You can now watch the four talks John Stevens gave at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference this year on the book of Titus. My summary notes of these talks can be found HERE.
My notes from John Stevens’ final teaching session on Titus at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference 2015.
Our Challenge: Modelling a Great Example
Paul told Titus to grow the church by making disciples. This meant teaching the gospel because teaching the gospel leads to transformed lives of godliness and devotion to good works that commends the gospel to the world.
But before we make disciples we need to be made disciples.
Titus has a double focus for us. We are like Titus but also those who will be addressed by Titus (e.g. elders or older women).
Titus contains 5 challenges for us about being made disciples.
1. Are you rejoicing in the gospel?
The Gospel. All that God has done in Christ for us. Does this make your heart sing?
We find a summary of the gospel in Titus 3:5: He saved us.
He. It is all entirely of God. God has done it all.
Saved. It is a rescue mission from the judgment to come when God’s wrath is poured out.
Us. Salvation is personal. This is amazing because of who we are.
Only if we are personally gripped by the gospel will we teach the gospel.
2. Are you being taught by the gospel?
It is easy to teach others the gospel without being taught by the gospel ourselves so that we are transformed. We need to be taught by grace to say “no” to ungodliness.
You have to be saying no. No is a radical renunciation and denial. It is an active word of deep hostility against sin and its desires.
Is grace making you merciful? We need to be taught by grace to do good because God has done good to us.
3. Are you trusting the gospel for your ministry?
Are you sure the gospel is enough for the task you have been given? That teaching the gospel is enough.
Are you teaching the gospel is its full depth?
Are you holding firm to the gospel? Stand firm for the truth or you will wander. Let’s not be those who under pressure abandon the gospel.
4. Are you hoping for the future because of the gospel?
Our hope must shape how we live in the present.
We are waiting for a glorious and eternal future. Our hope is the personal appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Are we living for that eternal hope or are we wanting it all now?
5. Are you confident in the great God of the gospel?
We face a massive challenge in our personal life, in our church ministry, and in terms of the need of a lost nation and world.
It is easy to feel daunted. We need to remember that we have a great God.
Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is only in Him. We are weak but our God is great.
The task we have is to teach the gospel to make disciples. But we can only make disciples if we are made disciples.
My notes from John Stevens’ teaching on Titus 3 at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference 2015.
Our Hope: Trusting God’s Grace
Paul encourages Titus to teach the gospel and as the gospel is taught and people become godly it will lead them to doing good.
The call to Christians as disciples is to do good. People must learn to devote themselves to doing good.
Ministry is about teaching the gospel so people are taught to say “no” to ungodliness and be devoted to doing good.
1. What does it mean to be devoted to doing good?
Answer – doing good is using our resources of time and money to benefit others and meet their needs.
It is a deliberately generalised expression, but is about actions and activities not attitudes.
It is doing good in the ordinary roles of our everyday lives. It doesn’t require organised projects.
2. Who should we do good to?
Answer – everyone.
Including our enemies and those who are hostile to us. The focus here in Titus 3 is on those outside of the church.
False teaching was leading people to withdraw from the world to be godly. Paul says the opposite.
The gospel in the end leads you to do good to everyone. The goal of doing good is to commend the gospel to those who are unbelievers.
We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works.
Good works aren’t gospel ministry but they are the fruit and should be the inevitable fruit of gospel ministry.
3. Why should we do good to everyone?
Answer – because of what God has done for us.
Two reasons why we might not do good: i) The people we are doing good to don’t deserve it; ii) it won’t make any difference.
The gospel overcomes both of these reasons. The gospel motivates us to do good.
The gospel reminds us what we were. You were once like the people you are called to do good for.
The gospel reminds us what God has done for us. He is a God of mercy who does not treat us as we deserve.
The gospel reminds us how God has utterly transformed us. Remember how we’ve been changed and transformed. God can do that for others.
The gospel reminds us what God has in store for us.
People motivated by the gospel to doing good where God has put them may lead to the world seeing the different the gospel makes and give opportunities to speak of the hope we have.
