1&2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church- 1 Timothy 1:12-17 The Glorious Gospel

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Life in the Local Church

The Glorious Gospel

 

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please help yourself to one off the back table as our gift to you.

Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, who he left in Ephesus to be the Pastor, the head shepherd over the flock of the local church there. And he is writing as a Call to Arms, as it were. There was much false teaching, many false teachers coming in and spreading lies and falsehoods amongst the believers in Ephesus.

And what Paul is going to show Timothy and us this morning is that the way to combat false teaching and false teachers, the remedy, the cure, as I said last week to the disease is the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or as he says it back in verse 11, the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

This Gospel is life changing and transforming and ultimately, is the Ultimate truth that brings Glory to God. Paul knows this from firsthand experience as he often shares as his witness and testimony. Before we read his letter to Timothy, I want to go back and look at Paul’s testimony. Turn over to Acts chapter 22, while we read, in Paul’s own words the story of God’s grace and mercy on him. Acts 22:3-21, Paul recounts:

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

 

Part of what makes this applicable to what Paul has already told Timothy was that we see that Paul was exactly what we saw him teach against last week. He was overzealous for the law. He misunderstood what the law was, and he strove for and demanded obedience to it. There was no grace, no compassion and no mercy. He was 1 Timothy verses 8-11, teaching that the law was the means and the way to salvation. He was that, until…

Until Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus, also recorded in Acts 9. Paul literally had Jesus knock him down, struck him blind and spoke out loud to him. It took all that for Paul to get the message. And in that, he experienced the life changing grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

And Paul writes about that here in 1 Timothy, verses 12-17. That’s our text for the week that I’m going to read for us now. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along with your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:

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.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

So, in this section of this letter, we see Paul lay out the Glorious Gospel. And basically, we are just going to look at this section bullet point by bullet point. We start, as those who have also experienced the perfect and holy grace of God, that we are to Be Thankful.

We are to be thankful to God. Because the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, is not about us and more importantly, its in no way because of us. Salvation is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8-10,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So not by us or from us, but all by Gods grace, through faith, which is also from Him in Christ, as the Bibles says and all to Gods glory, not our glory.

Paul also thankful for the strength that is given to us by God. Because, again, it is a gift from God. And the strength that He gives us is His strength, it is not our own strength. One of the clearest things that scripture teaches, and one of the hardest things for us to learn is that we have no inherent strength of our own. We are wholly and solely dependent on Him.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

And what Paul is specifically referring to here is the strength to be and to stay faithful. And faithful to the service that God has called us to. We see that again as well back in the Ephesians 2 passage we read a moment ago. That we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

And God has done all of this, been this generous, been this faithful, given us these incredible gifts despite who we were, if we are now in Christ. We were sinners. If we are not in Christ, we are still sinners. Paul writes in Romans 3, All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. All of us are in need of a savior. We not only sinned and separated us from God, but the Psalms say that we were sinners even in our Mothers Womb. Romans 6:26 tells us, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And when Paul says that he received mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief, I want to make sure we are clear on what that meant. Make no mistake, the adage is still true with God, “Ignorance is no excuse for the law.” Paul is not saying, I didn’t know the law, so God took it easy on me. First, we all know the law, it was written on stone and given to Moses, and written on our hearts and written in nature, as we see in Romans 1. So, we know that he is not saying that ignorance of the law makes us innocent or righteous.

And so, what he was saying, is that “I did not know I was not righteous. I thought I was good enough to be righteous. I was ignorant to my unrighteousness. And despite that, even because of that, God gave Paul the grace and mercy that he did not deserve, instead of the wrath and judgment that Paul did deserve.

And that grace that God gave him resulted in the faith and love of Jesus Christ. Jesus actions, his incarnation, coming down from heaven and being born a human baby, his purposeful and intentional death on the cross, the forgiveness of sins, his resurrection and his ascension, even his yet to come Second Coming, all of these were done from an overflow of His love.

We know that, as Paul writes in Romans 5:8, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God didn’t need us. God wasn’t lonely and created man for our company. He didn’t create us because he lacked anything. He didn’t need us and still does not need us. Instead, out of the overflow of the perfect, complete love that eternally existed between the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, out of that overflow, His love poured out and flowed down and God created us out of that overflow.

And as we have seen, especially in recent weeks, love manifests itself in truth. Love speaks truth. Love reveals truth. And when Paul says, the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, he is not saying that other things he has said are not true or trustworthy. Instead, this is one of those rare statements that we can lift out of context and allow to stand on its on two feet. Paul is essentially writing this purposely as a stand-alone statement, a summary of what the Gospel is. What he is really saying is “Hey, if you read nothing else, I’ve written, read this statement!” Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

This was the purpose of Christs actions was solely to save sinners. That’s the Gospel. If you hear that Jesus mission, his main purpose, his goals and his priorities were anything other than to save sinners, then run. This could even be things that sound good. But the Gospel is simple, God became man to save sinners. Anything else is a false Gospel.

The Gospel is not physical healing. The Gospel is not miraculous signs and winners. The Gospel is not being happy, or being wealthy, or being healthy. The Gospel is not your testimony. The Gospel is not our political sides winning. The Gospel is not our nationality or ethnicity. The Gospel is not living moral, good upstanding lives. The Gospel is not being on the right side of History. The Gospel is not equality. Those are false Gospels.

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.

Another important aspect is that we need to have a right and true understanding of who we truly are. We are sinners from birth. We are unrighteous. We are totally depraved. That doctrine, Total Depravity can be easily misunderstood. I like how one resource clarifies it, writing:

There is a common misconception regarding total depravity. Total depravity does not mean that man is as wicked or sinful as he could be, nor does it mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong. Neither does it mean that man does not or cannot do things that seem to be good when viewed from a human perspective or measured against a human standard. It does not even mean that man cannot do things that seem to conform outwardly to the law of God. What the Bible does teach and what total depravity does recognize is that even the “good” things man does are tainted by sin because they are not done for the glory of God and out of faith in Him (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6). While man looks upon the outward acts and judges them to be good, God looks upon not only the outward acts but also the inward motives that lie behind them, and because they proceed from a heart that is in rebellion against Him and they are not done for His glory, even these good deeds are like “filthy rags” in His sight. In other words, fallen man’s good deeds are motivated not by a desire to please God but by our own self-interest and are thus corrupted to the point where God declares that there is “no one who does good, no not one!”

