The Wonder of God's Overflowing Grace

January 27, 2008 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Life in the Local Church

Passage: 1 Timothy 1:12–1:17

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The Wonder of God's Overflowing Grace



We are in a series in the book of 1st Timothy that I've entitled Life in the Local Church. Paul wrote this letter to his young friend and co-laborer Timothy to instruct him about how life is to be conducted in the church, the house of the living God.


Paul opens with a charge to Timothy to confront certain people that are spreading false teaching. Paul now looks back in time 20 years to his own salvation event. Let's begin in verse 12.


1 Timothy 1:12-17


While I was working on message, the computer was streaming on a station and the words to a song playing began to work their way through my consciousness. It was a song by Vicky Beeching and the chorus sings:


May I never lose the wonder, the wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time standing as a sinner lost,
Undone by mercy and left speechless, watching wide eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder, the wonder of the cross.


20 years after he first met Jesus Christ on road to Damascus, Paul has not lost the wonder of the cross or his salvation. He begins his testimony with heartfelt thanks to Jesus Christ and ends with a hymn-like doxology.


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


Paul is writing this testimony as a clear testimony of what the true gospel - the gospel Timothy is to guard -is. But this is no cold academic presentation of theological truths. It is sound doctrine on fire with wonder and amazement at God's overflowing grace in Jesus Christ.


In earlier message I spoke of how we are to hold to the gospel. Guard the gospel. Love sound doctrine. With that in mind this morning may we also never lose the wonder of the glorious gospel. The wonder of God's overflowing grace. Hold to the truth and never lose the wonder.


I.                    The wonder of the Savior


When we read the Bible, pay attention to what is repeated: that is usually very important. Four times in five verses Paul repeats that name and title: Christ Jesus.


Vs. 12 I thank him, who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord...


Vs 14 the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus ...


Vs 15 the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...


Vs 16 but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience...


This is not careless repetition. He is deliberately stressing this truth: Timothy, it's about Christ Jesus. The gospel is Christ Jesus. Therefore the church and our message must always and truly be centered on the Person of Jesus Christ. Ultimately false teachers will always swerve away from a true and biblical understanding of Jesus Christ because He is the gospel. Outside of the Savior, there is no salvation.


A Christ-less Christianity


Sadly, there are growing segments of the American church that have removed Christ from the Church, and many who haven't even noticed.


The pastor of the largest church in US and author of two huge bestsellers, a man seen and heard by millions every week, teaches a gospel that says this:


God chooses not to remember your mistakes, your sins, your failures. God approves you unconditionally just as you are. Frankly it's not because of what you have or haven't done, but God loves you because of who you are and because of who He is, God is love.


To some people that may sound like a message of grace. But it has swerved into a Christ-less Christianity - no cross, no Christ, no gospel. And without the cross and Christ, there can be no overflowing grace of God.


Christ Jesus must always be at the center of all we say and do as His church. We need to be on guard that we don't drift from Christ Jesus as our center by focusing on other issues - that may be good - but are not central. There are many issues that can fill people's attention and cause them never to realize that the Savior has been pushed from the center:


  • Faith
  • Practical principles for living
  • Morals and cultivating good character
  • Gifts of the Spirit - miraculous


These are all good things. Good to teach what Bible says about these things. But it can become "the message" that captures a churches attention - and displaces Christ Jesus the Savior from center.


Paul will not let Timothy drift: it is Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus. At the center:


The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...


That is the gospel in one line. It is both doctrinal truth and staggering enough to fill heart with wonder: At a real point in history, Jesus came into the world to live and die to save lost sinners. That is our message - everything else we teach and believe flows from that. That is the nail we will hammer again and again and again.


Ultimately, as Christians, that is what our souls hunger to hear. We don't want to hear 7 keys to successful living. We want to hear about Jesus. To become more like Him. To know Him better. Like Paul, our great ambition is "I want to know Christ." We must never grow tired of hearing of Him. Like old hymn:


I love to tell the story

For those who know it best

Seem hungering and thirsting

To hear it like the rest


When our souls grow dull to Him and hunger for other things - rather than chase other things, we should pray May I never lose the wonder of the cross. May I see it like the first time standing as a sinner lost.

