I am grateful for Anthony’s lesson last Sunday as he brought to our attention what is involved in our commitment to the transformation process. The invitation is ours to accept, that is if change is going to happen. But what draws us towards that decision to want to change, to be transformed? The answer is simple, “…by the mercies of God” Romans 12:1). So much of what we do and who we are is because of His mercy. Just this past week, while seeking to prepare for Sunday morning bible class, this idea about His mercy was emphasized as I was reminded of the need to forgive. So difficult to do at times, yet the consequences are very real. Jesus taught, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespass” (Matthew 18:35, note also Matthew 6:14-15). When I try to muster the strength to forgive, I fall so miserably short. Why? Because I am not starting in the right place! Paul taught both the church in Ephesus and Colosse to “forgive one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32) and “if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:14). It is our awareness of His forgiveness towards us that empowers us to forgive another. Yet, how many of us find our inner man in bondage to the past, seemingly unable to let go of it. Could it be that we do not reflect on His mercy? How can we look back in our own past without it being used to simply keep us in bondage to what we once were? Maybe the apostle Paul gives us some insight in 1st Timothy 1:12-17.
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me…
1st Timothy 1:12
Well, the answer to those questions is deeply embedded in our understanding of Christ’s work in our lives. This word “enabled” in the above verse is the same Greek word used in Philippians 4:13 where Paul speaks of how he can do all things “through Christ who strengthens me.” If we are ever going to accomplish the will of God, it must be through Christ’s unwavering strength. Consider how Paul faces his past. He was keenly aware that he once was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1st Timothy 1:13). All this was done in ignorance (v13) due to unbelief. Its not that what he did wasn’t wrong, and he wasn’t responsible; but rather, he simply did not know better. What he had learned and how he processed it made him who he was…then. Does that sound familiar? How could it not hinder him going forward? I believe the answer is in these next words, “but I obtained mercy because…and the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant” (vv13, 14). He had come to realize his desperate need for the mercy of God found in Christ. It was with such assurance in that mercy that he could state, “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” (v15). I like the ETRV which reads, “Here is a true statement that should be accepted without question…” Do you question? We look in the mirror and say, “How could He save such a wretch like me?” That sounds familiar (Romans 7:24). Paul’s confidence that enabled him to reflect on his past was because of his faith in the redemptive work of Christ. He could reflect on his past and learn from it, but it would not hinder him from moving forward. Who we were, however terrible it may have been, is not who Christ has now made us to be! Through faith we put my trust in Christ and the mercy He offers.
I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering…
1st Timothy 1:16
This is why we need to center our hope in His mercy. It enables us to show that mercy towards others because we ourselves have been shown mercy (i.e., forgiveness). It enables us to share our past and how through Christ we have been set free from it. We can be the example or “pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life (v16). We can be used by Him to share the hope of Christ! A hope that releases us from the bondage of our past and enables us to joyfully live in the present. It gives us reason to speak of His mercy which we ourselves have obtained through Christ.
So, how do you see your past? Can you see His mercy in your life? I hope so, for in so doing He can empower us to accomplish so many things. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (v17).