Waiting For His Glorious Appearing
So today marks the last Sunday of 2021, and we are 5 days away from a new year! Christmas Day is past, and maybe you are looking forward to your plans for New Year’s Eve/Day! Maybe some of you still have Christmas plans (especially if you’re Ukrainian and you’re waiting for that borscht on January 7th)!
Personally, I’m looking forward to the new year itself! I’m waiting for January 24th (my birthday), just putting that out there—I love getting spoiled with presents. February? I’m always waiting for February—it holds the day that everyone LOVES (yes I am talking about the SuperBowl). I guess Valentine’s Day makes the cut as well… In May, I’m looking forward to meeting the life on the other side of the birth pains as Emily delivers our baby boy or baby girl! And before I forget, I’m also looking forward to not forgetting our anniversary this year, May 30th—I have a reminder on my phone so no, Jamie, you will not be the first person to greet my wife happy anniversary that day.
That some of the things I’m waiting for and looking forward to this coming year. So let me ask you this question here today: What are you looking forward to in 2022? What are you waiting for this coming year?
What Are You Waiting For?
And I really ask that question genuinely. I hope you’re thinking of your 2022 calendar—maybe you’ve got quite a bit on that already. Maybe you don’t have too many plans and take it “one day at a time, dear Jesus…” Regardless, we all still have plans that we look forward to and wait for. Whether it’s a small thing like a fleeting sports event, or a big thing like the birth of your first child.
But does it ever strike us that our plans always seem to revolve around this world here and now? In this day and age? Not that looking forward or waiting for our plans on this earth are necessarily bad, do we as Christians truly look forward to the return of Christ outside of Advent/Christmas season? Do we wait for the new heavens and the new earth that our eternal king will usher in in the coming age?
Do we read Rev. 21-22 against the backdrop of Genesis 1-2 and long to be in the physical presence of our Lord again, in the same way that Adam walked with God in the garden? How often do we think and look forward to this reality when we look at our calendars and plan for the coming days/weeks/months/years?
I would venture to guess that we don’t think about this enough (myself included) because we can’t fully grasp it as reality in the same way we do our physical plans for tomorrow. We tend to treat “kingdom come” like it’s this super far into the future event—like Shrek, where the happily ever after lies in the kingdom of Far Far Away… From our childhood, we’ve settled for naive images of heaven—like jumping around the clouds and playing harps for eternity—to our detriment.
So let’s see what the Word of God says about Christ’s return and get a taste of the glory that this future reality will bring. Turn with me to Titus 2.
Grace Has Appeared
“For the grace of God has appeared” (2:11a).
This is a letter that the Apostle Paul writes to Titus, one of his partners in ministry whom he left in the island of Crete (what one could call “sin city” in the 1st C). Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in every town in order to teach sound doctrine so that their opponents can see this doctrine “adorned” (2:10) through their lives, which is why Titus is filled with practical instructions for the church.
Because the grace of God has appeared. But what does that mean?
“bringing salvation for all people” (2:11b).
The appearance of God’s grace brought salvation for all [kinds or groups of] people (Galatians 3:28 helps us understand this “all people” language).
Titus 3:4-7 repeats this idea: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
By the saving work of the Trinity, God’s grace has appeared to us through Jesus Christ. God incarnate (in the flesh). We spent some time talking about this last week when Jordan expounded on the first coming of Christ through the book of Hebrews.
The event of Christmas is that Christ, who is supreme over angels, was made “for a little while lower than the angels” (2:7) by taking on human flesh in order to accomplish the purpose of Christmas, which was to die—in order that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
God’s grace has appeared (been made known visibly) to us through Christ’s first coming, in the flesh, to save us. This is why Peter writes in his letter, “we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
So what does the appearance of God’s grace in saving us through Christ do? Grace is training us.
Grace Is Training Us
“training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (2:12)
Note the progression here: Grace has appeared (past tense), and it is training us…in the present age (present tense). Throughout the NT, that word “training” is used in the same way as “disciplining” (1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:6-10; Revelation 3:19). Grace trains/disciplines us to renounce (say no to) ungodliness and worldly passions. Have you ever done that? As in proactively saying no to sin?
As I prepped this sermon this week, every temptation to ungodliness and worldly passion seemed to come my way. And one strong weapon I had against these attacks was reading this and saying NO (literally) to Satan’s schemes, which is only possible because the grace of God has appeared in Christ.
