Titus For You

titus-for-you

I realize it’s probably a bad idea to have favorites when it comes to the Bible, but I kinda do. If I had to make a top five list for books of the Bible, Titus would be on it. For years, Titus has been one of my “go-to” reads—when I don’t know what to read, I turn there. And I always find something in its three chapters. In it, Paul is direct, challenging, encouraging… basically, everything you would expect from a message from an older man to a (presumably somewhat) younger one.

But up until recently one of the things I had not added to my library was any sort of devotional material or commentaries of significance about this epistle. So, when I learned about the latest edition of The Good Book Company’s God’s Word For You series, Titus For You by Tim Chester, I was pretty excited. Even when I on occasion disagree with some of his emphases, I’ve always counted on Chester to offer faithful interpretations and thoughtful applications of the Scriptures.

Showing the truth is true

In this regard, Titus For You is no different. Like the previous volumes in this devotional commentary series, Titus For You offers readers a basic understanding of the text with lots of space for personal reflection and application. In this regard, again, Chester’s exposition is (as expected) clear and careful. In his explanatory notes, however, Chester intentionally focuses on an important aspect of Titus that’s easy to overlook—that “godliness shows that the truth is true.”

“This truth that accords with godliness would be in contrast to other teachings that self-identify as ‘truths’, but do not produce godly lives,” he writes. “In this sense godliness authenticates the truth; godliness shows that the truth is true. Or, better still, it shows that the truth is living because of the fruit it produces.”

This is important because it’s a necessary filter through which you need to see the rest of the book. Godliness authenticates truth—how we live affirms or denies what we profess to believe—and how we live is inevitably replicated in others. This is why character matters so much in the qualifications of elders, and why Paul encourages older godly men and women to teach and train the younger. We replicate what we’re like in others, for good or ill.

And this is why limiting the demands of godliness is so dangerous. When we reduce godliness “from becoming Christlike to becoming a little less like our culture in a few ways,” we set up a false witness. We become known as people who don’t do certain things, as opposed to people who love Jesus and serve others wholeheartedly. “Christian maturity is exchanged for not sleeping around, not getting drunk, and turning up to Bible study,” which is just kind of sad.

We are all called to commend the gospel to one another so that we live gospel-shaped lives that are fit for purpose—the purpose of doing good. And we will only do this as we learn to live out the gospel, enjoying God’s good gifts in a way that brings glory to him and good to us. Legalistic abstention is no more the gospel of grace than licentious abuse is; and running to the first extreme in order to escape the other is to swap one error for another.

The fuel and fire of obedience

For me, the standout material in Titus For You, really comes toward the end of the book, as Chester reminds readers that salvation—and the godly living that is a result of it—is truly all of grace. And there is nothing better than grace:

“There is nothing more that he could have given. He has given us himself,” Chester writes. “There is nothing more that he could have done. He has done everything.… There is nothing more that he could have promised.… He saved us to become heirs, looking forward with certain hope to an eternity spent enjoying everything that Christ deserves.”

Faithful encouragement doesn’t need to be groundbreaking

While Titus For You doesn’t break new ground, it would make a welcome addition to any reader’s devotional literature. This book, in a nutshell, is chock-full of simple, faithful encouragement, the sort that more us desperately need. That might not be terribly groundbreaking, but it certainly doesn’t go out of style.


Title: Titus For You
Author: Tim Chester
Publisher: The Good Book Company (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Book Review: Total Church

For a kid who didn’t grow up in the church, I’m certainly becoming extremely passionate about it. I love learning about what makes the church the church and how Christians can improve how we “do church” in order to better reflect the character of Jesus.

My daughter (via my lovely wife) gave me this book for Christmas and I was pleasantly surprised. I’d been reading a  similar work earlier in the year that made me want to slap myself in the face for reading such a stupid book (that’s the nicest critique I can give).

Total Church combines a deep love for Scripture and the Gospel, with a strong desire to see people come to know and love Jesus in intimate community. It’s truly a rare thing when you see people advocating for both strong, biblical teaching alongside building relationship, but Steve Timmis and Tim Chester do exactly that.

The premise is that a biblical church must be gospel-centered (meaning, both word-centered and mission-centered) and community-centered. “Christianity is word-centered because God rules through his gospel word,” say the authors. “Christianity is mission-centered because God extends his rule through his gospel word.” The gospel is good news — it is a message, as succinct as “Jesus is Lord,” but as comprehensive as the entirety of Scripture, which all centers around the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. Because the gospel is good news—our sins can be forgiven thanks to the finished work of Jesus—it is a message that must be proclaimed. “You cannot be committed to the gospel without being committed to proclaiming the gospel” (pg 32, emphasis added).

This is exceedingly refreshing in a time when many (specifically well-known) churches rarely proclaim the gospel—if ever.

Further, because our identities are not formed in a void, but within community, we must also understand that our identity as Christians is found in Christ’s new community. This is, in essence, what it means to be a “total church.” You love the word of God, you proclaim it, and you discover your new identity in community with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

The second half of Total Church (chapters 3 on) deal with the practical implications of this philosophy. I won’t cover all of them, but just a few of the stand-out items:

Evangelism takes on a three-strand approach, wherein we build relationships, share the gospel, and introduce people into community simultaneously. In some ways, this is similar to the Alpha approach, but less programmatic. It allows evangelism to happen naturally through relationship. “It’s ordinary people, doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality…The ordinary needs to be saturated with a commitment to living and proclaiming the gospel,” say the authors. It’s about de-compartmentalizing our lives and being “authentic” (to use an oft-coined buzzword).

Social involvement is not simply social action. It is a cohesive blend of action and evangelism. If our social actions don’t point to the gospel, they “are like a signpost pointing nowhere” (p 78).

Church-planting is where mission and community intersect: A biblical church is one that replicates, planting new churches.

Total Church, as great a book as it is, is not without it’s problems. First, it wrongly argues that the apostolic church only met in homes, whereas Scripture says that the early church met both in homes and gathered together for corporate worship. Acts 2, for example, shows that the 128 believers gathered together to worship Jesus. The Spirit fell, Peter preached and three thousand were added to their number. Secondly, it supports the view that sermon as monologue rose after Constantine’s “conversion” and it was no longer possible to teach in a dialogue setting due to sheer numbers. This ignores the more likely origin of the sermon as monologue: the Jewish synagogue & religion. Thirdly, the authors’ view is that the disciplines of “contemplation, silence and solitude” are not biblical, whereas Jesus on numerous occasions went to be alone with the Father (Luke 6:12, 9:18, 22:41 are but three examples). Spirituality within community is extremely important, but we cannot overlook the importance of private spirituality as well.

Steve Timmis and Tim Chester have done an excellent job presenting a comprehensive and compelling vision of a biblical church in Total Church. If you’ve ever asked the question, “What if there were a different kind of church?” you will find this book an encouraging and challenging read.