Good works makes the gospel attractive.
My notes from John Stevens’ teaching on Titus 2 at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference 2015.
Our Goal – Teaching Godly Living
We make disciples in a particular context. The context of our fallen humanity, and the context of our particular culture.
Paul is writing to Titus to urge him to make disciples by teaching the gospel so lives are transformed and these transformed lives commend the gospel to the unbelieving world and they would hear of Jesus the Saviour of the world.
One of the things the gospel does is produce godly people. The production of godly lives is an emphasis that needs to be recovered. Godliness is the essence of Christian life and the goal of our Christian ministry.
We need to teach the gospel so that it will produce godliness.
1. Who should we teach?
Answer is quite simply – everyone!
Titus is to make sure all of the groups (older men, older women, younger men, younger women, slaves) are taught the gospel.
Every single person is to be taught the gospel so they are furthered in their faith.
2. What should we teach?
Answer is – godliness!
Godliness is the summary of what teaching the gospel will produce.
Godliness is reverent fear for God that produces devoted serve to Him. To be godly is to be reverent and to be devoted to God’s service. This leads to a life of self control not dominated by passions and desires of the world.
Godliness is practiced in ordinary everyday lives – in the home and at work.
Are we equipping people for godliness in their everyday lives?
3. How do we teach?
Answer is – we don’t teach godliness directly.
We teach godliness by teaching the gospel and the gospel teaches people to be godly.
There are competing alternatives:
a) Legalism: teaching rules and demand human effort.
b) Antinomianism: teaching nothing about how to live.
c) Expulsivism: gain better passions and desires.
There is truth in each of them but not the complete picture.
Teach the grace of God in fullness so people are taught to say to no to ungodliness. That’s how we make disciples. Teach that to everyone so live godly lives at home or at work.
My notes from John Stevens’ teaching on Titus 1 at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference 2015.
Our Task – Furthering People’s Faith
We are bombarded with ideas about what we could or should do in our ministries.
Our task and ministry is to grow the church by making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our task is to grow gospel-driven churches by planting new churches and growing and revitalising existing churches.
How are we to do that?
In Titus, Paul is writing to his ministry colleague Titus about how to minister so that the church will grow. His great concern is that churches on the island of Crete will grow. Paul wants the churches to continue to grow and have a greater gospel impact so communities are reached with the good news of Jesus.
What do we learn from Titus about how to make disciples?
The big thing is to teach the gospel.
It is the gospel that will transform the lives of believers, and transformed lives commend the gospel to unbelievers so that they will come to share in salvation.
In Titus 1 we have three basics for disciple-making ministries.
1. Titus is to teach the gospel
Titus is to follow the same pattern of ministry that Paul models. Paul’s ministry as an apostle to existing churches and existing Christians was to further the faith of God’s elect and knowledge of truth that leads to godliness.
Teaching the gospel has two effects: i) godliness and ii) devotion to doing good works.
We are to be speaking the gospel truth with clarity, urgency, authoritatively, emotionally and persuasively.
2. Titus is to appoint elders who will teach the gospel
The leaders that churches need are leaders capable of teaching the gospel – men of godly character and gifting, who hold firmly to the gospel and who are able to teach the gospel.
3. Titus is to teach false teachers who are denying the gospel
Churches facing the problem of false teachers need them to be corrected or silenced.
False teachers are not to be written off immediately. They are to be rebuked and encourage with a view to them becoming sound in the faith.
The work of ministry is teaching the gospel.
John Stevens has posted on his blog a summary of his report which he opened the FIEC Leaders’ Conference with. In it he reviews the progress and development of FIEC over the last 12 months. Here are his 8 points:
- The FIEC is Growing
- FIEC Churches are Making a Significant Contribution to British Evangelicalism
- FIEC Churches have Given Generously to Support the Work of the Fellowship
- Two Very Significant Strategic Decisions Have Been Taken
- The Work of the Central FIEC Team has Progressed
- A Scotland Director has been Appointed
- An Operations Director Post Has Been Advertised
- The Massive Gospel Need of the Nation Remains
You can read the whole thing HERE.