And this is really important to understand because Paul’s readers back then would’ve thought that the renouncing of sin was done through the law—which is why Paul says that now, because the grace of God has appeared in Christ, grace is training us to renounce sin. Listen to these words from Galatians 3, a letter where Paul preaches grace over law.
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed [the grace of God that has appeared]. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:23-26). By grace, through faith, in Christ alone (which are 3 key points of the Protestant Reformation), we are justified—which is how grace is training us to say no to sin.
Hand in hand with renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions like anger or greed or lust, Paul is clear that grace is training us to also proactively live self-controlled (clear-minded), upright (righteous), and godly lives today. I’ve heard so many people struggle with saying no to sin because they forget the other half of this equation. Putting off sin is always paired with putting on Christ. Repentance is turning from your sin and turning back to Christ. Grace is training us to renounce (say no to) ungodliness and worldly passions, AND to proactively say yes to living self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.
To what end, you might ask? Well, this language of “present age” hints that there is a coming age. So, while the appearance of God’s grace is training us in the present age, we are waiting for His glorious appearing.
Waiting For His Glorious Appearing
“Waiting for our blessed hope” (2:13a).
This language of waiting here carries an attitude of expectation or eagerness. Listen to these words from Romans 8, which we read earlier this morning: “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23).
Eagerly waiting for this blessed hope, as Jesus says, is being “like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Luke 12:36-37). But what is this blessed hope?
“The appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13b).
God’s grace has appeared visibly to mankind in Jesus Christ, and now it is training us as we wait for God’s glory to appear—who is Jesus Christ, “the radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:3). And in the same way, this glory will one day appear for the whole world to see (Revelation 1:7). In fact, when Jesus ascended in Acts 1, the angels told the apostles that “this Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
His glorious appearing will come visibly and physically, which is why we also look forward to our physical, bodily resurrection at his return—when we too will be glorified: “We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Do we ever think about this glorious reality, and look forward to this last trumpet?
Human example: I love me a good superhero movie, and I remember as a kid waiting for those movies to come out. And good superhero movies usually build up to an ending where the bad guy has the upper hand until the hero comes to save everyone—which usually comes with EPIC music in the background that makes you want to cheer (and even if you don’t cheer, it gives you this ecstatic feeling of excitement inside)!
This made me think: If I can eagerly wait for a fiction superhero movie to come out and anticipate the hero’s epic victory at the end, how could I not be eagerly waiting for the return of Jesus Christ, the true and victorious hero who “will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20) and reign forever as King?
We get a picture of this in 1 Corinthians 15: “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24-25).
And here’s the epic victory scene when he returns, and we as believers actually share in this glorious moment: “The Lord will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Now this is something worth waiting for—Christ’s return in his glory. We are being trained by God’s grace in this present age while we continue on waiting for his glorious appearing. Yet, we come to the end of this passage with an already/not yet reality.
An Already/Not Yet Reality
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.
Christ already accomplished this at the cross: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:3-4).
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people” (1 Peter 2:9-10a).
However, while Christ already accomplished this at the cross, this reality is not yet realized in its fullness—thus, we look forward to the coming age when “no longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:3-4). Christ’s redeemed and purified people who are zealous for good works in the present age “are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18) and will one day be that (fully redeemed and fully purified) and do that (zealous for good works eternally).
So we can think of it in this way: His first appearing in grace which trains us in the present age, guarantees his second appearing in glory, when he will usher in this coming age where sin is no more and a purified people of his own possession is zealous for good works. As Hebrews 9:28 says: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
So this is what we’ve seen so far. God’s grace has appeared to us in Christ, which is training us to say no to sin and live godly lives in the present age while waiting for his glorious appearing in the coming age, which is an already/not yet reality. Why is this important for us in the present age?
In The Present Age
Like I said earlier at the start, most (if not all) of our plans seem to just revolve around this day and age—as opposed to the coming age where we experience God’s glory in its fullness through Christ.
