Guilt is a good and a bad thing.
The scene was a Kentucky court. Two men were on trial for armed robbery. An eyewitness took the stand, and the prosecutor moved carefully to begin his examination: “So, you say you were at the scene when the robbery took place?” “Yes.” “And you saw a vehicle leave at a high rate of speed?” “Yes.” “And did you observe the occupants?” “Yes, two men.” “And,” the prosecutor boomed, “Are those two men present in court today?” At this point the two defendants from Kentucky both raised their hands… and sealed their fate.
Guilt is like the red warning light on the dashboard of the car. It tells you something is wrong. You can either ignore it and be reminded every time you see it or deal with the trouble.
A little boy, Johnny, was visiting his grandparents and they gave him his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target. As he came back to Grandma’s back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse he took aim and let the rock fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead. Johnny panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to look up and see his sister, Sally, watching. She had seen it all, but she said nothing.
After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn’t you, Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally smiled and said, “That’s all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it.” Again she whispered, “Remember the duck.” Johnny stayed, while Sally went fishing. After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, he couldn’t stand it anymore. He confessed to Grandma that he’d killed her duck. “I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.” Friends, how many Christians let the past control their present and your future? How many Christians let guilt of the past restrict them from God’s adventure? How many Christians let their fears and failures and former foolishness hold them back from thanking God for His gift of salvation and empowerment for His will?
What is your life story? Does guilt make you a slave, like Johnny’s sister Sally? Or do you burst out in praise? I know I have carried around too much guilt in my life and I listen to people and criticism way too much. This passage is an outburst of praise. Paul explains how he has moved on from the past to be empowered for the present and future. How can you show the world what God is like? Is your God a God who reminds you of your sins or a God who releases you from sins?
1) Humbly exalt the joy of Jesus in your life 1:12
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. (1 Tim. 1:12 NKJ)
Paul wrote, “I thank…” which literally said “I keep on having grace.” He kept having grace from God and he displayed gratefulness from the joy he has in Jesus Christ. Paul was exhibit A to the glorious gospel from 1 Timothy 1:11, “…according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Tim. 1:11). Paul had a constant attitude of gratefulness. The verb means he keeps on possessing thankfulness from the joy he has in Jesus Christ. This is in contrast to the unbeliever. Unbelievers reject God and as Paul wrote, “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:21 NKJ). They did not glorify, or make God big, and they were not thankful. Two characteristics describe unbelievers in their attitude toward God. They do not glorify God and they are not thankful for who He is and what He has done. They lack humility in life. Paul, however, realized from where he had come. Luke quoted Paul in Acts,
9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 “This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 “And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. 12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 “at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 “And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 26:9-14 NKJ)
Paul had good intentions, to honor God. He was killing the Christians. Good intentions are never an excuse for wrong actions. Paul was a murderer, until Jesus got a hold of him on his knees and brought him out of darkness into the light of life – Himself! Paul wrote to the Romans about their transformation from sin to righteousness,
17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:17-18 NKJ)
There is never a time when you are more free than when you are a slave of righteousness. Yet Paul also knew that there was a continual struggle with the sin nature of life,
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:23-25 NKJ)
That’s Paul’s past and present. What about yours? We all have embarrassing things in our past, maybe not murder like Paul, but things we don’t want to remember, NOR have anyone else remember about us! This outburst of thanksgiving is “Wow God, you are awesome, thank you.”
Then Paul wrote that Jesus “enabled” him. The word means to inject dynamite into him as unleashed power. This is exactly what Paul wrote,
20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal. 2:20 NKJ)
And he also wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13 NKJ) This is divine power, not fleshly or “earthsuit” power.
Then Paul wrote the reason behind his thankfulness. “Because God counted…” Paul chose to be faithful. God counted. Paul chose to be consistent, to be a plugger, to persevere, to be persistent and to press toward the goal. Now, did Paul’s good decisions obligate God? Absolutely not. God empowered him based on His sovereign mercy and grace. Paul was doing only what He was commanded to do. He explains this in the next two verses.
Jesus explains that the master is never obligated by the slave. The slave has only done what he was commanded to do and empowered by the master based on the master’s provision of food, rest and a place to work(Luke 17:7-10). God knew the fiery, Pharisee Paul would be a fiery, intense, and zealous servant for the Lord. It is just like your HEAD strong child will be HEART strong for the Lord when God gets a hold of his heart. Be faithful and God may in His mercy see him turned.
Consequently, God “put him into ministry.” Ministry for what? What were God’s purposes? Paul was faithful, God sovereignly considered him and empowered him for ministry, so Paul was thankful.
Sometimes people live like, although they would never say it, “Shouldn’t God feel lucky? Shouldn’t God feel blessed that I am faithful to do what is right?” God is not obligated to us. God doesn’t need me or anyone. He is sovereign and will show the angelic world and us He is faithful. We are the ones who ought to be so thankful that God would choose to use us. That’s grace! Consider it! After what we’ve done! We were in Adam and chose against God. We sinned against God. What is sin? Many people describe sin as rebellion. Sin IS rebellion, but that is a child’s understanding of sin. We need to grow up to being young adults and spiritual parents, realizing sin is living independently from God and being indifferent toward the things of God. How many hours, days and weeks have we lived independent of God. How many times have we been indifferent toward the things of God and not done what we are supposed to do as thankful children of God. If we have His joy, we can’t help but jump into service, jump into discipleship, jump into Jesus. How can you show the world what God is like? Humbly exalt the joy of Jesus in your life!
