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Summary: It doesn't matter who you used to be. In spite of your past, God loves you, he will change you, and he will use you—if you open your heart to him.

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Guilt cannot overpower us

Acts 23:1-11; 1 Tim 1:12-16

Introduction

We are called to have a common purpose in what we do

-- The purpose is to worship, to love, and to celebrate Christ and share Him always

-- That is our challenge, mission, and it is STILL where we find ourselves today

Paul understood that Grace was the key to life; for it had been shown to him

-- Jesus is not to be ‘used’ or consulted only when we need something

-- APP: It’s not right to want the blessings without the relationship/commitment

LAST WEEK: We drew a conclusion and saw three important things we MUST respond to: Seeing, Hearing, and Doing what Jesus Christ shows, says, and commands of us.

Today I want us to see how the life of Paul can show us that change is possible

-- Paul was a man who understand persecution, trials, difficulties, and even guilt

-- He knew that God loved Him, and in the end this is what he clung too; testimony

-- His life is what we've been looking at, and how he shares it with us is vital

-- Today, we will see how Paul responded out of anger and what he learned from it

How many of you have done something stupid in your past?

-- Something you regret? We all have – it’s something we all deal with, daily.

Guilt is not always a bad thing, especially when we have sinned

-- Let’s be transparent here: If you are living in sin, if you are living your life in such a way that you know God doesn't approve of the way you’re living, you are going to feel guilt. And as harsh as this may sound, you should. Guilt is God’s way of telling you that you’re made for something better than what you’re doing.

IMP: One of Satan’s most effective methods of wrecking the lives of Christians is the use of guilt to paralyze them from accepting God’s grace

But today, what I want you to leave here knowing in your heart, no matter where you are in life, is that God is concerned with who you are vs. who you’ve been!!

We’re continuing our journey through the book of Acts this morning in Acts 23 We’re going to take a look into a time in Paul’s life when he absolutely blew it

-- We will contrast this lesson he has learned about making the wrong decision

-- In his letter, we see how guilt and grace comes full circle in his life

Read Acts 23:1-11

Point 1 - God loves you in spite of your past

We’ve all done things that can make us feel guilty

-- How does guilt make you feel? A screw-up? Undeserving? Worthless?

Illustration (Pastor Steve May): “Several years ago a woman came to our church and told him God could never love her; she had committed the worst possible sin. In a fit of rage, she said, because her baby wouldn’t stop crying, she shook him so hard that his brain was permanently damaged. Every day she is reminded of the fact that her own child is forced to live with the consequences of her sin. The guilt was too much for her. She said she had no right to be a mother, she had no right to be a Christian, in fact, she had no right to live. "God couldn’t possibly love me after what I did," she said.”

APP: His response to her was the same thing I’m saying to you today: God loves you in spite of your past. If He didn’t, then Jesus died for NOTHING

Imagine what it must have been like for Paul in Acts 23

-- As he sat in jail he knew his temper had gotten the best of him

-- Instead of sharing Christ; he decided to throw a fit and lash out

-- Imagine all the memories and guilt that must have flooded his mind

-- It wasn’t the first time he had blown it, was it? Paul had a very checkered past

-- In 1 Timothy Paul acknowledges that he had a past to live down

1 Tim. 1:12-13, “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.”

Some of you may be thinking, Paul can’t be the worst … I am!

-- The fact is, God loves you in spite of whatever sins you have committed

-- There is nothing you can do to keep God from loving you

-- It doesn’t matter who you used to be; this is what Paul is about to learn

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