Based on Biblical Text 1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV)
This 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 commissioned to spread the salvation story however there are some people, maybe even some close to us, who we find it most difficult to reach. There are some people who believe that they are too bad for God to be concerned with them. If you are like me you have family members, neighbors and maybe a co-worker or two who are convinced that they are too evil or too far gone and when we try to share with them the good news of Jesus Christ they believe that their sins are too great to be forgiven.
The difficult question becomes, “What do you tell a person who feels they’re too bad to be any good?” The answer is that, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” There are several powerfully profound texts in the Bible on the subject of salvation. However, simply stated, Christ came to save the sinner. That sinner is you, me and the most wretched person we know also.
If I were preaching this text, I might say at this juncture, “I need to park here for a moment.” I need to mention that many of the folk we know who believe they are too far away from God to be helped say, “I can’t go to church and sit up there with all those good people. You don’t know the things I’ve done in my life! They’ll never forgive me, and I’m ashamed to ask for forgiveness after all the stuff I’ve done.” How do you know, Reverend? I know because I remember a time in my life when I thought like that. Truth be told — some of you reading remember a time when you thought like that as well. Thank God Jesus came to save the sinner!
It was a sinner who wrote our text. The writer is Paul, a native of Tarsus, a city distinguished for the wealth of its inhabitants, and for its exposure to many languages. For two years, Christianity was quietly spreading its influence. Paul, then known as Saul, probably a member of the great Sanhedrin, had become an active leader in the furious persecution and extermination of Christians. Saul took a prominent part while watching Stephen, one of the seven deacons of the early Christian church, deliver a public and aggressive testimony that Jesus was the Messiah. When persecution arose against Stephen, the Bible says “they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, (in an attempt to squelch the messenger and his message). Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
What man intends for evil, God works for good. The persecution of Christians caused the believers to scatter, and with them their beliefs. “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4) and the anger of this persecutor was kindled into a fiercer flame. When Saul heard that the Christians had taken refuge in Damascus, he obtained letters from the chief priest authorizing him to follow in pursuit of the fugitives. It was at the last stage of the 130 mile, six day journey that Saul’s life was changed forever. Saul, the persecutor of Christ, became Paul the Ambassador for Christ.
The Bible says, Saul, the persecutor, was blinded by the dazzling light, and led by his companions into Damascus, where he spent three days absorbed in deep thought, refusing to eat or drink. It is a fact that when God gets our attention, He really gets our attention. Saul lost his appetite. Saul not only lost his appetite for food, he lost his appetite for murder.
In a vision, God told Ananias, a disciple living in Damascus, that Saul, the terrible and feared persecutor of Christians, was in town. God told Ananias to go to Saul and anoint him and admit him by baptism into the Christian church. I wonder just how many of us would have responded to God’s call that day. Let’s be honest. Some of us have trouble admitting reformed drug addicts, reformed liars and reformed alcoholics into our church. Can we honestly say that we would have obeyed God and anointed Saul, the murderer of Christians?
Those who believe they are too bad to be forgiven should notice that not only did Jesus forgive Paul, Jesus also trusted Paul. You see, sometimes, in our church, we may forgive someone who has committed some mistake or who has been guilty of some sin, but we make it very clear by “thought, word or deed” that what they have done in the past makes it impossible for us to trust them again with any responsibility. However, Jesus had not only forgiven Paul, He had entrusted him to do His work. The man who had been the persecutor of Christ had been made the ambassador for Christ”
Paul had insulted, reviled and cursed the name of Jesus. He had been so angry at Jesus that he had set out to wipe His name off the face of the earth by killing all Christians. But, when he had reached the last stage of his journey and was within sight of Damascus, he was suddenly confronted by blinding light, and a voice that said, “Why persecutest thou me?” There stood Jesus, clothed in the vesture of his glorified humanity, demanding an answer. And all he could think to say was, “Who are you?” The answer, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutes.” He had treated and used others despitefully; he had been brutal and violent and worse he had enjoyed it! And yet, Jesus forgave Paul of his terrible sins. Despite all this evil, God had mercy upon Paul.
Jesus favored Paul even when he did not deserve it. And Jesus favors us even when we don’t deserve it. Jesus blessed Paul even when he did not deserve it. Jesus blesses us, even when we don’t deserve it! Jesus does not favor us slightly. He favors us exceedingly and abundantly. Jesus favors us superabundantly and beyond measure. Micah 7:18 (Living Bible Translation) says “Where is another God like you, who pardons the sins of the survivors among his people? You cannot stay angry with your people, for you love to be merciful.”
Paul says, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit 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. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
There is no sin beyond the capacity of Jesus’ forgiveness. There is no person too bad to be any good for God. We can bring our degraded reputation and our ruined life to Jesus. We can bring our blemished character and our tormented conscience. We can bring our contaminated, stained, sinful soul to Jesus and He will wash us white as snow!
As we approach the Sabbath
Sunday, May 18, 2014, is the Fifth Sunday of Easter.
Join our Worship Service at 8:00 am and 11:00 am.
Church School begins at 9:45 am.
Scripture Lesson for this Sunday
1 Peter 2:1-10
This Sunday is Lay Day
Message at 8am Service to be delivered by The Reverend James Cooper, II
Message at 11am Service to be delivered by Sister Shantell Scott