(https://www.gotquestions.org/total-depravity.html)

That is who we are when we are born. That’s who we are naturally, corrupted by our sin nature. That’s who we are without Christ. Paul says that he is the foremost of sinners. He is clear about who he was before Christ. We need to know who we were, and what our identity was. For many, this is still who they are as well.

But, if you are in Christ, if you have believed the Gospel and repented of your sins, then you are born again into the Holy Spirit and you are now a Child of God.

You are loved.

You are chosen.

You are Redeemed.

You are a saint.

You are Forgiven.

You are declared Righteous.
You have received mercy.

Paul then says why he received mercy. It is so that Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. Christ displays his perfection as an example to his followers. Yes, an example of how to act and how to live, but more than that.

If God could save Paul, with all that he did in persecuting the early church. If He could save the Disciples, who continually missed the point of Jesus teaching and abandoned Him in his time of need and after his death. If he could save sinners like you and I, then He could save anyone he chooses.

Again, having a right view of ourselves and having a right view of God is vital to understanding the Gospel. It is said that a high view of self leads to a low view of God. Invertly, a low/right view of self leads to a High/right view of God.

When we see him right, when we see who he is, his holiness, his righteousness, his goodness and love, when we see all of that correctly, as revealed to us in the bible, we can not help but cry out in worship. We cry out in exaltation and we lift up praises and cry out Glory to God!

Paul finishes his point here in this section of his letter, the passage we are looking at this morning by doing exactly that. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[d] Amen.

Its funny to me, this section by Paul, as he cries out in praises and shouting out Glory to God, it reminds me of the clip I played, I think it was Easter. An old Baptist preacher named SM Lockridge shouting, “That’s my king!” That kind of inspired this last section here.

Jesus is the King of Ages, the King of Kings, and the LORD of LORDS. He is at the top of all things and he is the highest one there is.

He is immortal. He always was, he always is, and he always will be. He is alive. He will live forever at the right hand of God the Father.

He is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is in all times, all places and all everything, all at the same time.

He is the only God. Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There are no other gods. Any other god that people call upon, they don’t exist. They are false gods. They are fallen angels disguising themselves as and with lights.

The Triune God is one and only one. And to him go all honor and glory. And as Lockridge finishes up: And Thine is the Kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever
and ever and ever.
And ever and ever.
And when you get through all the forever’s, then
Amen!

 

For those of us who have been declared righteous and saved from eternal wrath and judgment, today is a day we rejoice, and we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that we have been assured of our right standing with God and we remember what Christ did to achieve this for us. We come together as a church family, once a Month and we celebrate communion. We come together, setting aside any differences, any pettiness, all that stuff that does not matter, anything other than our standing in Christ and we unite together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.

We remember the sacrifice, the bloodshed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. But We celebrate because Jesus is alive, and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.

Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.

Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.

I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.

Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished, we will take the cracker together as a church family.

Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

 

 

 

 

1&2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church, 1 Timothy 1:8-11 The Law is Good

1 Timothy 1:8-11

The Law is Good

Good Morning! Lets grab our Bibles and turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. As I say every week, if you do not own a Bible, please take one from the back table as our church’s gift to you.

So, we started going through Paul’s first letter to timothy last week and the context surrounding it. We saw that Timothy was sent by Paul to pastor and shepherd the famous (Infamous?) church at Ephesus. One of his primary tasks was to protect the flock from false teaching that was come from both within and without. We touch on some of that false teaching last week and we will be looking at it many weeks as we go through these letters from Paul.

These false teachers would come in and simply, they would teach contrary to biblical teachings. They would teach different than what the Bible teaches. Not always obvious either, sometimes very subtly and very persuasively.

Paul has in many places addressed legalists. Very similarly, Jesus often addressed the Pharisees during his ministry. These two groups had a common trait. Their world view was all law, it was very rigid, focusing solely on obedience, without any regard to love and grace.

But we have and see the opposite problem in scripture as well. It was prevalent then and its rampant now as well. All “love,” and all “grace,” and no law. The idea that is all over our culture, “Do what ever you want.”

“God wants you to be happy.”

“He has already forgiven all sin.”

“Its not that big of a deal.”

“That was for a different time, and more primitive culture, not for now, when we are enlightened.”

All these and more are a part of the false doctrine, false teaching called antinomianism. It means anti law. And Paul addresses that here in the passage we are looking at this morning.

SO lets go ahead and read our passage for this morning. We will be reading 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Again, 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verses 8-11.

Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes to Timothy:

 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[b] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

One of the most common misunderstandings in Christianity is that the law is no more. Yet, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. So the law has not gone away. It is still there. Others also have the misunderstanding that the law is bad, that is too hard, that it is antiquated, that it is just there to punish those who break it.

And yet Paul says right here that the law IS good, IF you have a right and accurate understanding of what the law is and what it is designed to do. That misunderstanding is rampant and it reminds me of parts of the Sermon on the Mount.

In Matthew 5:21-48, 6 times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…” Jesus points out the common, contemporary understanding and then corrects it from what the scriptures actually said or what the true meaning of the scriptures was. It feels like Paul is doing that here too.

“You have heard it said that the Law is bad, or old, but I say to you that the Law is good if one uses it lawfully.”

And Paul does and has shown exactly what that looks like. The law is a mirror, that, when we look into it, points out our blemishes, our sin. It points out our unrighteousness so that we can understand that we ourselves need someone else’s righteousness. See what Paul writes in Romans 7:7-12:

 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Again, the law is a mirror to point out our unlawful behavior. The best description I have heard, Ive shared this before, but the law is the diagnostic tool. You go into the Doctors office and they give you an Xray or an MRI and the find something wrong with you. Did the MRI cause the issue? No, it helped identify the issue. The Law is the MRI. It identifies our issues. Sin is the disease. It is already in there, festering, growing, killing. If we don’t identify it, it will grow unchecked and it will kill us without us even realizing it. That’s one form of False teaching though, the one Paul is addressing here. The Law does not cause sin. The Law is not bad. The law is good.

