Sermon Title: It’s Not About Us! [2 of ]
Scripture: 1 Timothy 1:12- 20
Wesleyan Community Church
Sunday Morning - January 6, 2002
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”, writes Paul in the first chapter of his letter to the church in Rome. Paul is “the man” when it comes to the preaching of the Word of God, but it was not always so, and that is alluded to in this section of the first letter that he writes to his beloved spiritual son Timothy. There is a reminder from whence Paul came. There is power in the testimony of every person here this morning who has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. What is God doing in our lives today? Now, compare now to what your life used to be before Jesus Christ. Does the way that we live and the things that we say measure up to Paul’s statement, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”? Let us bear that in mind as we explore what God would have for us this morning.
Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-21
12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
18This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; 19Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 20Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
I often think about the different shows that I used to watch of Bob Hope and his entertainment of the different servicemen in the different conflicts that this nation of ours has been in, and I think of his theme song, Thanks For the Memories. We all have memories, and though some may be bad, there are often those that are good as well.
I thank God for the memories of what He has done in my life, I thank Him for the memories, both Good and bad. I thank Him for the life that He has so graciously led me out of, and I thank Him for the memories of what that lifestyle entailed. We are not to dwell on our past! We are not to glorify the lifestyle that we were led out of, however, we must never, never forget from whence we came. We must never, never forget who took us by the hand, in the bleakest hour of our life, and then held us close and said – “I do not condemn you either – Go and sin no more”!
There is power in our testimony when given along with a steady diet of God’s Word – God’s Word undiluted and pure. When we Pass It On to those that are lost, we pass on the hope of our salvation as well. I’ll never forget the time I heard someone give a testimony of how they were almost instantaneously delivered from the power of alcohol – and I remember the desire that God make it so in my life. I have heard countless others share their testimonies and have seen first-hand the effects that our stories, your stories can have on others. Remember, there is so much truth that up until that point you may be the only Bible that they know.
We tell what the Lord has done in our lives, and then the we need to take the impression that was mage on them, an impression that is fueled by the power of conviction from the Holy Spirit, and then we must Make it Stick! How is that done? We tell what Jesus has done in our lives and then we must live that each and every day! Without fail, these people are watching us – not to see us fail, but to see how it is done and actually to try to believe that it can work in their lives as well.
My father was a wonderful man, whom I am sure would have thrived in the right church. In viewing people that went to church on Sunday and lived like the devil the remainder of the week, he passed judgment on organized religion. I cannot blame him for that. We see the turmoil of the Catholic church right now, and instead of praising the Lord that we are not a part of that mess, we need to be dropping to our knees in prayer, because the lost are looking at that, shaking their heads in disgust, shaking their heads at the notion that the church is not any different then the society within which they leave, shaking their heads, turning their backs on God and walking into an eternity of torment. That’s the fact of what is going on today!
Let us pause for a moment of prayer!
Point 1: Thanks For the Memories
Paul reminds Timothy from whence he came.
12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
§ We are enabled to walk away from what formerly held us back. Paul would probably not have been chosen by many church boards today to be their leading evangelist based on his past. He was their enemy! He fought against everything that they believed in! We see it happening in the world around us today. A more contemporary example would be Josh McDowell, a man on a mission to disprove Christianity, and through all of his dedication to proving Christianity false, he became converted himself. We are enabled to walk away from the way we were.
§ We are called – God puts a purpose in our lives where the world has previously failed so miserably. The Great Commission was not just for the disciples of Jesus, it was for all those who hear the Good News. When you hear the message of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior – you are also called to share it with others. When we share with others and they accept the Gospel message, the flame that burns within them causes ours to be rekindled or burn brightly. Sometimes we need to be refired!
Let me share this story by Dr. John MacArthur
The Lonely Ember
A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going.
After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.
Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.
After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.
As the one lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and "dead as a doornail."
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.
Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."
§ We are delivered – Paul not only changed from where he was at, he never looked back. Paul knew that his past was on the wrong path and know that he was walking with Jesus, he would choose no other way. There are problems when we look back. Now there is a difference between remembering from whence you came and gazing longingly at from where you were. Lot’s wife looked over her shoulder at the life that they left and became a pillar of salt. Jesus tells the adulterous woman that her sins are forgiven, now go and sin no more. DON’T GO BACK THERE! Our future with Jesus lies before us and not in our past.
Point 2: Pass It On
Such a glorious gift we are given in the form of salvation, now let us share it with those around us!
