God’s grace is a wonderful thing. It runs all the way through the Bible, from beginning to end. God’s blessing, his kindness, his goodness, his forgiveness are not things we could ever earn. We don’t have to, because God delights to give us these things free of charge. We don’t even get to chip in and pay for the drinks. God’s kindness is free. All we have to do is say yes, and receive it.
From time to time I put sermons I give up here. Not because I think they are particularly good, even less that they are model sermons. I can't even guarantee that I agree with everything I said then - I am (of course) learning all the time. But someone may be interested.
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Who do you think you are?
We all need to know our identity. Where have we come from? What are the decisive events in our past that define our story? Where are we going? What are our ambitions for the future?
We all have a story. Where we’ve come from. Where we’re going. What we hope for.
And Christians are part of a very particular story. What does it mean to be a Christian? What is our identity?
Titus chapter 2 will answer that for us. We’re going to look to the past first, then to the future, and then see who are in the present day.
You hear people say from time to time that the problem with the church is that it’s full of hypocrites.
It’s quite true, of course. None of us lives completely consistently with what we believe.
Which is what makes the jibe so painful. We want our friends to follow Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with him. We don’t want them to be put off because his church is full of less than perfect specimens. So it hurts when we are part of the problem.
And it’s tempting to make one of two false moves.
One of the buzzwords of modern society is tolerance. Whatever else we believe or do, we must tolerate other people. We mustn’t be intolerant.
In passing, I’d point out that ironically Britain is becoming more intolerant. There’s nothing more intolerant than a society that has tolerance as its mantra. But that’s an aside. This morning I want to think about the church.
Because this has all affected the church. The church in this country aims to be tolerant.
One of the most wonderful privileges of being a Christian is that God uses us to do his work.
If you were here last week, we looked at the opening few verses of Paul’s letter to Titus. There we saw that God is regularly called “God our Saviour” in this little letter. God is a rescuing God. His favourite work is rescuing people out of hell, for heaven, for all eternity.
Today we start a series of sermons looking together at the letter of Titus. It’s a short letter, written by Paul. Most of Paul’s letters were to churches. Titus was written to an individual, Titus. Although, as we’ll see, he very much expected the church to be eavesdropping.
I think it’s going to be really exciting to look at Titus. But it’s just possible that not everyone shares my excitement. So I thought we’d think today about why this is such a good way to spend the next few Sundays.
It might seem an odd to look at a letter written by Paul.
How do they keep going?
Christian parents in Iraq told that their children will be executed if they don’t renounce their faith. How do they keep living for Christ at that moment?
The lady in this area, who becomes a Christian. Goes home, and tells her husband. He didn’t mind her going to church, but he doesn’t want her taking it this seriously, he says. How does she keep going?
We’ve just baptized Arianne and Arthur.
Does it matter? Does it matter whether they grow up as Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ?
Does it matter whether any of us do that? Or is it just a lifestyle choice like many others, and it’s really neither here nor there?
We had a Bible reading from the end of Matthew chapter 9. Just to fill us in on a bit of background, we’ve just had two amazing chapters. Matthew wants to show us Jesus’ total authority. He could heal the sick, give sight to the blind, forgive our sins and even raise the dead.
What do you make of Jesus?
He’s a fascinating character.
Most people today don’t want to dismiss him too quickly. He’s a big figure in history. He’s impacted the world in more ways than you could list.
But at the same time, many people want to keep him at arm’s length. Jesus may be interesting. He did some amazing things. But let’s not get too involved!
Of course, it all depends who Jesus is.
Two certainties in life. Death and taxes.
So said Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America, in 1789. “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe actually said the same thing 60 years earlier.