Titus 2:11-14 : The “Secret” Of Habits
If you would, please turn your Bibles with me to Titus Chapter Two.
Titus Chapter two, we’re gonna read verses 11 through 14 of Titus chapter 2. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age. Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.
The grace of God has appeared. That present age in there, that’s helpful for us today, ’cause how many of you kinda wish we could go back to 2019… Or skip ahead to 2021. but we’re not called to that. We’re called to the present age, you can’t live in the past, you can’t live in the future. God has called you to live the best you can now, and God’s grace instructs you in what to do today while you wait for the hope of his final redemption, that’s a good word for us here today. Let me ask you a question, how do you know that you will still be a Christian in 10 years?
No, letting that pause sit out there for people to think… Yeah, thanks, Lou.
We tend to assume that because we’re a Christian today, we will always be that way, and yet… Look at your life. Look at those around you. How many do you know of that made a profession. And then wandered away.
Let me ask you a question, how do you know you will be a Christian in 10 years? Or I’ll put it differently, you struggle with anxiety today, what is your hope that in 10 years you will not be anxious, but rather trusting God, you struggle with lust today, how do you know that in 10 years you will have won the victory in that area, to be used by God in amazing ways. How do you get there? In three years, 10 years, whatever it might be. These are the questions that you have to ask. And I think God has laid on my heart something that I need to press on to yours, that God does not just call you and I to coast through the Christian life, we are in a process of growth, we learned last week that we are transformed from one image to another, closer and closer to the likeness of Jesus Christ. What was Jesus like?
He was so amazing in so many ways, but he was a disciple-maker too… And our church and the American church in general, needs people who are willing to get their own life in order under the Holy Spirit’s control, so that we can become those who then can help other people get their life in order.
What will the spiritual habits that you have in your life today or that your family has in their life today, lead to you and or your family being believers in 10 years. I’ll ask it a different way.
If somebody, without talking to you at all, without ever asking you the question, what is important to you… If somebody was dropped into your life to shadow you for a week, what would they say is important to you?
Sometimes I think we just expect that because we’re a Christian today, we don’t really need to worry about what it’ll look like the rest of our life, and because we’ve had this thinking for the last 100 years since the heresy of perfectionism came more a Christian can’t actually become perfect in this life.
People corrected that and said, No, we can’t actually become perfect in this life, and so it’s led to this kind of walk… I’m always gonna struggle with sin, so I guess I’ll kinda make half-hearted efforts against it, throw a few punches every now and again, Is that wha’st God’s called us to?… We don’t tell the seventh grader that they don’t need to practice in order to become good enough to play basketball in college, or you fill in the sport… Basketball is not your thing. softball, soccer, whatever. We don’t tell an entry level employee that they “you don’t need to train to develop skills if you wanna move up the ladder”… We don’t tell a 20-year-old that, you don’t need to worry about what you eat and how you exercise. That won’t have any effect on your health in 20 years… We know this in so many other areas of life, we know that if you want to become… To work your way into that position in your career, you gotta work, you gotta practice, you gotta train, you gotta put on skills, and if you wanna become a good basketball player, soccer player or whatever, you gotta practice. You gotta put in the hours. If you wanna be healthy, you gotta eat right, you gotta have the right disciplines, you gotta have the right habits, we know these things, right. But yet , in the Christian life, I swear, we think that it’s as easy as well, I just kinda got a jump on the Lazy River, the little tube, and I just kind of float, and God is gonna use the river, he’s gonna take me down the river to Heaven and I’m gonna get there one day, and we think it’s as easy as that, and I wanna tell you it’s the exact opposite. It’s the exact opposite.
It’s actually more like going upstream, when we were on a recent vacation, we wanted to save some money, so we got two double kayaks, but you guys know, we brought our three kids with us on the vacation, you’re allowed to have one kid kind of in front… But you can’t have two kids in the kayak. I don’t wanna do a canoe ’cause I was worried what one of the kids would I tip all the way out, so we ended up pulling one of the inner tubes behind, I should say, and I also had the kid… Well, let’s just say I wasn’t getting a lot of help paddling in front, and we had a kid behind, and there was this one stretch of it going down this river where the river kinda connects to the lake and you go around a non-current on the lake and actually, for quite a while, if anything, the current in the wind was pulling me, pulling this thing behind me out into the lake, and for a solid… I don’t know, it felt like it was like three hours, but it was probably like 10 minutes, I was just rowing as hard as I could, as fast as I could to not lose anything… That’s a lot more like what the Christian life is like. And yet we so often grow complacent, we’re prone to wander. Lord, I feel it prone to leave the God I love.
