The Way We Were
The Way We Were February 24, 2008
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Introduction: Reading Someone Else’s Mail
The Way We Were
When Gloria, our church administrative assistant, saw the title of my sermon today, she asked the quite logical question:
“Are you going to be singing the song?”
While the title of my sermon is probably better know too many of us
As the title of both a movie and its theme song
I will spare you hearing me try to out do Barbara Streisand
With my rendition
Truthfully, I haven’t seen the movie in many, many years
And not having it in my NetFlix queue
It is highly unlikely that will change
So the good or bad news for you today is that I really won’t be referencing the movie at all.
I just borrowed the title…it is as simple as that.
Now, having stated that plainly,
And not currently running for President
I feel comfortable that I won’t be accused of plagiarism today.
Open you Bibles with me today to
1 Timothy 1:12-17 (Page 1274)
Reading Someone Else’s Mail
Today we are going to be looking at a fairly short passage of scripture
Which gives us a fairly intimate look at the Apostle Paul
While we call this the book of First Timothy it is of course a letter
Or in Greek an “Epistle”
Paul, perhaps the most notable and influential of the Apostles is writing to his good friend and fellow worker Timothy…hence the name of the letter.
It is likely that this letter was written sometime between Paul’s first and second imprisonments in Rome, around 62-64 AD.
Verse 3 indicates Paul was likely writing from Macedonia
And area located to the north of Greece
Which included cities like Thessalonica and Philippi
Other places Paul visited and sent letters to
Sometime previous to this Paul asked Timothy,
one of his young protégées or mentorees
To stay behind in Ephesus to lend leadership to that church
In this letter Paul will give Timothy instruction to
refute the false teachers that were popping up
And to establish of elders and deacons
As the spiritual leadership structure for the church
But in this early section of the letter
There is something more personal and intimate that Paul reveals
In essence…We are reading someone else’s mail today
This is not a passage of deep theological complexity
Nor is it meant to provide Timothy with a main teaching point
To pass along to others concerning some aspect of doctrine
Rather it is a passage that reveals a bit of the heart of Paul
It is a portion of his personal testimony of faith
He is passing along to Timothy a reminder of something
Timothy already knew
Read the Text:
Prayer: Lord, as we read these words of Paul, his expression of gratitude towards you, may we find our own spirits moved in the same way. Lord, you asked Paul to write these words to Timothy, and you preserved them for us as well so that we might grow in our knowledge and love of you.
Would you guide us now as we study this passage that we might get all you desire for us out of it. Lord, please guide our hearts and minds to be open to what you reveal, and guide my mouth that I might say what is appropriate for this day. In your precious name Lord Jesus, we pray.
Being Thankful V 12
1 Timothy 1:12
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.
One of the things I am consistently aware of
Is the tremendous privilege it is that my full-time vocation is as a pastor
That I am able each day to rise in the morning and look forward
To using the vast majority of my waking hours spend on something
As meaningful as the building up Christians
And a local church
It is a privilege and I do have joy in being your pastor
But I can’t help but consider all that Paul went through in his life
The hardships, imprisonments, traveling, etc.
Were not easy to endure
Paul is thanking God for the physical, spiritual and emotional
Strength to do all he has done and will do
He is expressing a sense of humbleness that God would even consider him
Faithful, capable or worthy enough to be used by Him.
The expression “Appointing me to His Service”
Has the literal meaning in the Greek of
Being put or placed into service or ministry
He is expressing thankfulness for being selected
Chosen…picked and placed
And this is a huge change for him…
Thankful, For Good Reason V 13-14
1 Timothy 1:13
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’s thankfulness for his selection or calling to ministry
Comes from his understanding that he has come a long way
From where his was.
Paul’s life before coming to faith in Christ was marked by three things
He was a…
Blasphemer- Someone who speaks against or ridicules God
He had resisted the new movement of God
by cursing the name of Jesus,
by rejecting the message of Christ and His followers
Persecutor- in that he was very actively involved in the hunting down and prosecuting the Jesus Followers. He was committed to the defense of Judaism and the squashing of this new movement.
Violent- Acts 6 & 7 describes the testimony of Stephen, who was stoned to death for his faith, and that Paul was there as well.
In Chapter 8 of Acts we find this:
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
No where do we find it recorded that Paul (or Saul)
physically killed anyone himself…but clearly he was aggressive
and in his own words Violent
And yet…This Blaspheming, persecuting, violent man
Was the object of God’s Mercy…
God was merciful to Paul without his ever asking for it
Paul thought he was doing the right thing
in chasing down and imprisoning Christians
But in truth…he was ignorant of what God was doing
And he didn’t believe Christ was the promised Messiah
If three things marked who he was before Christ changed his life
Three different things are marking his life now
Verse 14 tells us….
