Sermon Options: September 15, 2019

July 27th, 2019

RAGS TO RICHES: THE JOURNEY OF OUR FAITH

1 TIMOTHY 1:12-17

The words and experiences of Paul offer each of us a message of hope. These words remind us that no matter who we are, what we have done, what mistakes we have made, God wants to use us!

I want to share three lessons of faith with you: God has chosen you, God has forgiven you, and God has strengthened you.

I. God Has Chosen You (vv. 12, 15-16)
Like Paul, God has chosen each of us, even though we are the worst of sinners, because he can use what we have to offer. It's nice to be chosen, but sometimes we have trouble believing our chosenness. "Me? I'm the one? Are you sure?"

When I declare to you that "God has chosen you," your first response may be, "Who me? There must be some mistake." But God does not make mistakes. You have been chosen to be saved and to serve. God needs you and therefore he chooses you. "Why me? What do I have to offer the kingdom of God?" Need a list? Try these three.

First, God can use your experience with sin. You know what it is like to be disobedient to God. You know the pain of guilt. You know what it is like to feel remorse after mistakes. You also know how it feels to be forgiven and cleansed by Jesus. Who better to talk about forgiveness than you?

Second, God can use your connections with people. You know a lot of people; some better than others. You know how to talk to them, how to approach them about Jesus and how to invite them to church. God needs your connections with people.

Third, God can use your abilities, power, and energy to build his Kingdom. The more Christians there are, the more power can be created. God needs your wisdom, your insight, and your experience. God values your contribution.

II. God Has Forgiven You (vv. 13-14)
Paul writes with absolute amazement that he has been chosen by God despite what he used to be. In verse 14 Paul states, "The grace of God was more than abundant, more than sufficient." Part of God's choosing is his choosing to forgive. Despite what you used to be, God offers forgiveness. God is a forward-looking God. Your past is not nearly as important as your future. God is looking ahead.

When I was a child growing up in Rome, Georgia, my family owned a 1964 brown and white Chevrolet Impala station wagon. We drove that car a million miles. We used to own a trailer, a "Little Beaver" model, that we towed behind the car. During the summers we would drive to California or Canada or wherever. My brother and I used to love to sit in the backseat, which faced the rear window. We played, we slept, we talked. We rode for hours looking backward. We saw America out of the rear window of that car (I get carsick just thinking about it).

Most of us live our entire lives looking out the back window. We keep thinking and remembering what we used to do and what we once said, and how we sometimes acted. We remember our mistakes and allow them to hold us captive in the present. Friend, God's grace is sufficient to forgive your sins.

III. God Has Strengthened You (v. 12)
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength . . . appointing me to his service" (NIV). The strength of God is a special gift that God shares with his chosen. We need that strength to do his work and service. Philippians 4:13 states, "I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me." God gives us the strength to live, to witness, to forgive, and to build.

We've made mistakes; our past is most imperfect. But we have been chosen, forgiven, and empowered by God. To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (Jon R. Roebuck)

LOST AND FOUND

LUKE 15:1-10

"Amazing Grace" is possibly the most loved of English hymns. It is sung in cathedrals and country churches, at beach parties and rock concerts. Written by John Newton, a former slaveowner and sailor of the eighteenth century, it speaks of being lost and then, by the grace of God, being found. These words strike a deep chord in most of us. The two parables that Jesus tells in this passage speak of the lost and the found.

I. Jesus Spoke to the Lost of His Day
The fifteenth chapter of Luke begins with the statement that tax collectors and sinners were drawn to Jesus. These were the outcast and socially suspect of that time. Who might such people be today? The homeless, those with AIDS and those who are HIV-positive, those addicted to drugs or alcohol? The list goes on and could include gang members, refugees, the unemployed, the illiterate, and those receiving welfare. Who would be drawn to Jesus today and with whom would he be found?

The religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, stood nearby critically noting that Jesus socialized with such undesirables. Before judging their attitudes, we might do well to consider their point of view and look for contemporary counterparts to their criticism. Is it very different from that of a concerned parent whose teenagers make friends with drug users or gang members? Jesus made the leaders of organized religion uncomfortable in his time and his actions challenge us today. Jesus told these two parables in response to their criticism.

II. That Which Is Lost Can Be Found
The two parables are very similar. They both tell of losing something and the joy of finding it again. All of us have lost or misplaced things and no doubt the scribes and Pharisees could relate to the stories and were drawn into the tales. Both are stories of someone seeking the lost.

The first story, the story of the good shepherd, is one of the most beloved of parables. Images of the good shepherd go back to the walls of the catacombs and adorn many church windows. Many contrite Sunday school children have seen themselves as the wayward lamb cradled at last in the shepherd's arms. The shepherd seeks the one sheep, one out of one hundred, that has been lost. The analogy is that God is likewise seeking the lost and that those outcasts Jesus entertains are the lost sheep.

The second parable, that of the lost coin, is similar, but the protagonist is a woman and the lost item is a coin. It is clearly something of value and she turns the house upside down to find it. Again the central message is that God is seeking the lost, just as these two protagonists will not rest until the lost is found. This parable is an illuminating one for our time because Jesus is teaching about the relentless seeking of God and uses a woman to illustrate the point. God is reaching out, eager to reclaim those who have fallen away.

Most of us know people who are lost. They are the ones who fell through the cracks of life, who couldn't make it or who made it in a soul-destroying way. They are often our friends and family members. We need to remember that these are beloved of God.

These two parables tell us of the nature and activity of God and direct us in discipleship. They urge us to reevaluate our lives of faith and our work as churches to include reclaiming those who have become lost from the fold. Singing "I once was lost, but now am found" might be a good place to start. (Penelope Duckworth)

comments powered by Disqus