Pentecost 16 Grace Overflowed
† In the Name of Jesus †
May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.
Our Goal – perhaps as challenging?
As Kevin Encourages others, so Paul encourages us!
It is something most athletes desire, to open the paper to the sports section, and see a picture of themselves, and the main headline to mention their name. I imagine that like most young professional football players, Kevin Everett would have dreamt of such fame. A second year, back-up tight end, he dominated every newspaper and sports broadcast this week. But not for a game winning touchdown catch. For an injury as bad as any in the last 30 years of football on television, college or professional.
Immediately rushed to the hospital, the young man underwent 6 hours of surgery on his spine, last Sunday afternoon and evening. Early reports from the neurosurgeons were not positive at all – full paralysis was nearly guaranteed. Monday morning, it was no better, but then, movement started. His mother and aunt declared a miracle, the doctors pointed to a revolutionary, theoretical treatment, given to the man in the ambulance.
It seems, that perhaps in a few weeks now, the young man will walk out of the hospital. Some are even holding out hope that he will again play the game that he loves. Almost all are indicating a fairly normal life. Doctors, neurosurgeons, trainers, all indicate that the radical treatment gives the 300-500 people a year that suffer spinal injuries hope – hope for a life beyond beds and wheelchairs. An example, a display of what might be.
Such a display of hope, is how Paul encourages Timothy in this letter, and how we are encouraged today. For Paul starts out with a high standard, a high goal for us to achieve. He writes, “5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. A small task Paul identifies for us, for those who are tasked with serving God’s people – just develop in each of them a few things. A pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faith, all combined which result in love. Love towards God, love towards fellow men, that is all.
As a young pastor like Timothy, as I tried to make people become more spiritual, more loving towards each other, I often felt paralyzed. There was nothing I could preach, or teach, or use that would provoke loving behavior. Nothing I could do to my people that they would demonstrate the faith I knew lurked within them.
Such passages like these, with Paul’s example gave me hope. They re-focused my message, and yes, though seeing love develop often is… challenging, I do see your purified hearts, cleansed conscious’s, and growing trust in Christ.
The Law used right
Can it be used wrong?
Wrong to use it to justify
Wrong to use it for us to condemn
Used Right – it confronts sin – to point to Jesus
God’s forebearance quote –
One of the greatest temptations for anyone who teaches and preaches Christ, is to get waylaid by the many distractions out there. Discussions that are, to blunt, worth-less, because they desire to define, that which God left hidden. Man, in his question for Godliness, attempts to define the un-definable. Such things, the how/when/why does this happen, or when will that happen, about which God simply says, it is so.
One of the most common errors, is in the use of God’s law, which Paul addresses this way,
8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 1 Timothy 1:8-9 (ESV)
It is amazing to me, that despite this verse, and chapters of Romans, Galatians, Colossians and the Gospel, many of us misuse the law, applying it to those who are declared justified. Just do a little better at this, or give a little more of that, and my friends, God will find you acceptable, they say. Or we use the law to judge and condemn our enemies. No hope for you, you’re a sinner, and paralyzed by sin. Yet these are the people, that need the hope that we already count on, the love we already have come to know, and trust in!
The Law, properly used as the law, is about confronting the thoughts, words and deeds which earn God’s wrath and judgment. But the purpose of the law is not the judgment, it is have what happened to Paul, happen to those convicted by hearing it, and who come to fear what they deserve. To see them realize that they need something more than their own work.
This is where God’s patience, the perfect patience Paul points out to Timothy. The same patience that Peter refers to,
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
Or as one pastor/theologian has it,
Paul relates God’s (patience) forbearance to his wrath (Rom. 2:4; 9:22). Already (realized) manifest, divine wrath will reach a climax only on the day of wrath (2:5). Longsuffering obviously does not mean (He is indecisive) irresolution or (that He will back down) compliance. It is not swayed by emotion but has the end in view. The delay may allow time for repentance but it also increases the wrath.
In terms of the opening illustration of the football player, God doesn’t want to make a decision on Sunday Evening, or even Monday morning, but is waiting to see what effect His word has, as it is proclaimed to the world, healing those who begin to trust in Him. It is about the end goal, the love that pours out of those who receive God’s grace, because they have a purified heart, a cleansed conscience, and who sincerely trust in God.
His salvation – an example for us…
The reason for Christ to come
To save us.
That is why Paul brings his former life, prior to receiving God’s grace, into the letter. He tells of all the behaviors of people, who no matter how good God’s law and teaching is, choose their own way. He describes them in verse 9, lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.
If Paul left this passage off here, we would be without hope. A similar passage in 1 Corinthians 6 ends with, “and such were you” before continuing with, But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God! That is the same blessing that we see in Paul, even more amplified, look at verse 13,
formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
The grace overflowed…. The grace overflowed!!!!!
Or as it was put in 1 Cor. 6 – Paul was washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, by the Spirit of God.
Paul’s perspective on this is great. That God’s purpose in saving him, wasn’t just to save him. It is the lesson that gives us hope, like Kevin Everett’s recovery gives hope to those in the future, injured, and even some hope to those presently suffering with spinal injuries.
Paul’s point is simple – you need confidence in what God can do with a sinner? Look at me – there is hope for you, and for those for whom you care, for those whom you serve in Christ!
If Paul, the persecutor of the early church, can be saved by Christ’s mercy, so can we! If King David, an adulterer and murderer can be saved by God’s love, so can we! If men like Augustine and Francis of Assisi, who had wild lives that might make Paris Hilton blush. if God can save them, and use them in His Kingdom, then He is more than capable of saving the rest of us!
That is His purpose, as Paul summarizes so clearly,
“15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,”
For those of us in the church, charged with the aim of seeing people love from hearts that are purified, consciences cleansed, the answer is clear, that our work is to point them to the one who does this – the Lord Jesus Christ, and where it was accomplished in His life, and on the cross, with the assurance that the grace is empty, and He dwells, waiting for us, with all the saints of history. Those who trusted in Him, for eternal life.
Our work is not to change them, but to see the Holy Spirit change them, as they look to the Christ whose death purifies their hearts, cleanses their consciences, who has given them, the ability to sincerely trust Him.
To him, the God who gives us incomparable peace, and guards it in Christ, To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.