For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting 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 iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14 RSV)
Salvation is, firstly, an altered allegiance, “renouncing irreligion (or godlessness) and worldly passions, and then, lawful life, “soberly, uprightly and godly” in this present world.
Let us look at that more closely. Salvation manifests itself first by an altered
allegiance. Have you discovered that the chain with which the devil binds men to do his will, even though they are not aware of it, is the desire for the approval of their fellows? This is the great power by which the devil holds his slaves together. This desire to please men, our crowd, our gang, our social set, is an implacable master.
The natural man, the man without Jesus Christ, inevitably lives his life on this level. His strongest motive is a desire to please whoever around him
is important to him. This desire is back of all social acts at all levels of life. It isimpossible to escape it. We cannot break it ourselves. The most we can do is to narrow the circle. The outlaw breaks loose from society but is still intent on finding the approval of the small gang with which he runs.
The philosopher rises above what he regards as the common herd but is still dependent upon the approval of that small group of “real thinkers” that agree with him. But when a man looks at Jesus Christ and desires Him and loves Him, he is suddenly overwhelmed with a powerful feeling that only God matters. When he realizes this great fact, he has discovered the ultimate truth behind all the machinery of the universe.
As he gives himself to that fact, it works its way through his heart and life and manifests itself in every part of his being. He becomes possessed of a mighty desire to please God. When he does, he discovers that very soon he is utterly set free from slavery to others’ opinions. So Paul, writing to the Romans, can say, “Be not conformed to this world” (do not let the world around you squeeze you into its mould), “but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), in Jesus Christ. It is this that makes true Christians invincible.
This is what happens when a man believes in Jesus Christ. There is a
breaking away from the slavery of the opinions of others, and only God matters. There is a renouncing of godlessness with its worldly attitudes and
This is what salvation is. It is not “pie in the sky by and by.” It is a transformed heart and a transformed life right now, an
altered allegiance, a delivered life, the breaking of the bonds of slavery that bind us to this terrible system of pleasing men, and brings us into the full glory and liberty of a life that is well pleasing to God.
THIS IS WHAT CHRISTMAS MEANS.
This is “the appearing,” the reason behind it. Christ did not come simply
to give us a beautiful manger scene to look at. He did not come to give us a
lovely pageant, a religious charade, to work out once a year. He came to be a Saviour. He came to give salvation, to begin right where you are, in your
place of need, and to accept you as you are, and to change you. And that
change is always manifest in this twofold way: An altered allegiance, and,
thus, the beginning of a lawful life.