Now, someone who knows the Bible, they might say, But Jesus says that once we’re a Christian, we’re always a Christian. Once we’ve truly believed the gospel, he holds us in His hand and no one, not even us is able to take us out of the Father’s hand, and to that I absolutely agree. 100 percent accurate. And yet, I want to ask you the question, have you ever considered the idea that perhaps the way that Jesus intends to hold you to the faith is not through some magical tether, but rather through the example and the habits that he’s laid down in His Word to renew your faith and strengthen it, so when tough times come, you don’t throw it away and say, I’m out, now see, God’s strong enough to hold you to himself, but the true believer is going to make efforts… There’s a phrase in our circles that sometimes called The Means of Grace. Now, if you have any Catholic background or understanding, you’ll recognize that phrase and it’ll become concerning to you, it depends on the way you define it, for some people, it’s… They think of it like, Well, these are the means that I receive salvation, grace, and so if I do things, then God gives me His grace, and we obviously know from Ephesians Chapter 2, that’s not the way it works, and yet there’s another way that it’s often used the means of grace has this idea of a mean by which God gives you day-by-day sustaining grace in your faith, that the way he plans to do that in your life… We do not earn God’s grace or favor.
In fact, before any of you or any of us here today ever wanted God’s favor, it appeared… That’s what Titus says, The grace of God has appeared.
It teaches us to deny our sins and to live godly or peaceful lives while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, the grace was given to us while we were still in our sins, God’s grace is not of ourselves, it is God’s grace. God’s gift that is given to us, it’s not of a work that we can do so that no one can boast, that grace of God invades our lives, calling us to respond in faith and treasury that precious grace given to us, those who break that command and invitation will never know grace. Only know the bitterness of damnation, those who keep the command, who believe the grace will know the sweetness and the goodness of God. And I have a question for you then, ’cause at this point, many of you might be asking, I know that I need that grace, but I don’t always want it… If you waited every time until you wanted something before you did it, how often would you do stuff, how often would the dishes get done, how often would the laundry get done, how often would the lawn get mowed, how often… When there’s just that little tension in your marriages, would that resolve if you didn’t want… If you waited till you were perfectly ready and wanted it, how might we build an appetite for the grace of God, the answer is the normal means of grace, we need to put ourself in a position to be allured by God’s grace. I want you to think about it for a moment. In the example of the opposite, which is the temptation to sin, let’s say that you struggle with coveting, let’s say I’m gonna hopefully not hit anyone here, basketball cards… Maybe that’s for you. Sorry, I’m not targeting you.
You covet basketball cards, you go through those Target lanes and you see that shelf with basketball cards, you like, I just gotta buy it, I got a credit card, I can use my credit card and get another one, who knows, maybe you’ll pay for itself… Maybe I’ll get one of those really expensive cards in the box, be able to sell it and then buy more basketball cards, I will be able to keep doing that. You never know. And so what you do, you’ve subscribed to the magazines, you subscribe to the online services, you’re constantly checking the prices of the recent basketball cards, you’re on eBay, and you’ve got all kinds of alerts on eBay for when certain players come up in a basketball card and you get excited about those things.
Now, let’s say I know that I’m struggling with the sin of coveting basketball cards. What would be the ways I would break that sin of coveting… What would you advise me to do, you can just answer in your head for a moment, there are some obvious ways… Right?
I don’t know, get rid of your basketball magazines that list all the card prices, don’t check out in the lane nearest to the cards, don’t buy any cards for a while.
Delete eBay, your notifications from eBay.
I’ll take all of your cards and all their binders and I’ll keep them in my garage for a month or so to kinda help you get clean of this… Whatever it is, right?
You would remove the things that allure you, so that you could rip that sin out of your life, now, let’s say the opposite is true, and you actually do want to be allured, but you want to be allured by God’s grace. What things would you do that… You put it in your face all the time, you would check it daily, you’d be studying the word of God, you’d be reading great resources to help you understand the word of God, you’d be singing to God in your personal life, you’d be spending extra time with him that’s the way that you would develop an adoration for the grace of God.
I’ll put it like this, I don’t believe I’ve ever met a person who permeated, it was permeated with wonder and worship for God’s grace, who also wasn’t regularly and intentionally pursuing means of grace. The primary means of grace will get to in just a moment, in the word of God are your church participation or fellowship, your Bible study, and your prayer.
If you don’t have those three things regularly, and by the way, it’s possible to have any one of those things, but have it be a very hollow checklist thing, if you don’t have those things regularly, I guarantee you, you are not in wonder and worship of the grace of God, it’s just the way it is, it’s just a fact.
Then I would say that one obvious but often forgotten and neglected secret about spiritual life is the secret of habits. What are your habits?