But we also have to not swing too far the other way. The MRI does not cure the disease. The Law does not eliminate sin. The Law is not the cure. The law does not provide righteousness. It points out unrighteousness. As Paul does here in verses 9 & 10. He lists a small number of sins, small compared to the other lists he provides in his New Testament letters.

This list of sins is not exhaustive, and is not meant to be. It ends on verse 10, with the phrase “And whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” So, if its not meant to be exhaustive, then what is the purpose of this list. Paul is showing both what happens, what we easily fall into and justify when we have a wrong understanding of the law, but also, he is showing what False teachers teach is ok, what they encourage. Remember the last line in Romans 1, verse 32, Paul says, Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

False teachers will make your favorite sin, your specific temptation be ok. They will twist it so that what ever it is that you struggle with, Guess What? You don’t have to struggle with it any more because its not really a sin, or its not really that bad. They make sin and lawlessness subjective. Right and Wrong are culturally determined.

Bethel Church, up in Redding put out this statement recently:

God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!

God doesn’t force people to change, and people – including Christians – shouldn’t force others to change, either. We stand against any and all forms of shame, manipulation, force, humiliation, or physical harm in so-called “ministry” or therapy.

CHANGED is a safe space for Christians seeking an alternative to LGBTQ+ as they follow their faith according to their personal convictions.

You see that? However you want to live, is fine. You can follow Jesus and you dont even need to change anything! You can stay living exactly the same as you always have; disobedient, unholy, profane, not honoring mothers and fathers, murder, sexually immoral, homosexual, enslavers, liars, oath breakers, and everything else contrary to sound doctrine, everything listed in Romans 1:24-32, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, in Galatians 5:19-21.

Free and easy, cheap grace that demands nothing of you. Instead, all you have to do is replace Jesus as God with your own desires, your own passions, your own sins as your god.

Thats the exact opposite of what the Gospel calls us to. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. The Gospel calls us to repent. It is the first thing mentioned in regards to the Gospel, Jesus says repent and believe the Gospel. Martin Luther says that a Christians life is one of repentance, meaning continual, lifelong change and growth. False doctrine says you are good just how you are.

False doctrine and false teaching is what is contrary to sound doctrine. And how do we know what sound doctrine is? Sound Doctrine is in accordance with the Gospel. Ligon Duncan tells us “The Gospel itself is the measure of sound teaching.” The measure of the law and whether it is used lawfully, the measure of whether we are accurately and correctly keeping the law is Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

Sin is the disease. The law is the MRI and the Gospel is the cure. Our disease, our sin results in death, eternal death, eternal seperation from Gods glory and grace and mercy. The only cure is the Gospel. We cant cure ourselves, not by keeping the law nor by changing and ignoring the law.

So, again, what is the law for? Paul writes in Galatians 3:19-22:

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

The law was not given as a cure for sin, but given in response to sin, to show the way to the cure, Jesus Christ. The law cannot make one righteous. But what the law can do, what the moral guidelines that are handed down from God to Moses, written on stone and that are now written on our hearts, they do help restrain and identify sin.

Jesus tells two back to back parables on Luke 18, that point out that show that just physically, superficially keeping the law is not enough to make us rightouess. First, with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee often gets a bad wrap in this story and he should, but I dont think we really see him clearly. He does all the right things. He obeys all the rules and then some. He acknowledges that God is the one who makes him not like the tax collector. But he thinks that he earned or was good enough to keep Gods grace. He attributes Gods grace to himself as his own righteousness. The point of the prable is not to show that the pharisee was acting or living wrong, or even that his prayer in the temple was wrong, but it was to point out that, despite what the pharisee thought, he was not righteous.

The next parable was the rich young ruler. This guys thought he had lived a good enough life and was searching out various religious teachers and leaders to confirm his goodness and to affirm his righteousness. Jesus pointed out some commands that he did not keep. First, lying, saying he had kept all the commandments since he was a kid. Second, his money and his possessions were an idol in his heart. His was trusting in his own goodness instead of in Gods grace.

Both of these parables are designed to point out that we have no saving righteousness of our own, but need to trust in Christ for his. The law is the way that points to Christ.

False teachers will shove the law out of the way, therefore obscuring the way to and need for Jesus Christ. Or they will focus on the law and teach our ability to keep it enough that we dont need Jesus Christ.

The law is there, again, not as a solution to sin, but as a response to sin. The solution to sin is the Gospel. Pure and simple. Thats what the sound teaching is, the Gospel.

Jesus Christ, truly God and truly Man, sinless and died and pied the penalty for our sins. Gods wrath poured out on Him so that his grace will be poured out on us. The vehicle he uses to pour his grace out on us is our faith in his son, Jesus Christ. God became man to save sinners. Marks Gospel says that Jesus came to be a ransom for many. He paid the price to purchase our salvation.

The change in us, it does change us, and it gives us a heart to serve and obey God. For believers, the law serves as a guide. It gives us perameters to stay within so that we can live right, live the way that God intended and the way that he designed it.

I love how John writes it in his first letter, 1 John 5:1-5, he writes:

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Paul, in his letters to Timothy, will continue to harp on emphasizing sound doctrine, on right, biblical teaching. It is a repeating theme that Paul will pound on again and again, because oit is so important. Sound doctrine, sound teaching are the only ways to combat and fight false doctrine and false teaching.

Ligon Duncan points out, “We are not just teaching so you’ll know more things, we’re teaching so that you will have a healthy Christian embrace of doctrine and experience and practice.”

And that’s the important part, that’s a part of why the law in and of itself is not able to save. Because head knowledge, simply knowing the truth, simply knowing how to live, the physical act, doesnt do anthing. But our heart change, that the Holy Spirit does inside of us, the faith that is a gift from God, the faith that leads to the heart to keep his commandments, that is what saves us.

One of the commands Christ gives us is to be united in the truth. We are to be united as the church, as the body of Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. But, We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

1 & 2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church – 1 Timothy 1:1-7 Built on Solid Doctrine

1 Timothy 1:1-7

Life in the Local Church

Built of Sound Doctrine

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the New Testament letter of 1 Timothy. And today, we start a new Series, as we study and teach through books of the Bible, line by line, verse by verse.As always, if you do not own a Bible, or do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

So, we will be going through and looking at Pauls so called Pastoral Letters. These are his letters to Timothy and Titus, his proteges and pastors of local churches. These letters lay out exactly what God has in mind for the local church. We will look at the importance of doctrine, the inportance of order. We will look at the qualifications for who will lead the church and, just as importantly, who is not qualified to lead the church. And there is so much more. We will see what God had in mind for living life in the local church.

