We had a wonderful time of study and friendship last Monday as Jill Homersley led us in our final study in Titus: THE GOOD LIFE.
What a blessing it has been! Her summary was very helpful. She encouraged us to read and study the notes over the summer to help get its truths ingrained in us so much that we are living it out in our daily lives more and more! (You can find these on GRACE PLACE at cbcgraceplace.wordpress.com)
At the end of the reflective time, Jill shared openly and honestly her struggle at times with not being able to wrap her mind around the concept of what God’s grace actually is, which is a recurring theme in this book. (Titus 2:11) Jill is not alone, because there was a hum of conversation about this afterwards, and I have received comments from others since. I have certainly experienced this as well, and will again I am sure.
This struggle is part of the enemy’s scheme. (1 Peter 5:8) We have to expect that there is and always will be a spiritual battle going on as we grow in Christ. The enemy is set to confuse and discourage us and get us off course. (Ephesians 6:12) But God is greater and we must hold each other up in prayer and encourage one another to stand firm in the faith (1 Peter 5:9)and remind each other that Christ is in us and interceding for us.(Hebrews 7:25) We look to Christ for strength and perseverance as we wait for our complete redemption when He returns.
A simple definition of God’s grace I have come to appreciate is from John Piper: “God’s grace is the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it.”
This is something which would be good to memorize, so that when we encounter those “fuzzy, confused moments,” we can say it to ourselves to help to clear the cobwebs away.
God’s grace expresses itself in our personal lives when we accept and believe that God saved us through Jesus-the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it. God’s grace continues to save us everyday in our daily lives-the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it- to conform and transform us into Christ’s image. What does this look like on the ground? Here are just a few! Love our enemies, be kind to difficult people, to bear with mundane parts of everyday living, to learn patience and trust that our God is working all the good, the bad, and the ugly-for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28), to know true comfort and hope in this broken world with its injustice, cruelty, greed, selfishness, and rebellion; to know there will be an end to it all when Christ returns. God’s grace is the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it– to enable us to trust God with our relationships, to cope with heartache and pain in family, church family and friendship dynamics. The thing is, we CAN’T DO ANY OF THIS IN OURSELVES. That is why we need a Saviour and HIS GRACE, the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it in being able to trust God more and more every day, in every way as we walk with Christ who is IN US.
Do you believe this? My prayer is that we will grasp WHO GOD IS more each day through His word….his heartbeat is in every sentence. His GRACE is part of His character which he pours over us every single moment.
Esther King, Bible study leader for this month’s study
Titus 3:12-15 12As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. 15Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
This is Paul’s last instruction to Titus. Here, Paul turns the focus of Titus and the Cretan church over to the positive and practical things they must do.
We’re reminded that Titus isn’t from Crete and his work there isn’t his forever-job! Paul wants Titus to ‘put in order what was left unfinished’ – establishing leadership in the Cretan church – but he’s also sending reinforcements. Artemas and/or Tychicus. Not only that but he wants Titus to join him in Nicopolis if possible. I love this hint of the importance of fellowship and it stacks up with what Paul’s been saying in his letter. It reminds me of the kind of relationships Titus is supposed to teach as described in Titus 2. We’re to build each other up and encourage each other in the faith.
On a similar note, Paul gives another specific instruction. Zenas the lawyer and Apollos were most likely traveling Christian missionaries – reliant on the generosity of local believers to meet their needs so they could focus on furthering the work of the gospel. The Cretan believers are to do everything they can to help them and see that they have everything they need. What better way for the Cretans to serve and help to further the faith of the elect, than to support Zenas and Apollos who are devoted to doing just that themselves?
I love the way the word everything is repeated. Paul is telling them to be wholehearted in their support and I sense Paul emphasising this wholeheartedness in verse 14 where he says, ‘Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good.’ You can’t really be devoted to something if you’re not wholehearted about it, can you?
