The goal of grace

In all of the social media/blogging buzz on the grace of God, it is troubling to me that the second coming of Jesus has been largely absent from the discussion. According to Paul, anticipating Jesus' return was the goal of grace. Jesus' return will bring an end to all unrighteousness, therefore true grace motivates sober, self-controlled living before that day. And because His return is the culmination of all of our hope, grace also teaches us to eagerly anticipate that day:

“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)

To be presently forgiven and loved by God is joy indeed, but the true fruit of our salvation is an ever-increasing preoccupation with the glory of Jesus and a longing to dwell with Him on the earth again. Our friendship with Jesus begins with the glorious introduction of the cross and His "finished work" but grows through relational knowledge. To preach a gospel that subtly marginalizes or neglects Jesus' current absence and future return is no gospel at all because the gospel at its core is relational and has its culmination on a future day.

Is it not a complete contradiction to say that Jesus is truly our obsession and yet be perfectly content with Him remaining in heaven and knowing very little about His life? When we neglect the goal of grace in our presentation of it, we do not preach the true gospel of grace. A wife would never say to her husband who has been away on a business trip: "Honey, I'm doing great with the belongings of yours that you gave me, and you don't need to come home." It would not take a psychologist to discern the wife's lack of mourning, her self-deceptive contentment with the present circumstances, and her lack of anticipation for her husband's return. Sadly, this is reminiscent of the gospel message many are deluding themselves with today.

We must evaluate a message by the fruit it produces in the lives of its hearers (Matthew 7:15-20). The gift of God's grace should not leave us with a dull heart, but it should not leave us in a state of "drunken glory". Our future hope is grounded in relationship, and His return to judge unrighteousness is certain. Does the gospel of grace provoke you to live in both sobriety and joyful anticipation? It did for Paul and the early church, and it should for us too.

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