Grace vs Religion | Titus 3 | Sermon

What’s the difference between Christianity and other religions? At the end of the day it comes down to grace. This is an absolutely fundamental thing to grasp about Christianity, and Titus 3 is all about grace.

In this sermon, instead of working our way through Titus chapter three a verse at a time, instead we look at how it contrasts religion and grace. The two things are not compatible and they lead to very different results. This is the same whether the religion in question is a secular religion, like the current cultural “woke” phenomenon, or whether it’s an actual religion. Sadly you find it in churches as well, where it is called Pharisaism.

Read the passage online via Bible Gateway.

If you like this, you might like other posts about Titus or other sermons.

The Proverbs 31 Woman: The Life of Wisdom

The very last chapter of Proverbs – Proverbs 31:10-31 – contains a description of the life of a woman which looks almost superhuman. I hear that some women, particularly in American churches, have come to dread the ‘Proverbs 31 woman’ sermon: “ladies, this is what your life should look like…” How could anyone’s life look so perfect? It’s beyond intimidating!

However, I do not believe that the ‘Proverbs 31 woman’ is actually describing any individual. The question in verse 10 is right: “A wife of noble character who can find?” – well the answer surely is, ‘no-one!’ No-one has a wife like this, because this is not describing a real woman.

No. The Proverbs 31 woman is a description of a perfect ‘wise’ life to encourage us to adopt a life of wisdom. Why do I say that? Let’s look into it.

Read moreThe Proverbs 31 Woman: The Life of Wisdom

The content of our teaching | Titus 2 | Sermon

Are sermons there for entertainment? Knowledge transfer? Moral instruction? Here we learn from Paul’s testimony about what Biblical teaching should be. A sermon on Titus chapter 2.

Apologies from the little interruption in the middle from my 3-year-old daughter.

I finished the sermon with the Valley of Vision prayer “Living for Jesus” but was interrupted so I didn’t include it in this video – but you can find it here and pray for yourself: https://banneroftruth.org/us/devotional/living-for-jesus/

This is the fourth part of a five-part series on Titus – see the rest of the series tagged under Titus.

Titus is one of the shorter books in the New Testament, written to a church pastor, and it concerns the pastoral role. However, it’s important for the whole church to listen to what it has to say. In particular, Titus has a lot to say about how the gospel drives our behaviour: it’s not the case that we change our behaviour to become acceptable to God. Rather, God’s grace leads to our behaviour changing. This is vital to understand!

Wisdom of Proverbs: Wealth and Poverty

Wisdom of Proverbs: Wealth and Poverty

One the best thing about Proverbs is its practical wisdom about everyday topics such as wealth and poverty. However, Proverbs is more than simply a self-help book – it is godly wisdom which seeks to put “the fear of the Lord” at the beginning. As we saw in the previous session on guidance, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Today we are going to look at how that works out with money / wealth and poverty.

This is a huge issue in our society: according to the Global Inequality website, the richest 1% of people own 44% of the world’s wealth. According to Oxfam, the wealth divide between the richest and the poorest in the world is steadily growing. Closer to home, in the UK about 20% of households are below average income. And yet, a lot of people chase after wealth – according to the Telegraph, 70% of UK adults (more than 32 million people) play the lottery on a regular basis – and 99% of winners play again, convinced they will win again.

Money and wealth play a huge role in our society. What does the the wisdom of Proverbs have to say about it?

Let me first just give a quick caveat: one of the problems with proverbial wisdom is that you can’t simply read off one verse and then ignore the other verses about wealth and poverty. Proverbs isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme! All of these things need to be taken into consideration together. With that in mind, here are seven short lessons about wealth from the wisdom of Proverbs.

Read moreWisdom of Proverbs: Wealth and Poverty

How to cope with Fear

There’s a lot of fear around at the moment due to the coronavirus. I think it’s almost worse at the moment now that we’re allowed out again but have to observe all the social distancing, mask wearing etc. I wanted to record a short video to talk about what the Bible says about fear and how to cope with it.

Here is a short reflection on Luke 12:4-8, where Jesus talks about what – or who – we should fear, and how that helps us to cope in these circumstances.

If you enjoyed this video, you might like to subscribe on YouTube. Or have a look at the teaching programme if you’re interested in learning the Christian faith.

Wisdom of Proverbs: Guidance

In this article we are going to be looking at the Wisdom of Proverbs, specifically about the topic of guidance.