With this verse we’ve come full circle back to the ‘big idea’ we started with and I want to pick out a few key points: 1. We need to learn to be devoted to doing good. As our video clip at the start showed, and as we’ll know in our own hearts, doing good doesn’t come naturally! But this is a skill we must learn if we’re going to be productive in our knowledge of Jesus. 2. Living a productive life in our knowledge of Jesus means being changed by the knowledge of what God has done for us. God’s grace transforms us, changing EVERYTHING – our perspective, heart, behaviour and actions. 3. When we’re wholeheartedly devoted to doing good it makes the gospel attractive! It blesses people and causes them to look to God and praise him. And that’s what it’s all about!
WE are reading this letter, praying that it will change and equip us to further the work of the gospel today. We’re part of this cycle and we need to be actively involved so it will continue in perpetuity until Christ comes again! Amen!
It’s important to remember that the key to all this is in Paul’s sign off at the end of his letter. After he’s sent his greetings he writes, ‘Grace be with you all.’ This is a great reminder to us all! We can’t live productive lives without first being saved and receiving God’s grace. And once we’re saved, we can’t go on that journey of learning to be devoted to doing good without God’s grace. Grace will train us to have the right motivations and purposes. And we’ll certainly be made aware of God’s grace time and again as we make mistakes and get back on track. So, it’s really important! ‘God’s grace be with us all!’
PRAYER:Heavenly Father, thank you for speaking to us through this passage. Thank you for the way it exhorts Christians to avoid or deal with anything that threatens to prevent us from glorifying you and therefore pointing others to you. Thank you for the way it prompts and instructs us to actively participate in your work in the world. Lord, if it weren’t for your gift of grace, it would be impossible for us to be made righteous in your sight or glorify you at all. And we can’t live a life that glorifies you without your Holy Spirit working in and through us. Please help us to live for you and because you first loved us, to truly love you with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our strength. AMEN
Esther King, Bible study leader for March’s Titus study
Esther King beautifully taught and led us in the last verses of Titus; 3:9-15 in our March Titus Bible study evening. She recapped from the previous studies how our motivation for what we do is different to the world’s and we have a different purpose in doing it; we should go into things looking for an outcome that glorifies God.
Today Esther encourages us in these next verses to imagine Titus and the Cretans are chomping at the bit to get started, motivation fully grasped and goal firmly in mind. Paul is so keen for them not to fall at the first hurdle! This is so relevant to us today in Corsham! Titus 3:9-11 9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
What is it that sucks us into controversies? What captures our interest? Why do we get so invested in them and het up about them? Does anything useful or ‘profitable for everyone’ come out of them? Or do they damage our relationships with others and take our focus off the things that really matter?
Is there anything to be gained in God’s eyes from a prestigious family line or from anything that gives us status in society? Is a sense of entitlement of this kind useful or profitable in any way? No! It is not because we’re entitled but because of God’s grace!
What is it we’re seeking when we argue and quarrel? If we’re being honest, it’s usually one of two things – firstly, to ‘beat’ the opposition; to be right and to prove the other person or view wrong. OR secondly, to justify something we want to have or do, even though deep down we know it is wrong. Is this useful or profitable? Now I’m NOT saying we should never enter into theological debate! If someone is confused or misled, we should speak up. BUT it comes back to motivation, purpose and desired outcome. When all I care about is winning the argument, I’m not likely to win the other person’s heart! But if I sincerely desire for them to know the truth that will set them free, I’m much more likely to get somewhere.
Will engaging with this issue be useful and profitable for everyone, including those looking on? And by this he means, will it help to further the faith of the elect and their knowledge of the truth which leads to godliness? If it won’t – avoid it!
2. DEAL WITH….
Paul acknowledges that Titus will encounter some difficult or ‘divisive’ people in his ministry. If we link back to the verse before, there are probably many because who are the divisive people? Most likely those involved in the controversies and quarrels! Suddenly the task of dealing with divisive people looks much bigger!
If Titus doesn’t take action, and show the leaders he’s establishing in Crete how to take action as well, the divisive person will undermine, poison and thwart what they’re trying to do in the name of God. Leaving them be is not an option because more people will be sucked into the situation and the damage will spread further. Perhaps you’ve seen something like this or experienced it in some way. Painful.
