Summary: Who is the chief of sinners? We are all sinners, yet saved by grace through faith. As a former Mormon, my sermon explores Paul’s message of "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..." how regardless of our past, we are new creatures, alive in
So who is your favorite character in the Bible that you can relate with most? Do you have one? Of course, I would have to say that Jesus Christ is my favorite Person in the Bible, but, other than God, who in the Bible can I really relate to? I guess for each one of us it depends upon how we¡¦ve lived our lives up until this very moment. As a kid, my favorite character was Zacchaeus the tax collector. But the reason I liked Zacchaeus wasn¡¦t that he was a tax collector, but because he was, as Luke puts it, a ¡§short man.¡¨ Now, you might find this hard to believe because of the giant, towering tall man I am today, with all of my 5¡¦6¡¨, that I¡Xyes, believe it or not¡Xwas a small kid, a short kid.ƒº I related to Zacchaeus, as a kid, because Jesus loved him, even though he was small and even though he was despised. As a small kid, I was picked on all the time and usually the last kid to be picked for the team, so I could definitely relate to Zacchaeus. We don¡¦t sing the song much anymore today, but there was a great Sunday-school song when I was a kid¡Xjust a few years ago¡Xabout Zacchaeus, the ¡§wee, little man.¡¨ For others, they might relate with Jonah, with Moses, with Joseph, or maybe even with Martha. Or how about Saint Peter? ...called on to do great things but instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to do the good things through him, he tried to do it himself¡Kand failed. And finally, what about Saint Paul? Have you ever thought about who Paul was and how he, who called himself the ¡§chief of sinners,¡¨ came to be one of the greatest apostles of Jesus? Let¡¦s open with prayer¡K
Many of you here tonight who have known me for a while know a little about my background when it comes to my relationship with God. You see some years ago, during my 20¡¦s, I fell away from the Christian Church and join a cult, (pause) which most of you know as the Mormon Church or the LDS Church. Mormonism is the 2nd largest religion here in Elk Grove and is growing rapidly by converting Christians away from the true faith into Mormonism. And Mormonism¡¦s teaching¡Xwell they are totally unchristian and complete heresy. Now the point of my telling you this isn¡¦t to tell you about the amazing Grace of God that brought me¡Xand my family¡Xout of Mormonism, although certainly God¡¦s Grace through the Holy Spirit is what saved us from the cult and so literally saved our lives. No, my point in telling you about my background in Mormonism is to highlight what Saint Paul is teaching us here tonight in verses 12 through 17 of 1 Timothy 1, and that is that Jesus Christ came into our world to save Paul, to save me, to save YOU¡Xto save sinners. (pause) Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
I am so grateful to God that He showed my family the way out that false church. But what I struggled with most, maybe even to some degree today, is knowing that during my years in Mormonism, I personally lead dozens of people out of Christianity and into the false faith found there in Mormonism. You see, my ¡§job,¡¨ as it were, in the Mormon Church was that of mission leader. I was responsible for coordinating the activities of those clean-cut young men you see in the white shirts and black ties riding around in pairs on their bicycles. My job was to go to Christians and tell them that their Christian faith was wrong and that the only way they could get saved was by believing what Mormonism taught and then getting them to leave Christianity to join the Mormon Church. I personally baptized about a dozen people into Mormonism, many of whom I know are still active there, most of whom won¡¦t talk to me now because I left the Mormon Church. And the low point really came for me when the Holy Spirit showed me the heresy there in Mormonism and when I finally accepted what the Holy Spirit was telling me, I stood there shocked and in disbelief; I was scared for my soul when I understood¡Kreally understood¡Kthe magnitude of my actions, (pause) for I wasn¡¦t just persecuting people of the various Christian faiths, but by persecuting Christian believers, I was persecuting God Himself. At that moment, I knew I that was (pause) the worst of sinners.
The great Apostle Paul also has such an interesting background because before Jesus personally called him into the ministry, Paul was a Pharisee, who was second-to-none in his persecution of Christians. The beginning of Paul¡¦s story in the Bible is definitely not a flattering one. Paul summarizes it like this in verse 13: ¡§I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.¡¨ The first time the Bible mentions Paul, he¡¦s described as standing guard over the clothes of those who were stoning Stephen. Paul quickly went from supporting the persecution of Christians to leading that persecution, as he went from house to house to drag Christians off to prison. Now, I never witnessed violence or a stoning during my time in the Mormon Church like Paul did¡XI never witnessed anyone being killed for disobedience in the Mormon Church, although is definitely a part of Mormonism¡¦s history¡Xbut it is possible that in leading some Christians away from the Grace of Jesus Christ, I may have led them to spiritual death. So like Paul, once I came to understand the magnitude of this sin, I was remorseful beyond words. Like Paul, I considered myself to be the worst sinner in the world. (pause) And have you ever done something that you later have regretted, maybe to the point of wondering if God can ever forgive you for such a sin? See friends, the point of me telling you about this part of my past that I¡¦m not especially proud of is the same thing that Paul tells to us in verse 15 and the only thing that saves me from my sinful past: ¡§Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners¡K¡¨¡Keven the worst of sinners. Paul uses the Greek word prw:to;V here, which means first or chief. Paul feels what he has done earned him the title Chief of sinners. I know that as I left Mormonism, I too felt like I was the chief of sinners, first in line of sinners. But that¡¦s not how God feels about Paul, about me, or anyone one of us.