II.               The wonder of the depth of our sinfulness


Paul makes an amazing statement - Jesus came to save sinners...of whom I am the foremost.  We know that Paul, when his name was Saul, tried to snuff out the early church by persecuting believers. He made it his mission to wipe the name and message of Jesus Christ off the face of the earth. So we can understand him saying, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I was the foremost.


He says, sinners of whom I am the foremost. How could Paul, after 20 years of walking with the Lord, serving him as an apostle, planting churches, writing scripture, say I am the foremost of sinners?


He is still aware of the presence and power of sin in his heart. He is more aware of the sin of his own heart than anyone else's. His sin was blacker because he knew it better. That should be true of you and me too. Whose sin are you more closely acquainted with than yours? Growing closer to the Lord will make you more aware of the depth of your sin, not less aware. CS Lewis writes:


"When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less"[1]


Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the foremost. No one needs to be saved more than I do. I am a sinner.


Last week Janice and I had a communication issue. That's a fancy way to say a conflict! It wasn't really that big of an issue, but what happened in my heart was that I took everything we talked about personally and it led my heart down the road of self-pity. I felt sorry for myself. Like a black hole I was sucking everything into my gravitational pull, making myself the center of all things. It was sad.


Here's the worst: for a time I didn't care about glorifying God or obeying Him in this communication issue. I cared only about my feelings about myself. If you have ever had a pity party, know what I'm talking about. It's pitiful. It's sinful. That's my heart. Thankfully after a couple of days of this, the Lord enabled me to see that it was pride, and ask Him to help me to die to that pride.


But earlier in my walk with the Lord I might not have recognized the pride that was active in my heart. It

was still there but I was ignorant of its workings. The longer we walk with the Lord, the more - not less - aware of our sin we become.


But there is one more step of wonder:


III.           The wonder of God's overflowing mercy and grace


After confessing his own sinfulness -the worst of sinners - Paul goes on to tell the rest of the gospel story:


But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost (sinner), Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.


I received mercy. For some that will be the most beautiful words a person could hear. For others, those words would be offensive. All depends on whether we feel like we need mercy or not. Mercy is humbling - it means we are helpless, it means we are desperate. To be desperate is a humbling feeling.


Once a politician received the proofs of a picture taken of him. He didn't like it at all and stormed into photographer's office saying "This picture doesn't do me justice!" The photographer answered, "Sir, with a face like yours, you don't need justice, you need mercy!"


Bible tells us that we don't need justice, we need mercy. We were drowning in our sin - with nothing to cling to. But Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - like you and me. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ God has overflowed with undeserved grace and mercy to all those who call upon the name of the Lord. No one is beyond the reach of His mercy if they will humble themselves and ask for it.


Paul received mercy - a man who murdered and imprisoned Christians. A man who hated and blasphemed the name of Jesus. He could say "I received mercy."  And God did that so he could be a display to the ages and for eternity of God's mercy: God called him and saved him and empowered him to be his faithful servant and apostle. It's the beauty of God's mercy. Rather than Paul's dark and sinful past causing God to be ashamed of him or disqualifying him from use by the Lord, God used him mightily as a display of God's glorious mercy and grace.


God wants you to know His overflowing grace, and He wants to put your life on display of His grace and mercy - whether you are a Christian who has lost that sense of wonder at all God has done for you, or whether you are not a Christian who has never experienced the grace of God that comes through giving your life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.


May I never lose the wonder, the wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time standing as a sinner lost,
Undone by mercy and left speechless, watching wide eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder, the wonder of the cross.


  • To close, we're going to return to worship our Savior.


The Holy Spirit is here to minister to you. Fill your heart with presence and the awe of Jesus Christ. If heart is cold or dull, ask Him to rekindle that wonder. Allow the Spirit of God to minister the reality of the Savior to your heart this morning as we return to worship.


[1] CS Lewis, cited byNathan Hatch, "Purging the Poisoned Well Within," [Christianity

Today, 3/2/79], p. 14.

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