Thank You, Jesus!
Lord Jesus, my precious Savior and Lord, I gladly acknowledge all that You have done for me and all of the blessings You have brought into my life. You became my brother, taking on human flesh, so that You might first keep God’s law for me, but then die in my place to remove my sins. Your Father has forgiven me for Your sake. You have bestowed upon me Your righteousness and promised me Your presence in my life. Thank you, Jesus! Help me to worship You aright this day! Amen.
In this challenging Scripture reading God reveals His just anger over sin—specifically the worshipping of a golden calf by the children of Israel. Moses, however, reminds God of His mercy and compassion as revealed in His past deliverance of Israel and His promises to their patriarchs. God heard, heeded, and then continued in grace to help His chosen people.
In this parable of two lost sons—one lost out in the world while the other was lost at home, we find Jesus revealing the always faithful love of our heavenly Father. Just as the father in the parable was ready and waiting to receive a repentant son come home, so he was ready and patient to counsel an obstinate son who remained home. Let us rejoice in the grace of God!
Text: 1Timothy 1:12-17 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus, for whose grace may we truly be thankful, dear fellow redeemed:
Were I ever to write a book on my experiences as a pastor, I would surely include a chapter or two on Ken Freundl. A number of you will remember Ken. He passed away several years ago. He was a man with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, even though he faced the severe physical challenges of peripheral neuropathy. I will never forget the first time Ken attended church. He attracted quite a bit of attention when he came into the church wearing black jeans, black cowboy boots, a black leather jacket, a black cowboy hat, and bright blue plastic gloves. He wore those gloves because he had to put a special cream on his hands due to his peripheral neuropathy. I recall that he approached me during the third hymn as I sat behind the pulpit singing. He leaned over and said, “I would like to make my testimony.” I responded, “You what?” He then repeated, “I would like to make my testimony.” I suggested that he come by Monday to share it with me, and we would discuss the best time for him to share it with the congregation.
We Lutherans are not used to the practice of giving personal testimonies, as is common in certain other Christian denominations. We tend to speak about Christ's past work of redemption, rather than the Spirit’s present work of sanctification within our hearts and lives. It is interesting, however, to note that our text for today is a personal testimony—the personal testimony of the apostle Paul. Paul informs us: “I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe.” Jesus’ direct involvement in Paul’s life was to serve as a pattern with which to compare His involvement in our lives and those of others. Let us, therefore, consider today Paul’s personal testimony in which he expresses his immense gratitude to Jesus. As we then reflect upon Jesus’ involvement in our lives, may we be lead to say with Paul: THANK YOU, JESUS! Yes, thank you, for a past life forgiven, for a present life enabled, and for a future life secured!
Paul’s profound gratitude to Jesus was based upon a past life forgiven! Paul describes his earlier life with these words: “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” Paul certainly had been an unlikely candidate to become a Christian. He had grown up in a strictly religious Jewish home, where he had been taught to honor and observe the laws and traditions of the Pharisees. He had gone to school in the best and most orthodox Jewish school in Jerusalem. He was being groomed for a position on the Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. As the early Christian church began to grow in Jerusalem, Paul was there to oppose it. He was present when Stephen was stoned. He led the effort in the early apostolic age to persecute, imprison, and penalize the early Christians. He blasphemed the name of Christ in his pride and was determined in his insolence to bring the early church to its knees—with violence, if necessary. Truly, a less likely candidate for conversion could hardly have been found!
Yet, Paul “obtained mercy” from God. He goes on in our text: “The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” It was the undeserved love of God that brought Paul to his knees on the way to Damascus. He was struck down and as he groveled in the dust, Jesus called out to him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” At first, Paul did not know who was speaking. He asked: “Who are You, Lord?” Jesus responded: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” There Paul lay—guilty of the gravest of sins, worthy of eternal damnation, but upon inquiring what he should do, he heard no condemnation, but rather a simple instruction: “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (cf. Acts 9:1-9).