So, I do want to start by reading our text for this morning, though after we read it, we will also spend some time looking at the context and who Timothy was, inlcuding who he was to Paul.

So, lets start by reading together, the first 7 verses of this Pauls first letter to Timothy. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 1:1-7.

Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, opens his letter:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship[a] from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Man, I love that opening, as much, maybe more than any of Pauls other letters. And I want to start there, because one of the things it does, is that it identifies who, both Paul and Timothy are and it focuses the letter squarely on what, where and on who the focus should be, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Lets start with who is Timothy and who is he to Paul? We first get introduced to Timothy back in Acts 16. In Acts 16, verse 1, we see Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 

So, Timothy was half Jew, half Gentile. We will see later in Pauls letters to Timothy that it was his Grandmother and mother who shared the scriptures with him, which were able to make Him wise for salvation. (2 Timothy 3:15). We dont know anything else about his Father, other than he was Greek. We dont kow if he was there or not, if he left the family or stayed, if he was dead or alive even. Scripture doesnt deem fit to make that important.

We also see a bit about Timothy’s character in Acts 16:2, that he was very well spoken of by the other believers in Lystra. Tradition holds that Paul is the one who brought Timothy to Christ, and can be inferred by scripture. (Timothy 1:5, etc.) And as Paul came to Timothy in Lystra in Acts 16, Paul had Timothy join him on his missionary journeys.

So, Even at this point, Paul and Timothy had a close and personal relationship. We know Paul was picky about who accompanied him on his journies and here, he asked Timothy to come with him. Timothy had a lifelong foundation in our Old Testament scriptures, to them, the Hebrew scriptures. And from there, being saved through and being taught by Paul, his knowledge would have grown tremendously.

We see two practical things that Paul and timothy did, as well, before headed out to spread the gospel. The first is mentioned back in the verses in Acts 16. Paul had Timothy circumcised. Again, Timothy was half Greek, and on his Fathers side. And its important to recognize that this was not done for religious purposes. This was not done to make him rightoues, or to make hm right in Gods eyes. If you want to know Pauls views on those, read Galatians. He is pretty clear about what circumcision does and does not do. But Timothy was circumcised for practical, ministry purposes. Paul was going from city to city and he was going to the synagogues first, preaching Christ to the Jews. Part of his testimony was that was a Jew of Jews, a Hebrew of Hebrews. But Timothy was not, and so it would have been more difficult for him to gain entrance and to be heard, and even more so, to be listened to. So, as a practical step to gain an audience, they circumcised him.

And thats not THE takeaway from this today, but its something important to remember. Is there something that doesnt matter, that it getting in the way of someone hearing the Gospel? Get it out of the way. Dont be a stumbling block. Our Christian Liberty, our freedom only goes far enough as long as it does not get in the way of our witness and bringing others to Christ.

The second thing we see happen in Lystra before Paul and Timothy leave on their missionary journey, is that Paul and the elders laid hands on Timothy and prayed over him. Dont forget prayer. Not only when you are going through something, but more importantly, before you go through something. Pray for the things that are coming up. Pray for deisions, discernment, wisdom and planning. Pray for the seeds to be planted, and then pray for God to bring the increase, for him to water the seeds. And pray for your own role in the ministry in Bangor Community Church and the other witnesses and outreaches you may have. And pray for those in leadership of the church. Pray for the trustees and the elders. Pray for those who are volunteering and working in and around the church. And Heaven knows I could use as much prayer as you could possibly give. As Dave continually says, prayer is the backbone of the church. Once a church stops praying, a church starts dying.

So, Paul and Timothy go on their journeys and grow close, as if a father and a son. This section of 1 Timothy is not the only place these references are made. But this is where we see how close their relationship is. And we see that Paul left Timothy to be the Pastor at the church in Ephesus.

So, not wanting to get too fsar off track, a real quick look at the timeline of the church of Ephesus. It was founded by Paul, likely in the early 50’s AD. Timothy arrived to be their pastor in the early 60’s. Tradition holds that the Apostle Johnmade the Ephesian church his home in the mid to late 60s. We also know that Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians and that was probably right before Timothy arrived. So the Ephesians had a pretty standout group of teachers and pastors and influences. And yet, by the mid 90’s, Jesus tells them, relayed through John, thst while they did good works, while had the right actions, and even right doctrine, they no longer had a love for Christ, and they were told to repent in Revelation 2:1-7.

And yet, we see in Pauls opening and greeting that a love and passion for Christ are front and center. Paul, as in usual for him, opens with his name and calling. He is an Apostle of Christ Jesus. And he is an Apostle at the command of God. See, when God calls you to something, He is telling you that you will do it. His commands are not gentle suggestions. They are not optional and they are not one of many possibilities. They are also very rarely our first choice, what we would choice for us. You may fight against it for awhile. You may ignore for a period of time. You can try everything else you can think of. I did all that. But, just like Jonah, eventually God will spit you out of a fish, right where you are supposed to be. His will will be done, whether you cooperate or not. But, trust me, it will be much more pleasant if you cooperate.

Now, look at what Pauls focus is on in these first two verses. God is mentioned specifically twice and Christ Jesus is named three seperate times in these two verses. Dont miss this. Dont gloss over this as just some perfunctory greetings. Remember what Paul is writing this letter for. He is writing it to encourage Timothy in how to lead the church and what the practical life in the local church should look like. And he starts it by focusing entirely and fully on The Father and the Son who they are. And who are they?

First, we see that Christ is the head of the church. Paul writes in Colossians 1:18 about Jesus, he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. As we look at what we are to be doing as a church, how we are to be living in the local church, the thing that we need to remember above all else is that this is not your church. This is not our church. This is not my church, as the Pastor. This is Christ’s church. Every choice we make, every action we take, every thing we do, is for and because of Christ.