Well, I’ve got a few habits that I kinda wanna talk through, the first habit is the habit of Biblical meditation. Would it shock you if I told you that the Bible never commands daily Bible reading?
Now be careful with this, ’cause what the Bible talks about is actually much more demanding.
He says it like this, Psalm 119:97. Oh, how I love your law. It is my what? A Meditation. What? day and night. Oh! the New Testament says it like this in Colossians 3-16, Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Let me ask you a question, is it possible that you can get on your phone once a day, look at one quick verse and close it, and in your mind, you’ve done your devotions for the day, but you’re not really following the heart of what it means to be in the means that God has given you to develop a taste of love for His grace day by day. Absolutely, it’s possible.
Absolutely, it’s possible. The Word of God is precious and treasured. But it is a thing that is given to us to not be opened and closed once a day or once a week, or only heard on Sunday.
Now listen, I’m a firm believer that you actually don’t have to open the Word of God every day, it really depends on where your heart set… But opening the word of God every day is a really good way to help you.
So in other words, early Christians, they did not have copies of the Word of God in their households. Right. So what did they do?
Do you know what they did?
Anyone… So they listened attentively on Sunday and took those things with them the rest of the week, number one, number two, they had copies of Paul’s letters made, and each church might have one or two, and so it’d be like, Hey, is it my week with Romans? Can I have a week with Romans? They’d had that scroll rhythm and they would share it throughout the week.
It is possible to have one verse that you treasure and helps you and refines you for an entire month, depending on where your heart’s at. Now, I would suggest that the person who generally, as a general rule, if you open the Word of God daily, it is a habit that is going to help you with the grace of God, understanding it, appreciating it. And generally speaking, the people who do not open the Word of God regularly are those who… It’s just not a sweet to them anymore, they struggle to sing, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. ’cause it’s not a sweet, it’s not as wonderful, not as precious to them anymore. And then they ask, why is that?
I remember I used to be so excited about it, could it be that the habit that God’s given to you… How about prayer?
Same thing, we have this idea of prayer as being like, Well, I start my day, I share some prayer request, burdens that are on my heart, and then I go on my way and… Amen to that, you should. But what about… 1 Thessalonians 5:17. anyone know what that says?
Yeah, I pray constantly. Or pray without ceasing. Depending on your translation, pray without ceasing. In fact, the only habit that is clearly commended in the New Testament for you to regularly have in your life is what do you know?
It’s the gathering of believers. Not neglecting to gather together, as is the habit of some. Some were in the habit of neglecting, and Paul or the writer of Hebrews wants you to be in the habit of not neglecting… What’s the opposite? It’s participating, it’s regular participation, it’s one of the most important habits that you could have, so here’s the thing, Word of God intake personally is great, prayer to God personally is great, but the Word of God intake and interaction and prayer should also consistently be done with a community of believers, in other words, you’re praying together, you’re interacting with the word of God together, that is the easiest way to protect you from a deceiving yourself about what the word of God says, saying it doesn’t really say that anger is all that bad, and somebody else says Where do you get that interpretation? The interpretation of the Word of God needs to be done in the community of believers, it’s one of God’s way of protecting us from error… And then prayer. He has made us one body in Christ, not one set of individuals in Christ.
And the American culture were so highly individualistic, we want my spiritual life to be extremely just personal, now what I believe is about me and God and no one else, and that’s just not the biblical view, the Biblical views were community together serving and worshipping Jesus Christ, and when one member hurts, we all hurt, and when one member sins, we all come around them and push them and stem up to love and good works, and we’re at this together, and if you isolate yourself from that, if you isolate yourself, you distance yourself emotionally and you say, I’ll show up, but I’m not gonna be really present, you’re opening yourself up to a world of problems, and if you woefully choose to… I’m gonna prioritize other things other than this, you’re opening yourself up to a world of problems… It is so important.
These habits, these means of grace, as we call them, these three main ones are the three legs of the stool that your Christian life stands on, if you remove one… What happens? Tip over it. You need all three. Meet all three.
These things are what helps you to progress in your growth, and I want you to hear this with me real quick, what is the biblical view of the Christian life? Is it static or growing… Good guess, but no.