My dear friends, it is in view of his past that Paul identified himself as the “chief” of sinners. Still, he lived to thank Jesus for a past life forgiven! Do you have a past of which you are not too proud? Do you have a past filled with missteps, mistakes, and rebellion? Has Satan ever suggested to you in view of your past sins, that you are outside the realm of God’s mercy and grace…that there is really no hope for you? If this is true in any way for you, take heart in Paul’s example. The same God of mercy, who in love struck Paul down on the way to Damascus and changed his life forever, has forgiven you and desires to change you! Yes, He is calling to you to come—as you are—and with a penitent heart to receive the assurance of His forgiving love. He assures you that He has separated you from your sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12), and He affirms for you that He has taken your sinful past and “cast (it) into the depth of the sea” (Mic. 7:19). Yes, come, for you and I have reason to say THANK YOU, JESUS, just as did Paul for a past life forgiven…
…and for a present life enabled! Notice Paul’s words at the beginning of our text: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” Once again, when you know the history, who would have been a less likely candidate for Christian ministry than the apostle Paul? Yet, it was Jesus who “enabled” (that is literally: empowered) Paul faithfully to fulfill his calling as an apostle. Paul had been and remained, obviously, an energetic man. He had a high sense of drive and commitment, but prior to his conversion, it had been entirely misdirected. He was pursuing his own agenda, not God’s, and in pursuing his own agenda, he was actually distancing himself from God—not growing closer. But, God’s Holy Spirit brought him to his knees in repentance, changed his heart, cleansed his life, and recommitted him to service. Yes, Paul had his problems—he was not considered a very powerful speaker (cf. 2 Cor. 11:6), and he had a reoccurring physical problem (cf. 2 Cor. 12:7), which at times hindered his work, but Jesus “enabled” him to go on and persevere! Consequently, having come to know Christ and the power of His kingdom, he was able to say with utter conviction and accuracy: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
My dear friends, you too can do all things through Christ who strengthens you as you turn to Him, depend upon Him, and seek His direction! Jesus possesses all authority and power in heaven and on earth (cf. Mt. 28:18), and He promises to exercise them on your behalf (cf. Eph. 1:20-23). Jesus has promised to give you just the right gifts you need to accomplish His goals for your life (cf. Eph. 4:7-12). Jesus has promised to be at your side—all the time to give you the necessary wisdom to help you answer the difficult questions of life (cf. Jam. 1:5; Mt. 10:19), and to fulfill your calling or callings whatever it or they may be (cf. Eph. 4:1). Sit down this afternoon and review the “Table of Duties” in Luther’s Small Catechism. It will remind you of all of the various callings you have received from God. In spite of any and all set-backs that you may experience in your life, Jesus will “enable” you too, just as He did the apostle Paul, to accomplish all that He has planned and intended for you. Through His love He will remove your every reason for fear, so that you may approach each task in your lives with calm confidence and the certainty that He will work all things together for your good as you love and seek to serve Him (cf. Rom. 8:28). Yes, THANK YOU, JESUS for a present life enabled…
…and, finally, for a future life secured! Paul writes: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”
The ultimate goal of Jesus Christ for each and every one of us is the eternal glory of everlasting life! That is the ultimate reason behind God’s entire plan of salvation. In the very next chapter of 1 Timothy Paul writes: “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2:3b-4). Once converted and entrusted with his ministry, Paul threw himself heart and soul into the work of saving souls—knowing that Jesus could do for others exactly what He had done for him. To the Corinthians he wrote: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:19-22). His goal was to help others come to know and believe in Jesus Christ, so that by faith they might secure the gift of everlasting life.
The attaining of everlasting life was not merely a possibility for Paul. Jesus did not say: “He who believes and is baptized…(may) be saved.” No, He said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 1616a)—no questions, no doubts, no mere probability, but the absolute certainty and security of salvation. That is why Paul could later write Timothy in his 2nd Epistle as he approached his own death: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (4:7-8).
My dear friends, Paul was speaking to you and to me! We, too, will inherit the “crown of righteousness” upon our deaths as we remain committed to our Savior. We have been reminded once again of that fact with the death of Kathy Doring this past Thursday. Jesus secured for Kathy the gift of everlasting life and has bestowed upon her that crown of righteousness. THANK YOU, JESUS! Thank You for delivering our dear sister from the vale of tears into Your arms in heaven and for being with us all as we move ever closer to that day!
You and I, dear friends, have reason to rejoice, no matter what our current circumstances may be! We have a past life forgiven, we have a present life enabled, and we have a future life secured! THANK YOU, JESUS! With Paul we say: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”