2) Humbly exalt God’s sovereign mercy in your life 1:13
Notice what Paul says in verse 13,
13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (1 Tim. 1:13 NKJ)
Paul helps us know he knows what he was like as he described in Acts 26. But it is not God reminding him like Sally reminded Johnny. No, Paul reminds Timothy what Paul was like, because he wants to exalt God’s sovereign mercy. Paul knows he deserves condemnation; he does not deserve mercy, but that is the kind of God Paul shows Timothy he has and Paul wants Timothy to teach his church what God is like.
Paul used to be a blasphemer, who spoke words worse than four letter words or, “omg.” Paul was speaking evil and abusive language, forcing people to deny the deity of Jesus. He murdered the church, which is the body of Jesus. He was good at it. Then he found out he was laying hands on Jesus in Acts 9:4.
Paul said he was a “persecutor of the church.” (Acts 8:1-3) He was “insolent.” That doesn’t sound so bad, until you understand it means prideful and violent. He heaped insults on others in shame. He was a bully. He may have been a brilliant student of Gamaliel, but like General Omar Bradley said about George Patton, “George, you’re a pain in the neck.”
Paul was thankful, because he “obtained mercy.” He obtained mercy – Paul didn’t get what he deserved. No Christian does. Paul received mercy, not wrath. Why? He said, “I was ignorant in unbelief,” that is, he did not understand truth and was not in relationship with Christ by faith. How can you show the world what God is like? Do people see joy in your life because of your relationship with Jesus Christ? Do people see that you are settled with assurance that God is in control? Are you looking to the world for happiness or the Word of God? Does the world see you exalt God’s sovereign mercy in your life, because you are willing to talk about what your life used to be like, but you have been transformed by the joy of the Lord, which is your strength? The problem with too many Christians is that they are so nice, so good, and they would never talk about their failures or be transparent with current struggles. Christians too often THINK they are so good, because they are good in their behavior, not because of the mercy and grace of God! Christians are so afraid to admit their failures and foolishness that God does not get the glory, let alone show the world God’s grace abundance!
3) Humbly exalt God’s grace abundance in Christ 1:14
This is your great hope.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:14 NKJ)
It is interesting how many ways Paul uses grace:
- He used it in greetings – “grace and peace”
- He used it to describe salvation – “by grace are you saved” Eph. 2:8
- He used it for victory over sin Rom. 5:20, “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more”
- He used it for giving God’s way 2 Cor. 9:7-8, “…give…not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound…”
- He used it for God’s stand for you Rom. 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
Grace is receiving what I don’t deserve. God is not obligated to me for anything I am or do. I am condemned from birth, but He has in His sovereign mercy extended grace according to His word. And it is “exceedingly abundant” – huperpleonazo– “super, hyper abounding.” That results in a thankful heart. Paul was in awe of God’s abundant mercy. God doesn’t hold our past sins against us. He doesn’t remind us like Sally, when they are dealt with biblically. He helps like grandma did to spur him on to love and good works. Paul knew his past was a mess. He knew God “graced him out.” What is your past? Can God take your past and show you mercy and abounding grace? Men and women:
Grace abounds so you can press ahead in discipleship.
- Put off guilt; it is a horrible taskmaster. It stifles you from growing. It takes away your joy. Pursue grace for more righteousness. Forgiveness by God’s grace is a beautiful gift that relieves all sin and guilt, but it is child’s level learning. We need to press on to young adult status and parenting status. Paul wrote,
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, (Titus 2:11-12 NKJ)
Put off guilt and pursue holiness and truth!
- Put on bold audacity to grow in grace and discipleship. Train your replacement to honor the calling. Let’s go back to Paul’s words,
14 “And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “So I said, `Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, `I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 `But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 `I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now1 send you, 18 `to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ (Acts 26:14-18 NKJ)
Men and women: It is time to put your game face on and seize the opportunity.
It is time to set aside worldly pursuits. Too often, Christians they see what part of church fits into their schedule and that’s what they might do. There is no time for that kind of living. They need to make one of the home groups work, or get enough people to start another one going.
It is time to see the spiritual advantages of life as far exceeding the world’s advantages.
It is time to take a stand, because this world is spiraling too quickly. Your marriage is too important. Your children are too important. Your country is too important. Your church is too important.
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) What are some things you have known people feel guilty about?
2) In what power did Jesus walk and live according to Luke 4:1,14,18? ______ ______________________ What are the two power source ingredients in which Jesus, in His humanity, lived and functioned (Luke 14:1-14)? How do you know if you are living in that same way?
3) In Exodus 4:1, who struggled with his abilities and past? ____________ What did God promise for him (Ex. 4:2-10)? Did Moses get the promise? What has God promised you that you can accomplish His will for your life?
4) What is God able to make abound in your life according to 2 Cor. 9:8? ___________ What does that look like, especially when you are in the heat of trials, troubles or difficulties? What does it look like to be empowered by God (cf. Eph. 4:22-29)?
Making application from the message to life:
5) When in prayer to God and controlled by His Spirit, what will be evident in your life (Compare Gal. 5:22-23)? What does it look like?
6) How is your life different because of the grace abundance of God?
7) If you are not “humbly exalting” the joy, mercy and abundant grace of God, then what are you revealing?