“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!
I’ve always been one of those odd people that would turn more naturally to the Old Testament than to the new. I don’t know whether it was my upbringing in the Church of Scotland, or just an inbuilt inclination. Although I have always been a Christian, I was very much a rules-based Christian in my younger years. I knew Jesus, and I knew he had died for me, but I definitely wanted to tick all the boxes, and probably not always for the right reasons. I was much more comfortable talking about God the Father than Christ the Saviour.
This has changed since I came to Corsham Baptist almost ten years ago, and I am so glad for it. The focus has always been on Jesus in the teaching, and in the friendships God has blessed me with. The songs that I love most are about Jesus, and I have learned so much from studying Titus in the women’s bible study evenings.
But God always wants to take us a step further and I was challenged last week by a sermon which reminded me that the whole of the Bible is about Jesus. Every book, whether Old or New Testament, points to him. It was something that I had not fully thought through before. I had been speaking with a friend about the book of Job the night before, trying to help her understand it, and I realised that not once had I mentioned Jesus. It prompted me to apologise to her, and to share the sermon. Job was of course the first signpost of Scripture to the cross.
I’m so grateful for the way that God walks with us on our journey of faith. I’ve often found it hard that there was no ‘blinding light’ moment of conversion in my life. I was brought up in a good church, I remember asking Jesus into my heart as a small child, and the journey has gone on from there. I have so much to be grateful for yet sometimes I find it hard to distinguish between my ‘old’ life and the ‘new’. Yet there have definitely been so many seasons for me, and I’m excited that this one is leading in the right direction – straight to Jesus.
So, if you’re talking about the Bible with me and I don’t mention Jesus, please prompt me! I don’t want to know all the facts and yet forget the real reason we’re here – to be in, and grow in relationship with him.
‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth… How my heart yearns within me.’ Job 19:25-27
Excerpt from notes on study: Titus 2:15-3:2 by Sharon Durant
If we believe that Jesus has lived the Good Life, the BEST life in fact, and then sacrificed himself for us and poured out grace upon us… if we believe that grace is training us and making us more holy like Jesus… if we believe that this life is not all there is, that heaven is where we’re going and that holy character lasts for eternity…
We will be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit. To throw off the things that distract us. To bite back a cutting remark that is just slanderous. Because my life is not lived for my glory, it’s lived for God’s, and to tell people about his grace through the way I live my life.
Don’t make light of sin. The only thing that separates us from those outside the Church is God’s grace. And God’s grace came to us not because we were nice, or we graduated top of the class, or earned a particularly large bonus, No God’s grace came to us by God’s gift. Through the humility of Jesus Christ. So we show humility not just to our friends, or people in the church, but to all.
How can we live Christ-life without Christ’s life inside of us? How can we live a life of grace without God’s grace in us?
So we don’t make light of sin. These 6 commands(Titus 3:1-2) we’ve looked at tonight set the standard of holiness high. But remember we come to the Cross, where Jesus poured out grace upon us, and we receive grace upon grace (James 4:6). We come to Christ who gladly pours out his spirit in our hearts (Luke 11:13, Rom 5:5). Grace trains us every day.
(For entirety of notes, click on 2018-2019 Bible Study-Titus: The Good Life, 5 Notes by Sharon Durant)
Excerpts from Sharon Durant Titus 3 Notes
…The world is watching us Christians. And we are presenting the Gospel to them. Christian behaviour is important for sharing the Good News about Jesus. The way Christians behave is linked to the impact the Gospel makes in the world around.
If I am claiming to be a Christian, but my life is exactly the same as people who do not, then the watching world says, “There’s nothing to this Christianity lark! There’s no power in the Gospel! What’s the difference? Why follow Christ?”
And yes, since I am a sinner, I am the same as my friends who are not Christians.
BUT I believe that God’s grace has saved me. And that God’s grace is training me to be like Jesus, not like my human great-great-great-great-grandfather Adam.
And my behaviour is therefore different. I’m in a different family now.
That was true in Crete, for people living in a hostile Roman, pagan world, and it’s true now for us living in a hostile, British, secular world. Those who have trusted in God devote themselves to doing good, just as we have been taught.