My notes from the morning session on Day 4 of the FIEC Leaders’ Conference. John Stevens was preaching from Ephesians 6:10-20.
We have forgotten that to follow Christ is to fight. We mustn’t forget this. And this is where the letter of Ephesians ends with the reminder that Christians are in a war, a battle, and they are going to have to fight.
We need to know that the power of God is available to us to fight, stand and triumph, and the way the power of God is realised and applied is through the ministry of the gospel and prayer. That’s what Paul wants these Christians to grasp.
Paul gives three imperatives in Ephesians 6:10-20:
1. Put on the full armour of God (v10-13)
This is a call to get ready for battle. Put on all the equipment you need to go out onto the front line. You’ve got to clothe yourself in the full equipment God has provided for the spiritual battle. Don’t be caught out of your equipment.
Why? Because we are in a spiritual battle against devil and his forces who are trying to disrupt God’s plans and harm God’s people. Yes, Jesus has been enthroned, but spiritual forces are still active in this world. There is a spiritual struggle we are involved in. We’re involved in hand to hand combat with the spiritual forces of evil.
The battle for unity in the church is a spiritual battle. The battle for godly living is a spiritual battle.
What hope have we got? Our hope is in the power of God. God has provided the full equipment that we need.
2. Stand firm in the full armour of God (v14-17)
God provides everything we need to win the victory. The armour given is both for protection and fighting. The protection is the blessings of the gospel that are outlined for us in chapter 1 of Ephesians. The weapons we fight with are the gospel message and the gospel ministry.
The picture is of every Christian being fitted to proclaim the good news of God’s coming kingdom. The Holy Spirit brings power to the Word of the gospel as he convicts, converts, challenges and change people.
Appropriating the gospel and proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit is how we fight this battle. God never sends us into battle, into the front line ill equipped.
What does winning look like? Winning may not look glorious in the eyes of the world. Victory is recognising that God’s grace is sufficient and God’s power is at work in weakness and keeps on going in his ministry of the gospel.
3. Pray in the Spirit to use the full armour of God (v18-20)
All Christians have received the Spirit. All Christian prayer is in the Spirit. This is just what we would call prayer.
Pray for 2 things:
Pray for each other to fight the spiritual battle. A vital reminder that we fight this battle not alone but together. We so often individualise it. We must not and should not be fighting it alone.
Are you going to keep praying for people in the church? Are you going to keep on praying for other local churches?
Pray for yourself. Paul asks for prayer for himself. He needs prayer because he needs to stand, to put on the full armour. He needs prayer that he will engage in his gospel ministry and preach the good news of Jesus. He needs God’s power through the prayers of God’s people.
We have a responsibility to fight for our flock and lead them in fight. Don’t think something has gone wrong because we are in a battle and we are called to fight.
We are a tiny minority. We need this confidence in the power of God. Confidence that this power will enable us to stand and win the victory. God has provided all we need in the blessings we have in the gospel and the message of the gospel that we proclaim and apply.
Go back to your churches and fight. It will be tough but God’s power will enable us to stand and triumph and His purpose to be accomplished.
We didn’t follow Christ just for the fun and for the fulfilment. We follow Christ also to fight. But the victory will be won and God gives us the power to stand and to triumph.
My notes from the morning session on Day 3 of the FIEC Leaders’ Conference. John Stevens was preaching from Ephesians 3:14-21.
Paul is writing to Christians to encourage them to have confidence in God – that despite their experiences God is the all-powerful sovereign who is in control and His power is available to them.
In Ephesians 3:14-21 we learn that the purpose of this incomparable power of God is so that God’s people will grasp the immensity of the love of Christ. Is that what you would expect the power of God to do?
These verses are the central turning point of the letter and the bridge from indicative to imperative, and from encouragement to exhortation, and the central theme is power.
Paul is praying for God’s power to be at work in these people, churches, amongst these Christians, and Paul tells them what He is praying for them. Do you tell your congregation what you are praying for them? Do our congregations know our priorities for them expressed in our praying?