And then we see ways that Paul describes God and Jesus. God is our savior and Christ Jesus is our hope. Our salvation is through no one but God. He is our salvation. It is his grace poured out on us, and only through his grace that we are able to escape the perfect and just wrath of God and to enjoy perfect communion with God for eternity. God pours his grace out, giving us the gift of faith. And it is only through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, that we gain access to the forgiveness of sins.

And so Jesus is our hope. He is God. One third of the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When he created the world, it was created perfect, in perfect harmony with God. Man was created and was created to be in perfect relationship with Him, with Christ. And yet our sins keep us seperated from Him, unable to be in that same perfect relationship. And yet, Jesus is our Hope.

He came down, born a human baby. Lived a perfect life that we couldnt live. Died a death that we deserved, took the wrath of God on himself from OUR sins, so that, through our faith in Christ, we can be reconciled with him. We can have our sins forgiven, our slate wiped clean. We can escape the wrath that we so rightly deserve and enjoy the perfect and eternal love and fellowship of God, as Paul writes here, the Grace, mercy and peace of God the Father and our LORD Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus is our hope and he is our only hope.

And he is something else as well. He is God. Ligon duncan, A pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi makes the point here that this is one of the spots where the Bible makes clear that Jesus is God. Here is what he said in a sermon he gave on this passage:

Think of it, my friends. Paul says to Timothy, “Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now isn’t that an interesting way of speaking? 

What if I were to say to you, “Friends, I am called by God and by Billy Graham.” You might think, boy, that second level was a few steps down from the first one! I mean, Billy Graham’s a great man, but God he is not. Or what if I were to say, “I am called by God and John Calvin.” Well, you might say, “I always thought that he cared too much about Calvinism!” You would never think that I would group together John Calvin with the triune God. At least, I hope that you wouldn’t think that I would group together John Calvin on the par with the Triune God! But here’s Paul saying, “blessings to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus the Christ.” Now how can he do that? Because Jesus is of the same substance, equal in power and glory with God! It’s a testimony to His deity. 

Again, Christ as the head of the church. The church universal, all believers in all places, but also the head of the church, His church, the local church. Where we come together, with Him as the head, us as the body, and we live out His will. We do so because of who he is and we do so because of our love for him.

Now, after Paul opens his letter to Timothy, we see why he left Timothy at Ephesus. Read again verses 3 & 4:  As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.

Timothy was put in Ephesus to protect the flock, to protect Gods People. Its obvious that people were coming in, likely well respected in the church, maybe even higher ups. They were coming in and they were teaching false teachings, false doctrines. They were focusing on extra biblical and un biblical hypotheticals. They have rejected the authority and the sufficiency of scripture. They have trusted in man made philosophies and earthly wisdom instead of Gods plainly written word and Godly wisdom.

And the first thing, the very first thing that Paul tells Timothy, what Paul tells the church at Ephesus, what God is telling us is that we need to be aware of and to oppose false teaching. Thats the very first thing that he says for the local church to focus on.

Because the church is built on what? Christ as its head of course. And what is Christ, Jesus is the Word, He is the living Word. He is the Truth. And so the local church is built on the Truth, the Word, which we have in our hands as the Bible. It is built on Christ.

False teaching leads to spending time on anything and everything other than the true and written down, clear Word of God. One commentary says this: Heresy is to the church what treason or sedition is to the state–a divisive force made treacherous by the fact that it begins within the organization and exploits lines of trust and positions of authority.

False teaching is incredibly divisive. It will divide a church, and thats part of its purpose, to divide us, to divide the people of God. False teaching is designed and purposed to get us off mission. To make us not trust each other, or to make us not trust the Word of God itself. All the way back to the very first false teaching, Genesis 3, when the serpent asked Eve, “Did God say?” And thats the very same attack thats coming in today. Did God really say? Is that really what the Bible says? Is that really what it means?

False teaching prevents us from uniting together in worship. It makes minor things very major, causing freindships to be divided, causing churches to split, causing feelings to get hurt and leave. Sometimes its innocent congregants, sometimes its the false teachers, sometimes its those who believe the teaching and are not willing to hear the truth.

My job here as a Missionary Pastor with Village Missions, serving here at Bangor Community Church is to Preach the Word and Love the People. Preach and teach and share the Bible, its clear and life changing message of the Gospel. To sheild against false doctrine and to teach and promote right and true doctrine. And Im to love the people. I love you guys. Each and every one of you. And part of how I love you is by prtecting you and teaching you.

I rarely name names, but I have often mentioned specific false teachings that are going through from popular Bible teachers and preachers and churches that have influence. This is something I will continue to do. And I do it because I love you.

Look at what Paul writes next, in verse 5 to Timothy:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Our beliefs and our practice, the practical application are necessarily intertwined. As James famously writes, faith without works is dead. To say that we love God, that we have faith in Christ, without belive in the Word of God, Christ himself and his recorded Word, our Bible, means that we dont really love God like we think and say we do.

We must believe in the truth. We must believe in and live that truth. Remember that Jesus is the Truth and it is that Truth, Jesus Christ that will set you free. But just believing the truth is not enough to drive out and protect against the lies.

The enemy is smart. He is the most cunning of any of the creatures. His tactics may have changed over the last 2000-6000 years, but only superficially. The lies disguise themselves as truth. Satan appears disguised as an angel of light. The false teachings will not be obvious at first. In fact, they often start off as not false. And then slowly, discreetly, and incrementally, it becomes more and more false and it becomes more and more divisive. So we can not protect against false teaching ONLY by believing the truth.

Let me put it this way as well, actually one pastor used this example, put out as a critique of another pastor. He said: “Let me tell you something about that teacher. He’ll draw a horse and say to his students ‘this is a horse,’ but he won’t draw a cow next to that horse and say to his students ‘this cow is not a horse!’

Jude tells us that we are to contend for the faith. We are to actively fight for the truth and against the lies. And we know its the truth because I tell you its the truth. No? No! We know its the truth because the Bible tells us, because Jesus tells us its the truth.

