WHAT IT MEANS TO ABIDE IN CHRIST by Gary Wilkerson
God’s grace not only saves us but it also trains us.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11). What great news! Paul extols God’s glorious grace, which saves us. End of story, right? No, that’s hardly the end of the story. Paul quickly adds that this same grace “[trains] us to renounce ungodliness” (2:12).
Paul is describing here what it means to abide in Christ. It involves “[renouncing] ungodliness and worldly passions, and [living] self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (2:12). In other words, God’s grace provides not only eternal life but abundant life now, today. The part we play by abiding in Christ leads to a blessed, godly, peaceful life.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He instructs Titus boldly, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority” (2:15). Remember, Paul’s subject in this passage is grace. He is stating, in essence, “When grace is preached but it doesn’t train you to deny ungodliness, something is missing.” If we want to serve Jesus, we can’t avoid correction, whether it comes from God’s Word or from our respected friends. Yet we are also promised this about God’s corrective pruning: “Later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
His pruning is powerful—both in its pain and in its glorious fruit. Do you lack peace? Have you drifted from the Vine, your source of life, to draw from other sources? Ask God to take His pruning blade to your heart. He may cut, clear and take away things that don’t belong and when He is finished, the glorious tree in your yard may appear to be no more than a stump. But what grows from that stump is fruit you never could have imagined—and something you could not have produced on your own.
Why a blade in this parting teaching from Jesus? He explains, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). “Full” indicates thorough, complete, powerful. What good, true, beautiful parting words He gave to His disciples—and they are manna for us today. God’s cutting and pruning ends up producing joy—all from the hand of the expert gardener who loves us.