As a boy, our summer vacations were highly anticipated and utterly predictable. A week or two after school let out, we made the beloved pilgrimage to Panama City Beach. Fulfilling all beach righteousness meant cheap rubber rafts, 2 x 55 (yes, 55mph) air conditioning, ice cream cones, sand burrs, driving up and down the strip looking for a hotel that was $1 cheaper than the place that seemed perfect, dinner at Captain Andersons, spoiled sand-dollars in the trunk and caricature artists.
Beachside caricature artists are an amazing mix of comic illustrator and psychoanalyst. A few minutes of conversation and careful observation, empowers these seaside Michelangelos to capture both the appearance and essence of their subject with uncanny clarity. While it is hard to describe what makes an effective illustration, we all know it when we see it. The Bible prizes powerful illustration. Apt words are like apples of gold in settings of silver. Two thousand years of Old Testament types and shadows carefully illustrate the person and work Christ as no artist can (or may). While the complicated lives of the Bible’s protagonists illustrate the power of the grace to redeem and restore.
Judah’s story is a poignant example. When we meet him, he is more like his uncle Esau than his father Jacob. He leaves the family, marries into Canaanite culture, fathers wicked sons, treats his daughter-in-law shamefully, follows his own lusts and blames his ancestry and his environment for all his troubles. He is the antithesis of his brother, Joseph. But the Lord has not forsaken Judah. When God works in Judah’s life, he is graciously transformed from a man who portrays the worst of humanity to one who resembles the very best human ever, the Lord Jesus Christ, even offering himself as a surety for his brother Benjamin. His transformation illustrates powerfully the power of God’s grace to do what circumstance and will-power can never effect.
Illustrations get our attention and draw us into story. An author’s work may be compelling, but unless the cover art catches our eye will may never give it a read. Only academic books that depend upon professorial compulsion can sport a cheerless cover. While it is proverbial that you can’t judge the book by its cover, you will probably never judge it at all unless its cover is attractive. In the same way, our lives are supposed to be salt and light to a tasteless and dark world. While it is not sufficient to follow St. Francis’ maxim “preach always and, if necessary, use words,” how you live your life determines whether anyone will listen to your sermon. The minister’s life is the life of his ministry.
Think about this question. If you were the only Christian a person had ever seen, what would they know about Christianity? And what is more, what would they think about it? In his letter to Titus, the Apostle Paul, pens one of the most powerful statements about the effects of God’s grace when it takes root in our lives.
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 2:1-14
The gospel does what Oprah, Dr. Phil and the whole pantheon of self-help gods can never do– liberate us from living as slaves to ourselves. But if this is true, the lives of Christians should give evidence of this. Paul instructs his hearers to let their lives illustrate the gospel. He addresses old and young, men and women, wives and mothers, and especially pastors and church leaders. But his crowning instruction and illustration is for servants – more specifically slaves – who serve masters who are both literally and figuratively Cretans. He tells these slaves to work, submit, serve, show respect, and live before the face of God and men in such a way that “in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”
Does your life adorn the gospel? Does it illustrate the story of God’s grace? If you were the only Christian a person had ever seen, what would they know about Christianity?” And what would they think about it? How do we adorn the teaching of God our Savior.
Join us this Sunday, June 9, as we examine Titus 2:9-10 and consider how our lives are to illustrate the power of grace to a graceless world. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.