16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus died for us and we are given the opportunity to pass Jesus on to others. Paul talks about being a pattern for others to follow. We don’t have that honor of watching Jesus set the example with our own eyes like His disciples did. We have the prodding of the Holy Spirit combined with the call placed on the lives of others to come to our aid and assist us in walking with Christ. We then must follow the example of those that have gone before us.
I want to offer the following challenge to each and every one. Pick a day, a normal day in your life and look at everything that you do or say, look at everywhere that you go and then try to look at it through the eyes of a lost soul looking to you for a glimpse of Jesus. What kind of Jesus are you showing them?
Point 3: Make it Stick
We have an opportunity to make an impression on those around us, let that impression be a lasting one. Let us reexamine our last section of Scripture, verses 18 and 19:
18This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; 19Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
Paul proposes some wonderful challenges to his beloved Timothy. He tells him to fight a good fight, he tells Timothy to never waiver in the faith, and tells him to keep his mind clear. This is not just a proclamation for Timothy alone but for each and every one of us sitting here this morning.
§ How do we fight a good fight? Interestingly enough, we already know who the winning side is, so if we choose to be on the Lord’s side, then we will battle to the point of victory. There are no obstacles that can beat us down, there are no challenges that are beyond God’s ability to equip us for, there is no point too far away for God to rescue us from. The victory is assured, only we need to choose the winning side.
§ We are told to never waiver in our faith. There is no stronger testimony for what Jesus can do for someone then the example of a Christian in the throes of a crisis standing tall for Jesus regardless how terrible the circumstances become. It is one thing to live by Christ-like standards in the good times, in the times where we are not threatened, in the times when we are not in harms way, when our lives are not on the line, but to stand tall for the Lord even in the face of death – that testimony is powerful. Our God is so powerful that He can snatch us from the very jaws of death, even if it means the loss of our very lives, because the life that we seek is the everlasting life with Jesus Christ our Lord.
§ We are to keep our minds clear. Don’t allow the power of guilt to drive us aground. We have a Lord and Savior that we can come to and confess our sins, they needn’t drag us down. We have a Lord and Savior that has paved the way for us, we needn’t let the burdens of life get us down. We have a Holy Spirit to empower us, we needn’t simply throw up our hands in defeat. Do not allow any form of thinking to cloud the vision that we have of Jesus. Remember Peter, walking on the water to Jesus in the midst of a storm, able to walk on the water until he took his eyes of of his Lord and Savior and chose to look at his surroundings instead. At that point Peter began to sink. We must keep our minds clear, we must fill our minds with the things of the Lord.
The glorious thing about what is proclaimed to us is that we needn’t go through any of this alone. Before we close allow me to share this poem that tells about the threat of division and the power of being united in the Body of Christ.
Ten Little Christians
Ten Little Christians came to church all the time;
One fell out with the preacher, then there were nine.
Nine Little Christians stayed up late;
One overslept on Sunday, then there were eight.
Eight Little Christians on their way to Heaven;
One took the low road, then there were seven.
Seven Little Christians, chirping like chicks;
One didn’t like the singing, then there were six.
Six Little Christians seemed very much alive;
One took a vacation, then there were five.
Five Little Christians pulling for Heaven’s shore;
One stopped to take a rest, then there were four.
Four Little Christians each as busy as a bee;
One had his feelings hurt, then there were three.
Three Little Christians couldn’t decide what to do;
One couldn’t have his way, then there were two.
Two Little Christians each won one more;
Now don’t you see, two plus two equals four.
Four Little Christians worked early and late;
Each brought one, now there were eight.
Eight Little Christians if they double as before;
In just seven Sundays, we have one thousand twenty four.
In this jingle there is a lesson true;
You belong either to the building, or to the wrecking crew.
Do we thank God for the memories? How often do we truly and earnestly thank him for all that He has done to remove us from a sinful life, a life that would surely end in an eternity of torment? We come to Him with the smallest things at times, but how often do we thank Him for saving our souls?
Do we make the most of our opportunities to pass It on? Who did we not share Christ with today that probably needed to hear? It may be difficult at times for us to share with those that are the most vehemently opposed to the Good News of Christ, but oh the joy if we are fortunate enough to see that soul pleading at the altar of prayer. Let us pursue others with the same vigor or more then we were pursued ourselves!
Do we care enough to make it stick? If we care enough to win that soul for Christ, do we care enough that the decision stands for eternity? Let us not just lead people to the Lord, let us teach them to make disciples that make disciples! If we proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, does the way we live each and every moment reflect that. Oh that could be a target of prayer on its own!