Think about your plans for Christmas. How much of it revolves around seeing your families as opposed to seeing Christ, which is really what Christmas is all about? I was telling the elders last week at the board meeting, that I’ve met “Christians” who have said “well if Christ returned today, that would be great and all—but I hope I can enjoy Mexico next year first, or experience the peak of my career first, and this and that first…”
Before Christ returns, I want to experience the best of both worlds—but do you see the problem with that? As Paul exhorts in Colossians, set your mind on things above not on things of this world. This passage (in Titus 2) is crucially important to us today because it opens our eyes and reminds us that the riches of God’s grace has APPEARED to us IN CHRIST so we won’t be distracted by the riches of this world.
Thus, we can be confident that Christ will appear in glory, and we will see it with our own eyes. In turn, this confidence in waiting for His glorious appearing will transcend all the things that we are waiting for in this life.
Now, I am not saying that we need to disregard this world since we look forward to a “renewed” heavens and earth where Christ will be “restoring all things” (Acts 3:21), but we just need to realize that the best is yet to come. One commentator said that “as good as life in this world can be at times [which is why looking forward to our exciting plans this year is not a bad thing], it can never compare to the ultimate liberation from sin and the unhindered fellowship with Christ that His return will bring” (Cited from the ESV Study Bible, “Last Things,” p.2533).
Yet, as we wait for the appearing of God’s glory in Christ’s return, Gods grace trains us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (2:12). So what does this look like for us, in the present age, today?
I have two suggestions for us today from the text. The first one comes right out of verse 12, which is the word “training.” God’s grace is training us to say no to sin and live righteously.
How do you do this? “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Saying no to Satan is possible because the grace of God has appeared in Christ, who rose victorious over Satan!
Like I mentioned earlier, this grace is “disciplining” us. Psalm 119:11 says that “your word I have hid in my heart so that I might not sin against you.” When we give into sin, how “disciplined” have we been in God’s Word? It just might be that we are saying yes to sin because we keep saying no to God’s Word—let’s turn that around.
The more we say no to Satan and live righteously, the easier it gets to desire God over the flesh. And suddenly, the more we get used to that, the more we love righteousness and saying “Yes, I love Jesus more” (which is why we’re going to end by singing My Jesus, I Love Thee today). I have a quote on my letter board upstairs that I read from an article, which has helped encourage me to realize the beauty of Christ more and more: “Purity is delicious, but it’s an acquired taste.”
The second application I would suggest today is found in verse 13, which has to do with “waiting.” Grace is training us in light of what we’re waiting for. Training and waiting are so tightly connected because training in the present age is motivated by his future appearing.
Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Because Jesus is coming back, we are all the more eager to say no to sin and live godly lives, knowing that we will give an account on that glorious day that we’ve been waiting for. So we make it our aim to please him, whether in this life or the next! And when we see him, the fulfillment of all our desires are met there, which is superior to any of our fleshly desires.
What are you waiting for today? Is it taking away from what we’re truly waiting for? As we make plans this coming year, let’s remember to eagerly wait for his glorious appearing above all the plans that we are looking forward to here and now.
“I Am Making All Things New”
So I hope that you’re not just looking forward to your plans for New Year’s Eve/Day, or your plans in the new year of 2022. Because all of that is temporary. As the preacher of Ecclesiastes famously says, everything is breath. Everything in this world is Vapor. All is meaningless. The heavens and earth will pass away, but His word will still remain. Christ will remain, and one day we will see Him in the fullness of His glory (like the song we sang earlier, one day…His glories will shine) when he comes to restores all things (Acts 3:21).
We see a glimpse into this through John’s vision in Revelation 21:5 about the new heavens and new earth: “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Now that, is something to look forward to. Waiting for the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ! As one commentator said beautifully, “The gospel is good news for the last day. But it is also good news for the next day” (Tim Chester, Titus For You, p79). May we all, with eagerness, be waiting for His glorious appearing today.
Let’s pray. Father, may your name be honoured as holy indeed. As we beheld your glory through your Word this morning, we pray with a resounding amen that your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Thank you for your never-ending mercy and abounding grace that has appeared in Christ Jesus, and that through faith in Him alone and His finished work on the cross we are enabled to start renouncing ungodliness—as we are eagerly waiting for your glorious appearing in Christ (and help us to do so). Help us to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Help us to set our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For [we] have died [to this world], and [our lives are] hidden with Christ in God. [Thank you that we can wait for this blessed hope], when Christ who is [our] life appears, then [we] also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). Even so, come Lord Jesus.