That brings us to the last two verses here this morning on what these false teachers will be like. They will say that “This is the truth because I say its the truth.” Paul writes: Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

There are people, who move away from the charge Paul mentioned in verse 5, pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith. They pull away from that and they want to be a teacher. Almost exclusively, they want to do so for fame, for fortune, for power or for influence. They want you to follow them exclusively. Instead of going to your Bible, go to them. Instead of listening to these other guys as well, listen only to me. Instead of listening to Dave when he fills in, just dont worry about being here and stay home when Im not in the pulpit.

James reminds us in his letter, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. Only those whom God has called should become teachers.

Because if you have not been called, you will not accurately and succesfully, in Gods eyes at least, do the job you are trying to do. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:12-16,

 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.[d]

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

False teaching and False teachers will be a common theme in Pauls letters to Timothy, so we will get into more of these things then, bit we see how important it is the the local church based on Paul putting this right at the front of the letter.

And so we remember and ensure that Christ is the head of the church, and not just the churc but this church, Bangor Community Church. And one of our job is to protect the church and live as the body and pray for each other Toidentfy and call out false teaching when we see it. Our job is to worship and serve God as a united body of Christ, manifested here in the local church. Lets Pray.

Romans 7:14-25 The Struggle Is Real

Editors Note: I am having issues with my phone this afternoon. I have the sermon recorded, but due to technical difficulties, (i.e. children throwing phones on hard surfaces) I am not able to get the sermon from the phone to anywhere. If this gets resolves, I will upload the sermon and edit this post. Thank you for your understanding.

New edit: After all this time, my phone was fixed and I was able to the sermon audio  off the phone and onto the computer. Here it goes!

Romans 7:13-25

The Struggle is Real

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and open them to Romans chapter 7. If you do not have a Bible with you there should be one under your seat or a seat nearby. If you do not own a Bible, we have a pile of black Bibles on the back table that we would be honored to have be our gift to you.

Now, if you are anything like me, Paul is an interesting writes. He has times of forceful, upfront bluntness. There is no mistaking, no misunderstanding, no confusing what he is saying. We saw many of those moments in the first few chapters of Romans. Other times, he waxes poetic, talking theology and philosophy and different things that can be hard to understand. For me, at times, trying to follow one of his sentences can give me a head ache at times.

I think we have a combination of those two things here this morning. Paul is clear about what he is saying in general, but to try and follow along his sentences, and it can get kind of confusing. But his overall point is clear and one that, I believe that hits each of us right in the gut. Then again, maybe your all just better Christians than I.

But before we jump into the text, lets put the passage in its proper context. Sin is bad. Sin is breaking Gods laws. We have all broken Gods laws. We have all sinned. Therefore, none of us deserve or have or can earn our way into eternal life with God. No so called good works we do can have any affect or our eternal standing before God. We stand before guilty. And God is a just God, so guilt must be dealt with. But God is also a God of Grace and mercy, so gives a gift of grace. By Grace alone have we been saved. Because God said so. And the vehicle he uses to deliver that grace is the gift of faith in Jesus Christ.

By Grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. The law has no effect on our salvation. Instead, if you have been saved, you were created to do good works that God had plans for you since before the beginning of the world. Jesus says if you love me, keep my commandments. SO, we have an obligation to live out the commands, the law of God.

And yet, we dont have the ability, especially on our own to fulfill the law. Thats why Jesus came, to fulfill the Law as he says in Matthew 5. He had the righteousness required to satisfy a Holy God. On the cross, that righteousness was imputed on to the aforementioned those who have received grace by faith. Now, our legal standing has changed from guilty, for All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, to now, God looks at us and as we stand before him, covered in Christs righteousness, he declares us innocent.

And that, my friends is the beginning of our walk with Jesus. It is the point of our transformation and our regeneration. It is the point where the Holy Spirit comes in and turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. And thats when we are freed from the bondage of sin and the weight of the law. Thats when we are free to live our lives the way that God intended and Christ allowed and the holy Spirit intended.

Thats the beginning of our journey. The hardest work, the work of salvation is done, and by no effort of ours. But there is hard work ahead of us. Living the life that Christ has freed us to live. To follow him and his commandments. And its both as easy as that and as hard as that. But before we get into that, lets go ahead and read our passage this morning, as Paul shows us from his personal example that we continue to struggle with our sin nature, even after we have been freed from its bondage.

So Im going to read Romans chapter 7, verses 13 through the end of the chapter, verse 25. Ill be reading out if the English Standard Version. Romans 7:13-25.

Paul, starting by talking about the law, writes:

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

So remember the context of Romans 7. The law is designed by God and it is good. It is there to be a mirror and reflect our inability to keep it. It is there to diagnose the disease of sin and point to the cure. The one who is able to keep the law, Jesus Christ. Paul has shared that we know about our sin because of the law. He has shown that we are inventors of evil. And that we actually look to the law, at times to find different ways to sin.

So, the law, which is good, must be bad, right? The law, which is good, must be the source of our sin and our death, right? No! The law is good. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy that the law is good, IF It is Used lawfully.

Death came from sin. Sin entered the world through Adam. Sin is so corrupting, so all encompassing that it corrupts even the good things of this world. Sin corrupts so completely that even the law, which is holy and divine and given to us by God, to show how all things are supposed to work together, even the law is corrupted and we use it for evil.

Remember the other thing the law is for, when there is no sin, or after we have been freed from the bondage of sin and we have been freed from the bondage of the law, that the law is there to guide us, to show us how God designed all things to work. The law is there tho show that God is not a God of chaos, or disorder, or everyone do what is right in their own minds. God is a God of order, of rhythm. He is a God who knows everything and is in all time. Tim Keller says, “If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”

So we know that if we live by and follow God in the way that he wants us to, things just work better. Now, dont worry, Im not going all prosperity gospel on you. Im not telling you that if you believe and pray that you will get your best life now or that God wants every one of us rich and in big houses, driving Ferrari’s. Because here is the thing. Its not just about us. We are not the only sinners in the world. The rhythm of this world that was broken when Adam brought sin into the world affect every person. And so, even if we were able to live by the law completely, others still dont and so there is still sin and brokeness in our lives and around us. But Gods laws, his rules, his Grand Design is there for a reason and it is for our best interest that we live according to them.

