliness, and instead move towards godly and upright lives.

Here are 2 things I love;

  • God’s love trains us. A personal trainer doesn’t just make you strong. Soccer training isn’t a passive thing. Getting trained to do things is not just being injected with the ability. We have to work at it. So it is God’s grace that trains us; we are shown how, and given strength to do it, but we have to also commit to it. Sanctification is not a cruise.
  • It frames our godliness firmly in the gospel. The very core of the gospel of grace is Jesus’ death to redeem us. Paul doesn’t separate our training in godliness from the gospel. They are tightly bound. Sanctification is not optional, but it is entirely about a focus on Christ crucified, risen and returning.

I’m challenged by Titus to commit to godliness. This is a commitment not to self-help, but a commitment to God and to the truth of the gospel. A commitment to the word of the cross, for that is the power of God.