It’s all over the letter in Titus (2:5, 2:8, 2:10, 2:14…)
and it should be all over our lives, too…
…Because of the grace given to us, we can pour it out onto others. We can be trained by the Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus. Everyday we can read the Bible find out more about the Lord Jesus and how he has called us to die to ourselves, but to find our new life in Him.
These 6 things from Titus 3:1-2, glorify God because they show God’s character to the world. They are counter-cultural, unexpected ways to live — which are the ways that Jesus lived.
How can my good life make the Gospel attractive and glorify God?
– when it reflects God’s character to the watching world
– when it points to how great God is, not how great I am…
(To read the entirety of these notes, click under the heading of 2018-2019 Bible Study-Titus: The Good Life, 5)
“Christians may be disregarded as naive or weird… but we are not to be dismissed because we are bad, intolerant, disrespectful or rebellious.”
It’s ok for people to think we are weird. What we believe is foolish to them (1 Cor 1:18)! If someone who is not a Christian thinks you are weird for your beliefs, this probably means you are doing something right!!!If someone who is not a Christian thinks you are weird for being humble, for showing forgiveness, for doing good even when your boss wasn’t looking, or speaking encouragingly about your friend when she wasn’t there… If people think you’re weird, you are probably doing something right!! We are supposed to be salt and light in the world. The world is tasteless and dark, so salt and light are going to seem a little out of place, a little uncomfortable!
It’s OK to be persecuted for being naive and weird…. But not OK to tear down the Gospel by your behaviour. To bring the Gospel into disrepute. Not OK to suggest by how you live that God supports gossip. Or bitching. Or unkindness. Or pride.
We are not to be bad, intolerant, disrespectful or rebellious. We are to be ready to do good. Eager to do good!
Because of the grace given to us, we can pour it out onto others. We can be trained by the Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus. Everyday we can read the Bible find out more about the Lord Jesus and how he has called us to die to ourselves, but to find our new life in Him.
I have been so blessed by this year’s Titus Bible study! This month’s study is no different as we are reminded of God’s saving and training grace as the impetus for a changed behaviour in living the good life.
We will be getting together as women who want to know God and each other better; to love God and each other more!
WHERE: Corsham Baptist Church Hall
WHEN: Monday, 25 February, 2019
We have such a great time of sharing of refreshments, friendship, and studying God’s word! I hope you will join us!
I don’t know if you ever wondered why the Old Testament plot on the life of God’s chosen people Israel reads like “paradise- evil-destruction/captivity- redemption” almost on a continuous loop. There is creation, the flood, then Abraham. Joseph’s family ends up in Egypt, followed by slavery then release from captivity and entry into the Promised Land. You then have the Kings, the divide of the Kingdom, exile (Daniel’s time) then release from captivity. It’s no wonder the hope that Israel had was Jesus would be an earthly king releasing them from the Roman rule.
Yet the message of Jesus is Salvation by grace. This grace is the undeserved love of God. Grace brings salvation and teaches, enables us to say “No to ungodliness” (Titus 2:11). I am reminded of the three parables in Luke 15, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. In each of these parables, the search for the one who is lost does not stop until they are found. And this is always followed by rejoicing. This is how much our Father God loves us. Just like a child, I am keen to say, “ I know better. . I can do my own thing”. I am keen to rebel. However, when I grasp how much God loves me, that He loves me enough to have died for me; that stops me in my tracks and I am beckoned to obedience because of His love. God’s grace speaks love which we all thirst for. If I trust His love, I am happy to stay home instead of wandering away from his arms.
However, in our fallen world which does not know unconditional love, the reality of the truth that “love” underpins that grace cannot be known. How can I possibly understand a love that I do not know, cannot see or have not experienced? The grace of God brought salvation through the cross and more. Jesus said:
I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit who reveals all things and helps us to understand this unfathomable truth. Through the power of the Holy Spirit I can obey God, obey His commandments and love Him who first loved me. God’s gift of salvation has rebirthed us to be God’s offspring. His children. We can confidently say: “ in him we live and move and have our being…We are his offspring.”(Acts 17:28)