So, what should we do? Paul instructs Titus to warn the divisive person once and then a second time and after that to have nothing to do with them. The first warningis about helping them to realise what is happening and how undesirable the impact is. If they refuse to heed the warning – perhaps they feel offended at being challenged or maybe they’re in denial or stubbornly holding onto the issue – they receive asecond warning. This would need to be more authoritative and urgent, emphasising why they must stop what they’re doing! After all, let’s remember that Paul is saying the things highlighted in these verses are serious threats to Christians living useful and productive lives. Again, it comes back to motivation, purpose and desired outcome. The goal isn’t to punish, shame and expose the divisive person! From a place of love and care, not only for the divisive person but those they might influence, the goal is to get them back on track, re-aligned with God and his purposes! This makes all the difference doesn’t it?!
Next week we will see the last of Paul’s instruction to Titus and us the Church in this amazing letter.
Esther King, Bible study leader for this month’s study
Esther King beautifully taught and led us in the last verses of Titus; 3:9-15 this last Monday evening. She recapped from the previous studies how our motivation for what we do is different to the world’s and we have a different purpose in doing it; we should go into things looking for an outcome that glorifies God.
Bearing this in mind throughout this powerful letter, Esther asked us some reflective and important questions. Bring out your Bible and ponder:
Titus 1:1 As servants of God and followers of Jesus Christ ourselves, what are we doing to further the faith of God’s elect (those God has chosen) and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness?
Titus 2:3-5, 10b As sisters in Christ here in Corsham, are we building each other up, modelling reverent lives to each other, teaching what is good, urging each other to love our family members?
Can it be said of us that ‘in every way [we] make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’?
Titus 2:11-14 Are we allowing, inviting, desiring God’s grace to teach us and train us in righteousness?
What are we doing whilst we ‘wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’? Are we even particularly conscious on a day to day basis that we are waiting for Christ’s return?
Is it evident to others that we are part of ‘a people that are [God’s] very own, eager to do what is good’?
Titus 3:1-2 In light of this, what do our public lives look like? Are we ready to do whatever is good? What is our attitude towards others? Is it consistent across everyone we interact with?
Titus 3:3-8 Is our response to God’s incredible, undeserved, outrageous love, mercy and grace pouring out of us in praise, gratitude and an unquenchable desire to do good? Or have we become desensitised to the incredibleness of it? Do we need a Paul or Titus figure in our lives – a Vicky Kelly – to be stressing these things and helping us to grasp the enormity of our salvation yet again, ‘so that those who have trusted in God [that’s us] may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good’?
Could the way we live our lives be described as ‘excellent and profitable for everyone’?
Next week, we will finish with Esther’s teaching on the final verses of Titus;
We will imagine Titus and the Cretans are chomping at the bit to get started, motivation fully grasped and goal firmly in mind.
Paul is so keen for them not to fall at the first hurdle, Esther shares with us as to what his final instructions are and why it is relevant to us today in Corsham!
Esther King, Bible study leader for this month’s study
‘Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.’ Titus 3:14
This coming Monday, 29 April at 7:30 in Corsham Baptist Church Hall, we will be studying the closing part of Titus. This study might seem at first glance like a series of disjointed, last-minute messages, but in them Paul gives clear, practical instructions for living productive lives powered by grace. He tells us what to avoid if our lives are to be fruitful, how to deal with people who create situations that threaten our fruitfulness and in contrast, what we must devote ourselves to in order to be fruitful. He signs off with a reminder that the key to living in this way is GOD’S GRACE- may grace be with us all!
The bible study questions are available at the churches, and more conveniently on this website. If you need a study buddy, please see Anne Holmes or Kathy Larkman.
We hope to see you Monday night for study and fellowship as we grow together in Christ!
“In the middle of the ashes, the cross remains. A powerful reminder as we contemplate Good Friday. No matter the devastation we face, no matter what is burned up, the Cross of Christ is victorious and Sunday is on its way.” Sheila Walsh
These last few weeks, Victoria Kelly has been sharing with us the ingredients of our “salvation cake”…..
“So, we have our mixture of ingredients- first, our sinful selves. Second, the heart of God. Now we need to make the cake. But here is the beauty of it (because I am certainly not very good at making cakes), God provides the method, he turns the ingredients into something good!