Is it what’s the stock market’s supposed to do, right? Does the stock market’s supposed to be like this… I was just supposed to trend upwards ideally. Yeah, that’s a Christian, like we’re supposed to be trending upwards in our growth, which means your habits of grace should be helping you to grow and you should… As you look back at the last year, think I have grown. It might be little things. But I’ve grown, I can see it, I’m different. And the habits of grace have been part of my life. And listen, if you look at your life and you think I haven’t grown at all, and you’re like, But I have been reading my Bible, maybe you need to change how you read your Bible. I think so many believers read their Bible and pray for affirmation, they read the Bible and they pray to feel good to kind of encourage them as the word we’d say or positive, encouraging…… You guys know it, you wanna be uplifted it, right. And to be sure the Word of God does that. But if that is all the Word of God does in your life, then it is you’re not using the Word of God completely, because the Word of God, according to 2 Timothy chapter 3, teaches us, changes our mind about the way this world works, it reproves and corrects us. And instruction in righteousness. That’s what the Word of God does.
So yes, it sustains you and it helps you, and it keeps you going on those tough days… Amen. Anyone else keeps you going?
But if that’s all it ever does, that’s not all the word of God is for…. these means of grace were intended to help you transition from one image to another, 2nd Corinthians 3-18, they were intended to help you press forward. Philippians chapter 3, they were intended to help you grow into the first statue of Jesus Christ, Ephesians Chapter 4.They were not intended to leave you static, and if you are the same as you were last year and three years ago and 10 years ago, then you need to read the Word of God with new eyes, eyes that look for ways that the Word of God steps on your toes… a little bit.
And by the way, this applies to every single one of these means of grace, right? If my preaching, I was only ever affirmational, what would you say?
Every once in a while, you want your pastor to talk about sins that you struggle with, right, and you want your pastor to love you enough to if there’s a blind spot in our lives to step on your toes a little bit, right, and to love you to do when he does it, but to step on your toes… So it’s true of the gathering, it’s true of your prayer life, and it’s true of your Bible reading, all three, the secret of habits, and then third, these habits are supposed to warm yourself again by the fire of God’s grace. It is the grace of God that has saved us.
And the grace of God alone. And if you do not know that grace today and is not sweet to you, that grace can save you today too, it’s an invitation to you that though you are in your sins today and you will reach the culmination of that one day, this life and the next you will have your pig-stye moment, that moment where your sins left you in a pig-stye by yourself and you feel like garbage, you will have that moment to the nth degree as well in hell one day. But the grace of God has appeared, giving you forgiveness by His grace, not of anything you can do, by His grace, and then teaching you to deny your ungodliness and worldly lust, because we need to be taught that don’t we… We’re so stubborn with what we think is best and we keep doing our own way on our own thing, and it hurts us and it hurts those around us and it damages our soul, and eventually it winds us up in hell if we do that long enough. And finally, these means of grace, They warm you of God’s fire, it’s the grace of God that’s taught us to leave our since, the grace of God, that’s so sweet to our soul. Grace of God, that leads us to repentance. It’s we all have received grace upon grace, we need that grace and the means of grace, help us to have that grace more and more.
That’s the point. But the last one is that these means of grace should help you to consecrate your whole life to God, not just part… If you’re ever able to leave a church service without at least a little discomfort thinking, You know what, I should consecrate all my life to God.
We’re not doing our job right. It is pressure, and I know it’s hard.
If you are able to leave your Bible reading, holding on to parts of your life and holding on to parts of your sin, you’re not using the means of grace correctly, they’re intended to help you…. to appeal to you by His mercies, by His grace, to present your whole life to Him as a living sacrifice. That’s the purpose of them.
So just a few words of advice, what does it look like for you to establish the secret of habits in your life, good Godly habits.
Scientists disagree on how long it takes for you to instill a new habit, there are a lot of research in this recently, some people say it’s 21 days, if you do something 21 days in a row, it becomes a new habit. Anyone ever hear that before. I’ve heard it also said, 60 days, and for other people say 120 days.
It takes some grit, it takes some hard work. And it takes help from others around you, maybe you’re looking at your life right now, you’re like, You know what, I need to find more time to pray and read my Bible, but you’re like, I’m just so busy, I’ve got so much to do and I’m doing good things, I’m taking care of my family and I’m serving the church, but I’m just so busy, I have a tough time finding time to be alone with God, just consider this for a moment. Consider this for a moment. Jesus was not too busy to go alone to a desolate place by himself to pray.
Just imagine for a second, what… Have you ever asked the question, Man, how many more people could Jesus have healed? If instead of going away by himself, he chose to stay and help people, and yet in his mind it was worthy enough of his time and focus to go spend time with the Father in Heaven alone by himself. Then it is worthy of your time. You need to find a way to cut it into your schedule, now I find… I don’t care if you’re a morning person or not, it doesn’t matter, the best way to get it into your schedule is morning, in my experience, and the reason is because as the day goes along, things happen, Oh, somebody’s gotta stop over…
Oh, I got a little extra work to do.
