It is a long 15 minutes.
When the lights go dim, the chatter in the theater ceases and you can actually feel the excitement in the room. In a flash, there is stuff moving across the screen, and everyone settles low into their seats. But this is not the real show, not yet. These are just the previews, and the longer the previews run, the more the anticipation builds.
Previews can be fun, but they are not why you bought the ticket.
Perhaps you felt that uncanny anticipation this weekend, standing in line and then waiting in a dark theater for the movie event of the summer. For years, Nolan’s Batman trilogy slowly built anticipation, and it was all for this moment. This last movie was the climax of his story, and a multitude crowded theaters for its unveiling.
Expectation of this kind is a unique emotion.
Yet, while it is unique, it should not be foreign to the Christian. As a matter of fact, this feeling of anticipation should be a mark of our everyday lives.
In a letter to one of his pupils named Titus, Paul gives this young pastor advice about his assignment at a church in Crete. And right in the middle of that letter, we find these words:
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).
I have read these words a dozen times, but they struck me afresh today. Nestled in the very center of this truth is a statement that should mark the Christian life. Paul reminds Titus that, by God’s grace, we are “waiting for our blessed hope.”
It may seem funny to talk about the Christian life as a state of waiting. But that is precisely what we are doing. We are waiting for our blessed hope. But Paul does not leave us wondering about the identity of this blessed hope. He informs us that our hope is none other than “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Like a crowded movie theater waiting on the feature presentation, we are to live in the anticipation of a grand unveiling. In truth, the return of Christ is indeed the blessed hope of the Christian.
Our blessed hope, the appearing of our savior
Paul explains to Titus what it is that makes this appearing the blessed hope of the Christian. This hope is not so much about an event as it is a person “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.”
It was this Jesus who made right all our wrongs. It was this Jesus who fixed our brokenness and straightened our crookedness. He redeemed us from all lawlessness and is, right now, purifying for himself a people for his own possession.
So, when that day comes, and when Christ makes his glorious appearing, it will signal the fulfillment of that purification. It will signal the final moment in the grand plan of God’s story. It will be the crescendo of all existence, a paradise lost will be paradise restored. The previews will be over and the feature presentation will have begun.
Because the grace of God has appeared
Yet, the waiting that Paul describes in his letter is quite different from the way we usually think of waiting. This is not like sitting in a doctor’s office, or at a bus stop, or even the excited sitting in a movie theater. Here, we must part ways with our analogy of previews in a movie theater, because this waiting looks very different.
In the Christian life, we must wait actively.
Why? Because the grace of God has appeared. Christ in his full glory has yet to come, but the grace of God has already made itself known. According to Paul, it is this grace, ushered in by Christ at his first coming, which brought salvation. And it is this grace that is, right now, training us.
It is this active grace of God that trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live upright, godly lives. Furthermore, it tells us when we are to be actively living these lives. This training is so that we will live well “in the present age.”
Because the grace of God has appeared, we have salvation and all we need to live godly lives right now, while we eagerly await the feature presentation.