For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. (Titus 2:11–12)Perhaps the biggest lesson is that I cannot control myself. Unless the Spirit of God is at work, I’ll go for thoughtless talk, anger at the people who cross me, prideful pursuits and too much chocolate. Of course this is just the short list.
The passage says the Holy Spirit does the teaching, but He also does the doing. I need to be yielded to Him, filled with Him, and under His direction. How does that happen?
A church elder gave us a good illustration. He held an empty glass upright in his hand and said when our lives are right with God, the Holy Spirit pours Himself in. But when we sin (he tipped over the glass), the Spirit cannot fill us or do His work in us. We are responsible for confessing our sin and God will forgive and cleanse us. He turned the glass upright again.
Seems simple, but there was more. He began flipping the glass from upright to tipped. He said, “You have to remember that your life will be a constant repetition of being upright and tipped over. The best you can do is learn how to stay upright — and filled — a bit longer each time.”
That reality is bad enough, but since then I’ve learned another truth that seems even more discouraging. The Lord has shown me that I am often clueless. I don’t always realize when I’ve tipped or even what I did to cause the tip.
For instance, yesterday started well, but sometime during the late afternoon I must have stopped listening. Selfish indulgence took over and self-discipline vanished. This time I was eating too much and watching too much television instead of doing whatever God may have wanted me to do had I been paying attention. I not only missed whatever tipped me into selfishness, I also wasted several hours.
The reading says that “righteous ambition precedes self-discipline.” That simply means that I need to want what God wants if I am going to deny worldly passions and behave in a Spirit-controlled way.
Another thing that God has taught me relates to that lesson. It showed up yesterday. The truth is that He does not always tell me His will up front. Sometimes I need to first deny my own wants and selfishness before He directs my steps. It would be easier if the choice was clear — I could say yes to Him and no to me. However, it is not always clear and I cannot use that as an excuse.
Faith is my option. Say no to what I want, whether it is more food, more books, more fabric, more television, more of my own way — and all the while trust that God will show me the righteous and godly options to self-indulgence. This is the big lesson for everyday living as a Christian. It means paying attention while I am tipped over, not feeling sorry for myself that I “did it again” but wanting that fresh start that God gives to all who ask.
It also means that even when I’m right-side-up I must continually pay attention to Him. To live is Christ means that as soon as I start considering myself, my needs, my wants, my this or that, then my glass has already tipped over.