I forgot to read my Bible, I’m gonna read my Bible while I’m laying in bed at night. And how well does that work? Right, and just in my experience, the night time reading doesn’t work as well, maybe you’re really rigid with your sleep schedule and you know you could get there, in my experience, that’s not been well. So I don’t care if you’re a morning person or not, you set your alarm for 20 minutes earlier, and you set the alarm and you put it across the room, or you turn it up as long as you can, and you put it in a box under your bed, that’s a real good way to tick off your spouse, you put it somewhere where you’ve gotta get up and get out of bed, and then you go and you get in a little routine, you go, you get up, you get ready, if you need to take a shower first to wake up, fine, and go make your coffee and you sit down at your spot, the kitchen table, probably not the bed or the couch, I’m just gonna say right now, probably doesn’t work too well, and you go and read and you study, and you remind yourself and you pray through passages, and you remind yourself of the precious ness of God’s grace, and you’re like, I don’t even know where to start reading, you know what? Just start reading the Gospels, it’s the easiest, most accessible part of the Bible, start reading the Gospels, view who Jesus is, treasure him, and then when you pray that… When you pray, pray to God and start with worship for him for what you just read about, that’s the easiest thing I can tell you specifically to do. Now, here’s the cool thing, some of you are aware that there are other margins in your day that you can help, like for instance, you got a lunch time, and you know that during your lunch time you’re gonna be by yourself and you’re gonna be eating… And normally, you get on and you just scroll… Twit face or whatever.
Yeah? so instead of doing that to sit there and have your Bible open and re-read what you just read that morning, and it doesn’t have to be long, by the way, guys, it can be short, it can be a paragraph, you just re-read it and you re-read it. And you re-read it. Then you ask God, What does this mean? And you look at it some more. What does this word mean here, God? Study it, and you think about it, you meditate on it, and then yes, before you go to bed, you might look at it one more time, not long, just one more time to remind yourself of it.
You’re building in habits to meditate on the word of God day and night, and what’s so beautiful is if you do this thing, how many of you have ever like… You don’t have to raise your hand on this, like you woke up and you are thinking about a verse or a Bible story, that was a really cool moment for me when that happened, does it happen to me often, but I’m like…
I’m like, David, I’m meditating on God for a day and night, I wake from my sleep thinking about God’s word, he talks about that in the Psalms, like, this is who I wanna be, this is what I wanna be before you, God, I’m so excited for this. Thank you.
Your prayer life is similar, you can set times and then prioritizing being here regardless of anything else, trying to be here Sunday morning and be prioritizing your small group is so important to your spiritual life. Here, Sunday morning, we gather and yeah, we might shoot the breeze and talk after and before, but I don’t… There’s probably not a lot of one another stuff happening, but you receive the Word of God as taught from me, you’re renewed in your consecration, and then you go and in the middle of a week, you have a small group where you gather together with other trusted believers who then prod you, encourage you and challenge you and teach you and everything, and that’s so important to your spiritual lives. So important. We need that.
So you prioritize it, you schedule it, it goes first, and there are other ways, just a little things you guys might not have thought about, you set an alarm on your clock to go off a few times during the day when the alarm goes off, if you’re working by yourself, you quickly pull up a verse and you look at it again to meditate on it for another moment, and you pray to God, just a minute, just two minutes, but it’s getting into your bones or… Some of you know that you can take a picture of a verse on your phone and then set it as the background of your phone or the lock screen image.
So guess what, every time you open your phone, there’s that verse, you can look at it, and by the way, how many times do you open your phone throughout the day… There’s a lot of little things you can do, but it’s gonna be about your desire to do them. That’s what I wanna put before you. The grace of God has appeared. And you need that grace day-by-day. And the way we do that is by Bible reading, prayer and the gathering of believers, it’s the secret of those three things, let’s close with a word of prayer, and then we’ll sing one more song. Just quiet your hearts and bow your heads please.
Maybe as I’m talking, I think it’s all together possible that some of you… When the word grace is said it’s hollow to you, it means very little, and it scares you and it should scare you… This is an opportunity for you to confess your sin to God, and for His grace to come and forgive you for your sin.
By grace, you are saved through faith. It is God’s gift. It’s not of ourselves. So that no one can boast.
We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that you prepared beforehand that we might walk in them, Lord, and we will make every effort to walk in them.
And maybe for some of you here, you realize your habits have been lousy lately, and you need to confess that and repent of that, you haven’t gathered with believers like you should… You haven’t been in the word meditating on a day-by-day, you haven’t been praying moment by moment like you should, and you wanna build habits now, and so I talked about some ways here today, but just take a moment to commit that to God, a specific step that you’re gonna take