Let us pray: Dear Savior, human words cannot express what You have done for us. Although we killed You with our sins, although we are wayward and wanton children who walk away from You on a daily basis and take Your love for granted, nonetheless, You still love us! You have shown mercy upon us. You shower us with blessings. You’re always there when we know we need You and when we’re not even aware of how much we need You. Lord, accept our thanks and our praise. Thank You for being our Lord and our Savior. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE FORGIVING LORD!
TEXT: I Timothy 1: 12-17
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
What’s the most shameful thing you’ve ever done? What particular sin would you willingly die for rather than have it become public knowledge? Well, you’re not alone. All of us have secret sins that haunt us. Thank God they don’t bob to the surface too often. But when they do, we agonize whether or not we’re really a child of God. We ask ourselves: “How could God forgive me for such a sin?”
We beat ourselves up over our inner demons. Secret sins lead to guilt and guilt plagues all of us. We long for happiness and joy instead of heartache and sadness. And I’m here today to tell you that you have such happiness! Christ holds it out to you today. He’s forgiven you all your sins—even those secret ones! So, like Paul, you can now say:
I WAS SHOWN MERCY….
Have you ever been around a braggart who had nothing to brag about? When golfing, I hear tall tales in the clubhouse. But, later on, on the course, that scratch golfer is obviously a hacker, just like the rest of us. The annual Christmas letters we all receive often parallel such braggadaccio, too. Proud mothers write about how fabulous their children’s careers are. I can think of one aunt who reminds everyone that her son-in-law works at the university. Although he’s a janitor (and many of us have done like duties!) from her letter you’d think he headed up the endowment fund! My point is this: we always accentuate the positive—and try to hide any negatives. So, too with our Christian lives. We don’t like to talk about our sins, but we talk a lot about our various good deeds.
Notice that in our lesson St. Paul does just the opposite. He willingly talks about his sins—both the secret and not-so-secret ones. But, that talk doesn’t drag him down or diminish him. Instead, his joy is most evident in our text because true joy always comes from Christ and not ourselves. True happiness comes from being a forgiven child of God and knowing it from the depth of your being. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.”
Paul knew that God forgives and forgets our sins. He knew we are to forgive and forget the sins that others have committed against us. But, he’s not about to forget his sorted past. Remembering his own evil ways serves as a reminder of the marvelous love of Christ. Remembering what he’s been saved from serves to uplift him and causes him to focus on what he’s been saved for.
You and I are no different. What past evil haunts you? Adultery? Theft? Child abuse? Drug addiction? An uncaringness toward God? Well, like Paul, you acted in ignorance of God’s ways when you did such things. Your sinful side showed itself in unbelief. You and I may not be very pretty to ourselves. But, we are beautiful to God! Why? Because like Paul, Christ has shown mercy upon you, too!
“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”
With these words, Paul takes us back to his earlier days before he was converted. He was there when Stephen was stoned. In fact, he held the coats of those who murdered that pious man. He viciously rounded up Christians in Jerusalem and had them beaten, tortured, and perhaps even murdered for their faith. Later he obtained a warrant from the high priest to go to Damascus to hunt down even more believers. And he did all this in the name God!—Utter blasphemy! O the height of Paul’s hypocrisy. And yet, God, Christ, met him on that road to Damascus and converted him. Christ humbled Paul, just like He has to humble us on a daily basis, so that Paul could learn to trust solely in Christ and not in himself. Paul learned that Christ paid for his evil, for our evil, for everyone’s evil on the cross. God’s Son willingly died to save His enemies—us! Hell and death were suffered by Him—for us! And why did Christ do it? Why did Christ bleed for you? Because that’s the depth of His love—it’s perfect! It extends even to hateful, shameful, spiteful people like Paul, you, and me!
Paul believed it when Christ told him that he was forgiven. Faith saved Paul because it laid hold of Christ’s forgiveness. When you trust in the Lord in gratefulness, you actually put on the perfection that Christ won for you via His perfect life and death. Through faith God sees you as a new creation. He sees Christ when He looks at you. That’s why Paul is so happy here. And that’s why you can be joyful, too. Others may dredge up those past demons to haunt you with. You may dredge them up to beat back your pridefulness. But, God never dredges them up! They’re gone in Christ! You’re free from their prison. Free from their guilt. Free from their shame.
You and I have a blessed responsibility in response to God’s grace. I’ve heard it said that when you save another’s life they owe you. Well, in a sense, we owe Jesus. But our debt is not one of obligation. It’s not a burden that we must fulfill or face guilt and condemnation all over again. No, our debt is easy and light because it is one of love. Loved moved Paul to talk about his evil past. Love moved him to say: “If God can forgive me, obviously He can forgive you, too.” Love compelled him to live and breathe and act as a forgiven, renewed child of the Most High! And when you take God’s grace to heart, love will propel you to do likewise!
None of us like to around braggarts or their opposite number: people who are depressingly negative. But we all enjoy being around people who live and breathe thankfulness and joy. Paul’s thankfulness is obvious when he writes: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen!”
Embrace this truth: I was shown mercy, and then the same kind heart that spawned them will be yours! Yes, embrace God’s grace and watch your past demons lose their horns! Watch God’s love dissolve them into thankful joy! Amen