Heres the problem. We cant. I mentioned a second ago, the all consuming corrupting power of sin. We see that in our flesh still today. Before we are justified, before the Holy Spirit changes us, we do not have the ability to not sin. We are, as Paul mentions in Romans 1, inventors of evil. Monergism.com, a website with many commentaries and what not, summed his up better than I can when they wrote:

It is self-evident that if humanity, as a unit, decided to obey all of God’s laws then almost all social ills would disappear overnight: Greed and hunger, sexual perversion and related disease, adultery, rape, covetousness and theft, murder, racism and all forms of malice etc. These would be replaced with love, unselfishness and honoring the image of God in every person. The problem is, however, that obeying God’s law is wholly UNNATURAL to us. Our nature is repulsed at living this way even though we know with certainty that it would help resolve almost all social ills entirely. Being unnatural means not only are we unable to live according to God’s laws but also that we do not WANT to live according to His laws. This fact demonstrates that the solution to man’s ills are not to be found in himself or better education. In fact, history demonstrates that the better educated just seem to find more crafty ways of doing evil. No the “natural solution” to man’s ills is proven to be bankrupt and our only hope is a supernatural one, outside of ourselves. This testifies to the validity of the Bible as the solution to our ills because it so understands human nature as it really is and points to our only solution: Jesus Christ.

What was unnatural to us before, our desire and ability to follow Gods laws, now start to fade away. We are in the process of being changed from being of the flesh to being of the spirit. The change and the process has started, but in our daily, practical, physical lives, it is nowhere near complete. Our sin nature, our flesh is still in us, still working to fight against us, still corrupting us to sin.

But, if we are justified and regenerated, we will no longer have a taste for those sins. We wont want to do them any more. We will have a desire to Gods Will whatever it is. We will have a longing to follow him. We will hate our sins and work to eliminate them. This wont all happen at once, mind you. Somethings the scriptures are clear on. Dont do them. This is obvious. And when we are saved and we read our Bibles, we will see this and we need to stop.

One easy example. Say you arent a Christian, and you are living with and sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Then you become a Christian. Maybe you already know that the Bible says not to have sex outside of marriage. Then you need to stop. If you dont know the Bible says that when you become a Christian, very shortly afterwards, through reading your Bible, and listening to biblical teaching and through disciplship and all that, you will quickly learn that and then you need to stop.

You may still want to, but more than the desires of the flesh, as we grow in our walk and relationship with Jesus Christ, our desires for the spiritual, namely Gods law, which it says here is spiritual, will be stronger and more in the forefront.

But there are also things that the Bible is less overtly clear and specific. When I became a Christian, I was a smoker. And that was not something that changed immediately. I quickly became a volunteer with the youth group at my church and about a year into to that journey, I had a dream. Now, I very rarely remember my dreams, so the fact that I did this time is significant in its own right. But I had a dream that I came out of a store and one of the kids in my youth group was off to the side smoking. That image hit me like a punch in the gut and thats when I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me of my smoking and I knew it was time to stop.

That didnt mean that I was able to put them down and stop immediately. It was a process. Many stops and starts. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I was not always able to do it. And As I had a cigarettes after that, I hated it even as I was smoking it. As Paul says, the things I do not want to do, I do. Things I do want to do, I do not do.

CS Lewis: THe natural life knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self centeredness and self will are going to be killed and its ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.

Sin has corrupted our flesh so much that, until we are glorified into our heavenly, eternal bodies, we will not fully be able to resist sin and its temptations. Again, it does not come naturally to obey and desire Gods Will. Dieterich Bonhoeffer says, You can only learn what obedience is by obeying.

Now, it can be real easy to look at this passage, it can be easy to see that we will continue to struggle with sin and say, well, that means I dont have to try, because I wont succeed any way. No! It can be easy to look at this and say The Law brings death, or the Devil made me do it, or anything else that we can in order to shirk our own responsibility.

We have been trying to pass the buck, to shirk our responsibility and blame anyone and everything else for our sins since the fall in Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve gave into temptation and ate the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they now knew that they had done wrong. When God comes looking for them and talks to Adam, asking him what he had done, what is Adams response? Essentially, “It wasnt me, it was the woman that YOU gave me!”

Right there Adam shifts the blame off of himself and onto both Eve and God. But God makes it clear that we are responsible for our actions and that there is no one to blame but ourselves. We cant blame God, we cant blame the devil, we cant blame our friends, family and spouse, we cant blame Adam or Eve, we cant blame Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, this president or the last one. We cant blame anyone for our actions but us.

Now, Paul has already established, some may say, hammered home the point that we are all sinners and cannot contribute anything towards our salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But one of the things that he is establishing here and we will look at more in depth in a number of weeks, is that we do not have the ability to keep our salvation once we have been given it by God.

There are some that teach that we are saved by grace along with works, or saved by grace and kept by works. Both of these are fundamentally and biblically wrong. We are saved by grace and kept by the power, love and strength of God.

WE progress and sin lessens in our lives as we walk and grow with Christ, but it doesnt entirely leave until we stand before God in glory.

Remember what Justification is. It is God declaring us as innocent. Not us actually being innocent, but God declaring us innocent. It means that we now have a right legal standing before God. Our slate has been wiped clean and God sees us covered in Christs righteousness. But, if that was just to bring us current, if that is just to wipe clean our previous sins and not to wipe out all of our sins, then we still would not have salvation. Instead, minutes, moments, seconds, after that moment in time, we would already have sinned and been guilty before God.

Instead God saves us, and doesnt just bring us up to current, but wipes the slate clean for the past, the present and the future. God holds us and nothing can snatch is from his hands. God is the most powerful being in the universe. If he has hold if us, than there is not a thing in the verse that can undo what God has done.

So we cannot keep ourselves saved because of this eternal struggle between the flesh and the spirit. We trust, not in our own desires, our own feelings, our own abilities. We trust in God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate. We trust in God the Holy Spirit, who changes us from the inside, working on conforming us to the image of God. We trust in the bible, Gods revelation, his Word to us and what it tells us in regards to salvation, the revelation of God and who he is and what a Godly life and a God pleasing life looks like. We trust the Bible to show us, not only the law, but also, what the purpose of the law is.