3. The free gift – How salvation comes to us
So how are we saved? Loving kindness and mercy of God took Jesus to the cross to pay for our sins, but it is only ‘through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit’ that changes our being, that cleanses our hearts to make us new, to literally give us a new birth. It is the Holy Spirit who applies God’s saving mercy in Christ directly onto us in the event of Spiritual rebirth. It washes our hearts leaving us holy and pure, one that is fit for the indwelling of God in the form of the Holy Spirit. We are made right, we are made righteous.
The simple imagery of the water washing us like we would to get the dirt of our outward bodies, is the powerful imagery used to describe the washing of the very souls of us. This same notion is in John 3 where Jesus himself is explaining this transformation: Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’” (John 3:5-8)
The ‘rebirth’ is literally a new creation. It is an individual experience for us all. God hasn’t just repaired the brokenness, but has made us new! Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus.
And look how it was given to us: ‘he poured out generously.’ Has anyone ever had a really bad shower experience? I mean, I love my shower. To get 5/10mins of alone time in the shower really is luxury, but as it has to be a quick shower before I’m needed to solve a toddler dispute, wipe a bum or provide a much needed snack that can’t wait an extra minute or two, I really need the shower to be powerful. So have you ever got into a shower, excitedly anticipate the warm embrace of the water pouring over you only to turn on the dial, but instead of the powerful stream of water you’re expecting, you get a slow, lukewarm trickle which splatters parts of your body. You’re left more cold than if there was no water at all and you’re disappointed! And if you’re like me, you’re stressed as the ‘ticking time bomb’ of children will explode at any given minute! Now, I’m pleased to say that is the complete OPPOSITE experience that our loving Heavenly Father gives us. Praise God the renewal of the Holy Spirit is not like this. It doesn’t come in dribs and drabs, it is ‘poured out generously’. It is a full stream of renewal. So when the guilt or questions creep in, ‘Maybe that sin was just too big; I knew what I was doing when I committed this sin, but did it anyway; God can’t forgive that or renew that part of me,’ tell Satan to be quiet and get behind you as the promise of God is that we are a complete new creation. ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) That is our confidence! That is our assurance. So through the renewal and rebirth of the Holy Spirit, we become new people. New hearts. New loves. New desires. How awesome is that?”
What a poignant word as we are in the midst of holy week! The week that will forever change history, change us, and gives us a sure and certain hope! Thank you for rescuing us dear Lord through the renewal and rebirth of the Holy Spirit!
Last week in an excerpt from Victoria Kelly’s teaching on Titus 3:3-8, the first ingredient began the making of the “salvation cake”. These verses teach us how we conduct ourselves around humanity and within our culture. Our responsibility for the world: is to instruct others in the way of truth because we were once without God ourselves. The joy is to be found in the transformation of our lives through Jesus where we can share the good news with others and lay out the grounds of Christian doctrine, which is salvation through the trinity.
Last week -The first ingredient: 1. Facing the truth about ourselves – The need for salvation
The following is the second of three excerpts of Victoria’s talk where she teaches with the analogy of a “salvation cake” to better grasp Paul’s message to us in this letter to Titus. 2. The heart of God – Where salvation originates
“When the kindness and love of God our saviour appeared…” (Titus 3:4)
We know the appearing is referencing Jesus Christ. Douglas J.W. Milne explains it in a powerful image using 2 Timothy 1:10 as his guide: ‘When everything on the human plane was pitch-dark and hopeless, the God of love burst into the darkness of this world in the person of his earth-born son, in a definitive moment of divine epiphany.’ Jesus burst through the darkness of our sin and in his amazing love, came to save us. That is the heart of God.
Let’s bear in mind verse 4 comes directly after the hideousness of verse 3. God’s kindness was given to a world that was so undeserving. Whilst we were selfishly indulging thinking of no one else, the generosity of God was afforded to us. Kindness is the idea of being generous toward someone who cannot pay it back, he is lifting off the ‘fee’ that we owe, even though we are ungrateful and wicked. This kind of kindness that Paul refers to is a divine quality that completely contrasts the despicable behaviour and traits people display in verse 3. v5a “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy…”
1. Before reconciliation between us and God he had to deal with our disobedience, our rebellion. But he didn’t just HAVE mercy, he ACTED on it. Mercy led Jesus to the cross, which is where salvation flows. God couldn’t turn a blind eye to sin. To our sin of verse 3. It HAD to be punished. But God’s mercy and love and kindness dealt with it through Jesus at the cross, knowing we could never pay for it.