1. We need God’s power to grasp the immensity of Christ’s love (3:14-19)
By nature we are weak, but God wants to make us powerful through His power by the Spirit and the result is so that they will grasp the immensity of the love that Christ has shown. To know this love that surpasses knowledge.
Paul is praying for them to know that cannot be known in its fullest extent. It can always be known more. Something they will never known fully and completely, that they will keep on growing to know it better, but this is what they need. And if that is what they needed, it is what we also need.
Why is it so important that we grasp the immensity of the love of Christ?
The love of Christ is foundation of our salvation. Salvation begins with the love of God revealed in Christ.
The love of Christ is the basis of church unity (2:11-3:13). In the immediately preceding section Paul has been talking about the unity of the church in Christ. Jewish and Gentile people are being united in the church by Christ by faith. The dividing wall is being removed and peace is being brought about.
The prayer follows on the theme of unity. There is one Father and from him come many nations. Grasping something of the immensity of the love of Christ enables the deep divisions to be overcome. Christ’s love is essential if this unity is to be maintained. It is the unity of the church that makes the power of God visible to the powers around as the reconciliation with God and with one another is brought about.
Our culture in the UK is massively divided and deep alienated from one another whether it be by class, culture, ethnicity and so on. It is incredibly difficult to overcome these divisions. We basically get on best with those who are like us. The gospel overcomes these divisions.
If we are going to be united, we need to grasp the immensity of the love of Christ. If we want to have real unity, it is not enough to tolerate those who are different or respect those who are different or to welcome them as long as they don’t change the culture. We are called to love with the love of Christ. That is what we must do. That is what we need the power of God to do.
The love of Christ is the essence of Christian live and life (4:1-6:9). Love is the essence of the Christian life.
Ephesians 5:1-2 says “Walk in the way of love” – the love demonstrated in the Lord Jesus. As we grasp the love of Christ and practice the love of Christ, the glory of God is made known and manifested among us.
This supreme love is supremely demonstrated at the cross. That is where the width, length, height, and depth is made known. If we want to grasp it, we need to look to the cross. Love at the cross is love to that which is wicked and deserves the wrath of God. When love is spoken of it is the cross that is spoken of as the example.
Immensity of Christ’s love is seen in the cross and that is what we need God’s power to grasp. We cannot grasp that without grasping the holy wrath of God. Love of Christ is diminished if we do not see the wrath of God towards sin. Love is death of Christ for sinners against the background of God’s wrath.
Paul wants us to know that we need the power of God to grasp the immensity of Christ’s love.
2. We can be sure that God is able to answer our prayer to know the immensity of God’s love (3:20-21)
The God who hears this prayer is able to answer this prayer. To him who is able, powerful, to do immeasurably more than what we can ask or imagine. We can’t imagine what God is capable of doing. The God of immense power is able to do that and more than that.
Be reassured that this power is already at work. We’ve experienced it in being rescued from sin.
Paul wants church to know that this prayer will be answered and fulfilled. He will be glorified in his church for all eternity. The power of God will accomplish this.
This presents a challenge to the danger of low expectations of what God can do. Low expectation of unity of Christ. Low expectation of transformation to likeness of Christ. Low expectation of the church revealing God’s glory.
The God of the Bible doesn’t say guess how much I love you; He says see how much I love and pray that you will understand how much I really love you.
My notes from the morning session on Day 2 of the FIEC Leaders’ Conference. John Stevens was preaching from Ephesians 1:15-23.
Ephesians was written to local churches in a situation not totally unlike the situation we find ourselves in today. We are a tiny minority in a predominantly unbelieving culture that has turned away from Christian values, where the media is pouring out satanic myths and lies day after day, and where the authorities are beginning to realise we are dangerously subversive.
What hope is there that the church will triumph when we are a tiny minority and the culture around us is so powerful?
The local churches then and now need confidence in God. Confidence that God and His purposes would triumph. Confidence that God would accomplish His plan as He said. Confidence that there is nothing they need to fear.