Everyone is looking for guidance at the moment. In our area, a number of local venues host occasional ‘psychic nights’ where people try to contact a dead relative or obtain guidance from the spiritual world. Mediums, horoscopes, and palm readings are all making a come back. Even among my own friends and acquaintances, I’ve been surprised to discover how many people seem to buy into these things.

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about guidance, and we’re going to look at a few verses from Proverbs which help us. But first – if you’re not familiar with Proverbs, the most important thing to remember is what Proverbs calls wisdom:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

If you want to be wise, according to Proverbs, what you need first and foremost is “the fear of the Lord”: fear not in the sense of being scared, but rather an appropriate respect, reverence and awe. In other words, we need to listen to what God says first and foremost – this is God’s world, and we’ll do best when we live in his ways.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive in to what the Wisdom of Proverbs has to say about guidance.

Read moreWisdom of Proverbs: Guidance

Heidelberg vs New City Catechism

I have just uploaded the final part of the Heidelberg Catechism series. That means that all three parts – one, two and three – are now available! 52 sessions all done and dusted. (OK, you got me, there are actually 51 because I skipped one session about oaths which I thought was less relevant to the 21st century, but still). Over the last few months, as I’ve been recording this, I’ve found it a real joy to go through the catechism. I thought, seeing as I’ve already worked my way through the New City Catechism (you can see the course here), it might be worth doing a head to head comparison – the Heidelberg vs New City Catechism.

In summary, over the past few months I’ve enjoyed doing the Heidelberg videos more than I did the New City Catechism ones. Here are a few points where I prefer the Heidelberg to the New City Catechism.

It’s warmer

The Heidelberg is not simply an intellectual exercise – it’s designed to be deeply pastoral. That is, the catechism doesn’t just want you to know things, it wants you to believe things and act on them as well. That’s really important: if the gospel and the Bible doesn’t make a difference in our lives, then we haven’t really grasped its significance.

This really hit me the other day when I was preaching on Titus 1:1-4, these words jumped out at me: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness” – the truth that leads to godliness. That’s what the Heidelberg is concerned with, not simply ‘the truth’ as information but the truth as life-changing.

Now, of course the NCC is concerned with our lives as well as our doctrine. But I feel that the wording of the questions in the NCC is a bit more ‘academic’ – if you want the warmer, pastoral stuff you have to read the explanatory notes and the prayer (something which I do appreciate being in the NCC). But if you are just comparing the Q&As, I think the Heidelberg has a more pastoral and warmer tone. It tends to avoid theological jargon words and explain things within the Q&A more.

It’s more connected to the Bible

One of the things I really like about the Heidelberg compared with the New City Catechism is that the Heidelberg footnotes each part of the catechism with verses from the Bible. This is really helpful – if you want to learn where they are drawing the catechism from, you can look up the Bible verses and it helps you to put the pieces together. In fact, very often the language of a question or answer is taken directly from the Bible.

I think the Heidelberg does a great job at connecting the catechism with the pages of the Bible (which is why I think it goes so well with the mission of this site – to Understand the Bible better).

The NCC, by contrast, just has one Bible verse per Q&A. As a teacher, I’ve actually found it much easier to teach the Heidelberg because it gives you the Bible passages to go on.

It’s more detailed

One of the things which I appreciated about the Heidelberg when compared to the New City Catechism was the way it expanded on things. The New City Catechism Q&As are very dense – they use a few words to talk about a lot of complicated concepts. In order to get the best out of the New City Catechism you really need to read the explanatory notes written by various different authors. The problem with that is, different authors will take different aspects of the catechism to focus on – I found it could be a little uneven.

With the Heidelberg, there are no explanatory notes – everything is contained within the questions and answers – and it often goes into more detail about things that you want to know, case in point: talking about what the word ‘amen’ means at the very end of the catechism (finishing the Lord’s Prayer).

Conclusion

All in all, both the New City and the Heidelberg catechisms are good and will teach you the Christian faith. The New City definitely has some advantages – I like the app (although I found it didn’t remember where I was up to, which was a pain). It’s in modern language, and it includes a prayer. But, as a teacher, my preference is the Heidelberg – it’s just so much easier to teach. It’s not dense, you don’t have to unpack lots of theological words like ‘sanctification’. And the way it connects directly with Bible verses means you can easily link the two together.

You can watch or listen to all the Heidelberg and New City Catechism sessions in the teaching programme.