You Are Trustworthy
A sermon based on 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Sunday, September 15, 2013 – Pentecost 17C
Where do you get your hardware? Do you head over to Home Depot? Do you try to get what you need in one stop with Walmart or Freddy's? I kind of like going to Trustworthy. I think I may pay a bit more, but I like seeing all those animals on the walls. You don't get that at Home Depot. But I also like the name: Trustworthy. It makes me feel safe, like I can ask a sales associate a question and they'll let me the truth. Like one time I went to purchase salt for my water softener. They were all out so I asked if they had more in back. They told me that they didn't, but that I wouldn't want to buy from them anyway because Fred Meyer had a special. It was cheaper over there. I liked that they would send me over to the competition. I thought they lived up to the name. I can trust them at Trustworthy.
How about you? Are you trustworthy? Would you send a customer to the competition to save them money and earn their trust? Do you maintain your integrity not just in church, but at your work, in your family, with your friends? How about with your God? Are you trustworthy with him? Can he trust that you will manage the blessings he's given to you well, that is, to his glory? Well, when you put it that way, none of us are trustworthy, are we?
But thank God that Jesus is trustworthy. His promises are always true. He always looks out for us, and not himself. And you know this trustworthy truth: That "Christ Jesus came into the world to save [us] sinners." And thanks to his work for us, we are considered faithful to God and we are entrusted with that trustworthy message to share with others.
Listen now to Paul's encouragement to Timothy and to us, recorded for us in 1 Timothy 1:12-17…
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 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. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 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. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
I. You Are Considered Faithful
Can you imagine how Paul must have marveled at the grace that God had shown to him? After all, think of what he had been. He was very zealous, but for the wrong cause. Violently persecuting any who dared to suggest that Jehovah, "the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God" was a mere human, he did all he could to stamp out this new heresy called Christianity. But his zeal was horribly misguided. He was dead wrong.
On the road to Damascus, he quickly came to learn that Jesus, though fully human, was and is true God. Jesus is "the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God" whom Paul was persecuting. And though he was ignorant of the truth and his unbelief explained his behavior, it didn't excuse his behavior. Paul understood that in his ignorance he had rebelled against the one and only true God. Paul understood that he was a sinner—the worst of sinners.
He must have expected punishment from Jesus. He must have known how he deserved that blindness inflicted on him when Jesus stood before him on the road. But how surprised, how delighted he must have been when he received his sight. With his physical sight restored when the scales fell from his eyes, he had an ever greater spiritual sight. He once was lost, but now was found, was blind, but now could see.
He now saw who Jesus was. He saw what Jesus had done for him. He saw God's grace. He saw his sins forgiven. And he thanked God for that forgiveness and for the opportunities he was given to serve!
And you know, Paul's story isn't that dissimilar from our own…
Are you trustworthy? God has blessed us all with so much! But he wants us, expects us, demands that we use those gifts he's given to bring glory to him. But how do we use them? Are we faithful? Are we trustworthy? Do you always use your speech to give glory to God? Or do you sometimes bring glory to yourself as you run down others or flatter them to get what you want? If blasphemy is robbing God of the glory that is due him, then we too are blasphemers, just like Paul.
And maybe you haven't ridiculed someone for their faith in Christ, but is it any better if you refuse to encourage them, if you don't' speak up, don't help out, don't serve others, don't contribute? We hurt others in their faith and persecute them by our apathy when we say or do nothing while the souls of millions are sprinting toward hell.
You know, I think that when Paul said he was the worst, he wasn't speaking with false humility or exaggerating with hyperbole. I think he was speaking the truth. He was the worst of sinners. But I think it's also true that I am the worst of sinners too. And so are you. We are all the worst. You see, there are no degrees of perfect. Anything less than 100% perfect is a failure. We have all sinned, so we all get a zero. We are all the worst.
So how could we possibly be considered faithful? Well, you know the answer as well as Paul: Through Jesus who "came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst," through Jesus who condescended to become one of us to put himself under the law to keep it in our place, through Jesus who prayed from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
So admit you're the worst and confess your sin. God didn't come to save saints, but sinners. If you think you're not a sinner, then Jesus has nothing for you. But he promises in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
The Holy Spirit has given you faith in that promise. And now you are faith-full, that is, full of faith. God has poured out his grace on you abundantly. Like a cup overflowing with water—like a cup sitting underneath a waterfall!—God's grace is poured out on you lavishly. His patience with you is unlimited. His forgiveness is bottomless. And through Jesus, he no longer sees in you a sinner who is the worst, but a saint who is faithful and trustworthy, sinless and perfect.
So "thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given [you] strength, that he considered [you] faithful." And live to thank him, knowing that God isn't the only one watching…
II. You Are Entrusted with a Message
Paul wrote, "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." because he knew that others were watching him. They saw Saul, persecutor of the church, become Paul, missionary to the world. While they may have been hesitant to receive him at first, they would later marveled at God's grace that would turn a violent persecutor of the faith into one of his chief spokesmen. And others would think, "If God can save Saul, he can save me!"
This week I read the account of a man who was raised a Muslim, who was a violent persecutor of the Christian church, who had a change of heart. One day he heard a group of Christians singing hymns and stopped to listen to what he thought to be blasphemous lyrics. But when he heard them, it wasn't what he expected. He approached the pastor of that group and asked about their faith and today he is a Christian trying to rescue others out of Islam.
If God can save someone like that, he can save you. And if God can save sinners like you, he can save others like you! God's grace is still poured out abundantly. His patience is still unlimited. And he still saves the very worst of sinners!
And he does it through you.
Paul's not the only "example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." You are an example too. Others are watching you. And they're thinking, "If God could save a schmuck like Guenther and even make him a pastor, then God can surely save me too." So don't be afraid to admit you're the worst of sinners. It's God's grace, not your behavior that ensures you're in heaven. Never intentionally sin, of course, but don't pretend you're not a sinner either. Others are watching and they see right through any hypocrisy.
But they also see how you respond to trouble and problems and pain. They hear what you say at work. They watch how you live your life. They see your faithfulness at work when you think no one's watching. They see your generosity in helping others. They see your humility in your daily attitude. They see your faithful life and want to know more.
And when they ask, you have an answer to give because you've been entrusted with that trustworthy message. You know that the Bible isn't just a self-help book. It's not a book of rules to teach you how to have a better life. You know that it's all about Jesus and what he's done to make you faithful, trustworthy, sinless in God's sight.
Next time someone asks you, "How are you today?" Try the answer, "Much better than I deserve." That response has often created an opportunity for me to talk about my sin and God's abundant grace very quickly. And when they ask, "What do you mean by that?" answer with the second half of 1 Timothy 1:15. It won't take much to memorize it. Tell them, "I believe that, 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.'"
Would you leave your brand new truck in the hands of a five-year-old? Would you trust them to take care of it or drive it safely? How foolish would you be? How irresponsible?! So why would God leave his Gospel, the good news of forgiveness that would save the eternal soul of his dearly loved children in our hands? Isn't that foolish? Isn't it irresponsible? Doesn't he know how untrustworthy we can be?
But now picture the five year old sitting on the lap and steering in an empty parking lot while you control the pedals. You won't let that child get hurt because you are still in control. In the same way, God entrusts us with his trustworthy message of abundant grace. But he doesn't leave you to drive alone. "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service."
He considers you faithful too. You are forgiven for every time you've let him down. And he's appointed you to service in his Kingdom. And he won't leave you to do the task all alone. He'll give you the strength you need to be faithful and trustworthy and share that trustworthy message as you serve him in endless thanks that mirrors his endless patience and grace. "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."