John Piper writes about this:

This was the aim of the Law: that we might come to see the glory of Jesus Christ the Lord as the foundation and the focus of our justification and sanctification. And not only the foundation – providing a perfect righteousness and sacrifice – and not only the focus – providing an all-satisfying object of faith – but also the veil-lifting means of seeing and savoring himself – this is “from the Lord, the Spirit.” Seeing the Lord is from the Lord.

This is the aim of the Law and this is the aim and essence of the gospel and this is the aim of Education for Exultation: generations of children and youth and adults who study the Word not for its own sake, and not as the primary and decisive means of bearing fruit for God, but as a reflection of a living person, Jesus Christ, whom to know – not just know about, but know – is life eternal.

Paul, writes about this struggle and then cries out, Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  On our own, we are wretches. On our own we have this body of death. On our own, we are and have nothing. But Amazing grace! How sweet that sound! That saved a wretch like me.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 

If there is one thing to take away from Romans chapter 7, from all of Romans for that matter, its the first part of verse 25, Thanks be to God through jesus Christ our LORD. Its all about and from him, nothing about ourselves. I once was lost, but now Im found. Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught…
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me…
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be…
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years…
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…
then when we’ve first begun.

Lets Pray

Busy week with the Youth Group

So its been an incredibly busy week and a very rewarding one, especially where the youth group is concerned.

Last Friday night we did our Youth Group church lock-in. We had the kids get to the church at 6pm Friday night and told the parents to pick them up around 10 AM Saturday morning. We had 12 kids there total, and despite the heat, they were insistent on playing lots of different variations of tag out in the church yard. We brought them in and had snacks and soda out for them and then had a good lesson time on idols (both theoretical and practical) and prayer. We sent them out to have a half hour of individual quiet prayer time. After that we had good group discussion about what place in our priority listing we have God.

Once that discussion ended we played Sardines and other indoor games tell 3 Am when they got the itch to go back outside and play some more tag games. We came in around 430 and things started to wind down. We have a foosball table and air hockey table and a really cheap broken down kids pool table and they just entertained themselves for awhile. Around 530 some kids started to get ready to go to sleep. The girls moved over to the house with Hope and the Boys stayed with me. Some of the Boys laid down in their sleeping bag and the rest of us started a game of monopoly.

By the time the game ended, just about everyone else had gone to sleep or was going to sleep and it was right around 630 or 7. Hope and I were going to make breakfast for the kids in the morning, ut they were all asleep at that point. They were so tired that there was no way that we were going to wake them up.

All the parents got there right around 10 AM or so, and we went around waking up these walking zombies. The kids had a ton of fun and so did Hope and I. We were able to get closer to the kids and learn more about them.

Hope and I always say that quality time comes from quantity time. You cant force quality, you can just be there when it happens. Thats what has been happening lately with these kids. A few weeks ago, they did the worship for the service on Sunday and you could really start to see them come out of their shell. It took 6 months for them to be willing to do it once and now they are excited to do it more often. Our plan is for them to play every month when I preach.

So after the Lock-in, we had Youth group Sunday night. One of the ideas Hope and I had for the morning of the lock in was to do a prayer walk in the neighborhood of the church. There are about 15 houses or so within a ½ mile or so radius. Since the kids were sleeping, we did it Sunday night instead.

Our goal was two-fold. First was to show the kids how to do this and give them the support, confidence and know how. It really is quite simple and you can do it in a variety of involvement levels.

First was just walking the street, stopping at a house and saying a quick prayer for them. Ext was to talk to someone if they were outside and ask them if they had any thing specific they would like us to pray about. Third was going up to the door and letting people know we were praying and asking what they would like prayer for. The kids did great! And, there are a number of non-church going families in the neighborhood and they were all open to being prayed for as well. We even got to meet the family moving in just that day up the hill, that we probably wouldnt have met yet otherwise.

The second goal of this was to just let the neighborhood know that we were doing this and we got wonderful responses. One of the last houses we went to is the home of a wonderful couple in the church. He is a Vietnam Vet and has a whole host of medical problem because of his service and she is a wonderful saint who spends her life taking care of him. They are high school sweethearts and you can see the love in their eyes when they look at each other. With his health issues, many times visiting there is standing in the doorway talking to her with a few “Hi’s” and words of encouragement shouted in to him. This night we were able to pray for her and then she asked us in to lay hands on him and pray for him.

It was extremely obvious the effect this had on the kids. They were amazed at the power of prayer and while some of them knew this couple, it was an experience for them to see someone open up there home, being both vulnerable with the kids as well as enormously grateful.

After we got home that night, we saw the wife had made a facebook post about the visit. She posted this…

There is no limit to the blessings that are coming our way.
Just answered a knock on our door to find the youth group from the church. They wanted us to know we were constantly in our prayers.
First they all gathered around me outside to pray for us…then I invited them (all 16 of them) to come in. They gathered around Gary’s hospital bed, joined hands and prayed for him. What a blessing…I will never forget the power of that moment and the impact it appeared to have on Gary. Thank you Jesus, for your continued blessings and caring for us.

Well, needless to say that got us a little choked up, and then a got a message on facebook as well. I didnt immediately recognize the name, but she said this:

You may not know me but you have touched me in ways that words can not express… See I am (Their) daughter & tonight you took the youth group over to visit my parents and pray with them… You don’t know how much this means to them…

Simple hellos and anyone that can stop by to check on them is welcome – as they don’t get out of the house much anymore with how sick Gary is…

Thank you so much!

Blessings!

We shared these with the kids last night and it was a perfect oppurtunity to both praise God how he works through the actions you would never even suspect, but also to reinforce to the kids, how powerful prayer is. This reaction happened with (at that time) no prayers that the kids prayed, being answered. It was their presence, their love, their willingness to step up and let them know that they were praying for this house and their willingness to share.

God is the only who knows which prayers will be answered and which wont. But he tells us to pray about everything and to pray always. By doing this, the kids in our youth group were able to have an enormous emotional effect and be an encouragement on this family struggling with health issues. They were able to show the neighborhood that people love them and people are praying for them.

The positive effect was had bith on the individuals and households that they prayed for but on the youth themselves as well. These kids are amazing. They are going to grow up and do amazing things. Please keep them in your prayers and Hope and I as well, that we dont screw them up. Thanks all!

Casey

1 Timothy 4:12