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Summary: God give the best of his love and his one and only Son for the very worst sinners of which we all are.

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The Very Best

For The Very Worst 17th Sunday after Pentecost September 26, 2004

1 Timothy 1:12-17 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. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the worst. 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. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Today we have a beautiful text in front of us. It’s a text about grace, amazing grace. You remember from confirmation class that “grace” means “undeserved love.” In our text we’re going to learn to be amazed at how God gives the very best, and the ones to whom he gives it are no less than the very worst sinners. The Very Best For The Very Worst.

Think back with me to the early life of the Apostle Paul. What do you remember about his life before he knew Christ? Paul was a very arrogant man. He thought he was doing everything right for God, and that God was very pleased with him for all the good things he was doing. He was so convinced that he was doing what God wanted, that he took it upon himself to see to it that Christians would be stamped out. He began to persecute the church and was responsible for the deaths and imprisonment of who knows how many Christians.

In his letter the Philippians, Paul describes how he had previously lived and the pride he possessed: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless” (Philippians 3:4-6).

But God had other plans for Paul. This man who was committed to stamping out the way of Christ, God had chosen to be an ambassador for Christ. This man who was so convinced he was right, God had to show just how wrong he was. While Paul had resolved to destroy Christianity, God had chosen him to be an apostle of Christianity. Paul writes in our text, “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. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” God chose Paul for a life of service to him and changed the direction of Paul’s life.

As I read through the epistles of Paul, I get the impression that Paul never forgot where he had come from. He never ceased to be amazed at the superabundant grace of God. He wrote to the Corinthians, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul could only marvel that God had extended such mercy to him, the worst of sinners.

How about you? Do you consider yourself the worst of sinners, or is there someone out there worse than you? If there’s a difference between Paul and us, it is that he acted in ignorance and unbelief, while you and I—we know the will of God. We know that God says, “Do not murder, do not lust, do not commit adultery.” But we still do them. We know that God wants to be first in all things, that we cannot serve two masters, God and money; we know we are not to be materialistic—but we are so in love with our stuff. We know that God has given us the Great Commission and said, “Go and make disciples . . . ” (Matthew 28:19) “Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have” (1 Peter 3:15). But when the opportunity to share Jesus arises, we keep our lips shut.

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