A major theme in Ephesians is the incomparable power of God for His people. The Almighty and powerful God is for them and His power is available to them. In chapters 1, 3, 6, in the beginning, middle and end of the letter, Paul focuses on the power of God.
Three things to help us remember the incomparable power of God that is available to His people.
1. We have been blessed in Christ (1:1-14)
Do you feel blessed in Christ? You might not because of the size of your church or the scale of your ministry, because of difficult circumstances in life and the struggles you have. You might wonder where is God’s blessing.
Whatever the circumstances you are blessed by God in Christ. Paul wants Christians to know that they are blessed. This is the foundation of their confidence and hope in Him so he wants them to know it.
We have been blessed by God with every spiritual blessing. The gift of the Spirit is the great blessing that mediates all the blessings we have in Christ: that we have been chosen to be holy and blameless in God’s sight; predestined to be God’s children; redeemed and have had our sins forgiven through the cross; our guilt has been taken away; and God has revealed to us His purpose and plan to bring everything together under Christ.
These great blessings are all in Christ and all received by grace and all to bring God glory, and they are received by faith in the gospel. We have these blessings in some measure now, but we look forward to a time when we have these blessings fully.
Are you confident that God has blessed you? You need to remember all that you have in Jesus Christ. All these blessings have come about because of the power of God at work. Do you have that confidence that you are blessed?
2. We have access to the incomparable power of God (1:15-23)
We have all these blessings but we still have to live in this fallen world. Paul has reminded Christians of what they have and then he prays for what they need.
Paul doesn’t pray for a new blessing. They already have been blessed with everything in Christ. He prays that they will know what they already have. He wants them to know all that they have in the Lord Jesus.
Three things they would know at the heart of the prayer:
They would know the hope to which he has called you – the future hope of the time when everything will be summed up in the Lord Jesus Christ.
They would know that they are God’s treasured possession – the inheritance is not what we have, but God’s inheritance; we as his holy people are his inheritance. We need to grasp how precious and special we are to him.
They would know God’s power – the main focus of his request. The rest of this section is focused on this theme of God’s power. They would know that God’s incomparable power is available to them.
Paul struggles to capture the greatness of God’s power. This power is seen and demonstrated in the resurrection, exaltation and enthronement of the Lord Jesus. Paul wants Christians to understand that Jesus is ruling and reign and there is no-one, no power, greater than him. The spiritual forces are nothing compared to Jesus.
Christians can be confident that there is no spiritual force at work in the universe, that can derail God’s plan, to be afraid of, because Jesus is reigning and ruling. Power is available to us, and Jesus exercises it for us.
We have the incomparable power of God.
This power is at work in and available to us. How do we know that’s the case? Because it is a power that they and we have experienced already.
3. We have experienced this incomparable power of God already (2:1-10)
God’s power was at work in our conversion. Paul reminds these Christians how they were transformed and saved by the power of God. They were dead in their transgressions and sins, walking according to the ways of Satan, the leading spiritual power opposed to God; their whole life shaped by his influence. Yet by the end of verse 10 they have been transformed and are now walking in the way of God’s good work.
What brought about this transformation? God who is rich in mercy has made us alive in Christ.
Our very conversion is a result of the incomparable power of God at work. As Christ was raised from the dead so we have been raised from the dead to new life in Christ. We are transformed from those who were dead to those who are now alive. We too have been exalted and enthroned with Him. Just as he has been giving supreme power and authority so have Christians in him.
Do you doubt the power of God? Do you doubt that you’ve experience it? It has already been at work in your life. Remember your conversion.
We forget things that we take for granted are mighty miracles. We need to open our eyes to the amazing power of God and how it is at work. In ministry we must never lose our wonder at conversion. We must never forget that every single conversion is a working of the mighty power of God bringing the dead to life. We must never lose our amazement at the miracle of conversion.
When the gospel is preached and sinners are converted, the mighty power of God is at work.
So Paul writes this letter to Christians under pressure, to a tiny minority in a hostile pagan culture, to encourage them that God’s purposes will triumph and they can be confident because God’s mighty power is available to them.