2. It is all God and Jesus. NOT OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Paul reminds of us this for three reasons: 1) Clears the grounds for declaring the true basis of salvation; 2) Restates that God justifies the ungodly; 3) Highlights/reminds the notion supposing Paul, Titus, Cretan Christians, the Corsham Christians occupy high moral ground from which to look down on others around them. No one is different from the worst Cretan.
These verses remind us that he reached out to us, way before we reached out to him. He saved because of his mercy, that is our true hope. We receive salvation completely undeserved – it is by grace alone.
That is the very heart of our God and is a complete contrast to our hearts of verse 3.
So, we have our mixture of ingredients, our sinful selves and the heart of God. Now we need to make the cake. But here is the beauty of it (because I am certainly not very good at making cakes),God provides the method, he turns the ingredients into something good!
Look for the method next week!
I hope and pray that you are enjoying and growing as we study “The Good Life” in Titus this school year!
Victoria Kelly taught us from Titus 3:3-8 last time. She explained: “Chapter 3 sees the shift from our duties in the church and the home, to how we conduct ourselves around humanity and within our culture. Our responsibility for the world: is to instruct others in the way of truth because we were once without God ourselves. Without a personal experience of salvation, we lack the right to instruct others, but because of the joy to be found in the transformation of our lives through Jesus, we can share the good news with others and lay out the grounds of Christian doctrine, which is salvation through the trinity.”
The following is the first of three excerpts of Victoria’s talk where she teaches with the analogy of a “salvation cake” to better grasp Paul’s message to us in this letter to Titus. Take time to read the first ingredient and reflect and share with someone today! Love, Kathy
The first ingredient: 1. Facing the truth about ourselves – The need for salvation “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)
Why do we need salvation? It is explained fully here in verse 3.
We were: Foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, envious, full of malice, hating each other. It paints an unsavoury picture of us as people before we had Christ.
This picture is the image of human life without grace. It describes our brokenness and rebellion in our lack of relationship with God.
So what does it mean to have a personal rebellion towards God?
To be foolish is referenced as someone who doesn’t live as though there is a God. Ignoring God. Ignorant of the true purpose of life….
… To be disobedient is to reject God’s rule and we want to run our own life. We repress the conscience within us, ignoring it and living the life we want….
…. We were ‘deceived and enslaved’. We allow ourselves to reason, excuse various passions. Without God we were at the beck and call of sinful desires. The enemy takes pleasure in this and blinds us and takes us captive. We were slaves to him, but also slaves to our own sin. Trapped by the habits that we choose. Enslaved, is such a powerful image. To be a slave to something is hard work, torturous, relentless, it has control of you. Whilst the sin itself may come easy, the consequence of sin is painful. The enemy is quick to prowl and bring us down, he will rejoice in doing this. At the same time we can’t disregard our own responsibility of sin and saying no to it.
…Our relationship with others was disruptive. Paul states we were full of ‘malice’ and ‘envy’. Wishing evil and resenting the good, fed by personal jealousies and ambitions and then ‘hate’. Having hostility towards each other and not wanting to do good to them.
What an ugly picture we have been. It is clear when we see a list like that that there was a fracture in our relationship with God, but also with everyone else too. Our choices have created patterns of personal behaviour that enslave us. No wonder we needed saving.
But how can we go from that life to another?
We can’t just exchange addiction for freedom on our own. It doesn’t work like that, especially as we were blind to needing to be changed in the first place. We need someone to save us. To rescue us. The answer is in verse 5: “he saved us”.
Look what we brought to the table in verse 3. We brought nothing good! We faced condemnation, judgement and death. But, “he saved us”.Romans 5:8 reminds us, “But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Because of the knowledge and understanding of God saving us from our own selves, it should give us the confidence to share this good news with others, as we come from a personal experience of salvation. It is not the end of the baking! The salvation cake is not made yet! Look for ingredient two next week!