1 Timothy 1:14
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Grace- the unmerited favor of God…His showing us goodness
We do not deserve and could not earn
Paul experienced that
Faith- a deep, over whelming understanding of the truth about God
And in this case the Son of God, Jesus Christ
The kind of faith that overwhelms us with confidence
The kind of faith that leaves no doubt
The kind of faith that we can not take credit for…
The kind of faith that is a gift from God Himself
The is what Paul was given
Love- the Greek word here is ”Agape”
The deep sort of love that flows from God himself
The unconditional love of God
That is what Paul came to know
What a change…
From…Blasphemer, persecutor and violent man
Who should have received God wrath or judgment
To one full of…Grace, Faith and Love
Because of God’s mercy
That is the kind of change only God can bring about.
But there is more to the story….
There was a greater purpose God had in mind
The Greater Purposes of God V 15-16
Paul goes on to tell his young friend this…
1 Timothy 1:15
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
If before Paul could not believe that God had sent Jesus,
and was actually hostile towards Him
and the message of Him that the Christ followers were spreading
Now Paul truly is a believer and can state clearly
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
Including “really bad guys like me”
But there is even more to the transformation that has taken place in his life
There is even more to his change from Where He Was…to where he is
1 Timothy 1:16
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.
Paul is saying that God chose him specifically because of Where He Was
Specifically because he was a Blasphemer, Persecutor and Violent
Why? Because the difference between
where he was and where God took him
was so dramatic…
That people couldn’t help but notice.
People couldn’t help but notice how great God must be
If he was so be so gracious to Paul
People couldn’t help but notice
That God had patiently restrained
His judgment and His punishment
Which Paul so rightly deserved
And instead gave him Grace, Faith and Love
Paul was destined to be an example for many…
Even though he wrote these very words to Timothy
I’m sure he had no idea how significant
an example he was going to be.
Almost 2000 years later, Paul…
A former blasphemer, persecutor and violent man
Is still an example of how God offers
Grace, Faith and Hope
To every person who believes
Taking It Home
Ironman- Inspirational Stories
For the past several years I have managed to watch the TV coverage of the
Ironman competition from Hawaii
I never sit down intending to do so, I just seem to happen upon it
On a Sunday afternoon (in October I think)
And then I get sucked into it
This is the original Triathlon endurance event, from which all others have come
2.4 Mile Swim
112 Mile Bike Ride
26.2 Mile Run
It is an unbelievably challenging event that drives people
to their limits and beyond
If you finish it, just complete it…
Whether and man or a woman
you earn the right to be called an Ironman
The TV coverage is not live, since it takes the best athletes over 8 hours to complete
So you are watching highlights that are clipped together
To make a one hour program that can hold viewers attention.
Dick and Rick Hoyt
The part I like most are the stories behind the athletes
And few of them stand out as much as Dick and Rick Hoyt
Dick is a retired military officer and for more than 25 years
He has competed with his son Rick in various sporting events
Perhaps a lot of us parents have done that
Found an activity that we can enjoy with our kids
But there is a difference
Rick was born in 1962 as a spastic quadriplegic,
cerebral palsy, non-speaking person.
When Dick and Rick compete in Hawaii as a team
They really are a team
Dick supplies all the physical energy and his son the motivation.
As Dick swims the 2.4 miles, he is also pulling his son on a raft behind him
As Dick bikes the 112 miles, he is also pulling his son behind him
As Dick runs the 26.2 miles, he is also pushing his son in front of him
Emotional as I am, when I first saw this story…I wept.
What a story.
I think most of us are inspired about stories like that
Or stories like of hiker Aron Ralston
As inspiring as those stories are… There is something missing.
You see at the center of every one of those
Triumph of the human spirit stories
Is usually just a human
Now don’t get me wrong…
I am impressed with those things
I am encouraged or challenge to see
That there is so much more that the human body is capable of
Than we typically believe
But in the end…the stories are limited…
Because in the end the story is about a man or a woman
It is a story about what they did
The abilities they discovered and used
And in the end…they receive the accolades
What inspires me about Paul story is the exact opposite
It is not the triumph of the human spirit
But rather the triumph of the Holy Spirit
I think we all like the stories of people who were in
Bad place in life
And have been able to turn their life around
I think the reason we like stories like that is because they remind us of the larger and more important stories of life
The stories of the way God changes lives
A number of years ago I had the opportunity to hear Nicky Cruz speak
For those of you who have read the book “The Cross and the Switchblade”
You know that Nicky went from being a street thug
Gang member…with all that entails
To being a follower of Christ whose life has been radically changed.
Many of us have stories like that…
Stories like the one we have looked at today…the life change of Paul
A man who went from Blasphemer, persecutor and violent
To a life full of grace, faith and love
The power of all these stories…in all our stories…
Is in the before and the after
In the difference between…
The Way We Were then…and…
The Way We Are Now
The Way We Were
The story that Paul wrote in this passage is not a new story to Timothy.
Timothy was fully aware of it
He could no doubt tell it himself
Two and half years ago when a team from PBC went to Albania
I had the opportunity to tell the story how God changed my life
It is a story similar in some ways to the Apostle Paul’s
I was asked to tell that story so many times a various public meetings
That my son Joel commented that he said he could give it for me.
Timothy no doubt had that same knowledge of Paul
And yet Paul reminds him again
1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
What is your The Way We Were & The Way We Are story?
Teens & Children
Some who only have the Way We Were