All Roads Lead To Jesus - I Timothy

1 Timothy – Jesus is the Savior of the Worst Sinners
Reading: I Timothy 1:12-17

By nature, we are a defensive species. When our character, testimony, actions, or talents are called into question, we often become very defensive. Our current culture is one of offence. How many times have you heard someone say, tweet, or post, “I’m offended!.” All we have to do is open our mouths and we will most certainly disagree with someone, somewhere. We are bound to offend and to be offended. Frankly, it’s tiresome.

When someone offends us, we cancel them. We block them. We ignore them. We dismiss any truth that may come from them. But this is not the way of those who might follow Jesus.

Did you know that the Gospel does away with the culture of offence? The Gospel also handles the sins of the past in a much more consistent way than our reactionary cancel culture. This means that the Gospel is good news for people that would otherwise be cancelled. The caveat for cancelled people is that they must follow Jesus as Lord and King. Many do not. But those who do will experience a type of forgiveness and cancellation of debt that is not found in anyone else.

Paul was a man who should have been cancelled by today’s standards. The Christian Church had every reason to dismiss everything Paul had to say and write to them. He was a man who in the not-too-distant-past spent his waking hours attempting to crush the Gospel by any means necessary. While on the road to Damascus in another effort to squash the name of Jesus, Paul was met by the very one he set out to persecute. Jesus rocked Paul’s world that day and the trajectory of his life changed forever. A man who should have been cancelled was called.

When Paul was taken in by the church after his encounter with the risen Christ, he was sent away for three years in an effort to help him understand what God had in store for him through the Gospel. It is no mystery that Paul changed the world as he spent the entirety of his life preaching the Gospel, planting churches, and following the very one who met him on the road to Damascus that day.

But what of his past? Should it be forgotten? What of the people he persecuted? What about all of those poor decisions that everyone knew about? How could anyone listen to a man who was so wretched in the past? Wasn’t he completely disqualified from having anything of any importance to say or offer to the world?

Without the Gospel, Paul would and should be cancelled. Without grace, without forgiveness, without Christ, Paul should be cancelled. But cancelling is not what God has in store for his people. God graciously saves not by cancelling those who deserve to be called but by calling those who deserve to be cancelled.

Paul wrote about this very concept when he wrote to a young pastor he had trained up named, Timothy. Paul wrote his letters to Timothy near the end of his long ministry and life. At this point, Paul had an opportunity to allow his theology and understanding of the Scriptures to meld with his experience of the world, persecution, the church, and everyday life.

In his opening remarks to Timothy, Paul says this,

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

Whenever Paul says that a statement is trustworthy and true, he means to emphasize his words so that they will not be forgotten. In this case, Paul says that Jesus came into the world to save the worst possible kinds of people.  Then Paul does something amazing. He labels himself as the worst of the worst. He doesn’t try to defend his actions. He doesn’t get offended. Instead, a man who should have been cancelled, admits that he should have been cancelled, and then praises God for not cancelling him.

Jesus proved over and over again that people cancelled by society are made worthy because he has cancelled their debts to God. The world hated Jesus for this radical grace. They hated that Jesus ministered to cancelled people. He ministered to people who were thought of us hopeless sinners because of their disabilities and diseases. He forgave sexually deviant people and transformed their lives. He ate with people of differing political persuasions. Paul was no different than any of the other people that Jesus saved. Paul was a man who deserved to be cancelled but wasn’t cancelled because Jesus had cancelled the debt Paul owed to God.

This is the good news of the Gospel, that Jesus came into this world to renew the cancelled for another season. If Jesus came into this world to save the worst of sinners, then we can all consider ourselves as those who can be saved, regardless of our past sins. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have consequences for past sins in this life, but it does mean that those past sins have been covered and forgiven by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We don’t need to succumb to the guilt of sensitive areas. We don’t need to be so easily offended and hurt when sin is called out. We mustn’t cancel those who might be able to bring the Gospel to bear on us even if it means we may get roughed up a bit.

What are the soft spots and sensitive areas that you don’t allow people to address? If you are in Christ, what fear do you have when sin is being uprooted? According to Paul…none! We need not fear when God takes us to the hard places of our lives and the sensitive areas. There is always room to change and always room to improve and always areas that need to be cancelled. We have this freedom in Christ who came to save the worst of sinners.

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